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The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:22-26 ESV)

If the Lord be with us, we have no cause of fear. His eye is upon us, His arm over us, His ear open to our prayer – His grace sufficient, His promise unchangeable. Amen 

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 OUR PASSOVER LAMB10552571_1564555450472203_1095884821233938201_n13076632_1188660301151933_5684932331029755454_n5695passover

 Passover is the time of year that the Jewish people remember their miraculous release from slavery in Egypt.  It was instituted by God and the details are very specific as recorded in the Book of Exodus. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.” Exodus 12:1-2. This should get our attention. The first month on the Jewish calendar is Nissan and on the 10th day of Nissan a lamb was to be chosen. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats” Exodus 12:5. The lamb was to be perfect and was to be cared for. On the fourteenth day of Nissan the chosen lamb was to be killed and his blood put on the side posts and the upper door post of each household where the lamb was to be eaten. That night the Lord would move through the land of Egypt and the firstborn of both man and beast would die. The blood of the lamb was the only protection for the household. Only obedience to God would allow the firstborn of a household to be protected. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” Exodus 12:14. It all happened just as God said and the Israelites were freed from bondage. God wanted them to remember what He did for them. Passover is celebrated to this day but there is a much deeper meaning to Passover. It was fulfilled by Jesus.

The Passover story is familiar to us and it is prophetic. Like all of the Jewish feasts, Passover is about Jesus. This important feast celebrates the Israelites being set free from Egyptian bondage, but by allowing Himself to be sacrificed, Jesus set us free from the bondage of sin and death. When He rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey He fulfilled many prophecies, including one in Daniel which foretold the exact day He would be hailed as the Messiah. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.“Daniel 9:25. Calculations based upon this prophecy reveal that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the exact day foretold in Daniel. When He traveled to Jerusalem on that final journey He knew that the time was right and He would be hailed as the Messiah, but then He would be sacrificed…crucified. Years before this John the Baptist had recognized Him as the Lamb of God, and Jesus truly is our perfect Lamb The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. Jesus truly was the once for all sacrifice to take our sin away. There is no more monumental event in history than Jesus’ crucifixion, except for His resurrection.

Jesus rode on a donkey colt into Jerusalem and the people hailed Him as Messiah…the people had chosen Him. Unlike the Passover lamb that was treated gently from the time of selection until its quick sacrifice, Jesus would not be treated kindly. In those final few days He would have disputes with the Jewish leaders and ultimately be betrayed by one of the twelve men who followed Him. After His arrest He endured beatings, scourging, mocking, and pure brutality. They spit on Him, pushed a crown of thorns onto His head, and put a purple robe on Him to mock His claim to be King. Pilate stood Him before a crowd of angry people and asked them if he should set Jesus free or a robber named Barabbas. The crowd called for the release of Barabbas, but gave the frenzied cry“ Crucify Him!” when Pilate asked them what he should do with Jesus. Then, the Lamb of God was sent to the slaughter. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.” John 19:17-18. The Passover lamb was slaughtered quickly, but Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” was beaten unmercifully and then nails were pounded into His hands and His feet. He hung on the cross for hours, dying slowly. He looked down at His mother and gave the responsibility for her care to John and He watched as the Roman soldiers gambled for His garments. In spite of all that was done to Him, His love and forgiveness was not shattered. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. Luke 23:34. His forgiveness is still available to us today.

Jesus had gone to Jerusalem knowing full well what He faced there, but He went willingly. At the last meal He shared with His disciples, He told Judas to go and do what he had to do…to go and betray Him. He kept silence during the illegal trial and the beatings. He carried His cross to His own crucifixion. Jesus, God the Son, had never been separated from God the Father because He was sinless and perfect, even in His human form. But as He hung on that cross He took our sins upon Himself and for the first time ever the perfect Lamb of God felt separation from God the Father because sin separates us from God. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is being interpreted, My god, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” Mark 15:34. The sin that you and I should be condemned for was fully paid for on the cross. Jesus’ blood was shed for each and every person who has ever lived and who ever will live. It’s up to each of us individually to accept or reject that gift of salvation. That gift is free for the asking, but cost Jesus dearly.944057_208770469472928_700770130468267408_n

Jesus fulfilled prophecy with precise timing, and after all things were accomplished, He chose the timing of His death. “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.”John 19:28-30. It was finished. The blood of the Lamb was shed for you and me. We can look back and see the fulfilled prophecies and know that only His blood can redeem us. Those who followed Him were not so sure. They had followed Him and believed He was the Messiah, but now He had died. They feared that they would be the next ones crucified because they had followed Him.1957996_458968030964218_935759081704337320_n

For many reasons the burial was swift and they were unable to tend to His body the way they should have. At the first hint of light on the first day of the week a handful of women went to care for the body. Their grief was heavy as they walked to the tomb. A large stone had been placed at the entrance and they weren’t sure how they would be able to move it, but on they went. When they reached the tomb they were met with an astonishing sight. The stone had been rolled away! And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.” Mark 16:5-6. Can you imagine their joy! Jesus was risen from the dead! He’s alive!!

     From Exodus to Daniel to the Resurrection, the date is clear. God has gone to great lengths to establish when the Passover is to be celebrated and therefore when Christ was hailed as the Messiah, offered as the perfect sacrifice, and resurrected. In spite of that most Christians choose to celebrate Christ’s victory over the grave on a different day called Easter. That day is not related to the Jewish Passover. It occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox. That day is based upon a pagan celebration and the traditions surrounding it have nothing to do with Christianity. Is it wrong to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection on this pagan holiday? Each person needs to decide individually.Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” Colossians 2:16-17. We belong to Christ and therefore we have freedom. Jesus fulfilled the Law and we need to be careful that we don’t return to the Law because that is not where salvation is found, but the date of His final entry in to Jerusalem, the day of the crucifixion, and the day of the Resurrection all seem important to God. We need to pay attention. Salvation is through Christ, but we need to honor Him in all our ways. Does coloring eggs and eating chocolate bunnies make you a pagan? No, but you need to be sure that you are identifying with Christ. We know that His sacrifice was during the Passover celebration which foreshadowed Him. It seems important to God that we know when Christ’s victory over death occurred. This year, 2016, Passover begins at sundown on April 22. Take time to read through Exodus chapter 12 and then read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ final week and also read through the Resurrection. Christ took our sins upon Himself and won the victory over death. Never forget that or take it lightly.

The blood on the door posts of the Jewish households so long ago protected them from death on that night of the first Passover. The blood of “…the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” applied to your heart is the only means by which you can be protected from eternal death. Celebrate our true Passover Lamb.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

www.straitandnarrowministry.com

ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Ron Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

 

All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed

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Gospel Hymns For Daily Strength


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It is new, it is new every moment,

Half its marvels have never been told;

This glad message of hope and redemption,

This sweet Gospel that never grows old.

’Tis a message of bounty and mercy,
Full of heart-throbs of love from the throne;
They who quaff at its fountain of promise
Make the glories of Heaven their own.

It has balm for the wounds of life’s battle,
For the great Healer left it below;
And it tells how the heart, sin makes crimson,
Grows, by faith in His blood, white as snow.

Happy souls, happy souls that receive it,
They have only to learn and believe;
Just to turn from earth-idols to Jesus,
Keep His word, and salvation receive.

Tell it over and over,
Tell it over again;
Tell of mercy and love and salvation,
Till all earth shall reply, Amen!

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-TELL IT OVER AGAIN
Words: A. Ro­sal­the Car­ey, 1896.
Music: Will­iam J. Kirk­pat­rick

 

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Passion Week A. Friday/Saturday: Jesus arrives in Bethany

This post corresponds to the related Google map of Jesus’ Passion Week you can access here.

This is a telling of the Gospel story and event of Jesus and Mary who annointed Jesus’ head with oil, one week before he was to be crucified. The Gospel is told by C.J.Mahaney and transcribed by Alex Chediak for a Desiring God conference in 2007. You can read the entire message here

Extravagant Devotion

We then were asked to open our Bible’s to Mark 14:1-11. C.J. read the text. C.J. assured us that his text, Mark 14:1-11, revealed a truly historic moment as it contained a profound pronouncement. Nobody else except this woman receives this promise from the Savior: “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Why? Why her? Why now? Just her. Why her? C.J. wanted to help us discover “why her” so that we all might be affected by her.

The Mark 14 passage begins with disturbing descriptions of the chief priest: Only Jesus’ popularity and the threat of a riot slow have slowed them in their goal of killing him. That’s the backdrop to our passage. At the end of the evening, the chief priests will get some help from Judas.

The Alabaster Flask

And in between the intrigue of verses 1-2 and 10-11, there is a party taking place in Bethany. Jesus and his friends are gathered. They are in the home of “Simon the leper,” who – had he still been a leper – could not have been hosting the get-together. C.J. suggested he might have been previously healed by Jesus. John’s gospel, in a parallel passage, informs us that Lazarus was present, having recently been raised from the dead.

[C.J. joke: “Imagine being there with Lazarus. I’d find some way to recline next to him at some point in the evening. I’d have lots of questions for him. It’s not often you meet someone who has died. What was it like to die? Is it a bummer you have to do it again? What was heaven like? Who broke the news to you that you had to go back? How did they break the news to you? ‘Lazarus, your sisters won’t stop crying, now the Savior is crying, you’re going back, pal.’ And what was that like? Hearing the Savior say, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ Going from Paradise to the graveclothes. What was that like? If I’m disoriented by frequent travel, how disoriented is Lazarus?”]

John also tells us Martha is present; the quintessential servant, she is catering the party. And most important, the Savior is there. Presumably, he is the guest of honor. One would expect the atmosphere to be warm and friendly – there are no Pharisees or chief priests present. Only those with every reason to be grateful to Jesus are present (except perhaps Judas, who is still under the radar at this point).

Suddenly, a woman (John tells us it was Mary) stands by Jesus and proceeds to break an alabaster flask of very expensive perfume. She pours the entirety of its contents over his head. The fragrance fills the room. It was impossible to ignore this public, dramatic, passionate display of affection. The disciples do not appreciate this act, and they scold her. The scene is no longer festive. Suddenly there is a dramatic change in the mood and atmosphere. A voice says leave her alone.

The Savior then makes the profound promise: “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Why? Why does he make this promise to her at this moment? What she has done must be told wherever the gospel is preached, because Mary uniquely exemplifies the transforming effect of the gospel, which is extravagant devotion to the Savior. She demonstrates the effect of the gospel by her extravagant love for Jesus. She was to be an example of piety to the church universal throughout history. Her story is told so that we might evaluate if we have been appropriately and effectively transformed by the gospel. Not just applause, but application: We should evaluate ourselves in relation to her.

Two points to be drawn:

1. Extravagant devotion is an evidence of conversion.

Earlier in Mark’s gospel we encounter a teacher of law who is told, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). It was surely both an encouragement and a warning to this man. You are near, but not in. Well, it is clear that Mary’s not simply “near.” She’s “in.” Big-time. This is what being “in” looks like.

Where there is a profession of faith without affection for and obedience to the Savior, it’s authenticity should be questioned. Be assured if you are truly saved. If you have genuine affection for the Savior, and genuine obedience to the savior, then you can have fresh assurance.

C.J. expressed concern regarding the prevailing tendency among many in the church to grant false assurance to those who profess faith in the Savior, but whose lives bear no evidence to the miracle of regeneration (namely, affection for and obedience to Jesus Christ). C.J. lamented that in the U.S. evangelical church, it is quite common for someone to retain the lifestyle of those in the world, but with the (false) confidence that they possess eternal salvation.

Where does that confidence come from? In his novel The Painted House, John Grisham describes a Sunday school teacher eulogizing a mean character Jerry Sisco, killed the night before: “She made Jerry sound like a Christian, and like an innocent victim. As baptists we’d been taught that they only way you get to heaven is by accepting Jesus. Accept Jesus, or you went to hell. That’s where Jerry Sisco was, and we all knew it.” C.J. exhorted us not to emulate the example of this Sunday school teacher who gave false assurance to someone whose life displayed no evidence of salvation: affection or obedience. We are not serving the children we have the privilege to lead if we impart false assurance to them. Let us not encourage assurance where there is the absence of affection for, or obedience to, the Savior.

Given the size of this conference, C.J. noted, he would be remiss to assume that everyone present is genuinely converted. “I think I can assume most everyone here is, but given the large number, it would be unwise to assume that all are converted, and perhaps even now God is drawing near those who have maybe even made a profession of faith, are serving in children’s ministry, but without evidence of affection or obedience. There are other things you are more passionate about than the Savior. If that is a description of you, I would warn you right now to receive this plea as an expression of God’s mercy. If you are not genuinely converted recognize that God is demanding you to turn from your sins to the Savior for the forgiveness of your sins. Because extravagant devotion is an evidence of genuine conversion.” (My paraphrase of C.J.’s warning)

If I witness a person who is unaffected by truth, uninvolved in the local congregation, and uninterested in spiritual things, that individual is very unlike Mary, and therefore unconverted. Extravagant devotion to the Savior cannot be concealed. It must find expression. It is evidence of true conversion. This is the significance of Mary.

2. Extravagant devotion is the increasing experience of the converted.

C.J. asked us to consider if we recognized ourselves in the following illustration:

A woman took her children to the park to break the monotony of the summer days. Instead, she broke her heart. A young attractive woman skipped to a picnic table in a secluded spot. The mother wondered who she might be so eager to see. The mother grew preoccupied with her children and forgot to watch. But when she did look again, it made her heart hurt. The young woman was reading her Bible. She had so eagerly run from her car to meet the Lord. The mother knew she had lost this passion. Something had happened over the years of her walk with the Lord. She would not now be one to skip to meet the Lord. She wept in the park for her loss.

The question C.J. put to us is: Are we still skipping? Now all who are genuinely converted can, at times, recognize themselves in this illustration. In the Mark 14 episode, we are sometimes more like those criticizing Mary than we are like Mary.

What should have happened there in Mark 14? As Mary stood over the Savior pouring out the perfume, affectionately, passionately, appropriately, over His head….quietly, everyone present should have gotten up and formed a line behind her and should have said to her, “Mary, could you please save some for me to pour? For he has forgiven all of my sins. Mary, can I pour some? For he healed me of my leprosy. Mary, thank you for your example. Can I follow your example?” That’s what should have happened.

So who do you resemble more? The arrogant and critical disciples? Or humble Mary, expressing her love for the Savior through this extravagant display of affection. How can we become more like her? How can we cultivate extravagant devotion to Christ?

Application: We must review and reflect upon the gospel.

We must regularly read, and meditate upon, the gospel, particularly the events surrounding Christ’s death. The transforming effect of the gospel is extravagant devotion to the Savior. Therefore, if extravagant devotion is diminished, it normally means the gospel has been neglected. Charles Spurgeon said:

Are you content to follow Jesus from a distance? O, let me affectionately warn you for it is a grievous thing when we can live contentedly without the present enjoyment of the Savior’s face. Let us work to feel what an evil thing this is – little love to our own dying Savior, little joy in our precious Jesus, little fellowship with the Beloved! Hold a true Lent in your in your souls, while you sorrow over your hardness of heart. Don’t stop at sorrow. Remember where you first received salvation. Go at once to the cross. There, and there only can you get your spirit aroused. No matter how hard, how insensible, how dead we may have become, let’s go again in all the rags and poverty, and defilement of our natural condition. Let’s clasp that cross, let’s look into those languid eyes, let’s bathe in that fountain filled with blood – this will bring us back to our first love; this will restore the simplicity of our faith, and the tenderness of our heart….The more we dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard the more noble our lives become. Nothing puts life into men like a dying Savior.

How often do we dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard? Those cries were all necessary because of our sins, and those cries were sufficient for our salvation. The transforming effect of those cries is extravagant devotion to the One who uttered those cries.

C.J. than cautioned that if we don’t intentionally review and reflect upon the gospel each day, we will inevitably review our own sin – and, consequently, be more aware of our sin that of God’s grace. Reflection upon sin should be a means, never an end. Cry out for grace, and be amazed by grace.

C.J. encouraged us to custom-design a play so that we can each day survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died. And express extravagant devotion each day through the experience of dwelling where the cries of Calvary can be heard.

If our affections have grown cold, C.J. suggested we consider restricting our spiritual diet to dwell where the cries of Calvary have been heard. Study a gospel, particularly the passion week. Study the Savior as he resolves to go to Jerusalem, as he is overwhelmed in the garden of Gethsemane, and contemplates the experience of God’s full and righteous wrath against sin.

C.J. movingly recounted Jesus’ words on the cross as we sat with eyes closed. He then encouraged us to have Christ-centered, Sunday school curricula, so that the attention of our children is drawn to Christ and Him crucified with regularity. Finally, he prayed that all present would be encouraged in their ministry and sense the Savior’s pleasure, even as we take appropriate measures to maintain our first love for Christ.

Books which C.J. commended for “dwelling where the cries of Calvary can be heard”:

J.I. Packer quote C.J. displayed:

The preachers’ commission is to declare the whole counsel of God; but the cross is the center of that counsel, and the Puritans knew that the traveler through the Bible landscape misses his way as soon as he loses sight of the hill called Calvary.

Reblogged from rodi in http://rodiagnusdei.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/passion-week-a-fridaysaturday-jesus-arrives-in-bethany-2/

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The Works-Salvation Delusion

Author: T.A. McMahon
Source: The Berean Call

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come[s] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. -Galatians2:21

When we compare biblical Christianity with the religions of the world, using the Scriptures to guide us, we see that the gap between them is unbridgeable. In fact, one is forced to the conclusion that there are really only two religions in the world: biblical Christianity–and all other religions. (Note: I refer to biblical Christianity as a “religion” only for comparative purposes: a religion is a manmade belief system, whereas biblical Christianity is what God has revealed to mankind.)

These two “religions” are set apart primarily by what they teach about salvation–how one can get to heaven or paradise or Valhalla or Nirvana or the abode of God, or whatever else people believe about the afterlife. Each of the two can be placed under one of two categories: Human Achievement and Divine Accomplishment–or, to put it simply, the religions of “Do” and “Done.” I’m referring to the fact that either there are things you must do (Human Achievement) or there is nothing you can do because it has already been done (Divine Accomplishment) to earn entrance to heaven.

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Biblical Christianity alone comes under the heading of Divine Accomplishment. All the other religions of the world must be placed under the label of Human Achievement. Let’s first consider some of the major religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and certain denominations or cults that profess to be Christian.

Hinduism has about 330 million gods who must be appeased through some type of ritual. A couple of years ago I was given a tour of a massive Hindu temple just outside Chicago. The parking lot was filled with luxury cars. There was imported stonework from Italy. No expense was spared. Inside, doctors, lawyers, and engineers, among others, according to my guide, were serving meals to the idols, Hanuman, the monkey god, and Ganesha, the elephant god.

Hinduism is a system of works–things that one must do to reach moksha, the Hindu heaven. It involves the practice of yoga, which, contrary to what many have heard, has never been for improvement of one’s health but is rather a means of dying to one’s body in the hope of delivering oneself from the physical realm. This is supposed to yoke one to Brahman, the Supreme Deity of Hinduism. Reincarnation, a system that supposedly enables one to work one’s way to heaven through many births, deaths, and rebirths, is one of the teachings of this religion.

Buddhism is also all about works. Buddha believed that the key to reaching Nirvana, which is allegedly the state of perfect peace and happiness, is through an understanding of the Four Noble Truths and by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path.

In essence, the Four Noble Truths declare that we endure suffering because of our desires or cravings. These “Truths” claim that suffering will stop when we cease trying to fulfill those desires. According to Buddhism, we can achieve this by following the Noble Eightfold Path, which has the elements of “right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.” This is all done by man’s achievement, i.e., “doing things right” in order to reach Nirvana.

In Islam, paradise is attained when Allah weighs a follower’s good works against his bad deeds on a scale at Judgment Day. The Qur’an declares: “For those things that are good remove those that are evil” (Surah 11:114). It’s a quantitative process. Good deeds need to outweigh or blot out evil deeds. From the Qur’an again: “The balance that day will be true: Those whose scale [of good works] will be heavy, will prosper: Those whose scale will be light will find their souls in perdition” (Surah 7:8,9).

Here’s an interesting example of what a Muslim faces to get into paradise: On April 3, 1991, the Egyptian magazine, Akher Saa, recorded a heated debate between four female journalists and Sheik Doctor Abdu-Almonim Al-Nimr, who holds a high position at Al-Azher Islamic University. One of the journalists asked him: “Is the hijab [veil or head covering] obligatory for women in Islam? If I do not wear the hijab, shall I go to hell in spite of my other good deeds? I am talking about the decent woman who does not wear the hijab.”

Dr. Al-Nimr replied, “The ordinances in Islam are many, my daughter, Allah made us accountable to each. It means if you do that ordinance you earn a point. If you neglect one, you lose a point. If you pray, you earn a point; if you do not fast you lose a point, and so on.” He continued, “I did not invent a new theory…for every man there is a book in which all his good and evil deeds are recorded…even how do we treat our children.”

The journalist said: “That means, if I do not wear the hijab, I will not enter the hell fire without taking into account the rest of my good deeds.” Dr. Al-Nimr replied: “My daughter, no one knows who will enter the hell fire…I might be the first one to enter it. Caliph Abu-Bakr Al-Sadik said: ‘I have no trust concerning Allah’s schemes, even if one of my feet is inside of paradise who can determine which deed is acceptable and which is not.’ [See TBC, 10/91] You do all that you can do …and the accountability is with Allah. You ask him for acceptance [Italics added for emphasis].”

In Judaism, heaven is attained by keeping the Law and its ceremonies. Obviously, that isn’t consistent with what the Tanakh (the Old Testament) teaches, yet that has been the practice of Judaism for millennia. As Jesus said, “In vain they do worship [God], teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew:15:9).

His words also apply to a number of “Christian” denominations and cults that stress works as necessary for salvation. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, the Church of Christ adherents, Roman Catholics, Eastern and Russian Orthodox members, Lutherans, and many others all include something that needs to be accomplished or is necessary for salvation, whether it’s baptism, the sacraments, or joining their particular organization and fulfilling their requirements.

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Here is an example from the first 30 years of my own life as a Roman Catholic. I lived by a religious system of laws, many of which a Catholic is obligated to keep. It began with baptism. If one is not baptized, the Church says he can’t enter heaven. It also says that although baptism is required, it is no guarantee. There are many other such rules that a Catholic must keep.

I have a book in my office called the Code of Canon Law. It contains 1,752 laws, many of which affect one’s eternal destiny. Sins recognized by the Roman Catholic Church are classified as either mortal or venial. A mortal sin is one that damns a person to hell, should he or she die without having had it absolved by a priest. A venial sin doesn’t need to be confessed to a priest, but whether confessed or not, all sin adds to one’s temporal punishment, which must be expiated either here on earth through suffering or good works or else be purged in the flames of purgatory after one’s death.

There are obligations that a Catholic must fulfill regarding both beliefs and deeds. For example, one is required to believe that Mary was conceived without sin (an event called the Immaculate Conception). If a Catholic doesn’t believe that, he commits a mortal sin, which carries the penalty of eternal damnation. The feast day of the Immaculate Conception is a holy day of obligation, a day on which all Catholics are required to attend Mass. Failure to do so could result in commission of a mortal sin.

men_at_work

All the belief systems that I’ve mentioned, and many others as well, consist of doing or not doing certain things to reach “heaven.” All are based upon human achievement. But what about biblical Christianity? How is that different?

Ephesians:2:8-9 spells it out for us: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that [salvation is] not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast [emphasis added].” That’s pretty straightforward. Our salvation doesn’t have anything to do with our achievements.

Verse 8 tells us that it is by grace that we are saved. Grace is unmerited favor. If any merit is involved, it cannot be by grace. It’s the gift of God. So if it’s a gift, it can’t be of works. That should be obvious. Someone puts in a tough month of work and his employer comes to him with his paycheck and declares, “Good job, Joe, here’s your gift!” No–Joe worked for what he was paid. No gift was involved.

Regarding a person who works, Romans:4:4 tells us that his wages are a payment for the debt his employer owes him, and his paycheck has nothing to do with grace or a gift. A worker who has done a good job can boast or feel a sense of pride in the work he has accomplished. Yet all of that is contrary to grace or a gift. Grace rules out any sense of merit, and a gift does away with any sense of something earned or paid for.

Paul’s teaching in Ephesians is affirmed in his epistle to Titus, chapter 3, verse 4:

But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Emphasis added]

We can see that this is consistent with Ephesians:2:8-9 It’s not by our works that we are saved–not by works of righteousness that we have done –but it’s by His mercy that we are saved.

You may well imagine that, as a Roman Catholic conditioned by a life of Church rules and rituals, I had great difficulty believing that faith was the only basis by which I could enter heaven. It didn’t make sense to me.

Well, not only does it make sense–it’s the only possible way anyone can be saved. It is miraculously sensible!

First of all, what keeps anyone from heaven or eternal life with God? We know that the answer is “sin.” Here is a small sampling of the applicable verses: All have sinned (Romans:3:23); the wages of sin is death (Romans:6:23); sin separates us from God (Isaiah:59:2); the soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel:18:20); sin brings forth death (James:1:15).

In Genesis 2, God explains to Adam the consequences of disobeying Him. Adam was told not to eat from a certain fruit in the Garden of Eden. It was a commandment that was related to obedience and love–not of God’s withholding something from Adam, as the Serpent implied. Remember, Jesus said “If a man love me, he will keep my words,” that is, His teachings (John:14:23). Our love for God is demonstrated by our obedience.

What was God’s penalty for disobedience? Genesis:2:17: “…for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Adam and Eve loved themselves more than they loved God, because they didn’t “keep [His] words.” They disobeyed Him, and the consequence was death. “The day you eat of it you will surely die.” In the Scriptures, death always involves separation, and in God’s judgment upon them, two applications are found:
1) physical death (the degeneration of the body, leading ultimately to its separation from the soul and spirit), and
2) eternal separation from God.

salvation_chart1

Adam and Eve did not die instantly, but the death process began at that point for them and for all creation. However, their spiritual relationship with God changed immediately and forever. God’s judgment for sin is eternal: separation from God forever. It’s an infinite penalty. And God, who is perfect in all of His attributes, including justice, had to carry out the punishment. He couldn’t let them slide by and just give them another chance. That would have meant that He was not perfectly true to His Word. The penalty had to be paid.

So what could Adam and Eve do? Nothing, except die physically and spiritually, which is to be separated from God forever. And what can the rest of mankind do, seeing that all have sinned? Nothing. Well, one might ask, what if we do all sorts of good deeds that might outweigh our sins, or if we go to church a lot, or get baptized, do religious things, receive the sacraments, and so forth? None of those things will help us. Why? Because they don’t pay the penalty. So what can we do? There is nothing that we can do-except to pay the penalty ourselves by being separated from God forever.

salvation_chart2

Our situation would be absolutely hopeless except that God has some other attributes in addition to being perfectly just. He is also perfect in love and mercy! “For God so loved the world” that He sent His only begotten Son to pay the penalty for us (John:3:16).

And that is exactly what Jesus did on the Cross. It is incomprehensible to us that during those three hours of darkness (when He cried out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”) He took on the sins of the world and suffered the wrath of His Father-for us. On the Cross He “tasted death for every man” (Hebrews:2:9), that is, He experienced and paid the infinite penalty for everyone’s sins.

When that divine accomplishment ended, Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” meaning that the penalty had been paid in full. It was a divine accomplishment because it was something that only God could do! God became a man and died physically, because physical death was part of the penalty. Yet, as the God-Man, he was able to experience fully the penalty that every sinner would experience–being spiritually separated from God forever.

salvation_chart3

God’s justice demands payment. Either we pay the penalty ourselves or we turn to Jesus by faith and receive the benefits of His sacrificial atonement. What does Roman 6:23 say? “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Bible could not be more clear that salvation can only be “the gift of God” and that we can only appropriate that gift by faith.

romans_3_22

Any attempt to merit salvation by our works is not just futile–it is impossible: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James:2:10). Worse yet, it is a denial of the infinite penalty that God imposed, a rejection of God’s “unspeakable gift,” and a repudiation of what Christ accomplished for us.

It used to be that most evangelicals would agree. This is no longer the case as the apostasy gathers momentum in these Last Days. Recently, a Pew Forum survey of more than 40,000 Americans found that 57 percent of those who said they were evangelicals believed that Jesus is not the exclusive way to heaven. Since Jesus is the only one who provides divine accomplishment, all that remains is the futile delusion of human achievement for salvation. TBC

Related Articles:

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Don’t Fence Me In (ONE WAY)
Hell Bound! (ONE WAY)
Salvation (for Richmond VA) (ONE WAY)
Is One Way the Only Way? (Orble.com)

 

Reblogged from http://pilgrimpassing.com/2013/01/20/are-we-saved-by-works-or-faith/

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GOD’S WONDERFUL PLAN OF SALVATION

Salvation, Atonement, and Redemption (It’s not that complicated!)

Author: Vlad Petrusevich

Source: BibleViews.com

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

The Bible is the word of God, the everlasting Truth. It contains the account of creation, man’s disobedience to God, and the agony which came upon man because of sin. It also tells us of God’s love for man in making a plan to redeem him. It tells of a Savior who was born, who died for man’s sin, and was raised from death for his [man’s] justification. Whosoever believes its message may have forgiveness of sins, peace of mind, love for all men, power over sin, and a living hope of eternal life. SALVATION IS GOD’S FREE GIFT TO MAN.

The Word of God

GOD’S WONDERFUL CREATION

Long, long ago there was no world at all. But God has always been. God, the Creator, is everywhere, is almighty, and all wise. By His spoken word all things were created in perfection. God said, “Let the dry land appear,” and it was so. He created the hills and valleys covered with grass, beautiful flowers, and trees of every kind. He created the fowl, and the birds which sing so many different songs. God created all the animals, great and small, who roam the lands, as well as the small insects and reptiles that live on and in the ground. He created the lakes and oceans for the dwelling place of the fish and all water creatures. He made the continents on which the people of every nation could live. God made the moon to give light at night, and He decked the sky with thousands of beautiful, twinkling stars. last of all God formed man from the dust of the earth. He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul. God called him Adam.

Seeing that Adam needed a helper, He caused him to fall into a deep sleep. Then taking a rib from him, God formed a woman with it, and brought her to Adam. Adam knew that Eve was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, and he loved her. Eve loved Adam too. They had sweet fellowship with each other. This is God’s plan for a family unit. God created everything in six days, and on the seventh day He rested. He looked upon everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. So God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it as a day of rest for man. God wanted Adam and Eve and all of their descendants to have a day of rest every week, that they might think and talk about God and all His wonderful creation. This would help them to love and obey Him.

The Bible also tells us of a fallen angel called Satan, or the devil. He was cast out of Heaven upon the earth and he is the source of all evil. Because of him sorrow, suffering, sickness, and death came into the world.

THE TRAGIC BEGINNING OF SIN

God loved Adam and Eve. He made a beautiful garden for them to live in. It was called the garden of Eden. Adam was to take care of it. In this garden were many kinds of vegetables and fruit trees for them to eat from. There was one tree called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told Adam that he should not eat of this tree, for in the day that he would eat thereof, he would surely die. One day Satan came to Eve and told her a lie. He said, “Ye shall not surely die . . . ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

garden_of_eden

As she looked upon the tree with it’s beautiful fruit, she thought it must be good for food, and eating of it would bring wisdom. So she took some fruit and gave also to Adam, they both did eat of it. Immediately they felt very strange in their hearts. They had never felt this way before. They knew now that they had done something very wrong. They were both ashamed of themselves as they thought of their disobedience. Fear came into their hearts as they thought of meeting God. So they hid themselves among the trees of the garden.

In the cool of the day God called Adam and said, “Where art thou?” They could not be hid from God, so they came into His presence and acknowledged their wrongdoing. God caused them to understand what a great sin it was to disobey His command. He told them that both must be punished according to their evil deeds. They would now have to suffer pain and trouble all the days of their lives. They would now have to work hard for their living. Their bodies would become old and worn out. They would die and return to dust again.

As they were driven from this beautiful garden, God placed Cherubims at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword to keep the way of the tree of life. They began to understand what it meant to sin and what great sorrow it brings.

THE SAD RESULT OF SINNING

Adam and Eve were very sorry for their sin of disobeying God. God still loved them, and made them coats of skins, and clothed them. He gave them the promise of a Savior who would come some day to bruise the serpent’s head.

The first two sons born to Adam and Eve were Cain and Abel. They brought an offering unto the Lord. Cain brought of the fruit of the ground. Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock. This lamb’s blood was shed, and was a type of the promised Redeemer who, many years later, came as the lamb of God to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus died as an innocent lamb on the cross for our sins. Abel’s sacrifice pleased God, but God was not pleased with Cain nor his offering.

We must not neglect to do what God wants us to do. We now have His Spirit and Word which teach us how to live and what His will is for us.

cain_and_abel

When Cain noticed that God was pleased with Abel and with his offering, but not with his, envy and hatred toward Abel entered his heart. Then one day as they were together in the field, Cain rose up and killed his brother Abel. God spoke to Cain and said, “Where is Abel thy brother?” Cain did not like to tell the truth, so he said, “I know not: Am I my brothers keeper?” Cain had not been obedient in following the Lord’s instructions. God had warned him before he killed Abel. He told Cain that if he would do well he would be accepted, but if not, sin was lying at the door. How much better it would have been had he corrected his attitude and loved his brother. Now his brother’s blood was calling to God from the ground. Cain was cast out from the presence of the lord and society. He became a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth.

GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS SON

“For unto you is born this day… a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

After Abel was dead and Cain had gone away from home, Adam and Eve had another son. His name was Seth. He grew up to be a good man. God blessed his descendants with many godly leaders, kings, and prophets, who heard and believed God’s wonderful promises of a Savior who would someday be born. Abraham, especially, believed God; for which he was called the friend of God. He was told that through him and his descendants all the families of the earth would be blessed.

birth_of_Christ

Many hundreds of years later God fulfilled the promise He had made of sending a Savior to the world. It happened, in a supernatural way, in the little town of Bethlehem of Judea. There In a stable, a babe was born to Mary; who was a virgin. She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger. (Read Luke 2:1-7). An angel told Mary that the baby’s name was to be called Jesus (meaning Savior). He was to become a great leader who would teach the people many things about God. Jesus grew up much like other children. He was loved and favored by many. At the age of twelve He was wiser in the word of God than many doctors and lawyers of Jerusalem. He seemed to know all about the law and prophets. No one could ask Him a question that He could not answer. He had great interest in the religious activities of His people. When He was about thirty years old, He took part in religious services. Once He read an Old Testament prophecy about the coming Messiah. When He had finished reading, He said to the people, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” He taught the people as one having authority. He preached that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and that repentance was necessary for entrance into the Kingdom. He taught people to worship God in humility and sincerity–from the heart. He rebuked the proud and unbelieving people of their sins, and preached the Gospel of love to the poor and needy.

JESUS HAS POWER OVER DEATH

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and life: He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall live” (John 11:25).

Jesus did many miracles, proving to the people that He was the promised Savior sent from God. He healed the sick, made the blind to see, caused the deaf to hear, cast out devils and raised the dead to life. Once He walked on the water and calmed the stormy sea by His words. His words spoken to a fig tree were so powerful, that it was found dried up from the roots the next day. At one time He fed more than five thousand hungry people with five loaves of bread and two fishes. when all had enough to eat, there remained twelve baskets full. Fishermen caught large numbers of fish when nets were cast at His command. One day Jesus met ten lepers who had heard of His fame. They cried, “Master have mercy on us.” At His command they were cleansed.

Large crowds followed Jesus daily, whether He was in town, traveling in the roads, or in the hilly country. The people felt blessed who heard “the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.” Some said, “Never man spake like this man”. Others were amazed and glorified God saying “We never saw it on this fashion.”

He began to tell the people that He was the Son of God, and that God was His Father. All who believed His words were made happy. He told those who believed, that they were children of God. Jesus said to His disciples, ““I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also“. (John 14:2-3). (This place in Heaven is for all true Christians).

“Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

JESUS DIED FOR OUR SINS

“When they were come to Calvary, there they crucified him” (Luke 23:33).

The scribes and Pharisees were greatly annoyed at Jesus and His teaching. He had often reproved them for their honor seeking in religion and unlawful money-making practices. They were very jealous and envious of Jesus, because so many people believed in Him, followed Him, and praised Him. They feared that the people might make Jesus their king.

They tried to make Jesus say or do things that would cause the people to lose faith in Him, but Jesus was too wise for them. They were not able to find occasion to accuse Jesus to the common people. Their hatred and anger grew as Jesus’ popularity continued to increase. Their ill will and hatred toward Jesus became so great that they made plans to put Him to death.

They took Jesus to court and charged Him as an evildoer and trouble maker in the community. They brought many false charges against Jesus. Then they took Him before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea. Pilate could find no fault in Him, so Pilate was going to release Jesus and set Him free. But the accusers of Jesus turned into a mad mob and cried, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” When Pilate heard their angry cries and threats, he gave in to their demands and turned Jesus over to them. They took Jesus and put a crown of thorns on His head and a rod in His hand. In mockery they called Him king. They spit in His face and beat Him cruelly. They finally nailed Him to the cross and left Him there to die.

Calvary

 

Jesus was put to death just as the innocent lamb that Abel offered on an altar hundreds of years before. Abel had offered his lamb as a type of the lamb of God who would die for the sin of the world. Many prophets of old had likewise foretold of Jesus’ suffering and death. John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, (John 1:29). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Salvation

JESUS AROSE FROM THE DEAD TO SET US FREE

“He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:6).

The third day after the death and burial of Jesus, very early, upon the first day of the week, several women came to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. They were surprised to find the tomb empty. The body of Jesus was not there. Their hearts were troubled. Then, suddenly, two angels stood by them in shining garments. They said, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen”. (Luke 24:5,6) Upon this they quickly went back to tell the disciples what they had seen and heard. The disciples could not believe their story. So Peter and John went to investigate for themselves. They, too, found the tomb empty and as they entered they saw the linen clothes lie, and the napkin that had been wrapped about Jesus’ head neatly folded as if by gentle hands, placed separately. When they saw these things they believed the story of the women. In the evening of the same day the disciples were together behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. Then Jesus suddenly stood in the midst of them and said, “Peace be unto you“. He showed them His pierced hands and side that they might believe. When they saw the lord they were glad and believed that He was the same Jesus who had been crucified and that He had risen from the dead. After this Jesus showed Himself to many people as full proof of His resurrection.

He_is_alive!

This bright morning when Jesus arose from the dead is still the most glorious day in all history. For on this day, God’s wonderful plan of Salvation was completed. Now all who receive Jesus into their hearts, even though they die and are buried, shall resurrect and live forever in Heaven. Jesus said, “Because I live, ye shall live also“(John14:19).
This wonderful plan of salvation is made effective by faith alone, to all who believe that Jesus Christ is God, in His sin-atoning death, and in His literal, physical resurrection.

“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead. thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Dear Reader: Have you enjoyed reading this absolutely truthful and impressive account of life and death? God is speaking to your heart. What is your response? Will you repent and believe the Gospel? If you surrender to God you will receive a love for righteousness and power over your sin. You will also want to witness to others of what the Lord has done for you. The Scriptures tell us in Romans 10:11 that no one who believes in Jesus Christ shall be ashamed.

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Do not delay. Come to Jesus today.

Repent

The text of this tract is Vlad Petrusevich’s adoption of Leland M. Haines’ writings.

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May God’s grace and peace be with you as you study His Word.

 REBLOGGED FROM:http://pilgrimpassing.com/2013/01/22/salvation-atonement-and-redemption-its-not-that-complicated/#comment-825

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The Eye Of The Needle

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluetoothboo/5072838780/

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/magdeeta/5943854256/

Q.  I remember being told that in Jerusalem there was a passage between two walls of the city that was referred to as the eye of the needle. It was very difficult for a camel to go thru and hence the words from Christ that it was easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle then for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This was a reference to that area in between the walls and the people understood that it would be difficult but certainly not impossible. Have you heard of this?

 A. Over the years I’ve come across several opinions on what the Lord really meant by the eye of the needle comparison.  All of them have tried to moderate the degree of difficulty rich people have in getting into heaven by making the eye of the needle symbolic of something else.

But the Lord’s statement came on the heels of His discussion with the rich young man.  He went away sad because the Lord had exposed his over riding love of wealth.  It was so strong that he couldn’t sell his possessions even if it kept him out of the Kingdom (Mark 10:17-24).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/teddygreen/4773600186/

After the Lord’s gave His “eye of a needle” illustration (Mark 10:25) Peter asked who could possibly be saved because the Jews believed that wealth was a reward for righteousness. The Lord answered that while salvation was impossible for man, it was not impossible for God. All things are possible for God. (Mark 10:27)

I think the Lord had a literal needle and a literal camel in mind to show that it’s literally impossible for even a righteous rich man to get himself into the Kingdom. Only the Lord can do it.  It was as vivid a picture of His Grace as you’ll find anywhere in Scripture

http://gracethrufaith.com/

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