The Three Greatest Words In The Bible!

it_is_finishedWhat would you think would be the three greatest words in the Bible? Perhaps, “In the Beginning.” In these three words, the Holy Spirit communicates the eternal self-existence of God. The Scriptures begin with the truth that God has always been and thus will always be. God does not depend on anything for his existence.

You might say the three greatest words in the Bible are, “God So Loved.” We are reminded of the unconditional love of the Father toward undeserving sinners. This love for both Jew and Gentile caused the Father to move toward the objects of his love by sending his Son, Jesus, to come and to save His people from their sins.

I am sure there are many other answers you could name and all are very good and convincing. But the three words that I think that are the greatest in the Bible are these, “IT IS FINISHED.” These were the last words Jesus spoke before he gave up his life. And the greatest piece of communication to us, who are so often trying to complete that which is already complete.

What is IT? The it is the work of salvation. Everything that is required and needed for a sinner to be saved. Righteousness performed, the law fulfilled, the good news proclaimed, our sins taken, and wrath appeased. That is what IT is. It is everything needed for the salvation of mankind.

What does FINISHED mean? It means the activity or process is complete or is brought to an end. There is nothing left undone and there is nothing left to do. There is no further work that needs to be tended to. Jesus is saying that He has done every bit of that which is needed for the justification and salvation of man.  It is finished.

Of course, three days later when Jesus is raised from the tomb we have the visual evidence that it is truly finished. For God has accepted the sacrifice and his anger and wrath has been propitiated by Jesus Christ.

I guess I need to make a clarification. In the Greek there are not three words but just one, “Tetelestai”– “FINISHED.” That is what Jesus said as he takes his last breath. FINISHED! Praise God and the Son for this blessed truth! FINISHED!

 

Fire Hydrants!

Fire_Hydrant_3.jpg078d278e-d856-49ba-b5df-04da52d07f9eLargerMy friend recently moved into a private and expensive neighborhood. The homeowners pressured the town and successfully had a fire hydrant installed in the midst of their community. This new hydrant will have the ability to provide an unending stream of pressured water in the event of a fire. The hydrant greatly reduces the chances that homeowners there will suffer complete and catastrophe loss. In fact, insurance premiums for the homes have been lowered because of the hydrant.

If you were not looking for it, you would likely miss it. However, to the keen observer, there it is. A one-and- half foot high and freshly painted red fire hydrant sitting in the middle of a perfectly groomed area. It is true that it looks like every other fire hydrant but to these homeowners, it is special. The local fire department has a map of the location of every hydrant in town and sure enough, this new hydrant has a prominent place on the map.

Last night, faulty wiring in the garage of a newly constructed home was responsible for the start of a fire. The smoke alarms, installed and tied to the fire department, did their jobs in alerting the authorities of the problem. The fire trucks arrived quickly and hooked their hoses to the new hydrant. As a firefighter began to unloose the valve that would deliver thousands of gallons of water, the unthinkable became apparent. In their haste to get the fire hydrant in the neighborhood, the town had failed to hook it up to the water supply. Not one drop of water came out of the hydrant and in a matter of minutes the house was totally lost.

Above ground, the hydrant looked functional and provided security and a sense of safety but there was no connection that would make the hydrant functional. Everyone took for granted that the outward appearance indicated an underground connection.

I am afraid that many people are just like the fire hydrant in this hypothetical story. They look the part and on the at times they appear to be what they say they are. When the salvation question arises, they quickly say, “I am saved.” There is assurance in their statement and some security for the family in their assertion. However, I fear that when the fire of God’s judgment comes they will discover there was a fatal neglect in connecting themselves to Jesus Christ. They installed themselves in the community of God’s people but they never truly connected themselves by faith to the finished work of Christ on the cross.

The Bible tells us that many on that day will face Jesus and will claim that they have done many things in His name only to hear Jesus respond that He never knew them. When the fire of eternal punishment is blazing, they will turn the valve only to find that there is no water—no connection to the only remedy for the flames of judgment—Jesus Christ.

Please make your calling and election sure. Examine yourself to see if your clearly see the fruits of the Holy Spirit evident in your heart. Make sure of your connection to Christ by faith. He is the only hope.

The Righteous Saving the Wicked!

romans-3_10In Genesis 18 , God comes to Abraham to inform him of His plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham is interested because his nephew Lot and his family live there. Abraham begins to plead with God to show mercy and refrain from destroying the righteous with the wicked. God agrees to spare the people if there are 50 righteous people in the Sodom. There are not 50. Then he agrees to spare the people if there are 45 righteous found. There are not 45. Then 40, 30, 20, and 10. The presence of only 10 righteous people in Sodom would have spared the population. However, there were not even 10. You can see the pattern, the righteous has the ability to save the wicked.

So one day, God finds not 50 or 45 or 40 or 30 or 20 or 10 righteous. He finds one righteous. And because of the one who is righteous, an innumerable host of the wicked is saved. The righteous one who dies in place of the wicked is Jesus Christ. Because of Him there is the salvation of many. The righteous work of Jesus Christ in His life and His death makes the mercy and grace of God toward us sure and able to escape the just punishment of a righteous God. Jesus Christ is the righteous saving the wicked.

 

Searching For What Is Lost!

ovejaydracmaYesterday I had the privilege of speaking to the 6th grade-12th grade students at Lakeview Christian School in chapel. The text was from Luke 15:1-10 and dealt with the meaning of two of the three parables in this chapter—the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.

1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. 3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. 8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

 

The context of these parables is found in that tax collectors and sinners had been drawn near to hear Jesus. The Pharisees and scribes were murmuring because Jesus would receive them and eat with them. In response to their murmuring, Jesus tells these three parables.

The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin magnify three truths about God.

1. The Defining of the Search

This is the mission of God. It is the mission of the Son, the Spirit, and the Father. Jesus is not acting independently of the Father but in cooperation with Him and the Spirit. Jesus came not to be a good teacher, a great example, a miracle worker, but to seek and to save the lost.

Clearly, this defines how God feels towards sinners. No doubt, it describes his love toward those whom he will save. This defines his work, because the sheep and the coin are not looking and searching for their owner but it is the owner who does the seeking. Paul reminds us in Romans that there are none that seek after God. Christianity is not about man seeking God, but God seeking after man.

It clearly shows us that God is interested in the salvation of his people, willing to leave the 99 to save the one. And is not satisfied with 9 until she finds the one. No matter which sheep or which coin, he searches for the one that is lost.

2. The Demands of the Search

For the one who really cares for the sheep and the coin, there is no time spared, no expense spared, no suffering avoided, no trouble avoided, no sacrifice is too great. He endures many hardships.

The women rearranges her priorities and her schedule to find this coin. She leaves no part of her house unturned in search for this coin. Everything stops to find the coin.

God holds nothing back in his searching and saving of lost souls. Of course, the Father spared not his Son. But freely gave him up for us.  Jesus willingly came to suffer and to be shamed and to die in our place. The Sprit comes and convicts and convinces the sinner of his need to be saved. Nothing was spared to save your soul. Nothing! What ever the demands were, God did not shy away from them.

3. The Delight of the Search

Finding the sheep and the coin results in rejoicing.  There is a reward for the search, the sheep is found and the coin is found and there is rejoicing over it.  And others are called to rejoice with the one who finds it. The Bible says when someone gets saved there is rejoicing in the presence of angels. Not that angels are rejoicing but the triune Godhead is rejoicing in their miraculous work of salvation. He does not rejoice over me but over his patience and persistence in finding me.

There are some who claim to have found God. Something happens in their lives or He is presented in a way that it is easy to find him. So they have sorta found God. But there are others who have been found by God. They were not looking for him and were not at first interested in him but he has searched and found them and made them his.  You have to decide whether you are a Pharisee who through your religion found God or you are a sinner who by the grace of God was found by Him. That makes all the difference in the world.

A King’s Wrath!

daniel1In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar issued a command that was binding on every citizen in the Babylonian empire. The command was that each person was to worship an image of gold the king had commissioned made. Three young Hebrew men refused to comply to the command. They had good reason to resist but in the end they were in open rebellion to the command of the king. Their disobedience to the word of the king enraged Nebuchadnezzar. His wrath was kindled against these three rebels. The king determined that his wrath would be poured out upon these three by heating a furnace seven times hotter than it had ever been heated before , have them thrown in, and let them feel the wrath of an angry and disrespected king.

As the king looks in the furnace, fully expecting the three burning and in pain, he sees four instead of three. The fourth, he says, looks like the Son of God. The three were brought out of the furnace and they were completely unharmed. No burns, no singed hair, no smell of smoke, and the ropes that confined them burned away. It is clear that the presence of this forth individual protected the three from the wrath of the king. It is recorded that the three Hebrews came out of the furnace but it never does mention the fourth man coming out.

What a wonderful picture this is of the salvation of those who trust Jesus Christ. It is only through Christ we are spared the awful wrath of the King in which we have offended and rebelled. We are unharmed while Jesus receives the full force of the wrath intended for us. We are made free while he hangs on the cross enduring the punishment meant for us. We live and are not crushed by the wrath of God because the fourth man, Jesus Christ was crushed in our place.

Deathbed Repentance?

Three-Crosses-on-Kreuzberg-Mountain-Bavaria-GermanyI was thinking today about deathbed repentance. In the Bible, I can only find one example of deathbed repentance, the thief on the cross. As he was dying, the thief asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. In the final minutes of his life, he acknowledged Jesus as his heavenly King. Jesus assured the thief that “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

What we have to acknowledge is that Biblically this is the exception and not the norm. One example in the whole Bible would not make this a normal occurrence. Did it happen? Yes! Is it normative? No! The danger is to take an exception and make it the norm. I know we want to cling to any hope we can for our loved ones but much of what is called deathbed repentance is in reality a last resort effort in hope of some supernatural healing and longer life.

I would say that the God who saves, can save anyone at anytime at his choosing. Certainly, God can save people on their deathbed. But the thrust of Scripture commands us to repent NOW! Repeatedly we are told to “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” We are told “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” We are told to “seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.”

The danger, as I see it, is depending on the opportunity to repent on your deathbed. The idea is to live your life the way you want to and at the end you’ll repent, be saved, and go to heaven. I would strongly caution you against that for a couple of reasons. First, you might not get a deathbed. You might die suddenly without an opportunity to repent. Secondly, you can’t repent unless the Father grant you repentance and draw you to himself. There are no guarantees that God will do that on your deathbed.

Can we be saved on our deathbed? Yes, but I think it is a rare occurrence and not the normal event we see so often today. Remember, repentance is more than verbalizing a few words; it is a change of mind that only God can grant. Instead, obey the Bible, repent today, and strive to live your life in obedience to His Word and pleasing to him.

As  Laurence Sterne wrote, “Whatever stress some may lay on it, a death-bed repentance is but a weak and slender plank to trust our all on.”

 

Impressive Introductions!

doctorateIf we were asked to introduce a person to a crowd, we would find the most impressive accomplishments of that particular person in an effort to impress the crowd and gain their interest. We glory in great achievements and accolades that men think are important. We love the certificates, awards, and titles put before and after our names. We are impressed and attracted by all that.

In John 3, we see a very prominent person come to Jesus. Nicodemus, was a ruler of the Jews, he was a prominent member of a organization called the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was a council consisting of seventy-one men that included priests, elders, and teachers of the law. The leader was the high priest of Israel himself. They were actively involved in religious issues that often extended to civil matters and sometimes to criminal matters. Nicodemus was a teacher in a land full of teachers. He was a Pharisee, the most pious and religious group of his day.

Religion had bestowed its honors and degrees on Doctor Nicodemus. He had risen through the ranks, and religion had honored him. He received respected and reverence any place he went. Life would have been very good in Jerusalem for a man of Nicodemus’ prestige.

But God saw Nicodemus differently than his colleagues did. God saw him differently than the crowds saw him. When God introduces Nicodemus in Scripture, he simply states, “There was a man….” Simply a man. The robes did not impress God. The titles did not impress God. The degrees did not impress God. The prayers did not impress God. The sermons did not impress God. God said, “There was a man…”

And as the conversation progressed, we see that God saw Nicodemus as a blind, impotent, halt, withered, spiritually lost man. God saw him as no differently than he saw anyone else—sinners in need of a Savior. The night of the meeting of Nicodemus and Jesus, Nicodemus was not the impressive one, Jesus was. This man stands in the presence of the Son of God.

The truth of the matter is simple. No matter who we are, where we are, or how important the world may see us, we are all sinners in need of a Savior. We all must be born from above if we are going to see and enter into the Kingdom of God. Don’t let the world’s view of you, blind you to this essential reality.

The God Of Second Chances?

2nd ChanceAccording to a survey taken by Lifeway, 84% of Americans believe that God is a God of second chances. There are books stating that and there have been countless sermons stating the same. Maybe you have gotten some degree of comfort from hearing that God is a God of second chances. There are two problems with it, the first is the Bible never says it and the second is that the Bible never presents it as a principle.

I see two immediate dangers from believing that God is a God of second chances. The first is that it lays emphasis on us. It normally goes like this. Someone has failed. They failed to obey a command or failed to do what they should and they are told not to get discouraged because God is a God of second, third, and an infinite number of chances. In other words, pick up and try again. And don’t worry about failure, God is a forgiving God and he will give you another chance. So you are thinking right now, “Yeah, so what is wrong with that?” We’ll get to it in just a minute.

The second danger I see is that it breeds a try harder–do better mentality. God is a God of second chances so I want to make good on my second chance. As a result, we live our lives trying to do better, trying to make good on the new opportunity, trying as hard as we can to make it right. We make the effort to erase the previous failures. If you do not see the problem yet, let me spell it out for you.

The true gospel does not offer us second chances. It just doesn’t. There are no do-overs, no mulligans, and no second chances. We had one chance to get it right and we blew it. And you don’t get another chance to do it better. In fact, if you had unlimited chances, you would fail every single time. More chances would not help us at all. But the fact is that you don’t get another chance. It’s over. It’s done. It’s finished. We’ve all failed and we all deserve to be punished. The gospel is not about a God of second chances, it is about a God who did what we failed to do. It’s not that He gives us a chance to make things right, but that He came and made things right. You don’t need a second chance, you need someone to come and do it for you and Jesus did just that.

You can flail around in the water if you want to but all your splashing around won’t keep you from drowning. You don’t need a another chance to take a swimming class. You don’t need another chance to learn to hold your breath longer, you need a someone to dive in, grab hold of you, swim you to shore, and do CPR on you. You need a savior and Jesus is the savior.

While you are trying to make good on your second, third, forth, fifth, ect. chance, you are not trusting, resting, or relying on Jesus Christ. Quit fighting and cry out to Jesus to save you. Quit trying and rest in what Jesus Christ has accomplished.

Salvation

“Salvation is from our side a choice; from the divine side it is a seizing upon, an apprehending, a conquest by the Most High God. Our accepting and willing are reactions rather than actions.”

Tozer, A. W.

Giving Up Things You Cling To!

Heart-religion is too holy to be popular. It will not leave natural man alone. It interferes with his worldliness and his sins. It requires of him things that he hates and despises–conversion, faith, repentance, spiritual-mindedness, Bible-reading, and prayer. It commands him to give up what he loves and clings to, and refuses to lay aside. It would be strange indeed if he liked it. It crosses his path as a kill-joy and a troublemaker, and it is absurd to expect that he will be pleased with it.

–J.C. Ryle, “Practical Religion”