Wednesday, December 27, 2017

God Still Has Work for Me Here

A very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year to you all.

Our celebration of Christmas at St.Luke's has been well-attended and God-honouring, very different from all the Santa stuff and happy holidays emphasis of our increasingly secular world.

I am looking forward to 2018 for a fresh start on a number of fronts.
As you are probably aware my blog has not been very active recently, but I hope to change that in 2018.

In the second half of 2016 I had a major back operation and, while still doing rehab from that, I had a quintuple by-pass operation in early 2017, which gave me a good dose of "can't-be-bothered-ness" for most of 2017. (I have been doing the things that just had to be done, but not the things that I usually choose to do.)

So, I am letting you know I am still here, and looking forward to being re-energised and re-motivated and continuing/completing the several projects God has given me since returning to Geelong 8 years ago.

It might take a little while to find and sort my notes and refresh my memory of where I was heading with my new book, website and blog, but I started that task today and hope to complete it before we get too far into the new year.

Looking forward to connecting with you again soon.
Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

God's Grace Prevents Discouragement

Readers of the previous post may well be thinking ...
If by increasing sin God's grace can be increased even more, then let's sin up a storm so we will be swamped with God's grace.
That's reasonable, logical, isn't it?
If you put more fuel on the fire, surely the fire will burn more fiercely.

That point of view is so reasonable and logical to unbelievers and skeptics that Paul addresses this very question at the beginning of Romans 6.

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?"
Paul then spends some time declaring not only that we should not keep on sinning, but that we cannot keep on sinning.

His argument is that if we are in Christ, we have died with him.  Jesus paid the death penalty for our sin, so our enslavement to sin is over. The old Barry is dead and buried with Christ. 

And a dead person can no longer be a slave to sin. We may still be tempted on occasions, but we have the power of the risen Christ within us to help us choose to say NO.

Grace has trumped sin for me, for all believers.  Indeed for everyone, for Jesus paid the sin penalty for the whole world.

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all.
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. Romans 5 : 18 - 19
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2 : 2
Indeed, Paul tells to rely on the Saviour of all mankind, as he does.
We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people ...
1 Timothy 4 : 10

Anything less than this would be insufficient as a perfect conclusion to God's purpose and plan for His creation. Even King David saw that centuries before Paul was born.
Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;
   no deeds can compare to yours.
All the nations you have made will come and worship you, O Lord;
   they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvellous deeds;
   you alone are God. Psalm 86 : 8 - 10
Does everybody deserve that?
What, even the rogue who lives next door?
Even the ISIS crowd who are currently terrorising the world?
No, of course not. They don't deserve it and neither do we.

Let's return to our opening thought - where sin increases, God's grace increases even more.
As one translation puts it: Where sin increases, God's grace super-exceeds.
Grace will trump sin for everyone eventually.

The whole purpose of Paul's statement that God's grace trumps mankind's sin is to demonstrate that no matter how serious or extensive our past sin has been, God's grace has it more than covered.
It's not a challenge to see how much sin we can credit to our account, but to save us from discouragement if our past has been particularly bad.

Of course the greatest advantage is gained by responding to God's call to salvation and discipleship immediately we hear it. There are so many benefits of being an early believer, gaining life by the empowering Holy Spirit while still on planet Earth.
(We can keep that discussion for another post.)

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Do We Make God Angry?

Popular opinion suggests that when we sin we make God angry. Indeed, the more we sin, the angrier he becomes, and the harder it is for us to get to heaven.
Even some church-goers believe this.

One of the Bible's outrageous verses contests this view.
It is Romans 5 : 20

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. (NIV)
Let's explore this verse.
When there was no law, wrong doing was just suspected. If someone stole from you, you would think "that doesn't seem fair, that doesn't seem right".
But when the Law arrived, wrong doing was clearly seen, named and shamed, and so magnified. The suspicion that stealing was not right was confirmed with the arrival of the Law.

Many people think that the Law was given to improve humanity's behaviour or moral fibre.
Actually it as a side-play, not the main game at all.
The Law was given to show us God's righteousness, and our inability to attain it. It shows us how hopeless we are to meet God's righteous standard. It was the necessary fore-runner to the Messiah's entry into the world.

The second part of this verse is the outrageous part.
Because of Christ's death dealing with all and every sin, it doesn't matter how much sin increases, God's grace has it covered.

Those of us who have played card games like Euchre, Bridge, 500 and Whist know full well the power of trump cards. A trump card always wins no matter how impressive the opposing card looks. Even the smallest trump card defeats an opposition Ace.

If Paul was writing this verse in our time he may well have said, "Grace always trumps Sin". It doesn't matter what sin card you play, God's grace card trumps it.

And the next verse (Romans 5 : 21) puts the icing on the cake.
Although sin was in control of us, had us heading towards death because the law could never be fully obeyed, God's trump card, grace, declares us righteous.

Paul also repeats this awesome news to other Christians he wrote to. 
Here's an example:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5 : 21 NIV)
How outrageous is God's grace?

The question raised in the first verse of the next chapter confirms that. We'll look at this question in the next post.

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Can Christians Fall From Grace?

We often hear the expression "he/she has fallen from grace" when referring to a follower of Jesus who has become lukewarm or antagonistic towards their previous Christian faith or lifestyle.
Even Paul accuses the Christians in Galatia who have reverted to following the law as their means of remaining in right-standing before God as having fallen from grace (Gal 5 : 4)

Since grace is God's gift, his undeserved favour toward us, and completely under his control, how can we fall from it? No matter what we do God doesn't withdraw his love or grace. It is determined, guaranteed, by his character.

So what can possibly be meant by the expression "fallen from grace"?
Because it is an action taken by the once-believer, and not an action taken by God, it can only mean that people in that position no longer appreciate God's grace and, of course, have foregone all the benefits that God's grace showers on us.

So, can we fall from grace?
Most definitely YES.
We can turn our backs on what God has provided for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, as the Galatians did, and miss out on the blessings of living in union with Christ during the ages, the realm of time.
And this would be a great shame to have tasted these blessings and then let them go.
(I don't really understand how people manage to live in this corrupt world with all its dangers and heartaches without a relationship with God.)

But does this mean such a person is eternally lost?
Most definitely NO.
God eventually abolishes death and becomes All in all at the completion of the ages. (1 Cor 15 : 20 - 28)
So although people might miss out on eonian life (age-during life), life exists for all after death is abolished.
And how does this eventuate?
Not sure, but I offer some suggestions in Chapter 5 of "The Really Good News About God".

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What About John 3 : 36 ?

Several years ago, I posted "Jottings from John" on the blog, which included several verses that described God's inclusive and universal plan to save all his creation through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Today let's discuss John 3 : 36, a verse usually promoted to disprove this plan.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them. [NIV]
As usual, I need to challenge the translation of the Greek "aionian" into the English "eternal" and replace "eternal life" by "life in the ages". I will also add "this" to help link the second reference to this life later in the verse.
So my adjusted NIV translation becomes ...

Whoever believes in the Son has life in the ages, but whoever rejects the Son will not see this life, for God's wrath remains on them. [BV]
which is not far from the Young's Literal Translation ...
He who is believing in the Son, has life age-during; and he who is not believing the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God does remain upon him. [YLT]
So we see that this verse is not referring to the eventual outcome of God's plan, with many of his creation lost forever, but to the kingdom stage where only those chosen to believe in the ages (during the realm of time) will be experiencing life, while the others not seeing life until the consummation of the ages.

And this conclusion is consistent with what John said earlier in Chapter 3 (verse 17) ...

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. [NIV]
I am much more comfortable believing our God of love and mercy will fully achieve his purpose for the world than believing many of his creation will overturn his plans for them through their current unbelief.

Blessings, Barry

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Firstfruits and the Harvest

This is an important topic that will be addressed in detail in our next book "The Really Good News About Jesus". However, we'll just mention it here using two key references. 

As you are probably well aware, one of my favourite verses is 1 Timothy 4 : 10, which is in the sidebar on the Blog and therefore appears beside every new post.

That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially  of those who believe. (NIV)
Apart from assuring us that God has decreed that all of his creation will be saved and live in harmony with him (and each other) in eternity, it also shows the distinction between those who are believers in their time on this planet and those who are not.
The believers are the firstfruits of the eventual harvest of all. They are those especially chosen for knowing and appreciating the saving grace of God in their earthly lives and been given the responsibility to live as ambassadors for Christ having the really good news to announce. (See 2 Cor 5 : 18 - 20)

Another reference that makes the same distinction as 1 Tim 4 : 10 occurs in Romans 3 : 21 - 22 (when translated correctly).

And now apart from the law has the righteousness of God been manifested, testified to by the law and the prophets, and the righteousness of God is through the faith of Jesus Christ to all, and upon all those believing, ... (Young's Literal Translation)
The distinction is indeed clear in a good, literal translation - the righteousness of God is to all (eventually) but upon believers (in the realm of time). 

Interestingly, this distinction is obscured, even omitted, by many modern translators who do not wish to admit that God's plan is to save all, and who restrict salvation to those who become believers during their earthly lives.
Compare the verse quoted above from YLT with this one from NIV.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. ... (NIV)
Why do so many Christians, including many modern translators, want to portray our loving God as such a sadistic monster when Jesus has already fully paid for all our sins and God has clearly revealed his plan to save all at the end of time? (See Ephesians 1 : 9 - 10)

The Firstfruits are NOT the Harvest. The firstfruits are few: the harvest is plentiful.

Blessings, Barry

PS.  You might also have noticed another example where popular, modern translations attribute the righteousness of God in which we stand to our faith in Christ, rather than to the faith or faithfulness of Christ, as we discussed in the previous post.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Faithfulness of Jesus

Have you ever wondered what our future would be like if Jesus never came to our planet 2000 years ago, or if Jesus did come but found his mission too difficult to complete?

He certainly found it difficult.
"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me." (Matthew 26 : 38, 39 NIV)

But He did see it through - he was faithful to the plan the Father had assigned to him. And, as a result, we have been saved and will live beyond the grave.

In this sense, Christ's faithfulness has saved us and given us life. Yet, most of our popular translations of the Bible credit our salvation to our faith rather than Christ's.

Popular, dynamic equivalence translations and paraphrases usually give the false impression that we are the active participants in achieving salvation rather than Jesus by translating "the faith or faithfulness of Jesus" as "faith in Jesus".

Here are three examples just from Galatians.

Chapter 2 Verse 16 

  • ... know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, ... (NIV and similar in most modern translations and paraphrases)
  • Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law ... (KJV and similar in most literal translations)

Chapter 2 Verse 20

  • I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV et al)
  • I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (KJV et al)

Chapter 3 Verse 22

  • But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (NIV et al)
  • But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. (KJV et al)

Clearly we are not justified by works of the law, and not even by the "work" of faith, as the modern popular translations infer.
Grace is grace; we are freely given justification, salvation, life, and so much more. We are even given the ability to believe so that we can receive them now and so become the firstfruits of the eventual harvest. Because of Jesus' faith/faithfulness, he guaranteed reconciliation for his whole creation, ensuring the complete harvest (after the kingdom age during the millennium).

Blessings, Barry

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What We've Been Taught Has a Powerful Grip

Hi Everyone
I have been out of action for many months due to health issues, but that is about to change.
I had major back surgery last year and a quintuple by-pass operation this year so I have been unable to sit at my desk for any length of time or even be bothered concentrating on reading the newspaper.

But I have been passively listening, rather than actively participating in discussion or debate, and I have been hearing a similar story over and over.
"The main thrust of your book that all humanity will be reconciled to God eventually is well supported by Scripture and persuasively described in your book BUT it is quite the opposite to what I have been brought up to believe."

And, I have to say, I held a similar view until I began to look at the Biblical evidence for the complete success of Jesus' sacrifice for the sins of the world on the cross of Calvary. I too believed what I had been taught - that people who left this planet as unbelievers would spend eternity in a place called hell where they would be tormented unmercifully.

I was uncomfortable with this outcome, especially under the supervision of a God of love, but my pastors and ministers were all preaching the same message, often weekly at the Sunday evening gospel service, so it must have been correct, was my silent response.
So I completely understand what these people are now saying to me.
However, they at least have "The Really Good News About God" to present the true Biblical story, which I and others of my vintage did not have.

So, now that I am almost three months post-heart-op and getting stronger, I am preparing to take up the challenge of making God's really good news more readily available, especially on the internet.
This blog, the website and study guides for "The Really Good News About God" are going to be my first focus, probably commencing after spending Easter at home and having a brief holiday with friends at Bright at the end of April.

See you in May for the first of the new blogs.
Blessings, Barry

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Study Guide for "The Really Good News About God"

Trust you all had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends as we celebrated the birth of the Saviour, and continues today as we start a new year serving the King of kings.

Due to several other events and challenges that have consumed so much of my time, the Blog has not received any attention for quite a while.
But I have prepared a Discussion and Study Guide for "The Really Good News About God" and would be grateful to receive any feedback from you about its usefulness and possible improvements.
It is in pdf format and can be downloaded using the link .

The pdf file you download can be viewed on screen (of course) and may be printed in three ways.
If your printer will only print on one side of a sheet of paper (non-duplex printer) then you only have one option.
Your printed copy will be 12 pages printed on 12 sheets of paper in portrait mode (your normal way of printing any document).
If your printer will print on both sides of a sheet of paper (duplex printer) then you have two more options.
You can print a 12 page A4 book containing 6 sheets of paper in portrait mode or a 12 page A5 book containing 3 sheets of paper in landscape mode.
For the 6 sheet A4 book, make sure your printer options are set for portrait mode, duplex printing and the pages are to be flipped on the long edge.
For the 3 sheet A5 book, make sure the printer options are set for portrait mode (YES, portrait mode), duplex printing and the pages are to be flipped on the short edge AND in the print page layout options in your pdf software (probably Adobe Acrobat Reader) brochure or booklet or something similar is selected.

Any comments for improvement of the Study Guide would be appreciated.

By the way, I hope to start writing the next book "The Really Good News About Jesus" soon and I will post bits and pieces of it here as I draft them, looking for feedback as happened during the first book's development. 

Several of you automatically receive an email notification when anything new appears here, but if you want to be removed from that process, please let me know so I don't bother you with my ramblings or requests for comments.

Whether you stay in or opt out, please be assured of my appreciation of your friendship and past input into my thinking and writing. 

Blessings Barry