What Constitutes A Glorious Day?

This past Thursday John and I went into Boston — for no other reason than to enjoy the perfect weather. After spending an hour at the Museum of Fine Arts, we went to Downtown Crossing, and wandered up Washington Street. We stopped at B.Good for lunch, where we shared the absolute best chocolate shake I’ve ever tasted. We then wheeled to Quincy Market to buy our annual bag of Ghriradelli chocolates and a 2020 Boston calendar before going down the Greenway to catch the early train home.

It was a glorious day!

Yet maybe calling it glorious trivializes the word “glorious.” As much as Thursday delighted us, it pales in comparison to the truly glorious day when Jesus will return for  His beloved Church. I don’t think I’m alone in failing to comprehend the thrill that day will bring. But I definitely know that when I see Him coming in the clouds, I’ll wonder why I ever thought a Thursday in Boston was glorious.

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Saturday Sampler: April 21 — April 27

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The Easter attacks in Sri Lanka prompted Stephen McAlpine to write When The Silence Is As Deafening As the Explosions. I’ve been saying since the inception of my blog that Christians must expect persecution — McAlpine underscores this reality in his post as well as discussing the world’s reluctance to report on it.

I’ve also been saying for quite some time that Biblical discernment entails so much more than calling out false prophets. In The Mailbag: Vaxxers, Anti-Vaxxers, and the Health of the Body, Michelle Lesley uses practical application of Scripture to address heated debates about vaccinations.

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A Chosen Race, A Royal Priesthood, A Holy Nation by Hohn Cho of Pyromaniacs addresses several crucial issues from a Biblical perspective. It’s a sterling example of how discernment operates.

I like SharaC’s thought that Easter isn’t the end, but the beginning. Her devotional post, Jesus On The Beach, appears in Into the Foolishness of God.

Once again,  Possessing the Treasure includes Mike Ratliff’s insightful exegesis with Worldly Wisdom vs. God’s Absolute Truth. If you want to learn ways of handling Scripture properly, look no further. More importantly, Mike builds a solid case for God’s sovereignty in electing people to salvation.

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Although John and I couldn’t have children, we support our friends who have big families. It pains me to hear people (especially Christians) make judgmental remarks about them. So James Faris’ Do You Know What Causes This?! in Gentle Reformation encourages and refreshes me. Whether you’re a mom to several children or a critic of large families, please read this one.

Elizabeth Prata of The End Time observes The fallout from a hyper-casual generation (of pastors). She takes a hard line without resorting to legalism, an attitude which only strengthens her case. And it’s a case well worth presenting. While you’re on her website,  check out The days of Christian persecution in America are coming.

In Context Matters: I Never Knew You; Depart From Me, Peter Krol sharpens our understanding of arguably one of the most frightening statements Jesus ever uttered. Besides demonstrating how to interpret the meaning of a Bible verse by its context, Krol augments our ability to discern whether or not someone is a false teacher. Krol blogs for Knowable Word.

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As Christ Burst From The Tomb, So Joy Bursts From Our Hearts

Generally speaking, people associate joy with Christmas, not Easter. But then, most people don’t really understand why they celebrate either holiday, do they?

Those of us who love the Lord, however, know that Christ’s resurrection brings ultimate joy! Without His resurrection, His death would have never atoned for our sins, condemning us to a dark and grim eternity.

But praise the Lord, Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, conquering death itself and securing life everlasting for everyone who believes in Him! Death couldn’t hold any more than the hearts of His followers can contain the joy of knowing He has risen. Christmas has its own wonderful joys to celebrate, but Resurrection Sunday has a greater joy.

 

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If You Think You’re Past Needing To Hear The Gospel, You Probably Need To Hear The Gospel

Gospel Glory

It’s Holy Week, and professing Christians are dutifully reminding themselves that people who normally sleep in on Sundays will be visiting their churches. These visitors will also feel dutiful, of course. And neither group particularly looks forward to another presentation of the Gospel, though they all expect it.

True Christians will be more enthusiastic about hearing their pastors preach the Gospel, but even then they most likely will welcome it primarily in reference to the unsaved friends and/or family members they brought with them. Often, seasoned Christians feel confident in their understanding of the Gospel, and want to progress to “deeper” subject matter. I say this from personal experience.

The truth is, all of us, no matter how mature we Continue reading

Flashback Friday: A Right Proclamation Of The Gospel

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Originally posted on February 17, 2017.

Yesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days. I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.

Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.

They never mentioned Christ’s death on the cross.

Not once.

Hopefully they’ve given more complete Gospel presentations at other times. Certainly, I must guard against judging the entirety of their ministry based on one isolated video. But it made me think that perhaps I should periodically present the Gospel in this blog, making sure that any new readers (particularly those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior) really understand it Biblically.

Paul proclaimed the Gospel in its most basic form in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (ESV)

To Paul, nothing was more important to preach than Christ’s death as a substitute for our sin, His burial and His bodily resurrection. The Gospel revolves around His atoning work to pay for our sin, and His resurrection that proves the Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice. Paul elaborates in Ephesians 2:1-10.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

Our sins violated God’s holy standards, making us deserving only of His wrath. But in His mercy, Christ expressed His love by dying for our sin (Romans 5:6-9 and 1 John 2:1-2). Then He raised us from our spiritual death, graciously allowing us to believe in Him and providing us with opportunities to serve Him.

The Gospel focuses on Christ’s glory first. Indeed, He gives us tremendous joy in serving Him, as well as in knowing that we will spend eternity with Him. In those ways, the Gospel most definitely offers fulfillment. But we must never proclaim a gospel that focuses on self and neglects Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

I do not question the salvation of my friends in that video. But it broke my heart to watch them mishandle an opportunity to present the Gospel in a Biblical manner. Rather than criticize their techniques, however, let me learn to faithfully declare it when God gives me opportunities to do so. The Gospel is too precious, and too important to handle in any other way.

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According To Scripture: Study #16 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

As I predicated last Monday, I’m a little bleery-eyed from watching the Red Sox win the World Series last night. But I won’t let that stop me from writing about something far more exciting and glorious!

So let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 as a whole, and then examine the first four verses of the passage.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)

At last, Paul moves from giving proofs for bodily resurrection to giving reasons for changed bodies as well as briefly explaining the wonderful process of that change. As Barnes writes, the Lord changes our bodies because it is indispensable that He do so.

Since our earthly bodies suffer from the corrupting influences of sin, he explains in verse 50, they lack the capacity to function in the incorruptible realm. Earlier verses have already made this point. In our present state of weakness and decay, it’s unthinkable that we should inherit an incorruptible kingdom.

When Paul says he will tell them a mystery in verse 51, he by all means does not mean secret knowledge for the spiritually elite! Rather, he’s turning the tables on the Gnostics, informing them that he knows something that their secret wisdom evidently hasn’t taught them. This knowledge was hidden from previous generations, but Christ has revealed it.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, he declares this same mystery, affirming that he received it “by the word of the Lord.” Their reason, which they prided themselves on, never would have reached the conclusion that we will be changed. Yet 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 teaches precisely that promise.

This promise, however, is not about the resurrection of the dead. It is about the rapture of living Christians. The comment that we shall not all sleep makes this point clear. Therefore, the implications of Christ’s resurrection take on an added dimension that the Corinthian Gnostics hadn’t considered.

Verse 52 offers further details on the transformation of our bodies. The last trumpet that Paul mentions signals the close of our earthly existence and the beginning of our eternal life in resurrected bodies. At that glorious moment, the dead will be raised in the imperishable bodies that Paul has been describing throughout this chapter. But in addition to their resurrection, the living will be changed.

Both miracles will occur instantaneously. The transformation of our bodies in the rapture will be as instantaneous as a wink, which the Greek word translated as “twinkling” denotes. Christ’s Second Corning will be sudden, surprising us like (to borrow Peter’s phrase in 2 Peter 3:10) a thief in the night. Paul describes this moment in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. We can look forward to this moment with joyful anticipation!

Perhaps we best understand the concept of a perishable body putting on the imperishable in verse 53 by looking at 2 Corinthians 5:2-4. As Christians, we know that there’s so much more than this present life offers.

As earlier verses have indicated, our earthly bodies, being corrupted by the effects of sin, simply aren’t suited for eternal life in the perfect new heavens and new earth. Consequently, we must be clothed in new, imperishable bodies.

What a wonderful thing to contemplate this week! And as we finish our study next Monday, we’ll see a victory that makes the World Series look downright boring.

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According To Scripture: Study #15 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Before we get going on the five (yes, I’m serious — five) verses we’ll study today, let me remind any gentlemen reading that these Bible Studies are intended exclusively for women. Unless you are my husband, an elder from First Baptist Church Weymouth Massachusetts or vetting me before recommending this blog to your wife, please don’t cause me to violate 1 Timothy 2:12. Thanks!

Are they gone, ladies? Okay. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s read our passage and then talk about verses 45-49.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. ~~1 Corinthians 15:42-49 (ESV)

In verse 45, we see a new turn in Paul’s defense of bodily resurrection. Having taught the differences between our earthly bodies and our resurrection bodies, Paul goes on to contrast the first Adam with Christ (the last Adam). He uses these terms to denote that Adam and Christ are the two representative heads of humanity. He already hinted at this concept in verse 22.

Referring to Genesis 2:7, he reminds them that the first Adam became a living being when God breathed life into him. This first Adam, however, also introduced death to all mankind (Romans 5:14) even while being the first human to receive God’s breath of life.

In contrast, Christ (the last Adam) gives eternal life. John 1:4 says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” According to Matthew Henry,  John 5:21 shows us that both the Father and the Son give life. Paul’s comment about the second Adam being a life-giving spirit demonstrates this claim.

Paul deems it entirely reasonable, in verse 46, that our natural, decaying bodies should precede our spiritual, imperishable bodies, just as the seed precedes the fully developed plant. As Matthew Henry puts it, “If the first Adam could communicate to us natural and animal bodies, cannot the second Adam make our bodies spiritual ones?”

We might apply this principle in our walks with the Lord. Christians put away the natural inclination towards sin in favor of putting on Christlike characteristics. See Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22-24 and Colossians 3:9-10.

Paul tells us in verse 47 that Adam quite literally came from the earth, as Genesis 2:7 and Genesis 3:19 testify. As such, he had a corruptible nature that all of us inherited. In Adam, our present bodies are destined to return to the earth.

In contrast, Christ is of heavenly origin, as we learn in John 3:13 and John 3:31. Paul calls Him the second Man because of His reversal of Adam’s curse on humanity. Since Christ is heavenly, His physical body is suited for heaven. Therefore, those who are in Him will likewise be given bodies suited for heaven.

Paul elaborates on this point in verse 48 by saying that all of Adam’s descendants share his earthly nature. Interestingly, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown tie this statement in to our need to be born again (John 3:6-7). Apart from Christ, our bodies are prone to decay.

In contrast (again drawing from Jamieson, Fausset and Brown), regenerated people will have bodies like the resurrected Lord’s (Philippians 3:20-21). The second Adam assures us that He will fit us for eternity with Him!

Paul reaches the pinnacle of his argument in verse 49. Like our natural forefather Adam, we have bodies that are weakened (see Romans 5:17a). As Barnes puts it, our earthly bodies are “subject to sickness, frailty, sorrow, and death.”

But in Christ, our resurrection bodies will shed the limitations we inherited from Adam. Like our resurrected Lord, we will have incorruptible bodies that are free both from sin itself and from its consequences. 1 John 3:2 promises that, even though we don’t know specific details concerning our resurrection bodies, we have the assurance that they will be like His.

Join me next Monday as we begin the final section of 1 Corinthians 15. I may be a little bleery-eyed from watching the Red Sox win the World Series, but I look forward to studying a far greater event — our bodies being changed “in the twinkling of an eye.”

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