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The Power of God unto Salvation

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  Romans 1:16 NKJV

The Gospel is God’s good news to sinners that His Son Jesus Christ has taken their sins on Himself (1 Peter 2:24) and satisfied God’s demand for justice, by bearing the penalty of death for them (Ezek. 18:20); and not only that, He rose from the dead to give them eternal life (John 3:16). The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, in three dimensions, to everyone who believes: in their past, present, and future.

Salvation is not just a past single isolated event in one’s life. Salvation is progressive and effected by the Gospel which is the power of God. Naturally speaking, a Life Guard may save a drowning person today, but he doesn’t continue to save the person daily, nor does he promise to save the person in the future. When a sinner is saved in response to the Gospel message, the Gospel becomes the power of God unto that sinner’s past, present, and future salvation. The Gospel teaches us that Jesus Christ is a sinner’s spiritual Life Guard (Acts 4:12).

Salvation past occurred when a believer was saved from the guilt and the penalty of sin in their life (Luke 7:36-50). This is one’s initial salvation produced by the power of the Gospel. After this initial salvation, the believer is saved daily from the power of sin (Rom. 6:14). God’s standard for every believer to live a holy life. This expectation is never lowered; in fact, under Moses, the Law demanded holiness, but no man was able to keep the Law. God also requires a holy life under grace, too; but grace makes holiness possible—Christ lives His life through the believer.

Salvation future is a promise that every believer will be saved from the presence of sin in his old nature and become wholly sin-free just like the Lord (Rom. 13:11). Thus, if a sinner believed and acted on Romans 10:9 and 10, he was saved, he is being saved daily, and he shall be saved when he appears before the Lord in Glory. This is the progressive power of God unto salvation!

 

 

 

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What Is A Christian?

As he spake these words, many believed on him. 31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:30-32 KJV

A Christian is generally defined as one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ. But does this include people who irregularly attend church services? Does this include democrats, republicans, conservatives, liberals and progressives, pro-life proponents and pro-choice proponents? What about members of radical hate groups; and, does it include all citizens born in a so-called “Christian” nation?

Seems like everyone and everything can be considered “Christian”—there seems to be as many flavors of a “Christian” as there are flavors of “Baskin-Robbins” Ice Cream. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor. 13:5). True believers must examine themselves, based on the authority of the Scriptures, and ask themselves the question: What is a Christian? Am I a Christian according to God’s Word?

You cannot honestly begin a self-examination without admitting that Christianity, according to the Scriptures, is not a religion but a way of life (John 10:9, 10; 14:6); and, that acknowledging that Jesus, God’s Son, was not a Christian; He was a Jew who both kept and fulfilled the Law of Moses. Jesus never promised to build or establish a “Christian”, but rather He promised to build a “Church” (Matt. 16:18). He never said that “I am a Christian. But He did He say that “I am the Light of the world; I am the Way; I am the Door; I am the Gate; I am the Good Shepherd; I am the True Vine; I am the Bread of Life; and, I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

A true Christian is one who believes on Jesus and continues to follow His Word (Text). The Disciples of Christ were called “Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:26), i.e., they were called “Christ ones” because they followed Christ—not as a compliment, but they were being mocked, derided, and persecuted. It was the world that coined the title “Christian”—not Christ!  The Apostle Paul, who wrote 2/3 of the New Testament, referred to believers in his epistles as “saints, the church of God, or brethren.” Apostle Peter used the word “Christian” one time to comfort believers dealing with the suffering of shame that may have been associated with this name (1 Peter 4:16).

So, should it be discouraged for anyone to call a true disciple a Christian? Absolutely not! The take away here is simple:  true disciples of Jesus should be the ones defining and framing what it means to be a Christian. We must be concerned about the Lord’s expectations—not the world’s! “Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart . . . Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart” (Lyrics, Negro Folk Song 1907).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for Me and My House

And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Acts 16:30-33 NKJV 

After God had given Israel rest from all their enemies in the Promised Land, Joshua—now old and advanced in age—gave Israel his final message with an unwavering conviction, saying: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Jos. 24:15). You can’t always understand the way that God works, but when a father believes and faithfully obey the Lord, sooner or later, his children will come along (Mal. 4:6). This is called Oikos evangelism, i.e., reaching out to the whole family and household.

For example, in our text above, the Philippian Jailor sought salvation; not only for himself, but for his household. He and his household were immediately baptized after Paul and Silas spoke the Word of the Lord to them. Now, the Philippian Jailor could also stand on Joshua’s conviction: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Jos. 24:15).

Another example would be Cornelius, a man who was devout, feared God, give alms to the poor, and even received a vision from God; yet, Cornelius hadn’t made Jesus Christ Lord and Savior. But after he received Peter’s preaching that Jesus is Lord, he and his relatives and near friends—gathered together in his house—all received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which strongly infers that they first received their salvation in Christ Jesus. As for Cornelius, he and his household served the Lord (Acts 10:1-5, 24, 44-45).

Fathers and the heads of households must let their lights shine, ala Joshua, the Philippian Jailor and Cornelius (Matt. 5:16). Too many heads of households have an unchristian reputation, i.e., how they live at home; thus, the unsaved living with them don’t see them practice the promises of God. When a father or head of household walks in faith and acts on what he believes, he will influence his relatives and household members toward the Lord. Then and only then, can he say with confidence: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”

 

 

 

 “Mother-head”

And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. Acts 16:30-32 NKJV

For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. Genesis 18:19 KJV

Headship is a fundamental arrangement that God uses to maintain order in the home. For example, according to the Scriptures, “the husband is the head of the wife” (Eph. 5:23; 1 Cor. 11:3). Subjection to a husband/father is essential to building a solid, happy, and peaceful family. According to U.S. Census Data, this principle of husbandly/fatherly headship is missing in 25% of white families and about 65% of black families in the U.S. But a lack of a husband/father doesn’t change the principle of headship; because mothers, out of necessity, will assume headship. I call this phenomenon “mother-head.”

Motherhood is the state and quality of being a mother (Merriam-Webster). On the other hand, “mother-head” is when the mother assumes headship, co-opting the roles, qualities and spirit of both mother and father (Author/Blogger).

God’s promise to save isn’t limited to gender. The Philippian Jailor and his household was promised salvation—not because he was a man, but because he was the head of a household (Acts 16:31-32). God honors headship regardless if the head is a male or female. In the home, God’s promises can only be circumvented only if the head of the family and household doesn’t live for God, nor command his children and household to do the same. The primary responsibility of the “head” is to command, i.e., instruct and teach, his children and household in two ways: (1) to keep the ways of the Lord; and, (2) to do righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19). “Mother-head” is when a single mother is given this charge out of necessity.

It is God who builds a family and household (Psalm 127:1). And, it is God who gives a single mother the grace for “headship.” In fact, most single mothers would gladly choose motherhood over “mother-head” where they have to wear both “hats”—fulfilling the roles and responsibility of a mother and father. Some fathers are present, some AWOL, and some are just titular heads.

A present father will lead his wife and children and other members of the household, thus fulfilling his God-given role and responsibility. An AWOL father is absent—not present in the mother or the children lives. And, a titular father is the “head” only in name. He is physically present but emotionally and spiritually absent. Without headship from a father, children are at risk of behavior problems, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, gang membership, substance abuse, crime, prison, and poverty. But when a mother is forced into “mother-head”, God will still honor his promise to her and her household. Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost and Found

And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. Acts 16:27-33 NKJV 

Undoubtedly, a missing fruit in the latter day church is a lack of oikos (Greek) evangelism, i.e., sharing Christ with the whole family—the whole household. This includes witnessing the Gospel message to everyone under the influence of your household. You may be saved, but without your witness, family and household members remain lost and need to be found.

The “Lost and Found” is a place where personal property is kept until claimed by the lawful owner. So, what does it mean for a sinner to be lost and found? First and foremost, understand that a person is a sinner, primarily, not because of what they do, but because of whom they are—a person without Christ in their life. Furthermore, a person is lost because they don’t know where they are and whose they are. They are lost within themselves but not to God. Nothing is ever lost in the mind of God.

To be found is when God, by His Spirit, makes a rightful claim on your soul (Luke 19:5-10; John 6:44). Figuratively, God claims the lost from the “Lost and Found.” Like the keeper of the prison (Text), a sinner is sleep in darkness and will only be awaken by God shaking the foundations of his life—being before oblivious to the light of the Gospel. In fact, Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that, “ . . . if our gospel is hid, it is hid to those who are lost, in whose minds the god of this world has blinded, who do not believe, lest the glorious light of the gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Cor. 4:3,4 ). So what makes a sinner see and realize the need for salvation?

If a sinner doesn’t see the need, he remains blind to the Supply; if he doesn’t see the problem, he remains blind to the Solution.  Jesus Christ is the Supply and the Solution, and He will come to claim lost souls in the “Lost and Found.”  When a sinner realizes that he is lost, helpless and without hope; then he’ll believe. It’s the only thing left that he can do (Acts 2:37). The evidence that he truly believes that he acts on what he believes, i.e., he’ll look for an opportunity to “wash stripes” (Acts 16:33). To “wash stripes” are acts of rectitude and restitution—seeking to clean up what he messed up; he wants to right his old sinful acts that wounded and hurt others. This may not be possible in every case, but just know, what the new believer can’t make right, God will by His grace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Household Salvation

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:25-31 NKJV

Most churched people are familiar with the terms “deathbed salvation, sickbed salvation, and jailhouse salvation.” But have you heard of household salvation?  I believe that the missing fruit in the latter day church is a lack of oikos (Greek) evangelism, i.e., reaching out for the whole family—the salvation of the whole household.

The Greek word Oikos means household, family; it includes all those under the influence of your house, and all those in relationship with you and those in your household. God has always desired to save, not just the one, but the entire family unit (Gen. 7:1, 7).  Paul and Silas also valued the family unit just like God did long ago with Noah (1 Peter 3:20). When the Jailor asked in desperation, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas replied: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Text). This was a simple and right to the point instruction—no churchy or religious hoops to jump through.

It is important to note that there is no implication that the Jailor’s household would be automatically or instantaneously saved if the Jailor believed (See John 1:12-13). Every family member or other person under the influence of your household must stand on his own faith (Heb. 11:6, 7). Nor was it the Jailor’s faith that would save his household. His family members and servants all needed to come to Jesus in faith and believe in the same way. This was true for the Jailor’s household, and certainly, the same principle apply to your household today. God wants the Lamb (Ex. 12:3) to be over every household (John 1:29).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Prescription

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 NKJV 

A prescription is a direction given for the preparation and use of medicine to provide a remedy for a condition. God is like a spiritual doctor, who prescribed the death, burial and resurrection of His son, Jesus—as the medicine—to save a lost and dying world drowning in darkness, sin and shame.

When one is sick, any visit to a doctor’s office—more often than not—includes at least four things: (1) a review of your family history; (2) the examination of symptoms; (3) a diagnosis; and, (4) the writing of a prescription. Spiritually speaking, Father God has outlined through the Scriptures, our family history. We are all descendants of the first man, our natural father Adam; and, his disobedience, sin and failure has been passed to all men and sin brings spiritual death. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

After a thorough examination, the diagnosis is clear: the curse of Adam. Because of our Adamic nature, all were born in sin and shaped in iniquity (Psalm 51:5) So, God has written the prescription. God’s prescription isn’t a pill but a person; it isn’t rehabilitation or therapy, it is the Gospel: Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried; and, He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3, 4). God’s prescription has no side effects, i.e., condemnation, guilt, fear, etc. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).  “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set [you] free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1, 2).

Although God’s prescription has no side effects, God wants you to know: (1) all have sin (Rom. 3:23); (2) sin brings spiritual death (Rom. 6:23); (3) notwithstanding, the curse of Adam in your spiritual “DNA”, God loves you so much and has demonstrated His love (Rom. 5:8); and, (4) if you’ll receive His prescription by confession and belief in your heart (Rom. 10:9, 10)—directions concerning confession and belief in your heart, you “should not perish but have everlasting life” (Text).  Look unto “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Jesus is faithful to save all to the utmost and be a faithful friend. And, a faithful friend is the medicine of life; and they that fear the Lord shall find God’s prescription!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Is This?

And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.” Matthew 21:10-11 NKJV 

Did you ever receive a phone call and you asked the caller: “who is this?” You asked the question because you didn’t know the caller’s identity, or perhaps you weren’t sure or familiar with their voice. When the Lord calls, it’s a sad commentary if you have to ask: “who is this” because you aren’t familiar with His identity, neither do you know His voice (John 10:27). On the first “Palm Sunday”, Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem and called on the world as Savior and King; yet the multitudes right there in Jerusalem on this glorious day had to later ask: Who is this?

In humility, Jesus affirmed unmistakably His Messianic kingship by riding a donkey, a beast of royalty (1 Kings 1:33) into Jerusalem—in fulfillment of God’s prophetic plan and purpose according to Zechariah 9:9; yet on this royal occasion, no officials of Israel nor Rome came to welcome Him when He made His unveiled claim. None of them knew Him.

Jesus boldly declared Himself king and His glory were seen on earth on that day. The crowd of people spread their clothing in the way to pay homage to Him as king (2 Kings 9:13). And, the cutting of Palm tree branches was emblematic of victory and success. It was on this day that the multitudes in Jerusalem believed that salvation and deliverance had come to them, as a people and a nation. This sentiment was expressed by the people shouting “Hosanna to the son of David; Hosanna in the highest” (Matt. 21:9), i.e., “Save now . . . blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 118:25-26). They cried out save us from our occupiers and oppressors. Defeat the Romans and restore the kingdom to Israel.

Because Jesus didn’t start an armed revolution against the Roman occupiers or dethrone the Jewish leaders who conspired with Rome—He went to cleanse the outer court of the Temple. Not understanding the times and the season according to God’s divine plan (Acts 1:6-7), this fickle crowd began to question Jesus’ identity. “[A]ll the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee” (Matt. 21:10-11). All of a sudden, they weren’t so sure about Him, and in a few days they would cry out, “Crucify Him” (Matt. 27:22-26).

Who is this? Jesus is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world; the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth; the source of all healing and deliverance; the Lamb that was slain for our eternal salvation; the One who died and rose again the third day; Lord and Savior of all who believe; and, the King of kings and the Lord of lords!

 

 

 

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Can the Kingdom Be Taken by Force?

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11:12 NKJV

 “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.  Luke 16:16-17 NKJV

“[T]he kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” are two easily misunderstood statements that often raise more questions than answers. And, the confusion is compounded further when compared with the statement, “and everyone is pressing into it.” The Greek word for “suffers violence” and pressing is the same exact word (“biazo” which means to force; to crowd oneself into; or to be seized). It is only used in Matthew 11:12 and Luke 16:16, suggesting that a multitude of people are squeezing together to get into the doors of the kingdom of God—not so now or ever! Even in Jesus’ earthly ministry, the record shows that He had 12 apostles, on another occasion He commissioned 72, after His ascension, there were 120 believers in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost.

It is clear that the problem to due to various English bible translations. For example, the Douay-Rheims Bible (1582), which predates the King James Bible (1611), translates “everyone is pressing into it” in Luke 16:16 as “everyone is behaving violently against it.  This seems to be more consistent with the actual Greek word as pointed out above. To behave violently against the kingdom is to assault, afflict, oppress, persecute and constrain the message and the messenger. Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee, the Jewish leaders among the Pharisees and Sadducees all proved to be violent. The “violent take it by force” were violent people behaving badly to forcefully seize upon the kingdom of God (See Matt. 3:1, 7; 4:12; 14:3-10).

Thus, there is never a need for a true believer to “take it by force.” Jesus was referring to violence, violent people, and the force they used to seize upon John the Baptist and the kingdom of God. Remember, it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32) and the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35). It is to err to try to make the Scriptures say something that it doesn’t say to fit your false religious belief or culture. Thank God. There is no need to bombard the gates of hell in the name of the violent take it by force!

Yes, the kingdom can suffer violence from violent people, but can the kingdom ever be taken by force? Absolutely not! Why is there a need for force when “as many as ordained and predestined to eternal life will believe (Acts 13:48; Rom. 28:29, 30), and only those that the Father draws can be born into the kingdom (John 3:3, 5; 6:44); and then, the Father Himself conveys you into the kingdom and places this unshakable kingdom within you (Luke 17:21; Heb. 12:28)—no need for force or violence!

You can use violence and force against the kingdom with opposition and persecution, but the true believer doesn’t have to take anything that the King has given him—just receive it!

 

 

Greater than John

Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  12 “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.  13 “For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. Matthew 11:11-13 NASU 

John the Baptist came—in the spirit and power of Elijah— preaching the Kingdom of God, condemning sin, and preaching repentance and water baptism unto the newness of life. John was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first to announce that the Kingdom of God was at hand (Matt. 3:2). He received the highest commendation from the Lord: “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.” Notwithstanding, he that is least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than John.

What made John the Baptist great? It was not, necessarily, a special gift; it was not his camel hair clothing and the leather belt he wore or his diet of locust and wild honey (Matt. 3:4) or his holiness.   He was great because he had a unique role in the plan and purpose of God, plus he was anointed with the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17).

Furthermore, John was the only prophet in the Bible who was the subject of prophecies (Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1). In fulfillment of these prophecies, he was the forerunner to Jesus Christ and introduced Him to the world as the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 35-36). He was the bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. His preaching broke 430 years of divine silence.

So, what makes you—the believer in Christ—greater than John? Without question, it is your position and privilege in Christ.  You had the privilege of hearing about and seeing the fullness of God’s plan in Christ including the crucifixion, the resurrection, the full Gospel; and the blessed position of being saved by grace, being baptized in Jesus’ name, being a recipient of the new covenant, receiving the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and being baptized in the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Heb. 8:6).  John the Baptist, evening in his greatest, could not attest of any of the aforementioned blessings of being in Christ and being called a son of God (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26).

John’s greatest caused him to be casted into prison and to give his life as a martyr. Thus, the kingdom God suffered violence and the violent, i.e., king Herod, the Pharisees and Sadducees assaulted and afflicted John; they opposed and persecuted him—everyone of them used violence and behaved in a violent way against John and his message of the kingdom of God (Matt. 11:12; Luke 16:16). Because you, the believer, are greater than John, the violent, the forceful and self-willed will oppose and seize upon the kingdom of God in you (Luke 17:21) too!