Is God Good All the Time?

Last week in my Wednesday class we discussed the topic of being ransomed by God, out of Hebrews 9:11-28. To fully appreciate the work of Christ on the cross, we must understand the concepts of: satisfaction for sin, substitution for sin, propitiation, redemption, reconciliation, God’s love and holiness over against our human sinfulness that brings God justice and wrath.

God is love, yet cannot be in the presence of or condone our sin; so the wrath of God is consistent with his justice. This is the problem of forgiveness. God loves us and desires to forgive, but He cannot just let our sin go unpunished, which brings in God’s justice.

On the cross, God drew mankind to himself. Hebrews 7:25 states, “He (Christ) is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him” (NASB). The teaching of this verse is that Christ saves us to forever, not just in length of time, but in the concept of wholeness, perhaps meaning “completely” or “totally” or “fully.” Forever here can also refer to the function of Christ as the High Priest forever, as the writer leads toward in Hebrews 7:26. There is no longer a need for repeated sacrifices, Christ died once for all (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 26, 10:2, 10, 1 Peter 3:18).

But today, the question is, Christ saves us from what forever? I believe He saves us from being “cut off” from the kindness of God. Check out Romans 11:22 where the Bible says, “Behold the kindness [or goodness] and severity of God” (NASB). Paul goes on to identify in the very next phrase the people who are “cut off” from God’s kindness (“those who fell” or “disobeyed” – those who are not in Christ), and those who continue in God’s kindness (“to you” – those who are in Christ). He states point blank that there are two options, either to experience God’s kindness or to be cut off. Being cut off from God’s kindness is a very severe thing (Paul uses the imperative word behold).

In Zambia there is a popular saying that, “God is good, all the time” and “all the time, God is good.” I have come to realize that this is only a partial truth; God is good all the time … to those who come to Him by Christ. Those who refuse Christ are “cut off” from God’s goodness, (which btw, to be “cut off” from the goodness of God is the biblical definition of hell). Hell is not Dante’s version of a sadomasochist Creator who tortures sinners. Biblical hell is a prison where lawbreakers are cut off from the Creator’s goodness. Once goodness is removed, only evil remains.

So, where do you stand? Are you in or out? Are you experiencing God’s kindness or are you cut off?

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How to Handle Temptation

The middle section of the first chapter of James helps us to know what to do when temptation arises. We already know that the mature Christian is patient during trial that come, which attack us from the outside. Temptations attack us from the inside. We might ask why James would connect the two.

What is the relationship between testings and temptations? Consider this, if we are not careful, testings on the outside may become temptations on the inside. When we are going through a difficult time, we may start complaining against God, questioning his love and resisting his will. It is at this point that Satan provides an opportunity to escape the difficulty (enter, temptation).

  1. Abraham arrived in Canaan and found a famine, and could not care for his flocks. It was an opportunity to trust God but he turned it into a temptation by running away to Egypt (Genesis 12:10).
  2. As Israel wandered through the wilderness, they often turned testing into temptation. Not long after God delivered them from Egypt the water ran out. After three days they found water, but it was bitter, and they began to complain against God. Testing into temptation–and they failed (Exodus 17:6, 7).

God does not want us to yield to temptation, yet he does not spare us from it. We are not God’s sheltered people, we are his scattered people.

There are three facts or barriers to consider if we are to overcome temptation:

Consider God’s Judgment (James 1:13-16): this is the negative approach; sin ends in death. Temptation is an opportunity to accomplish a good thing in a bad way, out of what we might call the will of God (eating is a good thing, while stealing food is not). We think sin as a single act while God looks at it as a process; consider Adam’s sin and what it did to the human race.

  1. Desire (James 1:14): lust can mean any sort of strong desire. Hunger, thirst and sex drive are all good in God’s eyes, but each can become a temptation to sin when we seek to satisfy these desires outside of the will of God (Hebrews 13:4). These desires must be our servants, not our masters.
  2. Deception (James 1:14): temptations never appear to be temptations at first; they are subtle. The idea is to hide the fact that it is a temptation. James uses two illustrations:
    1. Drawn away: like baiting a trap.
    2. Enticed: like baiting a hook.
    3. No one knowingly falls for a baited trap, because something bad is about to happen. Bait keeps us from seeing the consequences.
      1. Lot saw the wall watered plains beyond the Jordan (Genesis 13:10, 11).
      2. David looked at another man’s wife (2 Samuel 11:2).
      3. Jesus dealt with temptation by quoting God’s Word (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).
  3. Disobedience (James 1:15): we move from emotions (desire) to the intellect (deception) to the will. Christian living is a matter of the will, many times we don’t feel like reading the Bible or praying. This explains why immature Christians easily fall into temptation, they let their feelings make decisions. Exercise (Philippians 2:12, 13).
  4. Death (James 1:15): disobedience gives birth to death, not life. It may take years to mature but the end is sure. James gives four stages of temptation, in Genesis three:
    1. Desire to interest Eve (Genesis 3:5, 6)
    2. Deception blinded Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3) it appears that Adam sinned with his eyes wide open.
    3. Disobedience by acting (Romans 5:12-21, 1 Timothy 2:12-15).
    4. Death to us all (Genesis 2:17, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, Revelation 20:11-15).

Consider God’s Goodness (James 1:17): this is the positive approach. The enemy tries to get us to believe that God is not for us, or want the best for us. If we believe that God is good, we don’t need anything else to meet our needs, outside of God’s will. Moses warned not to forget God’s goodness (Deuteronomy 6:10-15).

  1. God gives only good gifts: if it does not come from God, it is not good. If it comes from God, it is always good; even when it appears at first not to be good. Think of Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
  2. The way God gives is good: the second phrase in this verse can be translated, “every act of giving.” Someone can give a good gift in an bad manner that is less loving. The value of a gift can be diminished by the way it is given.
  3. God gives constantly: the phrase “comes down” is a present participle, meaning it keeps coming down.
  4. God does not change: there is no shadow with the Father of Lights. He cannot change for the worse because he is holy; he cannot change for the better because he is already perfect. David remembered God’s goodness in 2 Samuel 12:7-8. Note the repetition of the word, give. God’s gifts are always better than Satan’s bargains.

Consider God’s Divine Nature (James 1:18): barrier one says look ahead; barrier two says look around; barrier three says to look within, and realize you are born from above. James picture where sin leads, to death. But our new nature leads to life, as in 1 John 3:9. Notice the characteristics of this birth:

  1. It is divine: Nicodemus thought he had to enter the womb a second time (John 3:4), but this birth is from above (John 3:1-7). God works a miracle when we have faith.
  2. It is gracious: we did not earn it or deserve it (John 1:13). No one is born again through his relative, resolutions or his religion.
  3. It is through God’s Word: physical birth requires to parents, spiritual birth requires two “parents” – the Word of God and the Spirit of God (John 3:6, 1 Peter 1:23, Hebrews 4:12).
  4. It is the best birth possible: the word, first fruits, meant something to the Jews. First fruits were brought to the Lord as an expression of devotion (Proverbs 3:9). We share God’s nature and are created in his image.
    1. Throughout the Bible God rejects the first born (Able over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau), so God also rejects our first birth and announces that we all need a second birth.
    2. This experience of new birth allows us to overcome temptation; not allowing the old nature to take over.
    3. The new man is to take the lead (2 Corinthians 5:17).
    4. When temptation knocks at the door, if I send Adam to answer the door, I will sin; if I send Jesus to answer, I will win.

God has these three barriers to protect me from temptation and sin. If we heed the warning, we will receive a crown; if we break through the barriers, we receive a coffin (James 1:15).

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The Wisdom, Goodness and Word of God

This is the first lesson for the New Beginnings Bible study class at King’s Grant Baptist. Our study in the book of James begins this weekend. It is a practical little book about Christianity in blue jeans. It helps us to see what a mature believer looks like and how that person lives in the world.

Here is a brief outline of chapter one:

The Wisdom of God (1–11). You need wisdom in trials so you will not waste your suffering and miss the spiritual growth that should result. When you trust God, trials work for you and not against you; but be sure your heart is wholly yielded to Him. If your heart and mind are divided, trials will tear you apart. I want to show this video in class this Sunday:

The Goodness of God (12–20). When you realize how good God is to you, you will have no interest in the temptations the enemy puts before you. When you are tempted, count your blessings; and you will soon have strength to say no.

Have you ever thought about how to change the world? Sometimes we wonder about any goodness in the world. Why do bad things happen to good people? The better question may be, “Why do any good things happen anybody?” We are the hands and feet of God, so if God is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17), he can certainly work through us to bring it about. This video clip suggests that if we want to change the world, start with one random act of kindness (goodness):

The Word of God (21–27). The Word gives us spiritual birth (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22–23). It is like seed planted in the heart that produces spiritual fruit (James 1:21). It is a mirror that helps us examine ourselves (James 1:23–25) and cleanse our lives. We must do the Word of God, not just read it or study it; the blessing is in the doing.

When we encounter God through his Word, lives are forever changed. When we read the words, we must allow them to abide in us and allow Christ to mold us into his image. Grace is the foundation of the gospel, getting something we can never earn and will never deserve. This clip shows how God’s Word, forgiveness and grace changed several generations of a family:

Here are “famous” verses we will encounter in this little book:

  1. “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” James 1:2
  2. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach.” James 1:5
  3. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17
  4. “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19–20
  5. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” James 1:22
  6. “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:20
  7. “Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:2–3
  8. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
  9. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:7
  10. “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17
  11. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16

I hope to see you this Sunday in the Welcome Center.

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The Son of Encouragement

There are all sorts of people with whom I come in contact that have the power to impact the way I feel. I met a person in a store the other day at the cash register who did not smile, hardly spoke and was just unfriendly. I left there feeling worse than when I came in. Later that same week, an associate at Sam’s Club was pretty friendly and very polite. She had a warm and conversational attitude and caused me to leave there feeling better than when I came in. Some people might make you angry. Some will make you sad. Some will even make you sick because they tell you about every little ache and pain they have.

Have you ever been around someone that just makes you feel better just by being around them? That’s the type of person Barnabas was! Start thinking about what type of person you are? How do you make people feel when you’re around them?

As a disciple of Jesus, Barnabas was committed to telling the good news about Jesus. He left people feeling good because he gave them something to feel good about. Do you leave people better than when you first see them? Not a bad goal to have.

Barnabas’ life displays certain characteristics that distinguish him as a servant of Christ. These characteristics can help us determine if our lives are consistent with the image of Christ. Let’s look at these characteristics found in his life and see if they are present in our lives.

His Goodness (Acts 11:24) Another word could be “righteous.” This refers to the righteousness that results in a Christian’s life once he has been made righteous by Jesus.

  1. Introduction of Paul to the Apostles (Acts 9:27)
  2. Emulation of Jesus. The phrase “he was a good man” tells us that he was like Jesus. (Acts 10:38) The church needs people whose lives are marked by goodness. Is God’s goodness present in your life?

His Generosity (Acts 4:36-37, 13:2-3) Barnabas proved to be quite a generous person.

  1. He was generous with his land (Acts 4:36-37) He gave up his possessions to benefit other people.
  2. He was generous with his life (Acts 13:2-3) His life was not his own, but was the Lord’s to do with as He saw fit.
  3. He was generous with his Lord (Acts 20:35) Luke reminds us of a quote that is not recorded in the gospels, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Every church needs people who are generous with Jesus. God exhibited ultimate generosity when He gave His only Son’s life for you and me! Can we do any less than give Him our lives as living sacrifices? (Romans 12:1)

His Godliness (Acts 11:24) He was “full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” Barnabas was God-possessed! He had so allowed the Holy Spirit to have control of his life that he was in the center of God’s will for his life. Because of his faith he was totally committed to being like Christ.

  1. He was Christlike in his conduct – (walk).
  2. He was Christlike in his conversation – (talk).

(see Ephesians 5:18-21) What you are on the inside is determined by your walk (conduct) and your talk (conversation).

His Gift of Grace (Acts 4:36) “Son of consolation or exhortation” This is what his name meant. In Acts 11:23 we read that he “exhorted them all” (Acts 13:43; 14:22)

  1. The church needs “Sons of Consolation.” So many times we will beat up our own, or we are wounded by friendly fire. We need to comfort one another, rather than criticize one another.
  2. We need “Sons of Exhortation.” Too many people say we can’t do that! I believe that with a little encouragement, the attitude of any church will change from “I can’t” to “I think I can” to “I can!”

His Gladness (Acts 11:23) Why was Barnabas glad? Could it be that people were getting right with God? His gladness made him want more people to come to Christ. He went around boldly telling people how to have a relationship with Christ! Matthew 18:12-13 uses the word “rejoice” which is the same word as “glad” in the Greek.

Are you glad when people come to Christ or could you care less? It seems like a silly question to a believer, because a person who is sold out to God is glad when people get saved! A lost person or a backslidden believer (carnal, cultural or casual Christian) couldn’t care less.

Can these characteristics of goodness, generosity, godliness, gift of grace, gladness) be found in your life? If not, why not?

  1. One reason may be that you are a casual or cultural Christian!
  2. Another reason may be you are lost, never before accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord.
  3. If you fit either one of these, better get it straightened out soon; there are no guarantees about tomorrow.

Remember, once you get Jesus, then you will want to be like Him. This study demonstrates that Barnabas is also a fine man after whom we can model our behavior.

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