Sunday, January 31, 2016

Loving God with all our heart: what does it mean?

Pharisees and scribes tried many times to tempt Jesus with various questions. Others again were asking genuinely, seeking for answers. There is one question which was tried 2 times from 2 different people, one who wanted to learn and one who wanted to tempt. It is the question of which commandment is the biggest of all. Let’s read the related passages:
Matthew 22:35-38
“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
Mark 12:28-30
“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'”

1. Loving God: what does it mean?

As we read, loving God with all our heart is the most important commandment. But what does it mean? Unfortunately we are living in an age where the word love has ended up meaning just a feeling. Loving somebody is confused to mean “feeling good about them”. However “feeling good about” somebody does not necessarily constitute love in biblical terms. For in biblical terms love is tightly connected to doing, and specifically of loving God to doing what God wants i.e. His commandments, His will. Jesus made this very plain when He said:
John 14:15
If you love me, keep my commandments.”
And John 14:21-24
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”
Also in Deuteronomy 5:8-10 (see also Exodus 20:5-6) we read:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
Loving God and keeping His commandments, the Word of God, are things inseparable to each other. Jesus made it absolutely clear. The one who loves Him keeps the Word of God and the one who does not keep the Word of God does not love Him. Loving God then, the top commandment, does not mean I feel nice sitting in my pew on a Sunday morning. What it rather means is I try to do what pleases God, what makes God happy. And this is a daily matter.
1 John contains further passages that hammer out what it means to love God.
1 John 4:19-21
“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
1 John 5:2-3
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandmentsFor this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
1 John 3:22-23
“and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”
There are various fallacies going around in today’s Christianity. One very serious is the false idea that God does not care about whether we will be doing or not His commandments, His will. According to this fallacy, all that matters for God is that one moment when we started in the “faith”. “Faith” and “loving God” have been separated from practical matters and are considered sort of theoretical notions, mind states, which can exist separately of how one lives. But faith means to be faithful. You have to BE something, if you have faith. And what you have to be is faithful. And the faithful one cares to please the one to whom He is faithful i.e. he cares to do His will, His commandments.
Something else that becomes apparent from the above is that the favor and love of God are not really unconditional, as some would have us believe. This we see in the above passages too. So in John 14:23 we read:
“Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
Also in 1 John 3:22
“and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”
And in Deuteronomy 5:9-10
“You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
In John 14:23 there is an “if” and there is an “and”. If anyone loves Jesus, he will keep His Word, AND, as a result, the Father will love him and He together with His Son will come and make their home in him. Also in 1 John, we receive whatever we ask from Him, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him. Also in Deuteronomy, the steadfast love of God is shown to the ones who love Him and keep His commandments. There is a clear link then between the love and favor of God and the doing of the will of God. To say it differently let us not think that disobeying God, neglecting His Word and His commandments, does not really matter, because God loves us anyway. Also let us not think that because we say we love God we actually love Him. I think whether we love God or not is shown by the answer to the following simple question: Do we do what pleases Him, His Word, His commandments? If the answer is yes, then we love God. If the answer is no, then we do not love Him. It is as simple as that.
John 14:23-24
If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, ….. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”

2. “But I don’t feel doing the will of God”: The case of the two brothers

Another area of confusion, when it comes to doing the will of God, is the idea that we should do the will of God only if we feel doing it. But if we don’t feel doing it then we are excused, for, supposedly, God wouldn’t want us to do something if we don’t feel doing it. But tell me something: do you go to work always because you feel it? Do you get up in the morning and think whether you feel going to work and depending on whether you feel it or not you pull yourself out of bed or deeper under the blankets? Is this how you are doing it? I don’t think so. You DO your work regardless of how you feel about it! But when it comes to doing the will of God we have given to feelings too much of a place. Of course God wants us to do His will AND feel doing it, but even if we don’t feel doing it, it is far better to do it anyway than not doing it at all! And to use an example from what the Lord told us, He said: “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away…” (Matthew 18:9). He did not say: „if your eye causes you to sin, and you feel tearing it out then do it. But if you don’t feel tearing it out then you are - since you don’t feel it – excused. You can leave it there, to continue causing you to sin“. The rotten eye has to be plugged out, either we feel it or not feel it. So also with the will of God: it is the best to do it and feel doing it, but if you don’t feel doing it, do it anyway, instead of disobeying to Him.
But let’s see another example from Matthew. In Matthew 21, Jesus was questioned once again by the chief priests and the elders of the people. To answer one of their questions He gave them the following parable:
Matthew 21:28-31
"What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first."
Their answer was correct. The first son did not feel doing the will of his father. He plainly said to him: I will not go to the vineyard today. But then he thought about it and changed his mind. Who knows what caused this change. My guess: his care for his father. He heard his father calling him to do his will, but he didn’t feel doing it. He wanted to sleep more, drink coffee slowly and perhaps go out with his friends. So his first reaction, perhaps out of bed, was to scream “I will not go”. But then he thought of his father and because he loved the father, he changed his mind, pulled himself out of bed and went and did what his father wanted him to do!
The second son on the other hand, he told his father – perhaps also out of bed - “I will go dad”. But then he didn’t! Perhaps he went back to sleep, then called a friend and disappeared doing what he wanted. He may have „felt” doing the will of his father for a moment but feelings come and go. So this “feeling” of doing the will of God was replaced by another “feeling” of something different and then he didn’t go!
Which of these two sons did the will of the father? The one who didn’t feel it in the beginning but he did it anyway, or the one who felt doing it in the beginning but actually didn’t do it? The answer is obvious. Now, we saw previously that loving the Father means doing His will. We could therefore also ask the following: “Which of the two loved the Father?” or “with which of the two was the Father pleased? With the one that told Him that will do His will but didn’t do it or with the one that actually did it?” The answer is obviously the same: with the one who did the His will. Conclusion then: do the will of God, regardless of feelings! Even if the first response is “I will not do it”, “I don’t feel doing it!”, change your mind and go ahead and do it. Yes it is far better to do the will of God and feel doing it, but between not doing the will of the Father and doing it without strongly wanting to do it, the option to be chosen is: I’ll do the will of my Father anyway, because I love my Father and want to please Him.

3. The night in Gethsemane

Now the above does not mean that we cannot or should not speak to the Father and ask Him for other possible options. Our relationship with the Father is a real RELATIONSHIP. The Lord wants the channels of communications with His children-servants always open. What happened in Gethsemane the night Jesus was delivered to be crucified is characteristic. Jesus was in the garden with his disciples and Judas the traitor was coming, together with the servants of the chief priests and of the elders, to arrest Him and crucify Him. Jesus was in agony. He would rather have this cup removed from him. And He asked the Father about it:
Luke 22:41-44
“And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
There is nothing wrong in asking the Father if there is a way out. There is nothing wrong in asking the Father whether you can stay home today and not go to the vineyard! What is wrong is to stay at home anyway without asking Him! This is disobedience. But it is not wrong to ask Him for an exception or another way. In fact if there is no other way, you may get a special encouragement in moving forward and doing His will. Jesus got such an encouragement: “And there appeared to Him and angel strengthening Him”.
Jesus would rather have the cup removed from Him, BUT only if this was the will of God. And in that case it was not. And Jesus accepted this. As He said to Peter after Judas with his company of guards arrived:
John 18:11
“So Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?
Jesus always did what pleased the Father, even if He didn’t feel doing it. And because of this, because He always did what pleased the Father, the Father never left Him alone. As He said:
John 8:29 
“And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”
He is our example. As apostle Paul also tells us in Philippians:
Philippians 2:5-11
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a crossTherefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus humbled Himself. He said “not my will but yours be done”. Jesus OBEYED! And the same we should do too. The same mind, the mind of obedience, the mind that says not my will but your will be done, may be in us too. As Paul continues:
Philippians 2:12-13
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
“Therefore my beloved” i.e. because we have such a great example of obedience, Jesus Christ our Lord, let us obey too, working out our salvation with fear and trembling for God is working in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure. And as James says:
James 4:6-10
“Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”


Loving God with all our heart is the most important commandment. But loving God is not a state of the mind, where we “feel nice” about God. Loving God is the same as doing what God wills. There is no such thing as loving God, while at the same time I’m disobedient to Him! There is no such thing as I have faith but I’m not faithful to God! Faith is not a state of mind. Faith in God and His Word equals being faithful to God and His Word. Let’s not believe the fallacy which tries to separate the one from the other. Also the love of God and His favor do come back to those that love Him i.e. to those that do what pleases Him, His will. Furthermore we also saw that it is better to go ahead and do the will of God even if you don’t feel doing, than to disobey God. This does not make us robots without feelings. We can (should) always speak to the Lord and ask Him for another way if we feel that His will is too difficult for us to do and we should take His reply as it is. If there is another way He will provide it. He is the most wonderful Master and Father of all, gracious and good to all His children. And if there is no other way He will encourage us in doing what may seem too difficult to us, exactly as He did to Jesus that night.

Please check out Anastasios's book "The Warnings of the New Testament". Purchase at Kindle and Amazon or download for FREE at:

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Mercy of the Lord

The mercy of the Lord is a much spoken subject in the Word of God. Really, the word "mercy" appears there over 250 times and today we will have a look at some of these occurrences.

1. Mercy: what is it?

To understand what mercy is, we will start from Luke 10:30-37. There, Jesus is using a parable to answer the question of a lawyer about who is his neighbor:
Luke 10:30-37
"Then Jesus answered and said: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, "Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you." So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" and he said, "He who showed MERCY on him."
In contrast to the priest and the Levite, the Samaritan denied to be indifferent to the half-dead traveler. Instead, he had compassion on him; he showed him mercy and helped him. Mercy therefore is to have compassion on someone; to help out of love without expecting something in return. And the Lord is very rich in it. As Ephesians 2 characteristically tells us:
Ephesians 2:4-6
"BUT GOD WHO IS RICH IN MERCY, BECAUSE OF HIS GREAT LOVE WITH WHICH HE LOVED US, EVEN WHEN WE WERE DEAD IN TRESPASSES, MADE US ALIVE TOGETHER WITH CHRIST (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."
It was not our worth or what we could do that gave us salvation but the grace, love and mercy of God. As the one the thieves had left half-dead, so we were dead in trespasses. Religion, philosophy and all else could not help us. They passed us by as the Levite and the priest. However, the Lord "WHO IS RICH IN MERCY, BECAUSE OF HIS GREAT LOVE WITH WHICH HE LOVED US, EVEN WHEN WE WERE DEAD IN TRESPASSES, MADE US ALIVE TOGETHER WITH CHRIST" He stretched His hand and "delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Colossians 1:12-13). As I Peter 1:3 tells us:
I Peter 1:3
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who ACCORDING TO HIS ABUNDANT MERCY has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead"
and Romans 5:8
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us"
We were dead. He was full of love, mercy and compassion. He stretched out his hand and made us alive. Though unworthy, He made us worthy. Though sinners, He made us righteous. Though His enemies, He reconciled us with Himself. Though in the kingdom of darkness, He transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. Really, how great His grace, love and mercy for each of us personally.

2. "Vessels of mercy"

Continuing on the same topic, we will go to Romans 9. There in verses 15-16 we read:
Romans 9: 15-16
"For He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, BUT OF GOD WHO SHOWS MERCY"
In other words, it is not how much we run. It does not have to do with our power and efforts but rather with the mercy of God. Without His mercy, of our own selves, we can do nothing (John 5:30, 15:5).
Keeping on, Romans 9:22-24 tells us:
Romans 9:22-24
"what if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much long suffering, the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the VESSELS OF MERCY, which He had prepared beforehand for glory EVEN US whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?"
Though there are vessels of wrath, we are NOT of them. In contrast, we are vessels of mercy that God prepared beforehand to know the riches of His glory. HE PREPARED US FOR GLORY! His mercy is from generation to generation. As Luke 1:50 tells us:
Luke 1:50
"His mercy is on those who fear Him, from generation to generation"
And as Psalms 25:10 say:
Psalms 25:10
"ALL THE PATHS OF THE LORD ARE MERCY AND TRUTH, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies"
Continuing in Psalms and the subject of mercy, we give below some further characteristic references to it:
Psalms 33:18
"Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy"
Psalms 32:10
"He who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him"
Psalms 33:5
"The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord"
Psalms 36:7-10
"How precious is Your loving kindness [mercy- same Hebrew word as in all other places], O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your pleasures. For with you is the fountain of life; In your light we see light. Oh, continue your lovingkindness [mercy] to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright in heart."
Psalms 57:10
"Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and your truth unto the clouds."
Psalms 63:3
"Your loving kindness [mercy] is better than life"
Psalms 69:16
"Your loving kindness [mercy] is good"
Psalms 86:15
"But you, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering and abundant in mercy and truth"
Psalms 103:13, 17
"As a father pities [the Hebrew word means "to love deeply, have mercy, be compassionate"] his children, SO THE LORD PITIES THOSE WHO FEAR HIM..... the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him.."
Psalms 89:14
"Mercy and truth go before Your face"
Psalms 103:11
"For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him"
Psalms 103:1-4
"Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies"
Psalms 118:1
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever"
Though there are many other references to the Lord's mercy, summarizing what we have seen till now:
• God is rich in mercy, and He has begotten us again according to His abundant mercy.
• All His ways are mercy and truth and these are going before Him.
• All the earth is full of His mercy. His mercy remains from generation to generation to those who fear Him.
• His eye is on those who trust in His mercy and mercy surrounds them.
• His mercy is good and precious. It is better than life!
• As a father pities His children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.
• His mercy on us is as big as the distance of heaven from earth and He crown us with mercy and loving kindness.
• We are vessels of mercy, prepared by Him for glory!

3. More examples of the Lord's mercy.

Moving further, we will see some more examples of the Lord's mercy as these are given in the Bible. Thus, it was the Lord's mercy on Abraham, that lead his servant in the land of his ancestors, to find a wife for Isaac. After all that is recorded in Genesis 24:1-25 and after meeting Rebecca, Isaac's future wife, the servant:
"bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord. And he said, "Blessed be the Lord God of my master, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master."
It was the Lord's mercy that saved Lot and his family from Sodom's destruction:
Genesis 19:17-19
"So it came to pass, when they [the angels] had brought them outside, that he said, "Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed." Then Lot said to them, "Please no, my lords! Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and YOU HAVE INCREASED YOUR MERCY which you have shown me by saving my life"
It was the Lord's grace and mercy that kept Joseph during the first difficult years in Egypt:
Genesis 39:21
"But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison"
Despite the difficulties, that were all in the plan of the Lord, the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy.

4. "Let us therefore come boldly...."

The mercy of the Lord is not something that is given with measure. It is not something the Lord gives sometimes. He does not have mercy on us on a periodic basis but rather on a permanent basis. IT IS A CHARACTERISTIC OF HIS VERY NATURE. As He advises us in Hebrews 4:
Hebrews 4:14-16
"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. LET US THEREFORE COME BOLDLY TO THE THRONE OF GRACE, THAT WE MAY OBTAIN MERCY AND FIND GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED"
We need mercy. There is no-one that does not need it. Let's therefore come boldly to the throne of grace to receive what we need. Let's open our hearts to God. Let's ask for His mercy and compassion on us, as David did in respective situations:
Psalms 4:1
"have mercy on me, and hear my prayer."
Psalms 6:2
"Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak"
Psalms 9:13
"Have mercy on me, O LORD! Consider my trouble from those who hate me"
Psalms 25:16
"Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted."
Psalms 30:10
"Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me; LORD, be my helper!"
Psalms 31:9
"Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble;....... Make Your face shine upon Your servant; Save me for Your mercies' sake."
Psalms 51:1
"Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your loving kindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions."
Psalms 86:16
"Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me! Give Your strength to Your servant, And save the son of Your maidservant."
Psalms 123
" the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the LORD our God, until He has mercy on us. Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us!"
None of those who sought the Lord's mercy left empty. Really:

The two blind men

Matthew 9:27-31
"When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, "SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON US!" And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord." Then He touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith let it be to you." AND THEIR EYES WERE OPENED."

The woman of Canaan

Matthew 15:22-28
"And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, "HAVE MERCY ON ME, O LORD, SON OF DAVID! My daughter is severely demon-possessed." But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, "Send her away, for she cries out after us." But He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" But He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." And she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire." AND HER DAUGHTER WAS HEALED FROM THAT VERY HOUR."

The child with the demon

Matthew 17:15, 18
"LORD, HAVE MERCY ON MY SON, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water......And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; AND THE CHILD WAS CURED FROM THAT VERY HOUR."

Another two blind men

Matthew 20:30-34
"And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, "HAVE MERCY ON US, O LORD, SON OF DAVID!" Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, "HAVE MERCY ON US, O LORD, SON OF DAVID!" So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They said to Him, "Lord, that our eyes may be opened." So JESUS HAD COMPASSION and touched their eyes. AND IMMEDIATELY THEIR EYES RECEIVED SIGHT, and they followed Him."

5. Conclusion

The Lord's mercy and compassion for His children is really without measure, as the distance of heavens from the earth. We are vessels of mercy, vessels prepared by Him for glory! He has surrounded us with His love and compassion. He is rich in mercy. To reiterate the invitation of Hebrews 4
Hebrews 4:16

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Calvinism vs. Islam

Bowe Bergdahl was home-schooled and raised as a very strict Calvinist. It should not surprise us that a Calvinist has become a Moslem. The two religions have much in common.

Both have a constricted view of the nature of God, a view that limits human responsibility. Calvinism is characterized by a belief that, before all time, God decided who was saved and who was damned. Whatever good we do cannot save us if we have been damned. No matter how much we pray to God for our salvation, no matter how much others pray for our salvation, no matter how much the saints intercede for us, our predestined end cannot change.

Loraine Boettner (March 7, 1901 – January 3, 1990) was an American theologian, teacher, and author in the Reformed tradition. He is best known for his works on predestination, Roman Catholicism, and Postmillennial eschatology. Note: Loraine Boettner admitted that Calvinism's predestination is like Islam's predestination. 
The analogous belief in Islam is that everything is Allah’s will. No matter how careful we are, if Allah intends for us to be killed in an automobile accident, it will happen. If we drive 100 miles per hour drunk on the wrong side of a highway, and Allah does not intend for us to be killed, we will not be.
Calvinism and Islam are characterized by unjust and harsh laws. John Calvin had a baby’s hand cut off when the baby hit his father. Women are killed in Moslem countries for things beyond their control.
Both Islam and Calvinism practice an extreme form of textual literalism in understanding scripture. Scripture acquires a position as a first principle in both religions rather than as a part of Revelation. Neither asks how God has revealed scripture; both simply believe in scripture as if its divine origin were obvious.
Finally, both Islam and Calvinism produce self-righteousness and intolerance. Both were born in pride. Christianity encourages humility. We are tolerant of those who are obviously in error, and we recognize the limits of our ability to correct them by reason. We know, however, that God may give them the gift of seeing the truth; and we pray for this gift humbly.
Let us pray for Bowe Bergdahl and his father, and, of course, for the victims of their perfidy.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

God's Law Is Intended For The Non-Righteous

The Apostle Paul, speaking to Timothy said:

1 Timothy 1: 

8Of course, we know that the Law is good if a person uses it legitimately, 9that is, if he understands that the Law is not intended for righteous people 

but for lawbreakers and rebels, for ungodly people and sinners, for those who are unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers, their mothers, or other people, 10for those involved in sexual immorality, for homosexuals, for kidnappers,for liars, for false witnesses, and for whatever else goes against the healthy teaching 11that agrees with the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
  • The Law is not intended for righteous people. They should be fleeing from sin.
  • The Law is for the non righteous. 

12I thank the Messiah Jesus, our Lord, who gives me strength, that he has considered me faithful and has appointed me to his service. 13In the past I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man. But I received mercy because I acted ignorantly in my unbelief14and the grace of our Lord overflowed toward me, along with the faith and love that are in the Messiah Jesus. 15This is a trustworthy saying that deserves complete acceptance:k
To this world Messiah came,
sinful people to reclaim.
I am the worst of them. 16But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the worst sinner, the Messiah Jesus might demonstrate all of his patience as an example for those who would believe in him for eternal life. 17Now to the King Eternal—the immortal, invisible, and only God—be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen.

Paul never gives professing believers an excuse to sin. On the contrary Paul tells us:
  •  1What should we say, then? Should we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2Of course not! How can we who died as far as sin is concerned go on living in it? Romans 6 ISV

John told us:
  • 5This is the message that we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness—none at all! 
  • 6If we claim that we have fellowship with him but keep living in darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. 
  • 7But if we keep living in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 
  • 8If we say that we do not have any sin, we are deceiving ourselves and we’re not being truthful to ourselves. 
  • 9If we make it our habit to confess our sins, in his faithful righteousness he forgives us for those sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. 
  • 10If we say that we have never sinned, we make him a liar and his word has no place in us. 1 John 1 ISV

Brothers and Sisters, we are saved by grace through faith to do good works. Sin should not control us. We are to walk in the Spirit. We are responsible for how we live our lives! We must practice holiness, confessing sins quickly and abandoning them!  WARNING!: This is impossible if you fill your mind by watching and listening to the filth on TV, radio, and other media and are not in the Word of God and seeking to obey God.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Christian - Preparing for Suffering

Chosen by God: a look at the doctrine of predestination

Chosen by God: a look at the doctrine of predestination

The question of predestination vs. free will is a long standing one in the body of Christ. There are many that say that God has already chosen those who would be saved and it is those and nobody else that will be saved. Subsequently and according to this view whether somebody will be saved or not it is not so much a question of somebody else speaking the Word to him and him subsequently believing this Word. Though he definitely needs to do this, he can essentially do it only because God has “predestined” him for this, has “chosen” him. Had God not “predestined” him, had God not “chosen” him – in the meaning of chosen him over somebody else that was not chosen - then he would not be saved. It is thus ultimately up to God who is going to be saved and whom He, as per this view, has “predestined”, pre-choose to be saved. Those who God has chosen to save will be saved but those whom He has not chosen (which actually then means: those He has rejected for salvation) will not be saved. This is definitely a very convenient doctrine as it shifts the responsibility of salvation to God, meaning that He, as per this view”, has already chosen those who will be saved. So if you don’t feel like speaking the Word to others … not much of a problem. God knew it, and did not arrange for somebody that was to be saved to come your way. After all whoever is to be saved will be saved no matter what… it is all up to God. It is my personal opinion that as much as convenient this doctrine may be, it is also a very wrong and dangerous doctrine. I also believe that it is this doctrine that is responsible, at least partially, for the passivity of many people concerning speaking the Word: people do not really feel responsible for speaking the gospel as ultimately, and according to this view, whoever is to be saved will be saved. I strongly disagree with this position. I believe that according to the Bible, God gave His Son for ALL men, which then means His choice for salvation is: everybody. In turn this means that the view that God chose to save some, over some others cannot be correct.

Salvation: God’s choice for everybody.

To see what is the desire of God concerning salvation let’s start with I Timothy 2:4. There we read:
1 Timothy 2:4 “God our Savior .. who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
Whom does God want to be saved? What is His will about salvation? What is that that He wants, desires? As the passage tells us, He desires, wills all men to be saved! “All men” means ALL. He did not choose some people over some others and then gave His Son for them only. Instead He gave His Son for all people, for everybody on the face of this earth and He desires that everybody on the face of this earth is saved! This is His declared will, desire, want, choice. Here is what verses 5 and 6 of the same epistle tell us:
1 Timothy 2:5-6 “For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom FOR ALL, to be testified in due time.”
For how many did Jesus Christ gave himself as a ransom? Not for some but for ALL, brother and sister. Jesus Christ paid the price for everybody and He did it with the purpose that everybody can taste salvation. If He then did this, wouldn’t be entirely contradictory to say that God has actually chosen only some of these all for whom He gave His Son, which then essentially means that He did not choose (i.e. therefore rejected) the remaining? Imagine that you went to a prison and you loved all the prisoners so much that you paid the highest possible price - for God that price was His Son - to make them free. How many would you want to see free? I guess ALL. Now imagine that some chose to stay in the prison. What would you feel? Wouldn’t you be very sorrowful and sad about this? You paid the highest price for them! You want them out! I would be very sad if they choose to stay in and so I believe is God. He gave His Son, He paid the highest possible price for everybody and guess what: He wants everybody to take advantage of what He made available. He wants everybody to be free “from the power of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13).
Here is what the famous John 3:16 passage, which is so frequently being quoted, tells us:
John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that THE WORLD through him might be saved. He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
God loved the WORLD (using our example with the prisoners: He loved ALL the prisoners, not just some) and for the whole world, for EVERYBODY, He gave His Son. Why? “SO THAT THE WORLD THROUGH HIM MIGHT BE SAVED.” When God gave His Son He was not targeting at just a part of the world but at the whole world! He did not want to free some prisoners but ALL the prisoners. Salvation is God’s choice for everybody, because it was for everybody that He paid the respective price. There is no man on the face of the earth for whom God has made a choice that he is lost.

What does the Word mean when it speaks about chosen ones?

To be chosen means that somebody chose you i.e. you are his choice. As we read in the past pages it is the declared will of God that all men be saved and for this purpose God paid with the life of His Son. Now if God wants all men to be saved, this means that it is God’s choice for all men to be saved. In turn, if this is God’s choice, God’s will for everybody what then does this make everybody in regards to salvation? CHOSEN. In other words when the Word of God refers to us as elect and chosen, in no way it means chosen in relation to some others that allegedly are not chosen. ALL are chosen for salvation, as this is the choice, what God wills, for every man (though obviously not all will take up His offer). Instead what the Word means by calling us chosen is chosen for salvation. Salvation is God’s choice, His will, for every man and therefore, in regards to salvation, all men are chosen by Him. However not all will accept this offer and the result is that they will be lost. But they are not lost because God did not choose them for salvation but because they chose to reject what was God’s choice for them. In the same way, we too we were not saved because God chose us over some others that were allegedly not chosen. Instead we were saved because we chose to accept what was the choice of God for us and every man. Salvation is a question of believing. It is a question of people choosing God and not a question of God choosing them. As far as God is concerned, there is no question: He chose ALL men for salvation and to this end He gave His Son. See again these passages from the Scripture:
Acts 10:43 whoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins.”
Romans 9:33, 10:11 whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.“
I John 5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”
John 11:26 whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”
John 3:16 whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 12:46-48 whoever believes on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and does not believe, I do not judge him: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
See all these “whoever” in these passages. WHOEVER, regardless of who he is – that’s what “whoever” means – is going to be saved or not to be saved based on whether he believed or not. If he will believe he will get saved, as it is God’s choice, God’s will for him. But if he chooses not to believe then he will not be saved. This in no way is God’s choice, God’s will for him, but it will happen based on the choice this man made. It is as simple as that.
To summarize: there are two kind of choosing. One kind of choosing refers to choosing one person over another person. In other words: I chose you instead of another person. In that sense, and according to the doctrine of election, God chose us and rejected others. He predestined for salvation us, the Christians, but not the others. The others were not chosen, according to this view. Can this view be correct? No, because, as per the other passages of the Scripture that we read, God desires, it is His choice, that everybody gets saved and for exactly that purpose i.e. the salvation of everybody He gave His Son. Therefore the choosing and predestination that are mentioned in Ephesians 1:3-7 – “he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predesignated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself..” – do not have the meaning of us being chosen over some others that are allegedly not chosen, but of us being chosen for salvation. The same choice – salvation – God made for everybody else too, when He gave His Son. Like the prisoners of our example: everybody was chosen to experience freedom. Am I justified therefore to speak to those ex-prisoners that took up my offer and say “you are chosen for freedom”, “I have predestined you for this” “You are my choice”? Yes I am absolutely justified to do this. However, given that this is also my choice for those who are still in the prison, when I say “chosen” I by no means mean that these are chosen over the others that rejected my offer. For them also it is my choice that they are free. God indeed has chosen us but He has not chosen us OVER some others. God does not pick and choose those who would be saved. If He would do this He would be a respecter of persons and He is NOT:
Acts 10:34 “God is not a respecter of persons.”
Instead God will be found by everybody that seeks Him. In fact, He is searching for people who seek Him so that He reveals Himself to them:
Psalms 14:2 “The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.”
and Deuteronomy 4:29
“If .. you shall seek the LORD your God, you shall find him, if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
When somebody seeks God, when he invites Him to reveal Himself to him and he real means it, God will, 100%, show up. He is the one that will draw him to Him. But this is not what God will do only for that person. It is instead something that He does for all that call on Him. God looks for people who seek Him and those who seek Him with all their heart will find Him. This is not something that happens sometimes for some people. Instead it is a LAW, dictated by God’s Word. When somebody invites God from his heart, God will 100% show up and draw him to Himself. It is in this sense that we need to understand the record of the gospel of John that says:
John 6:44 “No one come to me unless the Father that send me draws him.”
Many people take this passage and say “you see, it is all up to God. If God wants, He will draw that person to Him. If He does not want him, He will not draw him”. To interpret this passage in such a way makes God a respecter of persons and ignores that Jesus died for ALL, so that ALL might be saved. God does not pick and choose who to draw to Himself. Instead He will show up for everybody that seeks Him. It is a spiritual law that He dictated it. On that we will also say more in the next section.

Salvation: God’s responsibilities and our responsibilities.

God indeed has a role to play in salvation, the most important role. But we have our own responsibilities and God given roles too. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 is very clear about our role in the reconciliation of men to God. As we read there:
“And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given TO US the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then WE are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray in Christ's stead, be you reconciled to God. For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
By giving His Son, God reconciled the world to himself. In other words the door to God is now open. Using again the example with the prisoners, the doors of the prison are all open! But the prisoners are blind. They cannot see it. They are blinded by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), the devil, so that they do not see the salvation that is available for them. Thus somebody needs to tell the people: “The door to God is now open! Please be reconciled to God. Because he has made sin for us the one who knew no sin so that we will be made the righteousness of God in Him!” This, the telling, the introduction of the people to the Lord, is the ministry of reconciliation. And who has this ministry? The answer is very simple: WE. It is our responsibility to tell the people. It is us that are ambassadors for Christ. If you want something from a foreign country you have to call the embassy of that country, the representatives, the “ambassadors” of that country. For God the ambassadors are US. God opened the doors of the prison, He opened the door to Him. He reconciled the world to Himself by giving His Son. Now we, the once prisoners, the once blinded, we need to say to those who are still prisoners and still blinded “come to God, the door is open!”
More clarity on responsibilities is given in 1 Corinthians 3:5-6. As we read there:
“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”
See the turn. God has a role, the most important role to play. The role of giving the increase. But somebody has to throw the seed and somebody has to water. And this somebody is not God. It is us! It is the ministers, and this does not mean the clergy, but us, who have the ministry of reconciliation. The text does not say: “God planted, God watered, God gave the increase” There were people involved that had to do what God had called them to do. People who said “here is God, reconcile to Him” and as that person approached God, God met Him, drew him to Himself. There were also people, like Apollos, that watered the seed sown in the hearts of the people, opening the Word of God and sharing its truths with them. See also this “through whom” that I have marked in bold letters (“through whom you believed”). The means through whom these people believed were Paul and Apollos. They played their God given role - the role of the intermediate, the minister of reconciliation, the ambassador for Christ, the role of planting and watering. But imagine we say “here is God” and God does not show up. Then would that person meet Him? As much as he might want it, he would not meet Him. But God does do the drawing, does show up, does do His role. When therefore John says that nobody will come to the Father if the Father does not draw him to Himself it is absolutely true: if God does not show up, if God does not give the increase, you and I can plant and water as much as we want but nothing will happen. But God does show up, does do the drawing, does give the increase. The question is will we do our role, the ministry of reconciliation that is committed unto us, the planting and the watering, the “go into ALL the world and preach the gospel to EVERY creature” (Mark 16:15)? These are not acts of God but roles committed to us.


To sum it up dear brother: the doctrine that God has chosen some people to save over some others that He allegedly has not chosen is a very convenient but also very false doctrine. God’s choice, will, is that everybody gets saved and comes to the knowledge of the truth. If this is God’s choice for everybody what is then everybody? Chosen! Now whether he will really get saved or not depends on whether he will believe. If he will believe he will be saved. However, if he will not believe, he will not be saved. Does God have a role to play in this? Yes, the most important one: After a person invites God in his heart to reveal Himself to him, God will show up and draw him to Himself. This is the drawing of the Father Jesus is speaking about. Whoever had God revealed to him knows what I’m speaking about. This revelation of God is not something that He decides precariously to do, but something that He is obliged to do and will do based on His Word. Whoever seeks Him from His heart will find Him says the Word. God will show up, 100%, when somebody really seeks Him.
Now turning to us, God has given to US the ministry of reconciliation, the ministry of sowing the Word and watering. He does the increase (the drawing to Him) but the sowing and watering, the introduction of the people to the Lord, the ministry of reconciliation is given to us. The doctrine according to which God has chosen only certain human beings for salvation, which then implies that He has chosen some others for sending them to hell is a very false doctrine and has put people into sleep as they believe God will save whoever He wants. This is not true. We have responsibilities brothers and sisters and speaking the Word, looking for opportunities to spread the Gospel, is something that is on us to do. Speak the Word, tell the prisoners “get out of the prison”. Whether they will get out or not it is their responsibility. But it is our responsibility to tell them. It is our responsibility to show them the Father. As far as the Father is concerned, He wants them with all His heart! He paid for them the same price He paid for us and He waits for them with the same open arms He waited for us.

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