Open and Closed Handed Issues

Open-handed issues are those issues which Bible-believing Christians can debate over, disagree over, even discuss over, but not divide over. The closed-handed issues are those issues we really have to remain committed to, to remain Christian, and draw lines in the sand. So there are issues in the Bible, like eschatology issues surrounding Jesus’ return, speaking in tongues, some things like that where you can love Jesus, and believe the Bible, and disagree on and still be a faithful Christian. There are other issues, like the Trinity or the resurrection of Jesus, you have to be very clear on to remain Christian.

IN THE CLOSED HAND

In order for a church like ours to be in unity we must rally around a few fundamental beliefs. While we desire to be inclusive and accepting of others and their scriptural beliefs – at some point there has to be a line in the sand that we will not cross.

The Inerrancy of Scripture

Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection

Jesus sinlessness

There is ONLY one true God

The Virgin Birth

The Trinity: The father, son and the holy spirit

The existence of an eternal Hell

All sex outside of heterosexual monogamous marriage is sinful

The necessity of belief in Jesus Christ ONLY as savior for salvation,Jesus + Nothing= Salvation

THE BIBLE: The Holy Scriptures, as originally given by God, are divinely inspired, infallible, entirely trustworthy, and constitute the only supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.

THE TRINITY: There is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.

A. God the Father

God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.

Genesis 1:1; 2:7; Exodus 3:14; 6:2-3; 15:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Leviticus 22:2; Deuteronomy 6:4; 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Psalm 19:1-3; Isaiah 43:3,15; 64:8; Jeremiah 10:10; 17:13; Matthew 6:9ff.; 7:11; 23:9; 28:19; Mark 1:9-11; John 4:24; 5:26; 14:6-13; 17:1-8; Acts 1:7; Romans 8:14-15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:6; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:6; 12:9; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 John 5:7.

B. God the Son

Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.

Genesis 18:1ff.; Psalms 2:7ff.; 110:1ff.; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 53:1-12; Matthew 1:18-23; 3:17; 8:29; 11:27; 14:33; 16:16,27; 17:5; 27; 28:1-6,19; Mark 1:1; 3:11; Luke 1:35; 4:41; 22:70; 24:46; John 1:1-18,29; 10:30,38; 11:25-27; 12:44-50; 14:7-11; 16:15-16,28; 17:1-5, 21-22; 20:1-20,28; Acts 1:9; 2:22-24; 7:55-56; 9:4-5,20; Romans 1:3-4; 3:23-26; 5:6-21; 8:1-3,34; 10:4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:2; 8:6; 15:1-8,24-28; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21; 8:9; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:20; 3:11; 4:7-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-22; 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 3:16; Titus 2:13-14; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-15; 7:14-28; 9:12-15,24-28; 12:2; 13:8; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 3:22; 1 John 1:7-9; 3:2; 4:14-15; 5:9; 2 John 7-9; Revelation 1:13-16; 5:9-14; 12:10-11; 13:8; 19:16.

C. God the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Savior, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.

Genesis 1:2; Judges 14:6; Job 26:13; Psalms 51:11; 139:7ff.; Isaiah 61:1-3; Joel 2:28-32; Matthew 1:18; 3:16; 4:1; 12:28-32; 28:19; Mark 1:10,12; Luke 1:35; 4:1,18-19; 11:13; 12:12; 24:49; John 4:24; 14:16-17,26; 15:26; 16:7-14; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4,38; 4:31; 5:3; 6:3; 7:55; 8:17,39; 10:44; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; 19:1-6; Romans 8:9-11,14-16,26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 3:16; 12:3-11,13; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 Timothy 3:16; 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:14; 3:16; Hebrews 9:8,14; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 John 4:13; 5:6-7; Revelation 1:10; 22:17

SALVATION BY FAITH THROUGH GRACE: The salvation of lost and sinful humanity is possible only through the merits of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, received by faith apart from works, and is characterized by regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 2:8(HCSB)For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift–

THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT: The Holy Spirit enables believers to live a holy life, to witness and work for the Lord Jesus Christ.First, the Holy Spirit does many things in the lives of believers. He is the believers’ Helper (John 14:26). He indwells believers and seals them until the day of redemption—this indicates that the Holy Spirit’s presence in the believer is irreversible. He guards and guarantees the salvation of the ones He indwells (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Holy Spirit assists believers in prayer (Jude 1:20) and “intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26–27).

The Holy Spirit regenerates and renews the believer (Titus 3:5). At the moment of salvation, the Spirit baptizes the believer into the Body of Christ (Romans 6:3). Believers receive the new birth by the power of the Spirit (John 3:5–8). The Spirit comforts believers with fellowship and joy as they go through a hostile world (1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 13:14). The Spirit, in His mighty power, fills believers with “all joy and peace” as they trust the Lord, causing believers to “overflow with hope” (Romans 15:13).

Sanctification is another work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. The Spirit sets Himself against the desires of the flesh and leads the believer into righteousness (Galatians 5:16–18). The works of the flesh become less evident, and the fruit of the Spirit becomes more evident (Galatians 5:19–26). Believers are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:8), which means they are to yield themselves to the Spirit’s full control.

The Holy Spirit is also a gift-giver. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them” (1 Corinthians 12:4). The spiritual gifts that believers possess are given by the Holy Spirit as He determines in His wisdom (verse 11)

The Holy Spirit also does work among unbelievers. Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8, ESV). The Spirit testifies of Christ (John 15:26), pointing people to the Lord. Currently, the Holy Spirit is also restraining sin and combatting “the secret power of lawlessness” in the world. This action keeps the rise of the Antichrist at bay (2 Thessalonians 2:6–10).

THE GLOBAL CHURCH: The Church, the body of Christ, consists of all true believers.

ETERNITY: Ultimately God will judge the living and the dead, those who are saved unto the resurrection of life, those who are lost unto the resurrection of damnation. There is an eternal heaven and an eternal hell.

IN THE OPEN HAND:

When we speak about open handed issues we are not saying they are unimportant issues. What we are saying is that they are not worth fighting and dividing over. There are certain beliefs that we can simply agree to disagree on.

2 Timothy 2:23(HCSB)23 But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they breed quarrels.

There must be some breathing room for people to search, explore and discover the rich depths of scripture without running into formal church policy on every subject.

Open Handed issues are issues that are either not explicitly clear in scripture or the church, or are not mentioned in the bible at all. Many of these issues are not explicitly mentioned so that we have freedom to discover how we want to apply them for our ministries and lives. Others are unclear due to translation or interpretive issues. We should be encouraged to search the scriptures and come to our own conclusions about them. We should not divide over them as the church and God’s people. These issues include:

Child baptism and communion

Method of baptism

Women Pastors and Elders

Method of Church

Technology

Alcohol consumption

Cigarettes

End times eschatology

Political party affiliation

Gifts of the spirit (Speaking in Tongues etc.)Unless it is for salvation

And many more…

Open handed issues, although important, should not be divisive. Here are a few things to remember when we think about open and close handed issues:

1. We should be identified by what we are for, not what we are against.

Jesus was more “pro-something” than he was “anti-something”. One key to pursuing Christ-likeness is to remember how Jesus operated in a culture that hated him. He was for everlasting life. He was pro-salvation. He was pro-delivering from sin. Most thankfully, he was pro-evangelism.

Do we remember the great commission that Jesus gave us when he said to go forth and make disciples of many nations? Do we remember that Jesus sent the holy spirit as the authority from heaven? Christians should seek to be known by humbly obeying God, and calling others to His purpose. We should spend more time on spreading the good news of the gospel, and less time arguing about secondary issues.

2. Search the scriptures for your answers, not men and women

Too many people begin sentences with, “… Martin Luther says that”, or “…Augustine says that”, you can insert anyone you want into that name (i.e. Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham, Mark Driscoll, John Wimber, John Piper, Francis Chan, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, William Webb or Wayne Grudem).

Men and women are great resources for thinking, but they shouldn’t be our authority on any matter, nor should their interpretation of the bible. We should read scripture for ourselves and hear what God has to say.

3. Not being unified over these open handed issues is stupid and a waste of time

A helpful discussion or debate is one thing, division and arguments are another. I have had several people approach me in ministry about secondary issues looking for a fight. I know Armenians have their opinions on predestination, but I won’t go to war with them, and, perhaps they were predestined to be wrong (Just kidding).

Form your opinions, be open to other opinions and seek to find the truth. Forming entire ministries or churches based on social issues is most unhelpful and rarely yields any fruit. They are most unhelpful when these social issues are disguised as the primary mission of God.

4. Everything is about JESUS!

The person and work of Jesus Christ and his mission to save the world is central. That is it. God will bless us if we do His will, and not our own.

Advertisements

Worship, Our Adoration Changes

We cannot speak about Worship without talking about idolatry.

Your idols suck. God doesn’t suck.

The idols you are laboring over are sucking the life out of you. God is the only master who pours life into you.

Psalm 135:15-18(HCSB)The idols of the nations are of silver and gold,made by human hands.16 They have mouths but cannot speak,eyes, but cannot see.17 They have ears but cannot hear; indeed, there is no breath in their mouths.18 Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them.

Isaiah 44:9-10(NLT)How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless. The people who worship idols don’t know this, so they are all put to shame. 10  Who but a fool would make his own god—an idol that cannot help him one bit?

Idolatry leads to slavery, that’s why people are addicted, perverted, indebted.

See, idols lie. They promise things that only God can deliver and they do so to enslave us, and that’s why the worship of God is so important because that alone free us.

All of life is ceaseless worship. This means that while worship does include corporate church meetings, singing songs, etc, it is not limited by these things, defined just as these things, or expressed only in these things because worship never stops. Rather, we are continually giving ourselves away or pouring ourselves out for a god, person, cause, experience, achievement, or status.

YOU ARE ALWAYS WORSHIPING

Human beings are unceasing worshipers. We are not created to worship, but rather we are created worshiping. Everyone worships all the time. Atheists, agnostics, Christians, and everyone in between are unceasing worshipers. Everyone, everywhere, all the time, is always worshiping. Everyone worships all the time. Atheists are worshipers. Buddhists are worshipers. Agnostics are worshipers. Christians are worshipers. People who are living are worshiping. Everyone who’s living is always worshiping, pouring themselves out for someone or something. That’s what we were made to do. That’s what we always do. The only difference is who or what we worship, when or how we worship. The question is not, do we worship? The question is, is our worship to God or is our worship to something other than God, namely idolatry?

“The opposite of Christianity is not atheism, “but idolatry.

Because here’s the problem: You don’t have an adultery problem; you got a worship problem. You don’t have a greed problem; you got a worship problem. You don’t have a coveting problem; you have a worship problem. And if you would worship God, then that would fix all your other problems. And God wants that freedom for you, and God wants that freedom for your family, and God wants that freedom for your legacy.

Let’s look at worship in our culture. If you imported a Hebrew from 3,000 years ago to a football game where people were dressed up like animals, had their faces painted, took parts of an animal and barbecued it as a sacrifice at the tailgate party and saw them all dressed the same with their arms outstretched trying to affect the outcome of a game like pagan priests who are doing some sort of mantra, would you not assume that they would think that it was a religious gathering?

Everyone Worships, the question is what are you worshipping?

What you glory in you will sacrifice for. If you glory in God you will sacrifice all other aspects of life to make sure you are in His presence. 

Worship is a lifestyle. People don’t have sin problems they have worship problems. People continue in their sin because they fail to worship the God of scripture.  The highest we take people most of the time is into sin management.

1 John5:20(ESV) And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

 It is such a detestable sin that God says to run from sexual immorality and idolatry

1 Corinthians 6:18(HCSB) Run from sexual immorality! “Every sin a person can commit is outside the body.” On the contrary, the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. 19 Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 10:14(HCSB)14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

God so hates idolatry He equates those who enter into idolatry as whores and spiritual adulterers.
Ezekiel 6:8 (ESV)“Yet I will leave some of you alive. When you have among the nations some who escape the sword, and when you are scattered through the countries, 9 then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. 10 And they shall know that I am the Lord. I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.”

Spiritual adultery is unfaithfulness to God. It is having an undue fondness for the things of the world. Spiritual adultery includes any form of idolatry. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel tried to mix the worship of other gods such as Baal with that of God (Judges 3:7 (ESV) 7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. In doing so, Israel became like an adulterous wife who wanted both a husband and another lover. In the New Testament, James defines spiritual adultery as claiming to love God while cultivating friendship with the world

James 4:4–5 (ESV)4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. The person who commits spiritual adultery is one who professes to be a Christian yet finds his real love and pleasure in the things that Satan offers. For believers, the love of the world and the love of God are direct opposites. Believers committing spiritual adultery may claim to love the Lord, but, in reality, they are captivated by the pleasures of this world, its influence, comforts, “fun”, and so-called freedoms.

Idol worship robs God of the glory that is rightfully His, and that is something He will not tolerate Isaiah 42:8 (HCSB) I am Yahweh, that is My name;I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols.

Even today there are religions that bow before statues and icons, which is a practice forbidden by God’s Word. The significance God places upon it is reflected in the fact that the first of the Ten Commandments refers to idolatry: Exodus 20:3-5(ESV) “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me”.

Idolatry extends beyond the worship of idols and images and false gods. Our modern idols are many and varied. Even for those who do not bow physically before a statue, idolatry is a matter of the heart—pride, self-centeredness, greed, gluttony, a love for possessions and ultimately rebellion against God. Is it any wonder that God hates it?

SO what draws us to idolatry? Ultimately, the answer to this question is “sin.” It is the sin nature of man that causes us to worship modern idols, all of which are, in reality, forms of self-worship. The temptation to worship ourselves in various ways is a powerful temptation indeed. In fact, it is so powerful that only those who belong to Christ and have the Holy Spirit within them can possibly hope to resist the temptation of modern idolatry. Even then, resisting the worship of idols is a lifelong battle that is part of the Christian life. Philippians 4:6-7(HCSB)Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Understanding modern idols can help us to understand why they prove to be such a powerful temptation. An idol can be anything we place ahead of God in our lives, anything that tugs at our heart more than God does, such as possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/drugs/gambling/pornography, etc. Many of the things we idolize can be very good, such as relationships or careers. Unfortunately, God is often shoved out of the way as we zealously pursue our idols. Worse yet, the significant amount of time we often spend in these idolatrous pursuits leaves us with little or no time to spend with the Lord.

All the various forms of modern idolatry have one thing at their core: self. We no longer bow down to idols and images. Instead we worship at the altar of the god of self.

We worship at the altar of the fulfillment of the self to the exclusion of all others and their needs and desires. This manifests itself in self-indulgence through alcohol, drugs, and food. Here in the USA we have unlimited access to alcohol, drugs (prescription drug use is at an all-time high, even among children), and food. Obesity rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed, and childhood diabetes brought on by overeating is epidemic. The self-control we so desperately need is dismissed in our uncontrollable desire to eat, drink, and self medicate more and more. We resist any effort to get us to curb our appetites, and we are determined to make ourselves the god of our lives. This has its origin in the Garden of Eden where Satan tempted Eve to eat of the tree with the words “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). This has been man’s desire ever since—to be god and, as we have seen, the worship of self is the basis of all modern idolatry.

All idolatry of self has at its core the three lusts found in 1 John 2:16 (ESV)“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” If we are to escape modern idolatry, we have to admit that it is rampant and reject it in all its forms. It is not of God, but of Satan, and in it we will never find fulfillment. This is the great lie and the same one Satan has been telling since he first lied to Adam and Eve. Sadly, we are still falling for it. Even more sadly, many churches are propelling it in the preaching of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel built on the idol of self-esteem. But we will never find happiness focusing on ourselves. Our hearts and minds must be centered on God. This is why when asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, Matthew 22:37 (ESV)“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. When we love the Lord and others with everything that is in us, there will be no room in our hearts for idolatry.

Idolatry is when there is confusion between the Creator and the created. This is what Romans 1:25(HCSB)25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen. Of these people he says, they exchange the truth of God for the lie. The truth is there’s the Creator, the created. God created us to worship the Creator.

Idolatry is what happens when we worship the created, sex, money, fame, glory, power, prestige, whatever the case may be, instead of the Creator. This is common in Wicca. This is common in Prosperity Gospel,and many who follow the wolves of TV preaching, have fallen prey to lies of that idol.

So, why is worship better than idolatry? Here’s how he says it: Exodus 20:5-6, “For I the LORD your God.” OK, alcohol is not your God. Sex isn’t your God. Fame isn’t your God. Pleasure isn’t your God. Your spouse isn’t your God. Your children are not your God. Your marriage is not your God. Your beauty is not your God. The car you drive, the clothes you wear, the house you live in or other people’s opinion, they are not the Lord. They’re not the sovereign. They’re not in control. They’re not in charge. He is.

Romans 12:1-2(NLT)12 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Also in the passage is a description of the manner of our worship: “give your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.” Giving our bodies means giving to God all of ourselves. The reference to our bodies here means all our human faculties, all of our humanness—our hearts, minds, hands, thoughts, attitudes—are to be presented to God. In other words, we are to give up control of these things and turn them over to Him, just as a literal sacrifice was given totally to God on the altar. But how? Again, the passage is clear: “by changing the way you think.” Renewing the mind – Metanoia in the greek means; change of mind it is where we get the word repentance. We renew our minds daily by cleansing them of the world’s “wisdom” and replacing it with true wisdom that comes from God. We worship Him with our renewed and cleansed minds, not with our emotions. We see this all the time as people don’t come to church, they don’t worship unless they “feel” like it, their favorite song is played, or their favorite worship leader is leading.

We are not to let our worship be dictated by our feelings or our emotions.

Emotions are wonderful things, but unless they are shaped by a mind saturated in truth, they can be destructive, out-of-control forces. Where the mind goes, the will follows and so do the emotions. 1 Corinthians 2:16(HCSB) tells us we have “the mind of Christ,” not the emotions of Christ. Worship to God is holy and sacred.  To pervert and corrupt it with entertainment and what we can “get out of the service” in trying to please and gratify ourselves is nothing short of blasphemy!  The sacredness of true worship must not be sacrificed on altars of entertainment-oriented quartets, choirs, and other entertainment groups.  We are as Hebrews 13:15(HCSB) says to 15 Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name.  In worship we must be the participants, not the observers.  We want to please and entertain ourselves.  In Galatians 1:10(HCSB) the question is asked, For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.  Worship is God-centered not man-centered.  When our worship is to please God instead of ourselves, then and only then will our worship be much more meaningful and spiritually uplifting to us and acceptable to God.

When people seek an “emotional high” from worship and don’t get it, they are disappointed and start blaming the songs, the worship leader, the preacher, etc.  The world wants their worship service to be “more entertaining”, thus they are failing to worship God in spirit and in truth.  Where in the Bible can we go to show that our worship is designed to please the worshipper.  The desire to have an experience or an encounter along the lines of mysticism also gives little regard to what God says in the Bible.

Our worship to God requires commitment on our part.  People had rather worship Christ as a baby in a manger than Christ as their crucified savior.  Their worshipping Christ as a baby in a manger requires no commitment on their part.  They feel they can put Him in a box and live the rest of the year as they please.  But worshipping Christ as our crucified savior requires commitment, a complete change of our life, and a willingness to do all that He says. Jesus says in Matthew 10:37-38(HCSB) 37 The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Christ must be first in our lives, and this requires that we be committed to Him.

“From this we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols. Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God. John Calvin, Institutes, 1.11.8

This quote is often used when discussing the issue of idolatry in the Christian heart. The argument usually goes something like this: Our hearts are perpetual idol factories, always leading us to worship something other than God. Therefore, we must be constantly evaluating our hearts to ensure that we are not drifting into idolatry.

Matthew 15:19(HCSB)18 But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies.

Proverbs 4:23(HCSB)Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.

Psalm 26:2(HCSB) Test me, Lord, and try me;examine my heart and mind

Your idols suck. God doesn’t suck.

The idols you are laboring over are sucking the life out of you. God is the only master who pours life into you.

Psalm 51:10-13(HCSB)God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.11 Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.12 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.13 Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You.

John 10:10 (HCSB)A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

One way of viewing abundant life is to see when people have been changed by the power of Christ; they live different lives, which affects all aspects of their experience.

Galatians 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.

Abundant life is not about what we have. It’s not about what we get. It’s not about what we claim. Ultimately, abundant life is about what we receive as a gift from the Lord and to live knowing we are stewards of the blessings of God.

Remember when I quote John Calvin about our hearts being idol factories? Left to ourselves we will continuously make idols unless we do a transference of ownership of our hearts.

Is your heart under new ownership? If you are still churning out idols without rebuke, without battle, then that tells you something. You haven’t been bought yet. You’re still an idol factory. You need a new owner.

You need Jesus.

Sanctification, Our Appetite Changes

Let me start by saying this “I may be friendly, but I am not your friend. Our relationship is more important than friendship.

Hebrews 13:17(NLT)17 Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.Yes, the Bible clearly states that God gives some individuals spiritual authority over others. There are various levels of authority in any person’s life, and each of these levels may involve different people in different positions of authority. Of course, we must begin with the highest authority, which is God.Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh, holds all authority and has distributed some of that authority to various people on earth. Matthew 28:18(HCSB)18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Because of our sinful nature, and because of the abuses or failures of authority that we have experienced, most people struggle on occasion with submitting to authorities.

God has chosen to place some in positions of authority for the sake of order and growth Ephesians 4:11–13(HCSB)11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

The early church recognized the authority of the apostles and submitted to their teaching and direction. Next to the apostles in authority were the elders, or pastors, of the churches. As Paul and Barnabas established churches in their missionary journeys, they ordained elders in every church. Acts 14:23(HCSB)23 When they had appointed elders in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. These elders were responsible for teaching /pastoring, supervising, and being examples to the church

1 Peter 5:2–3(HCSB)Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. As spiritual leaders, these elders have a greater responsibility to God James 3:1(HCSB)Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment, and must meet the qualifications God has established Titus 1:5–9(HCSB)The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and, as I directed you, to appoint elders in every town: one who is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of wildness or rebellion. For an overseer, as God’s administrator, must be blameless, not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.; 1 Timothy 3:1–7). Believers are told to acknowledge and respect those who are over them in spiritual matters
1 Thessalonians 5:12–13(HCSB)Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. and even to support them financially (1 Timothy 5:17–18(HCSB)17 The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says:Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and, the worker is worthy of his wages.

I said all of that to enforce the fact that I will tell you stuff at times that you will not like, but remember it is God who ordains and if God sent you to this church then He sent you to submit to the authority of the leadership of this house. It is for your benefit, I care about your soul, I care about your eternal residence more than your feelings. It is all part of the Sanctification process.

Sanctification is the same Greek word as holiness, “hagios,” meaning a separation.

To sanctify means to be set apart for a holy use. God has set us apart for the purpose of sanctification not impurity
1 Thessalonians 4:7(HCSB)For God has not called us to impurity but to sanctification, and being such we are called to do good works Ephesians 2:10(HCSB)10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

Sanctification, or in its verbal form, sanctify, literally means “to set apart” for special use or purpose, that is, to make holy or sacred. Therefore, sanctification refers to the state or process of being set apart, being made holy.

First step is cognition. God’s pattern for spiritual growth starts with understanding what the Bible says and what it means. The meaning of the Scripture is the Scripture—if you don’t know what it means, you don’t have the truth. So the process of spiritual growth starts with understanding what the Bible says. This is the importance of being under spiritual leadership that is steeped in biblical knowledge and truth.

True sanctification begins with renewing your mind. You must know the truth, plain and simple. There’s no premium on ignorance in sanctification. You’re not going to get there through some emotional or mystical experience. Spiritual growth won’t happen by osmosis—it requires the discipline of constantly putting God’s truth in your mind.

Hebrews 13:7(HCSB) Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Don’t be led astray by various kinds of strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be established by grace and not by foods, since those involved in them have not benefited.

There are no shortcuts in sanctification—a lack of biblical knowledge will always stun your spiritual growth. Apart from the truth of Scripture, there simply is no mechanism to restrain your sinful flesh. Legalism can’t do it. Good Intentions can’t either. The only certain method for true spiritual growth starts with absorbing God’s eternal truth.

Also it will not take 20 years, you have to start producing fruit as soon as you were saved. Then Jesus told this story: Luke 13:6-9 (ESV)6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Charles Spurgeon stated the following…

Imagine that there is a pig and I am standing about 100 ft away from a pig. To one side of me is a beautiful 7 course dinner and to the other side of me is a large bucket of slop.

The pig is released, which side is he going to run to? To the slop side of course!

Why? Because he is a pig and that is all that pigs know.

Now imagine if you will that we were able to change that pig into a man, all the while he is eating the slop. What will happen?

The odds are that he will lift up his head and look around at his environment and then spit out the slop he was feeding upon when he was a pig.

Why? Because he is no longer a pig that is able to feed upon slop, but a man needing a form of food to give him nutrition so that he might live.

This man is now a new creature and is no longer a pig.

Now from time to time he may even have pig thoughts about the wonderful slop he once ate when he was a pig. He may even go to the slop bucket from time to time, smell it, look at it. But the moment he feeds upon it what will happen? He will spit it out because he is no longer a pig but a man. Even if he as a man he forces himself to eat the slop, which men are able to do, it will eventually cause him to vomit it all up and make him sick possibly unto death because his body no longer accepts slop because he is a new creature.Now if one thinks he is a man and can still stomach the slop day in and day out, what makes him think he was changed into a new creature in the first place? If he is feeding upon the slop of the world and does not get sick to his stomach, maybe he was never changed into new creature in the first place and to this day remains a pig.

2 Corinthians 5:17(HCSB)17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

When we are truly converted, we can no longer stomach the slop of the world, the fleshly sin that we once indulged in.

When we entertain the sin, and all of us do from time to time, it makes us sick with guilt and shame because it is the Holy Spirit working in our lives chastening us from the inside out because God loves us as His children. Scripture says that God chastens His own.

Luke 15:11(HCSB) He also said: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. 14 After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing. 15 Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one would give him any. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger!18 I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’

The son was in the pig slop eating pig pods, stuff that would fill up his belly but give him no nourishment, how much do we take in throughout the week that fills us up but gives us no spiritual nourishment?

1 Corinthians 6:9-11(HCSB) 9 Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, 10 no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. 11 And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

There is a difference between continuing to sin and continuing to live in sin. No one reaches sinless perfection in this life, but the redeemed Christian is being sanctified (made holy) day by day, sinning less and hating it more each time he fails. Yes, we still sin, but unwillingly and less and less frequently as we mature. Our new self hates the sin that still has a hold on us. The difference is that the new creation is no longer a slave to sin, as we formerly were. We are now freed from sin and it no longer has power over us. Now we are empowered by and for righteousness. We now have the choice to “let sin reign” or to count ourselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”

Romans 6:11-12(HCSB)11 So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. Best of all, now we have the power to choose the latter.

Malachi 3:1-6(NLT)“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord. 4 Then once more the Lord will accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past. 5 “At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.6 “I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed.

It does not say in verse 2 that he is like a forest fire, or like an incinerator’s fire. It says that he is like a refiner’s fire. A forest fire destroys indiscriminately. An incinerator consumes completely. But verse 6 says, “ I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed.”

He is a refiner’s fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner’s fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner’s fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner’s fire.

It does say FIRE. And therefore purity and holiness will always be a dreadful thing. There will always be a proper “fear and trembling” in the process of becoming pure. We learn it from the time we are little children: never play with fire! And it’s a good lesson! Therefore, Christianity is never a play thing. And the passion for purity is never flippant. He is like fire and fire is serious. You don’t fool around with it.

But it does say, he is like a REFINER’S fire. And therefore this is not merely a word of warning, but a tremendous word of hope. The furnace of affliction in the family of God is always for refinement, never for destruction.

The most important thing to say is that it is a life of confidence in God. And the foundation of our confidence is this promise: The furnace of affliction in the family of God is always for refinement, never for destruction. Which simply means that life in the refiner’s fire is a life of trust in the unchanging, purifying love of God.

1 Peter 4:12(NLT)12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

God is more concerned with your character than He is with your comfort.

God is more concerned with your holiness than He is with your happiness.

God is more concerned with you as a person than He is with your possessions.

God is getting you ready to live with Him forever. He is getting you ready to accept His inheritance.

Proverbs 17:3(NLT)Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the Lord tests the heart.

How HOT does the fire have to get?? As HOT as we let it.
God doesn’t care about your reputation; He cares about your Character.

For Godly character to be in us HE has to work our fleshly character out of us. God doesn’t change our personality, He changes our character.

Character is what you are behind closed doors, when no one is watching, when your all alone, when you don’t have to wear the “mask” in front of people.

Character in the believer is a consistent manifestation of Jesus in his life. It is the purity of heart that God gives becoming purity in action. God sometimes uses trials to strengthen character:
Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Be Sent Into the World

1 John 4:4-6(HCSB) You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.

The Christian faith that once existed in the background of American life and culture has diminished to such an extent that America is now a post-Christian nation. “Christians are ostracized. Gay marriage is celebrated. Abortion is literally destroying an entire generation. The culture around us is a Post-Christian Culture where the Christian ideological belief system is frowned upon. This is happening all around us, yet many Christians remain oblivious. “The church is dying, and no one is noticing because we’re wasting time criticizing, taking selfies when we feed the homeless or trying to make club members  rather than evangelizing.”

Hell is hot, forever is a long time, and it’s our turn to stop making excuses and start making a difference. This is no time to trade in our combat boots for vacation flip-flops. The days are darker, which means our means of resolution must be stronger and our convictions must be clearer.”

1 Corinthians 9:19-23(HCSB) Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. 21 To those who are without that law, like one without the law—not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law—to win those without the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. 23 Now I do all this because of the gospel, so I may become a partner in its benefits.

Believers in Jesus Christ are simply in the world—physically present—but not of it, not part of its values John 17:14-19(HCSB)I have given them Your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world.15 I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by the truth;Your word is truth.18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.19 I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth.

Jesus is not asking his Father for his disciples to be taken out of the world, but he is praying for them as they are “sent into” the world. He begins with them being “not of the world” and prays for them as they are “sent into” the world.

So maybe it would serve us better — at least in light of John 17 — to revise the popular phrase “in, but not of” in this way: “not of, but sent into.” The beginning place is being “not of the world,” and the movement is toward being “sent into” the world. The accent falls on being sent, with a mission, to the world — not being mainly on a mission to disassociate from this world.

Jesus’s assumption in John 17 is that those who have embraced him, and identified with him, are indeed not of the world. And now his summons is our sending — we are sent into the world on mission for gospel advance through disciplemaking.

Jesus’s true followers have not only been crucified to the world, but also raised to new life and sent back in to free others. We’ve been rescued from the darkness and given the Light not merely to flee the darkness, but to guide our steps as we go back in to rescue others.

As believers, we should be set apart from the world. This is the meaning of being holy and living a holy, righteous life—to be set apart. We are not to engage in the sinful activities the world promotes, nor are we to retain the apathetic, corrupt mind that the world creates. Rather, we are to conform ourselves, and our minds, to that of Jesus Christ.

Romans 12:1-2(HCSB)Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. This is a daily activity and commitment.

We must also understand that being in the world, but not of it, is necessary if we are to be a light to those who are in spiritual darkness. We are to live in such a way that those outside the faith see our good deeds and our manner and know that there is something “different” about us. Christians who make every effort to live, think and act like those who do not know Christ do Him a great disservice. Even the heathen knows that “by their fruits you shall know them,” and as Christians, we should exhibit the fruit of the Spirit within us.

Being “in” the world also means we can enjoy the things of the world, such as the beautiful creation God has given us, but we are not to immerse ourselves in what the world values, nor are we to chase after worldly pleasures. Pleasure is no longer our calling in life, as it once was, but rather the worship of God.

Mark Driscoll explained a simple classification that helps guide what to do with various things in culture:

•Receive – use as an opportunity for the gospel message of Jesus

•Reject – don’t use because it is contrary to biblical faith and Jesus’ will

•Redeem – could be used in a way that honors or dishonors, so use it in a way that is glorious, godly and good

1.  We REJECT whatever is explicitly anti-Gospel.

Bottom line.  If it is a clear violation of Scripture (not one’s tradition, etc.) we reject it.  For example, songs that demean women, encourage sinful behavior, etc. fall into this category.  We do not want to encourage or promote what the Bible forbids.  When the Bible speaks of “worldliness” it is referring to the value system of the world.  The church must not be “of the world” in that it does not promote the sinful values of the world.  That being said, it is a false argument to say that because a song (art, movie clip, etc.) is “in the world” automatically means it is sinful.  Therefore, we reject what the Bible rejects.

 

2.  We RECEIVE joyfully whatever is explicitly pro-Gospel.

At the same time, we want to joyfully receive whatever promotes what the Bible promotes.  If the song (art, skit, media, etc.) is Christ-centered and Gospel-explicit we are free to use it whether it be traditional or contemporary; old or new; organized or unstructured.  Because we believe God is a big God and worthy of many worship forms, we should be open to all things explicitly Christ-centered.

 

3.  We REDEEM whatever can be used for the Gospel.

However, not everything is black and white.  There are lots of culture (songs, art, literature, movies, etc.) that are neither explicitly worldly or explicitly Christ-centered.  So what do we do with those things?  We redeem them!  As Augustine said, “All truth is God’s truth wherever it is found.”

This tends to be the more “controversial” option.  I believe we are free to use these things by redeeming them in the Gospel for worship, teaching, and instruction.  Therefore, things we see in culture that centered on family, love, generosity, etc. or art that portrays beauty, dance that is creative, etc. can be used as a means of worship and praise to the Creator of all things.  It is a part of God’s common grace in the created order.  By no means do we want to water down the Gospel by focusing on what is moral instead of Christ.  When we redeem “secular” art, we are not presenting it by itself, void of context.  Part of “redeeming” culture is showing how culture points us to the Giver of all things.  While “non-Christian” art may not frequent our Sunday services or other activities, we believe we can and should use things in culture for the sake of worship.  God is worthy of that.

There are aspects of culture that—as Christians—we can receive: technology, or an opportunity to do good in our city, like fighting human trafficking. Then there are things we have to reject. There’s no such thing as Christian pornography, Christian Idolatry,Christian illegal drug use, Christian fornication, or Christian adultery. And there are other things that we can redeem. They have the potential of being used for doing good, but are instead being used in a way that dishonors God. Sex is one thing that needs to be redeemed—it needs to be recovered by God’s people in a way that honors him.”

Our culture is full of distractions. Social media outlets flood us with information, diluting the important with noise. “We have more information, but that information tends to be trivial. We have become very selfish, very narcissistic, completely self-absorbed, and have a very small view of what’s actually going on in the world,” says Driscoll. “We’re more interested in what celebrities are wearing, what diets they’re on, who they’re dating, and what they’ve done with their hair than we are about human rights issues or political issues or economic issues or justice issues.”

Instead of just absorbing everything that comes our way, we need constantly ask how culture interacts with our faith: “How do we redeem? How do we have cultural engagement and creativity in a way that is faithful to God?”

“We live in a culture where it’s all about being real and being authentic and being honest. And it’s not about hipster; it’s not about cool. What’s honest and relevant is what’s truthful. When Christians ask how they can be cool, they’re asking the wrong question.”

“For us it’s about showing the relevance of the gospel. We don’t try to make gospel relevant. There’s a big difference there.”

Romans 10:14-16(HCSB) But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things! 16 But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.

The place to start is in our homes. By all accounts, we live in a post-Christian culture.  We can no longer depend on the community at large to help instill Christian values in our children. The moment they walk out of our homes, they confront a radically secularized world. One of the profound problems we currently face as a church is that the culture and worldview of most Christians is also post-Christian. Sound like an oxymoron?  Sadly, it is not. Our homes do not look substantially different from the world. The culture of our homes mirrors the culture at large.

What I mean is that our homes need to be the sharp contrast from the pressures and dangers that are outside of the home. We can’t be hypocritical when it comes to the gospel. We have to be the same in and out of church and also in and out of the home. Be real, not fake. Don’t wear a mask.

John 6:43-44(HCSB)43 Jesus answered them, “Stop complaining among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.

Regeneration, Our Character Changes

Ephesians 1:4-5(HCSB)4 For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will.

So the first thing you need to know about your adoption into God’s family through Christ is that God chose you and predestined you in love for adoption before the foundation of the world. God’s love for you and its expression in your adoption into his eternal family of joy did not start in this world. It reaches back to eternity. So when Paul says, “From him are all things” Romans 11:36(ESV)36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen, he includes our adoption, and means that before the foundation of the world he predestined you to be his child.

Therefore your adoption is not based on your fitness, your worth, or your character. It is rooted in God’s eternal purpose and grace. And that means that your adoption is not fragile or flimsy or uncertain. God will not adopt and then find out that you are not worthy and un-adopt you. He knows we are unworthy. And he chose us and predestined us for adoption. This is firm and sure and unshakable.

He reached down when we were at our worst to make us sons and daughters. When He predestined us to become sons and daughters, we were then Justified before Him, we were pronounced innocent, we were set free from the PENALTY of sin.

Justification is a pronouncement to clear the guilty. When one is justified, he is declared right before the Lord; he is pardoned and cleared of any violation.

This is Justification, to stand before God with all debts paid, and clothed in the righteousness of His only Son, Jesus Christ. To be able know that you have “peace with God”–there is no more war between you and the Almighty.

Romans 5:1(HCSB) Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The word adoption, like the word justification, refers not to a change in our disposition and character, but to a change on our status.

Adoption and regeneration accompany each other as two aspects of the salvation that Christ brings John 1:12-13(HCSB)But to all who did receive Him,He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God., but they are to be distinguished. Adoption is the bestowal of a relationship, while regeneration is the transformation of our moral nature. Yet the link is evident; God wants his children, whom he loves, to bear his character, and takes action accordingly.

Regeneration is necessary. Sinful human flesh cannot stand in God’s presence. In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus said twice that a man must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God John 3:3-5(HCSB)3 Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”4 “But how can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked Him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”5 Jesus answered, “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. We don’t need renovation or reformation or reorganization; we need rebirth. Physical birth fits us for earth; spiritual rebirth fits us for heaven.

Before salvation, we were degenerate; after salvation we are regenerated. The result of regeneration is peace with God Romans 5:1(HCSB)Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ., new life, and eternal sonship. Regeneration begins the process of sanctification wherein we become the people God intends us to be. Regeneration is God’s making a person spiritually alive, as a result of faith in Jesus Christ. Our rebirth is distinguished from our first birth, when we were conceived physically and inherited our sin nature. The new birth is a spiritual, holy, and heavenly birth that results in our being made alive spiritually.

Titus 3:3-7(HCSB)3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that having been justified by His grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.

In biology, regeneration is the process of renewal, restoration, and growth that makes genomes, cells, organisms, and ecosystems resilient to natural fluctuations or events that cause disturbance or damage.

Romans 6:3-11(HCSB)3 Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. 5 For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. 11 So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The regenerate man has forever ceased to be the man he was; his old life is over and a new life has begun; he is a new creature in Christ, buried with him out of reach of condemnation and raised with him into a new life of righteousness

Regeneration is a real thorough change, whereby one is made a new creature

2 Corinthians 5:17(HCSB)17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

The Lord God makes the creature a new creature, “as the goldsmith melts down the vessel of dishonor, and makes it a vessel of honor.”

Regeneration is a change of qualities or dispositions. Bad qualities are removed, and contrary dispositions are replaced. We will sin but we do not make a practice of sinning.

Colossians 3:9-11(NLT)9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

It is a change into the likeness of God.

2 Corinthians 3:18(HCSB)18 We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Regeneration is the “birth” by which this work of new creation is begun, as sanctification is the “growth” whereby it continues

1 Peter 2:2(HCSB)2 Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation,

After regeneration(Born again) we are now in the process of Sanctification(Being made holy) Sanctification we are being saved from the power of sin. It is God working His character into us and our character out of us. It is through the process of our dying to self and being obedient to the word and the Spirit we are daily changed.
Sanctification-is a continual process that conforms us into the image of the Son of God. Sanctification follows justification. In justification our sins are completely forgiven in Christ. Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit makes us more like Christ in all that we do, think, and desire. Jesus meets us where we are but His goal is to never leave us where He met us, We are to follow Him and strive for holiness AFTER He meets us where we are.

It is the Lord’s purpose to develop character within us. Proverbs 17:3(NLT) Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

Character in the believer is a consistent manifestation of Jesus in his life. It is the purity of heart that God gives becoming purity in action. God sometimes uses trials to strengthen character:
Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Regeneration is a radical change. Just as our physical birth resulted in a new individual entering the earthly realm, our spiritual birth results in a new person entering the heavenly realm. After regeneration, we begin to see and hear and seek after divine things; we begin to live a life of faith and holiness.

The Need for a ‘Missional’ Church

The Need for a ‘Missional’ Church

The missional Church is concerned with meeting the needs of others and discipling the lost. Most churches now are nothing more than fancy buildings for people who talk the same,act the same, like the same music and movies to have a place to gather and make themselves feel good about themselves.

What we have done as “The Christian Church” is made the people we are supposed to be evangelizing, our enemies. We would rather stay away from the dark than shine a light in it. Because what most churches peddle is nothing more than humanistic self-help repackaged with a sprinkle of Jesus ontop. The culture around us doesn’t want any part of that. They are hungry for real, authentic Christianity. We build up walls and create Christian bubbles to protect ourselves from THEM. We have christian movies, music, coffee shops, clothing, restaurants, books,tv stations, cartoons,vernacular,etc. We created a closed off Christian culture that is very hard for the average non believer to come to Christ and learn. Because we were never to do that!!! We were always made to GO, GO and Make disciples.
Matthew 28:18-19(HCSB)18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We like to believe this doctrine of salvation that Romans speaks of Romans 10:13(HCSB)13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But who will tell them?

Romans 10:14-15(HCSB)14 But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!

Here in America is the only “mission field” that we scold people for being like the culture. Every other country in the world we send missionaries to learn the culture of the people and preach the gospel to those people. We need to learn what it is to meet people where they are and say “Come up Here”!!

Below is an excerpt from Tim Keller on his writing on a Missional Church.

In the West for nearly 1,000 years, the relationship of (Anglo-European) Christian churches to the broader culture was a relationship known as “Christendom.” The institutions of society “Christianized” people, and stigmatized non-Christian belief and behavior. Though people were “Christianized” by the culture, they were not regenerated or converted with the Gospel. The church’s job was then to challenge persons into a vital, living relation with Christ.

There were great advantages and yet great disadvantages to ‘Christendom.’ The advantage was that there was a common language for public moral discourse with which society could discuss what was ‘the good.’ The disadvantage was that Christian morality without gospel-changed hearts often led to cruelty and hypocrisy. Think of how the small town in “Christendom” treated the unwed mother or the gay person. Also, under “Christendom” the church often was silent against abuses of power of the ruling classes over the weak. For these reasons and others, the church in Europe and North America has been losing its privileged place as the authority of public morality since at least the mid 19th century. The decline of Christendom has accelerated greatly since the end of WWII.

The British missionary Lesslie Newbigin went to India around 1950. There he was involved with a church living ‘in mission’ in a very non-Christian culture. When he returned to England some 30 years later, he discovered that now the Western church too existed in a non-Christian society, but it had not adapted to its new situation. Though public institutions and popular culture of Europe and North America no longer ‘Christianized’ people, the church still ran its ministries assuming that a stream of ‘Christianized’, traditional/moral people would simply show up in services. Some churches certainly did ‘evangelism’ as one ministry among many. But the church in the West had not become completely ‘missional’–adapting and reformulating absolutely everything it did in worship, discipleship, community, and service–so as to be engaged with the non-Christian society around it. It had not developed a ‘missiology of western culture’ the way it had done so for other non-believing cultures.

One of the reasons much of the American evangelical church has not experienced the same rapid decline as the Protestant churches of Europe and Canada is because in the U.S. there is still a ‘heartland’ with the remnants of the old ‘Christendom’ society. There the informal public culture (though not the formal public institutions) still stigmatizes non-Christian beliefs and behavior. “There is a fundamental schism in American cultural, political, and economic life. There’s the quicker- growing, economically vibrant…morally relativist, urban-oriented, culturally adventuresome, sexually alternative, and ethnically diverse nation…and there’s the small town,family, religiously- oriented, white-centric other America, with its diminishing cultural and economic force….Two nations…” Michael Wolff, New York, Feb 26 2001, p. 19. In conservative regions, it is still possible to see people profess faith and the church grow without becoming ‘missional.’ Most traditional evangelical churches still can only win people to Christ who are temperamentally traditional and conservative. But, as Wolff notes, this is a ‘shrinking market.’ And eventually evangelical churches got comfortable in the declining, remaining territories of “Christendom” will have to learn how to become ‘missional’. If it does not do that, it will decline or die.

We don’t simply need evangelistic churches, but rather ‘missional’ churches.

The Elements of a Missional Church

1. Discourse in the vernacular.

• In ‘Christendom’ there is little difference between the language inside and outside of the church. Documents of the early U.S. Congress, for example, are riddled with allusions to and references from the Bible. Biblical technical terms are well-known inside and outside. In a missional church, however, terms must be explained.

• The missional church avoids ‘tribal’ language, stylized prayer language, unnecessary evangelical pious ‘jargon’, and archaic language that seeks to set a ‘spritual tone.’

• The missional church avoids ‘we-them’ language, disdainful jokes that mock people of different politics and beliefs, and dismissive, disrespectful comments about those who differ with us.

• The missional church avoids sentimental, pompous, ‘inspirational’ talk . Instead we engage the culture with gentle, self-deprecating but joyful irony the gospel creates.

Humility + joy = gospel irony and realism.

• The missional church avoids ever talking as if non-believing people are not present. If you speak and discourse as if your whole neighborhood is present (not just scattered Christians), eventually more and more of your neighborhood will find their way in or be invited.

• Unless all of the above is the outflow of a truly humble-bold gospel-changed heart, it is all just ‘marketing’ and ‘spin.’

2. Enter and re-tell the culture’s stories with the gospel

• In “Christendom” it is possible to simply exhort Christianized people to “do what they know they should.” There is little or no real engagement, listening, or persuasion. It is more a matter of exhortation (and often, heavy reliance on guilt.) In a missional church preaching and communication should always assume the presence of skeptical people, and should engage their stories, not simply talk about “old times.”

• To “enter” means to show sympathy toward and deep acquaintance with the literature, music, theater, etc. of the existing culture’s hopes, dreams, ‘heroic’ narratives, fears.

• The older culture’s story was–to be a good person, a good father/mother,

son/daughter, to live a decent, merciful, good life.

• Now the culture’s story is– a) to be free and self-created and authentic (theme of freedom from oppression), and b) to make the world safe for everyone else to be the same (theme of inclusion of the ‘other’; justice).

• To “re-tell” means to show how only in Christ we can have freedom without slavery and embracing of the ‘other’ without injustice.

3. Theologically train people for public life and vocation

• In ‘Christendom’ you can afford to train people just in prayer, Bible study, evangelism–

private world skills–because they are not facing radically non-Christian values in their

public life–where they work, in their neighborhood, etc.

• In a ‘missional’ church, the congregation needs theological education to ‘think Christianly’ about everything and work with Christian distinctiveness. They need to know: a) what cultural practices are common grace and to be embraced, b) what practices are antithetical to the gospel and must be rejected, c) what practices can be adapted/revised. Receive, Reject, Redeem

• In a ‘missional’ situation, lay people renewing and transforming the culture through distinctively Christian vocations must be lifted up as real ‘kingdom work’ and ministry along with the traditional ministry of the Word.

• Finally, Christians will have to use the gospel to demonstrate true, Biblical love and ‘tolerance’ in “the public square” toward those with whom we deeply differ. This tolerance should equal or exceed that which opposing views show toward Christians. The charge of intolerance is perhaps the main ‘defeater’ of the gospel in the non-Christian west

4. Create Christian community which is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive.

• In Christendom, ‘fellowship’ is basically just a set of nurturing relationships, support and accountability. That is necessary, of course.

• In a missional church, however, Christian community must go beyond that to embody a ‘counter-culture,’ showing the world how radically different a Christian society is with regard to sex, money, and power.

• In sex. We avoid both the secular society’s idolization of sex and traditional society’s fear of sex. We also exhibit love rather than hostility or fear toward those whose sexual life patterns are different.

• In money. We promote a radically generous commitment of time, money,

relationships, and living space to social justice and the needs of the poor, the

immigrant, the economically and physically weak.

• In power. We are committed to power-sharing and relationship-building between

races and classes that are alienated outside of the Body of Christ.

• In general, a church must be more deeply and practically committed to deeds of

compassion and social justice than traditional liberal churches and more deeply and practically committed to evangelism and conversion than traditional fundamentalist churches. This kind of church is profoundly ‘counter-intuitive’ to American observers. It breaks their ability to categorize (and dismiss) it as liberal or conservative. Only this kind of church has any chance in the non- Christian west.

5. Practice Christian unity as much as possible on the local level.

• In Christendom, when ‘everyone was a Christian’ it was necessary (perhaps) for a church to define itself over against other churches. That is, to get an identity you had to say, “we are not like that church over there, or those Christians over here.”

• While we have to align ourselves in denominations that share many of our distinctives, at the local level we should cooperate and reach out to and support the other congregations and churches in our local area. This will raise many thorny issues, of course, but our bias should be in the direction of cooperation.

issues. If these marks are not there it will only be able to include believers or traditional, “Christianized” people.

There will be a difference between Churches and Country Clubs. and the church that is missional will be set apart from a church that is only concerned with filling pews or chairs.

Adoption, our status changes

 

Justification,Adoption, regeneration and sanctification.

Our sin has separated us from God, and the consequence of sin is death
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Biblical salvation refers to our deliverance from the consequence of sin and therefore involves justification from sin.

Justification We are saved from the PENALTY of Sin.

What does the term “Justified” mean? The Bible meaning of the word is to be totally blameless and totally guiltless–to be able to stand before God clean and pure in every way. Ephesians 2:8-9(HCSB)For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.Remember our helpless position before God–as “children of Wrath,”Ephesians 2:3(HCSB)We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.

Our Father, however, has devised a plan and made a way for us to stand righteous before Him. He has sent His own Son as a Sacrifice on our behalf, and those who believe in Him shall have everlasting life, and shall be seen as righteous in God’s sight. Ephesians 2:4-5(HCSB)But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!

Romans 3:23-24(HCSB)23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

This righteousness we receive is imputed righteousness–that is a theological term which means removing the guilt and penalty of sin while at the same time declaring a sinner righteous through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. God legally declares us to be righteous because of Christ’s work on the cross.

This is Justification, to stand before God with all debts paid, and clothed in the righteousness of His only Son, Jesus Christ. To be able know that you have “peace with God”–there is no more war between you and the Almighty.

Romans 5:1(HCSB) Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

J.I. Packer wrote; Paul teaches that the gift of justification brings with it the status of sonship by adoption (i.e., permanent intimacy with God as one’s heavenly Father, Galatians 3:26(HCSB)26 for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.;

Galatians 4:4-7(HCSB)When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

In Paul’s world, adoption was ordinarily of young adult males of good character to become heirs and maintain the family name of the rich who were childless. Paul, however, proclaims God’s gracious adoption of persons of bad character to become “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” Romans 8:17(HCSB)17 and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Justification is the basic blessing, on which adoption is founded; adoption is the crowning blessing, to which justification clears the way. Adopted status belongs to all who receive Christ John 1:12(HCSB)12 But to all who did receive Him,He gave them the right to be children of God,to those who believe in His name,. The adopted status of believers means that in and through Christ God loves them as he loves his only-begotten Son and will share with them all the glory that is Christ’s. Here and now, believers are under God’s fatherly care and discipline and are directed, especially by Jesus, to live their whole lives in light of the knowledge that God is their Father in heaven. They are to pray to him as such, imitate him as such, and trust him as such, thus expressing the affectionate instinct that the Holy Spirit has implanted in them.

Adoption and regeneration accompany each other as two aspects of the salvation that Christ brings John 1:12-13(HCSB)But to all who did receive Him,He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God., but they are to be distinguished. Adoption is the bestowal of a relationship, while regeneration is the transformation of our moral nature. Yet the link is evident; God wants his children, whom he loves, to bear his character, and takes action accordingly.

First adoption is “from Him”—from God. “In love he predestined us for adoption.”Ephesians 1:4-5(HCSB)For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will,

So adoption was part of a God’s plan. It was his idea, his purpose. It was not an afterthought. He didn’t discover one day that against his plan and foreknowledge humans had sinned and orphaned themselves in the world, and then come up with the idea of adopting them into his family. No, Paul says, he predestined adoption. He planned it. The misguided but popular concept that all people are children of God and can truthfully call Him “Abba Father” is simply not true. Just as children do not choose to be adopted or choose who will adopt them, neither do Christians choose to become children of God. Instead, God chooses them. He predestines them “to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will”, having been chosen by God from “before the foundation of the world”

And if we ask when this predestination happened, verse 4 makes that plain: “He chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless in His sight.” Before the creation of the world, and before we existed, God looked on us in our need, and he looked upon his Son crucified and risen as the all sufficient atonement for our sin, and because of that he chose us to be holy and blameless. And to that end he “predestined us for adoption.” It happened before the creation of the world.

So the first thing you need to know about your adoption into God’s family through Christ is that God chose you and predestined you in love for adoption before the foundation of the world. God’s love for you and its expression in your adoption into his eternal family of joy did not start in this world. It reaches back to eternity. So when Paul says, “From him are all things” Romans 11:36(ESV)36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen., he includes our adoption, and means that before the foundation of the world he predestined you to be his child.

Therefore your adoption is not based on your fitness, your worth, or your character. It is rooted in God’s eternal purpose and grace. And that means that your adoption is not fragile or flimsy or uncertain. God will not adopt and then find out that you are not worthy and unadopt you. He knows we are unworthy. And he chose us and predestined us for adoption. This is firm and sure and unshakable. He reached down when we were at our worst to make us sons and daughters.

Before the foundation of the world God saw that we would be sinners and planned the death of his Son so that our sins could be forgiven and God’s wrath removed. Through that we were adopted.

1) Not all people are God’s adopted children.

The blood of Christ covers the sins of all who believe Romans 3:25(HSCB)25 God presented Him as a propitiation[a] through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. Therefore believers in Jesus are adopted, and no others. If we talk about God being the Father of all mankind, we speak very loosely and are not talking truly about those who are saved.

The benefits of being adopted children of God are many. Becoming a child of God is the highest privilege and honor that can be imagined. Because of it we have a new relationship with God and a new standing before Him. He deals with His children differently than He deals with the rest of the world. Being a child of God, adopted “through faith in Christ Jesus” is the source for our hope, the security of our future and the motivation to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” Ephesians 4:1(HCSB)Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received,. Being children of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords calls us to a higher standard, a different way of life and a greater hope.

Hebrews 12:5-7(HCSB)5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him,6 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives.7 Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline?

Because of that new relationship, Christians may sin, but they cannot be comfortable or content living a life of habitual, ongoing sin. If people are living a life enslaved to sin and are comfortable in that sin and without the discipline of God upon them, then we know they are “illegitimate and not sons” Hebrews 12:8(HCSB)8 But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. In other words, they are unbelievers.

2) We were not cute little orphans that God was attracted to; we enemies in rebellion against God.

That is who God decided before the foundation of the world to adopt. Romans 5:6(HCSB)For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. Our adoption is not fragile or flimsy or uncertain. God will not adopt and then find out that you are not worthy and unadopt you. He knows we are unworthy. Romans 5:10(ESV) “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” And he chose us and predestined us for adoption. This is firm and sure and unshakable. He reached down when we were at our worst to make us sons and daughters.

So our adoption is not based on our being worthy or cute or attractive. It is based on the free and sovereign grace of God planned before the world and bought for us by the blood of Christ.

Adoption is a grace beyond and above justification. In justification, God acquits sinners of all the charges against them. Indeed, he goes further still and declares that in Christ their righteousness meets the highest possible standards. They are as righteous as Christ himself 2 Corinthians 5:21(ESV)21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. There is not a stain on their characters. We are saved from the PENALTY of Sin.

At this point, in normal human systems of justice, the accused is then simply free to go, and both he and the judge hope they will never see each other again. But the divine judge not only acquits. He invites the sinner home — and not just for an evening. He adopts us as his own forever, tells us we are to call him “Father,” and pronounces us lawful heirs to all he is and to all that he has.

Paul is the only New Testament writer who uses the term adoption, but he is not the only one who speaks of believers being God’s children. John also highlights it, particularly in 1 John 3:1(ESV)See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. “See,” he exclaims, “what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” Yet while they speak of the same subject, the two apostles use different language.

Change in Status

The word adoption, like the word justification, refers not to a change in our disposition and character, but to a change on our status. It speaks of a revolution in our relationship with God. As unbelieving sinners, we were utterly alienated from him: total outsiders, as far as his family was concerned. Now we belong, and by using the term adoption, Paul is using formal legal language to remind us that our membership of our new family is absolutely secure. It can never be undone.

He is committed to us. He has given us his name.

He has said, in effect, “From now on, you have nothing to worry about (Matthew 6:26). I will care for you (1 Peter 5:7), and if you do ever find yourself overtaken by anxiety, come and talk about it to me at once (Philippians 4:6–7). Always remember that I am your home, and that I will never disown you; and should you ever go astray, I will always take you back (Luke 15:20). My love will never let you go.”

Divine adoption, then, secures what no human adoption can secure. It is always accompanied by a radical and total transformation at the very core of our being. Not only have we a new status. We are new people Ephesians 4:24(HCSB)24 you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.

Should we, then, just sit back passively and let grace do its work? Indeed, the seed that God has implanted in us won’t let us sit back, nor will the hope that God has given us. The assurance that our destiny is to be “like him” impels us to set about purifying ourselves, and to do so with the utmost rigour, satisfied with nothing less than to be as pure as God himself (1 John 3:3).

While we may be sure that adoption gives God immense satisfaction, he never adopts in order to meet some need of his own. He adopts us because he loves us, not because he needs us.And far from exploiting us and subjecting us to a life of hard work, he showers upon us every spiritual blessing and fills our lives with the melody of joy and salvation.

God adopted us in our unworthiness to make his grace look great. You were adopted for the praise of the glory of his grace. God’s action in adopting us is radically God-centered and God-exalting. I know that many hear this and think it is not loving. How can God’s seeking to exalt himself be loving? The answer is that the glory of God is what we were made to see and enjoy for all eternity. Nothing else will satisfy our souls. Therefore if God does not exalt himself for us to admire and enjoy, then he is unloving. That is, he does not give us what we need.

We are adopted by God not so that we will rejoice that God made much of us. We are adopted by God so that we will enjoy making much of God’s grace as our Father forever. We are adopted so that in this family the Father and the unique elder Son, Jesus Christ, will be the source and focus of all our joy. We are adopted “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” It will take an eternity for the glory of that grace to be fully displayed for finite people. Therefore, we will be increasingly happy in God for ever and ever. That is the final meaning of adoption.