By Michele Rayburn
When I think about the cross, I think of what Christ's death on the cross accomplished. What Christ did on the cross is not "the end" or "an end in and of itself". But rather it is the beginning, and the means by which we are not only forgiven and our sins paid for, but we begin to experience eternal life right now, having received the Holy Spirit. And we are now able to "walk in the Spirit" and thereby grow and mature in our faith.
Without Christ’s crucifixion, we could not receive the Holy Spirit so as to experience His life and become ministers of the New Covenant, the gospel of our salvation to all that would believe. Because we have received the Holy Spirit, we glorify God in the earth and carry out His work as well.
When I think of Christ’s death on the cross, I think of Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
And Colossians 3:1-4 says, "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God...For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."
Hebrews 12:2-3 says, “...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross...consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”
The author of Hebrews reminds us to look at how Jesus was able to endure such suffering because He was forward-looking, anticipating the joy that would follow, and encourages us to be like-minded...to not become weary and discouraged in our sufferings, but to look forward to the joy that is to come after this life.
Our church had to say goodbye to one of the members of our congregation a couple of Sundays ago. He came to church to see everyone one last time because he knew that he only had a few days left to live. He was a young man with inoperable brain cancer. I was so glad to see him just one more time, because I wanted to know how he was feeling spiritually...could he say, “It is well with my soul”.
Though he was very, very weak sitting in his wheelchair, barely able to speak or hear, and very frail, I was blessed by his countenance. He had an almost imperceptible smile on his face, and a glow about him. I could see that though outwardly he was perishing, inwardly he had the joy of the Lord. That’s what I needed to see.
I thought of how he must be looking forward to his new home in Heaven, that he was ready. He was looking forward to the joy that was to come. And that’s what the author of Hebrews is encouraging us to do in our sufferings. (This young man has since gone home to be with the Lord.)
When I think of Christ’s death on the cross, I think of the acceptance and unconditional love that we have in Him. Ephesians 1:4-7 says, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself...by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.”
One Pastor/theologian wrote, “...other religions cannot tell us of a dying Savior.” I would have to say that other religions not only cannot tell us of a “dying Savior”, (though “many Christs will come”) but they cannot tell us of a risen Savior either.
I remember talking to my cousin about Jesus Christ years ago. She preferred to follow the teachings of Buddha. So, I finally said to her that all those other “prophets” from those other religions are dead, but Jesus Christ is alive...He has risen from the dead! I will never forget the look in her eyes. She was speechless. It was a moment I will never forget.
The gospel is not the cross, per se, as I sometimes hear people say. It is that Christ died on the cross for our sins, and that He was buried and that He rose again on the third day. (1 Cor.15:3-4)
Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32)
Sunday, July 30, 2006
By Michele Rayburn
Friday, July 28, 2006
I have seen much confusion caused among believers because of a misunderstanding of the message of James in the Epistle of James. Some have glossed over it and made it seem as if James didn’t really say what he said, others have twisted the words of James to mean what they want it to mean, and others have outright rejected the Book of James, teaching or implying that it shouldn’t even be in the Bible.
In Martin Luther's preface to the New Testament, he wrote the famous words, "St. James' Epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to them; for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it." (Actually that appeared only in the 1522 edition. In the 1545 revision it was taken out.)
Is the Book of James against grace?
After all, James uses the word “law” 12 times, and “grace” only twice. He uses the word “works” 13 times, but the name “Jesus” only twice.
He even says blatantly, in James 2:24, "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." And he gives an example in James 2:25, "In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?"
Is the Book of James against grace?
In case you’re getting a little nervous, the answer is, “No, James is not against grace." Two things are important here.
First, we need to understand that James is not just writing to believers.
He is writing to “the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad”. These were Jews who were scattered around the then-known world, some of whom were now Christians.
You can never understand James until you realize that he was addressing unbelievers as well as believers, some who professed to believe in Jesus, and some who truly did believe. And James, in some of his comments, sort of throws them all into a hopper and mixes them up, and then tells them what’s what. You may not like his method here. You may prefer a systematic Paul, who more logically progresses with his points and makes it clearer whom he is talking to. But God has used James to make some points that no other Bible writer has made.
Second, we need to see the purposes in James' writing.
He was not laying down a theological treatise on salvation, or what we call soteriology. He wasn’t, like Paul in Romans, detailing the makeup of man, the work of Christ on the Cross, and the election, calling and justification of men by grace through faith.
To see these purposes of James, let’s do a very brief review of the Book of James, and comment on some of the issues James was dealing with. There are 5 chapters, and we’ll give each one a title, reflecting the main theme of each chapter. These 5 titles will begin with letters which spell out the word Works. W-o-r-k-s.
Chapter 1 “With Trials Comes Growth”
Chapter 2 “Only Works Show Faith”
Chapter 3 “Rudder-Tongue Steers Ship”
Chapter 4 “Keep Humble, Get Grace”
Chapter 5 “Suffer Patiently, But Pray”
So James is not against grace. But he wants true grace to be in evidence. Not a false or spurious grace. He wants to emphasize that when you become a New Creation, there will be fruit that comes from that. When you are born again, something happens. You are given a new spirit, which is the true you, the essence of your being, your very nature…a new nature which loves Jesus and hates sin. And when that new true nature of yours expresses itself, there will be good works. And when we walk by the Spirit, some of those works will be seen. And it’s all by Grace!
Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
We need to understand that Love, as a fruit of the Spirit, has its own fruits.
Some of the fruits of Love are named or implied in the 13th Chapter of 1 Corinthians, the so-called "Love" chapter.
And one of these fruits of Love is "...does not take into account a wrong suffered." In other words, Forgiveness.
We must not fool ourselves by saying, "I am loving," when we aren't also forgiving. If we hold something against someone, we are merely manifesting the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). Unforgiveness and lack of Love go hand in hand.
How quickly should we forgive? The simple answer is, "Immediately as the offense occurs." But, of course, it's not that simple, is it? Why not?
Well, because forgiveness, like Love, is a fruit of the Spirit, and if we're not walking by the Spirit, to that degree we won't be loving, and we won't be forgiving.
So, as always, we need to be being filled with the Spirit, to commune closely with Jesus Christ, to live in surrender to Him and His will, to bask in His grace and love, reckoning ourselves dead to sin, and allowing Him to live His Life through us.
Then we will be loving, and forgiving. But we won't be one without the other, and we won't be either without Jesus.
Side Note: Acting loving or forgiving isn't enough, is it? That's not the fruit of the Spirit.
Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Make no mistake about it. Men often love to make rules that are not in the Bible and call them Biblical.
The new President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Frank Page, "...affirmed that he believes re-baptism is necessary in the case of a person who was baptized by immersion following salvation in a church with 'incorrect theology,' including one which rejected eternal security of the believer."
Now I certainly believe in the eternal security of the believer, but the issue for baptism Biblically is not the fine points of theology, but the professed regeneration of the candidate. In other words, are you born again? Are you a believer in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?
But in an echo of the Pharisees, man sometimes likes to make his own rules, call them Biblical, then parse them to the "enth" degree to cover all situations that might arise, forgetting that the Holy Spirit will be leading.
What's interesting is that President Page has a controversial background of promoting women Pastors, which he has since recanted as "incorrect theology".
Does that mean that those who were baptized in his church during those years when he held his former view should now be re-baptized? He would, of course, say, "Certainly not." There again, because one not only makes his extra-biblical rules, but then refines them according to his own sub-rules, legalism remains a slippery fish to get a hold on.
He also has written a book against Calvinism. Does that mean someone baptized in an SBC church that teaches what he would call the "incorrect doctrine" of Calvinism should be re-baptized. And on it goes.
Side Note: By the way, when Page says re-baptism is "necessary", necessary for what? Salvation? He would say, "Of course not." What then? Well, it's for putting your name on the rolls for "membership" (dare I say, another extra-biblical teaching?).
And that's "Legalism In The News" for today, folks.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
I've found that to most Christians the Gospel is something that is told to unbelievers to get them to believe in Jesus Christ, so that they can be saved from Hell and go to Heaven.
If someone is more theology oriented, they may get into more details about how that unbeliever is saved, how God chose them before the foundation of the world, how Jesus died to pay the penalty for their sins, how Jesus imputed His righteousness to them in order to justify them, or declare them righteous, how He regenerates them so they're born again, how He seals them with His Holy Spirit, and how He keeps them in His hand until they die, so they can tell other unbelievers how to be saved from Hell and go to Heaven.
But whether a simple untrained Christian, or the most trained Theologian with several Theological Seminary degrees, there is a tendency to see the Gospel as related pretty much only to initial salvation. In fact the field of study is called Soteriology, the study of salvation.
But I want to call attention to what may be called "The Rest of the Gospel", or the Gospel for the Christian, or the Gospel for the Already Saved.
Now the phrase "the rest of the gospel" is kind of a play on words. It's the "rest" of the gospel, like there's more to come, or more to be understood, like the rest of the story. And then there's the "rest" of the gospel, like "resting", like we rest our heads on a pillow.
1. First, "rest" (as in pillow).
Matthew 11:28 says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." I find most Christians I meet either have no rest or rest on the wrong thing.
Hebrews 4:9 says, "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. And Hebrews 4:10 says, "For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His."
Have you entered that rest, where your relationship to Jesus Christ is based on His works, not yours? I'm not asking are you born again, are you saved? I'm talking about that "rest" where we don't have to earn God's love or favor anymore. That's the "rest" of the Gospel.
2. Second, "rest" as in the rest of the story.
Unbelievers are described in the Bible like this:
Enslaved to sin
Confidence in myself (flesh)
A citizen of earth
Unfortunately, too many Christians think they are still that same person, only they've been forgiven. The bumper sticker that says, "Christians Are Not Perfect, Just Forgiven" is misleading.
Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
2 Cor 5:21 says, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
Christians are not JUST forgiven. A couple of things happened there that go way beyond just being saved from Hell and eventually going to Heaven, as wonderful as that is:
1. God fulfilled the long-promised New Covenant in which He would actually come to live inside His children and His life would be entwined with our life. 1 Cor. 6:17 says, "But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." And so He is living His life through us. He is actually causing us to walk in His ways, as the promise of the New Covenant declared. He is actually working in us both to will and to do His good pleasure, Paul tells the Philippians.
2. While we're living this Christ life, we can be aware that there is nothing in the way of unrighteousness putting a wall between us. We have become the righteousness of Christ. He has made us a New Creation, and He has declared us to be righteous, or in right standing with Him. No barriers, no veils, no Wizard of Oz curtain to keep us from Him.
Remember that list of things about unbelievers, that some believers sometimes think are still true of them? It's now replaced with a new list:
Free in Christ
Full confidence in Christ
A citizen of heaven
The more we have close fellowship with Him, the more we can see beyond the veil into the invisible Kingdom of God, and see the wonders that He is doing in our lives. We don't need to be conformed to the world, but transformed as our minds are renewed. We truly see things with wisdom. I don't mean we see with our eyes, we see with faith.
- We walk by faith, and not by sight.
- We see how to really live, and we walk by the Spirit.
- When we walk by the Spirit, we are filled with His Spirit, and we have the fruit of the Spirit, and now we can love and be loved.
- We can have joy in our lives, the joy of the Lord, and we know that the joy of the Lord is our strength.
- We can live our lives with peace in our hearts.
- We can have patience with the circumstances in our lives, and with the people in our lives.
- We can walk in kindness, and everyone around us will know the difference.
- Our goodness will be real, not put on to impress anybody.
- We reflect the faithfulness of God with our own faithfulness.
- We won't have to PROVE ourselves, but can have true biblical meekness, that doesn't have to have our rights always enforced.
- We will have true self-control, not the pull-up-your-bootstraps willpower, but the peaceable strength of "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".
This is the rest of the gospel. This is the life in Christ, who is our life. This is the walk of the New Creation, the walk by faith in the unseen eternal things that have already been accomplished in us by our wonderful Lord and Savior. We're not just forgiven, friends. There is the rest of the Gospel to be proclaimed to the believer.