Friends,
2 Chron. 36:15 says that the LORD sent word to the people of Judah “again and again, because He had pity on His people and on His dwelling place.” And how did God send them word? He did so “through His messengers.” (Same verse) This IS very often how God speaks to people, particularly if they have turned a calloused ear to His voice in creation, circumstances, or Scripture. Indeed, He sends other people to speak to them and relay His words to them.

True, we now have the completed written Word, but the Jews also already had, by the time referenced in 2 Chron. ch. 36, plenty of God’s written Word. They could compare God’s written Word with the words another person uttered as from the Lord, and this is what we are to do. Having the Holy Spirit and the written Word of God, we possess all that is adequate in responding appropriately to messengers claiming to speak in God’s name. Certainly after fervent prayer, we should have no excuse to not discern the Source/source of the words.

But mocking the words of messengers? This is dangerous, and rejecting a “word” should never be done flippantly. The “word” may not be from God, but, it just may be. We’d best be humble enough to discern carefully and prayerfully. Let’s not forget that God used a donkey to speak His words to a reckless prophet. (Num. ch. 22) Moreover, there are several instances we can read of in Scripture where God used not only someone not considered a prophet, but even the heathen to declare His words to others. An example of the latter can be seen right there in 2 Chron., this time in chapter 35. It tells us that Josiah, who was actually a godly king, would not heed the words of Neco, king of Egypt, who advised him not to join the quarrel at the Euphrates. (v. 20-22) As verse 22b says, “He [Josiah] would not listen to what Neco had said at God’s command but went to fight him…” Yes, Neco, at God’s command, had warned Josiah to stay out of the battle, but Josiah didn’t listen and so went to his death. (v. 22-24) Let’s take note that even though Neco claimed God was with him, and did prophesy that God would destroy Josiah if he entered the battle, there actually is no indication that this Egyptian king was a worshipper of Yahweh. How much more so then should we recognize that a “word from the Lord” given by a Christ-follower is to be given special, sober attention.

But what do so many people do, particularly if they consider themselves Bible-teachers themselves? They reject the “word”, and even show contempt toward the messenger. This is what “all the leaders of the priests and the people” (2 Chron. 36:14) did right before they were devastated (slaughtered or exiled) by the Babylonians –which happened by the decree of the Lord. (v. 16-21) Verse 16 is a terrifying warning, and it follows the verse I began this post with about the Lord sending His word again and again through His messengers, for it (v. 16) says, “But they mocked God’s messengers, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against His people and there was no remedy.” No remedy. Is this not terrifying concerning anyone who would do the same?

Has anyone engaged in this type of unwise attitude? Does anyone think that they could have possibly attributed the words of the Lord, given through a person, as coming from “another spirit”? Claiming a message is of “another spirit” pretty much equates with saying the source is an evil spirit. Thus the person has just declared that the words, being not from the Holy Spirit, are coming from a counterfeit spirit / a spirit from the evil side. Is making such a judgement call not something we should be extremely cautious about? I would think so, especially considering what Jesus warns of in Mark 3:28,29, saying, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” And verse 30 makes the warning very clear: “He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.'”

Let’s look carefully at the whole of Mark ch. 3, for we can read that it was the teachers of the law who, after seeing and hearing of the miracles of Jesus and of His messengers, stated that Jesus was able to do such things because He was possessed by the prince of demons. It was because of this accusation, that Jesus gave the warning about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. A parallel passage is found in Mt. ch. 12, while in ch. 10 we read that Jesus, after giving His disciples / messengers spiritual authority and instructions, promised them that their words, as His ambassadors, would not be their own, but instead be “the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (v. 20) A few statements later, Jesus then informs His messengers that if the Master is called Beelzebub, his servants will also likely be called such. (v. 25)

This being the case, then, what about the ones from whom the blasphemy comes? Likely Mt. 18:6 applies where Jesus warns that it would be better that a person have a large milestone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea than for that person to cause one of God’s humble and honorable children to stumble –to falter in faith or commit some other sin.

Yes, it would be better to be drowned in the sea than to associate an evil spirit with a message actually coming from the Holy Spirit. Because for committing such a sin, there is no forgiveness –ever.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

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Friends,
At this time of year it is right that we take time out of our schedules to remember Christ’s death on the cross and to thank Him, with utmost gratefulness, for paying for our sins. And though we know that Jesus was actually crucified on Thursday, dying the same day (see http://gracethrufaith.com/topical-studies/holidays-and-holy-days/solving-the-three-day-three-night-mystery/ ), we should be glad that much of the world does, at least in one way or another, acknowledge, or even honor, the sacrifice the Lord made for mankind.

I, for one, am glad that the cross is a focus in many people’s artwork and decor. (See the two photos below.) In fact, almost every time I see a cross, I stop to admire it, for I am intrigued by how many different designs, shapes, and types can be made. However, I’m certain my interest in crosses could not merely be that there are so many different styles, but that they are so often displayed, which, I believe, reveals the spiritualness of what it symbolizes. What it symbolizes (the believer’s forgiveness, freedom from sin and its penalty, and union with Christ) is what draws me and fills my heart with awe and love and gratitude to God.

Without Christ’s death, without His blood having been shed, there would have been no pardon for us, no redemption, no way for sinful humans to approach the Holy Most High God, and no eternal life. But Jesus –God who entered the world as a man– and who remained sinless, did die. He did shed His blood, and the punishment for sin that He took, did turn God’s wrath aside for all who believe and repent.

Because of His perfect justice, God does have to punish moral lawbreakers. But because of His love and mercy, He wants to forgive. So He made a way: He Himself came to earth to live and die and rise –to forgive and free mankind.

It is the Message of the cross. The very Good News.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

My cross necklaces on one of my Bibles, on an old log. (Taken 8/21/13)

One of my husband’s favorite purchases that we have hanging in our hallway.

Friends,
Many “Christians” are teaching that God will forgive us of our sins if we confess our sins to Him. They often quote 1 John 1:9 which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Sadly, they not only teach from this verse that God forgives a person while he continues to commit deliberate sin, but they also teach that being cleansed of unrighteousness means to be seen by God as righteous even while the person keeps on in his sinful ways! What falsehood! (Heb. 10:26-31)

Israeliteindeed has written down for us what Biblical Confession actually entails. Here is what she writes:

Biblical Confession

by israeliteindeed

The word, “confession” may conjure up all kinds of definitions in people’s minds, depending upon their religious background. Some believe that confession is merely saying “sorry” for your sins, and that this can be done once daily or weekly while sin is ongoing. It is generally believed that as long as this “confession” is being done, God is ignoring the sin. Others believe that confession is listing as many sins as can be remembered to a priest so that he can forgive those sins which are listed. Some believe that if some type of penance is added to the confession, or money is given to a church, this increases the likelihood of finding forgiveness.

The rest can be read here: http://israeliteindeed.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/biblical-confession/

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
How do we receive from God forgiveness for having sinned? Is it by merely asking Him to forgive us while acknowledging our sin? Regardless of the fact that much of Christendom teaches such a philosophy, God’s Word says differently.

God’s Word informs us that to receive God’s forgiveness, we must believe the Gospel and act accordingly. It says that to receive God’s forgiveness for having sinned against His holy laws we must repent and follow Christ. It teaches that repentance is not just a change of mind, but a change of action, of behavior, of conduct. It tells us that we must renounce all sin, turn from it, be washed of it, and live in line with the ensuing righteousness we’ve been given. God’s Word tells us that we must walk (live moment by moment) like Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)

Receiving forgiveness from God through Christ is the act of stepping out of the dark kingdom into the Kingdom of Light, of Truth, of Purity, of Love. To be accepted in this Kingdom, a person must pledge allegiance to the King. This King is Jesus and He gives His subjects His own Spirit, along with His Spirit’s power, to live strong and victorious over any assaults the evil realm still continues to hurl. The Lord expects us and commands us to live this way, and we are expected to become knowledgable and skilled at walking in the Spirit’s power, doing so by diligently and eagerly eating The Word and putting it into practice.

If someone is not doing what is expected by the King, and yet, while claiming to be in union with the King, walks in the darkness (in sin), then what does this mean? It means such a person is a liar. (1 John 1:6) To not live according to the expectation of the King is to not be living by the Truth. (same verse) The Truth, therefore, is not in him (2:4), and Jesus, who is the Truth (John 14:6), is absent. This means that Christ’s Spirit is not in him (1 John 3:24 // Rom. 8:9) and he is not born again. (same verses // John 3:3-8) To not be born again is to be dwelling in that dark realm which is eternally cursed.

But, the Good News tells people to open their understanding and by faith turn from the darkness to the Light, meaning from deeds of sin to deeds of righteousness. (Acts 26:18,20) It is the turn “from the power of Satan to God.” (v. 18) This, Jesus says, is the way to “receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (same verse)

May we not be deceived, but instead understand correctly how to be recipients of God’s forgiveness.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
In speaking of Christ, Eph. 1:7 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Col. 1:13 tells us that God has rescued us from the dominion (the power, authority, domain, and kingdom) of darkness and has transferred us into the Kingdom of His Son, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (v. 14)

Do we notice that it is by being IN Christ that we are redeemed and thus have our sins forgiven? Our sins are not forgiven if we are not abiding IN Christ –which comes by being obedient to His commands. (Mt. 19:17 // John 15:10 // 1 John 3:24) And if our sins are not forgiven, we are not redeemed. We are not delivered –not saved.

Ps. 32:1 says, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” But does this covering cover over deliberate sin? Verse 2 answers this for us as it goes on to say that blessed is he whom the Lord does not hold guilty “and in whose spirit is no deceit.” If someone is claiming to be redeemed by God yet continues to sin willfully, then is such a person void of deceit? No, through his continued rebellion against God’s laws of holiness and love, it is obvious that his spirit harbors deceit –toward God, others, himself, or toward all three. Therefore, this verse (v. 2) along with its context about acknowledging one’s sins (v. 3-5), and it being in accordance with the whole counsel of Scripture, reminds us that those who sin deliberately are under God’s heavy hand, and if unrepentant, will forfeit the grace that could have been theirs. (Ps. ch. 32 // Jonah 2:8 // Heb. 10:26,27)

Let’s pay attention to what God’s Word is actually saying. Let’s not rely on men’s doctrines or on our own biases based on what deceived or rebellious teachers have taught us. Let’s instead read the Scriptures carefully and pay attention to the plain words and their context.

The Word of God does not teach unconditional forgiveness, pardon, and redemption. It teaches that those who believe the Gospel and adhere to it –that Gospel which teaches us, as well as enables us, to repent and walk righteously– is the way to be accepted and forgiven by God. –Now, on Judgement Day, and forever.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
God commands that the world repent of sin. He has not, however, left us unable to do so. He has shed His blood to pay the debt of sin, He has risen to prove His triumph over sin and death, and He has offered everyone who believes, repents, and trusts in Him and His Message, to be filled with His own Spirit through which the power to live forgiven and pleasing to God is made possible.

Consequently, we who say we have come into Christ, and in whom the power of the Kingdom, Spirit, and Word are at work (Luke 17:21 // Eph. 3:20 // 1 Thes. 2:13), are to fan this Gift into flame through faith and obedience. (2 Tim. 1:6) Those who do so, step into God’s calling of becoming conformed to Christ-likeness. (Rom. 8:29,30) For God forgave us and saved us so that we will live a holy life (2 Tim. 1:9 // Titus 2:11-14) and conduct ourselves “according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 1:1) Whoever does not do so defiles God’s temple, rejects the Holy Spirit, and will not remain in Life. (1 Cor. 3:16,17 // 1 Thes. 4:7 // Heb. 12:14)

This manner of life, this True Life, is accessible –to anyone who grabs ahold of it and abides there– by way of Christ Jesus, the Savior of mankind, “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (2 Tim. 1:10) Thus, spiritual and eternal death, which is the wage of sin (Rom. 6:23), has been replaced with the opportunity to know Him who is Himself Eternal Life. (John 14:6 // 1 John 5:20)

Therefore, those who say they have repented and now belong to Christ –they must prove this by their deeds. (Acts 26:20) Of course we do not deserve God’s grace (2 Tim. 1:9) –that grace of forgiveness and transformation He has offered to the whole world through Christ. (1 John 2:1-6) Does a death-row inmate deserve to be pardoned and set free from his just punishment and death penalty? Of course not. For whatever good behavior he shows in prison is not enough to lift the sentence he has, through his wickedness, brought himself under. But, if a powerful ruler chooses to set the criminal free, then he is freed, though not because that criminal could ever have earned the pardon. Thus the pardon can only be granted through mercy, forgiveness, and grace.

But once pardoned and freed, is the criminal expected to go out into society and freely commit more crimes and without fear of being again punished for those new crimes? Preposterous! In the same way, once a person seeks pardon from God and is indeed pardoned, does this license him to go forth and commit further rebellion against God’s laws? Only outrageously false theology teaches that this entitlement belongs to those who come into Christ’s Kingdom! (Jude 1:4)

The True Gospel teaches the Truth –that not only did Christ’s atonement expel spiritual death (John 11:25,26), it also expelled sin from those who hold to His teaching. (John 1:29 & 8:34-36 // Rom. 6:2,18 // Heb. 9:28 // 1 Peter 2:24 // 1 John 3:5) This is the New Covenant. “As it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; ‘and this will be My Covenant with them, when I take away their sins.'” (Rom. 11:26,27) This does not say that those in Covenant with God, while holding onto their sins, have their sins removed from His sight. It says that He has taken away their sins. Yes, God, having cleansed us from our past sins (2 Peter 1:9), has also removed the penalty of those past sins (Rom. 6:23), but more than that, He has circumcised completely off from us the sinful nature. (Col. 2:11) And this, so that we will not be banished from Life! (Rom. 8:13)

So, if we are living in Life, we must be living according to God’s will. (1 John 2:17) We must be “living according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 1:1) This life is a life void of all disobedience to God as the Scriptures repeatedly reveal. (Mt. 19:17 // John 14:15 // Rom. 8:9 // 2 Tim. 2:19 // 1 Peter 1:15 // etc.) Only those who walk faithful in holy conduct will be those who hear the words, “Well done. You have been faithful. You have overcome till the end. Enter the joy of My Eternal Life.” (See Mt. 24:13 & 25:21) The rest will hear, “Depart from Me, you fakers and unfaithful who have continued to practice lawlessness.” (See Mt. 7:21-23 & 24:45-51 and 2 Peter 2:20-22)

Therefore, let us obey God and conduct ourselves according to the Life which is available to us by our choice to daily abide in Christ.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
We are not justified by God if we have not been forgiven by Him. And to be forgiven by Him we must believe in His Son’s work for us on the cross. (John 3:14-18) This belief must be genuine and provable through our deeds. (Acts 26:20 // Ja. 2:14-26) These deeds must be deeds of repentance (Luke 13:5 // 2 Cor. 7:10), which means contrition over one’s sin and a turn from following Sin to following Christ with whole-hearted allegiance. (Luke 3:7-9 & 14:33) This is the True Gospel and it must be believed and adhered to. Whatever a person believes that is contrary to this Message, is to disbelieve or to believe in vain (1 Cor. 15:1,2), either way incurring upon oneself damnation. (John 3:36 with Gal. 1:6-9)

When Abraham was considered righteous before God, we are told that it was because he fully, and without wavering, believed what God told him. (Rom. 4:20-22) This faith of his made him righteous before God because he used obedience to God to complete his faith. (Ja. 2:22) We are told that we must believe with this same kind of faith. (Rom. 4:23-25 // Gal. 3:6-9 // Ja. 2:20-24) This is the faith that truly trusts and does so with loyalty and increasing maturity. (Eph. 4:13,14) This is the kind of faith that is faithful to the Covenant which God has made with us through Christ.

Moreover, this true and saving faith is that which God looks for in order to come into covenant relationship with a person. As Neh. 9:8 says of Abraham, “You [Lord] found his heart faithful to You, and You made a covenant with him…” God does not activate His Covenant with those who are disingenuous. He does not entrust Himself to those who believe with incorrect motives, who believe in some half-hearted way, or who believe without separating themselves from uncleanness. (John 2:23-25 // 2 Cor. 6:17,18) God only accepts a person whose heart is genuine and who He sees is ready and willing to follow the orders of Christ –that is, of His Spirit and of His Word. (Luke 8:15,18,21)

This is not to say that a genuine heart cannot later turn away, for just as a bride whose heart is genuine in her wedding vows and who can, after being disillusioned with married life allow her heart to grow cold, so a person married to Christ can become unfaithful to Him. For, because of the Lord’s patience, as well as His gift to us of free choice, and because of good that comes during those years, and because of other reasons He alone knows, God does allow this to happen. (1 Chron. 28:9 // Luke 8:13,14 // John 15:6 // 1 Cor. 3:16,17) Therefore, someone whose sin debt God has cancelled (forgiven / pardoned) can be a debt He reinstates, this being a consequence of neglecting to live in line with the Truth. (Mt. 18:32-34 & 24:45-51 // 2 Tim. 2:5,12)

Being forgiven, justified, and saved for eternity does depend on this: That we walk in faithful, whole-hearted allegiance to the Truth.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel