Faith and Repentance

For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

The Apostle Paul preached in the Greek city of Thessalonica only about 3 weeks before there was a riot and he was run out of town. Being forced to leave didn’t change his concern about those who had received the gospel message: you are a sinner, Jesus died for sinners, He was raised again to life for those who would believe upon Him alone.

Settled into a the metropolis of Corinth, Paul sent his trusted co-worker Timothy back to Thessalonica to see how the small band of Christians was fairing. Were they following Jesus or their cultural traditions? When Timothy returned to Paul, he brought with him good news: their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ was genuine (1 Thess 1:3).

The Thessalonians’ faith was real. They had turned to God and away from the false gods they’d grown up with. This turning toward one thing from another – turning toward God from sin – is what we call repentance. The Bible teaches that repentance is a gift from God and is the result of a new heart. Repentance is the result of being saved, not a step toward being saved.

Some people make repentance a prerequisite to belief. They say, “Repent of your sins and then you’ll be saved.” In short they are saying that if you do the work to turn against your sin, God will step in and save you; but if you can turn away from sin on your own power or merit, what is left for Jesus to save you from? They are teaching and practicing salvation by self-works rather than by Christ through faith.

Following Jesus leaves no room for following the old ways of the sinful heart. God gives a new heart and when He does, sin is abhorred. Genuine, godly repentance is the lifelong result of the new birth that causes a growing awareness and hatred of your own sin and a consuming desire to be more like Jesus. Paul knew the Thessalonians had truly been saved because they had been turned to God, turned away from idols, and were serving the living God. Serving God is a life-long act, not a tearful testimony made after saying a prayer.

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To Put Away Sin

… He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:26)

 Year after year, century after century, the high priest of Israel entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement to sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed lamb upon the Mercy Seat of the ark of the covenant. In all of his dutiful service, he never once offered himself as the sacrifice for the sins of his people; he always offered the blood of another.

The writer to the Hebrews contrasts the often-brought sacrifice brought by the Jewish high priest and the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. He writes that if Jesus had needed to repeat His offering, He’d be doing it since the foundation of the world.

Yet He offered Himself as the sacrifice for sin once. He voluntarily gave His own life once as the perfect payment to reconcile sinners to the Father. His once-and-for-all death on the cross was forever accepted by the Father as payment in-full for sin.

We read that because His sacrifice was perfect, He does not have to offer Himself often (Heb 9:25) nor does He now suffer often (Heb 9:26).

Some groups teach that Jesus must continually suffer and be sacrificed for sin. For them, He is always and forever on a cross to be mourned. Every time they gather, a priest must pull Him from Heaven, kill Him afresh on an altar, and literally consume His flesh to be forgiven. Forgiveness is by faith in a ritual performed by a man in a collar.

But our faith is in Christ, who performed a perfect and finished work (Jn 19:30). His finished work is proven in that He now sits glorified at the Father’s right hand. This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God (Heb 10:12).

In the Lord’s Supper, we take the bread and the cup in remembrance of Him rather than re-sacrificing Him (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24, 25). His suffering and sacrifice was done once at the end of the ages … and put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb 9:26).

El Shaddai

… not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another – (Hebrews 9:25)

 Each year on the Jewish Day of Atonement, tens of thousands of birds, sheep, goats, and bulls were slaughtered outside the tabernacle. People from across the nation brought their sacrifices to be offered to God according to the Law of Moses because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Lev 17:11; Heb 9:22).

At the appointed time, the Jewish high priest entered the tabernacle. He would walk past the table of showbread, the golden lampstand, the altar of incense, and then wait for God to transport him behind the thick fabric veil into the Holy of Holies with a bowl of blood. The veil had no opening or doorway. Man couldn’t enter the presence of God by his own effort, he had to wait for God to make a way and God to bring him in.

The high priest was permitted to enter only once a year, only on that day. There, where the ark of the covenant rested, he’d sprinkle the blood of a perfect sacrificial lamb on the lid of the ark.

As the blood splattered on the golden Mercy Seat, the reaction outside was mixed. Some didn’t care. Others found comfort in their cultural tradition. Other Jews believed that animal sacrifices atoned for sin. But there were a few who understood that the blood of bulls and goats didn’t – and couldn’t – take away sin. The shed blood was a symbol of the Lamb that God would one day provide, and that by faith in that Lamb, God would forgive their sins.

Year after year, for about 1,500 years, this drama continued until the Father sent the Son. When Jesus died and was raised from the dead, He ascended into Heaven and offered Himself there before the Father as the fulfillment of what all the animal sacrifices pointed toward.

Unlike the Jewish high priest who performed his ritual year after year as long as he lived, Jesus died one death and presented Himself one time in Heaven to the Father. That was enough to satisfy the Father’s wrath against man’s sin because the spotless Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world was sufficient (Jn 1:29). He is El Shaddai, more than enough.

Our High Priest

Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24).

The tabernacle in the wilderness was the place where God communed with the Jewish people (Ex 25:8; 29:45-46). Moses painstakingly built the earthly tabernacle according to the plan given by God of the temple in Heaven (Ex 25:9).  Dwelling among Israel was God’s idea, according to God’s design, and by God’s own initiative. There’s no place for culturalism, tradition, or individualism in worship. To be true and accepted, worship must be in God’s way and according to His direction.

Yearly, on the Day of Atonement, the Jewish high priest entered the tabernacle and sprinkled the blood of a spotless lamb upon the covering of the ark called the Mercy Seat. The service behind the veil took only minutes, and then the high priest exited until the next year.

While He was on the earth, Jesus never went into the temple in Jerusalem. He never served as a priest. He never performed a priestly duty. He couldn’t. He was of the tribe of Judah rather than the priestly tribe of Levi. But when Jesus died, was raised from the dead, and ascended to the Father’s right hand, He appeared in Heaven’s tabernacle. There He presented Himself to the Father as the completed Sacrifice for sin. By doing so, He became the High Priest of the Church (Heb 2:17).

Today He represents believers in Heaven, doing what we could never do ourselves, and intercedes for us based on His wholly righteous merit (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25; 1 Jn 2:1).

The writer to the Hebrews says that Christ’s appearance in Heaven in the presence of the Father was for us, meaning that He did it on our behalf. He isn’t our High Priest because of he pay and benefits He receives, but He serves willingly and lovingly on our behalf. The Church of God has no priests because Jesus is our eternal High Priest. His perfect sacrifice on the cross was sufficient for all of eternity. He alone is the ever-open Door to the Father, eliminating the need for a human priest or mediator to make a way for us.

The Throne of His Father David

The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:32-33).

Two thousand years ago, the angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to a Son who would rule and reign over Jacob’s descendants forever. This King was foreshadowed in the lives of the Old Testament patriarchs, foretold by prophets, announced by angels over Bethlehem, peeked at on the Mount of Transfiguration, proven in words and works at His First Coming, and set as a promise in a Second Coming.

Jesus was propelled forcefully by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan (Mark 1:12, 13). One of His temptations was Satan’s offer to receive all the kingdoms of the world and their glory (Mt 4:8). In a moment of time (Luke 4:5) Satan showed Jesus the glories of every kingdom throughout human history. Satan continued, All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish (Luke 4:6). Jesus could have the kingdoms of this world for but a moment of worship.

God is in control of all things and nothing happens outside of His good pleasure. He ordains the leaders of every nation (Rom 13:1) and has set both national boundaries and their times (Acts 17:26), yet the governments of this world are under the leadership of the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4). This is why Christians must be careful that patriotism not be our religion nor politicians our hope.

The glories of human history were offered to Jesus for a simple act of declaring the worth-ship of Satan. Instead, He went to the cross to redeem sinners. By His obedience to the Father, He will one day destroy the kingdoms of this world and create a glorious kingdom of God upon the earth that will have no end.

Discomfort for Mr Macaroni

slow food pasta art workHeaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.”

Mr Macaroni boiled hearing Moody’s words. He’d always been something of a limp noodle, and today he was doubting his choice of employment. It had always been tough making decisions, but once made one he was left feeling deep regrets. When the clock struck 5, Macaroni was ready to get sauced.

Despite his constant indecision, Mr Macaroni was as true as a man could be. He was no impasta when it came to living, but his new job as a dental assistant was leaving him feeling a bit al dente.

He quickly exited the office on his way to the Meat Ball to dance with his sweetheart, a beautiful Italian gal named Penne. All dressed up, he straightened his little bow tie and slicked back his thick blonde angel hair with a bit of olive oil.

As he stepped from the sidewalk into the street, humming “On top of Old Smokey all covered with cheese,” Mr Macaroni was still steaming. A motorcycle with gleaming chrome twin-forks raced toward him. He never knew what hit him and instantly pasta way.

A moment later Mr Macaroni opened his eyes. Before him were the golden arches and beyond was the dazzling White Castle he’d always heard about. Macaroni was greeted by a choir of French guys singing, “Welcome to the realm of Burger King and Dairy Queen.”

A stout fellow calling himself Big Mac approached and laid a whopper of a story on him about being dead and forever living in the presence of the King. “If you’ll lettuce, tomater my friends and I will take you in-and-out through the kingdom.” It gave Mr Macaroni the shakes.

He hadn’t been at ease with people when he was alive, now an eternity with them was unbearable. He wasn’t made for a place like this. He hadn’t wanted anything to do with the king while he was alive and he didn’t want it now. He longed to have it his way and he wasn’t lovin’ it one bit. Mr Macaroni wondered, “Why did the King bring me here if I didn’t want him back when I was living?

If you don’t enjoy King Jesus today, what makes you think you’ll enjoy eternity with Him?

In My Father’s house are many mansions; it if were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3).

We Wait for His Son

Photograph of the solar eclipse seen in Oregon, USA August 21, 2017

We wait for His Son from Heaven, who He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

I live within the path of the recent solar eclipse of the sun. Some Americans believed this passing of the moon between the sun and the earth was a sign of the end of the world. They were sure it would announce the return of Jesus or the advent of the Antichrist. They twisted together speculation and Scripture taken out of context for their strange doctrine. In doing so they created fear and raised money while maligning Jesus Christ and His holy Word.

As Christians, we eagerly await the return of Jesus from Heaven. We look for Him – who died for the Church and was raised from the dead for the Church – to return in the clouds and gather His Church unto Himself to forever be with Him. We anticipate Jesus Christ, not the Antichrist.

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another (1 Thessalonians 5:9, 11). We have comfort, joy, hope, and demonstrate lives of godliness in Jesus, we don’t live in despair and fear over the future.

Sin Isn’t the Leading Cause of Death

As Christians, we sometimes wonder why God doesn’t bring an end to the pain and suffering in this world caused by sin. We ask, “Where is God’s justice?” But God has done something: He sent Jesus to die for sinners.

Our real difficulty is accepting God’s patience. We want Him to do something now, something we can see today and know that justice is being served.

God’s justice, however, is bittersweet when we remember that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin isn’t the leading cause of death – it’s the only cause of death. God told Adam and Eve that in the day they disobeyed Him, you shall surely die (Genesis 2:17); and so it’s been ever since.

His justice means that the sin of every person must be punished. Every sinner must suffer the consequences of offending God. Crying out for God’s justice means that some of our own family members and friends will be forced to cash that check which brings eternal damnation.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

Kenyatta, Odinga, and the Will of God

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God (Romans 13:1).

Kenya is a young nation, having gained its independence from the British on December 12, 1963. The nation has struggled to set aside tribal animosity and bind itself together as one people. Politics has been the flash point. A decade ago, over 1,000 people were murdered in election violence.

Voting for a candidate, or against a candidate, based on his tribal ethnicity instead of his beliefs – will destroy Kenya and any other nation. Tribalism divides rather than heals.

In a few days, on August 8th, Kenyans will go to the polls to elect their president. The great question every Kenyan should be asking is not which candidate will win the election, Kenyatta or Odinga, but how the hearts of sinful men will respond to the will of God.

Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves (Romans 13:2).

** Please keep us in prayer while we minister in Kenya. Thanks!

The Power of Salt

My introduction to the power of salt occurred when I was just a boy.

For most of my youth, my mother provided for us by doing child daycare in our home. Quite the wiseacre, one April Fools Day I filled the sugar bowl with salt.

Once I left for school, my mom served the other children their Cheerios, topped with a spoon of the white crystals from the sugar bowl. No matter what she said or did, not one of the kids would eat their cereal. When I got home from school later that day, I found myself in a heap of trouble.

In the ancient world, salt was more valuable than gold. The Roman government often paid its soldiers with salt. The Latin word for salt, salis, is the basis for our English word salary. Ancient Rome is also the origin for our saying that something without value isn’t “worth its weight in salt.”

At a time before refrigeration, salt was also valuable because when liberally applied to food, it preserved the food by slowing corruption.

Salt which loses its saltiness is worthless.

Jesus said to His disciples, You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men (Matthew 5:13).

God’s people are salt in this world. By our very nature as His children, we retard the sinful rot in society around us. He uses us to flavor the world in which we live for His glory. Our loyalty to Christ Jesus and faithfulness to His commands is a proof of our conversion so that wherever we go, we live as representatives of His presence.