Monday, April 28, 2008
Many years ago, in the early 1970's, I was a real estate salesman for Westdale Realtors in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Westdale was by far the largest Realtor in town at the time, and they had the ability to bring in big-name national speakers to their sales meetings.
In about 1974, they brought in a motivational speaker from the Nightingale-Conant organization. They're the ones that produce most of the sales, motivation and success recordings by dozens or hundreds of speakers.
This speaker mesmerized the audience when he announced that he was going to show us God. He proceeded to pound on his podium and said something like this:
“This podium looks like a solid piece of wood, doesn't it? But we know from science that it is not in fact a solid piece of wood. If we break it down into small bits, we now know that it is actually made up of microscopic parts called molecules tightly packed together.
“And if we break it down even further, we know that those molecules are actually made up of what we call atoms. And each of those atoms we know are made up of much smaller particles known as protons and neutrons which make up the nucleus or center of the atoms. And tiny electrons circle the nucleus of each atom, in an orbit.
“So that each atom is not a solid at all, but a universe of its own, with a center, and vast stretches of space, and satellites orbiting its center. And all of this is held together by something we call energy. And ladies and gentlemen, that energy is God. God is energy, and you can tap into that energy, or what we call the Universal Mind.”
Now to some of you that all may just sound silly. And let me say right up front that it is a false concept of God. God is not energy, God created energy. And this teaching is dangerous, and harmful to the spiritual life of both the unbeliever, who is turned away from the true God, and to the believer, who has their view of our true Lord distorted or diminished.
But back then, most of us were amazed at the so-called wisdom of this motivational speaker. I mean, if we could tap into the Universal Mind, the God who is energy, we could revolutionize our lives.
And here's the sad part.
This so-called knowledge was not new then, and it's still around today.
In various forms it has been a doctrine of demons since Bible days. And it is wildly popular today in the teachings of best-selling authors and speakers like Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, and in the huge best-seller, The Secret.
Spread by pop TV stars like Oprah Winfrey, and top business leaders, this ancient error is pushed into almost every home, school, and business office in much of the world.
And it's ultimately destructive. Even though you will hear glowing testimonies of how it has helped people.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12
And it's all based on a lie.
But here's the even more amazing thing:
That lie is based on a truth. And here's the truth:
There ARE truths unseen by the human senses. There ARE eternal truths that can only be appropriated by faith. And in a sense, these truths are more real than those which can be seen with our eyes. And that is why the Bible says that we believers “walk by faith, not sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).
And here's another great truth:
True growth in our spiritual lives consists in believing more and more the unseen truths, and living accordingly.
This requires the renewing of our minds.
Our minds were trained in the earthly. And the world, the flesh and the devil use that training to deceive us. They use our experience to lead us into either totally earthly living, with flesh as king, or they use our experience to lead us into false spiritual experiences.
These might include things like false religions, Masonic ritualism, false signs and wonders disguised as Christianity, the paganism of Wicca, animism as practiced by witch doctors, occult practices like Tarot cards, and even outright demon or Satan worship. The list is literally too long to recite here.
And yet, we said that true growth in our spiritual lives consists in believing more and more the unseen truths, and living accordingly.
Here's the question. If we are to believe more and more the unseen truths, and live accordingly, what are the unseen truths we are to believe more and more?
The answer is, the unseen truths of Scripture. The unseen truths which are revealed by the real God, Who has regenerated us, Who has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ our Lord, Who has redeemed us, Who has saved us from His wrath, and has made us His beloved, and has forgiven us of all our sins, and has gone to prepare a place for us in Heaven, and yet Who indwells us.
By the way, there are a few unseen truths right there. Do you believe that all of your sins are forgiven, past, present and future? Do you believe that you are really the precious Beloved of Christ?
I'm sure you do intellectually. But the more you grow in your understanding and faith in the actual reality of those great truths, the more that the love and grace of God will grip your heart and set you free from feelings of condemnation and rejection, and that freedom will cause your heart to soar with love for the Savior, and you will follow Him with more passion than you thought possible.
But that's just a couple of unseen truths.
There are many of them. They are the gems, the diamonds, scattered throughout the Scripture, sometimes laying right out on the ground to easily pick up, and sometimes they require some digging. But all of them are precious gems of a precious Lord. All of these unseen truths are beautiful to behold, when seen and held and believed with an evergrowing renewed mind.
What a goal for a life! What a way to spend the rest of your days!
And here's the bonus, the real blessing:
You can't discover the gems of the truths without seeing them in relation to the One Who is Truth. The truths don't really mean anything without Jesus. He is the center of our lives, because He is our Life. And when we see ourselves as He sees us, new creatures who now possess the righteousness of Christ, dead to sin, and alive to God through Christ (there's some more of those unseen truths), our lives are revolutionized.
Here's an unseen truth for you:
“God causes all things to work for good to those who love Him, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.
Do you believe that?
Harder question: Do you LIVE accordingly? Or do you grumble and complain?
Remember our great truth...
True growth in our spiritual lives consists in believing more and more the unseen truths of Scripture, and living accordingly.
So if we believe Romans 8:28, we have a completely different view of our circumstances, don't we? We can say with James, “count it all joy when you encounter various trials”. Why? Because God is working them for our good.
This isn't the modern cliché, “It's all good!” It's not all good. Much in this fallen world is bad. But our loving God is working it all together for good, to those of us who love Him.
Here's another unseen truth for you:
Nothing can “separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39.
Do you believe that? Or do you think God withholds His love when you sin? Do you cower away from God at times because you think He is angry with you?
The more you come to appropriate the truth that nothing can separate you from His love, the more you will be set free to enjoy His presence, and bask in His fellowship and love, and be a contagious spreader of that love and fellowship.
I like that word “appropriate” [long "a"]. Although it's not a biblical word, it expresses something a concept which takes believing beyond merely agreeing intellectually, to a sort of experiencing a truth.
A crude example might be like this:
You walk into someone's kitchen and you see a wooden chair at the kitchen table. You have no real reason to believe it won't hold you, but it looks a little more spindly and weak than the chairs you have in your kitchen.
But you assume since others have sat on the chair that it's probably okay.
But you're not 100% positive, or we might say you “feel” a little leery of it. So you pull out the chair and you slowly and gingerly take a seat. And of course, the chair is strong and sturdy, and you now have total belief that the chair will continue to hold you.
You have “appropriated” the truth that the chair is strong. You believed it intellectually, or you wouldn't have sat on it at all, but now you know that you know.
So how do we “appropriate” the unseen truths of Scripture?
That's not as easy a question to answer as you might first think.
It's certainly not as simple as saying, “God said it, so just believe it!” That's certainly the ideal, but things get in our way.
Things like the world, that attempts to brainwash us to their ways of thinking.
Things like our flesh that cries out with it's desires and conspires with the sin that indwells it to deceive us.
Things like evil spirits that will readily give us doctrines of demons to throw us off course, and seem to form them in the 1st Person as though they were our own made-up thoughts, confusing us.
And then we return to the Scriptures, and our minds are renewed some more. The truth shines through under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and we gain some ground in appropriating the unseen truths. And so we realize again how important it is to stay in the truth.
Other very practical things to help in appropriating unseen truths might include meditating on Scriptures, memorizing them, praying the Scriptures, reading them each day, and asking the Lord to reveal these truths to you as you exercise or practice them. And finally, actually walking or living according to these truths.
Remember, we said that true growth in our spiritual lives consists in believing more and more the unseen truths of Scripture, and living accordingly. Not just believing, but living accordingly.
That's ultimately what the Bible calls walking in the Spirit. It's being filled with the Spirit day by day, moment by moment, and walking in the Spirit. And so our communion with Jesus Christ, our fellowship with Him is critical. It's not knowledge for knowledge's sake, or truth for truth's sake that we seek.
It's HIM that we seek. It's always Jesus. He is our Life, and it is He that is living His Life through us.
When we grow in knowledge, we grow in the knowledge of Him. When we believe more and more the unseen truths, we are believing more and more in Him who spoke those truths. And when we know Him better and better, we will be more and more confident that what He has said, we may safely believe.
And we will be free, because we will know the truth, the eternal unseen truth, and the truth will make us free.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Monday, April 14, 2008
Here's something you won't find in the Bible:
“You will be emotional and your emotions will set you free.”
That may sound humorous, but there are actually therapists who think the solution to life's problems is to “vent”. To shout, scream, express your emotions for all the world to see, or at least in a closed room.
But there is a better way. One of the most precious and glorious and profound Scriptures in all the Bible, I believe is also one of the most neglected.
John 8:31,32 says this:
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
When this great passage is not neglected it is often used incorrectly by the world. You’ll see it on government buildings, and in political rallies of the most unbiblical kind. People sometimes think that THEIR idea of truth is what sets free. But of course, it’s the truth of God that truly sets us free.
I entitled this message “The Truth and Emotions” because I want to examine a little bit the relationship between emotions and truth.
Emotions, or the way we feel, often govern the way we act.
Ask any trained salesman, and they will tell you an old maxim that goes like this, “People buy according to their emotions, and then justify their purchase with the facts.”
That’s just one example, of course. Much of what we decide to do or not do in life is decided by how we FEEL about it. And this is not automatically bad. Emotions certainly are a gift from God. To be able to feel often means to be able to enjoy. To be able to feel often means that we don’t just live as robots, but that we live with zest and passion and COMpassion and focus and fun.
Of course emotions also may allow us to feel grief, despair, depression, rage, and misery.
But how do we take these wild mustangs of emotion and drive them into the corral, and train them to do what is best for them? To be able to value them, and not dread them? To get them to help us in making decisions in life that are wise decisions? Without becoming robots?
The answer is in the word TRUTH. As the passage says, The Truth shall make you free.
Error Brings Bondage
If you don't take away anything else from this message, please listen to this:
“Whenever we are in bondage, in our minds or our emotions, it is because of error.”
Now this is actually good news, for three reasons:
1. We can limit the error that we take into our minds.
We can’t eliminate it, because it assaults us through our eyes, our ears, and even internally from repetition of past error. But we can limit it. We can stay away from input that we know contains great amounts of error, whether it be books, TV shows, or a particularly destructive person.
2. We can fill our minds with truth.
The most obvious source of this truth for the Christian is the Word of God. Secondary sources may be trusted teachers of the Word, including books, spoken messages, and so forth. But filling our minds with truth sets us free.
3. Our emotions are the result of our thoughts.
And our thoughts are the result of what seems true to us. And what seems true may not be true at all. If you think a rattlesnake is inches from your face in the dark, it doesn’t matter one bit if it’s only a rope. Your heart will pound, your skin will perspire, your muscles may go rigid…you get the idea. It doesn’t matter what the truth really is in this case. What you THINK the truth is affects your emotions.
Now, again, the reason this is good news, is that if you can limit the error you take in, and if you can fill your mind with truth, and if your emotions will respond to that truth, then you can be made free. Free in your thinking, free in your feeling, and free in your decision-making.
This can be very practical in some cases. For example, if you’ve learned from God’s word that a close relationship with Christ is the highest most wonderful thing in your life, and that material possessions are as dung by comparison...and if you’ve learned from God’s word that unnecessary debt is not wise, then when the Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman comes to the door with a $2000 machine that your emotions might have driven you to lust for a few years ago...instead of “feeling” like “I gotta have that Kirby!”, you might actually feel like, “that vacuum cleaner is emptiness to me. I don’t even feel like wanting it. I want to get back to my quiet time with the Lord that the Kirby man just interrupted.”
And you tell the Kirby man to have a nice day.
Now I’m not talking about wise thinking here. I’m not talking about thinking through the situations. Right now I’m talking about emotions. About feelings. And how with right thinking, with truth, the right feelings are there, right when you need them.
I’ve heard teachers say, "Don’t let your feelings make your decisions for you, use wise thinking." But they’re denying a normal thing, and that is the simple reality that SOMETIMES our feelings decide for us. And it’s important for those feelings to be directed by the truth that is deep within us.
Now let's make another point about truth.
All Scripture Is Inspired by God, But...
The Bible is a big book. The one I'm looking at right now has 1393 pages, just counting Scripture itself.
It's a big book. In fact, as you probably know, it’s actually 66 books written over many hundreds of years, and covering history over many thousands of years.
So there’s a lot of truth in that wonderful book.
Now the Bible itself says, in 2 Tim. 3:16, that ALL scripture is inspired by God and profitable. And I sure believe that. There is no scripture that should be left untouched or unread, from the genealogies of Genesis, to the obscure symbolism of Revelation.
But, having said that, we have to realize that when it comes to our daily lives, and truth that brings right thinking, which leads to right emotions, and good decisions, there are some Scriptures which are just plain more important than others.
There are some rich gems in the genealogies, and digging them out is a wonderful thing. But lets’ face it, there are some truths of the Bible that if we don’t have a good solid handle on, we are just plain messed up. And by “messed up”, I mean “in bondage” of one kind or another.
So let’s just look at a few examples of these foundational truths that set us free. There are many others, but these are a few examples of what might be considered “heavenly things”, eternal truths on which we are to set our minds. And they will set us free.
1. Jesus Is The Truth
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” John 14:6
So all truth is measured by Jesus Christ. That doesn't mean that the red letters of your Bible, the words actually spoken by Jesus, are more inspired than the rest of the Bible. In fact, the Epistles contain some important information about Jesus Christ, and our relationship to Him, that you can't find in the Gospels with Jesus speaking.
After all, the New Covenant was not even put into place until Jesus died on the Cross, was buried, rose again from the dead, and ascended to the Father.
And this New Covenant is the basis for our relationship to Him who provided the Covenant, the Lord Himself. And so, critically important truth begins with the person and work of Jesus Christ.
It's about our relationship to Him Who is Truth.
That's a truth that can set you free.
Rom. 3:21,22 “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;"
Since the Bible teaches that our own righteousnesses are as filthy rags (another important truth), God made provision to give us His righteousness as a gift, by grace through faith in Christ. And when we believe in Him, we are declared righteous by God.
That's called Justification, and it puts us in a right relationship to the Lord, as though we had never been born sinful fallen creatures and had never committed a single sin.
There is no longer anything separating us from God and His love. He has declared us righteous.
That's a truth that can set you free.
3. We Died Too.
Gal. 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who delivered himself up for me.”
Rom 6:11, “Reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God, through Jesus Christ.”
Rom 7:6, “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound.”
Galatians 2:19, "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.”
See, when Christ died on the Cross, in some mysterious way, we believers died with Him. We died to sin, and we died to the Law. And so we have become a new creation, a new creature, who loves Christ and hates sin in our very heart of hearts.
That's a truth that can set you free.
4. Unconditional Love and Acceptance
Rom 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…”
Rom. 8 goes on to say that NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ, the love of God.
God fully accepts us in the Beloved, in Christ. We are His Beloved, just as He is ours. God favors us. He shows us His favor, just as He does His love. God has become FOR us, and if He is for us, who can be against us?
That's a truth that will set you free.
5. The Fruit of the Spirit and /Being Filled With the Spirit
Rom 12:1, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
This is surrender. This is that wonderful fruit of the Spirit that comes into us, as we meditate, commune with Christ, surrender to Him, are filled with His Spirit, are walking in truth. This only comes from the word of God and the Spirit of God as we look upon Him. As we move our eyes from ourselves and onto Him. As we surrender to Grace, and get off the ground of Law.
Look how much the fruit of the Spirit and freedom from bondage go hand in hand.
Paul told the Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, faithfulness, and self control.
Do you see any bondage in those?
We can be emotional, but we aren't in bondage to our emotions.
As we are filled with the truth of Christ, and the truth of Grace, and the truth of who we are in Christ, and the truth of His great love and acceptance of us, we naturally respond in our thoughts, and our emotions, and as He promises, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
I've often tried to expose Legalism as not just a theoretical thing, a subject for idle debate, but a set of IDEAS which have CONSEQUENCES detrimental to the Church and to an individual's spiritual fellowship with Christ.
Although the subject matter of this video is a different one, it boldly illustrates the simple truth that "Ideas Have Consequences".
HT/Everyday In Grace
Although the subject matter of this video is a different one, it boldly illustrates the simple truth that "Ideas Have Consequences".
HT/Everyday In Grace
Monday, April 07, 2008
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
How Old Testament believers were saved can shed a lot of light on how our great and gracious and just God thinks and works. Therefore it can also shed light on our own salvation even today, and therefore things like our own relationship to the Lord, and our witnessing or evangelism.
In line with that let's admit that there is much that we don't know about how Old Testament believers were saved. In many cases, we don't even know for sure who was saved. There have been endless debates about King Saul, for example, chosen by God, but ultimately rejected by God as King of Israel. Will King Saul be in heaven? The ongoing debate would indicate that we just can't say.
In examining how Old Testament believers are saved, let's just dive in and look at several things we do know from Scripture. I'll number them for easy reference.
Many Were Saved
1. We know that many were indeed saved. David reflects in the Psalms the wonder of being “in” with God, and having one's sins forgiven. Though it may make us wonder how they could be saved, since the Bible teaches that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. Which brings us to number two.
The Blood of Bulls and Goats
2. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins (Heb. 10:4). If this is true then we have a real problem, because it's all they had. But I want to come back to this point later.
Back To Eden
3. We get clues to how Old Testament believers were saved all the way back to the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned, we know that God killed animals, shed their blood so to speak, and clothed Adam and Eve with the skins. Most Bible teachers would agree that this was a somewhat primitive picture of salvation by grace through the shedding of blood. And I want to come back to this later, also.
Not Saved By Works
4. We know of no place in the Old Testament that indicates that anyone was ever saved by their own works or effort, by doing anything to gain God's salvation. This is a vital foundational point.
That's not to say there weren't times of sober commandments from the Lord, both to individuals and of course to Israel as a nation. And God in His holiness demanded obedience to those commandments, and sometimes brought devestating retribution on those who didn't obey.
But no indication is ever given that such obedience brought about the salvation of those who obeyed. Which is a good thing, since no one ever obeyed perfectly anyway, until Jesus Himself did so.
The Covering Of Sins
5. Under the Old Covenant, there was a provision made for the covering of the sins of the people, through the sacrifice of animals on the altar of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple. The Tabernacle was a tent-like structure which was built to God's specifications during the time Israel wandered in the wilderness, and could be packed up and carried from place to place. The Temple was built later as a permanent structure of immense beauty, much of it covered in pure gold.
But both had an altar on which animals were slain by the priests, in various ways and at various times, to cover the sins of the Israelites.
A New Heart?
6. We said previously that the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins, and what we just said in number 5 is basically why, because they were merely covered. But there is another aspect of salvation missing in the Old Testament. The nature of man was left unchanged by the sacrifices. Even covering of sins wasn't enough to give a person a new heart.
Now there is some discussion of whether a person in the Old Testament was regenerated, and personally I lean toward saying, “No”, simply because the Prophets spoke of a future New Covenant in which God would take away the heart of stone and give a heart of flesh. That's the essence of regeneration, the giving of a new heart or new nature. And since it was promised for a future time, I would conclude that it wasn't the norm in the Old Testament.
And yet, Old Testament believers did believe God at times. Since we may conclude that they were born dead in their sins and trespasses, enemies of God, just as people are today of course, how could they believe God without first being regenerated? I'm not being dogmatic here, but it seems to me that they were somehow given the gift of faith from God. This is consistent with the principle of Grace, which we will return to later.
But that leads to number 7, where we talk about the sunrise understanding of something we call Justification.
7. We see in the story of Abraham something which is revolutionary to the thinking of anyone who believes that we earn our way to God by our good deeds or good works. In Genesis 15:6 we read an amazing thing. We read the first account of the basis of God's gift of His righteousness. This basis of God's gift of His righteousness is, and always has been, and always will be, believing what God says, or what the Bible calls faith.
Faith and believing are the same thing. When we say we have faith, we're merely saying that we believe what God said. Faith in Christ is believing what God has said about Him. God said Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. We believe it. God says Jesus rose from the dead, we believe it. God says Jesus is Lord, we believe it.
Just a sidenote: that's why it's silly to say you have faith for a new car, for example. Because God didn't say you would have a new car. He did say Jesus rose from the dead, and He did say that those who believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. See the difference? End of sidenote.
So back to Genesis 15:6. This is what it says. “And he [that is, Abraham, or Abram as he was then named, he] believed in the Lord, and He [that is, the Lord] accounted it to him for righteousness.”
By the way, Bible scholars tell us that this was sort of an accounting term. You know, like when you have debits and credits on an accounting sheet. And when Abraham believed God, God credited His own righteousness to Abraham's account. He declared Abraham righteous, or as we say in Theology, He justified Abraham. That's Justification.
But this truth from Genesis 15:6 was so important that it was quoted three times in the New Testament. By Paul in Rom. 4:3 and Galatians 3:6, and by James in James 2:23. Why was it so important? Let's go to number 8 for that.
The Gospel Seed
8. Abraham didn't just believe God about any old thing. He believed God, in what we would see as a primitive way, about the Savior, the Messiah. God had promised Abraham that he would have a son, his seed, a miraculous event in Abraham's old age. And from that son would come the nation Israel, also called the seed of Abraham. And from that nation would come the Messiah, also called the seed of Abraham. And of course, from the Messiah would come the spiritual seed of Abraham, us believers. All of which was primitively portrayed symbolically by God to Abraham when He showed him the stars and promised that Abraham's descendants would be just as un-countable.
This was no more than a primitive portrayal of what we call the Gospel. And to this day, when one believes God about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they are declared righteous, they are justified by God. Now more than just that happens under the New Covenant, but we'll come back to that.
All Saved Through Faith
9. The basis on which Abraham was justified or declared righteous was the same basis on which all Old Testament believers were justified, and that is faith, or believing God.
10. So to recap a little, we see four things that existed in Old Testament salvations:
a. Grace, since God provided the faith for His elect to believe, apart from their works;
b. Faith, since God credited their faith to them as righteousness, that is, He justified them by faith;
c. A temporary covering for sins, through blood sacrifices;
d. The forgiveness of sins.
Three Things Missing
11. But along with those wonderful things that did exist in the Old Testament, we see some things that were not in operation, and yet are important to final salvation. Without these things, there could be no final salvation, and the believers in the Old Testament would be lost.
Here are three things that were missing in the Old Testament:
a. The first thing missing was a new heart, or new nature. Without a new nature, without being regenerated, a person is incapable of finally being saved and brought into the spiritual Kingdom of God. And certainly incabable of being brought into Heaven in the presence of God.
b. The second thing missing was the taking away of sins. Remember, the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins. So even though their sins were forgiven, there had to be something else. Something was missing. And what was missing was a sacrifice better than the sacrifice of animals, bull, goats, lambs, and so forth.
c. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The New Covenant not only promised a new heart, it promised that the laws of God would be put on the hearts and minds of His people, and it also promised something else. That God would cause them to walk in His ways. How would this be done? By His Spirit indwelling them. And that was not generally the case in the Old Testament, though there were exceptions I won't go into here.
12. So we've concluded that Old Testament believers were saved, yet we've concluded that some of the ingredients for their salvation were missing. Isn't that a contradiction? No, and we'll conclude with answering that seeming dilemma in number 13, and then we'll make one last comment in number 14.
The New Covenant Supplies What's Missing
13. The final answer to the salvation of Old Testament believers is ironically the same answer to the salvation of New Covenant believers, and that is the New Covenant. In the New Covenant that which is missing for the Old Testament believers is retroactively applied to those Old Testament believers.
First a quick sidenote: Remember that the New Covenant was not promised specifically to the Nations, to Gentiles. It was promised to Israel, although we Gentiles were graciously grafted in to this wonderful “salvation by grace through faith” plan of God.
And so the New Covenant is retroactively applied to Old Testament believers, Jews and Gentiles alike. And the three things we said were missing in the case of Old Testament believers, were fulfilled and applied. Here are the three things, and how they were fulfilled in Christ.
a. The first is a new heart, or regeneration. And this is exactly what happens when the Spirit of God, through the preaching of the Gospel, causes a person today to be born again. The believer is given the new heart promised by the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31). How exactly this is applied to Old Testament believers we don't know, but this may be what Peter referred to in 1 Peter 3:19, speaking of the Holy Spirit preaching to the “spirits in prison”. One thing is true, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.
b. The second missing thing now supplied by the New Covenant is the taking away of sins. No longer are our sins merely covered over by the blood of animals. Through the death of Christ, the greater High Priest, and His shed blood, our sins are now taken away. Hebrews 9:26 says, “...but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
And 1 John 3:5 says, “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.”
God pictures it by saying that our sins are thrown into the sea, and put away as far as the East is from the West. No longer just covered. I praise Him for that.
c. The third missing thing graciously supplied now in the New Covenant, is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If you don't have the Spirit of Christ, you are not His, Romans 8:9 tells us. His indwelling us is now a very part of our salvation, our new Life in Christ. We become one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17).
And it's this union with Christ by which He leads us through His Word. Or as the Prophet Ezekiel promised, “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes...”
Or as Paul tells the Philippians, “...it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
And so we see that all the loose ends are tied up for the salvation of the Old Testament believers. God's astounding and miraculously laid plans have not failed. His elect ones will come home. His elect ones will be saved. And the provision for their salvation is complete.
14. I want to say one last word, which applies to Old Testament believers and applies to you, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ. Please remember this, if you don't remember anything else.
It's all by Grace. It's all a free gift from God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. It's all by Grace.
Not only our initial salvation. But keeping our salvation. And our acceptance by God is by grace through Jesus Christ. He loves us. He accepts us. He declares us righteous. And nothing can change that. Nothing.
It was always by grace, since the Garden of Eden, and it's still by grace. Praise the Lord.