Blameless not Sinless

We are saved, we are being saved and we will be saved, three phrases in the Bible and in Christian circles that causes confusion and wrong doctrine all because of a few words that have been misused and misinterpreted over the years. There are three main points of salvation. There is an entry point, the middle point and then the end point.

Justification We are saved from the PENALTY of Sin.

Sanctification We are being saved from the Power of Sin

Glorification We will be saved from the presence of Sin

He HAS saved us (Justification) – Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

He IS saving us (sanctification) – 2 Corinthians 4:16(ESV) 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

He WILL save us (glorification) – 1 Peter 1:5(ESV) who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

 

He HAS cleansed us – 1 Corinthians. 6:11(ESV) 11 And such were some of you. 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.

He IS cleansing us – 1 John 1:7(ESV) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

He WILL utterly cleanse us – Ephesians 5:25-27(ESV)25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

 

He HAS kept us – Galatians 3:23(ESV) 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

He IS keeping us – 1 Corinthians 1:8(NLT)He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.

He WILL keep us – John 6:39(ESV) 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

Justification begins our sanctification. We are both Justified (a one time event) and in the process of being sanctified(on going). Sanctification begins with our justification, it is a process that conforms us to Christ’s likeness. Justification is a legal declaration of a sinner being righteous before the Father, it does not make us self-righteous.

Romans 8:29(HCSB) For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Someone who is a Christian for 10 years is no more justified than when the first became a believer. It is through the process of our dying to self and being obedient to the word and the Spirit we are daily changed, in God’s eyes we are completed and accepted because of our faith in Jesus’ work on the cross.
John 17:15-19(ESV)15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

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. “Romans 8:1(NLT)So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” To have “no condemnation” declared means to be found innocent of the accusation, to have no sentence inflicted and no guilty verdict found. By the grace of God, believers in Jesus Christ will not face the condemnation of God.

Many believers fall into deep condemnation whenever they sin. They read scriptures in the Bible which say that we should be faultless and blameless and they interpret that to mean that they should be sinless. And since they are not sinless, they fall into condemnation. We will look at some scriptures which encourage believers to be blameless, and we will see that this does not mean the same thing as being sinless. We are never called to be sinless.

1 John 1:5-10(ESV)This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Ideally we should not sin, but avoiding sin is not to be the focus of our Christian walk. We are called to be blameless – living above reproach and not creating stumbling blocks that turn others away from Christ. I am not downplaying the horror of our sin, but we must understand that holiness is not merely the absence of sin, but having the nature of God. There is a subtle difference in perspective that makes the difference between living a victorious life in Christ and living a life of bondage to the law.

An ancient heresy is that there are two types of Christians, carnal and Spirit-filled, and in between those is the heresy of perfectionism. Perfectionism teaches that there is a class of Christians who achieve moral perfection in this life. To be sure, credit is given to the Holy Spirit as the agent who brings total victory over sin to the Christian. But there is a kind of elitism in perfectionism, a feeling that those who have achieved perfection are somehow greater than other Christians. The “perfect” ones do not officially—take credit for their state, but smugness and pride have a way of creeping in.

To believe that we are sinless we must annul the standards of God’s Law. We must reduce the level of divine righteousness to the level of our own performance. We must lie to ourselves both about the Law of God and about our own obedience. To do that requires that we quench the Spirit when He seeks to convict us of sin. Persons who do that are not so much Spirit-filled as they are Spirit-quenchers.

People try to heal the symptoms rather than treating the actual issue. We teach you sin management instead of holy living.

Jeremiah 6:14(ESV)They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.

We mostly want a hurt free life. Look at society today everyone is easily offended. Pain is supposed to hurt, pain let’s you know something is wrong. painpill addiction is at an all time high, antidepressants are the most prescribed drug in the USA, why? Because we are a bunch of wusses who cannot stand to be wrong and have friends who will Judge us. That’s why people change friends and join big churches, because the chances of being hurt or “found” out in a big church are slim.

Proverbs 27:17(ESV)Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

When one man and another man “sharpens” one another sparks will fly.

When conflict happens it is supposed to be part of a process called sanctification. Being able to learn from an experience and grow shows a sign of maturity.

One of the true marks of our ongoing sanctification is the growing awareness of how far short we fall of reaching perfection. Perfectionism is really antiperfectionism in disguise. If we think we are becoming perfect, then we are far from becoming perfect.

Ephesians 4:13(ESV)13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, This says that the spiritual gifts are given to build up the body of Christ “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Some translations say that we will become “perfect” (instead of “mature”), and from this some people have mistakenly thought that we can reach sinless perfection in this life. The word translated “mature” in Ephesians 4:13 is the Greek word teleios (tel’-i-os). It is used throughout the New Testament to mean “perfect,” “complete,” “full-grown,” and “mature.” What Ephesians 4:13 teaches is that, the more we grow in Christ, the stronger and more unified we will be as a church. The verse does not teach that we will stop sinning. The Bible teaches that, while we are in the flesh, we will always struggle with a sin nature.
Romans 7:14–24(ESV)14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  No one will be “perfect” (sinless) until we reach heaven.

Another couple of passages that people sometimes get confused about is
Colossians 1:28(ESV)28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ., which says, in some translations, that Paul wants to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Also, in Colossians 4:12(ESV)12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. Paul prays that we would “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” In both verses, the Greek word for perfect should be understand to mean “mature” or “full-grown,” not “having no sin.” This is the importance of reading a couple of different translations or knowing some greek and hebrew or how to look up some words.

As human beings we are bound under Adam’s nature in this world. No matter how hard we try not to, we will still sin against God. This holds true for everyone. The apostle Paul rebuked Peter for showing favoritism Galatians 2:11–13(ESV)11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.. Late in his ministry, Paul calls himself the chief of sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15(ESV)15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. Peter, James, John, and Paul all admitted that they were imperfect. How could you or I claim anything different?

Sanctification requires a lifetime to complete. As we grow in grace, we are gradually – but steadily – changing to be more like Jesus.
2 Corinthians 3:18(ESV)18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. This occurs in a process of daily spiritual renewal Colossians 3:10(ESV)Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. The apostle Paul himself was being sanctified even as he ministered to others. Paul claimed that he had not reached perfection, but that he “pressed on” to attain everything Christ desired for him Philippians 3:12-16(ESV)12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

God’s work in sanctification involves all three members of the Trinity. God the Father is constantly at work in His children “to will and to work for His good pleasure”. Philippians 2:12-13(ESV)12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

He changes our desires, making us want to please Him, and He empowers us to do so. Jesus earned our sanctification on the cross and, in essence, has become our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30(ESV)30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,) and the “perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). The Holy Spirit is the primary agent of our sanctification (1 Corinthians 6:11(ESV)11 And such were some of you. 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.;

2 Thessalonians 2:13(ESV)13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits[a] to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

1 Peter 1:2(ESV)according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:May grace and peace be multiplied to you., and He is the one who produces in us the fruit of sanctification. Galatians 5:22-23(ESV)22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Our role in sanctification is both passive and active. Passively, we are to trust God to sanctify us, presenting our bodies to God (Romans 6:13; 12:1) and yielding to the Holy Spirit. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thessalonians 4:3), and God will have His way

Actively, we are responsible to choose to do what is right. 1 Thessalonians 4:4(ESV)that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, This involves putting to death the “misdeeds of the body” (Romans 8:13), striving for holiness (Hebrews 12:14), fleeing immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), cleansing ourselves from every defilement (2 Corinthians 7:1), and making every effort to supplement our faith (2 Peter 1:5-11).

Both the passive role and the active role are necessary for a healthy Christian life. To emphasize the passive role tends to lead to spiritual laziness and a neglect of spiritual discipline. The end result of this course of action is a lack of maturity. To emphasize the active role can lead to legalism, pride, and self-righteousness. The end result of this is a joyless Christian life. We must remember that we pursue holiness, but only as God empowers us to do so. The end result is a consistent, mature Christian life that faithfully reflects the nature of our holy God.

John makes it clear that we will never be totally free from sin in this life (1 John 1:8-10). Thankfully, the work God has begun in us He will finish.

Philippians 1:6(ESV)And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

“Indeed, the more sanctified the person is, the more conformed he is to the image of his Savior, the more he must recoil against every lack of conformity to the holiness of God. The deeper his apprehension of the majesty of God, the greater the intensity of his love to God, the more persistent his yearning for the attainment of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the more conscious will he be of the gravity of the sin that remains and the more poignant will be his detestation of it….Was this not the effect in all the people of God as they came into closer proximity to the revelation of God’s holiness.” -John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied

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Be Saved not a Hypocrite

The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word “hupokrites.” It is defined as “the practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess,” or “an actor under an assumed character.”

Brennan Manning has said that “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Oswald Chambers said, “The world is glad of an excuse not to listen to the gospel message, and the inconsistencies of Christians is the excuse.” In essence, “hypocrisy” refers to the act of claiming to believe something but acting in a different manner. The word is derived from the Greek term for “actor”—literally, “one who wears a mask”—in other words, someone who pretends to be what he is not.

The Bible calls hypocrisy a sin. There are two forms hypocrisy can take: that of professing belief in something and then acting in a manner contrary to that belief, and that of looking down on others when we ourselves are flawed.

The prophet Isaiah condemned the hypocrisy of his day: Isaiah 29:13 (ESV)“The Lord says, ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men’”. Centuries later, Jesus quoted this verse, aiming the same condemnation at the religious leaders of His day Matthew 15:8-9(ESV)“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”. John the Baptist refused to give hypocrites a pass, telling them to produce Luke 3:8(ESV)Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Jesus took an equally staunch stand against sanctimony—He called hypocrites “wolves in sheep’s clothing” Matthew 7:15(ESV)15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves., “whitewashed tombs” Matthew 23:27(ESV)27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness., “snakes,” and “brood of vipers” Matthew 23:33(ESV)33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Jesus uses harsh words to describe how wicked the scribes and Pharisees are. While he’s calling them snakes, he’s specifically using vipers as the best metaphor everyone listening will understand. Everyone knows the viper is the most dangerous and worst in terms of looks, with double-forked tongues and venomous fangs, but also in what they do. When they aggressively attack and bite to give venom, they don’t let go. Their poisonous bites often lead to painful deaths. Furthermore, they multiply quickly.

Genealogies are, if you will, a kind of a map for the whole community – describing exactly where in the scheme of things you fit.We’re not often aware of it when we read the English Bible but Jesus is extremely skilled at insults. Matthew, Jesus calls his opponents – It’s translated in the English – “A brood of vipers.” That is not exactly what the Greek says. The Greek says, “You snake-bastards” Now think about that in honor-shame culture. If you get your honor ranking from your family, to call some of the illegitimate son of a snake – that is the Mediterranean equivalent of a dirty mouth. Double insult is calling a Pharisee an unclean animal and an illegitimate child.
In other words, the closest English equivalent would have been for Jesus to call the pharisees “sons of bitches”, except this modern insult probably isn’t as offensive as the one Jesus used.

Craig Keener,PHD Expertise in Historical Jesus and the New Testament studies argues that viper at that time carries reference to murdering one’s own mother, the “worst conceivable crimes” in the ancient world. It is hard to find a modern equivalent to the term “brood of vipers” to bring out its semantic significance since our English language and context does not have the words to express the equivalent weight of moral wrongness with mother murderer and bring out the equivalent social disgust. Some historians and theologians of modern day equate Mother F****r to brood of vipers.

“Brood of vipers,” as a condemnation, has layers of poison. We can match John for crudity, but our insults lack his sophistication; we underestimate the seriousness of life, and the dangers Jesus saw for his church.

Can we feel the forcefulness of Jesus’ perception of the Pharisees now?, Can we get a better picture of how much Jesus disliked the hypocritical Pharisees? Ephesians 4:29(NASB)29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Like I said last week well placed words at the right moment mean alot, regardless of what we think about them.

Hypocrisy is not the same as taking a stand against sin. For example, it is not hypocrisy to teach that sexual immorality is a sin, unless the one teaching against immorality gets looks at porn and cheats on their spouse—that would be hypocrisy.

Genesis 3:1-7(ESV)Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Notice that their first reaction to sin was to manufacture a coverup. When sin entered the world though their disobedience, Adam and Eve used fig leaves to cover their shame. Fig leaves whither pretty quickly. Before sin, they had never seen anything die, so when they plucked the fig leaves from the tree, I’m sure they expected longer-lasting results.

When God spoke to Adam and Eve, He explained that in order to cover their sin, something besides fig leaves would have to die. At this point, God established the sacrificial system. Genesis 3:21(HCSB)21 The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them.

To get those skins, some animal had to die. In other words, God sacrificed an animal to cover their sin. From the beginning, God has declared the payment for sin is death, and so blood must be shed to cover sin:

Leviticus 17:11(NASB) “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

Hebrews 9:22(NASB) “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

Early in the Old Testament God introduced this idea of one innocent being shedding its blood in place of the sinner’s.

However the solution of sacrificing bulls and goats and lambs for the sins of each person’s sin was a temporary fix. The next year, another animal would have to be sacrificed for the same person. A more permanent solution was needed, as noted in Hebrews 10:4(NASB)For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

That meant a human was needed to die for humans’ sin. But all humans are sinful, so another sin-filled person dying for us just wouldn’t work. A human without sin was needed.

But ever since Adam, every human born is sin-filled, so how could a sinless man happen? The only way was if a perfect man was born, Jesus.

Adam and Eve made belts of fig leaves, but God gave them robes of skin, thus symbolizing that Jesus would have to die to cover the sin and nakedness of the lost. When we sin, one of two things will happen. We either start looking for fig leaves to make our own flimsy coverup, or we look to Jesus for His robe of righteousness.

Throughout the Bible, fig leaves are a symbol for man-made religion and false righteousness. Man has never been able to make a “fig leaf” that will cover his sin. We try “fig leaves” of good religious works, church membership, baptism, confirmation, tithing, the sacraments, religious philosophy, new age movements, philanthropy, etc. But we still cannot escape our guilt.

All outward acts of religion without the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins are withered “fig leaves.”

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.’”

One week before His death, Jesus cursed a fruitless fig tree to illustrate what was going to happen to the Jewish nation and the apostate church.

Matthew 21:18-20(ESV)18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?”

Why would Jesus curse a fig tree? Surely the Lord was not so petty as to retaliate against a tree because it didn’t give Him breakfast! We need to examine this story closely, because it is the only place in the Gospels where Jesus is credited with being directly responsible for killing something.

Fig trees are unique in that both mature leaves and ripe fruit appear at the same time. The tree Jesus cursed had all the outward signs of bearing fruit, yet the tree was a hypocrite. It was a fitting symbol of the Jewish nation. With its temple, priesthood, and sacrifices, Israel had all the trappings of true religion, but the genuine fruits—justice, mercy, and faith—were missing. Matthew 23:23(ESV)23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Remember that withered fig leaves are a reminder of man’s failed attempts to cover his own sins.

Notice the sequence. The same day Jesus cursed the fruitless fig tree (Matthew 21), He later had a showdown with the phony Pharisees and exposed their hypocrisy.

Matthew 23:1-23(ESV)Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Christ’s illustration of the fig tree that put forth leaves but no fruit is also a very plain prophetic sign for the last days. In the same way that literal Israel had all the outward forms of true religion before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, so spiritual Israel (the church) will in the last days put forth leaves but no fruit. There may be all the outward appearances of revival—lots of praise, miracle-healing services, big attendance, and talk of love and acceptance, but no fruit of the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:1-7(ESV)But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

Jesus is calling us to lay aside our filthy, self-righteous fig leaves and put on the royal robe of the Father. Only then will the fruits of the Spirit be evident in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23(ESV)22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. There will be no people in God’s kingdom who are merely ornamental trees. Ornamental trees just look pretty but have no fruit. Everyone must have fruit, God didn’t call us to look pretty, He calls us to produce fruit.

Hypocrisy hurts the church, and it hurts us. Many hypocrites have been acting for so long that they have come to believe their own performance. We have a tendency to mold our faces to fit our masks. The longer we are hypocrites the less we know who the “real” us are. We start to believe our own lies we tell ourselves and we start to believe the enemy. But God wants us to be honest with others and ourselves.

Don’t try coming to God with your “fig leaves.” They may be in fashion, but they are inadequate. God will not accept them; they can never please God because no death has taken place. The penalty for sin must be paid. You will pay it, or your divine Substitute must pay it. God has dealt with our guilt in the death of Jesus Christ.  Christ died for our sin as our substitute. The penalty for our sin has been paid in full.God fully clothes every individual who believes in Christ with the perfect righteousness of Christ. The nakedness of your sin must be covered. Are you covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ?  Either you will stand before your eternal Judge in the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, or you will stand naked in your sins. This is called Justification, 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.

Justification We are saved from the PENALTY of Sin.

Sanctification We are being saved from the Power of Sin

Glorification We will be saved from the presence of Sin

Justification begins our sanctification. We are both Justified (a one time event) and in the process of being sanctified(on going). Sanctification begins with our justification, it is a process that conforms us to Christ’s likeness. Justification is a legal declaration of a sinner being righteous before the Father, it does not make us self-righteous.

Romans 8:29(HCSB) For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Someone who is a Christian for 10 years is no more justified than when the first became a believer. It is through the process of our dying to self and being obedient to the word and the Spirit we are daily changed, in God’s eyes we are completed and accepted because of our faith in Jesus’ work on the cross.
John 17:15-19(ESV)15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

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. “Romans 8:1(NLT)So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” To have “no condemnation” declared means to be found innocent of the accusation, to have no sentence inflicted and no guilty verdict found. By the grace of God, believers in Jesus Christ will not face the condemnation of God.

Evangelism and Missions

If you were to ask the average Christian, “What was the mission of Jesus?” you’d no doubt hear that Jesus came to die on the cross for our sins, so that we might have eternal life. I believe this is true, profoundly and wonderfully. But I also believe it’s not the full story. The mission of Jesus, though ultimately centered in the cross and though leading to life after death, is not the whole picture. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News. The good news that we were once dead but now we are alive, we were once on a path to hell and now we are not. We are to spread this good news to the whole earth, but are we doing what we are called to do? Do we go out and spread the gospel or do we beg people to come see the church, the music, listen to the preacher, check out children’s church, etc?

The whole idea of missionaries is to infiltrate a culture, learn the culture and preach the gospel to that culture. Only in America do we create a different culture and tell people to stay away from different cultures.

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”!!

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

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.

Acts 1:8(HCSB)8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:8 is personal “the Holy Spirit comes upon YOU AND YOU will be my witnesses,Jesus said be fishers of men and if you read it backwards it says

If your not fishing for men you are not following Jesus Christ.

We sit back and let cults come in to our neighborhoods and peddle their theology that is sending people straight to Hell.

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. But they still need the word too the gospel should be heard too. Romans 1:16-17(HCSB)16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. 17 For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.We claim we are not ashamed but yet we still haven’t evangelized our own neighborhoods. We in our Christian bubble while our brothers and sisters overseas are getting locked and chopped up for the sake of the gospel. See American’s ain’t Christian we just practicing a ritual.

Thats why we should be missional. Because what most churches peddle is nothing more than humanistic self-help repackaged with a sprinkle of Jesus on top. 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.”I know you read the Great Commission let me just remind ya’ll Make Disciples of the Nation teach them to obey the Lord Hate to never lead someone to Christ before I see the Lord.The Great Commission says make Disciples of all nation. Have we even made em in our own nation?

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!

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.

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 disciple making.

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.

We are to preach the gospel and live life worthy of being called a Christian, this does not mean that we will not mess up. This means that we have something worth telling the wold about. Do you even care that the world around you is lost and on their way to hell? It is not our responsibility on how the world will react to the gospel. That is the Father’s responsibility, the Holy Spirit will work on the hearts of the men to repent and turn to Him.

John 16:8-11(HCSB)When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

All of salvation is grace.  It is grace that God chose to save the ungodly; it is grace that Christ came to earth to secure the salvation of His treasured possession through His own blood; and it is grace that exchanges a man’s heart of stone for a heart of flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of men is known as regeneration.  Before man is able to respond to the Gospel message, he must be given ears to hear.  Because man is born dead in sin, he must be made alive in order to respond positively to the call to repentance (just think about a corpse’s ability to respond to anything). Without this work of the Holy Spirit, man would remain condemned and dead in his sins.

Jeremiah 17:9(ESV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Deuteronomy 30:6(ESV) And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Ezekiel 36:26(ESV) And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Luke 8:15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

Acts 16:14(ESV) One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

2 Corinthians 5:17(ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

So why evangelize? Because God chose the method of men preaching the gospel  to turn the hearts of men from stone into flesh. Then what? It is our job to disciple them. We think  that evangelism is the hardest part but it is not, discipleship is.

Jesus sent his inner core of disciples into the world for the purpose of making more disciples. These new followers of Jesus would not only believe in him, but also would obey all the commands Jesus gave to his first disciples. The second generation of disciples were to make more disciples, who would make more disciples, who would make more disciples, and so forth until all nations are filled with disciples of Jesus.

Matthew 10:7-8(HCSB)7 As you go, announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge.

John 13:34(HCSB)34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.

But, whereas the first disciples were to minister only among their fellow Jews while Jesus was on earth, after the resurrection they – and we – are sent out to all nations. Jesus explained this sending quite succinctly:

John 20:21(HCSB) Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”We who follow Jesus are a sent people, even as Jesus was sent into the world by his Heavenly Father. We are a community sent on a mission together: to keep on doing the ministry of Jesus so that all people and all creation might experience the reconciliation of God. God has designed the church of Jesus Christ to be a “missional” fellowship. The word “mission” comes from the Latin word missio, which means “having been sent.” Since we have been sent to do God’s work, we are a “missional” community together.

Christians have often used this kind of language differently, to identify as “missionaries” those whom we send to far away places to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Thus, these missionaries are sent, having been sent by God and by the church. But this language has sometimes obscured the fundamental missional calling of the whole church together and every individual member. If we think of ourselves primarily as sending others away to do “missions,” then we may forget that we also have been sent by God into our particular part of the world to fulfill God’s mission right where we are, even as we share in the global mission of God.

Though many churches have mission statements or talk about the importance of having a mission, where missional churches differ is in their attitude toward the world. It is patterned after what God has done in Jesus Christ, that is, to be missional means to be sent into the world; not to expect people to come to us. This idea differentiates a missional church from an “attractional” church.

The attractional church seeks to reach out to the culture and draw people into the church. But this practice only works where no significant cultural shift is required when moving from outside to inside the church. The process of extracting people from the culture and assimilating them into the church diminishes their ability to speak to those outside. As a result, people cease to be missional and instead leave that work to the clergy.

Missional represents a significant shift in the way one thinks about the church. Being missional means we should engage the world the same way Jesus did—by going out rather than just reaching out. Missional means that when a church is in mission, it is then the true church.

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”!!

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

Rotten or Graceful Speech?

Words are all we have, really. We have thoughts but thoughts are fluid. Then we assign a word to a thought and we’re stuck with that word for that thought, so be careful with words.The same words that hurt can heal, it’s a matter of how you pick them. There are some people that aren’t into all the words.There are some that would have you not use certain words.

There are around 400,000 words in the English language and there are 7 of them that are really bad. 399,993 to 7. They must really be bad. They’d have to be outrageous to be separated from a group that large.That’s what they told us they were, remember? “That’s a bad word!”  No bad words, there are bad thoughts, bad intentions, and but words?!(George Carlin – 7 Words you can never say on TV)

We ought to have the freedom to use language contextually and not be bound by religiosity. That doesn’t mean that we ought to cuss like a sailor, but words have power… even what our culture considers offensive. (To be clear, I don’t often agree with under-girding theological assumptions that drive his use of foul or provocative language at various times)

I hear people use this verse alot Ephesians 4:29(NASB)29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…” I wonder what determines unwholesome speech? Does the pop culture? Does the FCC? Do the religious people? Nope. The answer comes in the second part of the statement: “…only that which is good for building others up ACCORDING TO THEIR NEEDS.” This statement both relativizes cussing and invites contextualization. The test, does using this word tear someone down or build up? If it doesn’t tear them down (because it is part of a language they understand) then we ought not live in a legalism that the Scriptures don’t impose.

Isaiah 5:20(ESV)Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!  We are supposed to use good words for good things and bad words for bad things, the problems start when we mix them up. When we start to assume certain words are bad and certain words are good. Or we allow culture to dictate what is good and what is bad instead of letting scripture tell us.

Bible Translations are filtered through a bit of political correctness. As a pastor one of my goals is to instill a passion to interpret and believe what the Bible actually says into you guys. Not what we want it to say, but what it really says in all its grit and occasional offensiveness. Cleaning up God’s word is like telling a chef he didn’t prepare the meal correctly for the patrons.

But religious people have been covering up obscene language in the Bible for centuries. Jewish scribes in the middle ages, who copied the Hebrew Old Testament used as the base for all English translations, edited out some vulgar words and replaced them with nicer ones. For instance, God originally prophesied through Zechariah that women in Israel would be raped by wicked, invading armies. The word God inspired is shagel, and according to Hebrew linguists, shagel is an obscene word that describes a sexual act. But whenever God said shagel  as in Deuteronomy 28:30(ESV)30 You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall ravish her. You shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it. You shall plant a vineyard, but you shall not enjoy its fruit.;

Isaiah 13:16(HCSB)Their children will be smashed to death before their eyes; their houses will be looted, and their wives raped., 

the Masorites replaced it with the more tame shakev—“to lie with.” And all of our “literal” English translations agree that the word from the middle ages is better than the one spoken by our Creator.

The Bible is full of obscene language. Ezekiel would have been never allowed to speak in another American church if he spoke the way he did in his day today. He talks about huge penises, female genital fluid produced at sexual arousal, and large quantities of semen being “poured out” on Israel—God’s wayward whore. Ezekiel 16:26-37(ESV)26 You also played the whore with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your whoring, to provoke me to anger. 27 Behold, therefore, I stretched out my hand against you and diminished your allotted portion and delivered you to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. 28 You played the whore also with the Assyrians, because you were not satisfied; yes, you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied. 29 You multiplied your whoring also with the trading land of Chaldea, and even with this you were not satisfied.

30 “How sick is your heart, declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, 31 building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment. 32 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! 33 Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. 34 So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different.

35 “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the Lord: 36 Thus says the Lord God, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whorings with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, 37 therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness.

Ezekiel 23:16-21(ESV)16 When she saw them, she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. 17 And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoring lust. And after she was defiled by them, she turned from them in disgust. 18 When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. 19 Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt 20 and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. 21 Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.”

 

Modern translators edit out the vulgarity so that Ezekiel can be read in church. The apostle Paul was so enrapture by the scandalous grace of God that he did what we considered the greatest sin of all, he assumedly cussed! “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as skubala, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8(NET). The Greek word skubala is more vulgar than crap and dung, and as harsh as s**t. Either way, most translations dim it down by using words like “rubbish,” which means trash, not excrement, or “dung” which is more accurate but far less offensive. And yes my friends, that word is a first century cuss word.

In some ways, it’s understandable that we don’t want to be using this type of language in church. But, on the other hand, the Gospel is offensive. Grace is scandalous. And that’s the real point. The biblical prophets sometimes use offensive language, but not to produce shock for its own sake. Edginess was never the goal, and neither was some vague notion of Christian “freedom.” God’s messengers used vulgar images to shock their religious audience out of complacency. Because sometimes the goodness of God becomes lost in the fog of Christianese rhetoric and religious routine, and the only way to wake us up is to use provocative language.

So how do we reconcile Ezekiel’s filthy tongue with Ephesians 4:29(ESV)? 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Does this outlaw all forms of vulgarity? Not exactly. The word for “corrupting” (sapros) literally means “rotten, decaying, unwholesome.” The whole point is not to forbid certain words that are labeled “cuss words” by its culture, but all speech that does not “build up.”

Paul’s warning here does include using obscene or vulgar language that tears someone down, reflects worldly motives, or in any other way that’s unfit for a redeemed way of life. But “corrupting” primarily refers to slander, gossip or any other speech that tears someone down. Paul refers to the dangerous power of words, all words, when used to dehumanize another human being. Gossiping about a fellow church member, dropping a belittling comment on a blog or Facebook post or holding up a hateful sign at a gay-pride parade are all good examples of “corrupting” talk.

But if your Gospel presentation is putting your moralistic crowd to sleep, or if a pharisaic friend is more concerned about proper speech than an addiction to grace, then you may need to tell him that his Christ-less church attendance is nothing more than a bloody tampon until he clings to the Cross, as Isaiah did Isaiah 64:6(NET)We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight. We all wither like a leaf; our sins carry us away like the wind.

The Bible makes this abundantly clear. Ephesians 4:29(NASB) tells us, 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 

1Peter 3:10(ESV)“For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.”
James 3:9-12(ESV) summarizes the issue: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

James makes it clear that the lives of Christians—the “brothers”—should not be characterized by evil speech. By making the analogy of both salt water and fresh water coming from the same spring (which is uncharacteristic of springs), he makes the point that it is uncharacteristic for a believer to have both praise and gossip, perverse, or corrupt speech come from his/her mouth. Nor is it characteristic for us to praise God on one hand and curse our brothers on the other. This, too, is uncharacteristic of a true believer. Gossip is like a secret craving. We say we don’t like it, but when it’s within reach, we almost can’t resist it. We get a sudden appetite to know what we don’t know… about somebody else.

Why is it so hard to stop? Proverbs 18:8(HCSB)A gossip’s words are like choice food that goes down to one’s innermost being

No, you might think. Not me. I’m not into sharing the dirty details about a person’s life just for fun. But gossip comes in many flavors, and it involves listening as well. Proverbs 17:4(HCSB)  A wicked person listens to malicious talk;[a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.

The Hebrew word translated “gossip” in the Old Testament is defined as “one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.” A gossiper is a person who has privileged information about people and proceeds to reveal that information to those who have no business knowing it. Gossip is distinguished from sharing information in two ways:

1. Intent. Gossipers often have the goal of building themselves up by making others look bad and exalting themselves as some kind of repositories of knowledge.

2. The type of information shared. Gossipers speak of the faults and failings of others, or reveal potentially embarrassing or shameful details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or approval. Even if they mean no harm, it is still gossip.

In the book of Romans, Paul reveals the sinful nature and lawlessness of mankind, stating how God poured out His wrath on those who rejected His laws. Because they had turned away from God’s instruction and guidance, He gave them over to their sinful natures. The list of sins includes gossips and slanderers Romans 1:29-32(HCSB)29 They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. 32 Although they know full well God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them. We see from this passage how serious the sin of gossip is and that it characterizes those who are under God’s wrath.

Another group who were (and still are today) known for indulging in gossip is widows. Paul cautions widows against entertaining the habit of gossip and of being idle. These women are described as “gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to” 1 Timothy 5:12-13(ESV)12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.. Because women tend to spend a lot of time in each other’s homes and work closely with other women, they hear and observe situations which can become distorted, especially when repeated over and over. Paul states that widows get into the habit of going from home to home, looking for something to occupy their idleness. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and God cautions against allowing idleness to enter our lives. Proverbs 20:19(HCSB)The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.

Women are certainly not the only ones who have been found guilty of gossip. Anyone can engage in gossip simply by repeating something heard in confidence. The book of Proverbs has a long list of verses that cover the dangers of gossip and the potential hurt that results from it. Proverbs 11:12-13(HCSB)12  Whoever shows contempt for his neighbor lacks sense, but a man with understanding keeps silent.13 A gossip goes around revealing a secret, but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.

The Bible tells us that Proverbs 16:28(HCSB)A contrary man spreads conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. Many a friendship has been ruined over a misunderstanding that started with gossip. Those who engage in this behavior do nothing but stir up trouble and cause anger, bitterness, and pain among friends. Sadly, some people thrive on this and look for opportunities to destroy others. And when such people are confronted, they deny the allegations and answer with excuses and rationalizations. Rather than admit wrongdoing, they blame someone else or attempt to minimize the seriousness of the sin. Proverbs 18:7-8(HCSB)A fool’s mouth is his devastation, and his lips are a trap for his life.8 A gossip’s words are like choice food that goes down to one’s innermost being.

Proverbs 21:23(HCSB)The one who guards his mouth and tongue keeps himself out of trouble. So we must guard our tongues and refrain from the sinful act of gossip. If we surrender our natural desires to the Lord, He will help us to remain righteous. May we all follow the Bible’s teaching on gossip by keeping our mouths shut unless it is necessary and appropriate to speak.

Jesus explained that what comes out of our mouths is that which fills our hearts. Sooner or later, the evil in the heart comes out through the mouth in curses and swearing. But when our hearts are filled with the goodness of God, praise for Him and love for others will pour forth. Our speech will always indicate what is in our hearts. Luke 6:45(ESV) “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks”.

Sin is a condition of the heart, the mind, and “the inner man”, which is manifested in our thoughts, actions and words. When we gossip and use rotten speech, we are giving evidence of the polluting sin in our hearts that must be confessed and repented of. Thankfully, our great God is 1 John 1:9(ESV)“faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. When this happens, we receive a new nature from God (2 Corinthians 5:17), our hearts are transformed, and our speech reflects the new nature God has created within us.

In the end the battle for purity in the mouth is fought in the heart, because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” If we see this, we won’t be as surprised with what Paul says in Ephesians. It is not what you might expect. We might expect Paul to admonish us to clean up our language. We might expect him to talk about words that are not vulgar or rotten or corrupt, but are pure and wholesome and creative and clear. But Paul doesn’t do what we expect.

Instead of proposing clean language, he proposes a whole new way of thinking about language. Instead of saying, “You don’t need dirty language to communicate your intention,” he says, “The root issue is whether your intention is love.” In other words the issue for Paul is not really language at all; the issue is love. The issue is not whether our mouth can avoid gross language; the issue is whether our mouth is a means of grace. You see he shifts from the external fruit to the internal root. He shifts from what we say to why we say it. That’s the issue.

Ephesians 4:29(NASB)29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Let no rotten talk come out of your mouth, but only what is good for edifying, as fits the occasion [literally: good for edifying of need—meeting a particular need is in view] that it may impart grace to those who hear.

Do you see the shift? He doesn’t say, “Let no rotten talk come out of your mouth, but instead let fresh clean talk come out of your mouth.” He says, “Let no rotten talk come out of your mouth, but ask this: Is my mouth a means of grace? Am I meeting a need with the words that are coming out of my mouth? Am I building up faith into the people who hear?”

This is exactly what Paul does here in verse 29. He says, “Let no rotten talk come out of your mouth, but only what is good,” and then he shifts from the what to the why, “for edification to meet a need that it may impart grace to those who hear.” It is not Christian just to stop swearing. It is not Christian just to put good language in the mouth instead. It is Christian to ask the deeper, internal question: am I speaking now to edify? Is your mouth a means of grace?

Ephesians 5:1-5(NLT)Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us[a] and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

A Christian is a person whose rotten root within has been made new by grace through faith in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The grace of God has taken the hate and anger and resentment that spill over in mean and vulgar and irreverent language, and has covered them with the blood of Christ and killed them along with the old unbelieving self.

How can you make your mouth a means of grace for others when you don’t hope in the grace of God for yourself? It is out of hopeless hearts of discouragement and frustration and anger and bitterness and resentment that all rotten and hurtful language comes.

But if you as a believer stop and think for a moment that Christ has died for your sin, that God has promised to work all things together for your good, that he has given you his own Holy Spirit for the specific purpose of sealing you for the day of redemption, then surely a deep and confident hope will be the root of your life. And up through that root will flow the sap of grace, and out onto the branches of your life will come the fruit of a whole new way of talking.

The question for your mouth will not merely be the moral question: Am I avoiding dirty words? But the Christian question: Am I building the faith of others by what I say? Is my mouth a means of grace? Am I frightened and anxious and angry about my life, or am I filled and overflowing with hope that the Spirit of God will keep me safe for the day of redemption?

Finding Strength in the Storm

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (ESV)We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV)I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Proverbs 24:10 (ESV)If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Proverbs 3:4-6 (ESV)So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Joshua 1:9 (ESV)Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

James 1:2-4 (ESV)Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

We cannot choose to avoid adversity, but we can choose how we will respond.Through adversity, God is able to accomplish so much in our lives, if we will only trust Him and seek His purposes. Jesus said that storms will come in our lives, but they don’t have to overcome us. Sometimes he calms the storms, but other times he calms His Disciple. One of the most difficult parts of the Christian life is the fact that becoming a disciple of Christ does not make us immune to life’s trials. Why would a good and loving God allow us to go through such things as the death of a loved one, disease, injury, financial problems, worry and fear? Surely, if He loved us, He would take all these things away from us. After all, doesn’t loving us mean He wants our lives to be easy and comfortable? Well, no, it doesn’t. The Bible clearly teaches that God loves those who are His children, and He “works all things together for good” for us Romans 8:28(HCSB)28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. So that must mean that the trials and tribulations He allows in our lives are part of the working together of all things for good. Therefore, for the believer, all trials and tribulations must have a divine purpose.

As in all things, God’s ultimate purpose for us is to grow more and more into the image of His Son. This is the goal of the Christian, and everything in life, including the trials and storms, is designed to enable us to reach that goal. It is part of the process of sanctification, being set apart for God’s purposes and fitted to live for His glory. The way trials accomplish this is explained in 1 Peter 1:6-7(ESV) “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The true believer’s faith will be made sure by the trials we experience so that we can rest in the knowledge that it is real and will last forever.

Trials develop godly character, and that enables us to Romans 5:3-5(NLT)3 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.

1. SOMETIMES HE CALMS THE STORMS:

a. Just because you’re in a storm doesn’t mean you’ve sinned, Jesus said we will have difficulties in life. John 16:33(HCSB)33 I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.

This story takes place right after an amazing miracle of provision – feeding the 5,000.

“Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away.” (Mark 6:45).

The disciples were obeying Jesus and found themselves in a storm.

Just because you’re in a storm doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t care.

Mark 4:35-41 (ESV)35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The apostles’ lack of faith reminds us that even those who lived and walked with Jesus, saw His miracles, and heard His message still found it difficult to be 100 percent faith-filled all the time. In that way, the disciples were a lot like us. However, their lack of faith was rebuked—and, by extension, so is ours. If Jesus was able to rescue the apostles from the storm, He is also able to rescue us from the storms of everyday life: sickness, job loss, marriage problems, and even the sting of death.

c. When you’re in the storm, you will encounter Jesus in a new way.

Matthew 14:22 (HCSB)Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. 23 After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. 25 Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”28 “Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.”29 “Come!” He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!”

• Jesus doesn’t always come in the way we would like Him to.

• When Jesus comes, He says, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Even though Jesus seemed absent in the storm, He was watching them.

• In the early morning, Jesus finally came to them.

  • God is never early, but he’s never late. He will come when the time is right.
  • When you’re in a storm, cry out to Jesus for help:

In their first storm, Mark tells us: Mark 4:38(HCSB)So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that we’re going to die?”

First Storm Jesus was with them and they asked who was he?

Second Storm Jesus didn’t go with them but met them then they knew who He was!!

When Jesus “gave orders to go over to the other side” (Matthew 8:18), He knew the storm was coming. He is omniscient (John 2:25); even with a storm brewing, He decided to launch out to sea. The Lord never promised we will never see a storm in life (as a matter of fact, He has told us to expect trouble, John 16:33(HCSB)33 I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”. Rather, He has promised that He will be with us in the storm. He will never leave His children alone in the midst of trouble; with perseverance we will overcome James 1:12(HCSB)12 A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.

2. SOMETIMES HE CALMS HIS DISCIPLE:

Acts 27:7-8(ESV)7 We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. 8 Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

Acts 27:18-21(ESV)18 Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. 19 And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned. 21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 

• This storm was different than the ones the disciples faced:

o They had several days of rough sailing. The terrible storm raged many days.

o They had to throw out the ship’s cargo and equipment and lost a lot of stuff.

Most of the time its not the strength but the duration of the storm that destroys us.

o Finally, the ship itself was destroyed. “All hope was gone.”

Acts 27:22-26(ESV)22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.”

  • Jesus never calmed this storm for Paul, but the Lord gave him peace in the storm.

Remember, peace is not the absence of a storm – it is peace in the middle of your storm. No matter what happens in my life as a Christian, I have the promises of God’s Word for a safe landing on that heavenly shore. The storms of life will come and go but I don’t need to be afraid. Who do I know who may be going through a storm right now and needs my encouragement?

We do not know exactly when the storms will come into our lives. They usually come suddenly and violently, just like the storm at sea came upon Paul and his company.

These storms come when things are going smoothly. Just prior to the storm, Paul and his party were enjoying smooth sailing.

Since we do not know when these storms will come, we must learn to have confidence in the One who is Lord over the storms.

When we are living with in Him, we are braced for the storms that come.

There are five actions to take when you find yourself in one of life’s storms.

  1. Spend some time alone with God; All relationships take time. A relationship with God, while unlike other relationships in many ways, still follows the rules of other relationships.Spending time alone with a loved one provides the opportunity to truly come to know that person. Spending time alone with God is no different. When we’re alone with God, we draw closer to Him and get to know Him in a different way than we do in group settings. Spending time alone with God rids our minds of distraction so that we can focus on Him and hear His Word. Abiding in Him, we enjoy the intimacy to which He calls us and come to truly know Him.
  1. Acknowledge His presence Proverbs 3:5-6(ESV)Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths..

3. Believe His promises (2 Peter 1:3(HCSB) His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 4 By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires.).

4. Count your blessings (Acts 27:35)James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

5. Get rid of excess baggage (Acts 27:38) Here’s some baggage we all need to eradicate from our lives.

Intellectual baggage.  This baggage keeps us from thinking clearly.  Or understanding correctly.  It may be the wisdom of the world that characterized the Greek culture.  Paul warned of those who allowed their own reasoning from seeing the simplicity in Christ.  Intellectual baggage may fill out minds with useless information.  False information. Or preconceived and prejudicial information.  Get rid of intellectual baggage so your mind can think on the things of God.

Emotional baggage.  Emotions are powerful.  They drive us.  Or drain us.  They motivate us. Or demoralize us.  They can take us to exciting highs.  But also to depressing lows.  The Bible often speaks of controlling our emotions, through sobriety and self-discipline.  The sins of anger, wrath, envy, jealously and bitterness have to do with improper emotions.  And they create a burden that is difficult to bear.  Paul admonished the Ephesians and Colossians to “put off” these things.  Get rid of that baggage that is hindering growth and harming your relationships.

Behavioral baggage.  Too often we justify bad behavior by saying things like, “that’s just the way I am.”  Or, “I’m only human.”  God wants us to model our lives after Jesus.  To live as He lived. To walk as He walked.  To talk as He talked.  He gave us a behavioral example.  But when we take on the sins of the flesh, with habits that hurt us, and with addictions that alter our minds, wound our emotions and harm our bodies, we have acquired baggage that we need to unload and leave behind.

Intellectual, emotional and behavioral baggage negatively affects all of our relationships, with our family, Friends, Co-workers, Church Family and

most of all with our Heavenly Father.

Get rid of the excess baggage.  Hebrews 12:1(NLT)Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

GOD WILL COMFORT US SO WE CAN COMFORT OTHERS:

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (ESV)Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.[a] If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

  • When you go through storms, God will comfort you so you can comfort others.

• Is it a storm of addiction – trying to break free from a bondage you have had for years?

• Is it a storm of sickness – praying believing God for healing?

• Is it a storm of financial pressures – trying to get out of debt?

• Is it a storm of relationship challenges – trying to restore a broken relationship?

• Is it a storm of doubt and hopelessness? How can we hope to survive the storm?

In order to face the storms of life successfully, we must be committed to Jesus as well as having confidence in Him. Paul gives us an example of such a commitment. He stood before the frightened group and related to them the vision that he had experienced. He told them that an angel of the God to whom he belonged and whom he served had appeared to him assuring him that there would be no loss of life.The storms of life are going to come. We must learn to face them. How are we going to face them? I pray that we will face them with confidence in Jesus, with commitment to Jesus. If so, we will be able to face the storms victoriously, and we will be able to assure others in their storms of life.

God is Sovereign Man is Not

The Sovereignty of God is the biblical teaching that all things are under God’s rule and control, and that nothing happens without His direction or permission. God works not just some things but all things according to the counsel of His own will. Ephesians 1:1-11(ESV)1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful[a] in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us[b] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
His purposes are all-inclusive and never derailed, nothing takes Him by surprise.
Isaiah 46:8-11(ESV)“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors,9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10  declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

The sovereignty of God is not merely that God has the power and right to govern all things, but that He does so, always and without exception. In other words, God is not merely sovereign de jure (in principle), but sovereign de facto (in practice).

The importance of getting this right is death and life,I heard this at one of our sister churches. “God is sovereign and because we are created in His image He has a sovereign will and we have a sovereign will and He cannot break our sovereign will.”

No doctrine is more despised by the natural mind than the truth that God is absolutely sovereign. Human pride loathes the suggestion that God orders everything, controls everything, rules over everything. The carnal mind, burning with enmity against God, abhors the biblical teaching that nothing comes to pass except according to His eternal decrees. Most of all, the flesh hates the notion that salvation is entirely God’s work. If God chose who would be saved, and if His choice was settled before the foundation of the world, then believers deserve no credit for their salvation.

But that is, after all, precisely what Scripture teaches. Even faith is God’s gracious gift to His elect. Jesus said, John 6:65(ESV)65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”. Matthew 11:27(ESV)27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Therefore no one who is saved has anything to boast about.

Ephesians 2:8–9(ESV)For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

God’s sovereignty in salvation means that He saves whom He will, and those whom He saves owe nothing to anything in or of themselves. They are saved because God graciously chose them in eternity and regenerated and called them in history. They cannot even take credit for their faith because it is the gift that He Himself sovereignly bestows.

Everything that exists in the universe exists because God allowed it, decreed it, and called it into existence.
Psalm 115:3 (ESV)“Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases”.
Psalm 135:6 (ESV)“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps”. He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11)

Romans 11:36(ESV)36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

1 Corinthians 8:6(ESV)yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

What about sin? God is not the author of sin, but He certainly allowed it; it is essential to His eternal decree. God has a purpose for allowing it. He cannot be blamed for evil or tainted by its existence 1 Samuel 2:2(ESV)“There is none holy like the Lord:for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. But He certainly wasn’t caught off-guard or standing helpless to stop it when sin entered the universe. We do not know His purposes for allowing sin. If nothing else, He permitted it in order to destroy evil forever. And God sometimes uses evil to accomplish good (Genesis 50:20(ESV)20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Romans 8:28(ESV)28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. How can these things be? Scripture does not answer all the questions for us. But we know from His Word that God is utterly sovereign, He is perfectly holy, and He is absolutely just.

Admittedly, those truths are hard for the human mind to embrace, but Scripture is indisputable. God controls all things, right down to choosing who will be saved. Paul states the doctrine in inescapable terms in the ninth chapter of Romans, by showing that God chose Jacob and rejected his twin brother Esau “though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls” (Romans 9:6-24(ESV)But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Paul anticipated the argument against divine sovereignty: “You will say to me then, Romans 9:19(ESV)’Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’” In other words, doesn’t God’s sovereignty cancel out human responsibility? But rather than offering a philosophical answer or a deep spiritual argument, Paul simply reprimanded the skeptic:Romans 9:20-21(ESV) 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

Scripture affirms both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. We must accept both sides of the truth, though we may not understand how they correspond to one another. People are responsible for what they do with the gospel—or with whatever light they have so that punishment is just if they reject the light. Romans 2:19-20(ESV)19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—. And those who reject do so voluntarily. Jesus lamented, John 5:40(ESV)40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. He told unbelievers, John 8:24(ESV)24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”. In John chapter 6, our Lord combined both divine sovereignty and human responsibility when He said, John 6:37-44(ESV)37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” 41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble 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 and, John 6:65(ESV)65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”. How both of those two realities can be true simultaneously cannot be understood by the human mind—only by God.

Above all, we must not conclude that God is unjust because He chooses to bestow grace on some but not to everyone. God is never to be measured by what seems fair to human judgment. Are we so foolish as to assume that we who are fallen, sinful creatures have a higher standard of what is right than an unfallen and infinitely, eternally holy God? What kind of pride is that?
In Psalm 50:21(ESV)These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. God says, “You thought that I was just like you.” But God is not like us, nor can He be held to human standards. Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)“‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’”.

We step out of bounds when we conclude that anything God does isn’t fair. In Romans 11:33–34(ESV)33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

Here are a few scriptures on His Sovereignty

1 Chronicles 29:11-12 (ESV)Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.

Psalm 115:3 (ESV)Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Isaiah 46:9-10 (ESV)Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

Job 42:2 (ESV)“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Psalm 103:19 (ESV)The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

Romans 8:28 (ESV)And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 9:21 (ESV)Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

Romans 9:18 (ESV)So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Lamentations 3:37 (ESV)Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?

Ephesians 1:11-12 (ESV)In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Psalm 135:6 (ESV)Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

Romans 9:19-20 (ESV)You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

Proverbs 16:4 (ESV)The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Daniel 4:35 (ESV)All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

Isaiah 45:7 (ESV)I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.

Proverbs 16:33 (ESV)The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

Ephesians 1:11 (ESV)In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

Proverbs 21:1 (ESV)The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

Isaiah 14:24 (ESV)The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand,

Job 23:13 (ESV)But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does.

Deuteronomy 32:39 (ESV)“‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

John 6:44 (ESV)No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Jeremiah 32:27 (ESV)“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

1 Timothy 6:15 (ESV)Which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,

Ephesians 1:4 (ESV)Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

2 Chronicles 20:6 (ESV)And said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.

Isaiah 14:27 (ESV)For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

Philippians 2:13 (ESV)For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Jeremiah 32:17 (ESV)‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

Job 12:23 (ESV)He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away.

1 Samuel 2:6 (ESV)The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 (ESV)Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

Proverbs 21:30 (ESV) No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.

God has a plan for every life, but the details of this plan are carried out by the free choices of each person involved. As we said before, however, God’s plan is not always the same as His desires. The degree to which God’s desires are carried out in His plan for our lives is our responsibility. God, for instance, desires that we come to love Him for who He is and what He has done for us. But we are not robots programmed to say, “Praise you! Praise you!” No one can truly love God (or anyone else) without the power to choose.

The Christian’s walk with God is a divine-human process. God is always at work in the believer to produce the fruit of righteousness and Christlikeness, but the believer is also responsible for acting. It is not a matter of “let go and let God” on the one hand, or of living in the power of the flesh on the other hand.

Paul communicates this balance clearly, Galatians 2:20(ESV)20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Philippians 2:12-13(ESV)12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

God is at work in us, but we are also to act in obedience.This is called Sanctification.

Responsibility and voluntary choice are not the same thing as free will. We affirm that man is indeed responsible for the choices he makes, yet we deny that the Bible teaches that man has a free will since it is no where taught in the pages of Scripture. The Bible teaches, rather, that God ordains all things that come to pass (Ephesians 1:11) and it also teaches that man is culpable for his choices (Ezekiel 18:20, Matthew 12:37). Since the Scripture is our ultimate authority and highest presuppsosition, the multitude of clear scriptural declarations on this matter outweigh all unaided human logic. We find that almost always the objections to God’s meticulous providence over all things are moral and philosophical rather than exegetical or scriptural. This means we must strive to consciously affirm what the Scripture declares over all our finite understanding and sinful inner drive for independence.

In biblical terminology, fallen man is in bondage to a corruption of nature and that is why the biblical writers considered him not free (see Romans 6). Jesus Himself affirms that the one who sins is a “slave to sin” and only the Son can set him free. Note that even Jesus speaks of a kind of freedom here. He is not speaking of freedom from God but freedom from the bondage of sin, which is the kind of freedom those have who are in Christ. In this sense God is the most free Person since He is holy, set apart from sin… yet He cannot make choices contrary to His essence, i.e. He cannot be unholy. So, we must conclude, according to Jesus in John 8:31-36, that the natural man does not have a free will. The will is in bondage to sin and only He can set us free.

Excerpts from Theopedia and Grace to You.