Redemption and Forgiveness in Christ

Redemption and Forgiveness in Christ

The epistle to the Ephesians is a fantastic letter. It has one encouragement after another and even begins with the richness of the Gospel of Christ. Ephesians 1:7-8, for example, reminds us that, “In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us. . . .” Meditate on that thought for a moment. Sit back, and read those phrases again slowly. 

Two parallel ideas come together here- we are redeemed, and our sins are forgiven. To be redeemed picks up the act of freeing a slave by payment. The word means “buy back” or even “ransom.” The fundamental idea of redemption is that of the setting free of a thing or a person that has come to belong to another. The New Testament teaches that before we are united with Christ (notice the “in Christ” language at the beginning of the verse), we belong to the realm of darkness, we are fallen humanity, we are slaves of sin. God the Father has sent His Son who voluntarily took our place on the cross to redeem us, to bring us back. We have now been rescued for darkness and welcomed into His marvelous light! We are no longer slaves of sin to fulfill its lusts. We are now free to pursue everything that is good and godly. The Old Testament exhorts, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!”

Also, in Christ our sins are forgiven. Forgiveness is about pardon for a transgression, taking away sin, it’s about making right any wrongdoing. The Bible teaches that we have all sinned, that we have gone our own way, that we have transgressed the law of the Lord, and not just the written law, but the law that is in our hearts. If we all admit, we have done things in our pasts that were damaging to ourselves and others. These things are called sins, and they are offensive to our perfect, holy, and righteous Creator. To restore our relationship with Him, He extends forgiveness to us for our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. While we may deal with the consequences of some sinful choices throughout our lives in this age, there will be no eternal ramifications for our sins if we are “in Christ.”

True atonement, which is unique to Christianity, is shown in these two parallel statements concerning redemption and forgiveness. Our past sins are taken away, we have been welcomed into a right relationship with God, and we are now free to pursue those things that are healthy and beneficial to us and those around us. Notice that the apostle does not leave the subject without making clear, as he always does in his letters, that all of this is by God’s grace. Grace, of course, is unmerited favor, unearned privileges. We are redeemed and forgiven by simply repenting of our sins and trusting Christ with our lives. The Lord has done all of the work necessary to bring about true atonement by Christ’s penal substitutionary sacrifice on the cross and through His resurrection from the dead. We now simply believe in Him and freely receive His benefits. What an awesome God we serve!

Attacks on Biblical Christianity

Attacks on Biblical Christianity found in the Winston-Salem Journal

This midweek article will be longer than usual, but my hope is that you will take the time to carefully read it to the end. Two important articles appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal last week. I say “important” not because of positive content but because of what they demonstrate about the world around us, even what many would call the “Christian” community at large. The fact that these articles have been published right here in our own community only deepens the weight of importance. The first article was on May 11 titled, “Moravian synod will let gay clergy marry” by John Hinton, and the second article was on May 12 titled, “Taking a closer look at the Bible” by Earl Crow in the religion section.

Now, the Winston-Salem Journal is not known for its conservative stance on anything, really. The paper continuously promotes the agenda of the left, like many news outlets today. Of course, we are not those who only want the right promoted. We want a balanced perspective. We want to hear things out of both camps, and we want the news to be reported fairly and consistently.

Another caveat before discussing the articles: Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not one to “cry wolf” about every little thing that happens. I have even been recorded as saying that Christians need to stop grumbling about things that are not really persecution, things such as “taking prayer out of schools” and “removing in God we trust” off of this or that. These events certainly mark a change in our nation’s history and speak of the fundamental changes in our culture’s thinking, but these things are not “persecution.” It is most likely good that prayer was taken out of school—I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a Mormon teacher or Muslim teacher leading my children in prayer. So, I’m not playing the victim role in this note. I intend to share a perspective on these things from a historically Christian and biblically orthodox point of view.

First, we received news that the Moravian Church has approved a resolution affirming homosexual “marriages.” Both members and the ministers of the Moravian Churches who identify as gay are now allowed to “marry” someone of their same sex. Of course, it did not take long for the Moravian leaders to be quoted using buzzwords such as unitywelcomingrespectfullovingdiversityopen, and affirming. All of these words are used with an agenda in mind and most of them have been redefined. This new out of the Moravians is not too surprising. Anyone familiar with the situation knew it was coming at some point. Yet, it really hits home because of the influence the Moravians have in the Winston-Salem area. Many of us already knew and now it is official that most Moravian churches and ministers cannot be trusted because they do not believe the Bible.

Second, we have all learned that Earl Crow is not an Evangelical, but let me say emphatically that he does not represent historic and biblical Christianity in any way. He represents his own beliefs and consistently shrinks away from honestly portraying and interpreting biblical doctrines. But, why would we expect anything different? He does not believe that the Bible is the Word of God and has stated that Paul was wrong on this or that, and the Old Testament saints were in error on many things. He began writing these articles about Christianity and the Bible in the Winston-Salem Journal by “beating around the bush.” At first, he would drop hints that he didn’t like this or that about biblical Christianity. Now, he flat out says that he does not trust the Bible. 

He was asked squarely in the last religion section article, “Do you believe [the Bible] is the word of God?” His answer in one word: No. He basically says that the Bible has errors, we can question passages, the Bible is merely man-made, biblical authors disagree with one another, he has “questions” about the Scriptures, passages are “troubling,” and he insinuates that it is absurd to believe every word of the Bible. He quickly gets to the issue of same-sex relations, as he usually does nowadays, and asserts that the Bible and Bible-believing Christians are wrong on the issue. He wholeheartedly believes that same-sex relations are acceptable and not sin. His argument in this article, and in many that have come before it, rests upon his own opinion and vague references to “most who study the issue” and science and the like. Let me say, there is nodefinitive research that affirms that anyone is “born gay.” Besides that point, Crow is saying that science can undo what the Scriptures clearly teach because biblical authors, in his opinion, were unsophisticated in their scientific knowledge. Well, we certainly see his understanding of the Bible. It is basically a book among many books that we can glean a few bits of wisdom from here and there. He makes it all about the “love of God” and about Jesus. Calling something sin, believing in right and wrong, is apparently not loving. What’s interesting to me is that Earl Crow must be skimming through the Gospels in his Bible because mine clearly records Jesus confronting sin, calling for repentance, forgiving sin but demanding that we go and sin no more, and even DYING FOR OUR SIN. The whole purpose in the incarnation was to “save sinners.” And, to the specific point of sexuality, Jesus Himself said that from the beginning God created us male and female, and God has ordained that a man leave his parents and be joined to his wife as the two are made one. Jesus taught marriage between one man and one woman.

Now, we are not those who only want to confront one sin (e.g. homosexuality), but the liberal Christians and the “sexual revolution” agenda has made this one issue THE make or break issue. Here is where we must make a decision about God and the Bible, plant our flag, and hold our ground. We are not the ones who have highlighted this subject, but we have been forced into the battle. Let us take a stand and hold to our biblical convictions. If we give up ground on this issue, we will not only lose the battle, but we will lose the war for our Faith.

We should note that Crow is ordained by the United Methodist Church which has been trying for years to go down that same road that the Moravians have finally traversed. In fact, both denominations formed committees last year at their annual meetings to “study” these issues. Many have predicted that at some point soon, the Methodists will somehow push the “sexual revolution” agenda through, one way or another. Mainline protestants and Methodists like Crow have followed the culture and not the Creator, and their denominations and churches have suffered the consequences as they continue to dwindle.

I have called these articles “attacks on biblical Christianity.” The articles themselves somewhat indirectly attack us, yes, but the decisions and institutions they represent definitely attack us directly in that they are tearing down the authority of the Bible and the God who inspired it. They are spitting in the face of the Creator who has made us male and female. Once we redefine this termor reinterpret that passage, we have lost everything. So, what do we need to do in light of these two articles and the strong winds of political correctness blowing against us? We need to resolve to do two things:
(1) Remain steadfast and firm in our biblical convictions, and
(2) We need to share the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ more clearly and more passionately than ever. 

To conclude, let me quote the well-known, 19thcentury hymn: “We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves; Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!” The message we must proclaim is repent of your sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!

Human Sexuality

Human Sexuality

As Christians and churches continue to take heat in our day over the issues surrounding human sexuality, it is vital that we continue to adamantly communicate what the Bible teaches concerning these things. We must maintain the fact that we have not dreamed up these things; on the contrary, our Creator God has created us in specific ways and revealed to us directly in the Scriptures how we ought to live and move and have our being. To recap, let me share with you my formal statement on humanity, again, and then make a few comments at the end.

“Human beings from every nation, tribe, and tongue are created in the image and likeness of God.  We would contend, therefore, that each and every human life is sacred from conception to natural death.  Moreover, each person’s gender is biologically established and is an intrinsic, immutable aspect of his or her nature and identity.  God created each person as either male or female, and these two distinct, complementary sexes together reflect the image of God among humankind.  As to the blessing of marriage, we believe both that it is a divine ordinance pertaining solely to the union of one man and one woman and that it is meant by God to bind each to the other for the entirety of their earthly lives.  God has also set sexual intimacy apart, intending for it to be an expression of love and commitment between wedded couples only. Any expression of sexuality outside of marriage is sin.”
{For biblical quotations, see the following for example: Gen 1:26-27; 2:7, 21-25; Exod 20:12-17; Ps 139:13-18; John 10:10; Lev 18; 20; Matt 19:4-9; Rom 1:18-31; 1 Cor 6:9-10, 15-20; 1 Tim 1:8-11; Jude 7.}

In this formal statement, we have summarized what the Bible teaches on humanity, including many parts that are “hot-topic” issues in the Western world today. As you can see, this statement covers fundamental doctrines of biblical anthropology including race, abortion, marriage, and sexuality. The Lord has given us clear revelation in both nature and Scripture to teach us how we are to live. He has created us with purposes in mind, and He wants what’s best for us. When we stand against those things that are unnatural and sinful, we are NOT doing so out of hate or judgment but out of genuine love for people. God calls us out of sin so that we may no longer be slaves of it, trapped in a world of misery and hopelessness. Yes, some sins are “fun” in the meantime, but what about throughout a lifetime? What about the long-run? What about eternity? God is Creator, and He is holy. If we want to live to be all that God created us to be, and if we want to know Him and enjoy eternal life with Him, then we must approach Him on the basis of His revelation in nature and Scripture. Let us hold firm to biblical teaching. Let us not waver as so many are in our day. Let us proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ—that if folks repent and believe on Him they will be saved from this present wicked age, the wrath of God to come, and for eternal life in a new heaven and new earth where there is no longer sin and sorrow but the joy of the Lord forevermore. 

What is Worldliness?

What is Worldliness?

Everyone knows the Bible says that God loves the world. Seemingly, America’s favorite Bible verse is John 3:16. For two consecutive years, I volunteered to be a community judge for a national Christian organization that promotes public speaking and debating among high school students. I have served in the area of apologetics (defending the Christian Faith). It is rare that a student makes a presentation without quoting that famous verse: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall inherit eternal life.”

God loves the world. We all agree with that sentiment, and we all glory in it. The apostle John is the one who stated that fact. However, the apostle writes another letter that we call First John. In 1 John 2:15-17 he writes something quite different, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” God loves the world, we are to go into all the world preaching the Gospel, and yet we are told to “not love the world.” Do you find this curious? The surface-level contradiction is easily resolved when we realize that words have various meanings depending on their context and usage. In John 3:16, “world” refers to all “people,” but in 1 John 2:15 “world” refers to the “corrupt systems” of the world. Jesus uses the term in the latter sense as well when He basically teaches in John 17:15-16 that Christians are to be in the world but not of the world, meaning, then, that Christians should not follow the thinking and behavior of the corrupt world systems of the day. So then, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are to love the world, the people of it, but we are not to pursue the things of the world—self-promotion, power, money, sexual immorality, big houses, fancy cars, etc. Our Lord teaches us to seek to be last instead of first, become the least and not the greatest, strive to serve as an alternative to being served. Sure, we battle temptation. Sometimes we fall prey to worldliness. Yet, on the whole, are you pursuing the things of the Lord or the things of the world? We all need to evaluate our lives from time to time to see where our hearts are and how our priorities stack up.