There’s Always Tomorrow…

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.

Proverbs 27:1 NASB

One of the great errors in our thinking is the word “tomorrow”. Whether that’s with our work when we say, “I can worry about studying tomorrow. Today I’ll just be lazy and unproductive.” Or with broken relationships with friends or family. “We just had an argument but I’ll apologize tomorrow.” But the most dangerous usage of all is in regards to sin and repentance.

Satan’s arsenal of weapons is quite large but one of his most effective is the deception of tomorrow. Do you ever find yourself making an excuse to sin today because tomorrow is a fresh start? Have you ever encountered an unbeliever who gives you the excuse of later?

But, the great word of the Bible is always “today”.

Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear His voice,”

Hebrews 3:7 NASB

It is never sometimes, but always now; never tomorrow, but always today. We must say with the Psalmist, “I hastened and did not delay…” Psalm 119:60 NASB

Don’t be like the Roman governor Felix who when he heard Paul preach in Acts 24:25 NASB, waited until tomorrow. In the verse, Paul preached just as we ought to preach, as a dying man to dying men and Felix was greatly afraid. This pagan man who was very much in love with his sin had his conscience stirred. He must have been in a mood when he might have repented and turned back to God. But instead of acting upon his conviction, Felix dismissed Paul saying, “Go away for the present, and when I have time I will summon you.”

Never again did Felix tremble, though he must summoned Paul to preach for him many more times. Never again was his conscience stirred as that first time. All because he said “tomorrow” when God’s word is today. For to the one who says “tomorrow”, James says, “You do not know what your life will be tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James 4:14 NASB

No one should put off anything that can be done today for tomorrow. No one should leave for tomorrow the breaking of a bad habit but most of all, no one should leave until tomorrow repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. You can say tomorrow to anyone or anything. But not to Christ, and not to eternal life.

“Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow! Alas, tomorrow never comes! It is in no calendar, except the almanac of fools.

C. H. Spurgeon

 

 

What Grace Is This!

Romans 4:5 NASB is a beautiful verse that I fear at times we glance at just briefly. We read it with such a flippancy that it becomes cold, mechanical even as we come to this portion of Scripture. And perhaps we pray to God often; we read the Word often; we evangelize often. But how often do we go back and marvel at the Cross? Marvel at Christ? We should do this often. So that when we pray to God it is because the very posture of our hearts is surrender and that we may thank God often for the Cross. And we read the Word because we want to know more about this amazing truth. And we evangelize because we believe that the gospel is the power of God to save.

I find this verse to be a wonderful verse. It might be no surprise to us that have been in the church for a while now that such an expression as “justifies the ungodly” is in the Bible. But let’s examine this phrase together. One of the more common things I hear among friends, family, and even the random person off the street is that it is the very fact that God saves wicked men is what they have against Christianity. And the complaint is that many who are good people, doctors that save lives everyday. social workers that look to the interests of children and families in need, will not be saved. All because God did not choose to justify them.

But Scripture accepts this charge and even plainly states it! From the very mouth of the apostle Paul, God “justifies the ungodly”. Those who are unjust, He makes just. Those who deserve no favor, He forgives. Did we think that salvation was for the good and that God’s grace was for the pure and holy who are sinless? So we might be tempted to think that if we have good behavior, and are good to others, that God would reward us. In our heart of hearts we are good and worthy and we somehow believe that there must be something in us that God saw. Something in us that won the favor of God. But Romans 3:10 NASB is quite clear. God sees through all deceptions and knows that there is no good in us. He knows that “all our righteous deeds are like filthy garments” (Isaiah 64:6 NASB).

Jesus Christ did not come to look for those who are good and righteous. No, He “justifies the ungodly”. Mark 2:17 NASB is another verse we may point to. Jesus tells us that He came not for the healthy, but those who are sick. The fact that Jesus Christ came into this this world to save sinners should a thing to be marveled at! It should be, to us, the greatest wonder we ever did hear. Apart from His great love, we are a hunk of sin, a thing of unworthiness. But, to the one who submits himself to Christ. The one who proclaims Christ as risen from the dead. This one is loved with as much love as if they were godly. Who can help being astonished at this? We should never be.

The salvation of God is for those who do not deserve it and have no preparation for it. If in reading this, you grow tired and bored. If this marvelous truth does not cause you to weep over your sins that have been paid for and cry for joy at the One who paid for them, then you are as surely lost as you are alive. Those who are righteous, who see their righteousness as all of their own doing, are either deceivers or deceived. See your own righteousness and flee from it! There is no substance to it. Matthew 7:24-27 NASB.

The only people in need of justification are those who are not just themselves. Something needed to be done for them to make them just before God’s judgement. And that was the Cross. So cling to it. Depend upon it. Lose yourself in it.

There is a man who is owed some money. One person owes him a thousand dollars, and another owes him fifty. In the end, each one of their debts is wiped out. That is what happens to us. Whether we have lived a life of rampant sin, or whether we live generally “good” lives, if we come to have faith in the work of Christ, the debt is paid. The most generous person cannot forgive the debts of those who do no owe him anything. Pardon, therefore, cannot be for those who have no sin. Pardon is for the guilty. Forgiveness must be for the sinful. Do you think yourself lost because you are a sinner? Then call upon the name of Christ Jesus our Lord. Such grace is ordained for one such as you.

Do Your Work!

“Work to please God. Not people.”

This is one of those sayings that I hear all the time in the church. And it’s one of those sayings that is pretty clearly from Scripture. Colossians 3:23 NASB

As a church filled with both collegians and post collegians, I think we’re all familiar with the concept. The principle is that there is no job too small, too insignificant that you cannot do as worship to God. If you’re a student, study for the glory of God. Where you are is exactly where God intended for you to be. That’s your ministry. So do it excellently and enthusiastically for the Lord.

And this is true no matter your vocation! If you have a desk job, or if you’re a stay at home mom. If you love what you do, or if you really aren’t that passionate about it. You are working for God, not man.

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

2 Thessalonians 3:6-18 NASB

Last weekend, I was really challenged by this passage. I was challenged because of the principles about work that we can see here. The things I mentioned at the very beginning about working excellently and working enthusiastically for God are no doubt true.

But in this passage Paul looks at work from a slightly different angle.

First, he talks about working for others. This isn’t a contradiction to what he says in Colossians 3:23 NASB. Even as you work for others in the manner that he is talking about, you are to work to please God. But here he points to his and Silvanus’ and Timothy’s example of work. In order that they be a model to follow.

Paul would often take a second job to fund his own way. Yet, there were definitely times in his ministry in which he was funded by others. From 2 Corinthians 11:9-11 NASB it is clear. But the verses leading up to this in 2 Corinthians 11:7-8 NASB are also clear that he refused to do so with the Corinthians.

Why? Because of all of the problems the church in Corinth had. Because of their immaturity. This is contrasted with the maturity of churches like the one in Macedonia from whom he did ask money. They were a church that gave not just generously, but beyond their means. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 NASB

So the first thing we see is that we are to work sacrificially. Work unselfishly.

Second, work responsibly. 2 Thessalonians 3:8 NASB shows that we work to provide for basic needs. Not what society tells you is a necessity. Or what the culture tells you you need. But since the very beginning we were created to work. And work we shall.

Mankind was not meant to be idle. But to be productive. Not only is it an active worship to the Lord, but Paul is very clear here that we are not to be a nuisance to society. When we don’t work, aren’t being productive, we open ourselves up to a host of other sins. So work that you may not sin.

Third, work accountably. Having grown up in the church, many of us have probably encountered the passage that mentions church discipline: Matthew 18:15-20 NASB. After confronting your brother in private, and then bringing along some others, what is the final step? It is to separate yourself from him.

Churches are given the rod of separation. And though it is hard, it’s necessary. The purpose of church discipline is redemptive not vindictive. After that very first step, if things go well and your brother listens than you have gained him back. That’s the purpose. But going back to Paul’s point, having a good work ethic is so crucial, so important, that he says to keep away from those who aren’t practicing it! That sounds suspiciously like the final step of church discipline to me.

I hope all of this challenges you as much as it challenged me. Having a good theology of work is important; it’s important because to the world we represent Christ. The world is watching, so do your work!

A God of Wrath versus A God of Love

You have probably heard the statement “God in the Old Testament is a God of wrath while God in the New Testament is a God of love.” People who say this somehow think that God has multiple personalities. At the very core is a fundamental misunderstanding of what both the Old Testament and the New Testament reveal about the nature of God.

The canon of Scripture is a progressive revelation of God to us that reveals His relationship with mankind throughout history. And if you don’t take whole books and passages and verses in context, if you don’t read the whole counsel of God, you might come to the conclusion that God changes; and that the Old Testament God is harsh and brutal while the New Testament God is like a loving and kind Father. World-renowned atheist Richard Dawkins said that “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.” But if you read the Old Testament and the New Testament, it becomes clear that God does not change from Old to New Testament. God’s wrath and God’s love are revealed in both testaments. 

First, there is the Old Testament. While it is true that there is a much bloodshed in those first thirty nine books; that God deals very harshly with sin and the consequences are very serious; that God floods the earth and only a handful of people live; that God commands the genocide of the Amalekites; one thing is declared over and over. And it is that God is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth”. You see this in Joel 2:13. In Nehemiah 9:17. In Deuteronomy 4:31. David, who was disciplined very severely for his actions of murder and adultery, cries this three times in Psalm 86:15, Psalm 103:8 and Psalm 145:8.

In the New Testament, God’s lovingkindness is manifested fully in His Son. We know this from John 3:16. And 1 John 4:10 tells us that He loved us and sent His Son to atone for our sins. But the New Testament is also where you get the book of Revelation and the four gospels. In the book of Revelation, we see more of God’s wrath poured out on unbelievers than anywhere else in the Old Testament. And how do we know about the reality of hell? Because Jesus preached about it.

I think it’s quite interesting how some will say that the God of the New Testament is not wrathful. A brother recently pointed out to me that God’s wrath is even more evident in the New Testament. There is no mention of hell in the Old Testament. And you might hear a variety of different thoughts on what happens to the wicked when they die from orthodox Jews. According to the Talmud, which is their book of traditions, “The judgement of the wicked in purgatory is twelve months.” And according to one website I was looking at, Jews believe that the soul of a dead man who has unpaid debts or stolen something may be placed into the body of a child soon to be born. 

But in the New Testament Jesus preached about hell. He preached about it a lot. And when He preached about it, He laid out for us all the horrific details about a never ending, conscious torment. That’s probably one of the reasons the Pharisees hated Him so much. Because He preached about the reality of unbelievers burning for eternity. And what could be more wrathful than that?

So our conclusion must be this: God’s holiness demands that sin be punished. But He is also gracious and merciful to those who repent and believe. James 1:17 tells us that with God “there is no variation or shifting shadow.” And while the violence in the Old Testament may be difficult to read at times, our Father in heaven is omniscient and infinitely wise. Romans 11:22 reminds us that God is both kind and severe. And also, read your bible. All of it, both Old and New Testament.

Outreach and Evangelism

outreach

ˈoutˌrēCH/

noun

  1. the extent or length of reaching out.
    • an organization’s involvement with or activity in the community, especially in the context of social welfare.

evangelism

əˈvanjəˌlizəm/

noun

  1. the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness.
    • zealous advocacy of a cause.

 

In the English language and in the church, these two words are often used interchangeably to describe the sharing of the good news. But as you can see, one of them describes something else entirely. Preaching a message of repentance is seen in the ministries of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:2 NASB, Jesus Christ in Matthew 4:7 NASB, Paul in Acts 20:21 NASB and commanded of us in Matthew 28:19 NASB and in Luke 24:47 NASB. And as we see in Mark 1:15, our message of repentance is a large component of our gospel proclamation.

“…repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15 NASB

So we share the gospel with unbelievers, whether that’s family, friends, peers, or coworkers. We go into public areas to proclaim the good news. This is evangelism. Yet there are other times we may feel that we’ve been fulfilling God’s command to evangelize when in reality we’ve been engaging in outreach. And while both are good things, only one is a fulfillment of God’s command to us.

One very big difference is that outreach is not seen as offensive. Let me explain. When you outreach by inviting others to church or to church picnics or such; or when your church outreaches by volunteering at a soup kitchen or holding a Vacation Bible School or having a community-wide blood drive, you are displaying an act of love that hopefully results in the gospel being shared. Unbelievers are able to see, through church service or even just church events, Christians in action. And even to unbelievers it is regarded as a noble and an all around “nice thing” to do.

For some churches, outreach is the majority of their reaching out towards unbelievers. But look to the Great Commission again.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NASB

Jesus’ words imply not outreach but evangelism. We are commanded to go to all the nations and share this message with whomever we interact with, regardless of race, language and skin color. And unlike outreach, which the world sees as a “good thing”, when we share the gospel we share a message that is offensive. No man likes to be told he has offended a holy God and stands before Him condemned in his sin. In his natural state, no man will humble himself before God and seek repentance. Even what some would call the “light side” of the gospel, which is that Jesus Christ’s righteous life, undeserved death and victorious resurrection atone for the sins of those who believe, is offensive to unbelievers because it shows them there is something they can’t achieve themselves.

We mustn’t confuse outreach with evangelism. Jesus gave the church a mission to evangelize, not a mission to engage in outreach. So that means that every believer is responsible before God to do this – to share the gospel in it’s entirety. Let us then go with boldness, sharing this offensive message, knowing that it carries the power of God to bring unbelievers to Himself.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” Romans 1:16-17 NASB

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