Friday, September 30, 2016

Believe the Bible for its Power, Purpose and Preservation

    In the artistic rendering portion of the video this week, we see Jesus’ three-fold temptation in the desert. The way that Jesus confronted temptation was that He used Scripture to defeat the devil … and we should too!

     The Power of Scripture. Our memory verse, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, says that Scripture is God-inspired, all of it! Jesus knew the power of God’s Word in battling temptation. The three temptations of the flesh, fame and fortune (turning stones to bread, putting God to test, worshipping Satan to possess all kingdoms) remind us of Eve’s temptation of flesh (“good for food”), fame (“to make one wise”), and fortune (“pleasant to the eyes”). 1 John 2:16 also sees this unholy trinity of “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” which wars against our body, soul and spirit.

    Jesus’ temptation found in Matt. 4:1-11 was against his body (bread), soul (testing God), and spirit (worshipping Satan, not God). Many even see parallels in Scripture to Satan’s downfall was also found in body/flesh (beauty, Ezek. 28:17a), soul/fame/mind & heart & will (corrupted wisdom, Ezek. 28:17b), and spirit/pride/idolatry (Isa. 14:14).

    The Purpose of Scripture. BELIEVE this week also speaks to the “why?” of the Bible. God’s Word is not only powerful and authoritative, but there is a reason for it. Isa. 55:6-13 says it will not return void, but accomplishes His purpose. Too often people use God’s word for their purposes, misquoting or manipulating it. That’s why I like the lengthy passages in Believe; it shows the context of the text to prevent pretexts (say that three times fast). Hebrews 4:12-13 says the Bible penetrates our soul, spirit and joints and marrow (body). Why do we have a Bible? To teach, rebuke, correct and train.

   Think of those irritating GPS voices. They tell us the direction. When we get off course, the voice will rebuke us (“recalculating”), correct our course, and then once we are back on course, those voices tell us we are on the fastest route (training). It is a poor analogy, I know, but maybe the Navigators drawing shows it better (using the King James version).

    The Preservation of Scripture. Randy Frazee speaks about the revelation, inspiration, transmission and translation of Scripture. He says that out of the 24,000 copies of the New Testament (compared to only 643 ancient copies of Homer’s The Iliad, a distance second place finisher in extant copies) only 400 words (out of 138,200 total Greek words) carry any question to what they meant in the original penning, and none of those relate to actual doctrine. That’s a 99.71 agreement or if it were a college Grade Point Average, it would be a 3.99 GPA!

    Benjamin B Warfield said, “…not only is the New Testament unrivalled among ancient writings in the purity of its text as actually transmitted and kept in use, but also in the abundance of testimony which has come down to us…” Frazee concludes “It is clear … that God himself oversaw the handling and care of his Word in a meticulous manner. Factor in the numerous attempts at literary genocide of the Bible, and our confidence in it only rises.” (Think, Act, Be Like Jesus, by Randy Frazee, page 52).

    No truer words were ever spoken than these: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isa. 40:8)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Believe the Bible -- The Truth, the Whole Truth, Nothing but the Truth

   So what is the big deal about believing some parts of the Bible but not others? Why can’t we pick and choose what we want to believe and ignore the other parts that either disagree with us or disagree with our society?

    Have you ever heard of the Jefferson Bible? With a razor blade, Thomas Jefferson cut out the verses that liked and pasted them in a new Bible, leaving out the verses he didn’t like. Marilyn Mellowes from the PBS show Frontline said this, “In short, Mr. Jefferson’s Jesus, modeled on the ideals of the Enlightenment thinkers of his day, bore a striking resemblance to Jefferson himself.” (Dr. David Jeremiah, I Never Thought I’d See The Day, pg. 81)

   God created us in His image, but whenever we pick and choose what parts of the Bible we want to believe and what parts we want to ignore, we then begin to make a god in our own image. And the Bible defines that a idolatry, making a god in the image of our culture or our imagination. Paul told us to “buffet” our body, but some people want to buffet the Bible, making a smorgasbord of Scripture.

   If we are followers of Christ, and we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we cannot take a view of the Bible any differently than did our Lord and Savior, and He said it will outlast the heavens and the earth (Mark 13:31). If you only believe in following the “red letters” and ignoring the rest, then please read these “red letters” of Christ’s words: “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:46-47).  Jesus told Satan himself, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4). Not some words, every word even down to the jot and tittle. The mouth of the Lord is the entire word of God (Isa. 1:20, 40:5, 58:14). 

   The Bible was not written by mere humans, nor mortal man. Paul commended the Thessalonians, “you received the word of God which you heard from us. You did not accept it as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God,” (1 Thess 2:13). Peter said Scripture never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, even though they were human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

   If you are going to reject some parts of the Bible, then who told you to do that? Not God. Not Jesus. Not the Bible. YOU told yourself to do that! 

    This week’s reading shows that 
God initiates His revelation (Exodus 3:1-4:17), 
  He illuminates His revelation (Luke 24:27-49), 
     He interprets His own revelation (2 Peter 1:1-21), 
He is the inventor of Scripture (Exod. 19-20), 
  He Himself interacted with Scripture (Matt. 4:1-11), 
     He is the inspiration of all Scripture (2 Tim. 3:10-17), 
He intervenes with Scripture (Isa. 55:6-13), 
  He invigorates and investigates our soul, spirit, thoughts and attitudes with Scripture (Heb. 4:12-13), 
     the Bible is impossible to add to and immovable to subtract from (Deut. 4:1-2), 
immortal in its endurance (Isa 40:6-8), 
  inerrant and infallible in every aspect (Prov. 30:5-6), 
    instructive to all (2 Tim. 4:2) 
      impervious to change, 
        invincible to attack, and 
          infinite in application to our lives. 
The Word was in the beginning (John 1:1) and 
   it will endure for eternity (Matt. 24:35). 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Believe The Word - - Going Farther than BELIEVE

    As much as I have been writing about BELIEVE for the past few weeks, it may surprise you that this week may be one of my least favorite. What’s more, it is the week that speaks about the Bible.

    It is not that anything is in this week that is wrong, but rather that this week is, pardon the pun, weak; it simply does not go far enough in affirming the word of God, the Bible. I am sure it is hard to put everything about the Word of God in a single week and a single chapter of a book. Entire books and commentaries have been written about the Bible so how can anyone put all that needs to be believed about the Bible in a mere week and a simple chapter.

    The key idea is not wrong but it is not fully complete. “I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God that guides my beliefs and actions.” Yes, that is a true statement, but the Bible is more than merely “inspired.” 2 Timothy 3:16 says ALL of the Bible is not only inspired but God-inspired, God-breathed. It not only guides my beliefs, but it is absolutely authoritative to guide our beliefs. Benjamin Warfield concludes his exposition on this verse with the following statement:

What (2 Timothy 3:16-17) affirms is that the Scriptures owe their origin to an activity of God, the Holy Ghost, and (the Scriptures) are in the highest and truest sense His creation. It is on this foundation of Divine origin that all the high attributes of Scripture are built.

    Secondly the four statements of summation of beliefs begin with this one, “I believe the Bible is absolutely true…” …if only the first statement would have stopped there. In the study guide on pages 35 and 38 it goes on but does not need to. The Bible is absolutely true period. The second statement is “the words of the Bible are the words from God,” begs the question, if they are words of God, are they therefore not absolutely true in all things and not solely “in matters of faith and morals”?

    While Moses being confronted by the burning bush (the first and lengthiest section of this week's reading) is vitally true, in regards to the Scripture, the following are even more germane to the authority of the Bible: 

  • Jesus’ statement in Matt. 5:18 that not one jot or tittle will fall;
  • 1 Peter 1:23-25 is essential in studying that the Word of God regenerates us and will endure forever; 
  • that the Bereans in Acts 17:11-15 were noble to search the Scriptures to know what is true;
  • Jesus said the Holy Scriptures could not be broken in John 12:35-36 and frequently chided the religious by asking, “Have you not read?” implying that they were ignorant of God’s Word which is authoritative in all things;
  • That the Scriptures are written so that we might know that we have eternal life (at least John's writings which are summarized in 1 John 5:13).

    For a good study on the reliability of God’s Word, the Bible, consider reading Kevin DeYoung’s book, Taking God At His Word and Will Davis Jr.’s book A Man Who Told Us the Truth. At the end of DeYoung’s book, he lists 30 books that affirm the Word of God.

     Perhaps one of the most greatest encouragements of the truth of God’s Word is when Jesus, the Son of God, is praying to the Father in John 17 and prays for us with these words, “Sanctify them by the truth, Your Word is truth.” His word will protect us and sanctify us.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Believe Chapter 4: The Bible--Take His Word For It

    When I first went into the ministry as Education Pastor at FBC Brownsville, even though I had a master’s degree in Religious Education, I really didn’t know what education ministers do all week…Order Sunday School material, then what?? I called up the music minister and asked him what Frank, my predecessor, did. He said, “You would have to ask him,” almost as if he didn’t know either. 

     At First Baptist Killeen, the education ministry is all about the Bible. The 12 deacons we are considering are asked if they believe the Bible is the Word of God. We believe that God’s Word has the right to command our beliefs and our actions! 

     Many of those who attend Sunday morning only and
don’t come to a LifeGroup...
   ...don’t come to a study on Sunday or Wednesday evenings... 
       ...and don’t study the Bible in a small group...
...they do not really get the whole picture of our church, Christianity and what it means to be a disciple of Christ in the context of a small group of believers. 

    This BELIEVE series is a great time for those who only attend the FBC Killeen worship service to become a part of a small group study. The text book BELIEVE is about 95% specifically selected Scriptures to reinforce 30 key Beliefs, Practices and Virtues. The other 5% is explanation of how to Think, Act and Be like Jesus. 

The following devotional comes from Zondervan:

KEY QUESTION: How can I know God and his will for my life?
    How do we know God? How do we understand and see the world we live in? How do we grasp where we came from and why we are here? How do we know where this story is ultimately heading?

    The answer is profound—God reveals himself and his grand plan to us. Our Role is to listen and believe. The Bible repeatedly records that God communicated to his people at specific times with specific messages. In some cases, such as with Moses at the burning bush, he spoke audibly.

    In other instances he spoke through dreams or visions or less direct impressions. But the words of the Lord were always given to his people to reveal his plan for them and for all humanity. God revealed his story because he loves us. 

    The Lord spoke mostly through prophets in the Old Testament and through Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament. 

    Throughout the Bible the writers warned readers that they should not add or take away from God’s Word. God has given and preserved his Word for us so we can rely on it to guide our lives into all truth and according to God’s good plan. Therefore, Christians revere the Bible and affirm its right to command our beliefs and actions.

     All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)

     I believe the Bible is the God-inspired Word of God that is the Supreme Authority which guides my beliefs and action.

KEY APPLICATION: What difference does this make in the way I live? 
    The Bible is the lens from which we view the world. God’s Word informs what we      think and feel about everything we encounter. We see the intervention of God in history, in our present lives, and on into the future as He continues to write his grand story.

    We are obligated and motivated to study the Bible to understand God’s will for our lives. The Bible forms the content of truth we seek to marinate our minds in.

    The principles in the Bible must govern our lives, even when we don’t fully      understand or like what it teaches.


    In what ways have you experienced the Word of God as “alive and active” in your own spiritual life?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Serving Grace: Saved from the Purposelessness of Sin

When I was in college, I had an early morning Spanish class and one morning, the teacher asked the class, “What is your motivation for getting up out of bed every morning?” She then narrowed her eyes towards me, and said, “Tim?”
Before I share how I answered that, there is one final thought before we finish the chapter on salvation: Not only does God save us from the penalty of sin, in the power of sin and the presence of sin, but He also saves us from the purposelessness of sin.
Our memory verse this week is Eph. 2:8-9, but I have often said that we stop short of the purpose of our salvation for others (and for God’s glory), found in Eph. 2:10. Let’s read that in context.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
The Greek word for “workmanship” found in verse 10  is poema, showing that we are God’s work of art. Our purpose is to be saved for good works and not by good works. Furthermore, these works are prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. There is a job that God has prepared to be done and He has  appointed you for salvation and also equipped you by His spiritual gifts to do them.
Carrying through on the Saving Grace, Sustaining Grace, and Supreme Grace titles, this would be God’s Serving Grace. God has given us grace and peace in this world for a purpose. Rick Warren made fame and fortune in writing two books, The Purpose-Driven Church and The Purpose-Driven Life. God has a purpose for saving us and it really is not “all about you.” That’s the opening line of The Purpose-Driven Life.
We see this Serving Grace in 1 Peter. 4:10:
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
When we get to Chapter 17, we will learn more about the gifts of the spirit. Hopefully you already know how you are gifted and more than that, that you are using your gifts and eagerly desiring the greater gifts, (“But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.” Paul said in 1 Cor. 12:31…and what is the more excellent way? Hint: this leads into 1 Corinthians chapter 13 and that is a different lesson!)
Now to answer how I answered that teacher: I had no idea she was going to ask me this, nor did I have an answer prepared beforehand. I know the Holy Spirit gave me this answer and the teacher actually shared it with other classes I later found out. I said to her and the class: “Every morning I wake up, I know that the God of the universe lives in me. I know that He loves me and called me for a purpose. To love Him and glorify Him and show Him to others. So every day is an adventure that we handle together.”

I was just as astounded when I said it as the teacher was when she heard it. And even though I have used that illustration repeatedly, I am still astounded that I remember it so well. We are saved by God’s grace to serve, and we serve for a purpose!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Supreme Grace: Saved from the Presence of Sin

"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 
1 Thess. 5:23.

     If saving grace keeps us from the penalty of sin and sustaining grace keeps us from the power of sin, supreme grace keeps us from the presence of sin. It is the finalization of our salvation. Supreme grace is the ultimate in our three parts of salvation, seen as justification (saving grace), sanctification (sustaining grace) and glorification (supreme grace).

     Years ago, I dreamed I went to heaven (no, I am not going to break into a song, thanking you for giving to the Lord and no, I am not going to write a best-selling book about my dream). In that dream I wanted to see if I was really in heaven. So I tried to do something that you are not supposed to be able to do in heaven: I made myself have a bad thought. In my dream, I was disappointed that I could still sin in heaven. I actually woke up very glad that I had not actually gone to heaven because if we could sin in heaven, heaven would not be heaven.

     Speaking of heaven, John wrote in Revelation 21:27 that “there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.”

     Eternal life is God’s gift to us. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death, but the gift (charisma) of God is eternal life.” It is in this context of Acts 15:11 which Peter puts our salvation in the future result of God’s grace, “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we SHALL BE SAVED in the same manner as they.”

     This concept of three aspects of salvation is seen in Jesus’ words as well. In John 5:24, Jesus describes the three aspects of salvation as having “passed from death to life” (past tense), “has everlasting life” (present tense), and “shall not come into judgment” (future tense).

     Keeping with the human trinity analogy we used two weeks ago, in the past when we were saved, our dead spirit was regenerated at justification; in the present our souls are being renewed in sanctification; and on "That Day" in the future, our bodies will be resurrected at glorification, and our three-in-one triune selves will be forever restored to the image of the triune God.

     A particularly difficult passage in the book of Revelation (shocking to think that some parts of Revelation would be hard to understand) is Revelation 22:11. Here, the angel explains things to John the final state of the unrighteous and the righteous:
“He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” 

     Radio commentator J. Vernon McGee said this verse is perhaps the scariest verse of all of the book of Revelation for those who are condemned. But I also see it as perhaps the most reassuring verse for those of us who are going to experience God’s Supreme Grace. 

     In eternity, we are going to grow and increase in our righteousness and holiness.

     The fallen angels lost their place in heaven and could never regain it. They are reserved for judgment (Jude 6). Fallen humanity who receive salvation will gain the holiness of heaven by God’s grace and we shall never lose it. 

     Peter must have longed for this supreme aspect of grace, because he spoke about being heirs together of the grace of life in 1 Peter 3:7. He spoke of “the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” in 1 Peter 1:13. And he concludes his letter with this great and blessed hope of all three aspects of our salvation by grace:

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus (past tense), after you have suffered a while (present tense), perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you (future tense in heaven when we are perfected permanently).” 
(1 Peter 5:10).

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sustaining Grace: Our Salvation from the Power of Sin

    Have your ever noticed the way that Paul starts off almost every epistle he sent?

     “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

     Why did the Apostle Paul impart a blessing of grace to those who are already believers? True, Paul wanted to convey saving grace to those who were not saved, but why would he wish grace to the churches, if those who are in the churches were already saved.

     It is because there is more to grace than salvation from the penalty of sin. Within the vastness, the limitlessness, the infinite grace of God, grace also means our deliverance from the power of sin. We are sustained by grace and we are the recipients of God’s sustaining GRACE.

     Where in the Bible do we see God’s sustaining grace? Virtually on every page we see God’s favor upon His people who are saved but need Gods sustaining grace. For this study, let’s look at a few passages.

     In Acts 14:26, we see this gem of a verse: “From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.” It wasn’t salvational grace that was commended to Paul and the missionaries, but His sustaining grace, His presence and sustaining power which enabled them to do the work.

     Let’s look somewhere else for God’s sustaining grace. 1 Corinthians 15:10 says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

     Salvation is not just to save you from the penalty of sin, grace is also freely given so that we can be delivered from the very power of sin. Paul said if others saw anything good in him, it is not I who do it but it is God’s grace which makes me who I am. His grace wasn’t a one-time shot, nor was it in vain but his grace compels me to labor all the harder, all the more abundantly for God has not only saved me, He is sustaining me. 

     But even more than that, I was reminded recently that God not only sustains us in His power, but also in our weakness. There was a time when the Apostle Paul was unable to do what he knew God had been given the power to do. He felt weak, powerless, and beaten up by Satan. He pleaded in prayer repeatedly to no avail, losing to this prickling power of the carnal, sinful world. At long last, Jesus spoke to Pauls heart, saying, My grace is enough for you. Your failure is not My failure, in fact your powerlessness perfects My powerfulness in you.

     From that moment on, Paul no longer was discouraged by his perceived powerlessness. In fact, he boasted in his infirmities, in his reproaches, in his needs, in his persecutions, in his distresses. In every weakness, Paul looked to Christs power and said, “When I am weak, then I am strong. 

    Did that last line sound familiar? Not only is it found in 2 Cor. 12:10, it is also sung in a children’s song: 

Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.

     Dont be discouraged by sins power. We have been delivered from the penalty of sin and we are being saved from the power of sin. But one day, we shall be delivered from the presence of sin! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Believe Chapter 3 -- Salvation and the Penalty of Sin

     The book Believe does a dandy summation of how salvation was achieved: From our fall in the garden, the foreshadow in the Passover, the prophecy of Christ’s coming in Isaiah, to the fulfillment in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection and then Paul’s explanation in Romans.

     (By the way, when was the last time you heard the word dandy in casual conversation?)

          Our salvation comes by God’s blessing, God’s favor, His undeserved kindness and gift to us. That comes by God’s Grace. Grace and salvation is at its foundation the good news that we have been delivered from the penalty our sins and that penalty is eternal death and separation from God.

      So today, let us look at the foundation, saving grace. First, know that it is God who initiates salvation, not us. God is the author of our salvation and thus he is the author of grace. In Ephesians 2: 4-9, we see that grace works in our salvation. It is through grace, God’s gift to us, that salvation begins.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

     Grace in Greek is charis. That’s right, the same word used in the word charismatic. It’s also used in the word charm, charity and charitable. It literally means gift or gifted. Those who have some inbred charisma are naturally gifted and people are naturally drawn to them.

    So Grace is a gift and therefore we do not purchase, buy, deserve or earn a gift. It is based on the Giver! There are no “takebacks” with God.

     “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” that is number one part of the gospel (see 1 Cor. 15:3). But notice that it is a done deal. We have been saved from our sins. If we “have been saved” with the emphasis of the past tense, then we do not need to worry that somehow God is going to “unsave” us. If salvation is a gift by His grace so that we would not boast, how then could our salvation be kept by us and by our works which would only lead us to boast?

    The gospel or good news is that God’s grace, His riches, His blessings do not end at the sinner’s prayer. That’s just the beginning. His Amazing Grace does not cease or even diminish once salvation is imparted. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense is not terminated at our regeneration. Grace is initialized at our salvation, but it is also realized in our sanctification. 

     We will see that tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Believe Chapter 3: Salvation -- It's all about that Grace

    All this week, we will be looking at our salvation. Our key idea this week is this: I believe a person comes into a right relationship with God by God’s grace through faith in Jesus. Christ.

   I hope all who read this foundational belief do in fact have salvation. When I was a youth minister, a teenage boy came to Christ and went home and told his father that he had been saved. The father, unimpressed and unexcited by the news, responded, “Saved from what?”

    The boy did not know how to respond. I fear that many Christians today do not know exactly from what we have been saved, for what we are being saved, and to where we will be saved.

     Last week we saw that we have a personal God who passionately cares for us, purposefully plans for us and prioritizes His good for us. Now that we know who God is (week one) and believe that God knows us (week two), we need to see what type of relationship we can have with this God.

     Our salvation comes by God’s grace. What do we mean by grace? “Grace” is most commonly thought of as saving grace, as seen in our memory verse,  “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

    As we study about salvation this week, however, I hope that we all come to a deeper understanding that salvation and God’s grace is so much more than simply avoiding hell or going to heaven. And foundational to salvation is grace.

     Grace has at its very core the word which is frequently described as “unmerited favor.” Even more simply it is “undeserved blessing.” It has been explained with as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”  And in relation to our salvation, we see that there are at least three types of grace.

Types Of Grace:

Saving Grace is initialized at our justification. This is our salvation from the penalty of sin.

Sustaining Grace is realized in our sanctification. This is our salvation from the power of sin.

Supreme Grace is finalized at our glorification. This is our salvation from the presence of sin.

     Hopefully by the end of this week, and the end of this chapter 3 in BELIEVE, we will see exactly what we are saved from, what we are saved for, and where we are saved to. (Sorry about splitting the infinitives!)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Believe Chapter 3 -- Salvation is a Right Relationship With God

     We hear about “The gospel according to...” or “the gospel truth.” But if someone were to ask you “what is the gospel?” what you would say?

     The gospel literally means “good news”. While the “gospels” according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are good news, the actual word “gospel” is most used by the Apostle Paul, who used the Greek word euangelion some 60 times, compared to a mere dozen times in Matthew and Mark and not at all by Luke or John as a noun. The verb form (euangelizo) is found another dozen times in Luke (and once in Matthew), but more than 50 times elsewhere in the New Testament.

     The gospel is most succinctly explained in 1 Corinthian 15:1-11, and most elaborately explained in Romans. Today’s devotional, and week three of BELIEVE is to help us at FBC Killeen to firstly know what the gospel is and secondly to know how to best share the good news of salvation with others.

     Contrary to popular belief, the gospel is not a prayer, nor is it an action, and in the sense of salvation, it is not four books of the Bible. The gospel is the answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

The following comes from Zondervan:

KEY QUESTION: How Do I Have a Relationship with God?

The Problem Satan, the great deceiver, clothed himself as a serpent, one of God’s good creatures, and set out to trick Adam and Eve into disobeying their good and gracious God. After creating Adam and Eve, God had told them not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree in the Garden of Eden. But Satan suggested that God wasn’t being honest when He warned of the results of eating the forbidden fruit. The great deceiver’s ploy succeeded, and Adam and Eve willfully rejected God and His promise of life together in the garden.

The Solution Even before Adam and Eve sinned, God had a plan to get sinful humanity back into a relationship with Him. When He replaced their clothes of fig leaves with the skins of animals, He signaled something important — it would take the blood of another to cover the sins of humankind. God’s plan began with the founding of a brand-new nation through which He would reveal Himself and His plan to restore humankind. For more than 1,600 years, every Biblical story of the chosen people of Israel would point to the coming of the solution. God’s solution to the problem of sin was made complete through the sacrifice of His Son.

Based on Romans 10:9-10 and 13, here is the decision a person should make from the heart, explained in a prayer of acceptance of God’s salvation by grace through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Dear God, I can’t, but You can. I believe in Jesus, who is God. I believe He died and rose from the dead. I place my faith in Christ to make me right with You and give me eternal life. I have no other plan but to have faith and to trust You. I am doing a 180 today and pointing my life toward You. I will no longer run away from You, but toward You.

Then there comes an outward declaration to the world — a way for us to demonstrate our faith decision: “I profess You with my mouth, out loud for others to know where I stand. And I publicly express my full devotion to You through baptism.”

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

I believe a person comes into a right relationship with God by Christ’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

What difference does this make in the way I live?

We seek to please God because of what He has done for us, not to earn a relationship with Him.

We walk in grace – and offer grace to others. Let us not forget Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant recorded in Matthew 18:21–35. It would be wrong and inconsistent for us to refuse to offer grace and forgiveness to someone else in light of the grace and forgiveness God has shown to us.


Can you pinpoint a moment or chart a sequence of moments in time when you realized that Christ died for you?

How would you describe that process?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Believe Session 2: A Personal God has a Priority for Me

   This week we are learning God has a passion for us; He really does care. He has a plan for us, a purpose designed by His will and His love. Today we see that He has a priority for us, and that is to show His goodness.

   When I think of the goodness of God, I cannot help but think of the song which says, "You are a Good Good Father, that’s who you are, that’s who you are, and I am loved by You, that’s who I am, that’s who I am.” The Bible says “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father,” (James 1:18).

   When we know that God is good, it is easier for us to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). There are and have been times when seeking God's Kingdom and Righteousness is not always a priority for me and I don't know why.

    Maybe I don’t trust His kingdom and righteousness is truly good. Or maybe I am just not wanting His good; I want what's good for me. Instead of "Father knows best", I begin to think I know best. If you are struggling with the thought that perhaps you are not loved by a good Father, and that things are not going to your plans, think about this:

When you cannot see God’s hand, trust His heart.

    One day a man called Jesus “Good Teacher.” Jesus responded that no one is good but God alone. Jesus was saying that by comparison, nothing can compare to the goodness of God.

     When I remember that no one loves me more than God, when I think about how no one knows more than God, and when I know that no one has more power and ability than God to give me what is good…it is then that I can seek Him first.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Believe Session 2: A Personal God has a Plan for Me

    A man I know has a son who professed his atheism to his father. Even though the young man had followed God and had professed faith in God at a young age, for a variety of reasons but primarily because God had not answered his prayers, he simply said he no longer believed in God.
    The devastated father wisely said, "Which is better? To go through life believing that there is a God who loves us and is orchestrating our lives with a divine plan or to think that all of life is purposeless, meaningless and completely random?"

    If we firmly believe that God cares for us and if we trust His plan and purpose is to prosper us and benefit us, our faith will direct our steps with confidence, assurance and resilience that cannot be vanquished. This is not some pie-in-the-sky Pollyanish, power of positive thinking technique. No, to believe in a personal God who cares and has a plan is a faith which is firmly rooted in the Bible from beginning to end.

    Our lives are a 70 year drama (some longer some shorter), unfolding and being depicted right before our very eyes and God is the author. But He invites us to be the co-author by faith and trust, if we choose to BELIEVE! Suspend your disbelief that even if Jesus did not answer your prayer, you will see God move in ways beyond our belief.

   Yes, God invites us to join Him in writing His story, but remember this: He is the final editor author, producer, and publisher!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Session 2--A Personal God Has A Passion For Me


I do not care for crickets. As we had an invasion of crickets this past Sunday, I stepped on them, swept them, trashed them, even went to the store to get spray to kill them. I felt like there were thousands of them.

After church, a little boy named John gently took one cricket and put it in the grass which was covered with thousands of other crickets.

I think about a God who made all of the universe, seven billion people, all of the animals and insects and yes crickets. God is so far above and beyond me, far greater than I am above a cricket.

And yet God cares for me. "What is humanity that you are mindful of us? People that you care?" the psalmist wrote. "He's rich in love and slow to anger," another psalm says.

Little John's tenderness did not change my mind about crickets, but it did remind me of how amazing it is that God greatly cares for me.

Last Sunday, Pastor Randy preached on "What Can We Know" about God--His eternal power, divine nature, and our response to that knowledge. This week, we are studying about a personal God, seeing even more importantly "What God knows about us."

So my lesson from the crickets? Hmm. How about, "There's a place where God wants us to be and if we are in the wrong place, like crickets in a place made for humans, we may face judgment."

Now that will preach!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Believe Chapter 2: A Personal God; Does God Care?

What does “a personal relationship” mean?
One cannot read the Bible and not understand that not only is God a personable God but that He wants to have a personal relationship with us. God created man for His glory but also His fellowship.
Just read Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd."  or the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus points to the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields. He says do not worry because God takes care of them and will take care of you." (These are the two stories emphasized for children and preschoolers).
In the garden, He communed with man daily. God does not NEED us as He is infinite nor is He lonely which again would be a sign of a deficiency in God. He WANTS to be personal with us!
No, He is not co-dependent! But He enjoys us and desires us to pray to Him, to hear from Him, to be a Father to His child, a Groom to His Bride. A personal God? You better believe it! Christ came to teach us that through His atonement,
His sacrifice, that we can now come boldly before the throne of grace in prayer and receive help in times of need (Heb. 4:16). How do we come? With confidence! To whom do we come? To “our Father”! (Matt. 6:9)
The following devotional is from Zondervan, based on Chapter two of BELIEVE, which will be taught and preached on Sunday, September 18 at FBC Killeen.
Day 2: Personal God
KEY QUESTION: Is God Good? The God of the Bible is the only true God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the one all-powerful, all-knowing eternal God.
But is He good? Is He involved in His creation? Does He love us? Does He have a plan for us? Is He interceding and intervening to move the events of our life and world toward His intended purpose?
Consider the following and decide for yourself.
A biblical character in whose life we see how much God is involved and cares about His people is David, the poet, singer, shepherd, warrior and king, who wrote and sang from a deep well as he journeyed through life and encountered the one true God. David composed many of the psalms found in our Bible. David wrote as a shepherd boy while gazing at the billions of stars God created; he wrote while being chased down by King Saul; he wrote while he was king of Israel; and he wrote as he was coming to the end of his life on earth. The songs that David and the other psalmists wrote express their personal and intimate relationships with God.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:1-6)
KEY VERSE I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)
KEY IDEA I believe God is involved in and cares about my daily life.
KEY APPLICATION: What difference does this make in the way I live? How can believing this truth about God as a personal and good God — not only in our mind (understanding) but also in our heart — guide the way we live? 1. God’s ways are higher than our ways. We are tempted to make frantic decisions because we can’t see our way. We can’t see around the next bend in the road. God’s ways are higher than our ways, because he is seated above on his throne. When we feel that we don’t understand God’s instruction in his Word, we must remember that he sees things from above and we don’t. (See Isaiah 55:8-9.) 2. God, who controls nature and history, knows and cares about us. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus conveyed God’s care for his children. These words about a loving Father paint a vivid picture of a God who is not out to get us, but rather to redeem us. He is not out to destroy us, but rather to restore us.
Why does Jesus want us to refrain from worry?
How does freedom from worry demonstrate confidence in God’s provision and care?
Join the discussion and use hashtag #BelieveTheStory.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Week One - Believe Devotional -- God

Weekly Preparation for Believe

As FBC Killeen prepares for BELIEVE, which begins Sept. 11, I thought it would be good to have devotionals to prepare our hearts. BELIEVE is a way of understanding our core, basic beliefs, actions, and virtues we should have as Christians, but it is certainly not shallow! In fact, today’s devotional is as deep as it gets: “Who Is God?”
What I find interesting in BELIEVE is that what we believe should transform us intellectually, behaviorally, and spiritually. That is our core essence that we have, a type of Trinity so to speak, consisting of our Soul, our Body, Our Spirit.
 Our intellect, along with our will and emotions, is our soul. This is how we think, which is Part 1 of BELIEVE, answering the question, “What do I believe?” 
Our behavior is how we act, which is our body and this is covered by Part 2 of BELIEVE, answering the question, “How should I behave?” 
     And our spiritual transformation (Part 3 of BELIEVE) is our Spiritual self, distinct and separate from our soul and body, and yet intrinsic to our entire personhood. This answers the question, “Who am I Becoming?” BELIEVE is a trinity study of ourselves: Believing, Behaving, Becoming. In other words, we need to Think, Act and Be like Jesus. We are made in the image of God who is also a Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
     As I said at the beginning, BELIEVE is not shallow at all...Enjoy these devotionals which come from Zondervan.

Day 1: God

KEY QUESTION: Who is God? What do we know about this amazing God, this God of miracles and creative wonder? Christians believe God is actually three Persons, a "Trinity." Though the word "Trinity" isn’t found in the Bible, in the very beginning of God's story, the creation story, we see hints that God is plural. Genesis 1:26 says, "Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.'" The creation story tells us we were created in the image of God, and Adam and Eve were two distinct persons who came together as one, just as God is three persons [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] but one true God. The journey of faith begins with our belief in God. Like the early Christians, we too are called to make our own personal declaration. 
Do we believe in the one true God? 
Do we accept the Bible as it reveals that God exists in three Persons? 
Even though we are weak and not fully able to understand the mysteries of God, he works mightily in and through those who believe. When we embrace God with our whole heart and worship him with our whole life, we experience the inner fruit of the Spirit that transforms our lives from the inside out. When we are growing, experiencing restoration in our relationships and doing the right thing, it is evident that God is in us and with us.

KEY VERSE May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
KEY IDEA I believe the God of the Bible is the only true God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
KEY APPLICATION: What difference does this make in the way I live? Because I was created in the image of God as, and for, community...
·  I recognize the full personhood of others and respect boundaries.
·  I look out for the rights, preferences, and comfort of others.
·  I value and enjoy others.
For any situation, relationship, or decision we face, we can resolutely apply these principles to guide us. The results, over time, will lead to blessing in our own souls in the form of fruit such as joy and peace, and we will express our actions outwardly for others to enjoy in the form of fruit such as love and kindness.


What's one way you have experienced God as Father? As Jesus the Son? As the Holy Spirit? Join the discussion today and use the hashtag #BelieveTheStory.