Saved By God, From God, For God

Pastor John Samson

Christians are notorious for using a vocabulary that is not always understood by those around them. There’s no doubt that we have our own lingo and jargon.

One such word is the word “saved.” Often, Christians ask unsuspecting neighbors, colleagues and friends the question, “are you saved?” and usually receive only puzzled expressions in response. These folk are desperately trying to understand the question, but have no reference point whatsoever from which to make an assessment of how to answer. The Christian, on the other hand, seeing this as a wonderful opportunity to evangelize, usually pounces on this hesitation, though just how much is communicated in such times is open to debate. Though the Christian is usually sincere in desiring to share his faith, he needs to provide some foundation for the person to understand what he is seeking to communicate.

Yet in saying this, the word “saved” is very much a biblical word. The scripture says, “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

But what exactly is this referring to? What is it that those who call on the name of the Lord are saved from?

Well let’s take a look at the word “saved.” It is a word we use quite often, especially in the world of sports. We talk of a goalkeeper making a great “save,” or a boxer being “saved” by the bell. When used in this context, the word “saved” does not have any eternal significance to it whatsoever, but refers instead to a present day deliverance or rescue from calamity. The goalkeeper doesn’t provide eternal life for his team mates when he makes a save, but merely prevents a calamity – conceding a goal to the opposing team. The boxer doesn’t gain heavenly bliss because the bell rings, but the sounding of the bell signalled the end of a round when it looked certain that the fighter was about to lose the fight. Again, the word saved refers to being rescued from a calamity.

So what exactly does the Bible mean then when it talks of our need to be saved? What is the calamity from which we need to be rescued?

The Bible’s answer is a very clear one. God is holy and He is just. That’s not good news if we happen to be sinners, which the Bible declares that we are. All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). But thank God, that’s not the end of the story. But it gets a lot worse before it gets better!

God is good. God is also just. God is therefore a good judge and must punish sin. God’s justice will be meted out precisely as justice demands it – which when you think about it, is the worst of all possible news for us. We won’t be able to get away with anything – all the secrets of our hearts will be exposed, and we will be called to give an account of our lives. What is worse is that the sins we have committed are so grievous to Him that the punishment for sin is eternal in duration. In fact, rather than the judgment we will face being merely being left or abandoned by God, God is actually active in pouring out His wrath against our sin.

So what exactly does the Bible mean by the phrase, “the wrath of God?”

Well one thing we notice very clearly when we study the Bible on this issue is that wrath is not an isolated concept made up by merely one “out of sorts and grumpy prophet.” There are in fact over 600 references to God’s wrath in the Old Testament alone.

Two incidents in Exodus will help our understanding at this point. In Exodus 22:22-24, God says, “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.”

Then later on when the children of Israel make for themselves a golden calf to worship, the scripture records God as saying, “Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.” (Exodus 32:10-12)

Regarding this, Dr. James Montgomery Boice writes, “it is evident in this passage that Moses’ appeal to God is not based either on imagined innocence of the people (they were not innocent, and Moses knew it), nor on the thought that wrath was unworthy of God. Moses appeals only on the basis of God’s name and how his acts would be misconstrued by the heathen. No doubt is expressed that wrath is a proper reaction of God’s holy character against sin.” Dr. Boice goes on to say, “God’s wrath is not arbitrary, as if God for some minor matter or according to his own caprice simply turns against those whom he formerly loved and favored. On the contrary, wrath is God’s consistent and unyielding resistance to sin and evil. In the first passage it is wrath brought on by sin against others, widows and orphans. In the second passage it is wrath brought on by sins against God.” (Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 248)

Nahum 1:2-3, 6-8 declares, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.  Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.”

Again, many more scriptures would verify the reality and nature of the wrath of Almighty God. Psalm 2:5-9 says, “Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

In the New Testament, the wrath of God is also clearly seen. Two main words for wrath are used. The first, thymos (in Greek) means “to rush along fiercely,” “to be in the heat of violence,” or “to breath violently.” It refers to a panting rage.

The second Greek word, orge, means “to grow ripe for something” with the noun form revealing that this wrath has been slowly building over a long space of time. It is a gradually building anger that rises in intensity, and therefore is not so much a sudden flare up of hostility, which is soon over, but rather as Leon Morris defines it, “a strong and settled opposition to all that is evil arising out of God’s very nature.” (Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross)

Romans 1:18-20 reveals the present day reality of this wrath.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Romans 2:5  “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”

Are we all feeling the weight of this bad news yet? I don’t believe we will appreciate the amazing good news of the Gospel until we do.

Jesus is also coming back to rule and reign. When He does so, it will not be like His first coming when He came as a humble baby, born in a manger, but He’s coming back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to enforce His rule in our world.

Revelation 19:15 declares, “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.”

Although this refers to a future event, the scripture reveals that the wrath of God is a present reality, as we’ve already seen through Romans 1:18. The scripture also says,  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. ” (John 3:36)

I can’t think of a worse calamity than this one – facing the full fury of the wrath of God against our sin.

But is it just for God to punish sinners for eternity?

Let me respond with a quote from the great theologian, Jonathan Edwards, “Our obligation to love, honor, and obey any being, is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority; for that is the very meaning of the words. When we say any one is very lovely, it is the same as to say, that he is one very much to be loved. Or if we say such a one is more honorable than another, the meaning of the words is, that he is one that we are more obliged to honor. If we say any one has great authority over us, it is the same as to say, that he has great right to our subjection and obedience. But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he has infinite excellency and beauty. To have infinite excellency and beauty, is the same thing as to have infinite loveliness. He is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore he is infinitely honorable. He is infinitely exalted above the greatest potentates of the earth, and highest angels in heaven; and therefore he is infinitely more honorable than they. His authority over us is infinite; and the ground of his right to our obedience is infinitely strong; for he is infinitely worthy to be obeyed himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon him. So that sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment. The eternity of the punishment of ungodly men renders it infinite. (THE JUSTICE OF GOD IN THE DAMNATION OF SINNERS, Works, vol. 1; 669)

In light of this, it is merely the pleasure of God Himself that His wrath did not fall on us last night, or last week, or last year. In fact, it is very evident that God has been remarkably patient with us all.

So then, if facing the full brunt of the wrath of God for all eternity is the worst possible calamity, then the greatest deliverance becomes immediately clear. To be saved, is to be rescued from the wrath of Almighty God.

In His love, God sent His Son to deliver us or rescue us from His eternally fierce wrath against our sin. John 3:16  says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 declares, “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (emphasis mine)

Romans 5:6-9 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (emphasis mine)

Question: Whose love is it?

Answer: God’s.
Question: Whose wrath is it?

Answer: God’s.

It was God’s idea to save all who believe in Christ from the ultimate calamity, the fierceness of the wrath of God. What a deliverance! What a rescue! God sent His Son to save us from His wrath. To put it in clear terms – we are saved by God, from God, for God!

On the cross, Jesus bore our sin, and God poured out His wrath on Him, in our place. He took the punishment we deserved as He bore our sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus bore the wrath of God on behalf of His people. All who believe in Him as Savior and Lord are forever rescued from this wrath. But for those who do not receive the Son of God, God’s wrath is being revealed (Romans 1:18) and the full brunt of that wrath will be meted out in judgement.

To these, Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:12-13)

The scripture declares, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3) The answer to this rhetorical question is clear. If we neglect this great salvation, there will be no escape.  Indeed, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

So again, here’s the good news: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13

Call out to Him now.


A SUMMARY OF THE GOSPEL

Man was created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

“Worthy are you, our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things.” (Rev 4:11) “Do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

Man has failed to glorify God and is under His just condemnation.
“For all have sinned…” (Rom 3:23). “The wages of sin is death…” (Rom 6:23). “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction” (2 Thes 1:9).

Jesus fully bore the wrath and suffered the punishment sinners deserve.

Not wishing that sinners perish forever, God determined to save a people for Himself in the Eternal Son who became a man and lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve. God loves sinners and sent His Son to be the wrath absorbing sacrifice for their sin. (1 John 4:10; John 6:37) He gave His life “as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45) and “rose again” from the dead (2 Cor 5:15) on their behalf.

All who, by the grace of God, turn to Jesus in repentant submissive faith are forgiven and begin a life-changing, eternally satisfying relationship with God!

“Repent and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:5). “in Your presence is fullness of joy” (Ps 16:11).

Sola Fide (Justification By Faith Alone)

THE CENTER OF THE GOSPEL
Pastor John Samson

At the Council of Trent in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church placed its eternal and irrevocable curse on the Gospel, announcing it as actually heretical. I am certain that in the hearts and minds of the delegates at the Council, this was never intended – not even for a moment – but that is in fact what happened.

The most relevant Canons are the following:

Canon 9. If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone…, let him be anathema.

Canon 11. If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins,… let him be anathema.

Canon 12. If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy (supra, chapter 9), which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.

Canon 24. If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema.

Canon 30. If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.

Canon 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ…does not truly merit an increase of grace and eternal life… let him be anathema.

As Dr. Michael Horton rightly noted, “It was, therefore, not the evangelicals who were condemned in 1564, but the evangel itself. The ‘good news,’ which alone is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ was judged by Rome to be so erroneous that anyone who embraced it was to be regarded as condemned.”

But the Council of Trent met a long time ago. Hasn’t Rome since modified its position? In another place Dr. Horton wrote, “Has Rome’s position changed? In fact it has not. The Vatican II documents as well as the new Catechism of the Catholic Church reinvoke the theological position of the Council of Trent, condemning the gospel of justification by an imputed righteousness.” But knowing full well that Rome’s full curse is on me for believing the following, I quote the Scripture and embrace the only true Gospel of my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

“To the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). God justifies the “ungodly.” God does not wait until sinners are righteous in and of themselves before He declares them righteous. If He did, I for one would despair of ever getting there. The word “Gospel” means “good news” and the amazing “good news” of the Gospel is about how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection breaks all the power of despair and saves sinners by supplying to them a perfect unassailable righteousness AS A GIFT.

Question: Whose righteousness is supplied?

Answer: Christ’s own righteousness (1 Cor 1:30).

The connection between the sinner and the Savior is trust, not improvement of behavior. THAT COMES LATER (Eph 2:8-10).

This is our hope – while ungodly in and of ourselves, when we give up all hope of self attained salvation, trust in the Savior allows the Savior to save and He does so with resplendent and majestic power! Paul wrote, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). The basis of this despair shattering hope (the ungodly justified) is “Christ for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, literal translation). Through the mechanism of faith alone (which itself is God’s gift) God counts sinners (the ungodly) as righteous because of Christ.

“For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Justification by faith alone is really shorthand for justification by the Person and work of Christ alone. Jesus saves – not merely potentially or hypothetically – but He actually saves – all by Himself! All the sins of all the people who would ever believe in Him were transferred to Christ on the cross and He bore the penalty these sins deserved; and what is transferred to these sinners is a righteousness that has never known sin – the very righteousness of Christ. That is the kind of righteousness given to me – a righteousness that always obeyed every command of God fully and perfectly from the heart. The wonder of it all is that now, because of Christ, God not only merely tolerates me, but He has declared me as just, righteous, and fully pleasing to Him. “Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1). This peace is not a mere temporary ceasefire on God’s part. I am forever justified before God through faith in the perfect Savior. To quote Martin Luther’s Latin phrase, I am “simul iustus et peccator” – at the same time just and sinner. Christ’s own perfect righteousness is mine. It is not merely that God because of Christ now sees me as “just as if I’d never sinned”, but more than that.. much more than that… He now sees me as “just as if I’d always obeyed!” This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Scan The Scriptures

Quotes put together by Justin Taylor

If you want a quick and easy way to memorize the traditional four attributes of Scripture, just put them in the order of S.C.A.N.:

  • the Sufficiency of Scripture
  • the Clarity of Scripture
  • the Authority of Scripture, and
  • the Necessity of Scripture

Below are some definitions and thoughts from Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology) and Timothy Ward (Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God).

Sufficiency

Ward: “Because of the ways in which God has chosen to relate himself to Scripture, Scripture is sufficient as the means by which God continues to present himself to us such that we can know him, repeating through Scripture the covenant promise he has brought to fulfillment in Jesus Christ.” (p. 113)

Grudem: “The idea that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at stage of redemptive history and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.”

Clarity

Grudem: “The idea that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who read it seeking God’s help and are willing to follow it” (p. 108).

Ward: “Scripture is the written word of the living Word, God’s communicative act, and the Spirit who authored it chooses to continue to speak most directly through it. Therefore we are right to trust that God in Scripture has spoken and continues to speak sufficiently clearly for us to base our saving knowledge of him and of ourselves, and our beliefs and our actions, on the content of Scripture alone, without ultimately validating our understanding of these things or our confidence in them by appeal to any individual or institution” (pp. 126-127).

Authority

Grudem: “The idea that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”

“The phrase “˜the authority of Scripture’ must be understood to be shorthand for “˜the authority of God as he speaks through Scripture.’ . . . The authority of Scripture is a statement about what God did in authoring Scripture, and about how he continues to act in relation to Scripture” (p. 128).

Necessity

Grudem: “The idea that the Bible is necessary for knowing the gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for knowing God’s will, but is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about his character and moral laws.”

Ward: “Necessity sits right at the heart of the ways in which sola scriptura is explicated and defended. If Scripture alone is claimed to be the supreme authority in Christian thinking and living, that is because both its content (the verbal revelation) and its form (the written Scriptures) are indispensable” (p. 102).

What Is Saving Faith?

Pastor John Samson

The Apostle Paul’s main theme in the book of Romans is that of the Gospel itself, as he answers the question, “how can an unjust person ever be acceptable to a just and holy God?” In passages such as Chapter 3:20 – 4:8, he teaches that we are justified by faith alone and not by anything that we do (other passages where Paul states this are Titus 3:5; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8,9; Phil 3:9; to name just a few).

Romans 3:28; 4:3-8 – “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”

Having established the case biblically that we are justified by faith apart from works, we then need to ask the question, “what kind of faith is it that justifies?” In other words, what does true faith look like?

This is precisely the issue that James is addressing in chapter 2 of his epistle. He writes in verse 14, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him?”

The obvious answer to James’ question is “no, that is not the kind of faith that saves. True faith will produce works.” It is never enough just to make the claim to have faith. No one is ever saved by a mere empty profession of faith. What is professed, must actually be possessed for justification to exist. James teaches us clearly that if genuine faith is present, it necessarily produces the fruit of works. That’s the nature of true faith. In fact, if works do not follow from “faith,” then it is proof positive that the “faith” is not in fact genuine, but a mere claim to it.

There is no discord between what James writes and what we find in Romans and the rest of Paul’s writings. Faith without works is dead, and a dead faith never saved anyone. True faith is a living faith, and will inevitably show itself with accompanying action or works. Yet even if all these good works do come from genuine faith, these works still have no part in the ground of our justification. Our works add no merit to us, removing all grounds for boasting. “For by grace you are saved, through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works so that no one should boast” (Eph 2:8, 9).

The only work that contributes to our justification is the work of Jesus; not the work of Jesus in us, but the work of Jesus for us. His merit is the only merit that counts for us. Paul tells us that it we are justified by faith apart from works, and James tells us that that kind of faith that actually saves is a faith that will of necessity produce works.

The Reformers of the 16th Century were very clear about all this. They described true saving faith as having three parts to it, which were described by three Latin words: notitia, assensus and fiducia.

1. CONTENT OR INFORMATION (notitia) – Like our modern day word “notice”, notitia concerns information or knowledge of the truth of the gospel. We need to understand the facts of the Gospel.

What exactly must be believed? Certainly, a person does not need to be a highly trained theologian to be saved. The Holy Spirit draws both adults and children to a saving knowledge of Christ. Yet when children are converted to Christ, they may not know every nuance of the faith, or even a detailed understanding of the atonement – merely that Christ died for our sins. However, I believe it would be true to say that a truly saved person, although they may not be able to articulate the content of the Gospel at length, will not reject it when they do hear it. I believe that’s a very important point to make. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish…” (John 10: 27). Christ’s true sheep instinctively know the Shepherd’s voice and follow Him. The regenerate person humbly submits to the faithful teaching of Scripture when hearing it (Scripture being the Shepherd’s voice), unlike those who are still in the flesh who are completely incapable of doing so (Romans 8:7, 8).

This noticia includes belief in one God, in the full humanity (1 John 4:3) and deity of Christ (John 8:24), and His death for sinners on the cross (1 Cor. 15:3), as well as His physical resurrection from the dead. Romans 10:9 says,

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I believe the noticia would also include some understanding of God’s grace in salvation – that is, God saves us because of Christ’s work on behalf of sinners, not the sinner’s work on behalf of God. Dr. James White writes, “God’s grace is powerful, and it brings full salvation to the soul of the person who despairs of anything other than free, unmerited grace. Grace cannot clasp the hand that carries within it ideas of merit, or good works, or any other kind of human addition to grace. “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). God’s wondrous grace cannot be mixed with human merit. The hand that holds onto its own alleged goodness, or attempts to sneak in a merit here, a good work there, will not find the open hand of God’s grace. Only the empty hand fits into the powerful hand of grace. Only the person who finds in Christ his all-in-all will, in so finding, be made right with God. This is why the Scriptures say it is by faith so that it might be in accordance with grace: in God’s wisdom, he excludes man’s boasting by making salvation all of grace.” (The Empty Hand of Faith)

2. BELIEF (assensus) – It is entirely possible to understand something (the notitia) and yet not believe it personally (assensus). We need to be able to say “I both understand and believe the content of the gospel.”

3. COMMITMENT (fiducia) – The last part of faith is a full trust in and commitment to the One who loved us and died for us. This is of critical importance simply because it is possible to understand these truths, believe they are true, and yet pull back from the necessary commitment that will actually enlist us as one of Christ’s followers. To possess only the first two parts (notitia and assensus), without the third part (fiducia), merely qualifies us to be demons! James 2:19 declares, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” Even demons understand and believe, but that does not mean that they have a share in redemption.

True saving faith will always produce the fruit of good works. Though our works play no part at all in justifying us before God (Rom 3:28; 4:4, 5; Eph. 2:8, 9) they justify or vindicate our claim to faith before a watching world. Our lives should demonstrate that the faith professed was, and is, also possessed.

As you consider your own standing before God,would you say that yours is in any way based upon what you do, rather than upon what Christ has done in your place? Can you honestly say you trust Him with your eternal destiny, and fully believe He carried your sins on the cross, and has given His righteousness to you, so that you can stand before God on the day of judgment?

If at the present time you are not able to answer these questions in the affirmative, I pray that God will indeed give you the gift of true repentance and faith, and that you will call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved.

Christian, Rest In Gods Sovereignty

Pastor John Samson

“Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; – Isaiah 46:9-10

“When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that God is God. We affirm that God is something more than an empty title: that God is something more than a mere figure-head: that God is something more than a far-distant Spectator, looking helplessly on at the suffering which sin has wrought. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” We affirm that God is something more than a disappointed, unsatisfied, defeated Being, who is filled with benevolent desires but lacking in power to carry them out. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is “the Most High.” We affirm that God is something more than One who has endowed man with the power of choice, and because He has done this, is therefore unable to compel man to do His bidding (Prov. 21:1). We affirm that God is something more than One who has waged a protracted war with the Devil and has been worsted. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is the Almighty. To speak of the Godhood of God then, is to say that God is on the Throne, on the Throne as a fact and not as a say so; on a Throne that is high above all. To speak of the Godhood of God is to say that the Helm is in His hand, and that He is steering according to His own good pleasure. To speak of the Godhood of God is to say that He is the Potter, that we are the clay, and that out of the clay He shapes one as a vessel to honor and another as a vessel to dishonor according to His own sovereign rights (Rom. 9), “according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him what doest Thou?” (Dan. 4:35). Therefore, to speak of the Godhood of God is to give the mighty Creator His rightful place; it is to recognize His exalted majesty; it is to own His universal scepter.” – A. W. Pink

God is Sovereign. He rules and reigns. He can never be voted out of power; for He was never voted into power. He is, was and always will be the Sovereign King, whose will can never be frustrated. Sovereignty means that God does what He wants, when He wants, the way He wants, without having to get anyone else’s permission.

If God is not Sovereign, then God is not God. If He were not ruling over every molecule in the universe, governing its existence, directing its course, and setting its boundaries, then we and God should be very worried indeed…

God had a plan to send Jesus to the cross to make atonement for guilty sinners… but what if some virus had gotten into the lungs of Jesus and killed Him at age 7? What if a brick had fallen off some Galilean house as Jesus passed by, killing him at age 15? Obviously, the entire eternal plan of God would have been frustrated.

Thankfully there is no counseling department in heaven, nor are the heavenly hosts regularly visiting angelic doctors to gain medication to ease their stress. When a weary saint joins the heavenly throng, he is never met by an angel saying, “Phew.. that was a close one… we’re so relieved to see that you made it here. We were all so worried about you!”

So if heaven is never worried, why is it that we are oftentimes? I believe it is because the message of God’s Sovereignty has not taken the long and mammoth 18 inch journey from our heads to our hearts. We need to saturate ourselves in the Scriptures on the issue to really get the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty in our bloodstream, so to speak.

Jonathan Edwards once stated, “From my childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this Sovereignty of God, and His justice in thus eternally dealing with men, according to His Sovereign pleasure. My mind rested in it; and it put an end to all those quibbles and objections. And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, with respect to the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty, from that day to this. God’s absolute Sovereigntyis what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes. But I have often, since that first conviction, had quite another kind of sense of God’s Sovereignty than I had then. I have often since had not only a conviction, but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute Sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so.”

Man naturally resists the idea of God’s Sovereignty. J. C. Ryle once commented that “Of all the doctrines of the Bible, none is so offensive to human nature as the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty.” Yet, though many in our day strongly resist the idea and the implications of God’s Sovereignty in all things; for the Christian, the doctrine continues to be an amazing source of strength, even in the midst of severe difficulty and trial.

God has never been shocked! God has never had to say, “Oh no, I didn’t know that was going to happen. Can anyone see a way out of this? Angels, please get together and have a “think-tank” meeting and come up with something we can do to respond.”

People might laugh at such an idea, and rightly so. It is so ludicrous a concept that it is in fact laughable. Yet it amazed me to hear some of the arguments put forth by many Christians in the aftermath of the events of 9/11. The God they spoke of was seemingly terribly shocked that terrorists would go ahead with their plans, and because He had given men their free will was now powerless to prevent the events. However, He was seeking to comfort where He could. Is that your idea of God?

I certainly hope not, because this idea does not in any way correspond to the God who reveals Himself in the pages of the Bible. Does God bring comfort? Of course… but is that all He can do – watch and grieve without having a purpose in mind in all that takes place? No, God not only knows the end from the beginning but has in some sense decreed all events in human history, “whatsoever comes to pass,” including sin.

What is the worst of sins? I believe the worst sin that has ever taken place on earth was undoubtedly the unjust crucifixion of the Son of God. Yet God not only allowed it, but He planned it before He ever created the world. Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. For the crucifixion to be ordained before the foundation of the world, it means that the sin that put Him there was as well.

Peter acknowledged this when he preached “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Acts 2:23. The early church also prayed, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” Acts 4:27-28

Our God is Lord, even over sin… I realise that some gasp at such a notion, but not only does the Scripture teach this, but think of the opposite idea – God has no purpose in the sin of man. Is that a better proposal? Hardly! No, God has in some sense ordained that sin takes place (or else it would not take place) and He will in fact use sin ultimately to show forth His glory. Man is entirely responsible for his actions, and will face judgement for them, but the fact is that God is ultimately Sovereign over all human actions. Though man might mean an action for evil, God means it for the ultimate good. (see Genesis 50:20) The thing in itself is evil, but God can use even the most evil of human actions to bring about something good. That’s how Sovereign He is!

God knows everything – past, present and future… that’s why He can tell us the future with 100% accuracy. We call this Biblical prophecy. God can tell us the future not because He has an idea about how men will respond but because He in some sense ordains even these responses. For God to prophesy even a single event such as the birth of His Son in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), He would have to know a great many things. He would need to know who the mother of the Child is, when she would conceive, when the time of delivery was. But that’s far from all – He would need to know about the registration decree from Casar Augustus in a person’s home town, the method of transportation for Mary (a donkey), and even the speed of the donkey – the entire prophecy would fail if the donkey moved too slow, or too fast and ended up passing through Bethlehem earlier in the day of Christ’s birth… He would need to know exactly when Mary and Joseph could travel no further, and the fact that a stable would be available for them… and that Mary and Joseph would find it somehow.

God knows the end from the beginning, but His attribute of Sovereignty tells us that in some sense He ordains everything from beginning to end. When a man believes, it is because he was appointed to do so (Acts 13:48), and when a man refuses to obey the Gospel’s demands, the same thing applies (1 Peter 2:8).

The fact that God is Sovereign means that He is never just one who responds… oh He does respond when wickedness and ungodliness takes place… but it is never merely the response of a blind-sided God who had no idea things would happen as they did. No, a thousand times no! God saw the attack of the enemy long before the enemy ever thought of attacking, in fact, long before the enemy ever existed. God’s response is always full and final.

Think about the following incidents recorded for us in the Bible… each attack was personally masterminded by the devil himself, and yet all his evil plans were thwarted… why? Because God really does rule in the affairs of men:

Attack: Abel is murdered by Cain (Gen. 4:1-8) Response: The birth of Seth (Gen. 4:25)

Attack: Almost universal wickedness in Noah’s day (Gen 6:1-12) Response: The Flood – only Noah and his family left (Gen 6:13-7:24)

Attack: The Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-6) Response: The Confusion of Languages (Gen. 11:7-9)

Attack: Pharoah commands all Jewish male children killed (Ex. 1:8-16, 22) Response: Believing midwives protects them (Ex. 1:17-21)

Attack: Jehoram’s muder of his 6 brothers (2 Chron 21:4) and Athaliah’s murder of Ahaziah’s son (22:10) Response: Joash is hidden by Johosheba (2 Chron. 22:11-12)

Attack: Herod commands all Jewish males under 2 killed (Matt. 2:16) Response: Joseph is told in a dream to leave for Egypt (Matt. 2:13)

Of course, many more of these kind of examples could be listed. But this should suffice to give us the comfort we need in our trials. Even in the midst of great trial and suffering God is still in charge. Not only can He work all things together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose, but He actually will do so (Romans 8:28).

This is the Christian’s source of comfort. Nothing in our lives is wasted… no trial, no experience, no grief, no misunderstanding, no hardship, no scorn, no betrayal, no injury, no loss, no scandal, no injustice, no deceit… no event takes place in our lives that God will not work for our good.

Scripture does not say that all things work for good for “everybody” but to those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose. For the unregenerate sinner, it would be true to say that nothing that happens in their lives works for their good… not even a promotion at work, a successful surgery, an unexpected gift, or even winning the lottery… if their final destination is hell, what is the “good” of these very temporal benefits? Certainly, none of them would be seen as having worked together for their good, but these things only in fact increases their judgment. For in spite of these blessings, they did not acknowledge their Source, and come to Him for salvation. That’s quite a thought isn’t it?

Let us rest then in the arms of our Sovereign Lord – the One who rules and reigns and “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). What an abiding place of rest this is.

“There is no attribute of God more comforting to his children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation – the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands – the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne. On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by world-lings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne.” – C. H. Spurgeon

Prayer In Preparation For Sunday

Pastor John Samson

It is common for us as pastors to be telling the congregation what they ought to be doing. It is oftentimes less common for an explanation to be given as to HOW to do these things. One such area is the arena of prayer. We all know that we as Christians should be people of prayer, but what causes many to stumble is a lack of knowledge as to how exactly to go about the task.

I was greatly impacted by reading a written prayer made by Tim Challies, found on his blog (www.challies.com), in preparation for a conference he was due to attend. The thought came to me that if I adjusted just one or two words, and maybe added one or two things, the prayer would be a useful tool for all of us Christians as we prepare our hearts each week for a different setting; that of Sunday worship. Here then is that suggested sample prayer, based almost word for word on the one Tim wrote. I trust many will find it useful. – John

A SAMPLE DAILY PRAYER IN PREPARATION FOR SUNDAY

Our gracious God and Father. I approach Your throne today, knowing that it is only through the name of Jesus that I can stand before You. I thank and praise You for Your goodness in allowing me to do so. I recognize very well that I am unworthy of this honor, this privilege, apart from Your unmerited favor and grace. I come before You to seek Your blessing on the service on Sunday.

Grant that the Word will come to us with power and with great freedom. Be near to our Pastor and his family. Keep the family close as they serve You together. Protect them from dangers both seen and unseen. May our pastor know great wisdom as he plans his day and his week around the priorities You lay before him. May his schedule allow him much time to study Your word and to pray. May he know that he is serving You and all of us very well as he makes these a high priority. May our pastor’s family time also be protected. Grant that he would be free from all unnecessary busy-ness in ministry. Also grant our pastor sufficient rest and sleep.

Grant our pastor humility before Your Word as he finishes his preparations and grant that he may be filled with a holy dread and gravity as he stands before Your people. May he know what it is to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit. May we truly know what it is to sit under the preaching of the Word. Speak to us, we pray. Speak to our hearts through the words we hear. May we never be the same.

Be with those who will lead us in worship. Be near to those who will sing or play instruments. Grant that in all things they may seek to serve You. May songs be selected that will bring glory and honor to Your name. May they lead us in singing songs that celebrate the beauty of the Savior and sing of Your wonders, Your glory, Your triumphs, Your holiness, Your majesty and Your great gospel. Let everything that has breath in that place praise the Lord together. May our worship be a sweet and fragrant offering to You. Accept it Lord, though we know it is poor and imperfect. Accept it through Your grace.

Be with the men and women who will be serving this week – those who are responsible for hospitality, greeting and ushering; those who will work in the sound booth, in the bookstall, in administration, and with those who will minister to our precious children and youth. Even now Lord, please fill all of these people afresh with Your Spirit. We thank you for the servant’s hearts You have given to them. I ask that You will allow them to be a blessing to many this week, even to those who do not yet know You. May the service run smoothly and may Your hand be evident in all that transpires. May Your love truly flow amongst us. May each of us be sensitive to the needs of others.

Bless our church’s outreach this week, through the words we speak, the love we show and the help we give to others. Bless the proclamation of Your gospel both by word and by life. In Your goodness, bring many to repentance. Direct our conversations, and help each of us to be bold in sharing the good news of Christ with others. Use me and all of our church in outreach this week I pray.

Would you help all who attend to come to the Sunday service as true worshippers–as those who worship You in spirit and in truth. Remind us that the gathering of Your people to worship is something You have ordained for us. It is a holy and sacred time. Help us to take the Lord’s day seriously. Prepare my heart and each of our hearts even now for what You will say to us then. Grant that we may not come before you as frauds, standing in Your presence filled with unconfessed sin. Give us the strength and wisdom to reconcile ourselves to our brothers and sisters before we come before You in worship. Give us discerning hearts that we may see and confess our sin before You. Open our eyes to see and to know You in a new way. Help us to worship You, not only with our lips, but with our hearts, our souls, and all that we are. Accept the gift of worship we will bring to You. May it please You.

Be with our pastor as he prepares to preach Your Word on Sunday. Grant that his time of preparation will be fruitful and that You will stir His heart with the great news of the gospel, of the precious truth of justification by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, all to the glory of God alone. May all of us at our Church live in the power of this gospel always. Protect us from the devil’s lies and help us to never be bored by the wonderful doctrines of grace, but grant that they may be the joy and delight of our hearts. Open our eyes Lord to see just how Your glorious gospel affects each and every area of our lives. Grant that our pastor or any guest minister may preach with great power and passion on Sunday morning. May the preaching be God centered, cross centered and gospel centered.

Be with me Lord. Prepare my own heart for Sunday morning when You speak to us as Your people. I confess that already my heart is polluted with sin. As I think about worshiping You, already I wonder how other men may perceive me. Already I sin against you. I repent of this Lord. Please, extend Your gracious forgiveness to me that I may come before You with a clean heart. Renew a right spirit within me. Keep the truth ever before me that to obey is better than sacrifice. Help me to be obedient to You in all things. Fill me with Your Spirit. Grant that I may serve You by serving others.

Grant traveling mercies as men and women, boys and girls come to our Church on Sunday. Keep us safe this week and as we gather together in Your name.

We pray for peace and unity while we gather together. We ask that there will be mercy and understanding. We ask that there will be a great outpouring of your Spirit. We ask that you will bless us for the sake of the glory of Your great name.

I ask these things humbly and in the name that is above all names, the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that I may be expectant and observant in seeking answers to this prayer so that I may praise You for Your goodness.

Its Scary Being A Pastor

Pastor John Samson

Ever thought about why we do Church? The schedule of meetings is not always convenient, we have to deal with people who sometimes rub us the wrong way… it would seem so much easier to be a Christian at home – except in doing so, we would not be living as disciples of Christ.

Obviously, we need to make allowances in our thinking for the housebound Christians who are physically impeded from getting to the corporate gathering. But for all of us who are able bodied and call ourselves disciples of Christ, the Lord Himself (through His apostles) commands us to be regularly attending services. He also summons us to live under pastoral rule and care (Heb 10:25; 13:17). To either ignore or dismiss these responsibilities makes us rebels, not disciples. We can say we love the Lord but Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” and the commands of the God breathed Scriptures carry the full weight of divine authority because they come from the Lord Himself.

Alright – so God wants us to participate in this thing called “church.” But what exactly is “Church”? What are the priorities in the life of a church?

Obviously, the subject of ecclesiology (the doctrine of the Church) is a vast one. Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. The Church is the people of God. Most of the Church are already amongst the heavenly choir. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only institution that does not lose a member at death. That’s a breathtaking truth isn’t it?

But what of the church still on earth? Is there a plan or blueprint for us to follow as we gather and live the Christian life together? I believe there is. We are to govern our collective lives together by the mandates of Scripture, making God’s priorities our own.

When we look at God’s priority list for His Church – we notice that His list is not identical to ours. For many people, priorities include adequate parking, clean restrooms, music to our liking (not too loud mind you), relevant youth ministry, comfortable seating, and the preacher having a likeable personality. He must be strong, but in a gentle way; very serious, with a great sense of humor! There is of course, nothing inherantly wrong with these things. But my question is whether or not these should top our list, to the exclusion of the things Christ has commanded be observed. Have you noticed something about the short list above? None of them are mentioned in sacred Scripture.

But back to our list (whether or not it is written down, it exists somewhere in our mind) – lets examine it and ask if we put things like prayer, sound doctrine, evangelism, baptism, the Lord’s Supper and worship on our top 10 list when we look for a church home? Really – do we? How close to the top of our list is how the church handles the word of God? Is that a priority for us? Where do you think this would rank on Christ’s list of priorities?

I believe that consumerism is not just out there in the world; it is right inside the Church. We want to be entertained, we want to feel comfortable. Don’t get me wrong – one of the worst sins a preacher can possibly do is to make the most amazing message, “the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” sound boring. I believe a boring sermon is a scandal! Yet if someone cannot find contentment or spiritual nourishment in the gathering of the people of God, or in the consistent accurate presentation of the Word of God – if that is not enough… then something is seriously wrong.

At the end of every year, we can determine whether we have had a successful year two different ways. One way is to see if we met attendance goals, etc. Now again, there’s nothing inherently wrong in that. I want to see many, many more true disciples of Christ here at the Church I pastor, and that’s something I pray for regularly. But I wish to suggest that there is a second way of determining success, by answering a different set of questions such as:

How many of our people are more godly than a year ago?

How many disciples of Christ have we made?

How many men are more patient with their wives, or better fathers to their children?

How many wives are more godly?

How many people are growing in grace, and in their hunger for the Word of God?

In things like language, dress, attitudes and thinking, are we different from the world?

And what about the leaders? Are we passionate about the ministry of the Word?

Is the teaching sound and biblical?

Are our entire hearts involved in the worship of God? Are the songs and hymns even about God?

Then what’s this sermon thing? Do we really believe in the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit?

Do we really believe that He shines His light on our motives and attitudes when the Word of God is proclaimed?

I certainly do, and am convinced God is watching over His Word to perform it (Jer. 1:12). The sermon is not an addendum but is an essential part of our worship.

But many pastors, while convinced of the message of scripture, avoid the hard hitting doctrines of God’s holiness, wrath and sovereignty because.. well … if we’re honest, we know that some folk will leave if we tell it just the way He said it. But on the other hand, we have no right to adjust or avoid the clear teaching of Scripture. I also believe that the people of God are crying out to hear about God as He really is, and the Gospel as it really is.

I think as pastors we need to face this head on and say, “yes, some will leave,” just as some quietly vacated the crowd in Jesus’ day when He outlined His demands for discipleship, or pressed home His Father’s Sovereign Grace in election (Jn 6:37-66). But that’s the point – Jesus didn’t preach to please the crowd, but to please His Father. He wasn’t seeking to build a popularity base in Israel, but He did say, “I will build My Church.”

We need to ask the question, “who are we trying to please – men, or God?” When I stand before the Master, I don’t want to face Him with only bulimic, under-nourished sheep under my charge. I certainly don’t want blood on my hands for failing to preach the whole counsel of God (see Acts 20:26, 27).

I believe that God is worshipped when His truth is proclaimed, and that my responsibility as a pastor is not to try to keep all the wolves happy, but to feed Christ’s sheep. As the prince of preachers, C. H. Spurgeon once said, “Christ’s sheep will never be offended by Christ’s voice.”

I don’t wish to come across as someone who feels I’ve got everything in place or that I think God is perfectly pleased with how I do Church. Not at all. And that’s what’s scary. I don’t have all the answers, but I do feel that l am beginning at least to ask the right questions. I want to find biblical answers, rather than simply designing a church by the popular trend of the day. I think that has to be the place to start – asking the right kind of questions.

What haunts me – what really scares me – is that one day I will stand before the Master and give an account of my life and my ministry. I am scared, not because I do not believe in Christ’s imputed righteousness to me as a believer. I certainly do. Thank God! With Scripture alone as my sure foundation, I affirm that my justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone “” for the glory of God alone. What a secure refuge the Gospel is in all this! But what scares me, and if I am honest, what I think should scare me and all of us a lot more than it presently does, is the reality of Christ’s future judgement over our works (Rom. 14:10-12; 1 Cor. 3:5-15; Rev. 22:12).

We see Christ’s priorities in many places in the Scripture, but perhaps the place we see them most clearly is in the letters of Christ to the seven Churches of the book of Revelation (chapters 2 & 3). As I read through these letters, I have to admit, I find it more than a little frightening. In my mind, I have a mental picture of that day when my works are judged. Jesus is standing in front of me, in a blaze of glory, and with a Bible in His hand, He asks me three piercing questions:

1. How well did you live this?

2. How well did you preach this?

3. How well did you do Church by this?

These are not questions He doesn’t know the answer to. He knows the answers all too well, of course. But whatever the picture in my mind right now, the reality will be a great deal more alarming. Jesus, with eyes of love, but eyes of fire, will look at me and all of us Christians with a gaze that penetrates all self professed spirituality. He will deal with us in truth. With all that is in me, I want Him to say, “Well done!” and not “well, are you done?”

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. – Heb 4:12-13

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. – Heb 13:17

Its a wonderful and joyful privilege to be a pastor – an under shepherd to the Great Shepherd of the sheep. But being a pastor is also the most scary job imaginable on planet earth. Please take some time today and pray for your pastor and elders.

Much Ado About Nothing

Pastor John Samson

Ask a High School student what they did at school that day and the usual response is “nothing.” “Nothing,” according to Jonathan Edwards “is what sleeping rocks dream about.” That’s quite a humorous statement, but have you ever tried to think about nothing? If you have you will know that its hard, if not impossible to think about nothing.

We could think about blackness but blackness is not nothing. We could think about emptiness but emptiness by definition is merely the absence of fullness and what is that exactly? The fact is, we are always thinking about something, even when we are trying to think of nothing. Our minds are not good at grasping the concept of nothing.

But lets think about our universe for a moment: If there ever was a time when there was nothing, all there could ever be now would be nothing.

Leave nothing for 10 minutes or 10 billion years and it will still be nothing. In Latin there is a phrase “ex nihilo nihil fit,” which means “out of nothing, nothing comes.” You can’t get something out of nothing. Nothing is no thing! It is not! Nothing is not a little something.

Yet something exists. That is undeniable.

If there ever was a time when all there was was physical matter, where did intelligence and personality come from? Could matter develop personality over time? Really? How is that in any way possible?

Nothing x No One = Everything

(That’s total nonsense!).

GOD + Nothing = Everything!

(Now that make perfect sense!)

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

The Most Helpful Thing I Ever Learned As A Christian

Pastor John Samson

I wonder if you can relate to any of this. One of the first things God the Holy Spirit did for me after I had come to faith in Christ was to give me a deep settled assurance of salvation. Romans 8:16 tells us that “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” This inner witness brought me the sure knowledge that despite my many flaws and failures, I was in fact His – His for all eternity. As I read the Scriptures, the wonders of this great salvation become clear – God had saved me, I was His, and Christ did indeed love me and had given me eternal life. Heaven sent joy and peace flooded my soul. I knew I could say, “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.”

But then, somewhere along the way this settled peace was disturbed. The wonders of His grace, wrought through Christ and His atoning work became obscured”¦ not because I read some book countering Christianity and was swayed by the arguments, but because I came across Scriptures that at least at first glance, seemed to show that my salvation was a lot more flimsy and shaky than I first imagined. Perhaps you can identify with this.

Here’s what I mean: I read Scriptures such as “nothing can separate us from the love of God” (Rom 8: 39) but then read “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt 24:13)

I read, “”¦whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) and then read “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you””unless you believed in vain.” (1 Cor 15:1,2)

I thought, “which is it God? If someone believes, You say that they have eternal life, but here it says that someone can “believe in vain.” How could both statements be true?”

I read about how God started the work in us and would in fact complete it (Phil 1:6) and that “these whom He justified, He glorified” (Rom 8:30) showing me that none of His truly justified saints fall through the cracks, but all end up saved. I cannot for a moment imagine Jesus failing to fulfill the will of His Father, and in John 6:39 He makes clear what the Father’s will actually is: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”

These Scriptures, and many others like them gave me great assurance that I was saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, but then I read other Scripture verses that would say things such as, “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14)

That was a verse that terrified me, plaguing my conscience continually. As holy as my life was compared to what it was before, (I now had a great love of the Scriptures and spent many hours each day studying them, even as a young teenager), I knew I never measured up to even my own standards, let alone God’s. If I prayed for 20 minutes, the thought came to me, “if you were a real Christian, you would have prayed longer.”

Where did that kind of thought come from?

I knew it was probably the enemy, but I had little with which to fight those thoughts. If I shared my faith with a friend, my conscience would point out to me that there was a guy walking down the street I could have stopped and witnessed to also. I could never do enough to assuage my conscience.

I heard sermons where the preacher talked about the difference between conviction of the Holy Spirit and condemnation (which comes from the devil) and although understanding this distinction certainly helped, my conscience still screamed that I was not as holy as I should be, and lurking at the back of my mind was the constant pounding of that haunting Scripture “without holiness, no one will see the Lord.”

The poisoned lies of the enemy were like fiery darts that assaulted my mind. The enemy can quote scripture (Matt 4:5). Looking back I can see that he was taking advantage of my lack of knowledge. Verses that were meant to add to me, to bless me, to inspire me and comfort me, became the source of great confusion and anguish of heart.

So what happened to change this ever deepening cycle of despair? My answer came by doing a lot of thinking. “Thinking?” you might say. That does not seem too spiritual.

Perhaps you thought I might say that I had some sort of “experience” – that I went to some conference and experienced a vision of glory – or maybe I was taken up into heaven and given the privilege of seeing my name written in the Lamb’s book of life before returning back to earth. Well that’s not what happened. What happened was, I thought!

I knew that contradiction was not the hallmark of truth but of falsehood. I knew that God was not a liar and that His word was true. That was a conviction that never left me during this whole process. But what I came to understand was that there was a way to reconcile all of these statements in Scripture and make sense of them all.

The remedy came by understanding a simple concept – something I had been taught in school in an English class – the difference between the prescriptive and the descriptive.

“What? You are telling me that the enemy was put to flight through an English class. That doesn’t sound too spiritual to me either.” Well maybe so, but the truth became clear to me when I understand that there were two ways of looking at the second set of statements mentioned above. One way left me in great confusion, the other way brought everything into clarity.

The first set of Scriptures are very clear.. the one who believes has eternal life”¦ whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”¦ and so on”¦ The second set of Scriptures, which talk of the need to persevere, to continue in faith could be viewed as prescriptive (they tell us to do something) OR they could be viewed as descriptive (they describe actions being done). When seen as descriptive, all of them make sense.

Here’s what I mean. Lets take the Scripture “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 24:13). We could interpret this as saying “well, you never can have assurance of salvation unless you first endure to the end.. case closed.. no one can ever have assurance”¦” That is one way to read the words and many in fact interpret the verse that way. However, that understanding would set itself in total opposition against the whole reason for an entire book of the Bible, namely First John.

John wrote “I have written these things to you that you might know that you have eternal life.” (1 Jn 5:13) John (and of course God, who inspired the words) wrote to make his readers assured of their salvation.

So again which was it? Is it “no one can know” or “God wants us to know”? The fact that God wants us to know we are saved is a clear statement of Scripture. There was no other way to understand the words. So the way to reconcile both statements became clear. The verse on the need to endure to the end is descriptive rather than a prescriptive.

Yes. A true Christian NEEDS to endure. In fact, he MUST endure.. all the way to the end. But here’s the truth that helped me so much: Saving faith endures, demonstrating it to be supernatural in its origin. The true Christian WILL endure. Matthew is describing the character trait of the true saint, namely endurance. If you see someone endure to the end, it is the evidence of the fact that they are a truly saved individual. The one enduring is a saved person.

The Apostle John made it clear that those who do not continue in the faith were never truly genuine disciples. 1 John 2:19 reads, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” Once again we see that the true Christian WILL endure – the enduring one is a saved person.

Oh how this helped me! I could then see that there is a false kind of faith that looks a lot like the real thing but is not genuine. Those who have this kind of “faith” will not last – they endure for a while, but when pressures of life and the cares of this world come, they fall away.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like one of Jesus’ parables? Yes, exactly – the parable of the sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4).

Those who have the word planted in the soil of the heart do endure. Endure they must and endure they will!

This understanding allows me to look at any of the Scriptures and believe them.

“But wait,” someone might say, “you haven’t yet endured to the end, so how can you be sure you will?”

Oh that comes back to the first thing I mentioned.. the settled peace that the Holy Spirit gave me when I first came to Christ. He gave me the assurance that I was His, and now asks me to examine myself to see if I am in the faith.. asking things like, “are you still enduring, even in troubled times?” The answer is “yes” – and the good news is that because He is the source of my faith (its not the product of my own fleshly carnal unregenerate nature) “¦ because it is He who started this work in me, I can be confident of this – He will complete the whole process.

“But what about holiness John – are you as holy as you should be?” Well I have to admit, God’s standards are perfect, and I come short of the mark each and every day I live.

“Well then John, that means you can have no assurance of salvation, right?”

No, not at all, because I do sense some holiness, I do see growth in sanctification, being set apart to God.. but my standing with God is based on being justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and the wonderful truth is that Christ Himself IS my sanctification – though the process has begun in me of making me more like Him and many times I still fail to honor the Lord as I should, progress is being made.. I do want to be holy, I do wish to live free from sin”¦ yet my standing in holiness is the very holiness of Christ. (1)

“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and SANCTIFICATION and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:30, 31 – emphasis mine)

“Lord, make me more like You, help me to hate my sin more each day and love Your ways instead, and draw me closer to You, not to try and gain salvation by my works, but because I am a saved man, wanting, desiring, longing for more of You.”

The saved man endures, strives, presses and perseveres.. He must do so, and he will do so. Why? Because I am confident of this very thing – that the One who has begin the work in me He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. None of His true sheep will be lost. Hallelujah, what a Shepherd. Hallelujah, what a Savior!”

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(1) The root idea of creaturely holiness is not primarily behavior – rather it is being set apart to God’s ownership and His service. To be holy is to belong to God, to be uniquely set apart to Him.

God declares us (true Christians) as positionally holy by virtue of the person and work of Christ (Col 1:2).

Hebrews 10:10 says, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Then, having declared us positionally holy, God makes us personally holy. Hebrews 12:10 “” “For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.”

This aspect of holiness is a matter of progressively becoming in practice what we already are (positionally) in Christ.

The Messianic Claims Of Jesus Christ

Pastor John Samson

As Christians, we believe our Savior’s name is the Lord Jesus Christ. Its important to understand that “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, but rather a title. The word “Christ” comes from the Greek word “Christos” which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah. When we say, “Jesus Christ” we are literally saying, “Jesus the Christ” or “Jesus the Messiah.” But are these claims valid? Can we be sure that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah?

Through what we call Messianic Prophecies, God provided a sure and certain way to recognize His Messiah when He came. These are events written in the Bible, hundreds and even thousands of years before they would take place in time. Only God could reveal such amazing detail millennia in advance of the events.

God had declared that His Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham (Gen. 22:18), from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), and a son of David (Jer. 23:5,6; 1 Chron. 17:10b-14). God had also said that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), in the surroundings of poverty (Isa. 11:1-2), in Bethlehem, the city of David (Micah 5:2). He would be proceeded by a herald (Isa. 40:3-5, Mal. 3:1), be seen riding on a donkey (Zech 9:9, 10) and would be present 483 years after the decree was made to rebuild Jerusalem, after the Babylonian captivity (Dan. 9:24-27). He would be a king (Gen 49:10; Isa. 9:6,7), a priest (Psalm 110:1-7) and a prophet (Deut. 18:15-19; Isa. 61:1, 2).

But there’s more. He would be legally tried and condemned to death and would suffer and die (Isa. 50;4-9; 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22), by means of piercing his hands and feet (Zech. 12:10; 13:7; Psalm 22), His death would be substitutionary (in the place of others), He would be buried in a rich man’s tomb and He would be resurrected from the dead (Isa. 52:13-53:12; Psalm 16:1-11; Psalm 22).

All in all, around 330 prophecies such as these were fulfilled by Jesus in His first coming, and many more will be fulfilled when He comes back to Earth to reign. He will be seen to be the ruler of the Gentile nations (Psalm 2:7-12), and of Israel (Psalm 110:1-7).

More than 30 prophecies were fulfilled in just one day – the day Jesus Christ died!

Ps. 41:9 – Mark 14:10 Betrayed by a friend

Zech 11:12 – Matt 26:15 Price: 30 pieces of silver

Zech 11:12 – Matt 27:3-7 Money used to buy a field

Zech 13:7 – Mark 14:50 Shepherd killed, Sheep flee

Isa 50:6 – Matt. 27:26-30 Spat on and mocked

Ps 69:19 – Matt 27:28-31 Shame and dishonor

Ps 35:11 – Mark 14:56 False witnesses

Ps 22:18 – Jn 19:24 Gambled for His clothes

Isa 53:7 – Matt 27:13, 14 He opened not His mouth

Ps 109:24 – Matt 27:32 Too weak to carry cross

Ps 69:3 – Jn 19:28 Jesus thirsty

Ps 69:21 – Jn 19:29 Given vinegar to drink

Ps 22:17 – Matt 27:36 They stare at Jesus on the cross

Ps 22:16 – Matt 27:35 They crucify Him

Ps 22:14 – Jn 19:34 Water flows out of wound

Ps 38:11 – Luke 23:49 Friends stand afar off

Ps 109:25 – Matt 27:39, 40 People wagged mocking heads

Ps 22:8 – Matt 27:43 Challenge for God to save Him

Isa 53:7 – Jn 1:29 Jesus the Lamb of God

Isa 53:12 – Luke 23:34 Jesus prays for His killers

Ps 22:1 – Matt 27:46 He cries out to God

Isa 52:14 – John 19:5, 14 A broken man, yet King

Isa 53:4, 5 – Matt 8:17; 1 Pet 2:24 He bears our sins and sicknesses

Ps 22:31 – Luke 23:4 Jesus declared faultless

Ps 31:5 – Luke 23:46 He gives up His spirit

Exo 12:46 – Jn 19:36 His bones not broken

Isa 53:12 – Luke 23:33 Numbered with the transgressors

Daniel 9:26 – Jn 11:50-52 Jesus died not for Himself

Gen 3:15 – Jn 19:18 Satan bruises Jesus’ heel on cross

Isa 53:9 – Matt 27:57-60 Laid in a rich man’s tomb

Amos 8:9 – Matt 27:45 Darkness at crucifixion

The evidence is overwhelming – Jesus is the long awaited Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world. The vital question then is this: How do you stand in relationship to Him? Is Jesus Christ your personal Lord and Savior? If not, the time to make Him so is now.