Nathan Williams was interviewed by Bob Ryals on Grace Radio of Slidell. Check out the broadcast!
We chat about God’s plan for the local church: Why go to church?
Nathan Williams was interviewed by Bob Ryals on Grace Radio of Slidell. Check out the broadcast!
We chat about God’s plan for the local church: Why go to church?
This one word explains why the political left hates the right and the right hates the left. It explains why your child is bullied at school.
It explains why your spouse sometimes frustrates the living daylights out of you and why your children fight like two cats in a gunny sack.
Why did that 64-year-old accountant attempt to murder hundreds of people in Las Vegas?
Why do people question each others motives, attributing the absolute worst thoughts and intentions to those who do not agree with them?
Why do the Black Panthers, ANTIFA, and KKK exist? Why are white supremacy groups a real thing? Why do so many die each day in our world’s largest cities at the hands of gun- or knife- or club-wielding perpetrators?
You probably already know the one word answer:
S I N
Yes, blood-red, bold, abhorrent sin.
The only way to stop the hate and violence is to change the hearts of the ones committing the violence. That really is the only way. Do not expect the government to fix this, because the government has not the power nor the understanding to deal with this. Only GOD can deal with this!
Folks, this is why we must constantly and consistently preach the gospel! Jesus Christ came to save sinners and to transform hateful people into those who LOVE. Jesus shows us what love looks like in His communication, His compassion, and His cross.
Jesus preached the remedy for sin, which also can be summed up in a single word:
R E P E N T A N C E
As we study through Scripture, we find that God works the wonderful gift of repentance in the hearts of His people, as we come to Him in faith. We give ourselves to God, submit to Him, and He works in us to rebirth us, repair us, remake us into the image of His beloved Son, so that we renounce our own hate and become agents of love who stand in stark contrast against the hate in this world. Jesus told His followers to be lights in a dark world, like a city on a hill which cannot be hidden (Matt. 5.14-16).
What is my responsibility in the face of the hateful, wicked actions all around me? First, I must repent of my own wickedness and hate. Second, I must love my neighbor as myself. Third, I must share the good news of Jesus Christ with others in order to spread His Kingdom, and as His Kingdom grows, so will love in this world.
Sin must die. Love must reign.
Last night, I listened to a brother recount a recent event. He had visited a nearby church (nearby to him–he lives in a different state than I), and they excitedly showed him their new tracts they were beginning to use in teaching the gospel. Interested, he began reading through it. The first section, he noticed, concerned hermeneutics, or rules and principles on how to interpret the Bible–important, no doubt, but not the gospel. The next section concerned ecclesiology, or the study of how God designed the church to be and to function. Again, he did not find the gospel there. The last, brief section informed the reader how to respond to the gospel.
I fear many Christians today are in the same state as the Galatian brethren to whom Paul wrote, “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you to a different gospel!” (Gal. 1.6). Some had perverted the gospel to where it looked kind of like the real thing, but it lost all its power because it ended up depending on man’s work and not God’s.
The gospel is God’s power unto salvation for all who believe (Rom. 1.16). If it truly is God’s power to save us, we should know it, shouldn’t we?! If we are to preach the gospel to unbelievers, we have to know what to preach! That’s a fairly simple concept.
But many don’t seem to know what to tell their neighbors because other teachings have obscured and even usurped the pure gospel. Must a man know how the local church is supposed to function before he obeys the gospel? Is it necessary he understand all the rules of how to interpret the various genres of Scripture? Folks, we don’t convert people to the church and we don’t convert people to a system of hermeneutics. We convert them to Christ!
“If you would be perfect,” Jesus said the rich young ruler, “go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matt. 19.21). Following Jesus is that action which trumps all others, the one necessary thing, as Jesus chided Martha and praised Mary, “Only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10.42). Mary had chosen to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him, and that was the one necessary thing. HE is the one necessary thing! Paul outlines his only goal in Philippians 3.8: “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”
We can’t teach the gospel without teaching about our sin, guilt, shame, and hopelessness. We can’t teach the gospel without showing the power of God, the glory of Christ, and His work on the cross! The good news is that Christ has already born the penalty for our sins and God saves us by grace through faith–salvation is HIS work and not ours–it is freely offered to everyone who will believe in Jesus Christ.
If we don’t preach that, we haven’t preached the gospel. All the other stuff is good to know, and, Lord willing, we will come to know it as we continue to walk in relation to our Lord and His word. But let’s not get the cart in front of the horse. Let’s preach the pure gospel!
Just how good do you need to be in order for God to accept you? Surely He has given some indication of His standard of measurement so we can know for sure. In fact, God HAS declared a standard of measurement for those who will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Sometimes people think God was really strict in the Old Testament but in the New Testament He relaxes His standards so we can actually achieve salvation. Isn’t that what grace is all about? Doesn’t God give us an easier time today than He gave the Jews?
I don’t deny that we live in a better time and under a better covenant, but Jesus did not come to relax God’s standards! In fact, He clarified God’s moral standards, raising them in the eyes of a people who had been lowering them and stripping them of their power and righteousness. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5.19).
At the end of Matthew 5, Jesus states, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” How exactly is our heavenly Father perfect? Is He just kind of perfect? Maybe “perfect” doesn’t actually mean perfect in the way we normally think of it. As people sometimes ask, “What does the Greek say?” The word (τέλειός) is translated through the New Testament as perfect, complete, mature. Oh good. I can see how I can be “mature” and not be totally “perfect,” so maybe I can relax the standard just a bit. Maybe God isn’t seeking full and total perfection (because, ha ha, who can achieve that standard?); maybe He just wants someone who’s “pretty good” (an admittedly fuzzy definition). But…whatever word we want to plug in there, it says to be perfect/mature/complete AS GOD Himself is perfect/mature/complete. That seems fairly unattainable!
Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1.15, “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” Again, Peter compares us to God Himself–we are to be the same kind of holy as He is! How do we adjust this so we can actually meet the standard?
We are not supposed to adjust anything! What God said, God meant, and we have no business trying to wiggle around until we feel comfortable. We ought to understand that God demands nothing short of complete perfection.
But I’m not perfect.
I’m betting you’re not, either.
What are we do do?!
Some theorize that we can become so mature in Christ that we can go for hours, days, perhaps even weeks without sinning. Really? And what do those theoretical pockets of perfection buy for you? Are you hoping Christ returns during one of your perfect hours? That sounds tenuous at best, and most of us haven’t yet come close to that theoretical perfection. I say “theoretical” because what these folks actually do is decided on a level of comfort they call “perfection,” and they lie to themselves thinking they have gone without sinning, when, in fact, God has said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1.8).
God tells us not to sin; then He says if we say we have no sin we are liars. It’s a no-win situation. We might as well give up, throw in the towel, go home and cry. Not! This is the GOSPEL message! God wants us to understand this–come to the end of ourselves–feel totally powerless and vulnerable, because only then will we give up on ourselves and cling fully and completely to Jesus Christ.
Jesus walked perfectly without sin (Heb. 4.15). He endured the cross for our sake (2 Cor. 5.14-15), and through Him God reconciles us back to Himself (2 Cor. 5.18)! How did He bring us back into relationship with Himself? He made Christ to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5.21)! He no longer counts our sins against us (2 Cor. 5.19), because He laid all our sins on the back of His Son, Jesus. Jesus swapped places with us–the righteous for the sinner–so God now looks at men and women who are in Christ as being righteous, holy, perfect.
But I’m not perfect. That’s right! Christ is. And God counts the perfect righteousness of Christ to my account and imputes all my sin to Christ’s account. Glory be to God! He didn’t have to do it, but He did, freely. And so I am completely saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Praise God today if you are in Christ because He has taken all your sins and counts you now as holy!
If you’re not in Christ, it’s of utmost importance that you come to Him! I pray He draws you and shows you the path to true reconciliation and freedom. Please let me know if I can help you on your journey.
This conundrum is, perhaps, not such a problem for the creationist who understands that God created the chicken fully-grown and mature. But that’s not really the point, is it?
The serious Bible student will discover questions like this regarding his salvation. Which came first, God’s will or mine? Which came first, God’s work or mine?
Philippians 2.12-13 encourages us to ponder this very question:
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Many use verse 12 to insist that we are, indeed, saved by our works. Besides running counter to so many other clear New Testament scriptures (i.e., Eph. 2.8-9; Tit. 3.3-7; Gal. 2.16; Rom. 11.5-6; etc.) which say we are not saved by our works, that understanding also violates the immediate context by not considering verse 13 and GOD as the ultimate cause of our salvation.
These verses do not appear in isolation; we must consider the context of the entire letter to be faithful to God’s meaning. We may back up to Phil. 1.27:
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
Paul reminds them (and us) that their conduct should be worthy of the gospel. “How does our conduct reflect the gospel?” we might ask. Reading the rest of the letter answers the question. So God desires–in fact demands–obedience and a “worthiness” of conduct.
But why should we obey? Why attempt to walk such a high path? Do we obey and work in order to be saved? Are we keeping ourselves saved by walking in the right way? The answer is yes…and no. God is certainly telling us to walk this way and it will result in our salvation.
Back up to Phil. 1.6 for one more insight:
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
This answers the question, “How did my salvation begin?” God began it.
It also answers, “How will I continue to be saved?” God will continue to perfect it until Jesus returns.
Notice Phil. 1.11 says, “having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
And so “walk in a manner worthy of the gospel” and “set your minds on things that are above” and “whatever you do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” and “draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” All those passages tell us to obey, to work, to do. We now understand our obedience is a loving response to the work God has already done in us and continues to do for us.
When I work out my salvation with fear and trembling, I do not work to get saved or stay saved. I’m working because I am saved and I want to show the fruit of God’s work in my life. May my life and your life result to the praise of His glory.
Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
He then proceeded to tell the congregation they should hold fast to the Bible patterns of…
I’m sure I missed a few things, but those I remember.
What troubles me is that his beginning verse contextually has nothing to do with any of those issues. He committed a classic blunder by reading a passage and then going wherever he pleased with it, completely disregarding the context. This sort of slipshod treatment of Scripture leads to a watering down of the word and really tends to obscure the truth God has set forth.
We should demand preachers and teachers keep verses in context. That is not to say everyone should read the entire chapter every time, but certainly teachers must do their homework and understand the meaning and purpose of the text before presenting it as God’s word!
If we read 2 Timothy 1.13 in it’s immediate context, we find the “pattern of sound words” has to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (1.10). It has to do with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. It has to do with the grace of God and sharing in the sufferings on behalf of Christ (2.1-3). It has to do with dying with Christ (2.11) and enduring (2.12). It has to do with unity (2.14ff) and holiness (2.22ff).
I recommend preachers actually preach the word itself instead of “choosing a passage and then going everywhere preaching the gospel” (as one sarcastically remarked). If you don’t understand the context of the passage, you may end up harming your hearers. At the very least, your lessons will lack meat. At worst, you’ll end up preaching entirely your own thoughts and not the thoughts of the Lord. Those who study God’s word will stop listening to you.
It there a place for preaching on all those topics above? Certainly! If the Bible talks about it, we should teach about it. But allow the Scripture to lead!
This preacher missed many deep truths to be found in 2 Timothy because he wanted to preach on certain pet subjects. I hope he one day gets around to preaching on what 2 Timothy 1.13 is really about! It’s ironic that he so abused a passage on sound words.
“Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” said Jesus.
Is it prideful to believe and insist that there is only one true, living God?
How should a Christian approach an unbeliever? What sort of presuppositions should a Christian be aware of in himself and in the one he attempts to teach?
Peter quoted from the Old Testament, “…as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”
“But God just wants us to do our best!” someone blurts from the back of the room (without even raising her hand). “That’s all He can expect us to do.”
Why is that all He can expect us to do? Is our best actually good enough for Him?
When have we actually done our best? Think back to yesterday. Did you do your best? Did you pray at the end of the day, “Lord, I did my best today; I gave it my best shot. I hope You’re happy with me”?
What exactly is my best, anyway?
More importantly, is it biblical to insist “God just wants me to do my best”? I read things like…
“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4.1-3)
“Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5.1-2)
“Walk as children of light…” (Eph. 5.8)
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” (Phil. 1.27)
“But God would never command us to do something we can’t do!” returns the lady, now standing red-faced beside her chair.
Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Literally impossible. For man. But not impossible for God (see Matt. 19.23-26). Did Jesus command that rich young ruler to do something he couldn’t do?
A brother (and brother-in-law) of mine, Edwin Crozier, recently made these observations:
I whole-heartedly agree with his observations.
Christians do the impossible every day because they rely on the power and grace of God! God has commanded what we are not able to really accomplish, but that’s okay because He can accomplish all these things in us! In fact, Jesus has already accomplished it all for us.
Our best is not good enough for God. But Jesus‘ best is perfect.
Thank You, God, for power and grace to live righteously before You today in Jesus.
Paul began defending his proposition that “a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2.16) by asking the Galatian brethren when had they received the Holy Spirit–by works of law or by hearing with faith? Of course, they received Him by hearing and believing the gospel, not by hearing and obeying a body of laws. The Jews, as a matter of fact, had lived their entire lives attempting to follow that body of laws yet, despite all their efforts, had not received justification.
Next, Paul demonstrates in Galatians 3.10-12 that those who seek to be under law remain under a curse.
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
What curse? All Jews familiar with their scriptures know the blessings and curses God built into their covenant. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they quickly came to two mountains–Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. From Gerizim they pronounced the great BLESSINGS God would give them if they remained faithful (Deut. 28.1-14), and from Ebal they intoned the litany of CURSES God would bring upon them when they wandered away into unfaithfulness (Deut. 27.15-26; 28.15-68).
Paul gets pretty legalistic here. You might recall a few moments in Israelite history when Israel seemed to be doing okay and God was blessing them because of their faithfulness. But, in reality, the law actually demands a full, total, and perfect faithfulness to all aspects of the law in order to be considered righteous! And who has done that? Only one.
Even in the Old Testament God justified individuals the same way He does now–by faith. Paul pulls from Habakkuk 2.4, “the just shall live by faith,” to show that God justified even the Israelites by faith and not because of their keeping of the Law (praise God)!
We are not justified by law but by faith. We do not live by keeping law but by faith. These ideas of being justified and living go hand-in-hand, for the one on whom God shows His favor has passed out of death and into life (John 5.24); the one God justifies now lives, as once he had been dead in his sins (Eph. 2.1) and under the curse (wrath of God). Law brings curse and judgment; faith brings life and justification.
How can this be? Continue in Galatians 3.13-14…
13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Give us the gospel again, Paul! Hammer it into us and make us full and rich, glowing in the light of God’s truth in Jesus Christ! That’s right–Jesus became cursed in our place. God provided a substitute for us who really deserve the curse, the beating, the mocking, the nails. He hung on that tree until dead, until He had erased our eternal pain and the condemnation of the law. He bore our sin and carried our sorrow so all the people of the earth could have access to the blessing of Abraham and receive that Holy Spirit unto salvation.
And God confirmed these promises by raising Jesus from the dead.
I don’t know about you, but I’m in total awe of what God has done. Praise Him, praise Him, Jesus our blessed Redeemer!
A critical question for any Christian is “What is the gospel?” Paul taught incessantly about the gospel, claiming, among other things, that it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Romans 1.16).
Gospel simply means “good news.” What is the good news Paul would have us know?
Paul’s letter to the Galatians contributes much to our understanding of the pure gospel. At the beginning Paul identifies a cancer within the churches of Galatia–men who were preaching a different gospel (Galatians 1.6-9). It’s not as if there were multiple gospels, but they were twisting, perverting, distorting the real gospel of Jesus Christ.
We have many perversions of the gospel today, and (following Paul’s instruction) we find it paramount to seek after and vigorously defend the real gospel. How have men perverted the gospel of Christ? They do it the same way people have always perverted the word of God–by either adding to it or taking away from it. Certainly teaching that Jesus really did not come in the flesh (2 John 7) or that He was not raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.12ff) constitute gospel perversions. But that’s not the point of Galatians. Paul deals with a specific issue in Galatians, one particular insidious and spiritually destructive perversion of the gospel.
Among the Galatian churches certain Jewish teachers insisted the gentiles (non-Jews) be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul unconditionally denounced this form of teaching, in the process clarifying for us what the true gospel is. Paul’s thesis may be found in Galatians 2.15-16:
15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Clearly the issue encompasses justification. To be justified means to be declared righteous. It does not mean the person is made righteous in the sense that he no longer sins and is completely holy within his own person. It may help to understand that the opposite of justification is condemnation. Before God declares you righteous, you stand condemned before Him, under judgment because of your own guilt. But when God declares you righteous, there is no condemnation (Romans 8.1); God no longer considers you guilty because He lays all your sins on His Son Jesus Christ who has already paid the penalty for your sins! This is the good news of the gospel.
So the perversion of the gospel in Galatians has to do with how a person stands justified before God. Paul gives two options throughout the letter:
In his thesis (Galatians 2.15-16), Paul lets us know up front which is the actual gospel, explaining that a person IS NOT justified by works of the law! Let that be clear in our minds. Seeking to be justified before God by keeping law is actually a path to condemnation, misery, and slavery.
I plan to continue to flesh these ideas out over the next few posts, but in the meantime why don’t you study the letter to the Galatians to discover how Paul explains and supports his thesis? I’d love to hear your feedback.