A Heart of Stone

It is truly amazing how all animal life obeys God’s commands without hesitation. Balaam’s donkey became God’s ambassador to a false prophet (Numbers 22:21-34); a great fish served as ready transportation for a stubborn prophet named Jonah (Jonah 1:17; 2:10), and ravens brought food to Elijah hiding in the desert (1 Kings 17:6). It is only man who rebels against God. Birds may have a “bird brain,” but to the bitter end, man has a heart of stone!

When the gospel of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) is preached, the Holy Spirit changes man’s stony heart of sin into one of flesh and the new believer’s life becomes a letter written by Christ (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:25-27).

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; you are manifestly an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. And we have such trust through Christ toward God (2 Corinthians 3:2-4).

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A New Father, a New Family, and a New Name

Leslie Lynch King, Jr

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God (First John 3:1).

You’ve never heard his name, but Leslie Lynch King, Jr became the most powerful man in the world in the summer of 1974.

He was born in the State of Nebraska in 1913, and two weeks later Leslie’s mother fled her home to escape a physically abusive and alcoholic husband. She took her infant son with her to Michigan and soon married a paint salesman.

The hardworking and kind salesman adopted the baby, giving him a new father, a new family, and a new name. In an instant, Leslie King became Gerald R  Ford, Jr. He was one man but with two names. The old things had passed away and all things became new. The younger Ford was catapulted into the pages of history when he became the 38th President of the United States upon the resignation of Richard Nixon.

Adoption is a legal act whereby a child is separated from its biological parents and placed permanently into a new family. In adoption, the rights and responsibilities of one set of parents is terminated and the child is brought fully into a new family. Once in this new family, every legal difference between the adopted child and any biological children comes to an end. All the children legally become joint-heirs together in the family.

Through faith in Jesus, the sinner – not a cute cuddly baby – is adopted into the family of God. By this great legal transaction, God the Father lovingly makes the sinner His child forevermore. In salvation, we receive a new Father, a new family, and a new name. O! What love of God to be made a child forever of the King.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name … and redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (John 1:12; Romans 4:5).

What’s Missing?

Many years ago I parked my car and walked a few blocks to take care of some business. When I returned to my car, I found that someone had broken off the door handle. The whole handle was missing. The keyhole for unlocking the car door was in the handle, like you see in the photo. Without the door handle, I couldn’t unlock the car to get home.

I stood next to the car for the longest time contemplating my every choice, like breaking the window or sitting down on the curb and crying. Finally I decided that I had no choice but to find a telephone and call for help.

As I walked to the nearest business, I looked back at the car and realized there was a keyed door handle on the passenger side of the car; I only needed to enter through the passenger door.

All that time I stood there trying to figure out how to get into the car, and the solution was so simple. I already had access, I just need to use what was already available to me.

Ephesians 1:3 says that God the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. When I was born again, God gave me every spiritual blessing He had in Heaven. I can’t ask for more than He’s already given to me. My problem is that I fail to use what He’s provided.

You Have a Divine Appointment

Custer National Cemetery, Crow Agency, Montana, USA

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment … (Hebrews 9:27) 

The Bible describes Adam as the first man of the earth, made of dust (1 Cor 15:45-49). When he sinned, Adam (1) immediately died spiritually and then died physically 930 years later; (2) was cast from the Garden of Eden and cursed by God; (3) brought death into the universe; (4) passed sin and death to each of his descendants.

Every descendant of Adam not only inherits his sin nature, but also receives the death penalty for sin. None of Adam’s sinful race can escape that penalty; each is appointed to die once (Heb 9:27).

The word appointed means to lay aside in reserve, to store away for later use, destined. As a descendant of Adam you have an appointment with death determined and awaiting you from God because like Adam, you have sinned. Both life and death – and everything in between – is according to God’s schedule and plan. The writer to the Hebrews says that God’s divine judgment awaits every son of Adam (Heb 9:27).

Since you can’t pay for your own sin, you must either be judged by God or receive refuge in a substitute willing to take your punishment and satisfy the wrath of Father God.

In First Corinthians 15:45-49, Paul describes Jesus as the last Adam, the spiritual, the heavenly Man, the second Man. He says that as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man (1 Cor 15:49).

In salvation, we take on the image of Jesus, the last Adam. The One who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). He was judged, condemned as guilty, and died for your sins – in your place – so you could have fellowship with God the Father.

When you are born again, you are made spiritually new (2 Cor 5:17). You become a son of God (Jn 1:12) and a descendant of Jesus, the last Adam. As a child of God through faith in what Jesus accomplished at the cross, you begin taking on the qualities of Christ by the Spirit working through the Word. His death on the cross of judgment, and His resurrected life become your “hope of eternal salvation.”

# 14 of 30 – The Working of the Word

Preaching in Kenya with my friend and translator, Isaac Mathembe

This is # 14 of 30 ways that God’s Word, the Bible, works in the lives of His people.

God’s Word brings the believer God’s salvation. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (James 1:18).

# 4 of 30 – The Working of the Word

This is # 4 of 30 ways that God’s Word, the Bible, works in the lives of His people.

God’s Word brings the new birth. Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23).

The Parable of the Grave Robber

Only two more months and Martin was going to retire, but this could ruin it all.

Martin worked at Shady Lawn Memorial Gardens. He began as the grounds keeper 40 years ago and worked his way up to supervisor. Nothing like what he found this morning had ever happened before.

As he walked into the graveyard this morning he was startled to see some of the graves freshly dug up. No, these were not newly dug graves, but only ones dug up, the caskets removed from the ground, and the bodies stolen.

Police from three different cities were swarming all of his freshly cut grass and a row of television satellite trucks from every newsroom were broadcasting live. Someone had stolen 17 bodies during the night. There didn’t seem to be a pattern to the robberies according to the police; the bodies were just gone.

Martin heard of this happening before over the years, but it had never happened at Shady Lawn. He suspected that new Christian man who’d moved in across the street of being the culprit. He even told the police so. That guy was a nut job, always reading the Bible and preaching about Jesus to everyone. A fanatic kook like that had to be responsible for the missing dead.

God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5).

What Is Repentance?

You can have many reasons for being sorry. You may be ashamed because you’ve been caught doing something forbidden. Maybe there’s fear of what others will say, think, or do when they find out what you’ve done. You could be sorry for the hurt or embarrassment you’ve caused others. But repentance isn’t the same as being sorry.

Repentance isn’t admitting you’re a sinner, repeating a prayer of forgiveness, or crying. Repentance is hating your sin because its rebellion against God. False repentance dreads the consequences of sin; true repentance dreads sin itself.

Repentance is a change of purpose, heart, and mind about sin that results in turning to godliness. It is a complete change in direction from doing what you like to doing what pleases God.

Repenting doesn’t make anyone saved. Salvation is only by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. Repentance is a fruit of salvation, not the root of it.

How do you know if repentance is genuine? Your life permanently changes as you live a life in obedience to the Word of God. You hate your sin and love righteousness. You increasingly become like Jesus.

… how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9)

Finding the Next Spiritual Level

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3).

When God created the universe, it wasn’t as flying particles and residual goo that took billions of evolutionary years to coalesce and become something complete. God created all things complete.

Adam was formed complete. God didn’t plop Adam down in the middle of the Garden of Eden as a baby needing special treatment. The first man was created as an adult with everything necessary for him to live each day and serve God to the fullest.

In the same way, the moment a sinner is born again, God gives him everything he needs to live the Christian life and grow in godliness. There’s no second blessing of the Holy Spirit or some additional experience necessary. You are born again complete in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

Some people go through their spiritual walk constantly looking for something new. A new message, a new experience, a new method, a new power, a new move of God or the next level; these are an endless pursuit in futility. There is no next level in the Christian life! Christianity isn’t a multi-level marketing con-game. If you are born again, you already possess everything that God has for the spiritual life; if you need something more, you may not be born again! Your need isn’t gaining or achieving something new, but walking in the growth, nurture, and development of what God has already given.

How does maturity come? How do we grow in God’s grace? How do we begin to experience all that God gives us in salvation? By the study and application of God’s Word.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

A Shooting Star

My grandfather warned me of shooting stars in the church. Beware of shooting stars. As quickly as they appear they burn out. 

A shooting star is a small, rapidly moving meteor. As it enters Earth’s atmosphere, friction causes it to burn, leaving a blazing trail of rock, dust, and ice behind it. When there is nothing left to burn, it vanishes.

Many pastors give special recognition to new converts. They are allowed to testify, or because of their eagerness to be involved, given a part in the work of ministry. Sometimes these new converts are elevated because they are seeking attention; sometimes it’s the pride of the pastor desiring to be recognized for leading someone one Christ. Either way, the problem created is two-fold.

First, it is impossible to know that someone has been born again until that person’s faith has been tested. Anything else is a dead confession or profession. No matter what someone professes, Faith without works is dead (James 2:20).

Jesus warned of the deceptiveness of counterfeit converts in a parable. He said, He hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Others hear the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he become unfruitful (Matthew 13:20-22). Salvation is marked by the growth and increase of Christian virtues (Mt 13:23; 2 Pet 1:3-11).

Second, being recognized so quickly creates a false assurance in that person. He believes he’s saved, after all the pastor said so. When faith proves to be counterfeit after being paraded in the church, it causes other believers to stumble.

How do you know true regeneration? Not because you repeated a prayer, joined a church, were baptized in water, or accepted Jesus in your heart. You know you are born again because the Holy Spirit is actively producing and increasing the fruits of Christ-likeness in you. That is something proven only by the dual tests of time and trials.

Don’t create shooting stars which are here today but burn up and disappear tomorrow.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).