Archive for September, 2014

No Molecule Left Behind

Written by Marshall. Posted in New Testament, Romans, Romans 8

Romans 8:9c-11

No Molecule Left Behind

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

 

Romans 8:9c (Holman) But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he

does not belong to Him.

 

Verses 9c-11 contain seven certainties: two sad, five glad. Sad certainty #1. If a person does not possess the Holy Spirit, he or she does not belong to Jesus. In salvation, the acid test is not wearing Jesus’ name, but having the Spirit of Christ.

In conversion, rites and ceremonies are inconsequential, as are doctrinal purity and church membership. All that counts is having the Holy Spirit within.

“Does not belong to Him” is a thunderclap, intended to induce trembling in the hearts of people. No epitaph can be sadder than this: “Does not belong to Him.”

These words wound the heart, but are given to heal us. When the Savior strikes a blow at sinners He only means to break their chains and set them free.

This verse is universal in its application. No exception is hinted at. It has a sobering tone of finality. If we do not belong to Jesus, whose are we? This is scary because it has but one possible answer. The only other proprietor of souls is Satan.

 

Romans 8:10a Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin.

 

Sad certainty #2. Though Christ dwells in us, our bodies are still perishable. “The body is dead” means it is under a sentence of death. We are born to die. “Your first breath is one of the last you will ever take!” (Lloyd-Jones). Our bodies are frail. This house of clay has its foundation in the dust and will soon fade away.

Because of Adam’s sin, we have all been crippled physically. All of us were born with seeds of sickness, tiredness, weakness, and decay inside us, in our DNA. We are subject to accidents and other problems that make life burdensome.

The body, a major source of conflict and disappointment, is the battleground between good and evil. Sin wants to express itself in the body, and ever seeks opportunity there. Guard your body. Sin wants to muscle its entrance at that point.

Paul blamed sin for our mortality. Sin is the villain, our enemy. We should hate sin, if for no other reason, for the problems it causes in the body. I have a dear friend dying of cancer too young. When I first learned the extent of his sickness, I was shaken. I cried out to God, wept until I had no tears left, and almost questioned Him. Waves of ingratitude swept over me. After a week or so of prayer, I entered the study of our text. The timing was of God. He had prepared me to understand this verse better. The culprit is not God, but sin. Evil ravishes. Do not disparage God; denigrate sin. Hate it with all our heart, and fight it with all our might.

 

Romans 8:10b The Spirit gives you life because you have been made right

with God.

 

Glad certainty #1. Spiritual life has been planted in the believer’s spirit. The Holy Spirit was able to make our spirits alive because of the righteousness Jesus imputed to us. Before conversion, our spirits were dead. We had no life-connection with God. But now we are assured of everlasting life. However difficult the struggles in our bodies become, we can never enter condemnation again (RM 8:1).

Even physical death cannot thwart us. It merely frees us. My body will die, but the essential “me” will never cease to exist. Our spirits are alive to God forever. The seed of life planted in us will never cease to grow and blossom.

 

Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in

you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your

mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you.

 

Glad certainty #2. Our present bodies must die, but will not remain under the power of death forever. Life remains for our battered bodies. They will be set aside for a while, but God will finally call them from the dust. No molecule will be lost.

The body will die but can never be ultimately destroyed. It may be blown to bits, burned to ashes, or buried at sea, but each particle shall someday be retrieved.

Our bodies were not originally meant to die. They are mortal due to the Fall of humanity in Adam’s sin. Christ came to deliver us from every consequence of the Fall. Hence, He must undo our bodies’ death. If our bodies are not resurrected, Satan can claim victory over God in that area of creation. But God will not let Satan, sin, and death have the final word—not even with regard to our corpses.

Our resurrected bodies will break the last link in Satan’s chain of corruption. God begins His work in us by first releasing our spirits, and then finally frees the body from sin’s fatal grasp. This is a sure thing. There is no possibility of failure.

Glad certainty #3: The Administrators overseeing the resurrection always succeed. God the Father and God the Holy Spirit will raise us up, and God the Son promised us He would raise up on the last day all who believe in Him (JN 6:40).

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all working together on this project. Their success rate is impressive—to be exact, 100%.

This means the resurrection of our bodies can never fail. Any one of the three members of the Trinity alone would assure success. The three working together gives triple assurance. God the Father made our bodies from dust at the first; He can retrieve us from dust. God the Son restored the decomposing body of Lazarus; He can do the same for us. God the Holy Spirit quickened our dead spirits; it will require no greater miracle to quicken our dead bodies.

Glad certainty #4: The dead body of Jesus was raised to life. His bodily resurrection guarantees our bodily resurrection. He, as the Head of the body, led the way. We, as His members, will follow.

Christ’s body was placed in the grave, having died after the load of our sin had been placed on it. His body became the receptacle of sin, but when He rose, sin was left behind. He came forth with a glorified body, freed from any taint of sin.

The same will happen to our bodies. Death is the means whereby God will purge our bodies of contamination. The scattering of our elements will be like purifying them through a filter. When God recalls those elements in the Resurrection, they will return clean and whole. Jesus “will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).

What if we are alive when Jesus comes? This cleansing transformation will take place instantly, in the twinkling of an eye, with no need for the filter of death.

Eventually, every Christ-follower will be completely delivered: spirit and body. We will stand whole before God. When all is said and done, sin will have nothing of me but its own self. This will be a good riddance. I hope the worms that eat my body get indigestion. I want to share the misery this body has caused me.

Glad certainty #5: The Spirit that raised Jesus’ body now lives in us. The resurrection of our bodies is a sure thing, because the Holy Spirit resides in us now. He did this for Jesus, and will someday do it for us!

Our bodies will be planted like a seed. Life will spring from them again. Our old bodies will be transformed and absorbed into new bodies. All will be glorified then. Our bodies will be the same bodies, yet different. They will be free from sin and all its evil side effects.

The decaying corpse is a fit reminder of illness, pain, and suffering. Our glorified bodies will never decay. There will be no more sickness or sorrow.

Our bodies here often shame us due to our sins. The Resurrection will cleanse them of all evil. They will never again be a source of embarrassment.

When death is cast into the lake of fire (RV 20:14), I want to catch its attention and yell, “Death! Listen to me! Answer this question: O death, where is your victory? Where is your sting?” After my eyes watch death sink into the abyss, I want to turn toward the Father and proclaim, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57).

 

Artificial Backbreaking Religion

Written by Marshall. Posted in Matthew, Matthew 23, New Testament

Matthew 23:4

Artificial Backbreaking Religion

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

 

Matt. 23:4a (Holman) They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry

and put them on people’s shoulders,. . .

 

The Pharisees, being legalists, had only one agenda: make as many difficult rules as possible, and require people to obey them. Their delight was to add to Holy Writ many additional nitpicking rules, regulations, and traditions. The Pharisees were more demanding of people than God was.

They created artificial standards of holiness that made trying to live for God backbreaking. Strict requirements and superfluous traditions made daily life a burden. For instance, the Sabbath was meant to be an uplifting benediction, but had been mangled into a deadweight dragging people down.

Paul, a Pharisee who had tried to obey all the rules, remembered the experience as having been a “yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). Some Pharisees who later became believers had trouble forsaking this old way of thinking.

At the Jerusalem Council, Peter asked them, “Why, then, are you now testing God by putting on the disciples’ necks a yoke that neither our forefathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). I wonder how often Peter the fisherman, in his young days, found himself ritually unclean due to his job. Did he feel like giving up on religion at times? Were latent frustrations from his former days coming through in his talk at the Council?

Christianity still often has to resist legalism, the temptation to keep adding on extrabiblical, unnecessary rules and regulations. The question is; how do we avoid legalism, yet not slip into libertinism? The answer is; hold to the Scriptures, nothing more and nothing less. The Bible is the heritage we must pass to the next generation. Teach your children to love the Bible.

Based on Holy Writ, each generation has to make pertinent, applicable interpretations. There is no way around this. We have to evaluate our culture and behaviors through the Bible lens. Each generation adopts mores, and teaches them to their children, but should not try to bind these interpretations on their children when they become adults. It is okay to talk about varying interpretations, but only the Bible has authority in each generation. Clinging to Scripture is our best hope to navigate a safe middle-of-the-road path.

 

Matt. 23:4b   . . .but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to

move them.

 

Another thing that helps us not become too steeped in legalism is having compassion for people, however poorly they do at keeping the Law. The Pharisees failed this test miserably. In addition to setting strict rules, the Pharisees were mean, harsh, and uncaring. They had no love, no feelings of pity for the hurting and fallen. Void of mercy and compassion, they refused to help those who were collapsing, and made no effort to lighten their load.

They made a holy life impossible to achieve, and then chided the people when they failed at it. Having no interest in God’s grace and mercy, they never tried to explain or relax their pet rules. Their severity is why Ed Stetzer sarcastically says, “Winter is as cold as a legalist’s heart”. Ouch!

This is opposite to what believers should do. Jesus offered the weary rest, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (MT 11:30). He did not make light of Bible obedience, yet did make much of forgiveness and compassion.

Most of us in the ministry entered it for these very reasons: to preach the Bible, and to help people by marrying the young, burying the dead, and carrying the hurting. Compassion was a huge factor in our career selection.

This softness of heart must continue throughout our ministries. Paul modeled this. He told the new church plant at Thessalonica, “We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother nurtures her own children” (1 TH 2:7b).

Jesus sets high moral standards for us. At the same time, He offers us forgiveness when we sin, takes away guilt’s burdens when we repent, and helps us live the life He prescribes for us. His expectations are high, but when we fall, His love, forgiveness, and help for us are strong and unfailing.

Let me illustrate our need for compassion by discussing something that has been stirring in me for a year. I have been struggling with how to help parents whose children quit serving the Lord when they become adults. This is one of the most heartbreaking things that happen to devoted Christian parents. It undermines everything they strove for in raising their children.

My remarks are not intended for spiritually nonchalant parents. Some moms and dads don’t care how their children turn out spiritually, as long as they don’t do drugs, steal, beat their spouses, or end up in prison. As long as their children’s facade is good, these parents are often okay with the result.

I am talking to parents who love God with their whole heart, yet have seen their children walk far away from God. I first want to apologize.

Some of my past remarks on this subject have been way too harsh. My sermons sometimes left the impression I think parents are 100% responsible for how their children turn out. Many who have long heard me preach would probably often be tempted to say to themselves, “What did I do wrong?”

I am sorry about my calloused demeanor. After two years of working closely with very young adults, I am wiser, and much more compassionate.

We know the pat answers. Some say Christian homes are often too strict and legalistic; we tend to protect our kids from the world too much; this causes them to go through shell shock when they encounter the culture of lostness; we should let kids make mistakes and sow their wild oats.

Many quote, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (PR 22:6). This is a Proverb, not a guarantee. It does not tell precise details of how to bring up children in the way they should go. It doesn’t say precisely what to do at each step of life.

Whatever guiding premises people use to help us raise our kids right, absolutes are not to be found. We know this because we see families that raise children who serve the Lord, and children who don’t. Obviously there was no spiritual breakdown here. There are no easy one-liners to apply.

Parents, if your children go astray spiritually, do not beat up on yourself. Reproach not thyself. If perfection is the litmus test for parenting, we all fail. We can only do our best, plus pray mightily and frequently.

Outside influences beyond our control are pressuring our children. Pornography is omnipresent, easily available. Drugs are proliferating. Mental illness is increasing. One wrong person coming into the trajectory of a teen’s life at the wrong moment can undo everything. By the way, on the other hand, the right person can also affect radical change for the good. I urge you to seek ways to enlist Godly adults to disciple your older teens.

Freewill comes into play. However good a job we do as parents, we must remember; once children become adults, they are responsible for their own behavior and decisions. Young adults have to make their own choices.

We have to face the painful fact some were never believers. Children sometimes go through the motions of becoming a believer, but we don’t have a lens to look into a child’s heart to see for sure what happened there.

The child/adult transition age continues to get younger. It was 18; then it was 16, drivers license age; now it comes with the first cell phone. Studies are showing that sexting has become a problem for children as young as 12.

One helpful adage is; rules without relationships can cause rebellion. In this equation, once our adult children are no longer under our rules, and already in rebellion, only one thing is left: relationships. Parents, do all in your power to be your teens and adult children’s best friends. Once they know where you stand on a given issue, try to bond. Don’t compromise, but don’t hold at arm’s length either. When you disagree, talk but do not badger.

We are not insiders able to see everything. As we see situations, we can react like Pharisees, with a condemning frown, or be like Jesus, who leaned toward compassion. Henceforth, I want to more and more be like the latter.