THE ABUNDANT LIFE

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10b (NKJV)

John 10:10b (NKJV)

What is the abundant life? What can I realistically expect from God in Christ on a day-to-day basis? How can He impact my life? Not when I die and go to heaven, but how can He impact my life Monday through Sunday, beginning in the morning until I go to bed? In other words, what are the benefits of the Christian life? I have heard this passage preached all my life, and it always frustrates me as it is invariably misinterpreted and taken out of context. They say that if you become a Christian, God will give you everything your heart desires. You’ll have money, prestige, and wealth overflowing. You’ll never have any problem, and you’ll never have any need in your life. If you study the passage carefully, you’ll be surprised that this has absolutely nothing to do with what we normally think abundant life is. The abundant life that Jesus talks about is linked to all His “I Am statements” scattered all around the book of John. ‘’I Am the Bread of Life, I Am the Door, I Am the Good Shepherd, I Am the Light of the world, I am the Resurrection and the life” etcetera are all linked to this one message of John – the Abundant Life is Jesus Himself. What is the abundant life? The Abundant life is not material possessions, it’s not your Mercedes in your garage, it’s not your fat bank accounts. The abundant life is not what we possess; the abundant life is who you know; it’s Jesus. There is nothing that the world can offer that comes anywhere near the overflowing, super abundant life in Jesus. But what can we realistically expect from this abundant life that Jesus gives? Number one is peace: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Peace that passes all understanding, peace that comes from knowing that you have been forgiven by God. Internal peace: peace that only the Prince of peace can provide. Another benefit we can expect from this abundant life is trouble; yes, you heard it, trouble. If you can expect internal peace, you can expect external problems because Jesus Himself promised, “in this world you will have trouble.” Do not wonder because if the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” Frankly, expecting major social, vocational, lifestyle problems aren’t exciting to me. Is it exciting to you? I sure like to talk about super abundant overflowing stuff. But the fact of the matter is, we’re going to have problems because we are Christians. We’re going to face some things that we would not face if we were not Christians. I don’t much like to get kicked in the face, do you? I don’t much like to be put down and personally be rejected, do you? But I submit to you if we bear the name of Christ, we are going to cause ripples wherever we are that’s going to reap persecution in the world. The problem with the church today is, we don’t look enough like Jesus to cause a ripple anywhere. If we are truly His, there ought to be a continuing ripple from our life and witness and we will suffer persecution from this world. But Jesus said, “in this world you will certainly have tribulation but take courage, I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33). We have an Overcomer on our side. And that means He wasn’t beaten up; that means He wasn’t crucified; it doesn’t mean one of His closest friends didn’t betray Him. It doesn’t mean He had days when He didn’t chide His followers for lack of faith. It simply means He’s an overcomer. Why do we think that abundance is going to be any different from the life of Jesus and His apostles? Why do we think because we are Christians we are going to be insulated from life’s problems? CHRISTIANITY IS LIVING THE LIFE OF CHRIST wherever we physically may be. What can we expect from being a Christian? We can expect peace, and we can expect problems. Those 2 are mutually exclusive and dialectically Biblical. Those are both true. So, what is the abundant life? Let me tell you several things: Primarily, it is salvation in the Person and work of Jesus. Two, It’s a new relationship with God. Three, it’s a new perspective on life; we no longer look at life through the eyes of the world, but through the eyes of faith. And when you finally look at life through the eyes of faith, what a different picture it would be. Abundant life is not health, wealth, (prosperity, good cheer, and lack of problems. Christ doesn’t promise us an extended physical life, nor an increase in material possessions (read 2 Cor. 11:23-27). CHRISTLIKENESS IS WHAT THE ABUNDANT LIFE IS! It’s a new relationship with God, and a new perspective on life. Abundant life is what you are in Christ; not what you possess. Abundant life is a responsibility of service, not a place of privilege.

SALVATION – DAILY CHRISTLIKENESS

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” – John 15:4 (NASB 1995)

John 15:4 (NASB 1995)

Some Christians have not realized in their lives all that God wants them to be, that somehow, they have compromised themselves with their own culture, and consequently, left the faith. I am sincerely concerned about these believers. But this text screams to me of the radicalness of the call of Christ, and carnality and periphery are no part of this call. Some denominational groups have so emphasized the ‘assurance’, that they have ignored ‘perseverance’. They have put so much hope in an initial salvation experience, that they have forgotten the Biblical thrust that salvation is primarily, daily Christlikeness. It’s not some religious ritual, no matter how meaningful that ritual may be somewhere in the past. “Abide in Me, and I in you…” – it’s an awesome thing. You know, John’s literary style is like he’s weaving a tapestry; it’s like a mosaic put together – the themes are woven together. Verse 1 of John chapter 15 is one of the great ‘I Am’ statements of Jesus. He’s made a lot of them. These ‘I Am’ statements seem to go back to chapter 4 verse 26, where, in speaking to the woman at the well, He uses the covenant name for God, ‘Yahweh’, and its English translation – ‘I Am’. And if she knew anything about Judaism, she knew that Jesus had unveiled Himself claiming to be deity. These ‘I Am’ verses continue through the chapters of John, and here in 15 verses 1 and 5, Jesus said, “I Am the True Vine”. What is He talking about, claiming to be the ‘True Vine’? You know, there are numerous places in the Old Testament where Israel is identified as the vineyard. As a matter of fact, in the Temple of Jesus’ day, was a huge gold grape vine symbolizing the nation of Israel. Every place in the Old Testament, Israel is identified as a vineyard, or grape vines. It’s a judgment passage, and the one that sticks to my mind the so strongly is Isaiah chapter 5 verses 1 through 7. You might want to look at it. It tells about the story of a man who bought the most expensive kind of hill available; a hill that faced the sun, a hill that was graded just the right way as the water would cascade. He built a guard fence and a guard tower, got all the rocks out, got all the weeds out, built a vat to collect the wine, and bought the most ‘sarek’ grapes available in his day, planted them in this perfect hillside, sunlit and watered vineyard. He fertilized the plants and set back to wait for the grapes that were surely to come. But instead of the wonderful, sweet grapes of the sarek vine, came the wild stinking grapes of the wild olive branch. And the Prophet says to the people, ‘What shall the vineyard owner do with this hill?’ And the people cried out, ‘he should tear down its walls, and let the animals come in. Don’t water it, don’t prune it’. And the Prophet whirled on them and said, ‘you are the vineyard of the Lord’. ‘I’ve done everything for you’, he said. ‘I’ve sent you my prophets, I’ve given you my word, I’ve done everything for you. And instead of the people of God that you ought to be, you’ve become like disobedient pagans calling Me by My Name’. We see the same trend in the New Testament. And in Mark 12 verses 1 through 10 is the parable of the wicked vine tenants. Again, God is depicted as the owner of a great vineyard, where he buys the best field, and does everything just like Isaiah 5. And then he leases it out to a group of men, and he goes on a vacation, and they are to pay him from the grapes. But they won’t pay him, and won’t pay him. And he sent servant after servant, and they beat the servants, and they even killed one servant. And then the landowner said, ‘I know what I’ll do; I’ll send my son, surely they’ll respect my son’. And these wicked tenant farmers said, ‘here comes the heir, if we kill him, the vineyard is ours’. So, they killed the son of the owner. And God’s judgment falls on Israel for that, which obviously is a reference to their rejection of the Messiah. Now the question is, when this text begins to talk about pruning and cleansing, and some branches not bearing fruit and being burned, who in the world is it talking about? Is it talking about Israel? Real possibility it is. The thing about the analogy that hits me so firmly is, these Jewish people, you ask them, they would say, ‘certainly, I’m right with God. I’m a descendant of Abraham, I’m of the tribe…, I’m a Hebrew of the Hebrews. I follow the Mosaic Law, certainly, I’m right with God’. And they were not. Some say, this ‘pruning’ and ‘cleaning’ has a play on the word, here on verse 2. Basically, it’s the word ‘cleanse’, not the word ‘pruned’. You don’t use the word ‘cleanse’ for pruning grape vines. It’s obviously a word play here; He’s not talking about grape vines anymore. Some would say, because of the context, particularly verse 6, that He’s talking about Judas Iscariot. Remember John 1 3:10, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” It’s obviously a word play here, and He’s talking about Judas. It’s a way of encouraging them that only Judas s going to fall away. Earlier in chapter 15, which is the same context, and same discussion, Jesus talking Peter said, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you”. Maybe He’s talking to Christians about ‘continuing sin’ in their life (cf. 1 John 1:9). I’m not sure about that, but it’s possible. Or maybe it’s a warning to believers, and it’s really scary. You know, I do believe in ‘assurance’, but ‘assurance’ was never meant to be a license for godless living, apathetic living, indifferent living, and lazy living on the part of blood-bought children of God. God’s mercy is meant to cause our lives to overflowing gratitude, and we use it so that we can live godless lives, and hope to get to heaven when we die, because we did some little something, somewhere, sometime.

1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us;” ‘they were in there, but they went out, which really shows they were not of us’. The Parable of the soils in Matthew 13, talks about seeds that fell on 4 kinds of soil; 3 of them germinated, only one of them bore fruit. And this passage seems to imply that even though those other 2 received the word with joy, that when problems and pressures of this world came, the plant died. That’s scary for us! It looks like that fruit-bearing is the evidence of salvation, and not germination. This text is exactly that same basic metaphor and motive expression, ‘fruit-bearing is the evidence, not profession’. You see, I think we have preached to people, “only believe, only believe, only pray this prayer, only do this little act”, in such a manner that we have neglected the concept of ‘abiding’ in Christ. I am not, in any way, depreciating the initial need of response, but for God’s sake, the need for initial response must be matched with an ongoing response of faith and repentance. It’s hard for me to come to grips with this text, as I’m not exactly sure who it’s talking to. I’m not exactly sure what ‘abiding’ is, but this is a serious text. And it cannot be blown away from our lives easily. It swirls around us in haunting melodies, that somehow, we’ve not just got it yet. What does ‘abiding’ do? You know, the word ‘abide’ is a major word of John. While the word is used 112 times in the whole New Testament, it’s used 40 times in John’s Gospel, and 26 times in John’s letters. He likes this word. He talks about Messiah abiding, he talks about all kinds of things abiding, and now, he comes that we must abide. “I Am the real vine…” – implication, Israel is not the real vine. I think this a strong text on the Church being the spiritual Israel (I am not in any way espousing Replacement theology). If we are spiritual Israel, we have an awesome responsibility of ministry (cf. Eph. 2:12-13; Gal. 3:7).

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” – Every cultivator of plants and trees will tell you about the necessity of trimming and pruning so that plants will blossom more, and trees will grow big, and bear more fruit. Of course, this whole idea of pruning and trimming looks like it’s hurting the plant. Oh my, does God do that to His children? Does God prune that we might bear more fruit? Was Jesus perfected by the things that He suffered (Heb. 5:8)? Why are we surprised when fiery ordeals come upon us, as though some strange thing s were happening to us (1 Pet. 4:12)? Those verses tell me that God does prune us, hence, we only enter the kingdom of God through suffering.

#christlikeness

WE ARE IN A BATTLE TO BE DIFFERENT

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;…”

1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)

What grabs me as I study the New Testament is this recurrent theme of ‘submission’. I want you to know that I’m not drawn to the word ‘submit’, because that is diametrically opposite of everything in my cultural upbringing. Our culture has sharpened our physical appetite for self. We had been trained from the crib to do our own thing; to do it well, to compete in doing it, and to do it for material rewards. We had been trained and geared socially to strive for possessions; to look for one’s self-actualization in the abundance of what one owned. That’s the craze of young people, and that’s exactly the opposite of the Bible’s message. The Bible talks about submission and the purpose of submission: For we “have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” (i.e. 1 Pet. 2:21). What purpose is Peter talking about? Well, it’s got to relate back to verse 18, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect,…”. It even goes back to verse 13 where it says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,” because we are aliens and strangers in this world, and this world is not our home. But the tragedy of the modern church is, we’re trying to drive down tent pegs into the soil of a foreign land, and we wonder why we’re so unhappy and all that. We’re trying to build houses on sand, and find meaning in it. It was never God’s purpose for us to focus in this world; focus in on this life, focus in on me and mine. But really it goes back earlier than this. It goes back to the call of God on Israel, when He “brought them out of Egypt on eagle’s wings”, because Israel is a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (cf. Exodus 19:6). God was well-pleased to do something to His people, so radical, so different, so other-worldly, so supernatural, so holy, that when the world sees it, it will be drawn to God. That was the purpose of Israel, but she failed miserably. Theologically, what it’s saying to us is that we (New Testament Church) are the ‘called out’, chosen, gifted, equipped people of God, and we’re using the exact same words that were used for Old Testament Israel. But God didn’t give up on that purpose, He sent One Israelite To fulfill the purpose of bringing the whole world to Himself. Then He began to change His people (church); changed them so radically, so differently, that all the world would see the Gospel lived out in their lives, and thereby be changed. And so the purpose of submission is a wholly changed, godly, Christlike people; to be a kingdom of priests to bring all the world to God. So the Apostle Peter urges us, “…as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation”. Our problem is, we do not see ourselves as aliens and strangers. Our problem is, we feel so ‘at home with this world. We focus on all things that would satisfy our lusts. We are molded into the shape of the society in which we were born, instead of into the family in which we were reborn. The Bible says there’s a war going on in our bodies (cf. Romans 7:24-25), and we don’t even know there’s a war going on. We just think we’re psychologically depraved, not quite educated enough, or we just had some maladies, or our genes are somehow off. True, and the Bible calls it sin. The truth of the matter is that we are really in a battle to be different. We are in a battle to be the ‘called-out’, unique kind of people whose whole world view has been changed whose focus is no longer on himself, but because of Christ, the focus is now on others – to attract them to God through the Gospel lived out in our lives.

INERRANT OR INFALLIBLE?

Does the Bible being ‘inspired’ mean that every account of a situation like the account of the blind man in Mark 10:46-52 (cf. Luke 18:35-43) getting healed is the same? Well, if your definition of ‘inspiration’ includes word by word agreement, you’re in a bad light when you read Matthew’s account (Matt. 20:29-34). Matthew had two blind men while Mark and Luke had one blind man. Also, if you will notice Mark and Luke have the idea of “…when they came to Jericho,” or “…approaching Jericho” while “…when they were going out of Jericho” is what Matthew has. Now is it one or two? “Coming into Jericho” or “Going out of Jericho? I think we have to deal with this question. If one of them recorded this account in an inappropriate manner, does that mean the Bible has errors?

A group from the conservative school of Princeton led by B.B. Warfield has emphasized on what they call the inerrancy of the Bible; in other words, they have majored on the fact that every word is ‘inspired’, and every word is chosen by God, and that the essence of inspiration is in the words and in the form. However, that is not the position of historical Christianity. Christianity beginning with the early church fathers has not used the word ‘inerrant’, rather it has used the word ‘infallible’, and it has not focused on the form. It has focused on the content. You say, it’s just a semantical difference. But it is all the difference in the world if you’re going to say that every word is inspired by God, and every word was chosen by the Spirit. I think the validity of the Word of God is proved by the fact these men (Matthew, Mark and Luke) are recording every remembrance of this event to the best of their ability, and they don’t feel threatened by saying, “Let’s make everything mechanically fit. No, they’re not worried about that. It seems that the characteristic of Matthew’s Gospel is to see a wider group of people, and the characteristic of Mark’s Gospel is to pinpoint in on the reaction and on the details of one particular individual in this account.

Well again, does that make one wrong and one right in this seeming incoherence in one and the same event? I don’t think those are appropriate terms to describe the Bible. We tend to be so literalistic that we force the Bible into a mold. I feel much more comfortable saying that the message of the Bible is completely Spirit-filled and completely infallible than saying that every word is inerrant, and majority of Christendom uses the word ‘infallible’ and not the word ‘inerrant’. We must remember when you’re dealing with people’s remembrances and recording them up years later, we’re not talking about right and wrong; we’re talking about Spirit-directed remembrance, and I think the trustworthiness of the Bible is not compromised on the differentness of eyewitness accounts. What is crucial is not so much in the Bible’s mechanical unity as it is in its Spirit-directed message. [Compare also Matthew’s account of Jesus healing two Gadarene Demoniacs (Matthew 8:28) with Mark’s of the same event in Mark 5]

BECAUSE HE LIVES…

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this? Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world”

Jn. 11:25-27(NIV)

Life here is ‘Zoe’, the resurrection life. Jesus says, “I Am Life Myself. I don’t’ give it. I Am it Myself”. This was one of the ‘I Am’ statements of Jesus. Again, He’s not saying I give life, He says, ‘I Am life’. He Himself is the focus of life. To know Him is to have it. “whoever continues to believe in Me will live right on even though he dies, and no person who continues to live and believe in Me will never die”. And this has to mean ‘die’ spiritually. Because Lazarus is dead, and He’s telling Martha, ‘…will never die’. So, obviously it means spiritual death. You’ll never lose your fellowship with God, that’s what He’s saying. “Do you believe this?” “Yes Lord”, she says. What a tremendous affirmation. She doesn’t say, ‘I believe in the resurrection of the dead’. She says, ‘I believe You are the Christ, the Son of God who has come into the world’. She makes that theological profession. The word ‘believe’ is in perfect tense which means, ‘I believe in the past, I continue to believe’. And the word ‘Christ’ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Messiah’. What she’s saying is, ‘ I believe You’re the promised One, the Son of God that has come into the world’. She says, ‘I believe You’re the Old Testament One whose scepter will not depart from Judah…’ (Gen. 49:10), the Lily of the valley (Song of Solomon 2:1), the bright Morning Star (Rev. 22:16), the Promised One (2 Sam. 7:8-16), the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:8-12), that’s what she’s saying. Friend, how do you respond? Will you trust Him, the Author of Life, the Truth, the Resurrection and the Life?

WE ARE GOD’S IDOLS

We are created in the image of God. To be in the image of God is to represent Him in doing His will. It comes just from the way that the wording is expressed in the original. What you have in Genesis 1:27 is the word ‘tselem’ in Hebrew. That term is a standard term elsewhere in the Old Testament translated by the word ‘idol’. In other words, when a person reading in Hebrew looks at Genesis 1:27, it says literally God created man in His own idol or as His own idol. As the idol of God, “He created Him male and female He created them. This means that humans are God’s idols. What does an idol do? How did the people understand ‘idol’ in the Old Testament times? Well, when they came to the shrine of an idol of a pagan god, like Asherah (Canaanite goddess), and gave an offering to it hoping to get a good fertility on their crops and cattle, and so on, they believed that Asherah actually saw what they offered and prayed for. Now, using that terminology well-known in their culture, Moses describes our creation in God’s image as like an idol. We are God’s idols. We are the real idols of God. We are the actual idols of God. So therefore, the practice of making of idols of gods and goddesses is ridiculous because humans are God’s representatives on earth, not statues. Secondly, this truth also tells something us about why we exist. We exist to represent God; to do on this earth things that God wants done. And so in Genesis 1:28 “God blessed them and said, be fruitful, increase in number, fill the earth, subdue it, rule over the fish of the sea, birds of the air, and every living creature. So we get the job assignment; to be in the image of God is to have a job, and the job is to take good care of the world. That’s what it means to be in the image of God. Now, surely we also have similarities to God; intellectually, we do think at a higher plane than animals do, but that’s not what’s basically in the word image. The basic notion of being in the image of God is to have a job assignment – to represent Him on earth, not merely in the sense that we are like Him in some ontological way.

AMAZING GRACE

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)

The flow of salvation is such that, there is no way that any man has ever come to God by himself. The Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray…” (Isa. 53:6), no one is turning to God, and no one can come to God unless God draws him (cf. Jn. 6:44). I believe in predestination, and the other term for that is Grace. Grace is the unmerited, undeserved, no-strings-attached love of God for man. It is fully culminated, it is fully flowered, fully matured in the birth, life ministry, teachings, death, resurrection, and coming again of Jesus Christ. We are saved by grace. “For by grace you have been saved (perfect passive participle – it happened in the past by an outside agent, and it’s a continuing experience) through faith…” Are we saved by grace or are we saved by faith? We are saved by grace, but there’s no other way to be saved than through faith. By that i mean, man must respond to it. Faith is not a work. Faith is a response to grace. Faith in Greek can be translated three ways – BELIEVE, TRUST, FAITH. Biblical faith primarily is the word trust, trustworthiness, loyalty. Faith is not something that focuses on man. Faith is something that relates to God. Faith is the trustworthiness of God demonstrated in the Bible and experienced in a person’s life. We trust God because He has proved Himself to be dependable and trustworthy. Faith is a response in man to the trustworthiness of the promises of God. Faith is not how deep you feel. Faith is not how emotionally high you can get. Faith is not how committed you are. Faith is directed toward God, not toward you. Grace is unconditional, and faith is the condition. But how can something be unconditional and yet conditioned? Think with me > salvation is absolutely 100% free. You can’t earn it, you can’t deserve it, and you can’t merit it. God gives it with no strings attached, but it costs everything that you are. It is the pearl of great price (cf. Matt. 13:45-46) that when a man finds Jesus, everything else becomes insignificant compared to Him. He becomes the consuming desire and motive of human life. Our response to Him is the condition of unconditional love.

GOD CHOSE US BECAUSE HE LOVES US

“… so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Eph. 2:7 (NASB)

There were three ravaging forces that dominated our lives before we were saved: namely, the world, the devil, and the flesh. Howbeit, because of the generosity of God’s mercy, and the greatness of God’s love, and the glory of God’s grace, the moment we were saved, we were made alive together with Christ instantaneously. That means you received spiritual life, eternal life; you were born again. And not only that, but we were also raised up together, we were taken out of the place where we were spiritually dead; that old position and raised us out of it and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ. There had been a shift in position, from death in sin to life in heavenly places in Christ. That’s how God sees you today, in heavenly places in Christ. That’s the reason why Paul “prays that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms,” (Eph. 1:18-20). In the book of Romans, we learn that the believer is declared legally righteous once he trusts Christ (Rom. 5:1). That is our position “in Christ”, but we need to possess that position. We are “in Christ” and we have all the blessings of heaven, but we need to grow into Christlikeness before we “possess the land” (cf. Deut. 1:8), so to speak. God chose us, set us apart, foreordained us to become His sons by adoption through Jesus Christ. God wants us to live a certain life that reflects who He is, becoming more and more of what we already are in Jesus Christ “…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” – (Eph. 1:4). Adoption is a metaphor to describe salvation (cf. Rom. 8:23; Gal.4:5). In the Roman law system, adoption was a very important concept. A natural son could be disowned, but an adopted son having gone through the rigmarole of Roman adoption could not be put away. I think this is a very important concept that speaks greatly about our security in God. God chose us according to the kind intention of His will. People say, God knew all the time what we’re going to do before we were born, and He chooses us because He knew we’re going to choose Him. WRONG. God didn’t choose us because he knew what we’re going to do – that would be works>salvation. God chose us because of his love and grace. We can’t make foreknowledge the key to predestination or election. God chose us because He loves us, PERIOD. GOD IS LOVE; it is His character. God accepted me in Jesus Christ. I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to be anything. God accepted me in Christ, and God chose me, and marked me out as His child before I was ever born. My name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I believe the doctrine of predestination is more to get backbone to the saints than it is to keep a lost world out of the Kingdom of God.

WHY WOULD JESUS TARRY?

(Read John 11:38-44)    

There’s a man that Jesus loved who’s going to get sick and die, and Jesus is glad about it? I would never say Jesus caused Lazarus’ death, and i would never believe that. But i do believe God took Lazarus’ death in a fallen world and used it to glorify his Son, and used it as a forum or a stage to impact all generations of believers by what He did with this one special family – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Jesus is trying to reach His generation, as well as our generation with a radical new message. And the message is this – eternal life is in Jesus, and what you do with Him right now will determine your eternal destiny.

As Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, who thought he had done everything right, that he must be born again, now here Jesus is going to use this opportunity to step into a painful, hurtful, unfortunate, and tragic situation,, and He is going to let it unfold with all of its implications, with all of its pain, and then He’s going to change it for the purpose of reaching people of every generation who are caught in the same kind of pain.

I don’t understand, really, why there is so much evil, and pain, and suffering in the world and it seems like heaven is silent, even if we pray and pray, nothing happens. How can a loving God allow this tragedy to happen? It’s almost become the question of our day. I submit to you, the reason why we think this way, is because we misunderstand the purpose of God. You see, we are putting everything in this life into a worldview that if you live long, and you have everything, and you do what you want, and that’s success; that’s greatness. We live in a culture that over-emphasizes the individual. We say, “Oh, if I just have 70 years of good health, and prosperity, and good insurance, and I really enjoy my family, and a good church to attend on Sundays, oh man, things are good! I promise you that is not the way that God keeps score of things. The people around us are going to hell! This is not the end of the book. This is not where the focus of it is. This is not what real life is all about. There is death, there is pain, there is suffering, but Jesus can take that tragedy of human experience and engineer it for the kingdom of God, and the glory of Christ, and the reaching of multitudes for Him.

Amid the problems that all of us face, if we would stand up with the most powerful testimony which is faith in the midst of crisis. If we will stand up amid the pain of death of a loved one, when cancer is the diagnosis, and bankruptcy is on the horizon, if we could just stand up with Job, and say, “though He slay me, yet will I serve Him!”, then perhaps the fallen world will listen.

SUBMISSION TO CIVIL GOVERNMENT IS A BIBLICAL MANDATE

(read 1 Pet. 3:1-7; Rom. 13:1-2) Christianity is a re-orientation of our world view. It introduces the concept of submission which is exactly the opposite of what we culturally think about individual human rights and the worth and dignity man. Something has changed in us. As believers, now we are to be submissive to earthly government even when we do not agree with it. Submission goes against the grain of human nature. Submission is diametrically opposed to everything that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil stood for; that polluted our hearts and minds into thinking that “whatever i want, whatever I need, I have the right to do”. The fall has caused all of us to turn inward – “what’s in it for me?”, “What do I get out of it?”, or “how do i control my own life?”. Submission is the way to keep score that Sin is no longer predominant in our lives. The purpose of submission is primarily evangelism. We submit not because we are weak, or we don’t have our own opinion and authority. We submit to show that there is a difference in the Christian life. We submit so that the Kingdom of God might be lifted up through our lives as a witness to the lost and fallen world. We must realize that God is sovereign in human governments, not just in history but in the formation, the continuation, and the limits of human government (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:22; Isaiah 44:28; Daniel 2:21). God is in control of human governments. That does not mean that they are spiritual entities. It simply means that God has purposed that human government exists for the purpose of keeping law and order in a fallen world. Therefore He establishes them and controls them. God’s people are repeatedly admonished to submit themselves to these human governments, even invading occupying governments for that matter (cf. Daniel chapts. 1-4). God’s people are also admonished to pray for civil governments (cf. Jer. 29:7) lest men would swallow each other alive (cf. Sayings of the Fathers 3:2).Christians are to give unto civil governments that which rightly belongs to them because it is God Himself who sets governments up, but give to God what belongs to Him whenever the state claims ultimacy (especially in the sense of the deity of the emperor cf. Matt. 22:21; Romans 13:1), and the state has gone beyond the bounds that God has given it. And therefore we cannot submit to that, yet there is a realm in which we are to submit as unto the Lord to civil authorities, not necessarily that we agree with them, but we are to do it because we are Christians, and how we act affects evangelism and ministry. Everyone must obey the civil authorities as a matter of attitude. It’s a Biblical attitude of reverence and submission to others because of our relationship with God (cf. Eph. 5:21). No authority exists except ordained by God. All human governments have only the authority that comes from God, because God is the only source of authority. This is not to assert the divine right of governments, it simply means that God prefers government order than chaos. Human governments are under God’s control and God’s appointment or ordination, and anyone who resists its authority sets himself against God. To rebel against civil governments is to rebel against God. The basic attitude of Christians is reverence, honor, respect, and duty towards civil governments.