Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thanks for the Prayers!

On May 19th I entered a short blog about whether or not Jesus was coming back on May 21st. To my amazement, the number of views on the blog went crazy. It wasn’t my intention to draw a lot of people to my post, but I did want people who did not know Jesus to see a clear biblical view and turn to Jesus, not just because He might come back any day, but also because none of knows how long we have to live.


I wrote that the day I was scheduled for open heart surgery to repair my mitral valve. At the time, I was thinking that if Jesus did come back on May 21st, then I sure wasted a day in the hospital, but then again, I’m doing what God wants me to do as I would still have to take good care of my body and that meant having the surgery sooner than later.

The valve repair was successful but I guess I had some complications that kept me under longer than expected. I didn’t wake up until Saturday. I remember looking at a white board on the wall with the date, nurses’ names, doctor’s name, and some other things. I had no idea whether it was morning or evening and I had this horrible tube stuck down my throat. My first thought was, Jesus, if you are coming today, make it sooner than later. I was in and out of it for a while. They finally pulled the tubes and my gag reflex went back to normal. I was pretty sure that Jesus wasn’t coming back on the 21st, unless it was time zone far to the west of us.

As the week progressed, my prayers were pretty weak. Jesus, help them find a vein for that IV. I don’t know how many more times I can be stuck without going crazy. Jesus, how can people who are going through persecution handle the pain and the agony if I bellyache about these pokes? At that time, it became clear to me that when we can’t pray for ourselves or others, there are still people who are praying.

Even though I need a valve repair, I was quite physically fit and strong. Everything should have gone well. I thought I had done quite well; I just laid there and tried to do what I was supposed to do, get up walk a little, eat, and drink. It wasn’t until I got home and read all the e-mail updates on my status that I realized how bad off I had been for the first 24+ hours. I know it is all in God’s hands, but reading the e-mails helped me realize how much God did and that nothing I did really mattered.

I am very fortunate to have many people praying for me: our small home Bible fellowship, our church’s prayer chain, many other friends and relatives as well as a many Christians in Pakistan whom I had visited at the end of March. It brings home the fact that God uses prayer to help us. I’ve had peace throughout the whole process and even learned a couple of things. Thanks for all your prayers!

I still have a few weeks to go before things return to normal but I’ll try to get some more Bible studies posted.

Blessings in Jesus,

Ray

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is Jesus Coming Back May 21, 2011?

Matt 24:30-31 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (KJV)


My last post included trustworthy sayings, fundamentals of the Christian faith. One of them included the truth that Jesus is faithful. He will not deny Himself, which means that what He has said stands and He won’t change His mind. Because of that, I can read these verses and absolutely believe that Jesus will come back someday and gather His elect to Himself. It doesn’t matter what version of the Bible you read; it is still the same.

How and when this will happen is open to discussion and interpretation. However, you need to read all of Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 24 and 25 to get a better picture. The primary issue today, May 19, 2011 is whether or not He will come back in two days or for that matter, can anyone predict when He will come back.

Turning to Jesus’ words, I find a remarkable statement regarding when. Matt 24:36 No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (NIV) There is a semantics issue with the word know. A definition of the Greek word (eidos) used means to perceive by any of the senses, discern or discover. Jesus says that no one can discover or perceive the date except the Father. This means that any person who claims to know the date has predicted or guessed the date based on some calculation as is the case with the May 21st date. They can’t actually know the date with the certainty of the infallible knowledge of God. The only way to know is if God has told him and this, he has not claimed.

Jesus repeated this statement just before He ascended into heaven. Acts 1:7 He said to them: It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. (NIV ) The wording here is a little different and clearly tells me we shouldn’t even try to guess since it is not something God wants us to know.

Therefore Jesus could come back May 21st (and I would be delighted if He did)? Absolutely yes! Nothing this guy or anyone else says will make a difference.

What do I say to those who scoff, especially on May 22nd? I say what Jesus said.

Matt 24:42-44 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (NIV)

He is coming back and we need to be alert and keep on doing what He wants while we wait. In Matthew 25, Jesus explained the consequences of those who are not keeping watch and who are not ready when He returns. And I might add that this also applies to the day of our death. The same consequences will apply to those who are not ready to meet Jesus after death. The end – either when Jesus comes back or when I die – is revealed by Jesus.

Matt 25:46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (NIV)

I say to anyone who does not know Jesus, make the decision to follow Jesus now, before it is too late.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Trustworthy Statements – 1 Tim 3:1

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. (NASB)

The subject matter of this passage is the attributes or qualifications of an elder, bishop, or overseer. However, Paul starts this passage with an interesting phrase that deserves some attention. I saw a variation of it before but didn’t dwell on it until I saw it repeated.

Jesus’ Purpose was to Save Me

1 Tim 1:15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (NASB) That statement contains a foundational truth of my Christian belief; Jesus came to save me. His primary purpose in coming to the earth was to save us. His primary purpose was not to be a great teacher and show me how to love others, even though He did do that. In Mark 10:32-34, Jesus led the way to Jerusalem and explained that the religious leaders would betray Him, the Romans would kill Him, and then He would rise again after three days. Some who were with Him were afraid but Luke records Jesus’ focus on His mission. Luke 9:51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (NIV) Jesus knew that He first had to pay for our sins before any of His teaching or way of life would make any difference. He was born to die on the cross. Since we are all sinners this had to be done first.

My Hope Is in the Living God

Later in first Timothy, I see another profound statement when Paul uses the phrase again. 1 Tim 4:9-10 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. (NASB) After Jesus saves me, I’m to do kingdom work because my hope is fixed on the living God. If I fix my hope on anyone or anything else, then my work and striving is meaningless. It certainly won’t be rewarded in heaven when I stand before my God if it is only for myself. It will be burned up and I’ll lose any reward I may have thought I was going to get. (1 Cor 3:12-15).

I’m Alive in Jesus

Later, Paul uses the same phrase to emphasize some more fundamental Christian truths. 2 Tim 2:11-13 It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself. (NASB) My hope in the living God is based on the fact that I live with Jesus now and will forever. John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (NKJV) It sometimes seems strange to consider that I have died with Christ. The world certainly doesn’t understand this. Rom 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (RSV) Yet it is precisely that when I come to know Jesus that I must believe in His death in order to know that I am also alive because of His resurrection. I am able to say no to sin because of this and being able to say no to sin is what makes living so much better.

I’ll Reign with Jesus

When I endure to the end, then I will also reign with Him. There as many verses in the Bible that tell me there is something coming in the future that I don’t fully understand. How will I be able to reign with Jesus? I wrote a novel (999 Years After Armageddon) contemplating this and other things that will happen after Jesus comes again and establishes His kingdom on earth. Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years. (NLT) How will I be a priest as well as rule with Jesus give me plenty to think about.

Jesus Is Faithful

Jesus’ faithfulness demands that He keep His word; what He has said stands firm. Matt 10:32-33 So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (RSV) His faithfulness means that He will not go back on His word, whether it is to give me life because I believe in Him or reject those who do not believe in Him. He said to Martha, “Do you believe this?”

Foundational Truths

Paul also uses the trustworthy phrase to reinforce some of the very fundamentals of the faith in Titus 3:3-8 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (NIV) I’ll pick apart the truths from this passage in the following six topics.

1. My Depravity

Paul first tells me how wretched I once was. This is the doctrine of the depravity of man. I seldom think that I was actually enslaved by my passions and pleasure, but it is true. I am more apt to think that I was deceived because that sounds like I can put the blame on someone else, just as Eve tried to blame Satan. I wouldn’t be surprised that others think the same way. When I use words like mistakes or act-out instead of calling my behavior sin, I don’t seem so wretched. Then if I don’t seem so wretched I can look at myself and think that there is some good in me. When I think about it and then re-read these verses, I have to admit that Paul was right. If my passions and pleasures are not in God then they are sin because I have then made something or someone more important than Him. If I have a correct understanding of the doctrine of depravity of man, then I know that without Christ, there is no good in me. I also understand that this doesn’t just apply to me but to everyone, everywhere.

2. The Father’s Mercy Saves Me

Paul also explains God’s love and kindness by saving me not based on my deeds. Isa 64:6 We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. (NLT) The doctrine of depravity tells me I’m completely lost and unable to save myself. I may think that if I work hard enough, then my good deeds will outweigh my badness on the cosmic scales of justice. But that isn’t the way God sees me. James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. (RSV) Even the smallest sin makes me guilty of all sin. Therefore, He saves me because of His mercy. There is only one thing that will tip that cosmic scale of justice and that is the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. In His mercy, God allowed His only Son to die to pay for my sins and then pronounces me justified.

3. I’m Saved by His Holy Spirit

He tells me how the Holy Spirit is involved with my salvation. I am renewed and made a new person. 2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (NKJV) Jesus told Nicodemus that the Holy Spirit is required before I can be born again. John 3:6-7 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again”' (NIV) I tend to forget this very important aspect of my salvation. If the Holy Spirit had not given me new birth, I would not be able to confess that Jesus is Lord. He is the one who convicts me of sin to start with (John 16:8).

4. Jesus Saves Me

So much is said about my salvation being dependent upon Jesus in other places that Paul simply says that the Holy Spirit is poured out on me generously through Jesus Christ our Savior. In John 12:32 Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (NASB) Jesus and the Holy Spirit worked together to draw me to God the Father so that I can be saved.

5. The Trinity

This passage is a small but concise demonstration that God is triune and all members of the Trinity are active in my salvation. My salvation is totally dependent upon God the Father’s mercy, renewal and rebirth by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ the Son. When someone point out that the Trinity isn’t in the Bible, I come to Titus and show them this passage. I can also point to Titus 1:3, 2:10 and 3:4 that says God is our Savior then, Titus 1:4, 3:6 that says Jesus is our Savior. Clearly, God the Father and Jesus are both given the same title and function. This establishes that God the Father and Jesus are both members of the Trinity.

Gal 2:20 says that Christ lives in me. Before Jesus left, He told us about the Holy Spirit. John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (NIV) When Jesus said that the Holy Spirit lived with the disciples, He was referring to Himself. The Holy Spirit was in Jesus. Now the Holy Spirit is in us, just as Jesus is in us. These verses make it clear to me that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are in me and that they are both God, members of the Trinity.

Since I’m save, I have Jesus living in me. I have the Holy Spirit living in me. And according to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-23, I have the Father living in me because Jesus is living in me. There is no need to pray to receive Jesus then pray to receive the Holy Spirit and then to pray to receive the Father. (Some people get all fanatical about doing two or three and claiming that you aren’t saved unless you do.) When I have one I have all three.

6. I’m Justified

Paul ends Titus 3:3-8 with my justification and the hope I have of eternal life. Justification is yet another foundation of the Christian faith. This is a brief definition of Justification: Justification is a divine act whereby an infinitely Holy God judicially declares a believing sinner to be righteous and acceptable before Him because Christ has borne the sinner's sin on the cross and has become "to us . . . righteousness" (from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright © 1988.)

Justice demands that sin must be punished. It is something that is fundamental in societies. This is not something that mankind has dreamed up. It is something that God has inherently placed in our being. I was made in God’s image and therefore I must have a built-in ability to understand that justice demands punishment of sinful behavior. Unfortunately, because we are sinners we don’t agree about the degree of punishment or the seriousness of each sin. However, Jesus is the judge who will judge correctly. John 5:30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (NIV)

Since Jesus is the judge and the one who has paid the price for my sins, He will stand before the Father and say that I am righteous and acceptable (1 John 2:1-2). He will present me before the Father holy and blameless (Jude 24). God the Father now sees me through Jesus’ holiness and righteousness. Col 3:3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (NKJV) Since I’m justified, in God’s eyes, it is just as if I never sinned. This means I’ll have eternal life instead of the eternal punishment that I deserve. What great news!