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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Jesus Christ

Daily Devotion-May 6, 2015-What Is Love Anyway?

John 21:15-17

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.


Read John Chapter 21 here

First of all, this devotional is not going to be a deep theological dissertation on all the various meanings in the passage above. Someday perhaps we will do that, but not today. I am only using it to illustrate what love means.

Both of the types of love mentioned in the Bible can be found in the above passage. The Bible commonly uses two different Greek words, with quite different meanings. The two words from the Greek which are translated love are, “agape” and “phileo.

The above passage goes something like this:

  • Peter, do you agape me? Yes Lord, you know I phileo you.
  • Peter, do you agape me? Yes, Lord, I phileo you.
  • Peter, do you phileo me? Peter, mildly put out, replies, Lord you know I phileo you.

As I said, here we are not going to analyze that passage; it just works well for what we are going to do briefly, which is explain just what love is.

  • Agape love is the kind of unconditional, sacrificial love which God The Father has for us. It is not based on feelings or based on if the recipient deserves it or not. It is the kind of love that is willing act and sacrifice even when another is totally undeserving. It is the kind of love both God The Father and Jesus Christ displayed when God sacrificed His Son for us, even though we did not deserve it. Agape love is the kind of love we are commanded to practice towards our fellow humans.
  • Phileo love is the kind of love we might have for a friend, or brother or anyone who we are fond of. This love is feeling based; in other words, this is based on whether we actually like a person or not. It might be sacrificial in some circumstances, but only insofar as it meets the needs of the person sacrificing.

Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The kind of love He commanded was not phileo love, but agape love. Because we are not to commanded to love just those we actually feel something positive for; we are commanded to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Stay tuned for a future post on that very subject!

Crowns In Heaven-How’s That Work?

In the church I attend, another fellow and I are teaching a class that, week by week, is going over the the Doctrinal Statement of the American Baptist Association. We are currently in our section on the Resurrection of Jesus and the Resurrection of the Saints. During the course of our discussion of the Resurrection of the Saints, we began discussing the Judgment Seat of Christ we will face at that time. We also got into a discussion about the Crowns we can receive and how the whole concept of Crowns plays out in the Bible.

I have to be honest, the question caught me flat footed, so to speak. There are two reasons for that: One, I simply had not given much thought or study to the matter; two, I am not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination.  I am not seminary trained; in fact, other than a three year program called Faith Bible Institute, I have zero formal Bible training.

What is the point of all that? Well, it means there is a bunch of stuff I don’t know, and it means there is a bunch of stuff I have difficulty learning and subsequently explaining. So, I have studied, prayed and meditated on this issue and am going to do my best to present an answer which makes sense. As I have said before, I may be wrong. If I am, we can sort it out in Heaven.

We will all be judged

The Bible is quite clear in teaching that every single human who has ever lived will be judged at some point in time. Here we are going to briefly discuss the judgment of Believers, which will take place at the Bema, or the Judgment Seat of Christ. We need to clarify one thing quickly before we dive into this topic. The Judgment Seat of Christ is not a judgment to determine whether we are admitted into Heaven or cast into Hell; believers have made that particular decision during their lives here on Earth.

1 John 2:2 teaches us that the determination of that was made by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and our faith in Him, John 3:16. Romans 8:1 teaches us that we will never be condemned for those sins.

We will face the Judgment Seat, then, not to determine where we will spend eternity, but to determine and reward us for the quality of our works on Jesus’ behalf while here in this life. At the Judgment Seat, we will give an account of our lives to Jesus, and will be rewarded(or not rewarded) for our works, not judged for our sins. The Judgment Seat is mentioned a couple of times in Scripture, and the context of the passages makes it clear this is not a condemnation/salvation judgment.

Romans 14:10-12 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

The word for Judgment Seat, Bema, is used a couple of ways in the New Testament. One way was in the sense of the place from which Pontius Pilate would have been when he pronounced sentence on Jesus in Matthew 27:19 and John 19:13. Another sense in which the word was used was then sense in which it appeared in athletic competitions of the time. Victorious athletes would stand on a raised platform, called a Bema, and receive their reward for their winning performances. What would the winning athletes receive on the Bema? They would receive a wreath, or crown, placed on their head as a symbol of their victory. In an interesting note, the winning athletes not only were rewarded for victory, but the way they won was analyzed to insure they had followed the rules in obtaining that win! We see this illustrated in 2 Timothy 2:5.

Three things seem relevant here. One, context indicates that our Bema is for reward and not punishment. Two, Paul often compared the Christian life to an athletic competition, so the use of Bema as that seems to fit. Finally, the people he wrote to in Corinth would have understood both usages of the word, as both types were present in the city of Corinth. The use of Judgment Seat as a reward for faithful service seems to mesh right in with our topic of Crowns, as we will see later.

What Crowns can we get?

There seem to be five crowns spoken of in The Bible, and we will review them each here. We will also cover what it seems we have to do in order to be presented with those crowns. This all is a matter of some interpretation, so we won’t be dogmatic about it.

 The Crown of Victory, or the Imperishable Crown.  We see this in

  1 Corinthians 9:24,25  Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

What is this crown for? Very likely it is for those who have tried live a temperate life. This would be those who have tried to live a life not of the flesh and the world, but focused on Holy things. This may be for those who opted to not lay up their treasure on Earth, but in Heaven, Matthew 6:19. What Peter addressed in 1 Peter 3:4, “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,”

The Crown of Rejoicing.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

Some refer to this as the Soul Winners crown, as Paul seems to  be rejoicing over the souls he saw saved during his life.  Aren’t we fortunate that God will judge us for our efforts and not our success? All of us can get this crown, not just those who see thousands saved!

The Crown of Righteousness

2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

We can look at righteousness in a couple of ways. We all receive imputed righteousness, this being the instantaneous righteousness we receive at the moment of our salvation; that is the moment when our sins no longer matter, and we are declared righteous in the eyes of God due to the payment Jesus Christ made on our behalf. We can also look at it in terms of the sanctified righteousness which represents the lifelong work God performs in us to make us righteous and Holy as a way of life. This crown may represent our transition from striving for righteousness to that eternal state where that is all we will ever know.

The Crown of Glory

1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Some think this is a reference to a crown which will be given to those who served as overseers, or pastors and deacons in this earth. The verses prior to that could possibly indicate that to be true. If so, it could meant that those who have faithfully served will finally get the reward they deserve, while those who served with less than honorable intentions will have their crown withheld.

The Crown of Life

Revelation 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

James tells us in James 1:12, that the Crown of Life is for “them that love Him.” How do we show we love God?

1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

This is possibly for those who have suffered tribulation and perhaps even martyrdom for the Love of God. It may even be simply for those who have loved God, i.e the saved. Either way it is for those who have stayed steadfast in their love for God through all the various trials and tribulations this life has to offer.

Are our Crowns Real? And what will we do with them?

Before we move on, let’s look at one last thought. All of our works, not just the ones the fit into some category we put them in will be evaluated.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

All that we do will be analyzed by God, for the quality and intent with which it was done. This leads us to the question of whether the crowns are real or figurative.

The Bible never once says they are figurative. Like most things we find in the Bible, we usually cannot go wrong if we simply take it the way it reads. We may very well have real crowns placed on our heads at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

On the other hand, Paul was noted for his comparing of life to an athletic contest, and the crowns may be an analogy based upon that. I think one could lean that direction and not be accused of  “spiritualizing” the Word of God.

What will we do with our crowns, real or figurative?

Revelation 4:10,11 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,  Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

It is generally accepted that if we do receive real Crowns in Heaven, we will follow the example above and cast them at Jesus feet, for they were given by Him. We only had the ability to earn them based on the power He gave us in the first place. Like all that we do, these crowns will be eternally for the honor and glory of Almighty God and not for us anyway.

Even if the crowns are figurative, the same scenario applies. All that we are here on Earth for, and all that we will be in Heaven eternally for, is simply for the honor and Glory of Him. All the honor and glory and power is due Him, for He created all things, and all things were created for Him and His pleasure.

In closing, the question has to be asked: Will you even be at the Judgment Seat of Christ? There are two judgments taught in the Bible. The one we have discussed is only for those who belong to Jesus Christ. The remaining people, alive and dead will also be resurrected to face a judgment. It also will not be a judgment to decide Heaven or hell. We make that choice only while living. Here, non believers will be judged not for their works, but for the severity of their sins; then all who face this judgment will be eternally cast into the Lake of Fire.

Do you know which judgment you will face? Have you come to understand that you are a sinner, condemned already in the eyes of God? Are you willing to repent and turn away from that sin? Do you understand that a penalty must be paid, but that Jesus Christ has already paid it on your behalf? His payment is a gift from God to you. All you have to do is believe, through faith, that you deserve to pay, that Jesus paid it for you, that He died and rose in three days to conquer your sin and death. Believe that and accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord and you, too, can be at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

‘Left Behind:’ Will There Be a Rapture?

I read the article below earlier and it really started me thinking about some things. I hope readers are not disappointed, as we really are not going to cover any debate on whether there will or will not be a rapture. One might call this a bait and switch article. The article that got me thinking was written by Jim Denison, a columnist for Christianpost.com

The Left Behind series is a publishing phenomenon, with 16 books and $65 million in sales. Three movies have been based on the series; today’s Left Behind makes the fourth. In it, Nicolas Cage plays a pilot who attempts to calm his surviving passengers high above the Atlantic after the believers have been raptured. Other well-known actors include Lea Thompson, Jordin Sparks, and Nicky Whelan.

The movie is based on the doctrine of the “rapture” (from the Latin rapturo, to take out). There are various versions of the rapture, but they have in common the belief that Christians will be removed from the world by God during the “end times

via ‘Left Behind:’ Will There Be a Rapture?.

As I said, reading the above article really made me think. The writer made some great points, and I want to expand on them here. There are many views on the timing and particulars of the return of Jesus Christ. I happen to believe the Doctrinal Statement of the American Baptist Association represents Biblical truth; however even within that there is room for debate on the timing of the Rapture.  Hey, I could be wrong. If I am, we can sort it out in Heaven.

The truth is, not all believe the same things concerning the Rapture, the Tribulation or the Millenium. There are many compelling arguments to support different viewpoints on the subject. We can believe differently on these issues without anybody being branded as a heretic. The one thing that remains true, and must remain true if we are to be considered correctly believing Christians:

Jesus is coming back!

I need to say up front, there is nothing wrong with scholarly study of the Bible. In fact, Scripture is crystal clear that we are to study and meditate on the inspired writings it contains. The study of Scripture, however, is not the end goal; it is simply a tool we use in order to reach the real objective. If our lives are full of study with no application, then it has been wasted time. Scripture is to change us, not just make us smarter and more knowledgeable about it. James taught us this idea clearly in James 1:23,24. If we look into the mirror of God’s Word and do nothing, it is like a man looking in a mirror and seeing what needs to be fixed but walking away without fixing it.

Jesus took one last opportunity to teach His disciples on the Mount of Olives shortly before His ascension; He was asked by them if The Kingdom would be set up at that time.  His answer? “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons.”

It was shortly thereafter that Jesus ascended into Heaven. Even then, the disciples simply stood there staring until two angels appeared and reminded them that they had work to do, and also that Jesus would return just as He had left.  Read the whole story here.

Now on to the actual point of this article. This quote from the original article I read simply captured me and provided the jump off point for this article.

“Here’s what matters: Jesus is coming back. No one knows when. We have only today to be ready. Whether he raptures the church before (or during, or after) a Great Tribulation, or returns to begin the millennium, or simply returns to end history and begin eternity, is not the practical question. You and I have no say in the matter. We are on the preparation committee, not the planning committee. Our job is to be ready when he comes, however he comes.”

What, then, are we to be preparing for?

  • We have a wedding to prepare for. Revelation 19:7-10 describes John’s vision of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. It is here that The Lamb(Christ) will marry His bride, the Bride of Christ. We aren’t going to discuss here who is and is not the bride, as it’s really not important to this discussion. Verse 7, however does say “His wife hath made herself ready.” How are we to be making ourselves ready? These verses give us some clues.
  • We have a judgment to face. We all know the judgment of God will pass onto all unbelievers for their unbelief. Believers will be judged also. We will not be judged to determine our final destination; that determination is made only while we are still living. We will be judged to give an account of our lives and how we lived them for Jesus.
  • We have a world to evangelize. God has not left us here simply to enjoy ourselves. He wants us restored to him and that is why He patiently waits until His chosen time. See 2 Peter 3:9 for Peter’s teaching on this idea. Back in Acts 1, right after all of the questions on His return, Jesus had told them their mission was to “be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

There is a commonly quoted saying, “Some people are so Heavenly minded that they are no Earthly good.” Is that true for us? Are we so busy debating and considering the times, places and events surrounding the return of Jesus Christ that we have forgotten what the real issue is? He is returning, that is simply not debatable. The question is: Are we ready?

  • Are you lost? If you are not saved, you are not ready. Repent today; turn from your sin. Accept Jesus’ payment for your sin and His role as Savior and Lord of your life.
  • Are you saved? Remember what is coming. Are you preparing to be a good Bride? Will you be told “Well done, good and faithful servant” when you face Jesus? Are you reaching out to a lost and dying world with the Gospel?

Jesus Paid It All and You DON’T Want To Pay Your Own Way

I am re running a series I did a while back on the sufficiency of the payment Jesus Christ made for us on the Cross. I pray that somebody reading this might take these words to heed and become saved by the Grace of God.

Jesus paid it all. That is a very simple statement, with very profound implications.  Today begins a multi part series on Jesus’ payment. A good starting point is for us to discuss exactly what Jesus paid for. We will end with a discussion of why we really don’t want to make that payment ourselves.

What did Jesus pay for? Well he paid the necessary payment for our sins, of course. That seems fairly simple, yet the vast majority of the world fails to truly understand exactly what that means. The non believing world, as well as a large part of the “Christian” world totally fails to really understand what the Bible teaches about this issue.  Of course the non believing world simply dismisses the issue completely; and within the “Christian” world there are so many perversions and misunderstandings about this issue that they simply cannot be counted.

This series will be a close examination of some of the truths contained in the simple statement, “Jesus paid it all.”  In this first part, we will simply discuss the nature of both our sin debt and the payment Jesus made on our behalf for that debt.

Let’s talk about sin.  In its simplest meaning, sin is the breaking of God’s law. By God’s Law, we aren’t talking about the Old Testament Law, such as dietary laws and so forth. We are talking about the moral codes of behavior which God has laid out for us to adhere to. God’s law comes out of the aspects of the nature of God. For example, God considers a lie to be a transgression of His law, because God himself cannot lie. God’s Law reflects His character and His Holiness. To not love others trangresses God’s Law, because God is love. God’s Law is not just some arbitrary list of rules, but a reflection of His character, holiness and perfection.

Do we sin? Well of course we do! The Bible teaches that clearly. Romans 3:23 is the most famous scripture verse on this issue, stating that 

All have sinned, and come short of the Glory of God

Not only do we all sin, but we were all born into this world as sinners. Because of the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, all mankind has inherited a sin nature. Romans 5:12 teaches us that,

 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

But let’s get more specific. It’s easy to toss out the general idea about how we are all sinners by nature and by choice. But we should actually discuss some particulars of our sin. Most people would agree that the Ten Commandments are a major source of a great number of the specifics of God’s Law. We should give ourselves a test. By the way I fail this test miserably!

Have you ever told a lie? Any lie, small or large. Any lie, whether a little white lie or a big black one? What is a person who tells lies called? A liar of course

Have you ever stolen anything? Big or little. Have you stolen a pencil at work? Run copies on the company printer? Have you cut in line? Then you stole that person’s spot. What do you call someone who steals? A thief of course.

Have you ever used God’s name in vain? This doesn’t even have to be the most obvious one where we actually use His name as a curse word. Have you called Him “the Big Guy?” Any use of the Holy name of God in a flip way is considered blasphemy by God.

Ever looked at a member of the opposite sex with lust? Of course we all have, unless we like the same sex. Jesus taught that to look at a woman with lust is to commit adultery of the heart.

We really have not gotten through all of the Ten Commandments, which are His moral law, and we have established that for the most part we are all lying, stealing, blaspheming adulterers at heart! (Thanks to Ray Comfort for that little test by the way)

So, the only question that remains is: Someday when you stand before God will you be found innocent or guilty? Based on our test, the answer obviously seems guilty is the only possible answer. To really get this, we have to understand and try to look at the issue from God’s perspective. We might look at some of those things and just not consider them to be a big deal; however, God disagrees. The real issue is this: Do we get to rate ourselves, so to speak, against our own human thoughts about right and wrong, or are we subject to the evaluation of a Perfect and Holy God?

Let’s start with something basic. God hates sin. That is an uncomfortable truth, but a truth nonetheless. Why does God hate sin? There are many reasons, and we will cover a few of them. First and foremost, God hates sin because He is Holy and sin is unholy. Sin, simply put, is outside the character of God and it offends Him. Like we said before, the Bible teaches that God cannot lie and that God is love. It flows from His character naturally then, that He would hate liars and those who do not love. God hates our sin because it separates us from Him. Before they rebelled and ate the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve walked in the Garden of Eden daily with God, as we learn in  Genesis 3:8. After The Fall, they were physically expelled from the Garden of Eden and the presence of God. The Prophet Isaiah was inspired to write the following:

Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Our sin separates us from God, yet He created us to commune with and worship Him; therefore He hates anything which separates us from Him.

God hates sin because we will love our sin more than we love Him. God is love, loves us and wants our love. He hates anything which diminishes that love. James covered this in his epistle:

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

God hates sin because sin is a sign of our rebellion toward Him.  In the Garden of Eden, God only made one rule for Adam and Eve, and that was that they not eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve succumbed to the tempations presented to her by Satan, and she and Adam ate the fruit anyway. God’s plan was for Adam and Eve to live forever in harmony, in communion and in worship of Him. They chose, however, the things that appealed to them rather than the things that mattered to God. That is what our sin represents to God today. When we sin, we are simply saying to God that we think our way is better than His way.

So, God is the Creator of the Universe and the supreme law giver. He is entitled, by virtue of that position, to make the guidelines by which we live; falling short or refusing to comply with those guidelines offends God’s character and He hates it. Obviously, it seems, any violation of His law makes us guilty of being law breakers. Nonetheless, many come up with various defenses of their actions in attempts to say they really are not guilty. We are going to look at some of those defenses; and we are going to compare what God might think with what any judge in any courtroom in the world wpuld say if these defenses were presented to him or her. That seems fair; we would understand a human judge responding in accordance with the law. It seems we would expect no less of the Supreme Judge of the Universe! For this scenario, just envision being before a human judge, say for the crime of armed robbery and that the penalty for that is imprisonment. This is the law, no exceptions.

“Judge, it wasn’t really a big robbery. I didn’t even use a gun! And I only got a little bit of money anyway.” The law says the penalty for armed robbery is imprisonment, no exceptions. Off to jail says the judge. God likewise does not care about the size of our sin. God is perfect and Holy, remember? A small sin makes us just as guilty as a big on in they eyes of a perfect God. James 2:10 teaches us that a man who keeps the whole law and yet offends in one point is still guilty of violation the entire law.

“Judge, I may have committed that robbery, but I never killed anybody!” The law says the penalty for armed robbery is imprisonment, no exceptions. Off to jail says the judge. God is not going to look at all the things we could have done, but did not do. Once again, a violation of the law is a violation of the law.

“Judge, I may have committed that robbery, but did you know I have been working down at the food kitchen helping the homeless for years? What about all the money I gave to charity?” The law says the penalty for armed robbery is imprisonment, no exceptions. Off to jail says the judge.  No matter how many good things we may do, they do not make up for our violation of God’s law. We cannot cover our penaly due by doing anything good.

“Judge, look what THAT guy has done!” The law says the penalty for armed robbery is imprisonment, no exceptions. Off to jail says the judge.  God is not comparing us to each other to decide our innocence or guilt. He only compares us the the standard of His perfection and Holiness. It only matters what we have done, not what anyone else has done.

“Judge, I’m really, really sorry for committing the armed robbery.” The law says the penalty for armed robbery is imprisonment, no exceptions. Off to jail says the judge.  The idea that we could tell a judge we are sorry and expect to be released is really absurd. The law says what the penalty is, and the penalty must be paid. Why would God be any different?

Let’s get serious for a few moments now. Based on the standard of the law, we are all guilty of breaking it. I am; you are, every single one of us is. Someday we will all stand before God and the only possible verdict is a resounding GUILTY! This however, is not armed robbery, and the penalty is not simply imprisonment. What, then is the penalty? God’s Word tells us the answer to that question:

Romans 6:23 The wages of sin is death………

That’s right, the penalty prescribed in God’s Law for violation of that law is the death penalty. The penalty is not pennance, or purgatory, or a monetary fine or any sort of good works to make up for what we have done. The penalty for our sin is death. What does this mean? Well, after the first sin, it meant physical death. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, they would have lived forever in their physical forms, in harmony with God. Their sin brought into the world all the sickness and death as we know it today. Death also means spiritual death.  Even though we all eventually die physically, we are are all eternal in our spirits. Our spirit, or soul will exist for all eternity.  So, again, what is it to spiritually die? Spiritual death is eternal separation from God in a place of toment we call Hell. It’s really that simple. When God says the wages of sin is death, that is the death of which He speaks.

The penalty is due; we all owe it, for we have all sinned and transgressed God’s law.  And each and everyone of us can pay that penalty ourselves if we want to. We each owe it, and we can each pay it. I could have payed for my own sin; you can pay for yours if you wish. But that’s the point of this article. We don’t really want to pay our own way; we don’t want to suffer eternal death in a place called Hell.

Although we can certainly pay our own way, we do not have to. The title of this article is Jesus Paid it All, and He did. The Good News of the Gospel is that even though a penalty is was due and payable, it has already been paid! We need to go back to Romans 6:23 and look at the rest of that verse, as we only showed part of it earlier:   

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God has given us a gift. Even though we owed the penalty of death for our sin, He have us His Son, Jesus Christ as a way for that debt to be satisfied. God became flesh, in the form of Jesus Christ and became incarnate on this Earth for that very reason. Jesus Christ was fully human, so He could pay the price humans owed for their sin; He was also fully God, so He could pay the infinite price of the sin of all humanity past, present and future. Despite how He hates sin, God loves us deeply and completely.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

It is a gift, we do not pay a thing for it; Jesus paid it all. We do not deserve it and we do not earn it.  All we have to do is accept it. How do we do this? Let’s look at what the Bible teaches about this:

Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

It’s simple really. We have to confess Him. Basically we have to agree with Him that our sin is wrong and understand we should have paid for it. We agree with God that our sin is wrong and turn away from it. We call that repentance. We also need to believe that Jesus paid the price we should have paid ourselves, and to trust Him as our Savior and Lord.  And finally, we do have to call on Him. Romans 10:13 teaches that. The gift is available, and it is free; however God will not force it on anybody. He does require that we call on Him and ask for that gift.

Jesus paid it all. Four words full of meaning.  We all have a choice. We can pay our own way or we can accept that Jesus has already paid our way, if only we repent toward God and believe in Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Devotion-December 2, 2014-Count It All Joy

James 1:1-4

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.


Starting today, we are going to spend a little time in the Book of James. It’s such a great one. The Book of James is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. It’s as close to a handbook for Christian living as a person can get really.

Earlier, in Verse 1, James had made reference to the “12 tribes which are scattered abroad.” Due to persecution, Jews from Jerusalem  had been scattered abroad were were still suffering hardship and trials. In most cases, they were suffering because of their faith. James was writing to them to offer guidance on handling these trials and also to provide them with some guidelines to help them determine the authenticity of their faith.

So, right from the beginning, James jumps right to explain the inevitability of trials and the purposes for them. That’s where we will start also.

“Count” it all joy. Simply put, this is to consider, think about or look upon our temptations, or trials, in a particular way. James is telling us to look at them a particular way because our human nature would not be to look at them that way.

What is that way? With joy. All joy. James is not referring to a gritting your teeth and endure it with a smile joy here; he is talking about the kind of joy we can consider trials with if we truly understand the God has a purpose for them in our lives.

James tells us to count it all joy “when” we fall into temptations, or trials. The word temptation here is synonymous with trial; it’s not referring to temptation to sin here. James is warning us that trials will come, even for and perhaps particularly for, believers.

Divers temptations. Diverse trials, various and sundry trials, trials of many different sorts. My trials will not be your trials. We will all face our own.

James has laid the ground work here in terms of the fact that Christians can expect difficulties and trials. We are, however, to approach and deal with them the way God wants us to, with joy. Perhaps if we understand some of the purposes God has for trials in our lives, we would be better able to consider them with all joy.

Next…what trials do for us.

Daily Devotion-November 11, 2014-Love, If You Have it You Probably Are His!

1 John 4:15,16

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.


Since yesterday’s devotion might not have been particularly uplifting, we are heading a different direction this morning. In case readers did not read yesterday’s, we discussed the possibility that a lack of expressed love in one’s life and conduct might be a warning sign that a person might question their actual personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Today, we are going to briefly discuss the opposite condition. Let’s review love again very briefly. We have talked about love as a feeling we have towards particular people. In other words, there is “love” as expressed towards those we like, those we might be simply duty bound to love and those who will return something to us. We should all know by now, that is not the definition God uses for love. His love in an action based, self sacrificial love and is modeled on the actions of His Son Jesus Christ.

Can an unsaved person love extensively? Of course they can. The world is full of lost people who show great acts of love. Can an unsaved person love self sacrificially? Of course they can. History is full of examples of that. Is it likely that an unsaved person will live a lifestyle of self sacrificing love towards every single person they meet? Probably not; in fact, the odds are slim that most saved people could do that on a continuous basis.

However, read our verse. Dwelling in love could be defined as constantly living a state of self sacrificing love toward all those around you. And understand, that may also mean simply desiring to live that life, because as sinners we still fail daily. If that is true, then further reading reveals some encouraging news. A person who dwells in love, dwells in God, who dwells in that person.

So, while a lack of self sacrificing love in one’s life could be cause for worry; the presence of it as a lifestyle should be a very strong encouragement for a person to rest comfortably in their salvation through Jesus Christ.

Daily Devotion-November 10,2014-No Love? You Might Not Be His

1 John 3:14

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.


We are continuing on with our devotional series on love. We have defined love, talked about what love is and covered ways love can be put into action. Today is not going to be a particularly uplifting devotional, but hopefully will be something to think about and consider.

The verse above clearly refers to Salvation. Salvation is when we pass from death to life, and to not be saved is to still abide and death. But there are two other key components of that passage we are going to briefly look at.

First is the statement that if we don’t love the brethren, we still abide in death. That is a harsh statement on the surface. If we profess salvation, and do not love our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, there are only two alternatives. One is that we are saved, but simply in full rebellion against Jesus’ command to love. In that case, we should certainly feel the conviction and chastisement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Option two is simple; our profession of faith may not have been real!

But, there is quite an upside as well. This we find in the statement, “we know.” When we talk about the Assurance of Salvation, we aren’t just talking about the fact that it is eternal and that we never lose it; we are also talking about the fact that we can KNOW we have salvation through Jesus Christ. And love is one of the tools God has so wonderfully given us to provide assurance. Feeling doubtful? We all have at times. Do you really, truly demonstrate love towards your Brothers and Sisters in Christ? Then, you are probably doubting for no good reason.

Turn lose of your doubts (the ones Satan so desperately wants you to hang on to), and get busy in your freedom in Jesus doing the thing or things He has actually called you to do!

Daily Devotion-November 6, 2014-Laying Down Your Life

John 15:13

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.


Of course, when He made that statement, Jesus was directly referring the the fact that He was about to literally lay down His life for His friends. Jesus was about to literally lay down His life for the entire world and its sins. Is that necessarily the application for all of us? In certain circumstances, it might be. Any one of us could encounter a situation where literally laying down one’s life might be an appropriate expression of ultimate love. What about the rest of us? What if we are never asked to literally sacrifice our lives for a friend? Are we just off the hook? Hardly! What, then, might it mean to lay down one’s life for a friend?

We live in a culture today where people won’t even lay down their thoughts, ideas and opinions for their fellow man, much less their lives. The United States, particularly, is a “me” culture. “Looking out for number 1,” “If you don’t take care of yourself, nobody will.” These are all reflections of the way we are. Yet, Jesus’ still said to lay down one’s life for friends is the ultimate expression of love.

We can do this by making others needs more important than our own. Jesus did that for us; He gave up his rightful place in Heaven to come here, live as a man, suffer and die just because our need for a savior was so great. Next time you have a situation where two needs are presented and only one can be met, meet your brother or sister’s need and let yours go unmet.

We can do this by forgiving. People wrong us; that is simply a fact. Scripture teaches us over and over that we are to forgive. Jesus asked His father to forgive the very people killing him on the cross in Luke 23:34.  We simply have to learn to forgive the same way; we need to forgive no matter the seriousness of the offense that is committed against us

We can do this by sacrificing for others. Not only might we be required to meet another person’s need and leave ours unmet, but we might actually have to give up something our our own to meet their need. Maybe you have plans but a brother or sister has a need; give up your plans and be there for them.

We can do this by meeting the needs of people who don’t deserve it and cannot or will not do a thing for us. Some folks don’t deserve help. Some are not capable of doing anything for us in return. Some are capable, but in our hearts we know they wouldn’t give us a fire extinguisher if we burst into flames. Help them anyway.

Laying down one’s life for friends is similar to Jesus mandate that we pick up our cross and follow Him. He didn’t mean for us to literally pick up a cross, and He probably didn’t mean, in most cases, for us to literally die for or friends. Jesus was setting a pattern for us here, and in our efforts to be Christlike, we should follow that pattern.

Who have we laid our lives down for today? If the day is just starting, who will we lay down or lives for today?

Crowns In Heaven-How’s That Work?

In the church I attend, another fellow and I are teaching a class that, week by week, is going over the the Doctrinal Statement of the American Baptist Association. We are currently in our section on the Resurrection of Jesus and the Resurrection of the Saints. During the course of our discussion of the Resurrection of the Saints, we began discussing the Judgment Seat of Christ we will face at that time. We also got into a discussion about the Crowns we can receive and how the whole concept of Crowns plays out in the Bible.

I have to be honest, the question caught me flat footed, so to speak. There are two reasons for that: One, I simply had not given much thought or study to the matter; two, I am not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination.  I am not seminary trained; in fact, other than a three year program called Faith Bible Institute, I have zero formal Bible training.

What is the point of all that? Well, it means there is a bunch of stuff I don’t know, and it means there is a bunch of stuff I have difficulty learning and subsequently explaining. So, I have studied, prayed and meditated on this issue and am going to do my best to present an answer which makes sense. We aren’t going to really have time to cover it our formal class, so I am going to cover it here.

We will all be judged

The Bible is quite clear in teaching that every single human who has ever lived will be judged at some point in time. Here we are going to briefly discuss the judgment of Believers, which will take place at the Bema, or the Judgment Seat of Christ. We need to clarify one thing quickly before we dive into this topic. The Judgment Seat of Christ is not a judgment to determine whether we are admitted into Heaven or cast into Hell; believers have made that particular decision during their lives here on Earth.

1 John 2:2 teaches us that the determination of that was made by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and our faith in Him, John 3:16. Romans 8:1 teaches us that we will never be condemned for those sins.

We will face the Judgment Seat, then, not to determine where we will spend eternity, but to determine and reward us for the quality of our works on Jesus’ behalf while here in this life. At the Judgment Seat, we will give an account of our lives to Jesus, and will be rewarded(or not rewarded) for our works, not judged for our sins. The Judgment Seat is mentioned a couple of times in Scripture, and the context of the passages makes it clear this is not a condemnation/salvation judgment.

Romans 14:10-12 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

The word for Judgment Seat, Bema, is used a couple of ways in the New Testament. One way was in the sense of the place from which Pontius Pilate would have been when he pronounced sentence on Jesus in Matthew 27:19 and John 19:13. Another sense in which the word was used was then sense in which it appeared in athletic competitions of the time. Victorious athletes would stand on a raised platform, called a Bema, and receive their reward for their winning performances. What would the winning athletes receive on the Bema? They would receive a wreath, or crown, placed on their head as a symbol of their victory. In an interesting note, the winning athletes not only were rewarded for victory, but the way they won was analyzed to insure they had followed the rules in obtaining that win! We see this illustrated in 2 Timothy 2:5.

Three things seem relevant here. One, context indicates that our Bema is for reward and not punishment. Two, Paul often compared the Christian life to an athletic competition, so the use of Bema as that seems to fit. Finally, the people he wrote to in Corinth would have understood both usages of the word, as both types were present in the city of Corinth. The use of Judgment Seat as a reward for faithful service seems to mesh right in with our topic of Crowns, as we will see later.

What Crowns can we get?

There seem to be five crowns spoken of in The Bible, and we will review them each here. We will also cover what it seems we have to do in order to be presented with those crowns. This all is a matter of some interpretation, so we won’t be dogmatic about it.

 The Crown of Victory, or the Imperishable Crown.  We see this in

  1 Corinthians 9:24,25  Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

What is this crown for? Very likely it is for those who have tried live a temperate life. This would be those who have tried to live a life not of the flesh and the world, but focused on Holy things. This may be for those who opted to not lay up their treasure on Earth, but in Heaven, Matthew 6:19. What Peter addressed in 1 Peter 3:4, “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,”

The Crown of Rejoicing.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

Some refer to this as the Soul Winners crown, as Paul seems to  be rejoicing over the souls he saw saved during his life.  Aren’t we fortunate that God will judge us for our efforts and not our success? All of us can get this crown, not just those who see thousands saved!

The Crown of Righteousness

2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

We can look at righteousness in a couple of ways. We all receive imputed righteousness, this being the instantaneous righteousness we receive at the moment of our salvation; that is the moment when our sins no longer matter, and we are declared righteous in the eyes of God due to the payment Jesus Christ made on our behalf. We can also look at it in terms of the sanctified righteousness which represents the lifelong work God performs in us to make us righteous and Holy as a way of life. This crown may represent our transition from striving for righteousness to that eternal state where that is all we will ever know.

The Crown of Glory

1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Some think this is a reference to a crown which will be given to those who served as overseers, or pastors and deacons in this earth. The verses prior to that could possibly indicate that to be true. If so, it could meant that those who have faithfully served will finally get the reward they deserve, while those who served with less than honorable intentions will have their crown withheld.

The Crown of Life

Revelation 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

James tells us in James 1:12, that the Crown of Life is for “them that love Him.” How do we show we love God?

1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

This is possibly for those who have suffered tribulation and perhaps even martyrdom for the Love of God. It may even be simply for those who have loved God, i.e the saved. Either way it is for those who have stayed steadfast in their love for God through all the various trials and tribulations this life has to offer.

Are our Crowns Real? And what will we do with them?

Before we move on, let’s look at one last thought. All of our works, not just the ones the fit into some category we put them in will be evaluated.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

All that we do will be analyzed by God, for the quality and intent with which it was done. This leads us to the question of whether the crowns are real or figurative.

The Bible never once says they are figurative. Like most things we find in the Bible, we usually cannot go wrong if we simply take it the way it reads. We may very well have real crowns placed on our heads at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

On the other hand, Paul was noted for his comparing of life to an athletic contest, and the crowns may be an analogy based upon that. I think one could lean that direction and not be accused of  “spiritualizing” the Word of God.

What will we do with our crowns, real or figurative?

Revelation 4:10,11 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,  Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

It is generally accepted that if we do receive real Crowns in Heaven, we will follow the example above and cast them at Jesus feet, for they were given by Him. We only had the ability to earn them based on the power He gave us in the first place. Like all that we do, these crowns will be eternally for the honor and glory of Almighty God and not for us anyway.

Even if the crowns are figurative, the same scenario applies. All that we are here on Earth for, and all that we will be in Heaven eternally for, is simply for the honor and Glory of Him. All the honor and glory and power is due Him, for He created all things, and all things were created for Him and His pleasure.

In closing, the question has to be asked: Will you even be at the Judgment Seat of Christ? There are two judgments taught in the Bible. The one we have discussed is only for those who belong to Jesus Christ. The remaining people, alive and dead will also be resurrected to face a judgment. It also will not be a judgment to decide Heaven or hell. We make that choice only while living. Here, non believers will be judged not for their works, but for the severity of their sins; then all who face this judgment will be eternally cast into the Lake of Fire.

Do you know which judgment you will face? Have you come to understand that you are a sinner, condemned already in the eyes of God? Are you willing to repent and turn away from that sin? Do you understand that a penalty must be paid, but that Jesus Christ has already paid it on your behalf? His payment is a gift from God to you. All you have to do is believe, through faith, that you deserve to pay, that Jesus paid it for you, that He died and rose in three days to conquer your sin and death. Believe that and accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord and you, too, can be at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

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