12/22/14

From Jim McGuiggan... GOD'S FAVORITE AROMA


GOD'S FAVORITE AROMA

I love the smell of fresh baked bread, musk perfume, pipe tobacco before and after it's lit, coffee beans and strong hot coffee and fresh cut grass and a little baby's hair. The fragrance is the thing, of course, but in so many of these it's more than the fragrance—it's the feelings they generate and the images they bring before us. You know what I mean. There are some odours you can't smell without thinking of events of the past; painful or pleasant, here come the memories. [Some of you can tell stories worth telling in that respect and I'm a good listener.]

There are some fragrances God loves. Genesis 8:20-21, English Standard Version (ESV), says: "Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, 'I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I again strike down every living creature as I have done."

You remember the setting, of course. God has just ripped the world hollow in a profound act of uncreation and when the chaos ceased, when the roar and the tumult were gone, when the planet finally settled down, out of the ark came this little man; and what's the first thing he does? He builds an altar to God and offers burnt offerings. [It's clear that burnt offerings embraced something of the notion of an offering for sin but, centrally, it was about the dedication of the entire self of the worshipper.] This little man seeks forgiveness, of course, but that's not quite what he has in mind here as he gathers the sticks and the wood for the fire and the stones for the altar—in this new world he's dedicating himself and his entire family; that's what's on his mind in this sacrificial act. He isn't offering the animals as a substitute for himself but as a representation of himself and his family. He's telling God: "We can't give you ourselves, entirely free from flaws and disabilities but here give you all that we are and ask you to receive these spotless sacrifices as representative of all we now are and have and what we would give you if we could." 

And as the smoke rises into the air we're given the image of God breathing it in and smiling.

God has no pleasure in the smell of burning animals [see Psalm 50:7ff and 51:16] but he loves what the fragrance means when it's the work of humble, sincere and gallant hearts. The Holy One watches the man gathering stones from here and there and making them into a pile; he sees him gathering sticks and lighting materials and making a fire and he sees him preparing his sacrifices, and filled with pleasure God says to himself, "I'll never do that again! I'll never destroy the world again as I have just done."

So ends chapter 8 and chapter 9:1-3 shows us God restoring the creation, God trying again. If God destroyed the world every time man became exceedingly wicked, he would be destroying it in every generation for he says (8:21) "the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth."

Of course there's more to say about this matter--God, his character and purpose are what the entire section is about--but at this point I wish to focus on one righteous little man, with all his flaws, saying to the Holy One with all his heart, "We're sorry and here, if you are pleased to have us, we offer all that we are and have." It doesn't matter that Noah is flawed and that he can't "live up to" what's in his heart, what's in his heart is what matters. He chooses to walk with God, he's characterized as one who lives by faith, he proclaims a message that honors God to a human family that is morally bankrupt and God looked at him and liked him. [See Genesis 6:8-9,18, 22; Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5 and Ezekiel 14:14, 20 where he is given a place of special honor along with Daniel and Job.]

We should never deny that all the goodness that is in us or will be in us is the work of God but it's sheer nonsense and harmful to so speak and teach that people think they're puppets and God pulls their strings! By God's sovereign will and grace he has made us capable of resisting him or working with him. He takes note of our choices, of our willingness to gut out the bad times and rejoice in the good. We get his attention when we say from our hearts, "We're sorry! If you'll have us, here we are!" And he will take our commitment seriously and he will depend on us to further his purpose to make this world better—eternally better!

Sinners though we are, by God's grace (Genesis 6:8-9) we can stand upright in a sin-sick world and God sees it. In his poem The Deluge here's how G.K Chesterton pictures Noah:

      Though giant rains put out the sun
      Here stand I for a sign.
      Though Earth be filled with waters dark
      My cup is filled with wine.
      Tell to the trembling priests that here 
      Under the deluge rod,
      One nameless, tattered, broken man
      Stood up and drank to God.

 And you, as you come out from your troubled times, set your heart to please him—build your altar, offer yourself to him in and through Jesus (Ephesians 5:1-2) and God will see and breathe in the pleasing aroma and he will bless the world through you.

In Defense of...God's Plan of Salvation by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1331

In Defense of...God's Plan of Salvation

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

“And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).
Of all the living beings that dwell on planet Earth, one solitary creature was made “in the image of God.” On day six of His creative activity, God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.... And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26,27).
Mankind was not created in the physical image of God, of course, because God, as a Spirit Being, has no physical image (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Matthew 16:17). Rather, mankind was fashioned in the spiritual, rational, emotional, and volitional image of God (Ephesians 4:24; John 5:39-40; 7:17; Joshua 24:15; Isaiah 7:15). Humans were superior to all other creatures. No other living being was given the faculties, the capacities, the capabilities, the potential, or the dignity that God instilled in each man and woman. Indeed, humankind is the peak, the pinnacle, and the apex, of God’s creation.
In its lofty position as the zenith of God’s creative genius, mankind was endowed with certain responsibilities. Men and women were to be the stewards of the entire Earth (Genesis 1:28). They were to glorify God in their daily existence (Isaiah 43:7). And, they were to consider it their “whole duty” to serve the Creator faithfully throughout their brief sojourn on the Earth (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

MAN’S PREDICAMENT: DISOBEDIENCE AND DEATH

Unfortunately, the first man and woman used their volitional powers—and the free moral agency based on those powers—to rebel against their Maker. Finite man made some horribly evil choices, and so entered the spiritual state biblically designated as “sin.” The Old Testament not only presents in vivid fashion the entrance of sin into the world through Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), but also alludes to the ubiquity of sin within the human race when it says: “there is no man that sinneth not” (1 Kings 8:46). Throughout its thirty-nine books, the Old Covenant discusses time and again sin’s presence amidst humanity, and its destructive consequences. The great prophet Isaiah reminded God’s people: “Behold, Jehovah’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear” (59:1-2).
The New Testament is no less clear in its assessment. The apostle John wrote: “Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Thus, sin is defined as the act of transgressing God’s law. In fact, Paul observed that “where there is no law, neither is there transgression” (Romans 4:15). Had there been no law, there would have been no sin. But God had instituted divine law. And mankind freely chose to transgress that law. Paul reaffirmed the Old Testament concept of the universality of sin (1 Kings 8:46) when he stated that “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
As a result, mankind’s predicament became serious indeed. Ezekiel lamented: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:20a). Once again, the New Testament writers reaffirmed such a concept. Paul wrote: “Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned” (Romans 5:12). He then added that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Years later, James would write: “But each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is full-grown, bringeth forth death” (1:14-15).
As a result of mankind’s sin, God placed the curse of death on the human race. While all men and women must die physically as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, each person dies spiritually for his or her own sins. Each person is responsible for himself, spiritually speaking. The theological position which states that we inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin is false. We do not inherit the guilt; we inherit the consequences. And there is a great difference between the two. Consider, as an illustration of this point, the family in which a drunken father arrives home late one evening, and in an alcoholic stupor severely beats his wife and children. His spouse and offspring suffer the consequences of his drunkenness, to be sure. But it would be absurd to suggest that they are guilty of it! The same concept applies in the spiritual realm. People die physically because of Adam’s sin, but they die spiritually because of their own personal transgression of God’s law. In Ezekiel 18:20, quoted earlier, the prophet went on to say: “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

THE REALITY OF SIN

The reality of sin is all around us, is it not? Consider the ways in which mankind has been affected by sin.
Physically—Disease and death were introduced into this world as a direct consequence of man’s sin (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12).
Geophysically—Many features of the Earth’s surface that allow for such tragedies as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, violent thunderstorms, etc. can be traced directly to the Great Flood of Noah’s day (which came as the result of man’s sin, Genesis 6:5ff.).
Culturally—The numerous communication problems that man experiences, due to the multiplicity of human languages, are traceable to ambitious rebellion on the part of our ancestors (Genesis 11:1-9).
Psychologically—Man generally is without the peace of mind for which his heart longs (look at the number of psychiatrists in the Yellow Pages of any telephone book!). Isaiah opined: “They have made them crooked paths; whosoever goeth therein doth not know peace” (59:8; cf. 57:21).
Spiritually—By sinning, man created a chasm between himself and God (Isaiah 59:2). Unless remedied, this condition will result in man’s being unable to escape the “judgment of hell” (Matthew 23:33), and in his being separated from God throughout all eternity (Revelation 21:8; 22:18-19).
The key phrase in the discussion above is that man’s sin will result in an eternal separation from God unless remedied. The question then becomes: Has God provided such a remedy? Thankfully, the answer is: Yes, He has.

GOD’S REMEDY FOR SIN

Regardless of how desperate, or how pitiful, man’s condition has become, one thing is for certain: God had no obligation to provide a means of salvation for the ungrateful creature who so haughtily turned away from Him, His law, and His beneficence. The Scriptures make this apparent when they discuss the fact that angels sinned (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), and yet “not to angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:16). The rebellious creatures that once inhabited the heavenly portals were not provided a redemptive plan. But man was! Little wonder the psalmist inquired: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4, emp. added).
Why would God go to such great lengths for mankind, when His mercy was not even extended to the angels that once surrounded His throne? Whatever answers may be proffered, there can be little doubt that the Creator’s efforts on behalf of sinful man are the direct result of pure love. As a loving God (1 John 4:8), He acted out of a genuine concern, not for His own desires, but instead for those of His creation. And let us be forthright in acknowledging that Jehovah’s love for mankind was completely undeserved. The Scriptures make it clear that God decided to offer salvation—our “way home”—even though we were ungodly, sinners, and enemies (note the specific use of those terms in Romans 5:6-10). The apostle John rejoiced in the fact that: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us” (1 John 4:10).
God’s love is universal, and thus not discriminatory in any fashion (John 3:16). He would have all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4)—if they would be (John 5:40)—for He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). And, Deity’s love is unquenchable. Read Romans 8:35-39 and be thrilled! Only man’s wanton rejection of God’s love can put him beyond the practical appropriation of heaven’s offer of mercy and grace.

God’s Plan In Preparation

Did God understand that man would rebel, and stand in eventual need of salvation from the perilous state of his own sinful condition? The Scriptures make it clear that He did. Inspiration speaks of a divine plan set in place even “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20). After the initial fall of man, humankind dredged itself deeper and deeper into wickedness. When approximately a century of preaching by the righteous Noah failed to bring mankind back to God, Jehovah sent a worldwide flood to purge the Earth (Genesis 6-8). From the faithful Noah, several generations later, the renowned Abraham was descended, and, through him, eventually the Hebrew nation would be established. From that nation, the Messiah—God-incarnate—would come.
Some four centuries following Abraham, the Lord, through His servant Moses, gave to the Hebrews the written revelation that came to be known as the Law of Moses. Basically, this law-system had three purposes. First, its intent was to define sin and sharpen Israel’s awareness of it. To use Paul’s expression in the New Testament, the Law made “sin exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:7,13). Second, the law was designed to show man that he could not, by his own merit or efforts, save himself. For example, the Law demanded perfect obedience, and since no mere man could keep it perfectly, all stood condemned (Galatians 3:10-11). Thus, the Law underscored the need for a Savior—Someone Who could do for us what we were unable to do for ourselves. Third, in harmony with that need, the Old Testament pointed the way toward the coming of the Messiah. He was to be Immanuel—“God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Mankind was prepared for the coming of the Messiah in several ways. Theophanies were temporary appearances of God in various forms (see Genesis 16:7ff.; 18:1ff.; 22:11ff., etc.). A careful examination of the facts leads to the conclusion that many of these manifestations were of the preincarnate Christ. In addition, the Old Testament contains types (pictorial previews) of the coming Messiah. For example, every bloody sacrifice was a symbol of the “Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Finally, there are more than 300 prophecies containing countless minute details that speak of the coming Prince of Peace. These prophecies name the city in which He was to be born, the purpose of His earthly sojourn, and even the exact manner of His death. The simple fact is, Jehovah left no stone unturned in preparing the world for the coming of the One Who was to save mankind.

God’s Plan In Action

One of God’s attributes, as expressed within Scripture, is that He is an absolutely holy Being (see Revelation 4:8; Isaiah 6:3). As such, He simply cannot ignore the fact of sin. The prophet Habakkuk wrote: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” (1:13). Yet another of God’s attributes is that He is absolutely just. Righteousness and justice are the very foundation of His throne (Psalm 89:14). The irresistible truth arising from the fact that God is both holy and just is that sin must be punished!
If God were a cold, vengeful Creator (as some infidels wrongly assert), He simply could have banished mankind from His divine presence forever, and that would have been the end of the matter. But the truth is, He is not that kind of God! Our Creator is loving (1 John 4:8), and “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). Thus, the problem became: How could a loving, merciful God pardon rebellious humanity?
Paul addressed this very matter in Romans 3. How could God be just, and yet a justifier of sinful man? The answer: He would find someone to stand in for us— someone to receive His retribution, and to bear our punishment. That “someone” would be Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He would become a substitutionary sacrifice, and personally would pay the price for human salvation. In one of the most moving tributes ever written to the Son of God, Isaiah summarized the situation like this:
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. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all (53:5-6).
Jehovah’s intent was to extend grace and mercy freely—through the redemptive life and death of His Son (Romans 3:24ff.). As a member of the Godhead, Christ took upon Himself the form of a man. He came to Earth as a human being (John 1:1-4,14; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Timothy 3:16), and thus shared our full nature and life-experiences. He even was tempted in all points, just we are, yet He never yielded to that temptation (Hebrews 4:15).
But what has this to do with us? Since Christ was tried (Isaiah 28:16), and yet found perfect (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22), He alone could satisfy heaven’s requirement for justice. He alone could serve as the “propitiation” (atoning sacrifice) for our sins. Just as the lamb without blemish that was used in Old Testament sacrifices could be the (temporary) propitiation for the Israelites’ sins, so the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29) could be the (permanent) propitiation for mankind’s sins. In the gift of Christ, Heaven’s mercy was extended; in the death of the Lamb of God, divine justice was satisfied; and, in the resurrection of Christ, God’s plan was documented and sealed historically forever!

MANKIND’S APPROPRIATION OF
GOD’S GIFT OF SALVATION

As wonderful as God’s gift of salvation is, there is one thing it is not. It is not unconditional. Mankind has a part to play in this process. While the gift of salvation itself is free (in the sense that the price levied already has been paid by Christ), God will not force salvation on anyone. Rather, man must—by the exercise of his personal volition and free moral agency—do something to accept the pardon that heaven offers. What is that “something”?
In His manifold dealings with mankind, Jehovah has stressed repeatedly the principle that man, if he would be justified, must live “by faith” (see Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). Salvation has been available across the centuries, conditioned upon God’s foreknowledge of the atoning death of Christ upon the Cross at Calvary (see Galatians 4:4-5; Hebrews 9:15-17; 10:1ff.). Yet “living by faith” never denoted a mere “mental ascent” of certain facts. Instead, “living by faith” denoted active obedience.
Faith consists of three elements: (1) an acknowledgment of historical facts; (2) a willingness to trust the Lord; and (3) a wholehearted submission (obedience) to the divine will. Further, it should be remembered that faith has not always—for all men, in all circumstances—required the same things. It always has required obedience, but obedience itself has not always demanded the same response.
For example, in God’s earliest dealings with men, obedient faith required that those men offer animal sacrifices at the family altar (Genesis 4:4). Later, God dealt with the nation of Israel, giving them the Law at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20). Under that Law, animal sacrifices continued, along with the observance of certain feast days and festivals. Acceptable faith, under whatever law that was then in force, demanded obedience to the will of God.
The Scriptures are clear that the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 16:26) is based on the Word of God (Romans 10:13), and that both the faith and the obedience are demonstrated by action. Hebrews 11, in fact, devotes itself to an examination of that very concept. “By faith” Abel offered. “By faith” Noah prepared. “By faith” Abraham obeyed. “By faith,” Moses refused. And so on. Even the casual reader cannot help but be impressed with the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11:32-40, and the action they took because of their faith. Writing by inspiration, James observed that faith, divorced from obedience, is dead (James 2:26). What, then, is involved in this “obedience of faith” in regard to salvation? What must a person do to be saved?
Several critically important questions need to be asked here. First, where is salvation found? Paul told Timothy: “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10, emp. added).
Second, where are all spiritual blessings found? Spiritual blessings are found only “in Christ.” Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (emp. added).
Third, and most important, how, then, does one get “into Christ”? In other words, how does the alien sinner rid himself of his soul-damning sin? What “obedience of faith” is required to appropriate the free gift of salvation that places him “in Christ”?

THE ROAD HOME: SALVATION THROUGH
THE “OBEDIENCE OF FAITH”

The only way to find the “road home” to heaven is to follow God’s directions exactly. There are numerous things God has commanded that a person do in order to enjoin the “obedience of faith” and thereby receive the free gift of salvation. According to God’s Word, in order to be saved a person must do the following.
First, the sinner must hear God’s Word (Romans 10:17). Obviously, one cannot follow God’s commands if he has not heard them, so God commanded that people hear what He has said regarding salvation.
Second, one who is lost cannot be saved if he does not believe what he hears. So, God commanded that belief ensue (John 3:16; Acts 16:31).
Third, one who is lost cannot obtain salvation if he is unwilling to repent of his sins and seek forgiveness (Luke 13:3). Without repentance he will continue in sin; thus, God commanded repentance.
Fourth, since Christ is the basis of our salvation, God commanded the penitent sinner to confess Him before men as the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10).
However, this is not all that God commanded. Hearing, believing, repentance, and confession will not rid one of his sin. The overriding question is: How does one get rid of sin? Numerous times within the pages of the New Testament, that question is asked and answered. The Jews who had murdered Christ, and to whom Peter spoke on the Day of Pentecost when he ushered in the Christian age, asked that question. Peter’s sermon had convicted them. They were convinced that they were sinners, and desperately in need of salvation at the hand of an almighty God. Their question then became: “...brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter’s response could not have been any clearer. He told them: “repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Saul, who later would become Paul, the famous apostle to the Gentiles, needed an answer to that same question. While on a trip to Damascus for the explicit purpose of persecuting Christians, Saul was blinded (see Acts 22). Realizing his plight, he asked: “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). When God’s servant, Ananias, appeared to Saul in the city, he answered Saul’s question by commanding: “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16).
What, then, is the correct biblical answer regarding how one rids himself of soul-damning sin? The biblical solution is that the person who has heard the gospel, who has believed its message, who has repented of past sins, and who has confessed Christ as Lord must then—in order to receive remission (forgiveness) of sins—be baptized. [The English word “baptize” is a transliteration of the Greek word baptizo, meaning to immerse, dip, plunge beneath, or submerge (Thayer, 1958, p. 94).]
Further, it is baptism that puts a person “in Christ.” Paul told the first-century Christians in Rome:
Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).
Paul told the Galatians: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (3:27, emp. added). Little wonder, then, that Peter spoke of baptism as that which saves (1 Peter 3:21).
Numerous New Testament writers made the point that it is only when we come into contact with Christ’s blood that our sins can be washed away (Ephesians 1:7-8; Revelation 5:9; Romans 5:8-9; Hebrews 9:12-14). The question arises: When did Jesus shed His blood? The answer, of course, is that He shed His blood on the Cross at His death (John 19:31-34). Where, and how, does one come into contact with Christ’s blood to obtain the forgiveness of sin that such contact ensures? Paul answered that question when he wrote to the Christians in Rome. It is only in baptism that contact with the blood, and the death, of Christ is made (Romans 6:3-11). Further, the ultimate hope of our resurrection (to live with Him in heaven) is linked to baptism. Paul wrote of “having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). If we are not baptized, we remain in our sins. If we are not baptized, we have no hope of the resurrection that leads to heaven.
Baptism, of course, is no less, or more, important than any other of God’s commands regarding what to do to be saved (see Jackson, 1997). But it is necessary. And one cannot be saved without it. Is baptism a command of God? Yes, it is (Acts 10:48). Is baptism where the remission of sins occurs? Yes, it is (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
Some, who no doubt mean well, teach that a person is saved by “faith only.” In other words, people are taught simply to “pray and ask Jesus to come into their hearts,” so that they might be saved from their sins. This teaching, though widespread, is completely at odds with the Bible’s specific instructions regarding what one must do to be saved.
First, the Scriptures teach clearly that God does not hear (i.e., hear to respond with forgiveness) the prayer of an alien sinner (Psalm 34:15-16; Proverbs 15:29; Proverbs 28:9). Thus, the sinner can pray as long and as hard as he wants, but God has stated plainly how a person is to be saved. This makes perfect sense, since in John 14:6 Christ taught: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one cometh to the Father but by me.” The alien sinner cannot approach God on his own, and, as an alien sinner, has no advocate to do so on his behalf. That is one of the spiritual blessings reserved for Christians (Ephesians 1:3). Thus, it is fruitless for an alien sinner to pray to God to “send Jesus into his heart.” God does not hear (i.e., hear to respond to) such a request.
Second, the Scriptures plainly teach that man cannot be saved by faith alone. James, in his epistle, remarked that indeed, a man may be justified (i.e., saved), but “not only by faith” (James 2:24). This, too, makes perfect sense. As James had observed just a few verses earlier: “Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). It is not enough merely to believe. Even the demons in hell believe, but they hardly are saved (see 2 Peter 2:4). It is obvious, therefore, that mere faith alone is insufficient to save.
Also, where, exactly, in the Scriptures does it teach that, in order to be saved, one is to “pray to ask Jesus to come into his heart”? Through the years, I have asked many within various religious groups this question, but have yet to find anyone who could provide a single biblical reference to substantiate such a claim. Salvation is not conditioned on prayer; it is conditioned on the “obedience of faith.” Saul, as Christ’s enemy-turned-penitent, prayed earnestly. But the fact remains that his sins were removed (“washed away”) only when he obeyed God’s command, as verbalized by Ananias, to be baptized. Prayer could not wash away Saul’s sins; the Lord’s blood could—at the point of baptism (Hebrews 9:22; Ephesians 5:26).

CONCLUSION

The biblical message—from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22—is that mankind is in a woefully sinful condition, and desperately in need of help in order to find his way “back home.” A corollary to that message is that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11), and genuinely desires that all should be saved (John 3:16). But in order to be saved, one must do exactly what God commanded, in exactly the way God commanded it. When a person hears, believes, repents, confesses, and is baptized for the forgiveness of his sins, that person becomes a Christian—nothing more, and nothing less. God Himself then adds that Christian to His Son’s one true body—the church. The child of God who remains faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10) is promised a crown of life and eternity in heaven as a result of his faith, his obedience, God’s mercy, and God’s grace (John 14:15; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 1:5). What a joyous thought—to live the “abundant life” (John 10:10b) with a “peace that passeth understanding” (Philippians 4:7) here and now, and then to be rewarded with a home in heaven in the hereafter (John 14:2-3). What a joyous thought indeed!

REFERENCES

Jackson, Wayne (1997), “The Role of ‘Works’ in the Plan of Salvation,” Christian Courier, 32:47, April.
Thayer, J.H. (1958 reprint), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I would like to thank my friend and colleague, Wayne Jackson, for permission to employ in this article material on God’s plan of salvation from the Study Course in Christian Evidences that he and I co-authored (Apologetics Press, 1992).

From Mark Copeland... Disciples Ask Questions (Mark 9:10-13)

                          "THE GOSPEL OF MARK"

                   Disciples Ask Questions (9:10-13)

INTRODUCTION

1. After being told not to reveal what occurred on the mount of
   transfiguration, Peter, James, and John had questions about what
   Jesus said... - Mk 9:10
   a. They weren't sure what rising from the dead meant
   b. Though believing in the future resurrection, they were perplexed
      by announcements of Jesus' own death and resurrection - cf. Mk 9:31-32

2. They then asked a question about what scribes taught concerning
   Elijah...
   a. Why Elijah must come first, that is, precede the Messiah - Mk 9:11
   b. Jesus confirms the scribes were correct, Elijah must come first
      - Mk 9:12; cf. Mal 4:5
   c. But that Elijah had already come, in the person of John the
      Baptist - Mk 9:13; cf. Mt 17:12-13

[Note that in the first case, the disciples had a question but did not
ask, thus remaining in ignorance (cf. Mk 9:31-32); in the second case,
they had a question, asked and received their answer.  Important to
discipleship is asking questions! To appreciate why, let's first
review...]

I. THE CONCEPT OF DISCIPLESHIP

   A. THE WORD "DISCIPLE"...
      1. The Greek word is mathetes - a learner, pupil - Thayer
      2. It denotes "one who follows another's teaching" - Vine's
         Expository Dictionary

   B. WHAT JESUS EXPECTS OF DISCIPLES...
      1. To learn from Him - Mt 11:28-30
      2. To be taught things He commanded - Mt 28:19-20

   C. WHAT THE APOSTLES EXPECT OF DISCIPLES...
      1. To grow in knowledge - 2Pe 3:18
      2. To increase in the knowledge of God and Christ - Col 1:10; Php 3:8

[A disciple of Christ, then, is to be life-long learner, growing in the
knowledge of God and those things which He taught Himself and through
His apostles.  Important to such learning is...]

II. THE ROLE OF QUESTIONS

   A. JESUS TAUGHT BY ASKING QUESTIONS...
      1. In regards to healing on the Sabbath - Mt 12:10-12
      2. In regards to His identity - Mt 16:13-15; 22:42-45
      3. In regards to divorce - Mk 10:3
      3. In regards to paying taxes - Lk 20:22-25
      4. In regards to having authority - Mt 21:24-25
      -- Asking questions can be a useful teaching tool

   B. DISCIPLES LEARNED BY ASKING QUESTIONS...
      1. They asked about His parables - Mk 4:10; 7:17
      2. They asked about Elijah - Mk 9:11
      3. They asked about their inability to cast out a demon - Mk 9:28
      4. They asked about His teaching on divorce - Mk 10:10
      5. They asked about the man born blind - Jn 9:2
      6. They asked about the destruction of Jerusalem - Mk 13:1-4
      -- Asking questions is a great way to learn

   C. WE SHOULD LEARN BY ASKING QUESTIONS...
      1. Do not hesitate to ask questions
         a. In Bible classes
         b. After the sermons
         c. At any time (in person, via email, by phone)
      2. Do not be afraid to ask questions
         a. Some fear they will appear ignorant
         b. Which is better:
            1) To appear ignorant temporarily?
            2) To remain ignorant permanently?
      3. Besides learning, asking questions is a great way:
         a. To make Bible classes more interesting
         b. To help teachers and preachers be more useful (they love
            questions!)
      4. I had a student who came to class prepared with questions
         a. He wrote them down prior to class on 3x5 index cards
         b. His questions encouraged others to ask their own questions
         c. It provided a great learning experience for all
      -- Never underestimate the importance of asking questions!

CONCLUSION

1. Remember, a disciple is a life-long learner...
   a. As disciples of Christ, we must always be learning
   b. Growing in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom

2. There is no better way to learn than to ask questions...
   a. Ask a brother, a sister, a teacher, a preacher
   b. Keep asking until you get a Biblical answer

And you certainly do not have to wait until you are a disciple of Jesus
to ask questions.  Consider the example of the Ethiopian eunuch:

   So the eunuch answered Philip and said, "I ask you, of whom does
   the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?" Then
   Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached
   Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some
   water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me
   from being baptized?" - Ac 8:34-36

He asked two questions:  one that began his learning about Jesus, the
other that led to his being saved by Jesus!  Are you willing to ask
questions in order to learn and be saved...?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

From Gary... Bible Reading December 22



Bible Reading   

December 22

The World English Bible



Dec. 22
Micah 5-7

Mic 5:1 Now you shall gather yourself in troops, daughter of troops. He has laid siege against us. They will strike the judge of Israel with a rod on the cheek.
Mic 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, being small among the clans of Judah, out of you one will come forth to me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
Mic 5:3 Therefore he will abandon them until the time that she who is in labor gives birth. Then the rest of his brothers will return to the children of Israel.
Mic 5:4 He shall stand, and shall shepherd in the strength of Yahweh, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh his God: and they will live, for then he will be great to the ends of the earth.
Mic 5:5 He will be our peace when Assyria invades our land, and when he marches through our fortresses, then we will raise against him seven shepherds, and eight leaders of men.
Mic 5:6 They will rule the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in its gates. He will deliver us from the Assyrian, when he invades our land, and when he marches within our border.
Mic 5:7 The remnant of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples, like dew from Yahweh, like showers on the grass, that don't wait for man, nor wait for the sons of men.
Mic 5:8 The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the animals of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep; who, if he goes through, treads down and tears in pieces, and there is no one to deliver.
Mic 5:9 Let your hand be lifted up above your adversaries, and let all of your enemies be cut off.
Mic 5:10 "It will happen in that day," says Yahweh, "That I will cut off your horses out of the midst of you, and will destroy your chariots.
Mic 5:11 I will cut off the cities of your land, and will tear down all your strongholds.
Mic 5:12 I will destroy witchcraft from your hand; and you shall have no soothsayers.
Mic 5:13 I will cut off your engraved images and your pillars out of your midst; and you shall no more worship the work of your hands.
Mic 5:14 I will uproot your Asherim out of your midst; and I will destroy your cities.
Mic 5:15 I will execute vengeance in anger, and wrath on the nations that didn't listen."
Mic 6:1 Listen now to what Yahweh says: "Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear what you have to say.
Mic 6:2 Hear, you mountains, Yahweh's controversy, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for Yahweh has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.
Mic 6:3 My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me!
Mic 6:4 For I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage. I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
Mic 6:5 My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of Yahweh."
Mic 6:6 How shall I come before Yahweh, and bow myself before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
Mic 6:7 Will Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams? With tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my disobedience? The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
Mic 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
Mic 6:9 Yahweh's voice calls to the city, and wisdom sees your name: "Listen to the rod, and he who appointed it.
Mic 6:10 Are there yet treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and a short ephah that is accursed?
Mic 6:11 Shall I be pure with dishonest scales, and with a bag of deceitful weights?
Mic 6:12 Her rich men are full of violence, her inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their speech.
Mic 6:13 Therefore I also have struck you with a grievous wound. I have made you desolate because of your sins.
Mic 6:14 You shall eat, but not be satisfied. Your humiliation will be in your midst. You will store up, but not save; and that which you save I will give up to the sword.
Mic 6:15 You will sow, but won't reap. You will tread the olives, but won't anoint yourself with oil; and crush grapes, but won't drink the wine.
Mic 6:16 For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab. You walk in their counsels, that I may make you a ruin, and her inhabitants a hissing; And you will bear the reproach of my people."
Mic 7:1 Misery is mine! Indeed, I am like one who gathers the summer fruits, as gleanings of the vineyard: There is no cluster of grapes to eat. My soul desires to eat the early fig.
Mic 7:2 The godly man has perished out of the earth, and there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; every man hunts his brother with a net.
Mic 7:3 Their hands are on that which is evil to do it diligently. The ruler and judge ask for a bribe; and the powerful man dictates the evil desire of his soul. Thus they conspire together.
Mic 7:4 The best of them is like a brier. The most upright is worse than a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen, even your visitation, has come; now is the time of their confusion.
Mic 7:5 Don't trust in a neighbor. Don't put confidence in a friend. With the woman lying in your embrace, be careful of the words of your mouth!
Mic 7:6 For the son dishonors the father, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.
Mic 7:7 But as for me, I will look to Yahweh. I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.
Mic 7:8 Don't rejoice against me, my enemy. When I fall, I will arise. When I sit in darkness, Yahweh will be a light to me.
Mic 7:9 I will bear the indignation of Yahweh, because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my case, and executes judgment for me. He will bring me forth to the light. I will see his righteousness.
Mic 7:10 Then my enemy will see it, and shame will cover her who said to me, where is Yahweh your God? Then my enemy will see me and will cover her shame. Now she will be trodden down like the mire of the streets.
Mic 7:11 A day to build your walls-- In that day, he will extend your boundary.
Mic 7:12 In that day they will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, and from Egypt even to the River, and from sea to sea, and mountain to mountain.
Mic 7:13 Yet the land will be desolate because of those who dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings.
Mic 7:14 Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your heritage, who dwell by themselves in a forest, in the midst of fertile pasture land, let them feed; in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.
Mic 7:15 "As in the days of your coming forth out of the land of Egypt, I will show them marvelous things."
Mic 7:16 The nations will see and be ashamed of all their might. They will lay their hand on their mouth. Their ears will be deaf.
Mic 7:17 They will lick the dust like a serpent. Like crawling things of the earth they shall come trembling out of their dens. They will come with fear to Yahweh our God, and will be afraid because of you.
Mic 7:18 Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the disobedience of the remnant of his heritage? He doesn't retain his anger forever, because he delights in loving kindness.
Mic 7:19 He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities under foot; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
Mic 7:20 You will give truth to Jacob, and mercy to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.

 
Dec. 22
Revelation 5, 6

Rev 5:1 I saw, in the right hand of him who sat on the throne, a book written inside and outside, sealed shut with seven seals.
Rev 5:2 I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the book, and to break its seals?"
Rev 5:3 No one in heaven above, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look in it.
Rev 5:4 And I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look in it.
Rev 5:5 One of the elders said to me, "Don't weep. Behold, the Lion who is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome; he who opens the book and its seven seals."
Rev 5:6 I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.
Rev 5:7 Then he came, and he took it out of the right hand of him who sat on the throne.
Rev 5:8 Now when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Rev 5:9 They sang a new song, saying, "You are worthy to take the book, and to open its seals: for you were killed, and bought us for God with your blood, out of every tribe, language, people, and nation,
Rev 5:10 and made us kings and priests to our God, and we will reign on earth."
Rev 5:11 I saw, and I heard something like a voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousands of ten thousands, and thousands of thousands;
Rev 5:12 saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who has been killed to receive the power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing!"
Rev 5:13 I heard every created thing which is in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be the blessing, the honor, the glory, and the dominion, forever and ever! Amen!"
Rev 5:14 The four living creatures said, "Amen!" The elders fell down and worshiped.

Rev 6:1 I saw that the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying, as with a voice of thunder, "Come and see!"
Rev 6:2 And behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow. A crown was given to him, and he came forth conquering, and to conquer.
Rev 6:3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come!"
Rev 6:4 Another came forth, a red horse. To him who sat on it was given power to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another. There was given to him a great sword.
Rev 6:5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come and see!" And behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a balance in his hand.
Rev 6:6 I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "A choenix of wheat for a denarius, and three choenix of barley for a denarius! Don't damage the oil and the wine!"
Rev 6:7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living creature saying, "Come and see!"
Rev 6:8 And behold, a pale horse, and he who sat on it, his name was Death. Hades followed with him. Authority over one fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword, with famine, with death, and by the wild animals of the earth was given to him.
Rev 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed for the Word of God, and for the testimony of the Lamb which they had.
Rev 6:10 They cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, Master, the holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"
Rev 6:11 A long white robe was given to each of them. They were told that they should rest yet for a while, until their fellow servants and their brothers, who would also be killed even as they were, should complete their course.
Rev 6:12 I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became as blood.
Rev 6:13 The stars of the sky fell to the earth, like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when it is shaken by a great wind.
Rev 6:14 The sky was removed like a scroll when it is rolled up. Every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
Rev 6:15 The kings of the earth, the princes, the commanding officers, the rich, the strong, and every slave and free person, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains.
Rev 6:16 They told the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,
Rev 6:17 for the great day of his wrath has come; and who is able to stand?"

From Gary... I AM


If you know who you really are- you are blessed. Blessed, because you have the vision to be able to accurately analyze the real you (and perhaps others as well) and therefore have the opportunity to make the most of your life (and possibly the lives of others as well).  How many people have I known who were in the wrong career, marriage, or lifestyle, just because they didn't have this quality of perception!!!    And, then there is Jesus, the Christ of God...


John, Chapter 8
 25  They [the scribes and the Pharisees- GR] said therefore to him, “Who are you?” 

Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.   26  I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you. However he who sent me is true; and the things which I heard from him, these I say to the world.” 

  27  They didn’t understand that he spoke to them about the Father.  28 Jesus therefore said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing of myself, but as my Father taught me, I say these things.   29  He who sent me is with me. The Father hasn’t left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 

  30  As he spoke these things, many believed in him.  31 Jesus therefore said to those Jews who had believed him, “If you remain in my word, then you are truly my disciples.   32  You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 

  33  They answered him, “We are Abraham’s seed, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How do you say, ‘You will be made free’ ?” 

  34  Jesus answered them, “Most certainly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is the bondservant of sin.   35  A bondservant doesn’t live in the house forever. A son remains forever.   36  If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.   37  I know that you are Abraham’s seed, yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you.   38  I say the things which I have seen with my Father; and you also do the things which you have seen with your father.” 

  39  They answered him, “Our father is Abraham.” 

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.   40  But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham didn’t do this.   41  You do the works of your father.” 

They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father, God.” 

  42  Therefore Jesus said to them, “If God were your father, you would love me, for I came out and have come from God. For I haven’t come of myself, but he sent me.   43  Why don’t you understand my speech? Because you can’t hear my word.   44  You are of your father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and doesn’t stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks on his own; for he is a liar, and its father.   45  But because I tell the truth, you don’t believe me.   46  Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?   47  He who is of God hears the words of God. For this cause you don’t hear, because you are not of God.” 

  48  Then the Jews answered him, “Don’t we say well that you are a Samaritan, and have a demon?” 

  49  Jesus answered, “I don’t have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.   50  But I don’t seek my own glory. There is one who seeks and judges.   51  Most certainly, I tell you, if a person keeps my word, he will never see death.” 

  52  Then the Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets; and you say, ‘If a man keeps my word, he will never taste of death.’   53 Are you greater than our father, Abraham, who died? The prophets died. Who do you make yourself out to be?” 

  54  Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is our God.   55  You have not known him, but I know him. If I said, ‘I don’t know him,’ I would be like you, a liar. But I know him, and keep his word.   56  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it, and was glad. 

  57  The Jews therefore said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 

  58  Jesus said to them, Most certainly, I tell you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM.  

  59  Therefore they took up stones to throw at him, but Jesus was hidden, and went out of the temple, having gone through their midst, and so passed by. 

The scribes and Pharisees,ask Jesus: "Who are you"?, but I don't think they REALLY wanted the truth; instead they wanted to hear something like "A faithful Jew" or "A teacher in Israel". Their understanding of the Scriptures would not allow them to envision "God in the flesh" and when confronted with the concept of an eternal being in the "here and now"- it was just too much for them; they wanted to kill this "false prophet".  In reality, they should have listened to what Jesus said and remember the works that HE had done and therefore accepted HIM for who he really was (and still is).  

When you look in the mirror and ask yourself- Who am I, also ask yourself- am I willing to become better?  No matter what you are like now, you just may have the ability to objectively realize your faults (The Bible calls this SIN) and want to overcome them. I wonder, will you on that day, be able to see Jesus for who he really is and change- or are you thinking about looking for some stones....???