Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Incomparable Christ

~ The original source of the following is unknown. ~

Over 2000 years ago a man was born contrary to the laws of life.
He lived in poverty.
He was raised in obscurity.
He did not travel extensively (only once leaving His native country—during exile in childhood).
He had no wealth or wide-spread influence.
His relatives were inconspicuous.
He had no formal training or formal education.

But this Man’s life changed the course of history!
In infancy He startled a king.
In childhood He puzzled doctors.
In manhood He ruled the course of nature.
He walked on water and He hushed the sea.

He healed multitudes without medicine and He made no charge for His services.

He never wrote a book.
His life has inspired more books than any other man.
He never wrote a song.
Yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all the songwriters combined.
He never founded a college.
But all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many students.

He never marshaled an army, or drafted a soldier, or fired a gun.
Yet no leader ever had more volunteers, who have under His orders, made more rebels stack arms and surrender without a shot fired.

He never practiced psychiatry.
Yet He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors far and near.

Every seventh day the wheels of commerce cease their turning and multitudes wend their way to worshipping assemblies to pay homage and respect to Him.
Though time has spread 2000 years between the people of our generation and His birth, He still lives. His enemies could not destroy Him, and the grave could not hold Him.
The names of past proud statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of past scientists, philosophers, and theologians have come and gone.
But the name of this Man abounds more and more!

Herod could not destroy Him.
The grave could not hold Him.

He stands forth on the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory!
Proclaimed of God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints, and feared by devils, our risen, living Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We will be either forever with Him or forever without Him.
“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

EXTRA: New Look

~ We Hope You Like the Changes ~

Over the last couple of days Abundant Life Now has morphed into a new look with improved functionality. Our change goal was to have a more pleasant appearance with better grouping of peripheral items. You will notice that we have added a second sidebar on the left (which includes an Index to past blogs). We also strived to maintain the simplicity of navigation of the prior site design. We hope you like the changes.

The goal of this blog remains the same: to uplift our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His saving work. We want to provide inspiration, encouragement, and hope for all readers. We welcome suggestions that might help us accomplish those goals.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Christian’s 3 Choices

~ 3 Options from Romans 12:1-2 ~

The Christian makes daily choices as to whether he will be transformed into a Christ-like person, conformed into the mold of society around him, or a third option—become deformed!

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).

Transformed ~ This option is clearly what our Lord desires for us. We are transformed as we study the Word of God, spend in time in prayer, and train ourselves in spiritual disciplines. As we sincerely try to do the will of God, He transforms us.

The Hebrew word translated “transformed” is the same word translated “changed” in 2 Corinthians 3:18. This word is only used twice in Scripture in reference to Christians.

One of the many reasons that consistent transformation is difficult is that, as our passage says, we are “living sacrifices,” we have the ability to keep crawling off the altar.

Jim Elliot, a well-known martyred missionary, wrote: “One does not surrender a life in an instant—that which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime.”

Conformed ~ A second option comes easily as we “go with the flow” around us and become conformed to the pattern of the world around us. Sadly, this is often the case even within Christian groups. Sometimes this situation exists because there was never a decision to make Jesus Christ the Lord of one’s life. The free gift of salvation was received but then life goes on as if nothing significant happened.

When I was young I often heard someone described as a “spiritual giant.” I believe that is a completely erroneous term. To be transformed is “normal Christianity” as viewed from God’s eyes. To be conformed is “average Christianity” as we view the situation around us in developed countries. In other words, those who are truly transformed are approaching true Christianity and the rest of us are “spiritual pigmies” with regard to our Christian growth.

Deformed ~ The third and final option which is not specifically mentioned in these two verses is not good—we become deformed by trying to be transformed while we are willing to be conformed to the world in areas of our interests. Past generations referred to this a “carnal Christianity”—which is really an oxymoron! Entire local churches can be deformed and such is the case of the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:14-19 which God describes as lukewarm. In a stern warning He says He will spit them out of His mouth.

God grant us all the desire, perseverance, and grace to be transformed into His likeness that we should not be ashamed when He returns for us. Repentance is a requirement for salvation—transformation is our calling!

CONTEMPLATE: If Romans 12:1-2 is true for your heart and you make Proverbs 3:5-6 real in your life and use Colossians 3:17 for every decision, you can be guaranteed a happy, successful, and fruitful Christian life.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Salvation – 3 of 3

~ Future Reality – Glorification ~

Last time we considered salvation from the aspect of sanctification. Sanctification is marked by the bookends of “justification” and “glorification.” At some future point—perhaps today—Christians will be changed into new glorious bodies and we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2). Perhaps very soon the process of “sanctification” will end. When Jesus Christ returns to take His sanctified saints home to live with Him forever, they will be glorified!

Glorification is really all about joy! Our joy of glory is the final result of our salvation (Jude 24). Our glorification also causes great joy for our God.

Salvation is past tense, Christians have been saved from the penalty of sin. They have a new position in Christ—positional salvation and positional sanctification.

Salvation is present tense, Christians are being saved from the power of sin. They have a new condition as their new spiritual nature allows them to become more and more like Christ. This is present salvation and present sanctification.

Salvation is future tense, Christians will be saved from the presence of sin. They have an expectation of becoming just like Christ. At that time they will have perfect salvation and perfect sanctification.

Salvation past, justification, is a free gift and results from trusting Jesus Christ.
Salvation present, sanctification, is a process of ongoing growth and maturity.
Salvation future, glorification, includes evaluation to determine rewards for our life on earth.

Past justification is a one-time event—it is a birth process bringing spiritual life (the germ).
Present sanctification is a life-long process—it involves a new kind of life (growth).
Future glorification includes a one-time event at the Judgment Seat of Christ—it ushers in eternal life with God (harvest).

The Christian was translated at conversion (Colossians 1:13; Acts 26:18).
The Christian is being transformed by contemplation (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
The Christian will be transfigured at glorification (Romans 8:17, 29-30; 1 Corinthians 15:49-53).

The eternal God is the source of all!
Our eternal salvation is God’s greatest work!
Our eternal life is God’s richest gift!
Our eternal inheritance is guaranteed now!

God has offered such a wonderful free gift! But we must claim it. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:3).

Monday, March 15, 2010

EXTRA: Seeking God?

~ Response to a Comment ~

A recent comment posted by Jay to my blog states: “I am a muslim and am interested to know about the Christian way to God.” As a blogger I am taking this comment at face value and assume it has great sincerity. Before providing my answer I would like to remark that the five Christians who gave their lives and were the subject of the post you replied to possessed guns with live ammunition. They could have easily saved themselves but they had previously determined not to use their weapons against these native people. Their reasoning was that they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that when they died they would be with God. On the other hand, they feared for the eternal future of the natives they were trying to reach with God’s love. Here is my two-fold answer to your question:

(1) I highly recommend that you obtain a Bible and begin by reading the Gospel of John. The Bible is divided into two major portions—the Old Testament takes up the first two-thirds of the book and is followed by the New Testament. The Gospel of John is the fourth book in the New Testament. As you read, please be open. You might say a prayer in your own words, something to the effect of “God, if You are really God, will You show me the way with no uncertainty—that I might know the true and living God.” If you do these things, I believe God will reveal Himself to you in no uncertain terms.

(2) What follows is an appendix to my next book which is due to be released in the second quarter of this year:

There was a time when I collected prints of scenes from the Pacific Northwest. I remember the time that I was looking through a hardware store in a small town along the Columbia River. I always enjoy hardware stores, especially in small towns, and in this case the anticipation of a bargain was high due to the “going out of business” signs in the windows. It wasn’t long before I spotted something I had not anticipated. It was a large discarded painting in the back room—in the “Employees Only” area. It was extremely dirty and dusty but I thought I could make out that it was a painting of Crater Lake, Oregon. The painting had no future and was headed for the dump when the store closed for the last time.

I found the owner of the store and asked about it. He was surprised that I had spotted it and amazed that I showed an interest in it. He brought it out and we blew off some of the dust. I quickly discovered some prior do-it-yourself efforts to clean the painting—which were clearly unsuccessful. Apparently someone had used gasoline or other solvent, smearing the oils—the painting looked beyond repair. But since my wife and I had honeymooned at Crater Lake and we returned to that special spot regularly, to his delight I gave the store owner a few dollars and then left with an original oil painting. My intention was to restore the painting.

At home I briefly cleaned it the best I could and hung it in our basement, but it was clearly damaged goods. The painting hung in our basement for a number of years.

One day through a business contact I learned of a local oil painting restoration expert. His services turned out to be far more reasonable than I expected and the beauty of the original creation was brought back to life. The vibrant colors were amazing. It turned out to be a painting from the late 1800s by a well-known painter. Some years later we took it for a formal valuation and confirmed that the painting which had been headed to the trash was indeed valuable.

The painting now occupies a prominent spot in our dining room—it is on display for others to see and admire.

Just like that painting, many lives have been wasted and now exist in back rooms missing out on the purpose for which they were created. Many others appear very successful on the outside, but inside they are empty and missing the most important thing in life. Like the painting, they are covered with dirt from past experiences, circumstances, and wrong decisions.

When the surface is cleaned up and a deeper analysis is made, the evidence of past do-it-yourself improvement projects is evident. No lasting success was achieved; in fact, often they are worse off than before their “pulling up by bootstraps” efforts were completed.

I have some good news for you. Jesus Christ is the Master Restorer. He restores broken and cast-off lives. He also brings clarity and brilliance to all who come to Him. Bringing your past to Jesus Christ and trusting Him for the future is the only effective answer. He has already paid for your restoration at the Cross. You only need to deliver yourself to the Master Restorer. When He restores, all your stains are removed and vibrancy is restored. Like my painting, you can be restored to what you were intended to be.

As you grow in your knowledge of Him, you take on His character. Like the painting, you can now fulfill the role for which you were created. Your life will have meaning and purpose, and like the painting, you will bring joy and pleasure to others. You will no longer be headed for the trash bin, rather now you have a secure home. Others looking on will admire what they see.

That painting is a picture of many individuals today. Because of Adam’s original sin all of mankind is doomed to sin, suffering, and death. The just and righteous Creator of the universe cannot overlook crime against His holy nature—the price must be paid!

The Good News is that your penalty has been paid by Jesus Christ.

The sin of man grieved the heart of God so much that He sent His only Son to die at Calvary to pay the penalty of your sin. However, there is a simple requirement in order for you to escape the ultimate judgment and corresponding eternal suffering. You must make a decision to accept the gift of salvation that the death of Jesus Christ provided for you.

But please do not take my word for it—take God at His Word. Consider the following quotations from the Word of God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20 NKJV). “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because He has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son” (John 3:16-18).

Please now understand the significance of that word “whoever.” That last paragraph may be correctly read as follows: “For God so loved [your name] that He gave His one and only Son, so that if [your name] believes in Him [your name] shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn [your name], but that [your name] might be saved through Him. If [your name] believes in Him [your name] will not be condemned, but if [your name] does not believe [your name] stands condemned already because [your name] has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.”

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The fact that Jesus Christ overcame death proves He was God. Over 500 eyewitnesses saw the resurrected Christ at one time. There were also numerous other appearances in His resurrected state including appearances to those who knew Him very well. He not only has power over death but also the power to give you a never-ending life of great joy and happiness in the world to come.

“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13). However, this world may be at 11:59 p.m. on the dial of the “earth’s history” clock, and when the hour strikes midnight it will be too late.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire” (2 Peter 3:9-10).

God has promised that if you come to Him in faith He will save you for all time and provide you with a deep inner assurance of the reality of your salvation. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, emphasis added). Once you have accepted the free gift of having your sins paid for by the death of Jesus Christ, the way to confidence and assurance of your future is to regularly read the Word of God and to pray to God.

As you follow God you will gain complete confidence in your future. If you have made the decision to accept the death of Jesus Christ on your behalf, welcome to the kingdom of God! I am so happy to have you as my new brother. (I would welcome contact with you.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

EXTRA: Announcement

Jim Elliot ~ Book Release

Question: Why did five bright young men lose their lives to savage spears?
Answer: God used that event to bring thousands to Himself and countless others to renew their commitment to Him.

Now for the first time some of Jim Elliot’s spoken messages are available in print. This is a truly inspiring book which will deepen your daily walk with your Savior. Jim Elliot once wrote, “Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.” This new book will lead readers into a deeper, more extraordinary, and more satisfying life for God.

Title: Jim Elliot: A Christian Martyr Speaks to You
ISBN: 978-1-61579-764-6 (paper)
Availability: Xulon Press, Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and other fine outlets.
More Information: See the column on the right of this page.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Salvation – 2 of 3

Current Process – Sanctification

Last time we considered salvation from the viewpoint of God’s gracious act of justification which grants us a new position before God. Now we consider the much misunderstood topic of the practical aspect of our salvation through the sanctification of our daily lives on earth.

Salvation begins with the simultaneous events of “justification” and “sanctification.” Both are instantaneous! Justification is sometimes referred to as “Positional Sanctification”—I was set apart to God (past tense at the point of salvation). Sanctification literally means set apart for a higher use.

At the time of our salvation we are fully justified and fully sanctified—set apart to God by God (1 Corinthians 1:30). There is no partial salvation and there is no partial sanctification. If you are a child of God, you are set apart for God at the moment of salvation—it is not that you will be set apart but that you have been set apart!

Teaching on sanctification often focuses on the process of “Practical Sanctification” as the Christian grows spiritually. It is extremely important to note a key distinction here. Many erroneously believe that over time with the help of the Spirit of God and the Word of God their nature improves until it begins to resemble Christ. Nothing could be further from the truth! Nowhere in Scripture will you find any indication of repairing our fallen nature! God is not slowly repairing our old “sinful” nature (see 1 Corinthians 2:14, Galatians 5:17-18).

The Word certainly does teach that we are to grow in the knowledge of God and to apply the truth which we have learned. God at the time of our justification gave us a new “spiritual” nature through a new birth (i.e., “born again”) and as newborns, literally “born from above” with a new spiritual nature, we first desire milk (1 Peter 2:2) and continue to grow until we require strong foods (Hebrews 5:14). As we mature we become more Christ-like (2 Corinthians 3:18). It is our new spiritual nature, our new nature in which we were born from above, which grows Christ-like.

The important distinction is that the natural man cannot understand spiritual realities because he has not been born spiritually. This is as true as saying an unborn embryo cannot understand the things of life on earth because he has not been born physically.

In the future we will be with Christ and possess perfect salvation and “Perfect Sanctification” in eternity future as we dwell with our Lord. In our next blog we will look at the third key aspect of salvation.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Salvation – 1 of 3

Past Event – Justification

We serve a triune God—three persons with three distinct personalities. Should it be a surprise that He offers salvation with three distinct aspects?

Salvation is the result of an individual decision to accept a free gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). The sinner comes to God with nothing to offer—the only part we have in salvation is that we did the sinning! But while the gift of God is available to all, it must be personally accepted. Regarding the Cross, Dr. C.I. Scofield once remarked, “The thief was saved that none should despair; but only one that none should presume.”

Salvation is an event, a specific point in time, when a sinner is transformed into a saint! Think of the winner of a large lottery sum. There is a point in time when they learn that they have won the lottery. Yet knowing about their winnings is of no value unless they claim their winnings. Knowing about Christ’s free gift of salvation is good—but of no practical value until His free gift is accepted. At the point when any person accepts the gift of salvation, they pass from being spiritually dead to eternally alive. Now that is an event worth noting!

The source of justification is God.
The cost of justification is Christ’s blood.
The principle of justification is grace.
The way of justification is faith.
The proof of justification is a changed life and good works.

At the point of salvation we are “justified,” which is a gracious act of God in which He declares us righteous. Such a declaration is only possible by accepting the free gift of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf at the Cross of Calvary. Because of our faith in Christ, God not only declares us righteous but removes the guilt and penalty of sin because His Son has paid the price of our sin. Justification makes it “just as if I had never sinned.”

“He accomplishes, in those who believe, everything that the Law of Moses could never make good on. But everyone who believes in this raised-up Jesus is declared good and right and whole before God. ‘Don't take this lightly’ ” (Acts 13:39-40, The Message). “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16, NKJV).