Ephesians Pt 1 Identity

Ephesians 1:1-15(HCSB)Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will:

To the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus. 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.3 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. 4 For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved. 7 We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him 10 for the administration of the days of fulfillment—to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him. 11 We have also received an inheritance in Him, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.13 When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. 14 He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why were we chosen or selected? As in 1 John 3:1-3(HCSB)1 Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. 2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure. Paul expects that the children of God will bear an undeniable resemblance to one whom they claim as their spiritual parent. That resemblance a parent primarily in the sphere of conduct, in the way the child lives out the responsibility of the family. We are predestined for sonship to bear the family likeness.

The difference between predestination, which is mentioned in verse 5, and election (or choosing) which is mentioned in verse 4, is that election refers to God’s freedom in choosing whom he will predestine. Predestination refers to the goal or destiny for which he chose them. Election is God’s choosing whom he will, and predestination is God’s determination that they will become his children.

When God chose you, he had a purpose, and so he predestined that purpose to come about, namely, that you would become a child of God. That you would be part of his family. That you would become an heir of all that God owns. That you would take on the family likeness. We are destined to take on the character of God our Father, the character of holiness and blamelessness.

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

Before the foundation of the world God saw that we would be sinners and planned the death of his Son so that our sins could be forgiven and God’s wrath removed. Through that we were adopted.We were not cute little orphans that God was attracted to; we enemies in rebellion against God.

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

So our adoption is not based on our being worthy or cute or attractive. It is based on the free and sovereign grace of God planned before the world and bought for us by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 1:13-14(HCSB)13 When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. 14 He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.
One of the biggest misconceptions of Reformed Theology is that Reformed(Calvinist) do not put a priority on evangelism or missions, which is a big misconception. Reformed Christians put a huge emphasis on spreading the Gospel. The only hope we have at Evangelism is the Holy Spirit working in the person. God chose evangelism as the tool to bring the elect into the sheepfold. John 10:16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. Here are a few reasons why.
1. God commands us to do so. “We should remember that the gospel is preached not only by the command of Christ but at his urging and leading.”
Matthew 28:18-20(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[a] 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.”

2. We want to glorify God. True Christians yearn to extend God’s truth everywhere so that “God may be glorified.”

3. We want to please God. Calvin writes, “It is a sacrifice well-pleasing to God to advance the spread of the gospel.”

4. We have a duty to God. “It is very just that we should labor… to further the progress of the gospel,” Calvin says. He adds, “It is our duty to proclaim the goodness of God to every nation.”

5. We have a duty to our fellow sinners. Our compassion should be intensified by knowing that “God cannot be sincerely called upon by others than those to whom, through the preaching of the gospel, his kindness and gentle dealings have become known.” Romans 10:11-15 (ESV)How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

6. We are grateful to God. We owe it to God to strive for the salvation of others; if we do not, we are behaving in a contradictory manner. Calvin says, “Nothing could be more inconsistent concerning the nature of faith than that deadness which would lead a man to disregard his brethren, and to keep the light of knowledge… in his own breast.”

Love God Love People, and it is not the worldly love, it is gospel love, You are a sinner going to Hell and you need Jesus. and that my friends is compassion.

Once we are adopted(Regenerated, justified, saved, covered in the blood of Christ) our identities are no longer what they used to be. We have new identities, our identity is no long, who we are,where we are from, what we did in the past. Our identity is now in the 2nd person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. We are no longer citizens of the world but apart from it. We understand that we are a part of a heavenly, God-ruled kingdom. Things of the earth no longer draw us. We don’t fear or over-emphasize suffering on earth or the trials we face, nor do we place importance on things the world values. Even our bodies and our actions reflect that our minds are no longer conformed to the world but are now instruments of righteousness to God. And our new kingdom perspective means we understand that our enemy is not the people around us but the spiritual forces that endeavor to keep the people from knowing God. We are ambassadors of Christ, aliens in this world, set apart to be holy, we are now in the sanctification process.

Our identity in Christ is first and foremost one of newness. We are new creations in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17(HCSB)17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Identity is defined as “the collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known,” so our new identity in Christ should be recognizable both to ourselves and to others. If we are “in Christ,” that should be evident, just as being “in the world” is equally evident. A further definition of identity is “the quality or condition of being the same as something else.” In the case of our identity in Christ, our lives should indicate that we are the same as Christ. The name “Christians” means literally “followers of Christ.”

In our new identity in Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin, Romans 6:(HCSB)6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. What is sin’s claim? Death, Romans 6:23(HCSB)23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Sin not necessarily results in physical death right away.Romans 6:23 is not telling us that when we sin we will physically die immediately, it is referring to spiritual death. When we are saved in Christ, we are rescued from final spiritual death and brought into eternal spiritual life with Him.We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are reconciled to God Romans 5:10(HCSB)10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! This new identity completely changes our relationship with God and our families, just as it changes the way we see the world. Our new identity in Christ means we have the same relationship with God that Christ has—we are His children. God has adopted us as sons. We are able to call Him “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15–17(HCSB)15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, 17 and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. This relationship is even stronger than those we have with our earthly families. (Matthew 10:35–37(HCSB)35 For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.37 The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Also instead of fearing God as judge, we have the great privilege of coming to Him as our Father. We can approach Him with confidence and ask of Him what we need.

Hebrews 4:16(HCSB)16 Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.
We can ask for His guidance and wisdom and know that nothing will take us from Him Romans 8:38–39(HCSB)For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers,things present or things to come, hostile powers,39 height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! We also rest in His authority and respond to Him with trusting obedience, knowing that obedience is a key part of remaining close to Him
John 14:23(HCSB)23 Jesus answered, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

One of the greatest blessings about our identity in Christ is the grace we’re given in order to grow into the spiritual maturity that truly reflects our new identity. Our lives in light of our identity in Christ are filled with a heavenly Father, a large, loving family, and the understanding that we are citizens of another kingdom and not of this earth.

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

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

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

Change in Status

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

Divine adoption, then, secures what no human adoption can secure. It is always accompanied by a radical and total transformation at the very core of our being. Not only do we have a new status, we are new people Ephesians 4:24(HCSB)24 you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. Should we, then, just sit back passively and let grace do its work? Indeed, the spirit that God has implanted in us won’t let us sit back, nor will the hope that God has given us. The assurance that our destiny is to be “like him” compels us to set about purifying ourselves, and to do so with the utmost strictness, satisfied with nothing less than to be as pure as God himself (1 John 3:3).

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

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

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

 

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Philippians Pt 10 My God shall Supply all my needs

Philippians 4:15-23(HCSB)15 And you Philippians know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent gifts for my need several times. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that is increasing to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided—a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. 21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. Those brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, but especially those from Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Philippians 4:16-18(HCSB) For even in Thessalonica you sent gifts for my need several times. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that is increasing to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided—a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

It is important to understand that you become a partner with whomever you support. If you support our church, anything that the Lord allows our staff and ministries to accomplish, you share in. This means that when you stand before Christ, you will be rewarded for the fruit that comes from our ministry. Even though the Philippians were 800 miles away from Paul, they supported his ministry, and through Paul’s fruit, the eternal pay off for them will be great! Perhaps you need to spend more time investing in your ERA than in your IRA. We need to ask, “Where can our money have the most eternal impact?”

In 4:18, Paul expresses once again that he isn’t after more money (whew!). Three times he states that he has been given enough: “But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent” (4:18a). Paul is not after a salary increase. He isn’t striving for a promotion. He is content in Christ. The Philippians blessed Paul’s sandals off. Ironically, if any church had an excuse not to give, it was the Philippians since they were one of the most impoverished churches (2 Corinthians 8–9). But in spite of their circumstances, they gave, not just according to their ability, but beyond their ability. Paul now offers three expressions of gratitude for the Philippians’ generosity. He calls their gift “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (4:18b). Paul draws upon the Old Testament where they would take an offering and lay it on the altar, and they would pour it out and it would create steam that the whole community could smell.

2 Corinthians 9:6–12(HCSB)Remember this:  The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves  a cheerful giver. And God is able  to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. As it is written: He scattered; He gave to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.  10 Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  11 You will be enriched  in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God.

The rain falls on the just and the unjust; foxes have holes and birds have nests, while lilies adorn the fields. Everything in creation is under the providing care of God. Not only does God supply all things, but He arranges them according to His plan and for His glory. For Christians, this ought to produce peace and comfort even when it appears that all is against them.

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

“God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.11). If Creation was a unique exercise of divine energy causing the world to be, providence is a continued exercise of that same energy whereby the Creator, according to his own will, (a) keeps all creatures in being, (b) involves himself in all events, and (c) directs all things to their appointed end. The model is of purposive personal management with total “hands-on” control: God is completely in charge of his world. His hand may be hidden, but his rule is absolute. Some have restricted God’s providence to foreknowledge without control, or upholding without intervention, or general oversight without concern for details, but the testimony to providence as formulated above is overwhelming.

The Bible clearly teaches God’s providential control (1) over the universe at large, Ps. 103:19; Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11; (2) over the physical world, Job 37; Pss. 104:14; 135:6; Matt. 5:45; (3) over the brute creation, Ps. 104:21, 28; Matt. 6:26; 10:29; (4) over the affairs of nations, Job 12:23; Pss. 22:28; 66:7; Acts 17:26; (5) over man’s birth and lot in life, 1 Sam. 16:1; Ps. 139:16; Isa. 45:5; Gal. 1:15–16; (6) over the outward successes and failures of men’s lives, Ps. 75:6, 7; Luke 1:52; (7) over things seemingly accidental or insignificant, Prov. 16:33; Matt. 10:30; (8) in the protection of the righteous, Pss. 4:8; 5:12; 63:8; 121:3; Rom. 8:28; (9) in supplying the wants of God’s people, Gen. 22:8, 14; Deut. 8:3; Phil. 4:19; (10) in giving answers to prayer, 1 Sam. 1:19; Isa. 20:5, 6; 2 Chron. 33:13; Ps. 65:2; Matt. 7:7; Luke 18:7, 8; and (11) in the exposure and punishment of the wicked, Pss. 7:12–13; 11:6. (L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th ed.)

Clear thinking about God’s involvement in the world-process and in the acts of rational creatures requires complementary sets of statements, thus: a person takes action, or an event is triggered by natural causes, or Satan shows his hand—yet God overrules. This is the message of the book of Esther, where God’s name nowhere appears. Again: things that are done contravene God’s will of command—yet they fulfill his will of events (Eph. 1:11). Again: humans mean what they do for evil—yet God who overrules uses their actions for good (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23). Again: humans, under God’s overruling, sin—yet God is not the author of sin (James 1:13–17); rather, he is its judge.

The nature of God’s “concurrent” or “confluent” involvement in all that occurs in his world, as—without violating the nature of things, the ongoing causal processes, or human free agency—he makes his will of events come to pass, is mystery to us, but the consistent biblical teaching about God’s involvement is as stated above.

Of the evils that infect God’s world (moral and spiritual perversity, waste of good, and the physical disorders and disruptions of a spoiled cosmos), it can summarily be said: God permits evil (Acts 14:16); he punishes evil with evil (Ps. 81:11–12; Rom. 1:26–32); he brings good out of evil (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; 4:27–28; 13:27; 1 Cor. 2:7–8); he uses evil to test and discipline those he loves (Matt. 4:1–11; Heb. 12:4–14); and one day he will redeem his people from the power and presence of evil altogether (Rev. 21:27; 22:14–15).

The doctrine of providence teaches Christians that they are never in the grip of blind forces (fortune, chance, luck, fate); all that happens to them is divinely planned, and each event comes as a new summons to trust, obey, and rejoice, knowing that all is for one’s spiritual and eternal good (Rom. 8:28).

J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993).

Through divine providence God accomplishes His will. To ensure that His purposes are fulfilled, God governs the affairs of men and works through the natural order of things. The laws of nature are nothing more than God’s work in the universe. The laws of nature have no inherent power; rather, they are the principles that God set in place to govern how things normally work. They are only “laws” because God decreed them.

How does divine providence relate to human volition? We know that humans have a free will, but we also know that God is sovereign. How those two truths relate to each other is hard for us to understand, but we see examples of both truths in Scripture. Saul of Tarsus was willfully persecuting the church, but, all the while, he was “kick[ing] against the goads” of God’s providence (Acts 26:14(HCSB)14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. Apparently, “to kick against the goads” was a common expression found in both Greek and Latin literature—a rural image, which rose from the practice of farmers goading their oxen in the fields. Though unfamiliar to us, everyone in that day understood its meaning.

Goads were typically made from slender pieces of timber, blunt on one end and pointed on the other. Farmers used the pointed end to urge a stubborn ox into motion. Occasionally, the beast would kick at the goad. The more the ox kicked, the more likely the goad would stab into the flesh of its leg, causing greater pain.

Saul’s conversion could appear to us as having been a sudden encounter with Christ. But based on the Lord’s expression regarding his kicking back, I believe He’d been working on him for years, prodding and goading him.

I believe the words and works of Jesus haunted the zealous Pharisee. Quite likely, Saul had heard Jesus teach and preach in public places. Similar in age, they would have been contemporaries in a city Saul knew well and Jesus frequently visited.

Imagine Saul (the name Paul means “small,” suggesting he may have been shorter than average), standing on tiptoe, straining to watch Jesus, all the while grudgingly wondering how this false prophet could be gaining popularity. Nonsense. He has to be of Satan! Pharisees loved to think that. Nevertheless, Jesus’s ministry stuck in Saul’s mind. The more it goaded him, the more he resisted God’s proddings.

In Philippians 4:6(ESV) Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” And then in Philippians 4:19(ESV),just 13 verses later, he gives the liberating promise of future grace: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  This is not an unconditional promise, it is a conditional promise. God’s s promise to supply your needs (cf. 4:16) is embedded in the context of faithful, generous, even sacrificial giving. God meets our needs to express His approval of our giving. God does not promise to take care of the needs of believers who are stingy, lazy, or irresponsible. On the other hand, if you are giving as the Lord expects, He will meet your needs. Note carefully, he promises to meet needs, not wants.

If we live by faith in this promise of future grace, it will be very hard for anxiety to survive. God’s “riches in glory” are inexhaustible. He really means for us not to worry about our future.We should follow this pattern that Paul lays out for us. We should battle the unbelief of anxiety with the promises of future grace. While prosperity seekers might always be looking for money or possessions to miraculously arrive, we should take a closer look at what God desires to provide for us.

God’s provision extends to His ongoing relationship to all of His creation, which is deeply dependent on Him. Often, we take for granted the rain that falls, the sun that comes up every morning, the refreshing winds that blow, and the tides that cleanse our shores and invigorate the life in our vast oceans. But all these things are watched over by our loving God in His provision for us.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches His disciples to ask for provision, and our dependence on God is affirmed each time we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). In Matthew 6:24–25(HCSB)24 “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.25 “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?, Jesus tells His disciples not to worry about food or clothing. The Father knows our needs. He desires covenant relationship with us, and that involves trusting Him to meet our daily requirements and seeking first His kingdom and righteousness Matthew 6:33(HCSB)33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

Psalm 84:11(HCSB) For the Lord God is a sun and shield.The Lord gives grace and glory; He does not withhold the good from those who live with integrity. This verse carries a reminder that there is a part we play in God’s provision coming to fruition in our lives. We must walk uprightly.

James 4:3(ESV) is an answer to our questions about why prayers sometimes go unanswered: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” God sees the heart, and our prayers’ motivations are important to Him. Galatians 1:15-16(HCSB)15 But when God, who from my birth set me apart and called me by His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me, so that I could preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone. 

Jeremiah 1:5(HCSB)I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Ephesians 1:4-5(HCSB)4 For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.

Passages such as these give us an assurance that God’s love and direction began even before conception. What a gift to know that God has been involved in our lives from the very start! His love for us is encompassed in His desire for our highest good.

Romans 11:30–36(HCSB)30 As you once disobeyed God, but now have received mercy through their disobedience, 31 so they too have now disobeyed, resulting in mercy to you, so that they also now  may receive mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience,  so that He may have mercy on all. 

A Hymn of Praise

33 Oh, the depth of the riches 

both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! 

How unsearchable His judgments 

and untraceable His ways! 

34 For who has known the mind of the Lord? 

Or who has been His counselor? 

35 Or who has ever first given to Him, 

and has to be repaid?  a

36 For from Him and through Him 

and to Him are all things. 

To Him be the glory forever. Amen. 

Synergism vs Monergism Pt 3

Irresistible grace

The result of God’s irresistible grace is the certain response by the elect to the inward call of the Holy Spirit, when the outward call is given by the evangelist or minister of the Word of God. Christ, himself, teaches that all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of him (John 6:37(ESV)37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. Men come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44(ESV)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 the very Spirit of God leads God’s beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14(ESV)14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.. What a comfort it is to know that the gospel of Christ will penetrate our hard, sinful hearts and wondrously save us through the gracious inward call of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 5:10(ESV)10 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.! Ezekiel 36:26(ESV)26 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. The Holy Spirit regenerates every one of God’s chosen people, enabling them to believe. The Holy Spirit graciously regenerates every one of God’s chosen people, creating within them a new heart and enabling them to freely and willingly believe in Christ as Savior and Lord. The New Birth precedes and makes possible Saving Faith. Life gives Faith.Those whom God elected He draws to Himself through irresistible grace. God makes man willing to come to Him. When God calls, man responds John 6:37(HCSB)37 Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. there can be no salvation without the reality of irresistible grace. If we are dead in our sins, and unable to submit to God because of our rebellious nature, then we will never believe in Christ unless God overcomes our rebellion.

Someone may say, “Yes, the Holy Spirit must draw us to God, but we can use our freedom to resist or accept that drawing.” But that is not what the Bible teaches. Except for the continual exertion of saving grace, we will always use our freedom to resist God. That is what it means to be “unable to submit to God.” “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God”
Romans 8:7–8(HCSB)7 For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

If a person becomes humble enough to submit to God, it is because God has given that person a new, humble nature. If a person remains too hard-hearted and proud to submit to God, it is because that person has not been given such a willing spirit. But to see this most persuasively, we should look at the Scriptures.

Unless the Father Draws

In John 6:44, Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” This drawing is the sovereign work of grace without which none of us will be saved from our rebellion against God.
John 6:65(HCSB)65 He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.”

How God works to change our will without coercion against our will is further explained in 2 Corinthians 4:4–6(HCSB)4 In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus. 6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

Fallen man, left in his dead state, is totally unable to repent, to believe the gospel, or to come to Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:14(HCSB)14 But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.

John 6:44(HCSB)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.

What did Jesus say?

Matthew 4:19(ESV)19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 9:9(ESV)As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

John 6:37(ESV)37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 

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.”

What did early church fathers say?

Irenaeus (A.D. 180): “Not of ourselves, but of God, is the blessing of our salvation…Man, who was before led captive, is taken out of the power of the possessor, according to the mercy of God the Father, and restoring it, gives salvation to it by the Word; that is, by Christ; that many may experimentally learn that not of himself, but by the gift of God, he receives immortality.”

Tertullian (A.D. 200): “Do you think, O men, that we should ever have been able to have understood these things in the Scriptures unless by the will of Him that wills all things, we had received grace to understand them?…But by this it is plain, that [faith] is not given to thee by God, because thou dost not ascribe it to Him alone.”

Augustine (A.D. 370): “Faith itself is to be attributed to God…Faith is made a gift. These men, however, attribute faith to free will, so grace is rendered to faith not as a gratuitous gift, but as a debt…They must cease from saying this.”

Perseverance of the saints

Those called and justified will certainly be glorified (Romans 8:29-30(HCSB)For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. The work of sanctification which God has brought about in his elect will continue until it reaches its fulfillment in eternal life (Philippians 1:6). Christ assures the elect that he will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the “last day” (John 10:27-29(HCSB)27 My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. The Calvinist stands upon the Word of God and trusts in Christ’s promise that he will perfectly fulfill the will of the Father in saving all the elect. The particular people God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None of those whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure in Him. All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in Faith by the Power of Almighty God and therefore continue to persevere in faith.The precise ones God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure

All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end. We believe that all who are justified will win the fight of faith. They will persevere in faith and will not surrender finally to the enemy of their souls. This perseverance is the promise of the new covenant, obtained by the blood of Christ, and worked in us by God himself, yet not so as to diminish, but only to empower and encourage, our vigilance; so that we may say in the end, I have fought the good fight, but it was not I, but the grace of God which was with me 2 Timothy 4:7(HCSB)7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
1 Corinthians 15:10(HCSB)10 But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me.

The people of God will persevere to the end and not be lost. The foreknown are predestined, the predestined are called, the called are justified, and the justified are glorified Romans 8:30(HCSB)30 And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. No one is lost from this group. To belong to this people is to be eternally secure.

What did Jesus say?

John 6:38-40(ESV)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.”

John 10:27-28(ESV)27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

What did early church fathers say?

Tertullian: “God forbid that we should believe that the soul of any saint should be drawn out by the devil…For what is of God is never extinguished.”

Augustine: “Of these believers no one perishes, because they were all elected. And they were elected because they were called according to the purpose–the purpose, however, not their own, but God’s…Obedience then is God’s gift…To this, indeed, we are not able to deny, that perseverance in good, progressing even to the end, is also a great gift of God.”

According to Calvinism:Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the Triune God. The Father chose a people, the Son died for them, the Holy  Spirit makes Christ’s death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the gospel. The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation

Synergism vs Monergism Pt2

Monergism (Greek mono meaning “one” and erg meaning “work”) is a term for the belief that the Holy Spirit is the only agent who effects regeneration of Christians. This view, held by Reformed and Calvinistic groups, sees salvation as the work of God alone, from first to last. He has chosen in eternity past whom He will save out of lost humanity (often referred to as the elect), and in His timing He will bring the elect to faith through the work of the Spirit for the sake of the Son, and save them forever to the praise of His glorious grace (Romans 8:29). This is opposed to the synergistic view as held by Arminianism and its theological predecessor Semi-Pelagianism where salvation is seen as a cooperative effort between God and man.

Reformed theology holds to the authority of Scripture, the sovereignty of God, salvation by grace through Christ, and the necessity of evangelism.

Authority of Scripture. Reformed theology teaches that the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God, sufficient in all matters of faith and practice.

Sovereignty of God. Reformed theology teaches that God rules with absolute control over all creation. He has foreordained all events and is therefore never frustrated by circumstances. This does not limit the will of the creature, nor does it make God the author of sin.

Salvation by grace. Reformed theology teaches that God in His grace and mercy has chosen to redeem a people to Himself, delivering them from sin and death. The Reformed doctrine of salvation is commonly represented by the acronym TULIP. Calvinism is the theological system associated with the Reformer John Calvin that emphasizes the rule of God over all things as reflected in its understanding of Scripture, God, humanity, salvation, and the church. In popular vernacular, Calvinism often refers to the Five Points of Calvinistic doctrine regarding salvation, which make up the acrostic TULIP. In its broader sense, Calvinism is associated with Reformed theology. Reformed theology teaches that Christians are in the world to make a difference, spiritually through evangelism and socially through holy living and humanitarianism.

The Five Solas of the Reformation

The Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation, while not unique to Calvinism, are integral to a Calvinist theological perspective and therefore bear restating here:

Sola Fide – by faith alone, in specific reference to Justification.

Sola Scriptura – by the Scriptures alone, in reference to authority.

Solus Christus – by Christ alone, as our sole mediator and intercessor before God.

Sola gratia – by grace alone, in reference to salvation.

Soli Deo gloria – to God alone the glory.

Background

Calvinism is named after 16th century Reformer, John Calvin whose overall theology is contained in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559). Sometimes Calvinism is referred to by other names such as “Augustinianism” because Calvin followed Augustine (A.D. 354–430) in many areas of predestination and the sovereignty of God.

In a broad sense, Calvinism can be virtually synonymous with “Reformed Protestantism” or Reformed theology, encompassing the whole body of doctrine taught by Reformed churches and represented in various Reformed Confessions such as the Belgic Confession of Faith (1561) and the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) and also the 2nd London Baptist confession of Faith (1689).

Salvation (Five Points of Calvinism)

It starts with man in need of salvation (Total depravity) and then gives, in the order of their occurrence, the steps God takes to save his people. He elects (Unconditional election), then he sends Jesus to atone for the sins of the elect (Limited atonement), then he irresistibly draws his people to faith (Irresistible grace), and finally works to cause them to persevere to the end (Perseverance of the saints).

People grasp these points more easily if we go in the order in which we ourselves often experience them when we become Christians.

1We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.

2Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.

3Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.

4Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.

5 And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.

These five points are a summary of the Canons of Dort which in turn was the judgment of the Synod of Dort (1618–1619) against related Arminian teaching. These five points are not intended to be a comprehensive summary of Calvinism or Reformed doctrine, but an exposition of the sovereignty of God in salvation — arranged to address the particular points in dispute raised by the Arminians of that day.

Total depravity

Calvinism teaches that humanity is totally depraved. Due to the Fall, the original relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God was severed by sin. This affected the entire human race, corrupting the heart, mind, and will of every person born. Thus, people’s natural actions and affections, whether viewed by man as bad or good, are never pleasing to God. The Calvinist understanding of total depravity does not mean that people are as evil as they possibly could be. People still make good choices (from a human perspective), but no matter how good they may be, they never gain favor with God. While total depravity is commonly associated with John Calvin, this theological viewpoint is based on the theology of Augustine (b. 354). Man is spiritually dead. Because of the fall, man has become spiritually dead, blind and deaf to the things of God and is therefore unable of himself to choose spiritual good and determine his own destiny. Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature, therefore, he will not — indeed he cannot — choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ — it takes  regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation— it is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.Our sinful corruption is so deep and so strong as to make us slaves of sin and morally unable to overcome our own rebellion and blindness. This inability to save ourselves from ourselves is total. We are utterly dependent on God’s grace to overcome our rebellion, give us eyes to see, and effectively draw us to the Savior.

Romans 5:12(HCSB) Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.

Ephesians 2:1-3(HCSB)And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. 3 We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.

Colossians 2:13(HCSB)13 And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses

Psalm 143:2(ESV)Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

Romans 11:32(ESV)32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

Isaiah 53:6(ESV)All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

1 John 1:8-10(ESV)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.

Mark 10:18/Luke 18:19(ESV)18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

What does Jesus say?

Mark 7:20-23(ESV)20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Matthew 7:17(ESV)17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.

Mark 7:21-23(ESV)21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

What did the early church fathers say?

Augustine (A.D. 370): “If, therefore, they are servants of sin (2 Cor. 3:17), why do they boast of free will?…O, man! Learn from the precept what you ought to do; learn from correction, that it is your own fault you have not the power…Let human effort, which perished by Adam, here be silent, and let the grace of God reign by Jesus Christ…What God promises, we ourselves do not through free will of human nature, but He Himself does by grace within us…Men labor to find in our own will something that is our own, and not God’s; how can they find it, I know not.”

Origen: “Our free will…or human nature is not sufficient to seek God in any manner.”

Barnabas (A.D. 70): “Learn: before we believed in God, the habitation of our heart was corrupt and weak.”

Ignatius (A.D. 110): “They that are carnal cannot do the things that are spiritual…Nor can the unbelievers do the things of belief.”

Unconditional election

Unconditional election is the doctrine which states that God chose those whom he was pleased to bring to a knowledge of himself, not based upon any merit shown by the object of his grace and not based upon foreseen faith (especially a mere decisional faith). God has elected, based solely upon the counsel of his own will, some for glory and others for damnation (Romans 9:15-21(ESV)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?. He has done this act before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4–8(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 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight. God’s election is unconditional. God’s choice of certain individuals for salvation was not based on any foreseen response of obedience on their part, but was based solely in His good and sovereign will. Because man is dead in sin, he is unable to initiate a response to God; therefore, in eternity past God elected certain people to salvation. Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not based on man’s response because man is unable to respond, nor does he want to. God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before fore the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response or obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause God’s choice. Election therefore was not determined by or conditioned upon any virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ. Thus God’s choice of the sinner, not the sinner’s choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation. God’s election is an unconditional act of free grace that was given through his Son Jesus before the world began. By this act, God chose, before the foundation of the world, those who would be delivered from bondage to sin and brought to repentance and saving faith in Jesus.

If all of us are so depraved that we cannot come to God without being born again by the irresistible grace of God, and if this particular grace is purchased by Christ on the cross, then it is clear that the salvation of any of us is owing to God’s election. He chose those to whom he would show such irresistible grace, and for whom he would purchase it. God has an elect people whom He has chosen to grant salvation.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5(HCSB)4 knowing your election, brothers loved by God. 5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we were among you for your benefit,

Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save. It is unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him. Man is dead in trespasses and sins. So there is no condition he can meet before God chooses to save him from his deadness.

Romans 8:29–30(ESV)29 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.

What did Jesus say?

John 6:38-40(ESV)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.” 

John 6:44(ESV)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. 

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.” 

Mark 4:10-12(ESV)10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’” 

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.

What did the early church fathers say?

Barnabas (A.D. 70): “We are elected to hope, committed by God unto faith, appointed to salvation.”

Ignatius: “To the predestined ones before all ages, that is, before the world began, united and elect in a true passion, by the eternal will of the Father…”

Augustine (A.D. 380): “Here certainly, there is no place for the vain argument of those who defend the foreknowledge of God against the grace of God, and accordingly maintain that we were elected before the foundation of the world because God foreknew that we would be good, not that He Himself would make us good. This is not the language of Him who said, ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you’ (John 15:16)

Ambrose Of Milan (A.D. 380): “In predestination the Church of God has always existed.”

Cyprian (A.D. 250): “This is therefore the predestination which we faithfully and humbly preach.”

Limited atonement

Limited atonement (also known as “definite atonement”) is a doctrine offered in answer to the question, “for whose sins did Christ atone?” The Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom God gave him to save (John 17:9(ESV)I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. Christ died, indeed, for many people, but not all (Matthew 26:28(ESV)28 for this is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Specifically, Christ died for the invisible Church — the sum total of all those who would ever rightly bear the name “Christian” (Ephesians 5:25(ESV)25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Christ’s death was designed to actually secure the salvation of all of God’s chosen people. Christ’s death secured and actually accomplished the salvation of all of God’s chosen people. God has determined that all for whom Christ sacrificed Himself will be saved. Because God determined that certain ones should be saved as a result of God’s unconditional election, He determined that Christ should die for the elect alone. All whom God has elected and for whom Christ died will be saved (Matthew 1:21(HCSB)21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”;
John 17:9(HCSB)I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those You have given Me, because they are Yours.;
Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, therefore guaranteeing their salvation. The atonement of Christ is sufficient for all humans and effective for those who trust him. It is not limited in its worth or sufficiency to save all who believe. But the full, saving effectiveness of the atonement that Jesus accomplished is limited to those for whom that saving effect was prepared. The availability of the total sufficiency of the atonement is for all people. Whosoever will — whoever believes — will be covered by the blood of Christ. And there is a divine design in the death of Christ to accomplish the promises of the new covenant for the chosen bride of Christ. Thus Christ died for all people, but not for all in the same way.

What did Jesus say?

John 10:11(ESV)11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 

John 10:26(ESV)26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.

Matthew 25:32-33(ESV)32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.

 

What did early church fathers say?

Jerome (A.D. 390): “Christ is sacrificed for the salvation of believers…Not all are redeemed, for not all shall be saved, but the remnant…All those who are redeemed and delivered by Thy blood return to Zion, which Thou hast prepared for Thyself by Thine own blood…Christ came to redeem Zion with His blood. But lest we should think that all are Zion or every one is Zion is truly redeemed of the Lord, who are redeemed by the blood of Christ form the Church…He did not give His life for every man, but for many, that is, for those who would believe.”

Tertullian (A.D. 200): “Christ died for the salvation of His people…for the church.”

Justin Martyr (A.D. 150): “He endured the sufferings for those men whose souls are [actually] purified from all iniquity…As Jacob served Laban for the cattle that were spotted, and of carious forms, so Christ served even to the cross for men of every kind, of many and various shapes, procuring them by His blood and the mystery of the cross.”

 

Building Spiritual Walls and Gates

We always hear of people who build walls around their hearts. ” That person is walled up” The city of Jerusalem (City of Peace) had walls, the reason they had walls was to keep the enemies out, but they had gates, and the gates had different uses. the same with our lives, we have to have walls for protection to keep the enemies out but we have to have gates to let the good stuff in and let the bad stuff out, but those gates need to be protected and usually that is where we fail the most.

The book of Nehemiah one of the history books of the Bible, continues the story of Israel’s return from the Babylonian captivity and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. It serves as a great metaphor for living the spiritual life. In the book, the Temple represents our heart (where God meets with us); the city of Jerusalem represents our mind; the walls of the city represent our spiritual walls and the health of our relationship with Christ, and the gates of the city represent our eyes, ears and mouth.

Nehemiah built the city walls and installed the gates to protect the city and the temple. Walls keep bad stuff or bad people out. Gates allow good stuff and good people in. But sometimes, the gates allowed bad stuff and bad people in. It’s not what the gates were designed for, but it happened because those in charge of the gates weren’t guarding them like they should.

Nehemiah was a Hebrew in Persia when the word reached him that the Temple in Jerusalem was being reconstructed. He grew anxious knowing there was no wall to protect the city. Nehemiah invited God to use him to save the city. God answered his prayer by softening the heart of the Persian king, Artaxerxes, who gave not only his blessing, but also supplies to be used in the project. Nehemiah is given permission by the king to return to Jerusalem, where he is made governor.

In spite of opposition and accusations the wall was built and the enemies silenced. The people, inspired by Nehemiah, give tithes of much money, supplies and manpower to complete the wall in a remarkable 52 days, despite much opposition. This united effort is short-lived, however, because Jerusalem falls back into apostasy when Nehemiah leaves for a while. After 12 years he returned to find the walls strong but the people weak. He set about the task of teaching the people morality and he didn’t mince words. Nehemiah 13:23-27(HCSB)23 In those days I also saw Jews who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples but could not speak Hebrew. 25 I rebuked them, cursed them, beat some of their men, and pulled out their hair. I forced them to take an oath before God and said: “You must not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters as wives for your sons or yourselves! 26 Didn’t King Solomon of Israel sin in matters like this? There was not a king like him among many nations. He was loved by his God and God made him king over all Israel, yet foreign women drew him into sin. 27 Why then should we hear about you doing all this terrible evil and acting unfaithfully against our God by marrying foreign women?” He reestablishes true worship through prayer and by encouraging the people to revival by reading and adhering to the Word of God.

Nehemiah led the Israelites into a respect and love for the text of Scripture. Nehemiah, because of his love for God and his desire to see God honored and glorified, led the Israelites towards the faith and obedience God had desired for them for so long. In the same way, Christians are to love and revere the truths of Scripture, commit them to memory, meditate on them day and night, and turn to them for the fulfillment of every spiritual need. 2 Timothy 3:16(ESV) tells us, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” If we expect to experience the spiritual revival of the Israelites we must begin with God’s Word. Nehemiah 8:1-8(HCSB)1 all the people gathered together at the square in front of the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses that the Lord had given Israel. 2 On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding. 3 While he was facing the square in front of the Water Gate, he read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men, the women, and those who could understand. All the people listened attentively[a] to the book of the law. 4 Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform made for this purpose. Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah stood beside him on his right; to his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hash-baddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5 Ezra opened the book in full view of all the people, since he was elevated above everyone. As he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and with their hands uplifted all the people said, “Amen, Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah, who were Levites,[b] explained the law to the people as they stood in their places. 8 They read out of the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read.

Each of us ought to have genuine compassion for others who have spiritual or physical hurts. To feel compassion, yet do nothing to help, is unfounded biblically. At times we may have to give up our own comfort in order to minister properly to others. We must totally believe in a cause before we will give our time or money to it with the right heart. When we allow God to minister through us, even unbelievers will know it is God’s work.

The walls around Jerusalem have been torn down, built up, and moved many times. In AD 70, they were destroyed by the Romans, and in 1033 by an earthquake. The walls as we see them today were built in the 1500s.

While Nehemiah served King Artaxerxes in Babylon, he heard of the ruined state of Jerusalem. He was given authorization and supplies to go there and restore the walls and the gates. When Nehemiah arrived, he made a detailed inspection of the walls and gates (Nehemiah 2:11–16) and organized the people to start the rebuilding effort (Nehemiah 2:17–3:32). When the wall was rebuilt, it probably encompassed the same area as before, except it may have excluded the king’s gardens in the southeast. Starting from the east corner of the north wall, Nehemiah went counterclockwise:

Sheep Gate: North central, just north of the Temple Mount. Near where the sheep market was for the temple sacrifices. Sheep Gate

(Nehemiah 3:1-32)

The very first gate mentioned is the sheep gate. It was called the sheep gate because this was the gate which the sheep and lambs used in the sacrifice were bought through.

Personal aspect: No prizes for knowing that this speaks of the very first experience we come into in our Christian life – that is, a realisation that Jesus was the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. The sheep gate then speaks to us of the cross and the sacrifice that was made for our sins. It is the starting point of everything but you will also notice if you read the entire chapter that the sheep gate is also mentioned at the very end once we have come full circle. That is because everything starts and ends with Jesus’ death on the cross.

 

Prophetic aspect: This gate points to the first coming of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). He is the sacrifice foretold in this sheep gate. He is the door by which everyone must enter to be saved (John 10:7-9).

Fish Gate: (Nehemiah 3:3) Northwest, just northwest of the temple. The Fish gate was mentioned next. It was called the fish gate because the fisherman of Galilee would bring their catch in through this gate to be sold. The Fish Gate was one of Jerusalem’s main entrances. King Manasseh had built it after God sent the Assyrians to capture him and teach him humility (2 Chronicles 33:14). Nehemiah had the sons of Hassenaah rebuild it (Nehemiah 3:3). Zephaniah prophesied that a cry will come from the Fish Gate on the Day of the Lord (Zephaniah 1:10).
Personal aspect: For us, it speaks of evangelism as we have been called to be ‘fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19). It is a natural progression in our Christian life that after seeing that Jesus died for our sins, we would then want to tell others about it. Surveys have shown that believers who have been saved less than two years win the most people to the Lord. Their simple testimony of what Jesus has done in their lives qualifies them to be great ‘fishers of men.’ So this is the next step in the Christian life.

Prophetic aspect: This gate speaks of the church in the first century (the apostolic era) where believers on fire for God sacrificed all and went out to turn the world upside down with the message of Jesus Christ! And that is what happened. Starting with the Jews and then traveling out to the Gentiles in the then known world, the Apostles and disciples of the Lord truly were ‘fishers of men’ and the growth of Christianity spread rapidly during the first century.

Old Gate (Nehemiah 3:6) Following from the Fish gate was the Old gate. Nehemiah is the only book in the Bible where it is called the Old gate and it may have been one of the original gates made. Old Gate it is near the northwest corner of the wall, west of the Fish Gate.

 

Personal aspect:  This speaks to us of the old ways of truth. A young Christian having experienced the sheep gate, then the fish gate, soon sees the need for experiencing the old gate. This means learning the old ways of truth that never change. Jeremiah 6:16(NLT) states ‘Thus says the Lord, Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls.’ Too many Christian’s today want something new. The latest teaching, the latest experience… Or they try to change truth to make it acceptable with what the world thinks is right ‘today’ (which may not be the same as what it thinks ‘tomorrow’.) But the Ancient of Days calls us back to His long established ways that do not change and remain the same yesterday, today and forever.

Prophetic aspect: Prophetically this speaks of the period of the Church Fathers around 100-325 AD (sometimes known as the Ante-Nicene era). This was a period where a defence of the faith and the truth of God were further established to counter attacks and persecution from unbelievers.

Valley Gate: (Nehemiah 3:13) West central, south of the present wall of Old City. The gate that Nehemiah used when he did his inspection of the walls. Several valleys surround Jerusalem and this gate apparently opened out to the valley of Hinnom.

Personal aspect: Examining the picture above you notice that there is a long distance before you come to the next gate, which is the valley gate. For a new Christian the Lord allows a ‘honeymoon’ type period where He teaches you and His presence is strong in your life. This can go on for some time as indicated by the positioning of the old and valley gates. But sooner or later the valley gate must come. The valley gate speaks to us of humbling and trials – valley type experiences used by the Lord for our personal growth. Never easy but the Christian needs to remember that in the natural nothing really grows on the mountain tops, but it certainly does down in the valleys. So it is in the spiritual. Never a nice experience but it always produces fruit.

Prophetic aspect: In the history of the church the valley gate would speak of the humbling and suppression of the true church following on from when ‘Christianity’ was made a state religion under Constantine (~390AD). Pagan rituals were adapted and brought into the ‘church’ and spiritual regression ensued. This long period continued with the ‘dark ages’ and the further establishment of Roman Catholicism as the face of ‘Christianity’ to the world.

Dung (Refuse) Gate (Nehemiah 3:14) Very southern tip, facing southwest it exited out to a garbage dump in the Hinnom Valley where, in the days of King Manasseh, child sacrifices took place (2 Chronicles 33:6). All of Jerusalem’s refuse and rubbish was taken out through the dung gate, down to the valley of Hinnom, where it would be burned.

 

Personal aspect: Again there is quite a distance to the next gate indicating that, unfortunately, the valley experience can carry on for some time. But the result of that experience is clearly seen in this next gate – the dung gate. This is where the rubbish is removed and this is what happens in our own life. Valley experiences are used by the Lord to clear away the rubbish so that true faith, refined by the fire, can come forth and produce fruit. Clearing away the rubbish in our lives is never easy but the benefits of this experience can be seen in the next gate. You will notice also that at this point of your Christian life there is a dramatic ‘turning of the corner’ that takes place. From the diagram above, up until this point we have been moving downward and the experiences have been hard, but having come to this point there is a sharp turn in the road and we begin to move upward again.

Prophetic aspect: The dung gate speaks of the rubbish that became established within the ‘church’ during the dark and medieval ages leading up to the reformation. Some of doctrinal ‘rubbish’ that needed removing included the teachings of indulgences, purgatory, salvation by various sacraments and works, exaltation of Mary as the ‘Mother of God’ and the man-made church hierarchy and papal authority. There was a lot to be removed!

Fountain Gate:(Nehemiah 3:15) Southern tip, facing east. The east gate that led out from the Pool of Shelah to the king’s gardens and the stairs that went down the eastern slope. The fountain gate is located near the pool and was often used by the people for cleaning before proceeding on to the temple.

Personal aspect: You will notice from the picture that the fountain gate is located extremely close to the dung gate. In other words, after a valley type experience where rubbish in our lives is cleared out through the dung gate, true faith comes forth and the fountains begin to flow quite quickly! This speaks to us of the living waters of the Holy Spirit that cleanse our lives and empower us for our Christian life. Jesus said: ‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:38)

Prophetic aspect: In church history, this speaks of the period beginning with the reformation (1517-1600). It was a time when the truth of God’s word was established again as Bibles were printed for the common man to read and the key truth of salvation by grace through faith opened the fountains of salvation to flow again.

Water Gate: (Nehemiah 3:26) Facing east, south of the current Old City walls. The Water Gate led down to the Gihon Spring which was located adjacent to the Kidron Valley The eastern wall on the south end apparently was abandoned and a new wall built farther west, turning the southern section into more of a tail. The new wall excluded the tomb of David and most of the water tunnel that fed the Pool of Shelah by the Dung Gate. But the narrow confines included the upper house of the king, the home of the high priest, and the ascent to the armory. After the wall was built, Ezra read the people the Law from a square by the Water Gate (Nehemiah 8:1).

 

Personal aspect: The next gate we arrive at is the water gate. The water gate is a picture of the word of God and its effect in our life. Ephesians 5:26(NLT) states ‘… having washed her by the water of the word.’  Psalm 119:9(NLT) states that it is only through God’s word that we can be clean. It is no coincidence that this gate was located next to the fountain gate as the two often go together. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes the word of God alive to us personally, allowing cleansing, encouragement and direction to take place in our life.

Prophetic aspect: From 1600-1900 the word of God made a dramatic impact in the lives of many around the world. Some of the great men of God preached the word including John Bunyan in the time of the Puritans, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, D.L Moody among others. The preaching and cleansing of the word went forth into countries and continents previously starved of the word through men such as Hudson Taylor, Adoraim Judson and William Carey.

Horse Gate:(Nehemiah 3:28) East side, just east of the royal palace and southeast of the Temple Mount. Near where the priests had their homes. The horse gate was  close to the King’s stables and the men of Jerusalem would ride their horses out of this gate to war.

Personal aspect: The horse gate speaks to us of warfare as horses were used in battle and became a symbol of war. Revelation 19:11(NLT)’I saw Heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness does He judge and make war.’ Spiritual warfare, as we will see in this entire study on Nehemiah, is a requirement of every Christian because we are all in a battle whether we know it or not. It is also interesting that the horse gate follows the water (word) gate for as the word goes forth the spiritual warfare is sure to increase!

Prophetic aspect: Horses speak of speed and war. From the 1900’s onwards both of these certainly apply! The speed of medical, technological, industrial and scientific advancements was beyond comparison. And yet with it came two world wars, countless wars between nations and constant ethnic unrest. For the church it has been one battle after another with the rise of the cults, Biblical criticism. Modernism and liberalism leading to an increasing apostasy within the church. The ultimate fulfilment prophetically of the horse gate will be in the Tribulation – the Day of the Lord as described in Revelation 6-19.

East Gate (Nehemiah 3:29) Just north of the Horse Gate, it led to the temple.

The East gate is located on the opposite side of the Mount of Olives.

Personal aspect: Ezekiel 44:1-3(NLT)… the gate that looked toward the east, and it was shut. The Lord said to me, ‘This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord God of Israel has entered by it.’ The east gate opens and looks toward the Mount of Olives and we know that when Jesus returns He will return to this mount. (Zechariah 14:4(NLT). He will then enter Jerusalem by the east gate. The east gate then speaks of the return of Jesus Christ. For our Christian life it shows us of our need to live with this hope and to long for His return. A specific crown is even given to those who do this (2 Timothy 4:8(NLT).

Prophetic aspect: Please take note how the last three gates (Horse, East and Inspection gate) in the picture are very close together because so are the events which they symbolise. Prophetically the east gate is very close to the horse gate because the day of God’s wrath ends with the coming of the Lord Jesus to Jerusalem on earth. (See Zech chapter 14).

Muster Gate (AKA Inspection Gate) (Nehemiah 3:31): Between the East Gate and the northeast corner of the wall. Also known as the Miphkad gate. The word in Hebrew has a military connection and according to tradition it was at this gate that David would meet his troops to inspect them.

Personal aspect: The final gate is the inspection gate. This gate speaks to us of the examination of our lives by the Lord. This occurs in this life as indicated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:4(NLT): ‘For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.’ The ultimate fulfilment is at the judgement seat of Christ (as spoken of in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 2 Corinthians 5:10(NLT) where our lives are inspected and rewarded appropriately. In our Christian experience we should be living with this in mind. We are called to live our lives with eternity in view, caring more for the things of eternity than the temporal that we see around us.

Prophetic aspect: Following the return of the Lord there is a judgement of the nations that will occur as well. This is recorded in the sheep and the goats judgement in Mathew 25:31-46. From here he will separate all the people into those that can enter into His kingdom on earth (sheep) and those that are to go into everlasting destruction (the goats). And then the Lion of Judah shall reign in His Messianic Kingdom!

Apply the metaphor to our spiritual lives. We build our spiritual walls each day as we engage in spiritual disciplines (reading the Bible, praying, obeying God…). We put a lot of work into building those walls, because we want to do our best to follow the Lord. But there’s a problem. Sometimes, we don’t do a very good job of guarding our gates (our eyes and our ears). We allow bad stuff to come into our city (our mind), and give it access to our temple (our heart). All the hard work we put into building our walls is now compromised, because we didn’t guard our gates.

Genesis 4:7(HCSB) 7 If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

The Enemy will get into our hearts and minds any way he can. If we’ve built strong spiritual walls with no gaps in them, he’s going to attack us at our gates. We need to be as diligent about guarding our gates as we are about wall-building. So, the question is, are we?

I think we underestimate the power of media in our lives. Not just “the media,” though I’m including them. I’m talking about all the types of media that we watch or listen to in a given day or week. Music, television, magazines, newspapers, email, advertisements, gossip… We let that stuff into our brains! Are we being selective enough?

We shouldn’t be naive about this. There is programming going on. When we open our eye-gates and our ear-gates to the media around us, it gets into our brains. If enough gets in, it will make its way to our hearts. That’s okay if we are only opening our gates to God-honoring messages. Program away! It will help us walk straighter. But most of us are not guarding the gates carefully enough, and bit by bit, we are filling our minds with things that don’t honor God.

When I teach kids, I do an illustration of this with a large bowl of water and some food coloring. I tell them that the bowl of water represents their minds as God created them – pure and clean. The food coloring represents some of the bad stuff we can let into our heads – profanity, the Lord’s name used in vain, music with inappropriate themes, movies with inappropriate scenes, jokes with inappropriate punch lines, stories told from inappropriate motives…

Each time I mention a new bad thing that can get into our minds, I have one of the kids drop a little food coloring into the bowl. By the time I’m done, the pure, clean water is dark and murky. It doesn’t take much to spread all throughout the water – just like it doesn’t take much bad stuff in your gates before your thinking starts to change. “It’s not so bad.” “Everyone is doing it.” “You can’t get away from it – you just have to ignore it.” “That’s just the way things are these days.”

Our brains are incredible. They can hold more data than any computer on earth. But the bad news is that they never purge all the bad information and images we put in them. Once it’s in, it’s in for good and forever. Our only hope is that we can dilute it by allowing more good stuff in our gates. That’s hard work, and it takes time.

Nehemiah set up rules for guarding the gates of Jerusalem, and he got rid of all the riff-raff that were hanging right outside the gates. Maybe we should do the same. A few gate-keeping rules might do us some good.

These are the places where things come into our minds. It’s important that we exercise some control in this area, because what gets in begins to influence how we think and how we act over time.

There’s one more gate that I may not have mentioned; it’s your mouth gate. While the ear and eye gates control what comes into your mind, the mouth gate controls what comes out of it.

You may have heard this expression before. GIGO means “Garbage In – Garbage Out.” It mainly refers to computers (i.e., don’t blame the computer…if you put in bad programming, you’re going to get a bad result.), but it applies to our mental computers, as well. If you stock your brain full of garbage, be certain that it will find it’s way back out – usually through your mouth gate.

Men, if we allow large shipments of sexual images to enter our eye gates, it won’t be long before it affects our thinking. We will start to see women more as objects than as people. When enough shipments come in, some of that thinking will find its way across our lips; I almost guarantee it.

We’ll find ourselves making lewd jokes or engaging in sexual innuendo. We’ll talk about co-workers and neighbors in terms of how they look rather than focusing on their more meaningful qualities. We’ll find it hard to resist the double entendre when we hear someone make a harmless remark.

Women, your temptation comes through both your ear gates and your eye gates. If you listen to frequent gossip and critical assessment of those around you, it will start to color your thinking. Before long, you will find yourself evaluating people in just the same, graceless way. If you watch shows or read magazines about shallow, superficial judgments of others, you will struggle not to descend to the same behaviors in your personal life.

You’ve heard the principle, “what goes up must come down.” How about “what goes in must come out?” The more junk you allow in your ear gates and eye gates, the more likely it is to find it’s way into what you talk about and how you talk about it. Jesus was communicating this principle when he said:

Matthew 15:17-20 (HCSB)17 “Don’t you realize that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. 20 These are the things that defile a man, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

Be careful what you allow in through your gates. When your heart and mind are full of garbage, you won’t be able to hide it long before the neighbors start noticing what you’re putting on the curb.

Light in the Darkness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Peter 2:1-10 HCSB “So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good. Coming to Him, a living stone — rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God — you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it is contained in Scripture: Look! I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and honored cornerstone, and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame! So honor will come to you who believe, but for the unbelieving, The stone that the builders rejected — this One has become the cornerstone, and A stone to stumble over, and a rock to trip over. They stumble because they disobey the message; they were destined for this. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

The darkness does not get darker, it does not get an adjective, only the light gets an adjective. It doesn’t matter how dark the darkness was in your life. It could be sexual darkness, anger darkness, addiction dark, when you shine the light, the wonderful light of Jesus the darkness has to flee. Darkness is just regular darkness we can try to magnify the degree of darkness or celebrate the wonderful light! 

The degree of the darkness has no effect on the degree of the light.

No matter how dark a room is the smallest amount of light illuminates it. It can’t be so dark that light doesn’t work. The reason the world is so dark is not the degree of darkness but the absence of the flame in the heart of the believer. When there is an explosion of the flame in the heart of the believer you will see the driving out of darkness.

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