“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

He wants me

“The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jer. 31:3).

Our Creator wanted us. He wanted me. When and why?

“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” (Eph. 1:4,5).

“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:29,30).

This says that God foreknew us, then predestinated us, then He called us, then justified us, then glorifies us. So, when, in this succession of events, did He first want me? Does He want me after He has glorified me and made me look and speak and act like Jesus? Many people think God is that way. But, if I think like that I am likely to be discouraged about how I look, speak and act. This is because until I am perfect in every look, word and action, I will (as I believe) be unwanted and unacceptable by God. Not until I breathe my last breath and have complete victory in my life will God love me and call me His little saint.

We don’t do that to our children; so why do we ever think that of God? He would have to be twisted; He would have to be worse than we are, if He were that way. Many non-Christians believe God is twisted like that; and that is why they hate Him. Yet it’s the devil they are thinking of.

So when did God want me? When did He want me and cherish me during that sequence of events listed by the Bible? Was it after He had justified me? Did He justify me and forgive me and reconcile me to Himself first, and then after I began to love Him then He loved me and wanted me? Is His love based upon His justifying grace? Or is it the other way around?

Jesus is invited to the house of Simon for Sabbath lunch. Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus had cast seven devils (Lk. 8:2), sneaks in and bathes His feet with her tears of gratitude and repentance. Mary tip-toed in to not be noticed, but she wasn’t the most intellectual person in the world. She forgot that no matter how quiet the room is, when you open a container of spikenard, it SCREAMS!

Simon sniffs and realizes that a tramp is off to the side preparing Jesus for His future burial. Then he hears the Master say, “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” (Lk. 7:47).

Jesus loved Mary before He forgave her. Dare I say that He loved her before He even “called” her? Yes, He loved her the whole time He gave her the victory over Satan, only to see her fall back under the control of Satan’s perverted temptations. Then Jesus would come to town again, and again He would cast the devil out; but again after a while she would go back to the streets again. Again and again, six times, Jesus would show back up, remind her of God’s true love and pray over her, and the devil would leave along with all his temptations, only to make his way back into her heart after she lost faith in Jesus’ love for her.

Then, came the day she was caught red-handed, in the very act of prostituting. Knowing the close tie Jesus felt toward her, His enemies set her up to ruin her Master publicly. Now, publicly humiliated and under condemnation of stoning, yet still worse than stoning, she realized that her careless attitude toward the kind of life that Jesus had been trying to teach her had now placed Him in great danger. They wanted to stone Jesus too, if He would try to help her escape the judgment.

Yet, He protected her, and that without any public humiliation. He didn’t need to humiliate her because her enemies had already done that. But His words, “Go and sin no more,” went straight to her heart. Deeper than any command had ever gone, light brightened up her fallow conscience. Satan left and this time forever. She was clean, and, providentially, the spikenard testified to her inner and outward beauty.

He had loved Mary from the beginning, since the first day He was invited into the home of Lazarus. Before she had done anything good or bad, He had loved her. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”

So, its nonsense to think that God’s love for man begins after man comes to God and has begged for His attention and pardon. God wanted us long, long before we want Him. He is the one who initiates the loving and saving process. “We love Him, because He first loved us.” (1Jn. 4:19).

Long before He called us, long before He predestinated us to be made into the glorious image of His Son, long before “of old” the Ancient of Days knew us and wanted us. He has always wanted me. And He has always wanted you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Grace and a Mediator in Jesus

The prayer meeting was very nice tonight. The subject for study was God’s grace. Beyond the regular textbook concepts, we talked about the requirements of a Mediator, as well as the abundance of His grace.

God requires us to have a Mediator when dispensing to us His grace. Why the formality? Or why the screening? Why can’t we just come straight to God and get the grace? Does He have reservations about being gracious to us so that He can’t give it unreservedly without a go-between?

The reason for the Mediator is because of us. Without an intercessor we would not appreciate God and His grace. We would take it for granted and become presumptuous with it. Nothing could spell our destruction better and quicker than for us to be presumptuous with His grace. And, without the Mediator, we would naturally presume upon God’s goodness. Since God doesn’t want to outright destroy His beloved children whom He is trying to restore to paradise, He instituted the work of mediation through the person of His Son.

That mediator removes the weight of responsibility of salvation off of our minds and hearts. What a relief! (If we can trust Him to do the job right.) And He will bring us to salvation in His own time and way, while if we were in charge of God’s grace and our salvation, we would never come to repentance, and be saved. This is the problem with Cain and everyone else who wants to be in charge of the work of their own salvation. No one can save himself. We need the help of someone bigger and better than we are. We must admit that Christ can and will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We cannot bring ourselves to need help. We cannot deliver ourselves from the prison of self-importance.

Christ works from the Most Holy Place in the throne to use circumstances and consequences of our sinfulness to create in us a humbled and contrite heart. He brings us to repentance—that is His work. He will save us and not we ourselves. Then when we are repentant, He gives us His Father’s grace, which comes to us through Christ. God’s grace is so precious to Him, that without humility and contrition in control of us, His grace would destroy us; we would immediately turn it into presumption, tempting God to destroy us. We must be brought to repentance before God will dispense His grace—it must never be squandered. He loves to be gracious abundantly and generously; but He will never be gracious recklessly. Reckless grace is what Satan has been insinuating into God’s character all along—grace without justice and law and control.

We also read Rom. 5:20, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Can I ever wonder if God has enough grace for all my sins? This verse explains that very well. Verse 21 says that sin reigned unto death, and vs. 14 says death reigned over the whole earth from Adam on. Yet, while sin abounded, God’s grace was abounding even more.

So, can God really forgive me for all that I’ve done? Yes, He has made it abundantly clear that He will abundantly forgive. It is His glory to be gracious; His goodness is His chief joy. (Ex. 33:18,19;34:6,7). But He will by no means clear the presumption in anyone who will not make use of the Mediator.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The tale of two financial crashes

The restoration of the Catholic Papacy

In 1870, the Pope's holdings were left in an uncertain situation when Rome itself was annexed by the Piedmont-led forces which had united the rest of Italy, after a nominal resistance by the papal forces. Between 1861 and 1929 the status of the Pope was referred to as the "Roman Question". They were undisturbed in their palace, and given certain recognitions by the Law of Guarantees, including the right to send and receive ambassadors. But they did not recognize the Italian king's right to rule in Rome, and they refused to leave the Vatican compound until the dispute was resolved in 1929. Other states continued to maintain international recognition of the Holy See as a sovereign entity. In practice Italy made no attempt to interfere with the Holy See within the Vatican walls. However, they confiscated church property in many other places, including, perhaps most notably, the Quirinal Palace, formerly the pope's official residence. Pope Pius IX (1846-1878), the last ruler of the Papal States, claimed that after Rome was annexed he was a "Prisoner in the Vatican". This situation was resolved on 11 February 1929 between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy.

The treaty was signed by Benito Mussolini on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III and by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri for Pope Pius XI. The Lateran Treaty and the Concordat established the independent State of the Vatican City and granted Catholicism special status in Italy. In 1984, a new concordat between the Holy See and Italy modified certain provisions of the earlier treaty, including the position of Catholicism as the Italian state religion.

The Great Depression

The Great Depression was a worldwide economic downturn starting in most places in 1929 and ending at different times in the 1930s for different countries. It was the largest and most important economic depression in modern history, and is used in the 21st century as a benchmark on how far the world's economy can fall. The Great Depression originated in the United States; historians most often use as a starting date the stock market crash on October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday. The end of the depression in the U.S. is associated with the onset of the war economy of World War II, beginning around 1939.

Is it a coincidence that the restoration of the Vatican occurred shortly before the stock market crash and Adolf Hitler’s effort to remove any entity that defied the church of Rome? Who is like unto the beast? Who can make war with him? Who was behind Hitler, supporting him with absolution from guilt and reprisal? –The restored Papacy, the rulers of the darkness of this world.

Today, with the escalation of the church before the whole world; today, when every head of state reverenced John Paul II at his funeral; today, when the Protestants are giving back their allegiance to their “mother,” today, we are about to experience another collapsing of the world economy as the Papacy announces its place as the very center of world affairs. Never again will it be shoved aside as unimportant and unnecessary. Never again! “We will make sure of that!” Unrecognized as important and essential, the Papacy has long seethed for world worship, and now is prepared to reclaim its seat of power and great authority.

Their army of Jesuits, dressed in sacredotal robes or common clothing and holding thousands of offices in every government and in the financial world, await their individual orders to do this or that. “Weaken the economy! Move the people to love this world and to be greedy for more money! Whip the financial world into a fury of moneygetting! Train everyone to think credit is absolutely necessary for life! Invent new, unethical methods to make a profit from the stock market until their rock-steady economy is in ruins! Destroy the enemies of the Church!”

“Keep up closely with the powerful insiders who know when a stock will be worthless and needs to be unloaded! Never lose in the marketplace; always and ever make a large profit and send that wealth to Vatican coffers! And when you, my army, have stolen all their wealth, then convince the governments to spend all their reserves to keep their failing economies alive! Then push even harder to bring back fear of loss, desire for competition, a feverish hope by greed, and self-preservation in a vengeance so that the nations’ reserves, used to prop up the world economy, is squandered, and all their money is in our banks! Then, they will come crawling to us on their knees, begging for us to save them! Then, after they have suffered awhile, we will condescend to help them—for a price.” Spiritual totalitarianism—devil possession; the Mark in the forehead. Tyrannical religion—brutal religion with huge teeth and powerful claws; the Mark in the right hand. A very heavy tribute upon their necks.

“If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,

“The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:

“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Rev. 14:9-11).

Babylon the Great

“And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name was Joktan…. These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.” (Gen 10:25;32).

Genesis 11:10-16 records that 101 years elapsed between the fear and trembling, the humbling of soul and the salvation of heart taught by the flood, until total apostasy and a quick retreat to the life that caused the extensive destruction of the world by flood.

In short order Satan had moved the weakening race to set up a monument to the glorification of Nimrod’s genius and indomitable persona, and as well vicariously, to the people’s self-glorification.

“Let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.” (Gen. 11:3). Feverishly did they use their vitality and strength to make bricks; feverishly did they burn them.

But from Solomon: “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” (Ps. 127:1). Evidently, the Lord wasn’t helping them build this tower. He had not been invited; they had lost their fervor and fear of Him. The building was a monument to self that would stand forever to represent lack of simple faith in God’s heartfelt promise to never again repeat the world-wide flood.

The tower would be a slap in God’s face as it proclaimed man’s decision to live apart from God and protect himself from future disasters, a trophy of man saving himself; basically, salvation by works—salvation by my own works—salvation by self’s own work and effort and sheer will-power. It was motivated and orchestrated by Satan himself through a blinded and morally weak man to insult the God of heaven.

So the Lord simply confused their unified language and they labored in vain as they began to bend their energy until every ounce of determination came into play to continue the self building project. Every fired brick that made its way to the wrong worker represented the fire that was eating up each builder. Laboring in vain, frustration grew and tempers shortened; anger mounted until the tower was a mountain of confusion.

An essential part the building was brick. Not wood, which could be burnt and destroyed. Not of stone, which God made; but of a man-made material, each mud block with the empire’s symbol integral to and protruding from it, a relief of the lion with eagle’s wings. Every single brick boasted that the city and empire would endure forever.

The Lord’s curse upon Babylon and its destruction: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labour in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary…. And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary.” (Jer. 51:58,64). Try as they might to save their beloved hopes of perpetual dominion, it would elude them to their utter exhaustion.

John takes up this language to describe those in the end who refuse to accept the grace and the rest of God, and the seal of God that His grace and peace bring the contrite and humbled spirit. “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,

“The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:

“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev. 14:9-12).

The third angel’s message will be proclaimed to a world that has been brought again to the greatest boast ever, that it has all the resources to keep itself from destruction. Its religion is the instigator of the great endeavor.

Salvation by works. I don’t need to get acquainted with Jesus. He doesn’t need to be my whole focus. I have the resources to be a moral person, to be good enough. Give me all the commandments you can—I can keep them! Give me all the precepts and instructions, even the reproofs and exhortations—I can handle it! I am man—I can do it all! And I’ll show you I can do it all without a broken heart or a contrite spirit.

I am a strong man—I don’t need to fall on a Stone and be broken. I am man—I don’t need to be poor in spirit. Give me all the Testimonies for the church—I will prove that they don’t apply to me, because I am already good enough! And by all means, don’t tell me my righteousness isn’t good enough, after all I’ve accomplished for God, and after spending all and exhausting myself in the work of the Lord. Don’t tell me my righteousness stinks; who are you to judge me!

Those who persist in living a moral, religious life, without Jesus as their only focus, find nothing but a dry, wasted existence. Yes, they can look to their great works for God, but they have no rest day nor night. The smoke of their torment results from the constant frustration that comes from putting forth all their effort only to get nowhere in terms of goodness and a right standing before a holy God. The reality of their filthy condition keeps forcing itself upon their destitute soul, that they are just spinning their wheels, in spite of all their effort to be good. A life without that private time with Jesus, surrendered to His love, is a hard life.

And, if they never break down and admit their insufficiency, one day they will have a big surprise coming. They will find themselves declared filthy and wicked by God. In spite of all their good, clean living, they will not have a right to the tree of life and enter in through the gates of the city of God. Jesus is the passport into that city. He is our access. “Not because of me, but because of Jesus you must let me in!” we will say to the angels who guard the way into God our Father, and the tree of life. Him alone! All our righteousness acts without Him are less than worthless. It didn’t get us there; He got us there! Good living is not good enough; it will not pass the judgment of God. Jesus will get us through the judgment, if we have sought Him with all our heart.

“Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity?” (Hab. 2:13).

“The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
His ways are always grievous; Thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them.
He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity….
Thou hast seen it; for Thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with Thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto Thee; Thou art the helper of the fatherless.
Break Thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek out his wickedness till Thou find none.
The Lord is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of His land.
Lord, Thou hast heard the desire of the humble: Thou wilt prepare their heart, Thou wilt cause Thine ear to hear:
To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress.” (Ps. 10:4-6,14-18).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The enduring, endearing Law of God

Unchangeable, written in stone, unarguable—don’t even bother to try. The Law declares, “You did wrong! Don’t fight! Back down!” Backing down does a human nature good. It’s just what we need. It saves us the energy of a losing battle. For our sakes, the Law was made to come on strong, impenetrable, indomitable.

The whole world stands guilty—every mouth is stopped. It speaks of your evil deeds and words and mine, because God sees everything we do and say. The Law is also spiritual, and speaks of our thoughts and intentions because God know our thoughts “afar off” (Ps. 139:1-4)

So, in the Law that God wrote with His own finger, all this firmness we see was only for our blessing. The fallen nature of man is firmly set to do evil. Man’s nature defies righteousness. Self will protect itself against all intruders, including the Creator of righteousness. The sinful heart will fight tooth and nail, even conniving and secretly navigating its way to perpetual preservation.

Thus, the sinful heart needs something bigger and more powerful than it is in order to overcome it. We find that “something bigger” in the Law, our Father’s Law. No Israelite could fail to see the strength God imputed to His Law. They all knew it was encased in perpetual stone, the words etched in that which there is nothing harder and more enduring.

Was the Law a new thing at Sinai? No, Paul writes that it existed since Adam, as it could be manifested in the results of transgressing it—manifested in the death of the transgressors. Rom. 5:13,14.

Alone, the Law of God builds in our rebel hearts only wrath and stubborn resistance. Thus, the need for the animal sacrifice to reconcile man to God by faith through the work of the Holy Spirit revealing God’s gracious mercy. Standing alongside of God’s grace, the Law had a power to convert and save.

The contrite heart needed the unbendable nature of the Law of the Lord to stop the sinner in his tracks, for him to perceive his guilt, and say, “Akk! You are watching me!” That is the first light brought in to the darkened soul; then the atonement was provided to reveal a Father’s willingness to receive again.

An unbreakable Law was then enshrined in a broken and humbled heart. It was a heavenly Father’s Law who had spoken from Sinai in thunder and lightning, causing fear and trembling, force-feeding humility; who had condescended to do for man what he could never have done for himself. It was a personal, precious Law of ten commands, though hidden away in its holy ark, yet still His own making and writing, a precious Fatherly gift from Him to them, from Him to us.

HIG—Human International Group

Only days ago spelled “oblivion” for the largest hedge fund company in the world. It had so badly mismanaged its business by taking bad collateral and loaning huge amounts of money in return. Interest rates were low and risk went sky-high in their thinking; and with risk went greed. Dollar signs were in everyone’s eyes.

But the super-inflated home values and mortgages they owned finally came to terms with reality. The gig was up. Investment properties stopped selling, and unfortunate investment property owners were stuck with the hot potatoes, which burned them so badly they let go of them and walked away into bankruptcy.

So many hot potatoes rolled back to AIG and it couldn’t take the heat. Or just refused to lose and learn. But a tightly interwoven global economy was riding on AIG, such that the U.S. government stepped in, against its will, to prop up the failed company before many other similarly ailing companies dominoed the world into a massive depression, leaving the whole world’s populations and governments destitute and poverty-stricken.

Now the U.S. government owns the largest hedge fund in the world. Maybe its purpose is to step in and fix the greed, dishonesty, and mismanagement debacle. Maybe its purpose is to find buyers who will return American’s money as soon as possible.

In either case, when it assumed the liabilities of AIG, it asserted control and responsibility for its restoration to economic health.

This was not a takeover; it was a rescue. Rather than the government agency being an aggressor, it was about saving and being gracious.

The U.S. government was now to do for AIG what AIG had proven it could not do for itself. Humbled in the dust, AIG was voluntarily seeking help. Surrendered and willing, now it will listen and learn (hopefully).

Isn’t this what Christ has done for the human race? He has rescued us from total ruin in devil-possession and sin. He has assumed our debt, our liabilities. All the payment of justice toward a world of transgressors was laid to His account. He became sin; He fought devil-possession in our stead on the cross. “The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on Me.” (Rom. 15:3). He became surety for the guilty and weakened race, as Judah became substitutionary insurance for Benjamin. “I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever.” (Gen. 43:9). “He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Is 53:12).

The anointed Son of God cannot forgive, and leave it at that. He cannot forgive the sinner and then just forget about the sin. The debt is still very real; the insult we have given God and the retributive angel hosts is very real. Christ must pay that debt—with the surrender of His eternal life. And there’s more. He must pay that debt—with the loss of His eternal life and then He must suffer ever afterward. Because His Father was satisfied with Jesus’ perfect sacrifice of Himself, His Father exhumed Him from death to begin the next step of the plan of redemption—total rehabilitation of humanity to its original perfection when in Eden. “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Heb. 7:25).

If He assumes our liabilities in exchange for forgiveness, now He must assume responsibility for the proper management of our freedom from condemnation; He must prevent a resumption of our former rebellion, exponentially adding to our former guilt. It must be His constant work to prevent pride and presumption of a fallen and weakened race. He must assert His control over them. All the punishment was His; and all the responsibility for our total deliverance and successful passage home is His also.

His sweet influence and His authoritative law have been forced upon a race on probation—a period given to get the race back on track with the rest of the unfallen universe. His grace and law are the new constitution for this fallen world.

His constitution is not uncontended. But Satan, His adversary, is daily proving himself incompetent in running creation, here on planet Earth. So his contention with God’s law and grace can be categorically ignored.

Jesus’ control is best—slaves to Him, prisoners to Him. He can rescue; He can save.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quiet grace

Quiet grace—this is what we see in nature. Do we deserve all its abundance? No, not in the least. Yet it just keeps coming to us. We harvest it or try to destroy it, but it comes right back in full force. Quietly it preaches to us. It communicates through its delight-filled sights and sounds and smells that its Creator is a God of grace who loves this world of perverse children.

Quiet grace—between mother and child; an emblem of what God wants to be with us.

Quiet grace—grace that steals upon emerging faith. If you need grace, then you will believe. When you are tired of an existence without forgiveness, faith springs forth. Thus grace can afford to be quiet; quietly awaiting the inevitable tired sinner.

Faith is not a liability; neither is it a crutch for weaklings, as the world may think. It is a gift to every needy soul who has had enough of graceless life, a source of joy that the world can’t have. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1Jn. 1:7). “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Jn. 13:35).

“They joy before Thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” (Is. 9:3).

Where God is

Where can God be found? In the praises of His children. “But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” (Ps. 22:3). And heart-felt praise is primarily the response of one thing—grace.

The first form of worship was the true one—instituted by God in Eden. It required the conviction of sin and the grace of God toward sinners as demonstrated in the death of innocent animals.

So where can God be found? In grace. Grace, whenever manifest between people, as seen through the beauties of nature given to a world of rebellious sinners, or as revealed in the act of redemption at the cross, uncloaks the true character of our Father and Creator.

Why can’t everyone see Him and recognize His works? Why is faith so scarce? Because human nature and the world of self-indulgent sinners in which we live and move, operate from totally different principles than grace. How am I going to be fed? How am I going to stay comfortably dressed and housed? How am I going to get or exceed what the Jones’s have? How am I going to have the best toys and games? How am I going to have prestige and recognition? How can I free myself from all the woes that make up my life and cause me to suffer so?

Whenever we accept God’s grace toward us, then our own personal world of woe and difficulty gets better and better. And in the realm of religion, His other characteristics of wisdom and power become worthy of our praises. We must not do like Cain. We mustn’t skip the grace of God toward us and go directly into praising Him for His generosity, power and wisdom. Such worship is taking the whole religious world by storm. But it leads to proud, dead, empty religion. We need His grace to humble us and to lay our flesh in the dust, so we can rest from all the work it has always taken to protect and defend self.

And why would we want to skip His grace? Why would we not rather put forth every effort and bend all our energies to continually seek out and find the evidences of His grace toward sinners?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Nature of Man

Yesterday I had a conversation with my atheist sister about the future of America, in light of the growing financial and economic woes. I mentioned that the banks and lending institutions have invested in the greedy nature of man.

On that note she was quick to rebut and correct me—that loans are made so good people can make a good future for themselves and their children. This she said with a voice of anger and even spitefulness.

I wasn’t trying to offend her and didn’t even think much of it when I mentioned greed. Nevertheless, it fired her up and brought out a new clue for why we are the way we are.

It really boils down to our perception of the nature of man. The issue of man’s nature caused the great divide between the Church of Rome and the Reformers.

Rome wanted to believe and teach that the nature of man was basically good. Despite his rough spots, man was a righteous creation of God and that all he needed was some drops of holy water and to go through some motions and litanies to take care of those insignificant sins.

The Protestants saw things much differently. They understood the Bible to say something completely the opposite of Romish doctrine. “Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” (Jer. 17:5). “If ye then, being evil, ….” (Matt. 7:11).

“Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that He may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people.” (Deut. 9:4-6). “Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you.” (vs. 24).

“Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition.” (1Cor. 10:11). So the word from God doesn’t leave much hope in some innate goodness of man. “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” (Is. 2:22). “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” (Ps. 146:3).

With the light of the Holy Scriptures the Reformers were able to see right through the façade of the dogma that man is basically good. If he is naturally good then he isn’t a very bad sinner, and has no need of a Savior. If he never knows how desperately evil he is, then he will never desperately need God. Luke-warmness, half-hearted religion is institutionalized in the falsehood of man’s inherent goodness.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jer. 17:9).

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Rom. 3:10-12).

An inherently good nature of man is a pagan concept. It is built upon self-congratulation. It disdains correction and reproof, and murders the messengers of truth. Cain set the precedent for this at the very beginning.

The concept of man’s innate goodness is built upon the foundation of atheism. If I hate to be judged, then I will hate a judgment day when every secret thing will be brought to light. If I hate the judgment day of the great Judge, then I must do my best to forget about the Judge. So I accept every reason that says there is no God. Atheism is the perfect cure-all for the person who refuses to be corrected or condemned.

What they desire is a method of forgetting God which shall pass as a method of remembering Him. The papacy is well adapted to meet the wants of all these. It is prepared for two classes of mankind, embracing nearly the whole world--those who would be saved by their merits, and those who would be saved in their sins. Here is the secret of its power. Great Controversy, p. 572.

Every human being must trust in someone. Without trust we can’t function. We become paranoid and our brains short circuit. No one wants their brain to arc and spark, so we must trust. But if there is no God, as much of the world wants to believe, and we don’t have our Creator, Provider, Redeemer and Father-Friend to trust in, then we must be left to trust in all that we can see. Therefore we must trust in nature and in man.

The fallen nature of man says of itself that it is generous, loving, kind, honest dependable, responsible, wise, and on and on.

The word of God says man’s nature is self-indulgent, self-seeking, self-pitiful, self-congratulatory, self-serving, “lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” (2Tim. 3:2-5).

The concept that man is good is a religion, and it is also atheism. Whether in its purely pagan form or in its baptized Christian form, it is all the same.

One voice stands opposed to the many forms of atheism—the true religion of the Bible. One voice speaks of the wholly degenerate heart of man; only one voice speaks with conviction and brings the hardened heart to see its need of someone bigger and better than man could ever supply.

That one voice is the gospel; it is righteousness by faith and will be heard again before Jesus returns. It will speak like John the Baptist in clear tones against an offended and angry moral world. Those who unite in the Latter Rain will endanger their lives to raise their voice against a world rallied around their religious leaders, all of whom answer to the pope and his unscriptural dogmas. But “though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.” (Prov. 11:21).

Only those who have seen the weakness inherent in their own nature will fear to ever trust in themselves or in any other man. They will finally trust in Jesus alone. Then He will work in them, “both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13).

Monday, September 15, 2008

What Jesus did

“Because for Thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered My face. I am become a stranger unto My brethren, and an alien unto My mother's children…. For the zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon Me. I made sackcloth also My garment; and I became a proverb to them….They that sit in the gate speak against Me; and I was the song of the drunkards….Reproach hath broken My heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave Me also gall for My meat; and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” (Ps. 69:7,8,9, 11,12,20,21).

“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” (Is. 53:4,5).

“A seed shall serve Him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done this.” (Ps. 22:30.31). “What hath God wrought!” (Num. 23:23).

Monday, September 08, 2008

Email on grace

Hi Daniel,
Yesterday was a wonderful day. We were just finishing up a weekend camping church event with my father’s church in West Virginia. That morning we had had good discussions on the Bible in the kitchen while we prepared breakfast for everyone.

So afterwards, when we sat to eat, one of the young ladies sat across from me and asked me some questions that were really heavy on her heart—Justification and Sanctification, how do they work together?

When someone wants to talk about real life, practical things like that subject, I’m really interested! So I explained that our sanctification is squarely based on our justification. We have to keep coming back to Jesus with our sins for Him to be able to fix up our lives. She was in tears almost the whole time we talked.

She had struggled with the false idea that God only forgave the sins that were confessed. That is a false idea because it leads to the idea that all the sins I forget to confess go unforgiven and so I must really concentrate and remember every last one, just to get on God’s good side. Either that, or, to stay sane, I must justify many, many of my mistakes and wrong-doings and only be left with a handful which I can remember to confess.

That also leads to false repentance. Instead of sorrow for sin, it turns into begging God for acceptance. He doesn’t need that, nor desire it. That is not repentance. Yet it is what the vast majority of the 6 billion people on the earth believe God wants from us. It is all satanically inspired. And soon, almost the whole world will be trying to get peace of mind and acceptance from God that very way. “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.”

If we don’t learn what it means to cry to a God of mercy, in full conviction of our sinfulness; if we just use religion to go through the motions and never deal with a conscience-reading God; then time will run out, probation will close, and it will be impossible to get to the true God of mercy. Everyone who is ignorant of God’s grace will remain ignorant. No one else will enter through the door to Him by faith. The door will be shut for good.

So I told K____, my friend, that God doesn’t forgive sins; He forgives sinners. I can’t forgive sin or sins. But He can and loves to forgive sinners. (She was really crying now!) I told her that conviction of sin is His business, and repentance and salvation is also His business. He initiates the process of everything; all we can do is respond. And obviously He was working in her and she was responding. We don’t maintain our salvation; that’s God’s job. If we tried, it would destroy us. All we can maintain are the things that keep us close to Him, talking with Him, listening to Him (through His word), and going places and doing things together with Him (through witnessing of His goodness and serving others.)

When He forgives us, He forgives us of everything. We stand before Him perfectly 100% clean. We are 100% restored to His perfect trust. Not clean on the one or two sins confessed, but still in need of cleansing on the 98 sins we haven’t confessed yet. As if He stands over us with arms crossed, withholding He blessed acceptance until we’ve got all hundred sins covered by repentance. What a sick idea!

A pastor taught her only half of the picture, because maybe he didn’t believe the other half, the best half. He told her that confession must be specific, that God will only forgive if we list all our sins. Yes, it must be specific. But when the heart is broken God forgives and accepts and takes us up in His arms. And later, when He convicts again on the same or a different sin, then we add to the list. Oh, how His infinite heart of love must ache because so many don’t believe He is generous with mercy! Oh, how Satan exults to see the torture of God’s precious children because of the errors he has ingeniously devised to keep them away from Him!

The idea of trying to list all sins before God can completely forgive almost killed Martin Luther in his monk’s cell at Erfurt. Trying to list all sins before God could forgive completely is what caused Ignatius Loyola to sear his conscience and to create the gospel’s greatest and most formidable enemy, the Jesuits.

When we fall on the Stone and are broken, God says, “For all those things hath Mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word.” (Is. 66:2).

I feel sorry for those religious leaders who have never known true repentance and conversion. They are the cause of many “little ones” who die in despair of knowing God’s love for them, personally. “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matt. 18:6,7).

Those men better learn their trade. They better learn how to pastor, guiding sinners to the feet of the Good Shepherd. And I better learn how to reach people with the gospel, or I would also be prone to be thrown into the sea tied to an anchor.

Good night, dear brother.