Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: Jesus Christ (Page 1 of 3)

Longing to Die to Be with Christ

Theologians call it “the intermediate state”.  It’s that temporary time between our dying and Jesus’ Second Coming.

That’s what I started writing about–about what that intermediate state is like.  Then I read one of the few texts telling about that time.  And it pulled me in a different direction.

Before looking at that text, let me explain my interest in the intermediate state:  simply, if we’re Jesus-believers  and we die before he comes again, that’s where we’re going.  So I want to know what it’s like.  Now if I were God, I’d provide photos in the back of our Bibles.  Instead, all we have are slim texts from which to infer a picture.  I started with the one below–and it pulled me away.  Maybe blew me away is more accurate.

” I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far . . . ”  (Philippians 1:20-23).

The writer is Paul.  He’s in a Rome house, chained 24/7 to a Roman guard, awaiting trial before Caesar.  Here’s what Paul reveals about the intermediate state.

1.  Wen we enter the intermediate state through death’s door, we gain.  It’s “better by far”.  Unnormal thinking!  I sit here musing on what I’ll lose– my wife, my children, my grandchildren, other significant relationships, and a thousand  things I’ve enjoyed here.  But Paul, on the other hand, looks ahead, forward to the gain that awaits.

2.   When we pass through death’s door, we believers are immediately with Christ.  Anthony A. Hoekema (20th century professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary) explained: “Analysai (to depart) is an aorist infinitive, depicting the momentary experience of death.  Linked to analysai by a single article is the present infinite einai (to be).  The single article ties the two infinitives together, so that the actions depicted by these two infinitives are to be considered two aspects of the same thing, like two sides of the same coin” (The Bible and the Future, p. 104).  Depart and be with Christ.

3.  “[W]ith Christ” is what makes dying gain.  “Christ”  makes the intermediate state “better by far”.  Christ is such gain that Paul admits, “I desire to depart and be with Christ . . .”  Paul longs to die to be with Christ.

This is where I’m pulled away.   Think.  What fuels Paul’s longing?  What makes him count dying gain? “For to me, to live is Christ.”  Dr. Gordon Fee writes, ” . .. since Damascus [Road), Christ became the singular pursuit of his life.  Christ–crucified, exalted Lord, present by the Spirit, coming King; Christ, the name that sums up for Paul the whole range of his new relationship to God: personal devotion, commitment, service, the gospel, ministry, communion, inspiration, everything.”

Paul himself expounds on this  . . .

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ– the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians3:7-14).

Again, Fee comments: “Thus if Paul is released as he expects, he will continue (now as always) in full pursuit of knowing Christ and making him known. Likewise, if he is executed, the goal of living has thus been reached: he will finally have gained Christ.”

Can you see why I was pulled?  I started to search for a picture of what the immediate state is like.  I ended up with a picture of what my life should be now.

I admit I’ve been pursuing healing more than Christ.  Somehow, by God’s grace, by the empowering of his Spirit, I have to change my aim.  I can still pray for healing.  (At this point, I can’t not.)  But pursuit?  That must be singular.  That must be Christ.

And for that I need no photos of the intermediate state.







The soldier hammered spikes
an agonizing three times,
once in each wrist
and once in his pressed-together feet.

Skin split sending rivers of blood
down his body
and onto the cross
where they stretched him out
on the hard ground.
Those rivers were joined with others
that ran down from his crown of thorns.

The pounding hammer was merciless,
the pain pulsating,
mingling with the searing wounds
from whipping that opened his bones bare.

Romans hoisted the cross then,
dropped it into a hole where it stood,
twice a man’s height,
under which family and friends gaped
in helpless grief as morning hours dragged.

Passersby mocked; through agony he heard:
“He saved others; he can’t save himself.”
“Let this Christ come down now
that we may see and believe.”
But come down to save himself he couldn’t.
He could have called ten thousand angels
to destroy the world and set him free.
But last night in the lonely garden
he’d yielded to the Father’s will
and now would not turn back.

At noon darkness swept the sky,
angry, foreboding, wrathful.
It suffocated everything, refused to relent.
Mothers hurried children inside.
Grown men’s stomachs churned.
Priests lit candles and mumbled prayers.
But darkness overruled the light—and reigned.

At the ninth hour, three in the storm-dark afternoon,
a cry of anguish rose,
an inhuman animal shriek.
From the cross it pierced the dark,
with words from David, darker still:

“My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?”

In those moments the Son of God
bore the sin of the world
and absorbed the holy wrath of the Father
against mankind’s treason.
In those moments the Son
hung central in the will of the Father,
loved to the uttermost.
Yet from his only Son,
the Father turned away,
absolute holiness unable to abide,
absolute sinfulness in its world-weight.

From eternity Father, Son and Holy Spirit
enjoyed love-oneness—
always until now.
In these black moments,
the Father tore away in grieving separation
from the Son of his eternal love.
And the Son hung abandoned,
bearing the weight of sin without God.

He could have called ten thousand angels.
But he died alone for you and me.





Peter fought to keep his feet
in the wind and wave-whipped boat.
With John and James,
he’d managed to pull down the sail.
But the sudden squall was furious,
venting its temper from all sides,
threatening to swamp the boat,
and swallow them in its water.

Over the sides waves broke,
creating a flood of sea water,
already more than ankle-deep.
Disciples frantically bailed.
James fought the oars.
The wind roared.
The waves attacked.
The men  grasped the mast,
the sides—
anything to stay safe
from the hungry waves.

Storms flared often on this small sea.
Cool, dry air from surrounding mountains
mixed with warm, moist air below,
firing frequent storms.
Fishermen were familiar with them.
But this one, this one was hell-bent
on swamping their boat
and sucking them under.

How could Jesus sleep?
He lay cushioned in the stern.
Drifted off early on,
soon after leaving Capernaum
on calm sea with whispering breeze.
But now day was black,
sea and wind furious.
The fishermen fought for their lives.

“Master, Master!” they screamed him awake.
“Save us!  We’re going to drown!
“Don’t you care?”
Words tumbled from their mouths,
grown men unashamed to beg,
like little children fearing a monster.

“You of little faith,” said Jesus wearily,
shouting above the storm.
“Why are you so afraid?”
Then he  pushed himself up the tossing boat,
struggling against wind and wave.
“Quiet!  Be still!”
A stern rebuke,
as if to noisy, unruly children.

The wind blew less still less,
returning to a gentle breeze.
The sea calmed to tiny ripples.
Then all was still.
The sea glass, the air at peace.
As if a sanctified place.

Amazed, the disciples stood still,
staring into silence.
Then, terrified, they mumbled,
“Who is this man?
Even winds and waves obey him!”

Our family once had a boat.
We clamored aboard.
sped to a nearby sandbar
where we played and sunned.
Not once did a storm strike.
So I can’t imagine this one.

But other storm-forms do.
I bear a 3-inch melanoma square
on my head.
Too weak, I opted out of surgery.
If spreading is to stop,
Jesus must get up
and still my storm.

“Master, don’t you care?”
“Oh, you of little faith.”
Yes, yes, my faith is small,
no more than a mustard seed.
“But little is enough, Master,
so you said.”

I wait for him to speak,
and for my storm to stop.





Dawn hadn’t yet broken the horizon when Mary Magdalene retraced her steps toward the tomb.  She had watched Joseph and Nicodemus bury her crucified Lord on Friday.  Still, she stepped carefully:  the gray darkness cast trees and rocks into unrecognizable shapes.

Her mind was blank with sadness too heavy to form thoughts.  It was the third day since his death.  Would the grief ever leave?  She peered ahead toward the new tomb.  With little light from the heavens—though there seemed an uncanny joy in the air—she thought the entrance-stone had been rolled away.  She quickened her pace and brushed at her eyes:  his tomb did stand open.

Panicked, she ran for Peter and John.  “They’ve taken the Lord from the tomb!  Where could they have put him?”, she blurted.  Her words propelled the sleepy men from the house.  Fear of authorities forgotten:  they ran through city streets, past Golgotha Hill, into the burial garden.  Who could have taken Jesus’ body?  And why?

John outran Peter.  He bent under the low tomb entrance, saw linen strips lying where Jesus’ body should have been.  Peter, panting past John now, pushed inside.  Linen burial strips and head cloth neatly laid aside.  But no body, just as Mary said.  Who?  Why?  And why leave burial cloths behind?  Bewildered, but with nothing to be done, they scrambled slowly from the empty tomb and walked away.  They spoke not a word to Mary who, by now, had returned.  What, after all, was to be said? Their Lord, humiliated by crucifixion, was now desecrated in death.

Mary wept, peering inside once more, as if a grieving look would return the corpse.  And the tomb wasn’t empty!  Two angels sat where Jesus’ body had lain.  “Woman, why are you crying?”  Between sobs, Mary replied:  “They’ve taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.”

The angels stayed silent, as if waiting for—what?  Mary turned from them then, sensing another presence behind her.  The gardener.  “Woman, why are you crying?”  The repeated question momentarily struck her as strange.  This was a burial ground.  People wept at such a place.  But quickly she dismissed the thought as tears fell.  “Who is it you are looking for?”

Maybe the gardener had moved Jesus’ body.  “If you took him away, sir, tell me where you’ve put him, and I’ll go get him.”

He told her of no place.  Instead, he spoke her name:  “Mary.”  Suddenly, a scene of him driving out seven demons from her flashed before her crying eyes.  And scenes of traveling the countryside with him and the other women as he forgave sinners, cleansed lepers, even–yes–raised the dead.

His voice.  It drew her toward him.  It transformed her mournful tears into breathtaking joy.  She reached for him, then, to hold on to him, to never let him go again.  He had been brutally crucified and sadly buried in a tomb.  But, his body hadn’t been cruelly taken from her.

He was alive!

Death was beaten.  The grave was empty.  Nothing was impossible now.

And Sunday’s sun broke the horizon.






What thoughts slogged through their minds as the two men carefully lowered Jesus’ battered body from the bloody cross?

Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly because he feared reprisal from the Jewish authorities.  So it demanded great courage—perhaps as a final act of open devotion he wished now he had taken before—to approach the Roman governor, Pilate, and ask permission to remove Jesus’ body.  Thus, Joseph came, grieving and guilty, for this final act of love.

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, came also.  He had first approached Jesus at night, sure that this miracle-working teacher was from God.  Now, on Golgotha’s hill,  he neared the lifeless body of the one who had spoken mysteriously of a second birth by the Spirit. If only the Spirit would come now!  With him, Nicodemus dragged a hundred pounds of burial myrrh and aloes.

Joseph pulled a soldier’s ladder across the hard ground and leaned it on the cross beam.  Nicodemus found another and did the same on the beam’s other end.  They secured Jesus’ body to the cross with a rope, then set about prying the spikes to set his hands free.  His arms dropped harshly to his sides and his body sagged in death; but the rope held.  They wondered how agonizing his pain had been—not knowing the world’s sin had weighed infinitely more.

By the time they’d released his nailed feet, their tears fell freely.  How could men treat another man so cruelly?  How could the Redeemer—or so they had thought—be imprisoned by nails to die?  What might Pilate do now that he knew they were his followers?  What would happen to their dreams that had died with him?

By the time they were hoisting Jesus’ body down from the cross, clouds scurried over the horizon and blotted out the setting sun.  They recalled the earlier eerie darkness.  His cry—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—echoed again in their minds.  The men were sweating, but chills ran down their spines–as if they stood on ground desecrated by mankind’s sin and sanctified by God’s judgment.

A garden lay nearby.  In it awaited a new tomb in which no one had been laid. The men’s arms ached as their feet plodded with the full weight of their master’s body.  Heavier were their hearts.

Weeping was no more, replaced by a sadness that ran more deeply than tears.  They were determined to offer an act of love, as much as possible a burial fit for a king who had welcomed outcasts, forgave sinners, healed the sick, raised the already dead.

With hearts as dark as the approaching night, they tenderly washed his wounds, wishing with each stroke, they, like him, could heal them.  They applied the burial spices and wrapped his body in burial cloth.  He was prepared now.  But the men hesitated, dreading the final act.  Jesus had to be buried before sundown, but they delayed, hoping life lay hidden and he would awake.

But now, prodded by the disappearing sun, they bore his body inside the tomb.  Tears returned as they laid him in place.  Again they stilled, wanting to beg forgiveness for their fear, longing to express their undying devotion, though afraid to speak and ignorant of words.

Silently, then, they bent under the low entrance and stepped outside.  They must secure his tomb, protect his body, seal it as holy;but both dreaded closing him off to the realm of the dead.  Finally, both strode at once.  Grabbing the stone, they rolled it in place, sealing in their Lord to the death they loathed.

Quickly then, as quick as sorrow would allow, they turned and trod away.  Joseph and Nicodemus.  Two secret disciples who’d at the last openly proclaimed devotion.  Whose minds raced with nothing and with everything.  What, they feared, would happen now?

With the tomb fading behind, it was late Friday.  Sabbath was about to begin.  But could any day be the same again now that their master–and their hope–lay buried in the tomb?

Leftist Religion: No Peace

P.AllanI’m astounded that the current administration in Washington seems to believe that getting America’s enemies to the diplomatic table will bring peace.  Just to be clear, I’m not making a political statement.  I’m not pro-war.  And I have no workable solution to bring world peace through human channels.

But this naiveté  of inherent human goodness totally ignores the reality of sin . . .

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'”
( Romans 3:23).

Sin not only separates us from our Creator and his glory, it depraves human nature, including our mind.  Writing of Gentile sinners, Paul urges the church . . .

” . . . you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do in the futility of their minds.
They are darkened in their understanding,
alienated from the life of God,
because of
the ignorance that is in them
due to the hardness of their heart.”
(Ephesians 4:17,18).

That’s God’s word.  It means we cannot simply trust “the goodwill of man” when we sit at the bargaining table.  I don’t deny the need for diplomacy.  Sure, try to reason with people driven by hostile ideologies.  But we can’t assume that a signature on the bottom line certifies the agreement.

And that brings me to the importance of worldview.  In the latest edition of “National Review” online, Ben Shapiro writes . . .

Obama believes, as doctrinaire leftists do, that human beings do not derive meaning from ancient religious superstitions and deep-seated ideas about how the universe ought to operate. Given relief from material want and prevention of emotional distress, Obama believes, all human beings would get along just fine — and would then be free to cultivate themselves as they see fit.
Karl Marx wrote that “life involves before everything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing, and many other things.” In this view, unhappiness derives from scarcity in these resources or from social relationships created to guarantee these primary needs for some at the expense of others. Religion, meanwhile, exists only to misdirect such unhappiness toward the cosmic rather than toward one’s fellow man. Hence Marx’s belief that abolition of religion is “the demand for their real happiness.”

(Read more at:

This is “leftist religion.”  The replacement of “ancient religious superstitions” with a religious-like ideology that what we all really need is our “primary needs” supplied.  If we would only help our fellow man attain those provisions we would have world happiness and peace.  (ISIS reveals that worldview’s paucity when they aim to take over the world by slaughter!)

Our “leftist religionists” stop short of Marx who claimed “Religion . . . exists only to misdirect such unhappiness toward the cosmic rather than toward one’s fellow man.”  In other words, energy devoted to getting right with God should be directed to getting right with one another.  Today’s “leftists” allow for God, just not as Savior and Lord through his Son.  Leave him, please, to just “bless” us.

“Leftist religion” will never deliver, nor will diplomacy based on it.  God won’t be content to be merely a “blesser.”  He will be honored as God!  Belief in the inherent goodness of man, if only his primary needs are met, is blind and ignorant faith stemming from hard-hearted-ness toward God the Father of Jesus.  The world cannot be saved by mutual goodwill and understanding, because the foundation (man) is fallen.

This is why our only hope lies not in a new U.S. president or deal-making Congress or more talented diplomats or even the military’s overpowering force.  These are necessities for today—until the Peacemaker returns to Planet Earth . . .

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away
have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one
and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.
His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two,
thus making peace,
and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God
through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

He came and preached peace to you who were far away
and peace to those who were near.
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:13-18)

Now, until that day when Jesus comes to bring world peace,
drink in his Spirit of peace for your own soul
as you prayerfully listen to the video above. 

Does God Really Exist?

P.AllanI mean God as revealed in the Bible.  The Triune God.  God the Father.  God the Son.  God the Holy Spirit.  Occasionally (thankfully not often!), especially when I’m hurting and he seems silent, I wonder if all this God-talk is just that—talk.  A creation of humans ages ago passed on from generation to generation until we have a “sacred book” all about him.  (Please tell me I’m not the only one who sometimes wonders if God is really there!)

On those occasions I return to three realities—two objective, one subjective.

First, the universe.

Random?  Chance?  When I see photos of the galaxies and read the intricacies of the human body, I shake my head and marvel at the naturalist.  I realize then that naturalism is an ideology, not science.  So much complexity, so much power, so much beauty.  The universe screams, “INTELLIGENT DESIGN!”.   And when I look at humans, when I listen to us communicate and love and, yes, even hate, I scream “PERSONAL INTELLIGENT DESIGNER!”  The jump from there to God is a mere step.  If God doesn’t exist, how then does the universe?  Because the universe exists, God does.  What I see, taste, touch, hear and smell isn’t just universe, it’s creation at the word of the Creator God the Father through the Son by means of the Spirit.  Yes, God really exists!

Second, Jesus’ resurrection.

He never really died?  Disciples stole the body?  Come on.  All such  theories on their face are laughable.  Twelve disciples suffered martyrdom (and God alone knows how many other believers) refusing to recant their testimony that crucified Jesus the Christ ROSE FROM THE DEAD.  As prophesied.  According to hundreds.  They laid down their lives rather than deny what they had seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears.  Chuck Colson, now with Jesus, pointed out how hard it is to keep a conspiracy quiet.  Had the disciples stolen the body, somebody eventually would have snitched.  Besides, what happened to the body?  If Jesus did rise from the dead, he’s all he claimed to be.  The resurrection joyfully shouts, “God really exists”.

Third, the Holy Spirit in my spirit.

This is the subjective reality, a sense, a feeling, an inward witness.  John Piper talks about the Bible being self-authenticating.  That is, when I seriously read it, it authenticates itself.   Something tells my mind and heart that it’s truth.  I would call that “self-authenticating” power GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT.  He makes the written word “come alive” so I know it reveals reality.  The same is true when I quiet down to pray and deeply think.  There’s an inner sense that God is there.  He really exists.  I just know that I know.  The Bible and the Spirit tell me so.

I could mention more, but these are my three bottom-line realities when painful circumstances whisper to my rational mind, “Maybe God isn’t there after all.”  When I hit those bottom-line realities, I bounce back up.  All things, then, become possible.  Nothing is random or chance.  I’m not alone.  And no matter the circumstance, he wins in the end—and I do too, because I am his through faith in Jesus his Son, indwelt by his Spirit.

Francis Schaeffer memorably titled one of his books, He Is There and He Is Not Silent.  Yes, he is!


He Will Hold Me Fast

P.AllanWhen faith is weak, when strength has ebbed, when temptation has won, when all hope seems gone, when death is near, here is a song to proclaim.  It will deepen our assurance and build up our faith and give us confidence that no one can snatch us out of our Good Shepherd’s hand (John 20:28).

The singers and musicians are the Norton Hall Band.  I found this video on Justin Taylor’s blog. Taylor  is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

Targeting Christians

O PreacherThe park in Pakistan is a regular gathering place for Christian families on Easter Sunday.  Muslim families, too, in this majority-Muslim nation, flock there for fun.  Yesterday it became a place of exploding terror.

A suicide bomb killed at least 70 people.  Many more lie in critical condition.  Among the dead:  29 children.

“The target was Christians,” a faction [of the Taliban] spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said. “We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered [the city of] Lahore.”.  So far, 14 of the dead have been identified as Christians.  The rest were Muslims.  Since Christians were targeted, I assume Muslims were merely collateral damage—unless the murdered weren’t the “right kind” of Muslim.

This comes only days after an airport-and subway-terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium that left 35 dead and nearly 300 wounded, four Americans among them.

I can’t begin to comprehend taking my children to a park on an Easter Sunday afternoon, when suddenly a bomb explodes and a raging fire seriously burns over 33 people and incinerates 70, including 29 children.  If I learned one of my children had been

Image: Pakistanis Hunt Militants Behind Blast That Killed at Least 70

burned to death, what would I do next?  What would I think?  How would I pray?  Where would I go?  How would I endure the pain of the next days?  Of the next months?  Would I hold on to my faith, knowing I and my dead child have no other hope but the Lord?  Or would I curse God and die?  Surely, were I to persevere through so dark a valley, it would be only by God’s grace.

I think of Jesus’ words . . .

“I have said this to you,
so that in me you may have peace.
In the world you face persecution.
But take courage; I have conquered the world.”
(John 16:33).

I’ve been warned.  And promised.  But could I possibly have peace and courage after that?  Perhaps God gives a special gift of faith for such evil days.

I think, too, of that unsettling passage in the Book of Revelation . . .

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar
the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God
and the testimony they had maintained.  They called out in a loud voice,
“How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true,
until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”
Then each of them was given a white robe,
and they were told to wait a little longer,
until the number of their fellow servants and brothers
who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
(Revelation 6:9-11).

I’m not a Revelation expert.  But three implications seem clear here.

One, the Sovereign Lord has a day when he will avenge the blood of his martyrs.  If I was a parent whose child burned to death yesterday, I would want revenge.  (I suppose I should call it “justice” to be more holy.)  I would be briefly angry at God.  I would be angry at President Obama for his nonchalant attitude toward terrorist attacks.  But eventually, by grace, I would put my hope for justice in the hands of the Sovereign Lord whose judgment day is coming.

Two, this world is not a friendly place for Christians.  It doesn’t seem so hostile to us in the U.S.  Even the persecution some have recently endured here (a baker forced out of business) is pretty mild compared to bombing innocents in a park.  For the most part, we can feel rather at home here.  That’s not only because persecution so far is little.  It’s also because we get co-opted by the culture , until the biggest difference between us and the world is we go to church on Sundays and read the Bible occasionally.  Reviewing violence in today’s world, I’m reminded it’s coming here.  With eight grandchildren whom I dearly love, I don’t even want to think that.  But how can I blind my eyes to what seems a blatantly fearful reality?  When you come down to it, we are really aliens and strangers in an unfriendly world (1 Peter 2:11).

Three, more committed Christians will be killed.  In the text above, the martyrs in heaven (!) are told they must wait a little longer for the Lord to avenge their blood “until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.”  More will be martyred.  There’s a number that God knows or perhaps has set.  Then his justice will prevail.

I sometimes wonder what professed Christians in America’s churches will do if terrorists show up here to target us.  Will our numbers sharply shrink?  I think, too, of those preachers who invite unbelievers to come to Jesus with promises of practically heaven on earth.  And of pastors who blithely welcome new members thoughtless about the day membership may make them a terrorist’s target.  And I wonder, too, if I would shut down my blog and become a closet Christian if terrorists targeted us here.

I hope I sound realistic, not pessimistic.  I’m concerned that our—and my—Christianity may be too weak to stand whatever tests may come.  So I write to remind us all—and me especially—that now is the time to prepare.  Today I must toughen up in my faith.  And I must remember, come what may, I’m on the winning side.  After all, our Sovereign Lord said . . .

“But take courage; I have conquered the world.”

Listen! This may help.  He’s “Overcome”!




The House Is On Fire!

P.AllanSometimes the situation is so urgent, but . . . Well, listen to Bob Deffinbaugh’s story:

“Several years ago a friend of mine was working in his garage.
He was the kind of person who did not like to be interrupted
while engaged in a project.
Knowing this, his wife walked into the garage
and stood quietly at his side for several minutes,
waiting for the proper time to speak.
At last her husband looked up, the signal
that she was free to say what was on her mind.
Very calmly, and without a trace of panic, she said,
‘The house is on fire’”
(Galatians:  The Gospel and God’s Grace).

In the churches of Galatia (recently planted by Paul and Barnabas), “the house is on fire.”  Time to interrupt whatever’s going on and shout, “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).   But let’s go back and begin at the beginning.  (For a general introduction read ).

Throughout Paul’s ministry, starting here in the Galatian churches of Psidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, Paul was typically attacked on two fronts.  One, his authority as an apostle.  Two, the substance of his gospel.

With a succinct response to that two-front attack, Paul begins his letter . . .

Paul, an apostle– sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead– and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia:  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,  to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (1:1-5).

Apostolic Authority. 

Does Paul have it, or not?

“Paul, an apostle– sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead . . . ”

It’s an extravagant claim.  An apostle not sent by the first apostles or the Antioch church, but sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.  “God sent me” just a funny movie line today.

It’s also an extreme claim.  We no longer associate authority with God.  He’s a helper or moral guide, but certainly not the Sovereign.  Yet, when Paul refers to him as God who raised Jesus from the dead, he is pointing  us to the authority and power of God, even over death.

Consequently, the risen Christ declared . . .

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18)

Paul later wrote about . . .

” . . . the immeasurable greatness of his power . . .
that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and above every name that is named, not only in this age,
but also in the one to come.”
(Ephesians 1:19-21) 

And when the Lord sent his hesitant disciple Ananias to blind Saul, he told him . . .

” . . . he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name
before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”
(Acts 9:16).

This was Paul’s claim to authority.  Believe it or not.  Just remember this:  if Paul was right, all other claims are false.

Substantive Gospel.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,  to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (1:3-5).

Paul wastes no time getting to the heart of his Gospel.  Greeting the Galatians he identifies Jesus Christ as the one “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,  to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

That Christ “gave himself for our sins” implies we are sinners before the holy God.  We transgress his laws and disobey his commands.  It also implies a substitutionary sacrifice was possible and that the sacrifice was Jesus Christ.  No effort of ours–whether Jewish circumcision, Old Testament law-keeping, or any other credit-gaining work is needed.  The Gospel announces a most-costly, life-changing gift received by faith . . .

“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.”
(Galatians 2:20).

The purpose of Christ’s self-sacrifice extends far beyond sins-forgiven:  ” . . . to rescue us from the present evil age.”  This present age is “evil” because it’s under the dominion of “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and so humans worship the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).  Because of this, God’s wrath is coming (Romans 2:5).  But, we who trust our lives to Christ, are rescued.

When I was about 15, some of my church buddies came to swim at the lake near my house.  Ernie and I swam out to a deep part of the lake.  Suddenly, he panicked.  Grabbed my neck and shoulders.  Smaller than him, I found myself trapped under his weight under water.  About then  the lifeguard showed up in a rowboat and dragged Ernie back to shore.  Apparently he though I could save myself; Ernie couldn’tSimilarly, we can’t do anything to rescue ourselves from sin and God’s wrath; we are rescued by Christ alone through faith alone.

Rescued from God’s wrath  to what?”  Eternal life in the new creation of the new age to come.  It’s an age that  began when Jesus was raised.  Already then, by the Holy Spirit,  we enjoy a  taste of it.  Already the new age has come by the Spirit, but not yet has it come fully.  Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians 10:11 when he writes . . .

These things happened to them as example
and were written down as warnings for us,
on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
(1 Corinthians 10:11)

[God]made us alive with Christ
even when we were dead in transgressions–

it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

 in order that in the coming ages
he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,

expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
(Ephesians 2:5-7).

House On Fire!

On this Good Friday, a cacophony of “other gospels” are babbled about—some secular, some religious, some even in Jesus’ name.  The biggest church in America preaches a false gospel.  The American Dream is the greatest—that’s a false gospel.  You can be anything you want to be is a false gospel.  Jesus forgives your sins but you have to do your part is a false gospel. Listen!  When ideas contrary to Christ subconsciously stick in our minds from mindless reruns, the “house is on fire.”  Get the fire out!

Good Friday.  Sin’s debt was paid.  Jesus endured God’s wrath due us.  “It is finished!” he said (John 19:30).  All that remained was resurrection, by which he would inaugurate the new age for new creatures.  That would come Sunday. 


it is finished jesus photo: It is FINISHED ItisFinished.jpg


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