Category Archives: Salvation

Familiar, Horrible And Beautiful

Horrible Beautiful CrossSo much has been said about Christ’s death on the cross that many people, even those who passionately love the Lord, can sort of glaze over. A good expose on Beth Moore would be more welcome right now, we secretly think.

A lot of our weariness with Good Friday blog posts, sermons and what have you results from familiarity with the story. We’ve read the accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John  countless times, almost so often that we can recite the details effortlessly (and without much thought). As the saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt.”

But perhaps Good Friday also bothers us because it confronts us with the horrible truth that our sin nailed Jesus to the cross.  The more we read about the beatings, mockery and the physical anguish of crucifixion the Lord endured, the more we want to distance ourselves from the whole mess. Surely our sin can’t be that bad!

Surely it is!

Like it or not, ladies, even the Old Testament points to Christ’s crucifixion as the only means of atonement. Over 600 years earlier, the prophet Isaiah predicated that Messiah would suffer for the sins of the people.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. ~~Isaiah 53: 4-6 (ESV)

When we look at the cross, we see our sin. And, since our pride wants to flatter us that we are actually good people who simply make a few mistakes here and there (hey, doesn’t everybody?), we prefer to ignore the implications of Christ’s crucifixion.

But as we acknowledge our sinfulness, the cross becomes beautiful, even in its horror. It reveals a Savior Who loves us enough to bear the wrath of God that we deserve! As Christians, we cherish the cross as Christ’s loving atonement for our transgressions against Him.

The crucifixion story, for all its familiarity, never ceases to fill Christians with both sorrow and joyous wonder. As we await the glories of Resurrection Sunday, we can praise the Lord for taking our sin upon Himself, setting us free from its consequences. As we rejoice in His inexplicable love toward us, the accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of Good Friday never get old.

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Filling In For His Own

At The CrossHe approached me just minutes before church stated (and therefore a scant 20 minutes before Sunday School) to inform me that he didn’t feel like teaching that day. He and I, along with another lady, rotated teaching the Junior High Sunday School class, each of us teaching every third Sunday. As lead teacher, I also served as the substitute when either of the others couldn’t (or in this instance, wouldn’t) teach.

Dictionary.com defines the word “substitute” this way:

 
noun
1.

a person or thing acting or serving in place of another.
2.

(formerly) a person who, for payment, served in an army or navy in the place of a conscript.
3.

Grammar. a word that functions as a replacement for any member of a class of words or constructions, as do in He doesn’t know but I do.
 
verb (used with object), substituted, substituting.
4.

to put (a person or thing) in the place of another.
5.

to take the place of; replace.
6.

Chemistry. to replace (one or more elements or groups in a compound) by other elements or groups.
 
verb (used without object), substituted, substituting.
7.

to act as a substitute.
adjective
8.

of or pertaining to a substitute or substitutes.

9.

composed of substitutes.
 

The Bible teaches that, in dying for the sin that would rightly condemn you and me, Jesus willingly died in our place! Scholars refer to His act as the “substitutionary atonement” to emphasize that He accepted the punishment for crimes that we (being born sinners) commit against God. This article on the GotQuestions.org website begins with the following summary of the doctrine:

The substitutionary atonement refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners. The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners (Romans 3:9-18, 23). The penalty for our sinfulness is death. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That verse teaches us several things. Without Christ, we are going to die and spend an eternity in hell as payment for our sins. Death in the Scriptures refers to a “separation.” Everyone will die, but some will live in heaven with the Lord for eternity, while others will live a life in hell for eternity. The death spoken of here refers to the life in hell. However, the second thing this verse teaches us is that eternal life is available through Jesus Christ. This is His substitutionary atonement.

Scripture supports the premise that Jesus died as our Substitute, as you’ll discover if you read the GotQuestions.org article for yourselves. I’d like to highlight just one of the Scriptures involved in this doctrine. I particularly like this two-verse passage because the second verse offers the practical implication of Christ dying the death that you and I deserve.

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. ~~1 Peter 2:24-25 (ESV)

Of course, we balk at the truth that, as born sinners, we actually deserve God’s wrath. For that reason  it’s difficult for us to grasp the fact that Jesus bore the horrible judgment that rightfully belongs to you and me. If you resist the truth that you’re completely incapable of earning God’s acceptance through your own efforts, I beg you to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the Bible.  Once He convinces you of your spiritual bankruptcy, you can rejoice that He went to the cross as your substitute!

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Saturday Sampler: March 12 — March 18

Flower mask samplerMichelle Lesley often receives questions from the ladies who read her blog. Responding to a frequently asked question, she writes The Mailbag: Should Christians drink alcohol? She keeps her response, as always, thoroughly grounded in the Word of God.

Speaking of Michelle, be sure to listen in as she discusses The New Apostolic Reformation with Andy Olsen on Echo Zoe Radio. She explains what the movement is and how its teachings are worming their way into even sound churches.

In his post, How Jesus Called Out False Teachers and Deadly Doctrine, Tim Challies reminds us that our Lord never sacrifices truth in the name of love.

Those of you who read the Monday Bible Studies on this blog know I sometimes include word studies. Hey, I’m a writer — I like words! But most of you also know I firmly believe in interpreting the Bible in context. For that reason, George H. Guthrie’s piece, How Word Studies Go Bad: A (Slightly Funny) Example both amuses and teaches us to be careful when we do word studies.

Guthrie’s article inspired Peter Krol of Knowable Word to write Bible Word Studies Gone Bad to help us determine when it’s advantageous to study an individual word in a Scripture passage.

Take time to read The “Vaguely Christian But Still Cool” Starter Pack that Rebekah Womble has on her Wise In His Eyes  blog. Her words are clever as well as sobering.

Tom, who blogs at ExCatholic4Christ, gives us Creeds, Confessions, and lists of beliefs to make us think a bit. I disagree with him about the Nicene Creed as to its level of sophistication, but over all I believe he makes some valuable points.

In Losing my salvation, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time reveals something that she and John MacArthur have in common. Actually, you and I share this trait with them, whether we admit it or not.

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The Gospel: Pure And Simple

3D Cross Mother of PearlProfessing Christians use the word “gospel” all the time, but sometimes we get so caught up in tangential matters that we forget the Gospel itself. I’ve been guilty of this type of spiritual amnesia many times.  As I’ve confessed before, for example, my involvement in so-called Christian psychology led me to consider the possibility that anyone who espoused the principles of pop-psychology (whether they confessed Jesus Christ openly or not) might be saved. Obviously, at that point in time, I’d forgotten the Gospel.

In recent years, the Lord has graciously used a variety of Christian preachers, teachers and bloggers to help me appreciate the importance of preaching the Gospel to myself. Doing so reminds me that, apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ, I’m a vile sinner deserving of nothing but eternity in hell.

Simply put, the Gospel proclaims that Jesus Christ died as the substitute for all who believe in Him, bearing the wrath of God that our sins incur. He was buried, and tree days later God raised Him from the dead as evidence that He accepted His sacrifice. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we respond to this grace by repenting of sin and believing in Him.

Now, the Gospel definitely has ramifications. True believers can’t remain in sinful lifestyles, for instance, because we understand what our sin cost the Lord. Titus 2:11-14 makes it clear that the Lord saved us with the purpose of making us holy.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (ESV)

Throughout this blog, I write about various aspects of walking in holiness as redeemed women. And that’s definitely fitting. But all week, I’ve felt convicted that I needed to remind my readers (and  myself) of the basic Gospel. If we allow anything to obscure the fundamental truth that Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf and for His glory, we risk embracing a false gospel that, left unchecked will inevitability bring us to damnation.

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Let Me Hide Myself In Thee

In and of myself, nothing can commend me to God. He is eternally and perfectly holy, unstained by sin and completely pure. As much as I love Him, I have no ability to live up to His righteous standards. I long to live in that degree of holiness, I assure you, but I have no resources to do so in my own power.

Praise the Lord, Jesus Christ not only bore my sin on the cross, but He exchanged them for His righteousness! He graciously hides me from God’s wrath, promising me eternal life because of His death and resurrection. I hide myself in Him, confident that He will hold me in His righteousness.

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Believers Who Miss The Gospel

Old Fashioned Girl

A couple years ago, “false convert” seemed to be the latest buzz word in the types of blogs I read, and I struggled with the suspicion that we might over-apply the term. Looking back on my own life, for example, I can’t determine the genuineness of my own conversion during the time I participated in the Charismatic movement.

I embraced a lot of bad doctrine during those years, and yet I knew deep down that much of the theology didn’t really square with Scripture. I just didn’t know Scripture well enough to argue against Charismatic doctrine. But I did know that I had no claim to heaven apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Trusting in Christ rather than self-effort marks a true Christian. Although we must pay attention to other points of doctrine (particularly the sufficiency of Scripture), the basic Gospel must underscore everything else. The true Christian knows his depravity, and therefore has no option other than to rely exclusively on Jesus to atone for his sin.

In contrast, many false converts have great difficulty understanding the severity of their sin. Oh, they may give lip-service to the concept, but they secretly believe that they either took part in becoming Christians or have some responsibilities in maintaining their salvation. They sing about God’s grace, but they can’t really believe that He has done all the work. They feel driven to contribute something.

The apostle Paul addressed this prideful attitude in the letter to the Galatians. Of course I can’t copy the entire epistle here, but  consider this passage as an example:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? ~~Galatians 3:1-3 (ESV)

Charismatics, Catholics, proponents of contemplative prayer and adherents of psychology all can fall into this category of false converts, through genuine Christians occasionally fall into these deceptions.  All these groups (and probably others) subtly add human effort either to salvation itself or to sanctification while minimizing the doctrine of depravity. In fact, some of them actively seek to bolster self-esteem, teaching that Jesus died for us because of our worth. The focus, in one way or another, reverts to  man’s ability to earn God’s favor–directly contradicting the  message of the Gospel.

Other false converts minimize the doctrine of sin, either by claiming that they’re free to sin because of Christ’s death on the cross (which paid for their sin) or by manipulating Scripture to excuse their particular sin. They violate the Gospel by refusing to let it conform them to His Holiness. They expect God to make them feel good, but reject any thought of surrendering their lives to Him.

The following passage from 2 Peter describes the attitude of false teachers, but I believe it also applies to others who use a faulty understanding of grace to justify sinful behavior.

19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” ~~2 Peter 2:19-22 (ESV)

Gay Christians (particularly those who once served as leaders in the ex-gay arena before going back to homosexuality), female pastors and elders and emergent church types provide the most prominent examples of those who minimize the gravity of sin. But by trivializing sin, they also trivialize the precious blood of Christ. Additionally, they pull the emphasis away from the Lord’s glory and on to how He can satisfy them.

I’ve merely given an overview of false conversion today, but I hope it’s enough to get you to examine your own spiritual condition . I still test myself periodically. As we all examine ourselves to make sure He has genuinely saved us, may we keep our gaze on Christ, giving Him all the glory and adoring Him for saving wretches like us.

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God Himself As Our Christ

1-co-15When we say that Jesus died for our sins, we need to first establish Who Jesus actually is. A “Jesus” of our own making certainly couldn’t provide any real atonement since, essentially, He would be a figment of our imagination. So I must begin this exploration of the Gospel with the doctrine of Jesus, firm in my conviction that everything begins and ends with Him.

Obviously, I can’t fully explain Jesus in a few short blog posts, especially when true scholars have written volumes about Him. It should go without saying that I’d be arrogant to think that I could compose a couple short essays and cover all of Who He is. But I hope that, as I report basic information about Him, my readers will search the Bible to gain a more comprehensive understanding of each point I make.

Today, I want to emphasize Christ’s deity, which He claimed using words and idioms that First Century Jews completely understood. As a 17-year-old girl, I found John 8:48-59 riveting. Here’s the passage in the ESV:

48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And 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, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Notice verse 58. When Jesus said, “I AM,” He referred back to God’s words to Moses from  the burning bush:

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” ~~Exodus 3:13-14 (ESV)

The Pharisees, having great knowledge of this passage in Exodus, instantly caught Jesus’ reference, as evidenced by their attempt to stone Him  in verse 59. They had no difficulty recognizing the fact that Jesus had very openly claimed to be God.

His deity should cause us to marvel at the crucifixion. Think about the amazing humility He showed in taking the punishment for sins that His own creatures commit against Him! I feel tremendous awe at the realization that the Creator of heaven and earth would actually come and die as a common criminal in my place. Yet, His sacrifice only had the effect of redeeming those who believe in Him because of His deity.

We like to get caught up in so many “Christian” issues, and several of those issues legitimately deserve attention. But we must take care  never to lose focus on the wonderful fact that our Creator and Lord shed His precious blood to cleanse us from our own sin. What better reason could we have to worship Him?

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