“Blessed is the man”–Psalm 1:1

Psalm 1_1

There are at least 50 places in the Bible that use the word, “Blessed.” Or “Blessed be…” Psalm 128:1Blessed is the man who fears the LORD. Matthew 11:6“Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” And of course, all the Beatitudes begin with the phrase, “Blessed are…” Matthew 5:3-8“Blessed are the poor in spirit…they that mourn…the meek…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” 2nd Corinthians 11:31Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation 20:6Blessed and holy is he who has a part in the first resurrection.

When referring to God, the word “blessed” means “glorified, revered.” When referring to a person, that word “blessed” can also be defined as one who is “happy,” or “to be congratulated.” Today, we’re going to look at what type of person is truly “blessed,” and is deserving of “congratulations.” We’re going to read the first two verses of the first Psalm, and look a little deeper at what the psalmist is saying here.

If we want to be blessed in this life—and especially in the life to come—there are some things we need to avoid. Some people just don’t get that. They think that true joy and happiness come from the things we do and the things we get right now, here in this life. But we’ll talk more about Joel Osteen some other time. And when things don’t quite work out the way they expected them to, and their lives start crumbling around them, and they wonder how it happened, and how they can fix it. And how many times, when we tell them that if they would just stop doing things the way they’re doing them, and trust God, and follow His ways that they will be better able to deal with their situation. It doesn’t mean that their lives will suddenly turn to sunshine and unicorns, but they’ll have a more lasting and true peace about those things.

But, they usually want to hear about how they can keep doing the same thing they’ve been doing, the same way they’ve been doing it—even if it’s the wrong thing to do, and the wrong way to do it—they want to keep doing the same thing, but get a different result. And that is the definition of what? Insanity. Instead of turning to the LORD. When we turn to God for answers—He may not FIX our problems, but He will give us the strength and the patience we need to endure until those storms pass. So, how does one find true blessedness?

Psalm 1:1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. We are blessed when we avoid the ways of the world. What we see here in verse 1 is a progression. When we get caught up in sin, is it because we charge right into it? Do we wake up one day and say, “It looks so nice outside. I think I’ll get hooked on meth today!” I can’t imagine that sentence has ever passed through anybody’s lips. But how many times—especially for believers—is it very gradual, and very subtle? How many times have we wound up somewhere doing something that we were so absolutely sure “that would NEEEVVVER happen.” And then you look up one day and you think, “What the heck am I doing here!!”

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade
–Casting Crowns, “Slow Fade”

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly. We need to be really careful about who we look to for advice. There are many psychologists and psychiatrists, and therapists, that—they have all these years of school, and college, and you walk in and they have these fancy diplomas on their wall—and they don’t know a thing about how to help you get through your problems. Other than, “Here, take this pill! It will make you happy!” Many times, our problems—whether they are physical, or emotional, or psychological—most of the time, the root of that problem is spiritual. We may be looking at our problem through our own eyes, and the problem looks impossible—to us. But is anything impossible with God?

Another example: when somebody does something to us, what does the world say we’re supposed to do? Get even with them. What did Jesus say to do? Yeah, you know, that whole “Turn the other cheek” thing.

“You don’t know what Naomi said about me!” They blasphemed Christ.
“But Joseph’s been cheating with my girlfriend!” His people committed harlotry with other gods.
“That drunk driver killed my baby daughter!” And your sins nailed Jesus to the cross.

And I guarantee you one thing: what you’re fixin’ to do to that person is a whole lot worse than what they did to you. It’s never about “getting even”, now, is it? Isn’t it always “get even—and then some”? Somebody does something to you, you have to do worse to them, right? No. Walk away. Don’t walk in the counsel of someone who says you need to “get even” with the one who offended you and hurt your delicate little feelings.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners. How many of y’all remember what high school was like? Not every school is the same, but in most, you’ve got your jocks over here, your cheerleaders over here, your science geeks over here, then you’ve got a group made up of kids who aren’t in ANY group. They’ve made their own group. “We are the ‘not-in-any-group’ group!” You could tell what type of person somebody was by the group they hung out with. The same when it comes to us, and which group we belong to—do we stand with saints or do we stand with sinners. There’s no neutral territory. Hebrews 3:12Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. Unbelief is evil. I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say they know a friend who is “walking with one foot in the world, and one foot in the kingdom.” That is an absolute impossibility. One cannot walk with one foot in the world and one foot in the kingdom. They will either have both feet in the world or both feet in the kingdom. Matthew 6:24“No man can serve two masters…” James 4:4The friendship of the world is hostility with God. So which path do we stand in? Do we take sides with the world, or with God?

Now, does that mean we can’t have friends who aren’t Christians? No, it does not. We are, in fact, encouraged to have non-Christian friends rather than friends who claim to be Christians, but are living an immoral lifestyle. 1st Corinthians 5:9-11I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. Let me give you one example of this. I found a video while back from a ministry in Los Angeles. A woman from this ministry was talking to a couple of young men outside the BET awards. They wanted to see all the big-name rappers. These men said, “Yeah, we’re Christians.” And during the course of this interview, these men said (I kid you not) that these rappers were—quote—“God-fearing men.” Apparently, in some people’s eyes God-fearing men rap about going to clubs, having multiple sexual partners, drugs. And these men who claimed to be Christians were standing in the same path with them! Psalm 101:3I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. Philippians 4:8Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest…just… pure…lovely…of good report…any virtue…any praise, think on these things. We can have non-Christian friends—we should, so we can let our light shine before them, they can glorify our Father in Heaven—that doesn’t mean we should be imitating them.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. This is the most dangerous of all. Because if you are walking or standing, you can look around and eventually you’ll say, “What am I doing? I’m outta here!!!” But when you sit at someone’s table, you are making yourself comfortable with what they are offering you. When you see a friend—especially one who claims to be a brother—you see them doing something you know is sinful, and not only do you say nothing to him, but you take part in it, you are “sitting in the seat of the scornful.” Proverbs 23:6-8Do not eat the bread of [the greedy], nor desire his delicacies; for as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up, and waste your pleasant words. In other words, don’t partake of another’s evil, because they may act like they’re your friend, but when it’s all said and done they don’t care about you, and you’re going to be in worse shape than you were before.

Another thing to consider: think about how Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons go about their work. Do they just stand outside the Wal-Mart and hand out tracts? No. They knock on your door. They want to come into your house. And what do they want to do? They want to sit down with you. And they want you to be comfortable. And if you know what Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons believe, then you know Satan is coming through that door too, right? 2nd John 9-11He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. When we lived in our last house, we lived about 3 blocks away from a Mormon church. And on 3 separate occasions we had some Mormon missionaries come to our door. And it was cold outside. And we stood at the door. And they tried to tell me all about their polygamous prophet. And I want you to know, they did not step one foot in our house. And they probably about froze. But I was not about to let them in the house. Why? Because I was not a good neighbor? No. Because God tells us not to! You want to preach your false god, you can do it from outside my door. But you ain’t stepping foot inside.

Now, Psalm 1:2 kinda gives us the other side of the coin. It shows us what we can do to find true blessedness. Psalm 1:2But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. What is the Law? It’s all those 613 commandments in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Which is the great commandment? Matthew 22:37-38“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” This is what we meditate on day and night. Love the LORD our God with everything in us, and our neighbor as ourselves. Where does it teach us to do that? The Law. You can watch talk shows, read all kinds of books written by people who don’t know the LORD—and don’t want to know Him. You can get all kinds of advice from the newest, trendiest pop psychologist. But you will never know how to please the LORD if you don’t read His word.

Charles Spurgeon said,

“‘His delight is in the law of the Lord.’ He is not under the law as a curse and condemnation, but he is in it, and he delights to be in it as his rule of life; he delights, moreover, to meditate in it, to read it by day, and think upon it by night. He takes a text and carries it with him all day long; and in the night-watches, when sleep forsakes his eyelids; he [reflects] upon the Word of God. In the day of his prosperity he sings psalms out of the Word of God, and in the night of his affliction he comforts himself with promises out of the same book.”

He’s saying that “day and night” doesn’t just mean the sun coming up and going down. But the day can also refer to when things are going good, and the night when things aren’t so good. And in it all, we know that God is sovereign over it all, that nothing happens in our lives that He does not allow, and if He does allow it to happen it is so we can glorify Him in the midst of our trouble. Psalm 30:5Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
–Matt Redman, “Blessed Be Your Name”

When things look bleak, we have promises from God that He will see us through it. When we have joy, we can find countless ways to praise Him for His goodness! No other religion on earth gives any assurance that you are pleasing that particular deity. Not the Buddhist god, nor the Hindu god, nor the god of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the god of the Mormons. And especially not the god if the Muslims. But if we know Christ then we can know, without a doubt, that we are indeed children of the One, True, Living God. Let me finish up this quote from Spurgeon.

“‘The law of the Lord’ is the daily bread of the true believer. And yet, in David’s day, how small was the volume of inspiration, for they had scarcely anything save the first five books of Moses! How much more, then, should we prize the whole written Word which it is our privilege to have in all our houses!”

Think about that for a second. When these Psalms were written, all they had was the Torah. They didn’t have the book of Romans. Or Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. They did not know about the cross. They did not know that the sinless Son of God would be made sin for us, so that we could be the righteousness of God in Christ. All they knew was “LAW”. Consider this also: there are some parts of the world where if you get caught with a Bible, you’re dead! There are still other places that have never seen one! Yet how casually do we treat it, we who can go into any Wal-Mart or Target, without fear of prosecution—or persecution—and pick one up, and it’ll cost you 5 bucks. Some countries, it’ll cost you your life! But blessed are we when we take this book, and read it, and study it, and believe in the promises contained inside and understand that this is the perfect word of God, not just a bunch of stories. “Bunch of stories from old Jewish guys.” No, they are not. This beloved book is no less than a collection of 66 love letters from God to His people.

I’ll close with an example of a man who did not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. In Luke chapter 23, after Jesus has given up the ghost it says in Luke 23:50-53

  • Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, and a good and just man—a good and just man, in the middle of that Sanhedrin that wanted Jesus dead.
  • He had not consented to their decision and action—a good and just man in the middle of a bunch of blasphemers—but he voiced his opposition, and did not walk in the counsel of the ungodly.
  • And he was looking for the kingdom of God—His delight was in the Law of the LORD and on that Law he meditated day and night.
  • This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever been laid—When it was all said and done, he took the Word of God, went to great lengths to care for it, and laid it in his own tomb—knowing that Christ’s body wasn’t going to be there forever. And three days later, it wasn’t.

We don’t need advice from the ungodly. We don’t need to imitate sinners and we certainly do not need to partake of and feel comfortable conforming to the ways of those who mock and scorn God. Let us meditate on the Law of the LORD, let it be our guide to living lives that please Him, knowing that our God and Savior Jesus Christ fulfilled all 613 commands contained therein, freeing us from its yoke and giving us life and life more abundantly! Praise Him for His indescribable Gift! (2nd Corinthians 9:15).

The Noble Criminal

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John 18:40“Give use Barabbas!”

There are many in this country today who have watched as the drama surrounding the hunt for Christopher Dorner has unfolded. And while many have been hoping for and anticipating his capture, there has been also, curiously, a small crowd of voices which has been applauding his actions and hoping for his exoneration. The purpose of this post is not to debate the merits of the case or to argue for his guilt or innocence. Any comments in that vein will be deleted as quickly as possible. You can argue that somewhere else.

The point I want to make is this: this approving crowd should not surprise us. Jesus Himself said “Men love darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). It has been that way ever since sin entered the world. We have an early example from Mt Sinai. While Moses was up on the mount, the people were wantonly carousing at the foot of the mountain in a drunken orgy worshipping the golden calf–while God was speaking to Moses the very Law these people were corrupting!

ojsimpsonbronco

But we don’t have to go back that far in time to see why it shouldn’t surprise us that people are actually supporting this murderer (OK, alleged murderer). Think back to 1994. A white
Ford Bronco carrying OJ Simpson was leading LAPD on a low-speed chase through Los Angeles. People were lined up on bridges over the freeway to watch. Were these people hoping that a fugitive from the law would be caught and brought to justice? No. They were encouraging this fugitive to continue running from the law. (Again, not debating OJ’s guilt or innocence. Just sayin’).

And there is another trend. Not necessarily new, but it does seem to be more prevalent over the last several years. That is the concept of what I call “The Noble Criminal”. You see him (or her) in many movies these days. The team of bank robbers who are only robbing the bank to right some dastardly wrong or because one of the character’s loved ones is dying (usually due to the greed of the bank president or some other such embodiment of evil). Examples of these are movies like “Ocean’s 11″ or “Tower Heist”.

tower-heist11 oceans11

Then we have movies where the drug dealer or the prostitute or…well, you name it. Whatever the criminal enterprise, there are probably many, many movies glamorizing and glorifying whatever criminal you can think of. The most recent and most egregious (to me anyway) example of this was “The Sopranos”. OK, let’s get this straight. The mobster–the head of a Mafia family, a man who did not hesitate to kill anyone who crossed him–he was the good guy. The police and FBI who were trying to catch him–they were the bad guys. And people wonder why there are folks supporting Christopher Dorner. It is because we have a culture where The Noble Criminal is looked upon as a hero while those who are charged with apprehending him are evil.

sopranos

But these are really no different than the crowd that stood at the Praetorium that day as Pontius Pilate stood before the teeming crowd, asking them which man they would have released. Would they have Christ–the innocent Lamb of God, the Man who had committed no sin, the Man who was the perfect embodiment of righteousness and godly perfection? Or would they have Barabbas–a murderous villain, a man who had most likely committed crimes so vile and horrible the writers of Sacred Writ dared not even name them?

“Give us Barabbas!!”

To see that man’s will is inclined toward evil, simply read the headlines. Many would rather have Barabbas than Christ.

If God starts it–He WILL finish it!

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I have always heard that if you are going to teach something, you should teach what you are passionate about. I am passionate—more like adamant—about the eternal security of the believer. Or as Steve Lawson would say, “I’m not just dogmatic–I am bulldogmatic” about this subject. I am absolutely convinced that if a person is truly saved, they are saved forever. And today we’re going to see why.

Let me start with an illustration—and when I say “Let me” I’m not looking for your permission, I’m telling you in a nice way, “I’m doing this whether you like it or not.” Let me start with an illustration. Have you ever been to Bryson City, NC? It is a tourist town nestled in the Smoky Mountains. And in Bryson City there is an odd sort of tourist attraction. It’s a bit of an unintentional tourist attraction. If you take Everett Street out of the city, it eventually becomes Fontana Road. Go past Swain County High School about 6 miles, and you come to a tunnel. And on the other side of the tunnel is…wait for it…NOTHING!

Fontana Road has actually gained a more colorful nickname by the locals, many of whom call it, the Road to Nowhere. It stands as a monument to governmental efficiency. Actually, there’s a good reason they didn’t finish it. During the construction process they found rock that was highly acidic, and if they were to disturb it, the acid would cause severe environmental damage. For all you children of the ’70’s, I will leave off any references to “acid rock”.

tunnel

We have our own “Road to Nowhere” here in Knoxville, it is called the James White Parkway (named after the man who founded Knoxville, TN. Not the wonderful Christian apologist. But if I had my way…). Got started and has still not been finished, and it appears it never will be finished. The Foothills Parkway, which was originally supposed to be 72 miles long, running from Tennessee to North Carolina–how many miles are complete, anybody know? About 22.

So, my point is this: do men begin projects that they do not finish? Wives, please hold your comments about husbands until we are finished, OK? My dad was notorious for that. So many times we begin things we have every intention of finishing–but for whatever reason, those things remain unfinished.

On the other hand, if God starts something, will HE finish it? Oh, absolutely. And that is a truth we find in our text today. And that text is Philippians 1:6. No, I actually need to start at verse 3. Philippians 1:3-6 (NASB)3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Of all the verses that so clearly spell out the fact that a saved person is saved forever, this is one of the clearest. When I first got saved, I was like a lot of people probably are. I thought that, “Well, yeah, you can be wicked enough to lose your salvation!” But that’s because I was looking at it in the same way as anyone else who thinks you can lose your salvation—I was only looking at salvation from the human side, not taking into account that it is not that we save ourselves, but that God saves us, sets us apart as His own, and will do everything He has to do to keep the one He has adopted. I like what John Calvin said about this verse—

“Let believers exercise themselves in constant meditation upon the favors which God confers, that they may encourage and confirm hope as to the time to come, and always ponder this in their mind: God does not forsake the work which his own hands have begun, as the Prophet bears witness, (Psalm 138:8; Isaiah 64:8) we are the work of his hands; therefore he will complete what he has begun in us. When I say that we are the work of his hands, I do not refer to mere creation, but to the calling by which we are adopted into the number of his sons.”

And in that quote, he lists two Old Testament verses to support is argument, Isaiah 64:8But now, O LORD, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand. Psalm 138:8The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; do not forsake the works of Your hands. So in these three verses—Philippians 1:6, Psalm 138:8 and Isaiah 64:8—we see this most beautiful picture that God has taken us mere lumps of clay, and is shaping us, molding us, making of us a vessel of mercy to show His grace, and that He will not leave that good work undone.

OK, so let’s look at our text from Philippians. Let’s start off by talking about the good work. What is the good work? Salvation. Who began the good work? God did. Otherwise, Paul would have said, You who began the good work in you… Right? But he didn’t say that. He said He who began the good work. So obviously somebody other than you began the good work in you. Somebody not named “You” began the work of salvation in you. In fact, Paul uses the word ἐνάρχομαι (enarchomai). It means “to begin”. You hear the word “arch” in there, like archangel or archetype. It comes from the same Greek word as ἀρχή (arche). John 1:1 (Greek NT)ἐν ἀρχή (en arche) In the beginning. The word Paul uses refers to the very beginning of something. Not, “You had the idea, and God showed you the rest.” God started it. When Jesus asked His disciples “Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” and Simon Peter said “Thou art the Christ”, Christ did not say, “Good job Peter! How did you ever figure that out? You’re one smart cookie” I don’t think the phrase “smart cookie” was part of the Greek or Hebrew lexicon at the time, but anyway. It was GOD who showed Simon that Jesus is the Christ. Simon didn’t have the idea in his head and God came along and said, “Yep, you got it!”

Titus 3:4-64 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. Did God look down on creation, and say, “Hey, ya know, that Donny guy, he’s a pretty good fellow. I think I’ll save him”? No, because there is no such thing as a “good person”. We are all wretched and wicked and we all deserve Hell. If you have a problem with that, then go to your Bible and rip the entire 3rd chapter out of the book of Romans. We are, as he would tell the Ephesians, dead in trespasses and sins. And by the word “dead” he means……DEAD! But God grants new life to us, washes us, puts His Holy Spirit in us, and opens our eyes to the truth. We have an example of this action by God in Acts 16:14A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. When we send out missionaries, mission teams, when we commission them to the work, what do we often ask in prayer? We pray God would grant His missionaries mercy; that He would protect them, but what do we pray for the people they witness to? Do we say, “Lord, I hope the people are smart enough to believe us!” or “Give us eloquent speech so we can convince them to follow us!” No, we pray that God would open their hearts to believe the gospel. Because one cannot believe the gospel, cannot confess Jesus Christ as Lord unless the Holy Spirit acts on their heart (1st Corinthians 12:3).

Next let’s look at the word confident. When we think of confidence, what do we normally think of? Someone that can walk into any situation, and they are “confident” they can get the job done. The heart surgeon, or the brain surgeon. “I am Dr. Big Man, and I am going to save your life!” That is self-confidence. And in some circumstances that can be a good thing. I want the guy cracking my chest open and holding my still-beating heart in his hands to know what he’s doing. “Gee, I hope I can get this thingy back in there!” is not something I want to hear him say. But when it comes to salvation, is self-confidence a good thing? Absolutely not!! But the person who says you can lose your salvation is indeed basing your continuing in salvation on your confidence in yourself. When you boil it all down, that person is saying, “Great! God has saved you! Now, make sure you do enough good things, and you don’t do enough bad things so you lose that salvation!” That is basically what they are saying—that God started it, but now it’s up to you to keep it going. That was the whole problem with Galatia. The Judaizers were telling the new Christians in Galatia that yes, you may have been saved by grace, but you keep yourself saved by keeping the Law of Moses.

And that is basically what these people do—they set the person up to embrace a form of legalism. If you do this many of this sin and that many of that sin, and if you don’t do this or this then you’re lost again. Galatians 3:3Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Having been saved by the washing of regeneration by God, are you now kept by obeying a list of rules and regulations that if you don’t live up to them God will disown you? Paul put no confidence in his flesh. Paul is not confident in man’s ability to keep himself. Just the opposite—he knows than man’s flesh is weak and he cannot save himself. And he certainly cannot keep himself saved. In fact, if one says that a saved person can be wicked enough to lose their salvation they are, by default, saying that one can be righteous enough to keep it. Paul’s confidence is in God and in God’s ability to keep that person. Being confident of this. Confident that God began the work, and that if He has begun the work He will perfect it.

That word perfect. That is the key to this whole verse. The Greek is ἐπιτελέω (epiteleo). The root word is τελέω (teleo). Does anybody know what the 3rd person passive indicative of that word is? How can you not know the 3rd person passive indicative of τελέω (teleo)? What’s wrong with you people? The 3rd person passive indicative of τελέω (teleo) is τετέλεσται (tetelestai). Do you know where we find the word τετέλεσται (tetelestai) in the gospels?

John 19:30 (Greek NT)τετέλεσται (tetelestai) “It is finished.”

Did Jesus complete the work of redemption and salvation on the cross? If God begins a good work in you will He complete it? ἐπιτελέω (epiteleo). τετέλεσται (tetelestai). If you are saved, your salvation is every bit as complete as Christ’s work on the cross. He who began a good work…will complete it.

Unfinished bridge, discontinuity, interruption.

Let’s look at some other verses that say pretty much the same thing. Hebrews 10:14—and of course we can’t start with verse 14, let’s start with verse 11. Hebrews 10:11-1411 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. Under the old covenant, if you sinned today, you bring an animal to the priest, he would kill it, cut it up, burn it. You sin tomorrow, does that animal you brought yesterday do you any good today? No. So what do you do? You bring another one. The priest kills it, cuts it up, burns it. You sin again the next day–you get the picture. The goat that was killed on the Day of Atonement one year—was it still good the next year? No. What did they have to do? Bring another animal. The year after that, are the two goats you brought the previous two years any good? No, you bring another one. 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins fora little while—no? One sacrifice for how long? For all time. 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God. Did the priests ever get to sit down? When you have 2 million plus people, you’ve got a whole lot of sin. And when you had a whole lot of sin you had a whole lot of animals that needed to be killed, cut up and burned. How many sacrifices did Christ offer? One When He finished that one sacrifice, how many more sacrifices did He have to make? NONE. So what did He do? He sat down. Why? Because He was done. τετέλεσται (tetelestai). 13 waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. And here we go. 14 For by one offering He has perfected……for the time being those who are sanctified. Is that what that says? No. NKJV–He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. I mentioned before that when I first got saved I did not believe in eternal security. Wasn’t gonna have it; wasn’t even gonna hear it. But after a while I started reading more, and just when I was about to the point of accepting it, I read this verse. Game over. Period, paragraph. He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. And actually, the ESV describes us as those who are being sanctified—much closer to the Greek.

Listen to the tenses. He has perfected. And by the way, the word perfected in Hebrews 10:14? Guess what Greek word that comes from? τελέω (teleo). Who has been perfected? Those who are being sanctified. This verse cannot be talking about some future, possible, “do everything you can to get there, maybe you’ll get there and maybe you won’t” kind of idea. Those who are right now being sanctified have been already perfected.

Now, someone may ask, “Well, what about the one who believes for 20 years and turns his back on Christ? What do you say about that one?” I asked one of our pastors about that way back then. He said, “That person was never saved to begin with.” And I thought that was kind of a cop-out. But in reality, that’s the truth. If someone believes for a little while—goes to church and listens to Christian music and even teaches or sings in the choir—if they turn their back and walk away from Christ, that is one who went out from us but they were not of us—how do we know they were not of us? Because if they had been of us, they would have continued with us (1st John 2:19). That was a work that was not begun by God. That was a work begun by the flesh, and anytime a person seems to get saved, and seems to continue in the way for a little while, but they defect and return to their old ways, it is proof that they were never saved to begin with. God did not begin the work in them because if it was God who began that work in that person, would He complete it? Of course He would! He who began a good work…will complete it. But if the work is not completed, then it was never started by God.

“Many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord! We’ve done all these great things in Your Name!’” What will Jesus say? “I never knew you. I didn’t begin a work in you. Be gone!” Turn to 2nd Timothy 1:12For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am…pretty sure that He might keep what I have committed to Him for a little while. No, that’s not what it says. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded—same word he uses in Philippians 1:6 as confidentI am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. What was Paul committing to Him until that Day? His eternal soul. Can we trust God with our eternal soul? If we cannot trust God with our eternal soul, then what kind of hope could we ever have? Read through all of Paul’s letters. See if you ever read where Paul uses words like ‘maybe’ or ‘perhaps’ or ‘he might’ or ‘it’s possible’ or ‘for the time being’. Paul does not use wishy-washy, milquetoast, equivocating language. When Paul writes he uses words like ‘confident’ and ‘able’ and ‘He will’ and ‘I believe’ and ‘until that Day’. What kind of hope could we ever have if we can’t even trust God to keep our eternal soul?

But I can lay my head on my pillow at night, knowing that I am trusting my eternal soul to a God who is not only able, but also faithful to keep that soul safe. Chris H, I love ya brother. You’re a fine pastor, I’m sure you are a good father, a decent man. But I’m not gonna trust you with my eternal soul. Because you’re human. And humans fail. Manfred, I’m not trusting you either. Jungle Missionary, sorry. My wife Laurie, I love you honey. But I’m not trusting you either. I’m not trusting anybody who contributes to this blog, or comments on it. I’m not trusting John MacArthur or RC Sproul or Ligon Duncan or Voddie Baucham. And in fact, out of all the 7 or so billion people on planet earth—out of all those 7 billion people, do you know who is the LAST person on earth I would trust with my eternal soul?

ME.

If it is up to me to keep my soul safe until the day of Christ—I might as well pack for an eternal marshmallow roast right now because I know me—I’m gonna screw it up!! And if it is up to me to keep myself saved I will more than surely lose it. And so will you if keeping your salvation were up to you.

But this is the good news–it’s not up to us!! God does not leave our eternal salvation in our hands because we would all surely be lost! I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. And why can I trust Him with My soul? Because if He began the work, He will complete it. He did not leave it up to me to complete it. Let me show you another passage.

Ephesians 1:13-14. These are two verses in a long, long paragraph. But we’re just gonna take a look at one concept in this passage. And we are going to read it from the King James. Ephesians 1:13-14 (KJV)13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, 14 which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. OK, did you see that word in verse 14? Your translation may say ‘pledge’. ‘Guarantee’ is the most common rendering. I like earnest. I like the translation ‘earnest’ because it carries a certain meaning. Much like the word ‘betrothed’ in the gospels, Mary was betrothed to Joseph, that betrothal being more than simply an engagement. An earnest was a down payment, but it was more than that. By putting down an earnest, the buyer was pledging, as solemnly as possible, that he would pay the rest of the money and finalize the transaction. Now, who is the one paying the earnest? God. How? By sealing us with the Holy Spirit. Now listen carefully and if you remember nothing else that you have read, please remember this: If God puts down the down payment, who will complete the transaction? If God gives us the Holy Spirit now, promising that He will complete the transaction, will He complete that transaction? If God put down the down payment, then how in the world can yo ever hope to come up with enough to finish paying it off? That kind of thinking is nothing short of absurd. And it has led countless Christians into lives of legalism and Law-keeping trying to do what only God can do.

So, here are some questions you need to answer:

If God begins your salvation, will He finish it? YES.
Is He able to keep your soul until the day of Christ? YES.
If He put down the down payment, will He finish the transaction? YES.
Has He perfected forever those that He has set apart? YES.
Is He able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him? YES.
Does He ever live to make intercession for us? YES.
If the Father draws a person to Christ, will Christ lift him up on the last day? YES.
Is He the Good Shepherd who will not lose even one of His sheep? YES.
If one of His sheep wanders off, will He go bring them back? YES.
Do His sheep know His voice and will they follow Him? YES.
Will His sheep follow a stranger? NO.
Can anyone snatch His sheep from His hand? NO.
Can anything separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus? NO.

So to argue that one who is truly saved can be lost again, you would have to throw out all that Scripture. You would have to cut it out of your Bible, or use your Sharpie™ as a highlighter through those passages. The person might argue, “But doesn’t it say ‘He who endures to the end will be saved’?” Yes. And that person will endure who has been sanctified by God, who began the good work and will complete it.

One last verse. 1st John 5:4For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. Are you born of God? Will you overcome the world? I rest my case.

One Elected to Salvation, Others Elected to Reprobation

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God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved1st Timothy 2:3-4

Arminians use the above verse as a proof-text for their erroneous belief that God tries to save everybody and gives people the same chance to go to Heaven. They pluck this verse off the page, slap it down, and say, “Ha!! See!! God wants to save everybody, and he gives everyone the same chance because God is love, all the time love, nothing but love, love, love!” To them, God would never mandate that a certain people were not yet wicked enough for Him to destroy them yet. A God who is all about love, love, love. And if this passage were the only verse in the entire Bible, one could make that case. However, there are thousands more verses in the Scriptures and many of them say the opposite — that Jesus did NOT die for every single person in the whole wide world ever. That Christ’s death was only for particular people, specifically His sheep. (He never said, “I lay down My life for My sheep–and the goats and the dogs and the swine”).  And this the same God once said “I can’t destroy them yet because they’re not bad enough.”

Let’s think back to the God of the Old Testament. Is He the same God that we find in the New Testament? To the Arminian, the answer is “no”. The Arminian says that the God of the Old Testament–the one who destroyed entire cities off the face of the earth (Sodom and Gomorrah and the ten surrounding cities), who decreed that entire people groups would come to an end (the Edomites)–is now an “everybody gets a chance” kind of God in the New Testament. But let’s think about it. Who did God give His Law to? The Israelites. Did He give His Law–with all its offerings and sacrifices that covered over sins until Christ came–to the Amalekites and the Hivites and the Jebusites and the Perizzites and the Hittites? No. Well that’s not fair! (PSSSST–Do you really want God to be “fair”? Think about it!) Did God tell Moses that on the Day of Atonement he should go out and gather all the people from all the lands all around them to come to the tent? Or did He tell Moses to gather only the people of Israel? I think we know that answer. The language of Sovereign election is all throughout Scripture, from God choosing Abram (which we will look at shortly) to God choosing the nation of Israel itself, all the way into Revelation, when God chooses which 144,000 descendants of the tribes of Israel will have His seal put upon them. Continue reading

Quotes (945)

“The thing we kick against the most is the question of pain and suffering. We have naturally the idea that if we are happy and peaceful we are all right…Happiness is not a sign that we are right with God; happiness is a sign of satisfaction, that is all, and the majority of us can be satisfied on too low a level. Jesus Christ disturbs every kind of satisfaction that is less than delight in God. Every strand of sentimental satisfaction is an indication of how much farther we have to go before we understand the life of God, it is the satisfaction of a smug self-interest which God by circumstances and pain shocks us out of as we go in the discipline of life.”

Oswald Chambers
1874-1917

Things I have learned–Foster Parenting Vs. Adoption

Ephesians 1:3-53 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.

Foster parent.

The term conjures up various images in different people depending on their own experiences, the experiences of others, or simply the way foster parents are portrayed in the various media. And the many who do foster do indeed come at it from various angles and for varied reasons. Some do it out of a desire to give hope and a chance to kids that come from broken, crime-riddled, and abusive homes. Some do it (as in our case) in the midst of an emergency when no other family member is suitable to care for the children. And, yes, some do indeed do it for the money. Depending on the ages of the children, the number you take, and so forth, one can come out ahead financially.

But no matter what the reason is that someone decides to be a foster parent, they all have one thing in common. If the burden is too much, or if the children are too much for them to handle, or if they just tire of the children, they can call the agency and the children will be placed with another family. In other words, the family fostering the children can simply send them back.

Most Arminians think of God as being a foster parent, rather than being the adoptive Father that He is. If we are smart enough (so the thinking goes) to take advantage of the opportunity that God has placed before us, and our “free” will makes the right decision, then God will gladly adopt us into His family. But, if we act up too much, or we get on His nerves one too many times, then He will just as quickly send us back to our old master, Satan. One Arminian author, writing on the Synod of Dordt, said the following:

True believers can fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently. True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish. (Peter Y. DeJong, Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dordt, 1618-1619, 220ff).

In other words, we are foster children who can bug our Foster Father to the point He pushes us out the door. To the Arminian, when we become children of God, it is only a probationary relationship. At any point in time, God may, in His (supposed) capriciousness, end the relationship. “Yes, you have believed, and according to My word I have given you the right to be My child (John 1:12). But at this point I just don’t think this is working out. So I think it’s best if we just part ways. Sorry.” Continue reading

Things I have learned: Disease vs. Cure, Overcoming the Will

Some say there’s a heaven for those who wait
Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
The sinners are much more fun
–Billy Joel, “Only the God Die Young”

Continuing the series of theological truths I have seen illustrated through our fostering experience, we come to two truths: the natural man would rather die and go to Hell than have to accept and submit to the Lordship of Christ; man’s will must be overcome in order to believe the gospel.

Shortly after these children came to us, the little one was sitting on her bed one evening, holding her ears and crying. We asked her what was wrong, her answer was, “Nuthin”. Of course, we knew something was wrong, so we took her to the local children’s hospital. Long story short, turns out she had an ear infection–in both ears. This the result of being allowed to sleep with a bottle of milk at night, even until she came to us at the age of six (yes, you read that right. She was on a bottle at six years old). The doctor prescribed some liquid antibiotics, the local pharmacy filled it and added flavoring to it, and we began the next day to try and give her the antidote to her infection. No problem, right?

Wellll……the next morning we tried to give her the medicine. She sat there crying for an hour, refusing to take the 1 1/2 ounces of medicine. We tried convincing her that if she didn’t take her medicine, her ears would not heal. We tried telling her that if she did take it, her ears wouldn’t hurt anymore. We tried every way possible to convince her to take her medicine. Finally, after an hour, she took it with a sip of Sprite. This very same scenario was played out twice a day, every day, for two weeks.

And isn’t that just like us? How many times, before God’s grace opened our eyes, did we hear the name of Christ, hear the gospel, and refuse to obey the gospel? Why? Because we were a natural man, and the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1st Corinthians 2:14). We cannot understand the importance of the gospel, or even the gospel itself, in our natural state, for we (like the Corinthians) think it’s ridiculous that our eternal fate rests on believing in a man dying on a cross and coming up out of the grave. Besides, even if the natural man did believe the gospel, he certainly would not want to forsake the life he has, and all its pleasures and comforts, to humble ourselves to God and repent of our sinful lifestyle and put others ahead of our own wants.

What, you don’t think that’s exactly what happens when someone rejects the gospel? What did Jesus say? John 3:19-20“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light.” We’re having too much fun, living the good life, to be bothered with all this “Jesus stuff.” They would rather have their fun now, rather enjoy this time that have–you might say they would rather have their “Best Life” now. Or, as Benny Hinn once famously said, “Who cares about streets of gold in Heaven? I want my gold now, baby!” And just like that little girl who would rather suffer the pain of a double ear infection than take her medicine, the natural man, unregenerated by the Holy Spirit, would rather die and go to Hell than to receive the things of the gospel and submit himself to Christ.

But that is the natural man. That is the nature of man, to want what he wants when he wants it, without having to submit himself to anyone’s yolk. And that is where the natural man finds his folly. He thinks he is free. He does not realize that he is actually a slave of sin, and is only free in regard to righteousness (Romans 6:20). We are all slaves. None of us has a will that is truly free. When we are born, we are born slaves of sin, even though we all belong to God. “The earth is the LORD’s…the world and all that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). We belong to God,  And we must overcome our master in order to obey the gospel. For “no man can serve two masters, else he will love the one and hate the other, or despise the one and love the other” (Matthew 6:24). We cannot set ourselves free from Satan in order to obey Christ, for we are all our lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:14).

In fact, we don’t want to free ourselves from Satan, because we are having too much fun. Satan may be our master, we may be his slave–but he is not a very demanding master. He gives his slaves everything they want in order to keep them happy.

  • “So, you like drugs? What do you prefer? Alcohol? Marijuana? Cocaine? Ooh, here’s one of my favorites–methamphetamine!”
  • “So, you like sex? What kind do you like? Heterosexual? Homosexual? Bisexual? Transvestites? S&M? Ooh, here’s one of my favorites–living together without marriage!”
  • “So, you like money? And you don’t want to work for it? Well, we’ve got all kinds of ways for you to get other people’s money. Robbery. Fraud. Ponzi schemes. Ooh, here’s one of my favorites–the lottery!”

And he gives us enough stuff to keep us happy in these bodies of flesh. And rather than take the antidote for fleshly happiness, we would rather continue on with the disease. But. God, in His grace and mercy, overcomes our stubborn will so that we may understand that we need that antidote–and that we will want that antidote. This was the task to which the apostle Paul was commissioned, as we see in Acts 26:17-18“I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'” A man can no more understand the gospel apart from being granted that power by the Holy Spirit than a blind man can read Dostoyevsky. (Or anybody else for that matter) There is nothing in the heart of man that says “I want to know the things of God.”

And just like we had to overcome that little girl’s stubborn will to convince her she needed to take her medicine to be made well, so God has to overcome our stubborn will to convince us that we need Christ in order to be made well. That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. John 14:16-17“And I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper…the Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot receive.” And what will that Helper do? “He will teach you all things” and “He will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 14:30, 16:8). It was this Helper, the Holy Spirit, that opened the eyes of a certain seller of purple to accept Christ. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us…the Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14). But not all people receive the Holy Spirit. Agrippa did not receive this Helper. Acts 26:27-28 (Revised Version)–“King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. And Agrippa said unto Paul, “With but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian.” (I use the RV because it is actually one of the closest in translating this passage). What prevented Agrippa from accepting Christ as Savior and Lord? He had all the facts before him. He even believed all that the prophets said about Mishiach. But why wouldn’t he take the medication that would cure him of his disassemble of sin? He did not receive the Helper. And this because he was of the world, and the Helper is the One “Whom the world cannot receive” (John 14:17).

Agrippa would not believe because he could not believe. Just like the Pharisees would not believe because they could not believe. John 12:37-4037 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled…39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” John Gill wrote of Agrippa’s near-conversion–

“An almost Christian is one that has much light and knowledge, but no grace; he may know something of himself and of sin, of its being a violation of the law of God, and of the bad consequences of it, but has not true repentance for it; he may know much of Christ in a speculative way, concerning his person and offices, as the devils themselves do, and of the good things which come by him, as peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation; but has no application of these things to himself; he may have a large notional knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospel, but has no experience of the power, sweetness, and comfort of them in his own soul; all his knowledge is unsanctified, and without practice…he has a great deal of faith in the historical way, and sometimes a bold confidence and assurance of everlasting happiness; but has not faith of the right kind, which is spiritual and special, which is the faith of God’s elect, the gift of God, and the operation of his Spirit; by which the soul beholds the glory, fulness, and suitableness of Christ, under a sense of need, and goes forth to him, renouncing everything of self, and lays hold upon him, and trusts in him for salvation; and which works by love to Christ and his people, and has with it the fruits of righteousness…Agrippa was only persuaded, and but almost persuaded by the apostle to be a Christian, but not by the Lord, nor altogether.”

The one who is sick, whose will is not overcome by the Lord, cannot be persuaded by any amount of words to take of the medicine–the only medicine–that will cure his eternal sickness and impart eternal life to his deal spirit.