Totally Dependent On Christ, And Happy To Be So

Wouldn’t it be terrible if obtaining and maintaining our salvation depended on our efforts? I would have lost mine decades ago! Actually, I never would have had it with the first place.

Praise God, Jesus Christ took pity on my helplessness, fully aware that nothing I could do would make me right with Him. In His mercy, He shed His innocent blood on the cross, declaring me righteous! What amazing grace!

Sometimes, however, I forget my absolute dependence on Him for my salvation. I’ll believe that He responded to my initial act of faith, or that He keeps me because of my obedience and service to Him. I’ll congratulate myself on how well I understand doctrine, how consistent I am in praying and how earnestly I praise Him in church.

In those times, I must remember that my righteousness is completely in Christ. What a wonderful reason to rejoice!

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Overlooked Posts From 2019: Funny That I’ve Grown Serious

This time of year, many bloggers share their most popular posts from the past 12 months. Ever the nonconformist, I’ve decided to celebrate the year’s end by featuring favorite articles of mine that my readers seem to have overlooked. Today I’m posting one I wrote back in March.

ThankfulKittyBlack02Back in the 80s and early 90s, my reputation for practical jokes was such that I got blamed even for those I didn’t orchestrate. My personal favorite was in honor of my friend Bob’s birthday.

Bob shared my dislike for cats (which we both greatly exaggerated for the purpose of teasing each other). When his birthday rolled around, I gave his phone number to my friend Terry, whom Bob had never met. At my instruction, Terry told Bob that he was from the SPCA, and wanted to deliver a kitten to him that afternoon.

Bob declined the offer, and wandered out of his room in bewilderment telling his housemate, “I just got the strangest phone call.” Before he could recount what Terry had said, his housemate doubled over with laughter, causing Bob to remember that I’d spent time with that housemate a week earlier. “DebbieLynne!” he shouted knowingly.

I’m still proud of that one!

These days I have fewer opportunities to play practical jokes, largely because I don’t have an accomplice. Also, I have less energy than I did back then. Practical jokes take work!

But, as much as I miss that part of my life, I have changed into a more serious woman. Oh, I still laugh a lot — a robust sense of humor is downright necessary to be married to John, let me tell you! At the same time, the world has gotten much darker since those carefree days. Sins that most people (even non-Christians) considered shameful back then are now so openly celebrated that society shames anyone who dares to speak against them.

Although as Christians we have incalculable joy (which we should express freely and often), Scripture also encourages us to be sober minded. In his letter to Christians living in societies that were hostile to the Gospel, the apostle Peter urged his readers to take life seriously.

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” ~~1 Peter 1:13-16 (ESV)

This isn’t a time for excessive fun and games, dear ladies. The world’s determined descent into open approval of perversion and ghoulish practices, such as homosexuality and abortion, necessarily mean that we face serious persecution here in the United States of America. Consequently,  we don’t have a whole lot of time to openly proclaim the Gospel.

Truthfully, I get annoyed by all the tagging games on Facebook and Twitter. Sure, I use those platforms to update people on our lives, and very occasionally I’ll post a funny comment. But my primary purpose in using social media is to point people to Christ. As America grows darker, I believe Christians need to double down on our efforts to shine the light of Christ.

So as much as I love a good practical joke, I no longer want to be known for playing them. I’d prefer to invest my time and energy making Christ known.

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How Should We Witness To Homosexuals?

Gay Evangelism

I remember a presentation Frank Worthen gave on homosexuality and ex-gay ministry back in the early 1980s. More accurately, I remember his reply when someone asked how she should witness to  homosexuals. He said that their primary need was the Gospel, not deliverance from homosexuality.

“If they don’t know the Lord, they’re going to hell anyway — what does it matter whether they’re gay or straight?”

Frank had a way with words.

I thought back to his answer during a recent episode of The Dividing Line this weekend. In that episode, James White responded to criticisms against Continue reading

The Wonderful Message Of Christmas — And Why People Work So Hard To Obscure It

2015 ChristmasI personally know many non-Christians who just love Christmas. They’ll decorate their homes to the hilt, send out beautifully illustrated year-end newsletters wishing people peace and joy, and maybe even put up a cute nativity scene as an homage to the story of the first Christmas.

For them, Christmas is primarily about brightly wrapped presents, feasting on scrumptious food, and parties. Songs mentioning benign infants lying in mangers must be supplemented with other songs about jingling bells and an obese elf from the North Pole who sees us when we’re sleeping. And then there are the infamous office parties and their accompanying innuendos about who was nice and naughty.

Most of all, they’ll declare that Christmas is about children. Not so much about a specific Child, although some might give Him an obligatory nod, but children and their sense Continue reading

Flashback Friday: The Reformation And Galatians

Originally posted June 27, 2017:

Whittenberg DoorThe Lord used the apostle Paul to bring the Gospel to the gentiles in Galatia. Sadly, after he left that region, representatives of a group known as the Judaizers descended on that fledgling church, teaching that they needed to augment their faith in Christ by following Jewish law. They especially insisted that gentile converts undergo the rite of circumcision.

Paul was infuriated that the church he had founded had so quickly abandoned the Gospel of faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross in favor of a counterfeit gospel that required human effort to assure salvation. He wrote a scathing letter, scolding them for adulterating the Gospel with doctrines of men. We see the reasons for his frustration most clearly articulated in Chapter 5 of his epistle to the Galatians.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! ~~Galatians 5:1-12 (ESV)

I imagine Martin Luther found this passage helpful as he broke free from the demands of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther rightly saw that  Rome’s elaborate system of sacraments, Purgatory, Indulgences and Papal authority produced a gospel quite different from the Good News that Jesus Christ fully paid for the sin of whoever believes in Him by His death on the cross. Like Paul, Luther sought to turn Christians back to focusing on Christ’s work instead of imagining that they could supplement it through their cooperation.

Notice specifically Paul’s firm assertion that a Christian who supplements his faith in the Lord by depending on legalistic rituals actually nullifies the effects of faith in salvation through Christ’s work on the cross. At that point, a person essentially declares that salvation ultimately lies in our power, not in what Christ accomplished on our behalf.

The sacramental system of the Roman Catholic Church, despite their denials, easily parallels the false teaching of the Judaizers. As a matter of fact, the Judaizers claimed to follow Christ, just as the Roman Catholic Church does. In many respects, the Judaizers presented themselves as genuine Christians, thereby convincing the Galatians to accept their doctrinal error. Not surprisingly, then, the Catholic Church managed to convince Christians of similar errors.

But Paul’s firm refutation against the system of righteousness by works enabled Luther and the other Reformers to stand against Rome’s numerous conditions for salvation. Just as Paul proclaimed that circumcision had no bearing on anyone’s standing before God, so the Reformers proclaimed that sacraments couldn’t add to what Christ had already done. The Reformers returned to the Biblical teaching that Christ Jesus fully satisfied the Law by dying as our substitute.

Roman Catholicism gets some doctrines right, such as the Trinity, but it adds conditions for salvation in much the same way that the Judaizers did. These conditions made humans responsible for sustaining their salvation.

Human centered salvation, however, takes the glory away from the Lord Jesus Christ. It demands that He share His glory with us. Paul recognized that danger among the Christians in Galatia, and he refused to tolerate such a corruption of the Gospel! He therefore set a pattern for the Reformers to follow once they could read God’s Word and understand that Rome had corrupted the Gospel. His passion for Jesus Christ to receive all the glory inspired the Reformers to also develop that passion.
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Flashback Friday: Full Bellies — Starving For Truth

Originally published February 23, 2016:

At The Cross“No one wants to hear about God’s wrath,” the young pastor explained to my friend. Then he added, “We help the poor in our community as a demonstration of His love.”

Look, I have nothing against helping the poor. In fact, if more  churches provided such services, less of us would be forced to rely on government programs. So as you read this essay, please don’t misunderstand me as saying that Christians shouldn’t care for the needs of those less fortunate than themselves. Yet I believe we must keep practical ministry secondary to our primary commission to declare the Gospel.

And whether we like it or not, declaring the Gospel first necessitates telling people that they’re sinners who deserve God’s wrath. I agree with the young pastor that no one enjoys hearing about their sin, nor do they like being confronted with the fact that their sin consigns them to an eternity in hell. And Christians don’t relish the duty of proclaiming that part of the Gospel message, if you want to know the truth.

But, dear sisters in the Lord, we don’t get to pick and choose what aspects of the Gospel we present in our evangelism. As ambassadors of Christ, we bear the responsibility to tell people the Gospel in its entirety, aware that we represent Him rather than ourselves.

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~~2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (ESV)

If we offer a message of reconciliation to God, we must begin by helping people understand that such a reconciliation indeed needs to take place. Most non-Christians and Christians-in-name-only simply don’t believe that God takes their sin seriously enough to send them to hell. They may admit that they’ve done some bad things here and there, but they reassure themselves that the good they’ve done outweighs the bad. Consequently, all our talk about Jesus showing His love by dying in their place strikes them as absurd until we show them that they’ve offended a holy God.

The beauty of God’s love shines through the fact that Jesus willingly shed His blood on the cross, bearing His Father’s fury over the sin that you and I committed. That act, more than anything else, epitomizes His love.

It’s wonderful when churches run soup kitchens and pregnancy resource centers. And praise God for missionaries who dig wells and build orphanages. But when people deliberately repress part of the Gospel in order to attract people to their services, they no longer represent the Lord. Leave humanitarian work to secular agencies unless you do it in a way that offers people the eternal hope of Jesus Christ.

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Sin Need Not Be Physical To Be Sinful

Sins of the HeartBeing mainstreamed into “regular  school” during junior high and high school didn’t totally remove me from the school for “orthopedically handicapped” children. I’d spend mornings at “regular school,” and then I’d have to return to the special school for the afternoons. I didn’t much like going back, but that was the prevailing wisdom in the late 60s and early 70s.

Midway through my sophomore  year of high school, the Lord brought me to salvation. I talked openly about my newfound faith at both schools. A girl at the special school seemed especially interested, and began attending Tuesday evening Bible Studies with me.

This girl had the same type of Cerebral Palsy that I have, although her speech defect Continue reading