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Tuesday, March 09 2021

Does God’s grace have limits? Is God’s forgiving grace conditional upon one’s faith and obedience? The writer of Hebrews revealed, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26–27 ESV).

            In contrast to what the Bible teaches, many claim, “Once saved, always saved,” which in other words means for many, “Once that I was saved by God’s grace, then I cannot fall from grace, so I can continue in sin that grace may abound.” Again, the biblical writer revealed that one can fall from grace when he wrote, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Likewise, Galatians 5:19–21 gives a list of sins that "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Furthermore, the biblical writer observed, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1–2).

            Many ask, “What joy and assurance can anyone have of God’s saving grace if someone can fall from grace?” The condition of God’s forgiveness is a living faith that produces repentance and obedience. When the faithful repent and are baptized, God does the work of forgiving sin and giving life to the faithful as Paul revealed in Colossians 2:12–13.

            Grace is truly God's “unmerited favor,” but this does not imply as some believe that grace is “unconditional” forgiveness. Salvation is conditional upon continuing in the faith. Paul revealed that Jesus would present the faithful as holy and blameless before God “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (Colossians 1:23a).

            Does God give forgiveness to believers who neglect some of His commands? All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Everyone needs God’s grace (Romans 3:24; 5:1–2). While no one is sinless other than Christ, God’s grace does not exempt believers from observing all that Jesus commanded. In Matthew 28:19–20, Jesus gave the commission to make disciples and instruct them to observe all things that Jesus commanded. Mature Christians should be able to teach all things having the Scriptures as an all-sufficient guide (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

            What happens if we strive to observe everything Jesus instructed and yet sin? John wrote of the expanse and extent of God's forgiveness in 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Christians walk in the light when we live by God and His revelation as seen in 1 John 1:5. The word “if” in 1 John 1:7 shows that God's grace for forgiveness is conditional. Continuing in sin is walking in darkness as 1 John 1:6 says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

            Does every act of sin separate the faithful from God’s forgiveness? Believers are not lost every time one sins. John wrote in verse 8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” and in verse 10, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” These passages reveal that God does not require sinless perfection when one becomes a Christian but God wants confession of sins. Furthermore, John taught, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

            Thank God for the great expanse of His forgiving grace. God forgives us of all our sins as we continue in the faith and confess our sins to God the Father. Let encourage one another everyday not to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:12–13).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 04 2021

At death, the dead are separated from their bodies (James 2:26). The rebellious who ignore God pass through Hades into Hell, the Lake of Fire. The rebellious are in torment before Judgment Day, on Judgement Day, and after (Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8). They choose to separate themselves from God who is the source of all goodness and comfort, so they choose to endure eternal separation from God.

            The difference on Judgement Day will be a change of bodily existence. On that day, Jesus taught that He will bodily resurrect the dead (John 5:28–29; 6:39–40). At Judgement, those who are rebellious and agnostic against God will resurrect bodily and be cast into the fire of Hell (Matthew 10:28; John 5:28–29; 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9). The resurrection of bodies is thus physical because physical means bodily. Hell will also become a physical reality for the people of those who rebelled and ignored God when they unite in bodies again.

            When the faithful die, they enter into the peace of God in the afterlife. Jesus depicted angels taking Lazarus's spirit to the heavenly paradise (Luke 16:22). The faithful go to be with Christ who is in Heaven (Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8). Jesus is in Heaven at the right hand of God and not in another world of the dead (Acts 2:33–34; 5:31; 7:55–56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 12; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22; cf. Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:63).

            On Judgement Day, the faithful will come to life again. The Holy Spirit will give life to the mortal bodies of the faithful (Romans 8:11). What kind of life? This is eternal life. Faithful Christians await the redemption of their bodies (Romans 8:23). That is the hope that Christians defend (Romans 8:24–25; 1 Peter 3:15). Paul promised that the faithful will transform from a lowly body to a glorious body like Jesus (Philippians 3:21). The apostle revealed, "And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power" (1 Corinthians 6:14; cf. 4:14). At the resurrection, bodies will rise and put on the immortal nature for eternal life. Paul taught, "For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:53). Despite what happens to one's remains, God will recreate and restore the bodies of the dead (Job 19:25–27; Isaiah 29:16; Revelation 20:13; cf. Ezekiel 37:1–14). Jesus resurrected as flesh and bones, yet He rose never to die as His body became immortal (Luke 24:39). He is the fullness of Deity bodily (Colossians 2:9). When Jesus resurrected, the bodies of saints resurrected, they came from the tombs, and they appeared to many (Matthew 27:52–53).

            God's grace and judgment are just. Christians rejoice for the hope of the redemption of bodies to rise to immortality. Knowing the fear of the Lord, the faithful persuade others to turn to God (2 Corinthians 5:10–11). For the hope of the resurrection, believers unite in Jesus's death, burial, and resurrection through baptism in hope of resurrecting like Christ (Romans 6:3–5; Colossians 2:12–13). This is the hope that we defend (1 Peter 3:15).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, March 02 2021

"Happy wife, happy life." Most men know this saying and want to believe it. Most husbands want to make their wives happy. However, many wives think their husbands do not care, and many husbands struggle to cherish their wives because they do not know how.

            Women have great power in their marriages. The American Sociological Association reports that women initiate 70–90% of divorces, and that increases as one’s level of education increases (Rosenfeld, 2015). Today, women are the most willing to walk away from their marriages. Why? In the book The Empowered Wife (2017), Laura Doyle offers a simple test for wives to think about who has more power in their marriage by asking: "Who loves who more? Do you love him more? Or does he love you more?" (p. 16). Doyle reports that most women answer that he loves her more. Wives often want to improve their marriages but they think it is dependent on their husbands. Doyle finds that women have the power to change their marriages. Is that true? According to the Bible, wives do have God-given power to affect unresponsive husbands with their conduct (1 Peter 3:1–2).

            Wives can do at least one thing to improve their marriage greatly. Doyle reports that women often have a list of complaints for not feeling loved by their husbands, yet husbands have one thing they want from their wives that makes them feel loved and that is respect (The Empowered Wife, p. 105–6). Doyle explains that respect will change men almost instantly. She finds that most women do not know how to respect their husbands or know when they are disrespecting their husbands. She noted that wives do not realize they are disrespecting their husbands when they try to control their husbands by setting their responsibilities, telling them what they should be doing, or instructing how things are to be done. Instead, Doyle coaches wives to comment what they need, what they like, what they cannot do, and what problem they would like solved, and watch their husbands meet those needs. Doyle finds that disrespect drives husbands away from their wives until wives give up on the marriage. Furthermore, Doyle observes that disrespect discourages men from becoming better in various ways. Is she right? Doyle has challenged thousands of women to test her by showing respect to their husbands and see if he changes in as little as 2 weeks.

            The Bible emphatically teaches wives to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). Why should women respect their husbands? Is not respect for someone of authority like a judge, an employer, or a teacher? The biblical command seems to imply that men need respect from their wives to take the initiative and lead by example.

            The apostle Peter gives excellent instruction to wives about how they can win their husbands by “respectful and pure conduct” (1 Peter 3:1–2). This command comes with a promise that wives can affect change in their husbands by their behavior. Peter expanded on respect teaching wives to be clothed with the hidden person of the heart with the beauty of a gentle and peaceful spirit as God values (3:3–4). Peter further observed how Sarah respected her husband, even obeyed him, and recognized him as "lord" (3:5–6). Abraham was "lord" and leader over 318 men and the whole of his camp. One could argue that Abraham merited his wife's respect for his leadership. However, Sarah could have listed reasons not to respect her husband for not standing up to Pharaoh and later to Abimelech and letting her go with another man or agreeing to take Hagar as another wife to raise a son from her. However, the wife who is faithful to God can look past faults and find good reasons to respect her husband again.

            Both the husband and the wife are responsible for their marriage. The Bible does not command husbands to demand respect of their wives as wives cannot demand love. The Scriptures command husbands to love sacrificially, cherish, and nourish their wives and instructs wives to respect by being subject to their husbands (Ephesians 5:25–31). Most husbands want to make their wives happy, and they will keep trying as long as their wives respect their efforts. How can Christians improve their marriages? "Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Ephesians 5:33).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email