Scrooges and Christians

Sunday, December 16, 2018

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV).

To the old identity, we say, “Bah, Humbug!” To the new, we say, “God has blessed us, everyone in Christ.”

Other than Jesus Christ’s conception and birth as found in the Holy Bible, there is one other classic story associated with Christmastime. British author Charles Dickens’ 1843 book, A Christmas Carol, focuses on the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge (the novella has some Christian influence).

From the onset, Scrooge is a wealthy, miserable, mean, stingy, and selfish old man. His employee, Bob Cratchit, is underpaid (yet, strangely, Ebenezer observes, Cratchit is cheerful). Scrooge refuses to donate to charities collecting for the destitute—to him, Christmastime is a time for others to “pick his pocket.” He even refuses to attend his nephew’s Christmas party. What a miser!

Through visitations by four Spirits—his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley; and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future—Scrooge is forced to realize what a thoroughly rotten man he is. Once confronted with his future, the awful events that lie ahead, he asks for another chance to make things right (which, thankfully, he receives and does!). The Scrooge at the end of the book is drastically different from the Scrooge at the beginning. Scrooge is now loving, warm, cheerful, and generous—he is a brand-new man.

Bible-believing Christians recognize parallels between Dickens’ work and the Holy Scriptures. The sinner starts off rotten, a rebel from birth—selfish, miserable, and mean. When he or she comes to realize that pitiful condition he or she is in, and comes by simple faith in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for their sins, God gives him or her a new identity (today’s Scripture). That identity is designed to influence subsequent actions. Scrooge did not simply change his outward activity; he had a change in heart first. This Christmas, let us be submissive to God’s Holy Spirit working in our hearts, as He uses sound Bible doctrine to manifest in our behavior our identity in Christ, that we be not Scrooges.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing #4

Thursday, December 6, 2018

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:8-11 KJV).

The fourth verse of the classic Christmas carol highlights today’s Scripture.

“Come, Desire of nations come
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Oh, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart!
Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

Angels can sing about God’s operations, but, unlike us humans, they cannot sing about salvation in Jesus Christ. When we read today’s Scripture, there should be leaping for joy! The God of creation, the God of the Holy Bible, the God of Christianity, has attempted to mend the broken relationship between Him and us. He has done everything to save us from our sinful selves and our utter foolishness. He can do no more than Calvary. Those merits of Christ’s finished crosswork cannot benefit us individually unless we individually appropriate them by faith. There is no merit in our faith, but there is immeasurable merit in what Jesus Christ did. We either agree with God by faith that Calvary’s finished crosswork is enough, or we ignore it and continue on our way to eternal hellfire. Simple indeed!

Reading from 2 Corinthians chapter 5: “[19] To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. [20] Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. [21] For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Do we agree with God by faith?

The Greatest Veteran

Sunday, November 11, 2018

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:14,15 KJV).

Today is Veterans’ Day in the United States, so let us especially thank the “Greatest Veteran of All Time.”

We thank veterans, living and departed, the often-forgotten men and women who risked their lives to secure our freedom. Just as we remember flesh-and-blood veterans who fought for our physical liberty, we reserve our worship and utmost respect for the least esteemed Veteran, He who secured our spiritual liberty.

“But thanks be to God, which giveth us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Through Christ’s finished crosswork on Calvary, we have eternal victory over sin, death, hell, and Satan. Everything that God has planned for us is dependent upon Christ’s victory at Calvary.

Jesus Christ nailed the Mosaic Law to His cross (today’s Scripture). His sinless blood covered our failure to obey God’s laws; Jesus’ righteousness annulled our unrighteousness (sin). Christ not only liberated us from sin and its penalty (the everlasting lake of fire), but today’s Scripture affirms He also triumphed over Satan himself!

Christ has “spoiled [destroyed] principalities and powers [Satan’s power], he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it [His cross].” Jesus Christ destroyed Satan’s plans. Through Christ’s cross, God has “delivered us from the power of darkness” (Colossians 1:13), Satan’s evil system of Ephesians 2:1-3.

During a recent cemetery visit, I noticed American flags flying above deceased veterans’ headstones. These individuals can no longer hear or regard our thanks, but Jesus Christ’s body is not decaying in some tomb. If there ever was a Veteran most worthy of our gratitude, it is our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He died in battle, allowing Himself to be executed on a Roman cross of shame and scorn, He resurrected. He is alive and well today, alive forevermore!

Saints, eternity will ring with our thanks to the Veteran worth thanking, the Lord Jesus Christ.

*Adapted from our 2010 Bible study, “The Greatest Hero.” The Bible study video can be viewed here.

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Can you explain Acts 19:13-16?

Sanctified Through God’s Truth

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (John 17:17 KJV).

Jesus Christ prayed to His Heavenly Father for His followers in Israel’s program (especially His Apostles—verse 12). He would do likewise for us today in the Dispensation of Grace.

Sanctification is not to be confused with justification. The former is to be “set apart for the purpose for which God intended;” the latter means “declared righteous before God.” One must be justified (righteousness imputed to his account) before he can be sanctified (useful to God’s work—“holy,” a “saint”).

Just moments before His arrest, Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane communes with Father God by praying throughout John chapter 17. Verse 8 is crucial to grasping today’s Scripture: “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me: and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” Now, verse 14: “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

The Lord was not praying for His followers to be saved unto eternal life (they were already justified). What He desired was spiritual fruit, their identity in Him being manifested in the form of works. Father God’s Word—which He (Jesus) had just taught them for over three years—would be how the Holy Father would use those men for His purposes. He would send His Holy Spirit (Acts chapter 2) to empower them according to the words He had already given them in Christ’s earthly ministry. That message would be further expanded once the Holy Spirit came (see John 14:26; John 15:25-27; John 16:7-14).

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Saints, God’s Word to us—Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon—will effectually work in us on a daily basis if we believe it. Then, we too will be “sanctified through [God’s] truth!”

No Good Deeds, No Good Things #10

Friday, July 27, 2018

Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you (Jeremiah 5:25 KJV).

Here is the result of being under any performance-based acceptance system!

When pure Grace is proclaimed, the objection will invariably arise: “Grace is a license to sin, and I can live any way I want!” Dear friend, if you say that, you really have no idea what Grace is. Moreover, others will complain, “But do I not have to do something to make God happy with me?” Dear reader, you have not paid attention to what these passages have been teaching. Your flesh can do nothing to please God!

The Law system, once it shows a lost person his or her sinful state, has no further place in that individual’s life. “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient…” (1 Timothy 1:8,9). God added the Law to Israel’s program “because of transgressions” (Galatians 3:19)—to point out Israel’s sin, her failure to get God’s blessings based on her works. “For by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). How senseless it is to then have the Christian live under the Law… continually beleaguered by the sinfulness he or she has already confronted the moment of coming to Christ by faith!

“But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). Read the entire Epistle to the Galatians: they had fallen prey to legalism. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). Our religious performance will add NOTHING (!) to what the Spirit of God has already wrought, and is working, in our hearts. Father God gave us all blessings in Christ the instant we believed on His finished crosswork—everlasting life, limitless forgiveness, justification (imputed righteousness), free redemption, eternal sanctification, unconditional acceptance, and so on. Now, dear brethren, we go live in and enjoy those blessings! 🙂

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13).

No Good Deeds, No Good Things #8

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you (Jeremiah 5:25 KJV).

Here is the result of being under any performance-based acceptance system!

Returning to 1 Timothy chapter 1: “[7] Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” When legalists place us under a performance-based acceptance system, they really have no idea what they are saying or supporting. They make us liable to curses!

“[8] But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; [9] Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, [10] For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; [11] According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.”

As a rabbinical scholar, Paul the Apostle knew the purpose of the Mosaic Law. The “lawful” (proper) use of the Law is to point out sin. Having just delineated and reviewed the Law system, we understand that it is not the friend of any (sinful) son of Adam. The Law “is not made for a righteous man;” it is not made for us because we believers are righteous in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). It is senseless to place ourselves under the Law!

Galatians chapter 3: “[22] But the scripture [Law] hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe [not work!!]. [23] But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. [24] Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith [not works!!].” The Law is a teacher: it points people to Christ as Saviour. It is not meant for us Christians (we have already recognized our sinful status and come to Christ by faith)!

In this the Dispensation of Grace, we are under Grace not Law….

ATTENTION: Shorewood Bible Church’s 2018 Summer Family Bible Conference continues today, Wednesday, at 9 A.M. Central U.S. Time. The theme is “God’s Prophetic Calendar,” and the conference runs until tomorrow. Watch the LIVE video feed streamed here: http://understandgrace.com/watch-live/. Visit http://understandgrace.com/2018-summer-family-bible-conference/ for more information. Come and join us!

Liberated to Serve

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13 KJV).

Today, as we in the United States celebrate the 242nd anniversary of our nation’s independence, we invite our Christian brethren worldwide to rejoice with us concerning our freedom in Jesus Christ.

When we proclaim Romans 6:14—“Ye are not under the law, but under grace”—people tend to assume “loose living.” Does “grace living” really mean we can now live any way we want? Lest anyone be misled in that regard, God the Holy Spirit moved the Apostle Paul to write in the next verse, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid [May God never let that happen!]” (Romans 6:15). Grace living is not Law-keeping, but it certainly is not Law-breaking either.

God still cares how we live, albeit He is not operating the “weak and beggarly” system of “bondage” (Law) that He once did with Israel (Galatians 4:9). God proved to the entire world that since Israel could not keep His commandments perfectly, no other sons of Adam (the Gentiles) could either: “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them [Israel] who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world [Gentiles] may become guilty before God (Romans 3:19).

We sinners cannot keep the Law. However, God in His grace provided us a way to escape that condemnation by sending Jesus Christ to offer Himself on Calvary’s cruel cross to pay for our sins. By simple faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as the fully-satisfying payment for our sins, we can now be “made the righteousness of God in [Christ]” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We can be delivered from the penalty of sin (hell and the lake of fire) and the power of sin (flesh-walking).

Why are we Christians free? To selfishly live any way we want? NO! Today’s Scripture says we are liberated to now serve others, especially our Christian brethren, just as Jesus Christ selflessly served His Father and selflessly died on our behalf. That is grace living!!!!

Please see our 2011 Fourth of July Bible study “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land,” which can be watched here or read here.