The Chief of Sinners

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to  believe on Him for everlasting life (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Pastors fear to preach the message of sin. They fear to preach even more so to their own congregations, that they – even after they are born again – are sinners. They cringe at the idea, but such an understanding is not only the beginning of the gospel, but the continuation of the gospel, because without sin there is no need for a Saviour.

Child of God, do you not still need the Saviour? Have you moved beyond and become independent of the cross? Do you recoil at the suggestion that you are a still a sinner in desperate need of the Saviour? Do you suppose you’ve reached an apex of spiritual superiority and are a perfected saint who doesn’t sin, aren’t a sinner, and your life is filled only with occasional mistakes because you’re a king’s kid?

Written near the end of his earthly life, the Apostle Paul called himself at that time the chief of sinners. He knew he needed that fresh and daily reminder that his sins were forgiven by the redemption in Christ’s blood. He relied upon the continuing firm assurance that his spiritual life was only each day by the grace through faith supplied by Jesus Christ. He rejoiced in hearing the same gospel he was preaching to the lost, that the death of Jesus is forever of eternal value, meaning, and power for every sinner called by God.

The chief of sinners kept continually at the cross so that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him.

A Christian never outgrows the cross! It is where living begins!

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No Other Name but Jesus

As many as received Him, to them God gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).

As you read through the Old Testament and even the Gospel accounts, you discover that both true and false religion existed side-by-side in Israel. The Jews went through the sacrificial motions without a heart of faith in God. They feared breaking the traditions of their culture more than trusting in God’s provision (Matthew 15:8).

God’s condemnation of Israel was common of all religious people. The Jews would draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men (Isaiah 29:13). Jesus used this same verse to condemn the outwardly religious people of His day (Mark 7:6-7).

The people of Israel trusted in the works of their own efforts by following traditions and rituals. They believed that because of their physical ancestry they lived in God’s favor. Through will-power, they were good enough to be in a right relationship with God. Their faith was in their self-effort rather than what God had done. They were good, God-honoring people who tried their level best, but were void of faith in God. Instead of following God’s Way described in Scripture, they killed Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

No one has ever been – or can be – saved any other way than by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone. He is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). There is no other name under Heaven, given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

A More Excellent Sacrifice

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks to us today (Hebrews 11:4).

Like parents today, Adam and Eve shared everything they knew with their children. Certainly they re-told the story of God’s creation, the beauties of the Garden of Eden, their fellowship with God, their act of rebellion against Him, the consequences of their sin, and God’s provision of forgiveness through the sacrifice of an innocent substitute. Surely Cain and Abel knew from their parents that approaching God was possible by only one means.

We learn in Genesis 4:2-7 that Cain offered a sacrifice to God from the ground, something he planted, labored over, and cultivated with his own effort. He went through the motions of a ritual, bringing his self-produced offering to the Lord, full of his own work, absent of any faith in God’s provision alone.

Abel, however, brought the blood sacrifice of an innocent animal, his faith leaping across the centuries to touch the cross, the only sacrifice God would accept. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering (Genesis 4:4).

Cain trusted in himself; Abel trusted in God. Cain’s sacrifice was bloodless; Abel’s was the life of an innocent substitute. Cain gave of his own labor; Abel, by faith, accepted the death of another in his place. Angry that God did not respect Cain and his offering, Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:5, 8).

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).

Faith in God’s Provision

Every attempt that Adam and Eve made to cover up their sin left them exposed before God. Making clothes of fig leaves didn’t cover their shame. Hiding in the trees didn’t avoid the all-seeing eye of the Judge. Passing the blame onto another didn’t relieve them of their personal guilt and responsibility to obey God. The only solution to sin was for God to provide His own sacrifice through the shedding of innocent blood on their behalf.

So Adam and Eve, stripped of all self-effort and works, were covered by the Lord. He killed an innocent animal from the Garden, shed its blood and the made for Adam and Eve tunics of skin, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).

From Eden onward, there have been two competing religions in the world. The first is packaged in many different names and varieties of self-effort at being good and godly. Each of these comes down to man attempting to reach God by personal effort. That effort may come in the form of saying a prayer, denying self of some necessity or desire, helping others through social causes, or participating in a religious ritual.

Christianity, however, is based upon faith in God’s provision. Man has no part in reaching God, but God reached down to us. We don’t seek after Him, He came to seek and to save the lost. We don’t sacrifice and surrender, God the Father gave His Son to die for the sinful. God, by grace, saves those who have faith in His provision. Biblical religion condemns the addition of any of our own works to gain God’s favor or earn His forgiveness. Our self-efforts nullify grace and make Christ’s death in vain.

No man is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16)

 

A Failed Cover-Up

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

After God created Adam and Eve, He declared all that He made was very good (Genesis 1:31). Everything was in perfect harmony with Him. There was no sin to separate Him from His creation. Then Satan found Eve, Eve found Adam, and both sin and death entered the world through one man’s disobedience (Romans 5:12, 19).

Adam and Eve were filled with guilt and shame at their rebellion against God. They also feared the Judge and His declared death penalty for disobedience (Genesis 2:17). Their response was to make themselves coverings of fig leaves to hide their sin (Genesis 3:7). When God entered the Garden, they knew their self-made coverings weren’t enough and instead hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8).

God sought out and exposed Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:9). Man’s fellowship with God was destroyed and God cursed all that He had made. Adam’s sin infected the whole of creation and perverted God’s original very good design.

Man’s attempts to cover sin was useless. Fig-leaf clothing, hiding behind trees, and blaming others could not cover sin or remove the guilt of disobedience. Man’s works were fruitless and God stepped in to provide a covering for the couple by shedding the blood of an innocent animal (Genesis 3:21). If any sinner is to be made right with God, God alone must provide the sacrifice, and the covering must come by way of death: either the death of the guilty sinner or the death of a perfect and innocent substitute.

Circumcision

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).

When Abraham was 99 years old, God appeared to Him and repeated the covenant He’d made many years earlier. The Abrahamic Covenant was God’s promise that He would:

  • Produce descendants from Abraham as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore;
  • Make Abraham’s name great;
  • Bless all the families of the earth through Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).

When God repeated His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14), He commanded that every baby boy on the 8th day after birth, was to have his foreskin removed; no other part of the human anatomy illustrates sin so well. From man springs human life, reproduced in his own sinful image (Genesis 5:5) who must be cleansed at the most personal and intimate level of his being.

Circumcision was widely practiced in the ancient world long before Abraham lived, and he would have been very familiar with the medical procedure.

God’s commandment for circumcision didn’t take away sins or bring a relationship with God; God called it the outward sign of the covenant between Me and you (Genesis 17:11). Today, Jews still religiously practice the rite of circumcision.

The purpose of every sign is to draw your attention to something else. When you see a sign for bread, you don’t stop, cover the sign with butter and begin eating away. The sign points you to where you can find bread. So what is circumcision a symbol of?

Cutting of the body doesn’t save a person, remove sin, or make a person right with God. The ritual symbol of circumcision was given by God to Israel to represent God’s desire to give people a new heart. The symbol directed every Jew to seek God for a changed heart from sin through faith in Him (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:5; Jeremiah 4:4; Romans 2:29).

That new heart is found only by personal faith in Jesus Christ.

A New Church in Kwa-Matingi

Richard, Benedict, Kim and Rose (4)
My wife and I with Pastor Benedict and Rose Muendo

This is a photo of Benedict Muendo and his wife Rose. Both are soon to graduate from the Berean School of Ministry in Tala, Kenya.

In 2016 I taught at a conference sponsored by Pastor Benedict. For 6 hours I preached from the Bible on the Doctrines of Grace: how from eternity God chose sinners to be saved, how He saves them by grace alone, and how He keeps them saved eternally.

Kenyans walked or rode for hours to attend this meeting at the Grace and Glory Fellowship Church located on the remote coffee plantation in Kwa Matingi.

The building constructed of wood scraps, tarps, and corrugated sheet metal was packed with 150 and had an overflow crowd. Adults and children sat and stood inside and out listening in both English and Swahili. We ended by singing the great hymn, To God be the Glory, despite calls for me to continue preaching.

Earlier this year I received an update from Pastor Benedict. God used the conference in an amazing way to impact the community, resulting in a second congregation formed and opportunity for a third!

Kenya is a land of unsatiated spiritual hunger. People walk for hours to hear the gospel preached. Cults are actively taking advantage of this spiritual hunger, but Berean School of Ministry stands as a strong voice for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

The support you provide with prayer is invaluable. The financial gifts to send me to Kenya have been greatly appreciated, and the monthly scholarship support to the Berean School by both Dean Fairly and Matthew Ferraro is literally changing lives of pastors, congregations, and communities in East Africa.

Thank you for being a part of God’s work in Kenya.

Click here for information on the Berean School of Ministry

Fully Preventable

According to government statistics, 110 Americans die each day in car accidents. The three leading causes of traffic deaths are:

  • Distractions, like cell phones
  • Speeding
  • Substance intoxication

Each of these causes of death is completely preventable. The use of a phone is fully banned for drivers in 15 states, and 47 states ban texting while driving. Driving above the speed limit is illegal in all 50 states. Substance intoxication is against the law in all 50 states.

An eternity in Hell is also fully preventable.

The Bible says that Jesus surrendered His life on a cross, dying in the place of sinners. By trusting in Jesus alone to take your sins upon Himself, you can receive eternal life.

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Doubly Secure

My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me (Psalm 63:8).

My wife laughed uncontrollably as she watched the video of the grandson taking his first steps. Isaac stood on his own like a pro and then wobbled and hobbled a few steps before jerking and teetering like the toy tin robot I had as a child. Unable to control his speed, he finally fell.

Spiritually, I feel strong, but I know how truly weak and feeble I really am. I know the sin that so easily sits under the surface of every moment, ready to knock me to the ground and bloody my lip. I’m aware of the pride and self-sufficiency that follows me through my day, and the lusts and doubts that haunt my nights.

Jesus promised to give His sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand (John 10:28). He holds me securely in His hand, and if that isn’t enough, as if His strength could ever fail or falter, I’m also held in the hand of the Father. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand (John 10:29). I’m kept doubly secure.

My faith, my hope, and my eternal soul are not secure because of any strength in me. I have none. But I do trust and rejoice that I am kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5).

Beverly Miller’s Son

Beverly Miller

Bev slowly made her way to the front of the room Sunday morning after I’d finished my sermon and final prayer. She reached out her 87-year old hand and took mine, her skin so pale and thin that it’s almost see-through.

 

God gave me two daughters, and I’m old enough to be your grandmother, but if God had given me a son, I’d want him to be just like you. I’d still be lost if God hadn’t brought me to you and to our little church. 

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26).

Bev could think of reasons she’d want a son like me, but I continually wonder why God would want me in His family.

When God the Father gave me the gift of faith so that I could believe upon Jesus Christ as the only remedy for my sin, He brought me into His family. Before I trusted in Jesus, I was an enemy of God and a child of His wrath (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:3). Yet He gave up His only-begotten Son, sending Jesus to become a Man and die on a cross, so that I could become a child of God.

Why? Grace alone.

He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:4-6).