Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Not Ashamed

This message was preached October 26, 2008, at Cache Valley Bible Church in North Logan, Utah. "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God." (2 Timothy 1:8) There has always been a violent warfare waged between the wisdom of men and the wisdom of God, and today that warfare is raging ever so strong. The Apostle Paul's last charge to Timothy was urging him not to be ashamed and shrink back because the preaching of the cross incurs the hatred of the world, nor be intimidated because his beloved friend was in prison for the gospel's sake; but rather, get involved in the colossal work that God is doing! The message has not changed for the Body of Christ in the 21st century: "Don't shrink back because the world hates the gospel! Dive in head first into this essential warfare, and use your gifts in the work that God is doing all around you!" Listen below:

Eli Brayley - Not Ashamed

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New Videos - Weber States University



Thanks to Miles for these great clips from Weber State taken earlier this semester. Watch how the crowd grows, and listen carefully to the dialogue that takes place between Mormonism and Christianity.






Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is Faith a Work?

"Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." - Romans 4:4-5


Man is a self-righteous creature. There is something deeply inherent in his innermost being that will not let go of pride, nor admit the truth that he has nothing to offer God; that he is a spiritual pauper. When Cain, the epitome of man, realized that God had rejected the fruit of his labor, which he had sweat for and toiled long for, rather than bowing himself down and confessing his wrong, he lashed out in anger against his righteous brother and killed him. Why? Because he could not bear to see his brother accepted on the basis of faith without works and his own works rejected. Pride flared up with indignation and resentment. In a flash we witness the horrid crime illustrating the conflict of the ages: the self-righteousness of man declared war on the righteousness of God; a war which has not ceased even to this day. God will not allow man's works to be part of justification, and man will not allow them not to be.

It is often objected, when shown that justification by faith without works is taught in the Scriptures, that faith itself is a work. "Isn't faith a work?" "Don't you have to believe, and isn't believing doing something?" "See! I got to do something for my salvation!" It always amazes me how fanatically we as people fight for works in our lust for self-acclaim. We actually hate grace! We hate it because it forces us to accept the reality that we are really undeserving and helpless beings. We are obsessed with ourselves. We are destroying ourselves through our self-infatuation. How foolish we are in not understanding that the grace of God is the only remedy to heal our twisted souls!

The first thing we must do in answering the question, "Is faith a work?", is to define work. The word ergon is the Greek word used throughout the New Testament for the noun "work" (see Ephesians 2:9), and the word ergazomai for the verb "work", as in Romans 4:4-5. They both mean "to toil, to labor, to exert effort." Webster's Dictionary defines work as, "physical or mental effort exerted to do or make something; purposeful activity; labor, toil." The feeling of the word is described perfectly in Genesis 3:17-19: "Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." And also in Genesis 5:29: "And he called his name Noah [Heb: Rest], saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed." When Cain offered his offering unto the Lord, he offered that which he had labored and toiled for; the fruits he offered came from the ground which the Lord had cursed. Work has to do with sweat, effort and exertion, laboring and toiling for compensation and reward. In contradistinction to Cain's offering, Abel's offering did not involve work. In fact, it involved the opposite of work. The Scripture tells us that Abel's offering was an offering of faith (Hebrews 11:4).

The Book of Hebrews gives us the best definition of faith. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) Evangelically speaking, faith is simply the assurance and confidence a person has in Christ. It is a "working not" and a "believing on Him" (Rom. 4:4-5); a total rest from one's own labors and a total resting in the labors of Another. Faith is set in opposition to works: "To him who works not, but believes." It is the opposite of works, for instead of working hard to attain godliness, faith believes the good news of the gospel that God justifies the ungodly. The man of faith says, "I know that I am ungodly and deserve the wrath of God, but I am assured that another has died in my place, and I rest in His finished work on my behalf, and not in my own works or labor." That is faith!

Can confidence in another be rightly called a work? Can assurance in Christ be considered labor worthy of compensation? Of course not!

Let me put it another way. Going on a vacation and going to work are both something a person DOES, but just because each one requires 'doing' doesn't mean they are the same thing; that they are both works. It would be absurd to suggest that going on a vacation is the same as going to work just because you 'do' it. It is the nature of what you do that determines whether it is a work or whether it is a non-work. Going on vacation, or, for a more Biblical analogy, relaxing on the Sabbath, is rest, the opposite of work; just as believing on Christ for salvation is rest, the opposite of working for your own salvation. When a man believes on Christ, he takes a permanent 'vacation' from his own works, and enters into that true Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:10).

The moment we say faith is a work it actually ceases to be faith (just like the moment we say a vacation is work it ceases to be a vacation!). True saving faith looks not upon itself as work but upon Christ and His work. If faith were a work (something deserving of reward), then would we be saved by works and not by grace, and Jesus Christ and everything He did is made void. We would then deserve salvation due to our faith; but the Scripture states the opposite: "For if they which are of [works] be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect." (Romans 4:14) Faith (resting in Christ) becomes void and ceases to be faith if we are saved by works. How is this so? BECAUSE THE GOSPEL IS ALL ABOUT GRACE!: Receiving that which you do not deserve! See, then, how faith fits here: "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace." (Romans 4:16) Salvation is by faith alone that it might be by grace alone; there is not an ounce of work in it! But of course, unregenerate man hates such a prospect, seeing that in such a gospel there is no room for glory.

So let us have faith, but not venerate faith. Let the object of our faith be worshiped and praised. It is Christ and His work that we rest assured of, not our faith. As one godly minister said so well: "True faith is what may be called colorless, like air or water; it is the medium through which the soul sees Christ, and the soul as little rests on it and contemplates it as the eye can see the air."

Where is your assurance of salvation? Is it, like Cain, in your works or even in your faith? Are you "toiling and spinning" in order that you may offer unto God some sacrifice worthy of eternal life? Are you clinging to your dead works, waging war against the righteousness of God? Or are you, as Abel, resting confidently in the work of the Substitute? Only the faith which actually ceases from self-works and self-effort and reposes fully upon the sacrifice of the slain Lamb of God, believing on Him who justifies the ungodly, is accepted and counted for righteousness.

What's your offering? You or Christ?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Revival Conference - Georgia (LIVE WEBCAST)

Live video by Ustream
SCHEDULE
(All times are EST)

Tuesday
2:00-4:30 Concert of Prayer
7:00-7:30 Worship
7:30-9:00 Henry Blackaby

Wednesday
8:30-9:00 Worship
9:00-10:00 Concert of Prayer
10:30-11:30 Francois Carr
1:30-2:00 Worship
2:00-3:30 Al Whittinghill
7:00-7:30 Worship
7:30-9:00 Paul Washer

Thursday
8:30-9:00 Worship
9:00-10:00 Concert of Prayer
10:30-11:30 Roger Ellsworth
1:30-2:00 Worship
2:00-3:30 Q&A Panel
7:00-7:30 Worship
7:30-9:00 Denny Kenaston

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Gospel is the Power of God

This message was preached August 24, 2008 at Valley Church in Smithfield, Utah. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written. The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17) The Gospel which saves us is the power of God and the wisdom of God; for no one was saved by their own power, nor their own wisdom, but by the working alone of God's mighty power. The greatest need of man is righteousness with God, but it is also his greatest impossibility. Only through the Gospel is that righteousness secured, not by the strength and will of the flesh, but by the power and wisdom and God. Listen below:

Eli Brayley - The Gospel is the Power of God

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cheap Grace

"For the redemption of their soul is precious..." - Psalm 49:8

"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
- 1 Peter 1:18-19


When you hear the term "cheap grace", what do you think of? Easy-believism? Using the grace of God as a license to sin? Antinomianism? The term "cheap grace" was first coined by the young German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1937 in his book, The Cost of Discipleship, and since then it has been a commonly used phrase to describe the type of preaching that promises forgiveness of sins without the requirement of a changed life. This, however, was not what Bonhoeffer was saying, who criticized the promise of grace without the consequence of a changed life. He might better have called it "abused grace" or "vain grace" rather than "cheap grace", which does not accurately represent the true meaning of the term. While the misuse of grace pertains to the consequences and effects of the grace of God in a person's life (what happens "after" grace is come), the cost of grace pertains to the price and requirement of obtaining grace in a person's life (what must happen "before" grace comes).

If there is one thing we learn throughout all the Scriptures, it is that THE PRICE OF OUR SALVATION IS EXCEEDINGLY PRECIOUS. The Psalmist, in the 49th psalm, calls our attention to the fact that gold and silver cannot redeem our souls from the grave; that Death, the great wages of sin, ceases not to swallow up all the 'sons of Adam' without distinction, whether rich or poor, wise or foolish; all die, and there is no means found (even religious) to reverse this. Men are perishing, and what solution can be offered by them? "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." (v. 7) To sin against God is so atrocious, and the penalty so demanding, that no earthly riches, carnal wisdom or deficient morality is sufficient to make restitution for the cosmic damage that has been done. What could possibly be given to make right all the wrongs committed against God, past, present and future? Precious indeed is the redemption of the soul... [too heavy, valuable, rare] for any man to recompense.

No doubt the Apostle Peter had this very Psalm in mind when he wrote that glorious truth of our redemption in Christ: "
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (1 Peter 1:18-19) Here is the answer to the Psalmist's question, and here is the fulfillment of the Psalmist's hope: "But GOD will redeem my soul from the power of the grave." (v. 15) But God! What man cannot do, God will do. What is impossible with man is possible with God that, through Christ, God may be glorified. There is absolutely nothing in all the world nor of all that exists that could ransom man from the curse which he had brought himself under but the ransom of the perfect, spotless, sinless blood of the eternal Son of God. "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all." (1 Timothy 2:6) Only an infinitely Divine sacrifice could satisfy an infinitely Divine justice. Divine anger requires Divine pacification. Divine wrath requires a Divine object. Divine love requires Divine lavishing. All these find their end in nothing but the sweet smelling offering of the eternal Lamb of God.

It is because of the price that God Himself paid that we can be offered the free gift of God's grace. The forgiveness of sins is freely given to us, not because it has no value, nor because it is cheaply given, but because Jesus Christ already paid the price of redemption. As a man who buys an expensive necklace to give to his wife freely, so God shed His precious blood to give to men eternal salvation. Free grace, yes! Yet infinitely costly! "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:24)

Those modern Pharisees who accuse Christians of preaching "cheap grace" because they believe "that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28) claim that by simply believing in Jesus Christ for salvation Christians cheapen the grace of God and make it's value trivial. "It's too easy to be saved;", they presume, "Too inexpensive." "You must be a good person!" "You must offer to God good works!" "You must be worthy to receive grace!" By excluding the necessity of good works for justification, and by not preaching that men must stop their sins as a requirement for salvation, Christians are accused of making the law void and opening the doors for licentious lawless behavior. These are the very same accusations which were brought against the Apostle Paul for preaching the gospel of free grace in the 1st century and they are no less lies today than when they were first uttered nearly two thousand years ago.

Christians believe in justification by faith without the necessity of works because they know that the price of redemption has already been paid. They believe that there is no moral requirement that they must meet in order to receive grace because they know the cost of grace is so infinitely above their ability to recompense. As Isaac Watts, the famous English hymn writer, wrote so well in the immortal hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross":

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small


Or, as the godly Augustus Toplady penned in his famous hymn, "Rock of Ages":

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.


Let it be known that those who would preach that the forgiveness of sins is conditional upon the moral worthiness and merit of men cheapen the grace of God and treat with contempt the precious sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ who shed His sinless blood to satisfy the divine legal demands of a Holy and Righteous God. Do they presume to accuse Christians of cheapening God's gift because Christians agree with God that the blood of Christ is the one perfect and sufficient price of redemption, while all along they assert that the eternal sacrifice of God was not enough to complete the payment; that our imperfect works must be added to make it complete? Madness! In truth, they are the ones who are guilty of preaching 'cheap grace', by relegating the divine requirement down to the wanting realm of human power and facility. God forbid! That alone which is incorruptible, uncontaminated, immutable, will suffice... nothing but the precious blood of the spotless Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world!

And what, therefore, does the knowledge of such lavishing love do to the person who has been truly apprehended by its wonder? What is the consequence of grace? Carelessness? Slothfulness? Apathy? (As some would imagine!) Certainly not! The faith that is born of God casts its gaze upon the transforming vision of the risen Savior and immediately the soul is energized, instructed, and set in motion. There is no other response to the shedding abroad of the love of God in the heart than that which is produced by the glorious constraining power of that love (2 Corinthians 5:14-15); so that we, with Paul, can truly declare: "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." (Galatians 2:20)

There is nothing cheap about the grace of God. It is only that which man invents and imposes in the name of God that finds itself out to be cheap and profane. You and I are tremendous sinners, and the penalty for sin is equally as tremendous. There is an infinite justice that seeks infinite satisfaction for an infinite crime, and God will not be satisfied with anything less than that which is eternally righteous. Who can redeem the soul? Who can pay so much? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Such is the cost of grace. Dare we call it cheap?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Law Established Through Faith

"Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." - Romans 3:31

This message was preached on August 10, 2008 at the Evangelical Free Church in Logan, Utah, and addresses the charge of Antinomianism that has been leveled at the gospel for nearly two thousand years. To the carnal religious mind, the gospel is the height of offense and foolishness, and those who believe it are not only ridiculed, but put to death in the name of God. Antinomian means "against the law", but we will see that those who accuse Christians of being against the law of God, because they believe in justification by faith, are themselves the true Antinomians. Click below to listen:

Eli Brayley - The Law Established Through Faith

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Back to New Brunswick!

Hello dear brothers and sisters!

It's hard to believe that it's already been six months since moving to Logan this last January. As I've said to many people, Utah was the last place on earth I expected to find myself living. God has been most gracious to me by bringing me here: not only is there an abundance of gospel work to be done, there is an abundance of opportunity for me to grow and mature as a child of God in Christ. Serving alongside brother Brad Scheelke has been a privilege I think could seldom be matched. I've secretly nicknamed Brad, "the apostle of love", because of his endless self-giving and servant heart for people. Jesus Christ loved people, and Brad has demonstrated, by grace, this "greatest of all" (1 Corinthians 13:13), challenging me to no end. There are so many individuals in all our lives that desperately need to be shown the love of God through willing saints of God who have themselves tasted of the goodness of the Lord. May God challenge us all more and more to radical Christ-likeness.

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35)

The last few months have been increasingly more busy in our preparation for the campus ministry quickly approaching us this fall. We recognize that having a bold Christian witness up on campus will create no small stir in this little valley that makes up the highest concentration of Mormons in the world. Your prayers are eagerly coveted in this crucial hour. Jesus told the parable of a lost sheep that went astray from its fold in Luke chapter 15: Christ, the good shepherd, notices when one little sheep is missing from the ninety-nine. He cares enough to go out of the way to find it. He seeks diligently until He finds it, never giving up or turning back around until He's got that little sheep on His shoulders and has brought it safely home. Do we notice the lost people all around us? Are we too busy to care? Do we search diligently for the souls of our fellowmen, not content until we find them safe in the grace of God? There's only one thing worse than being lost: being lost, and nobody looking for you. Saints, pray for us as we take the gospel to the Mormon population in Utah; join the search by interceding for the lost!

Brad and I had been praying about starting a Bible study up on campus for anyone who would like to attend, inviting all who hear us open air preach or watch our television program, etc. While we weren't exactly sure how we would get a building to use, the Lord has provided marvelously for His work. Recently, and without warning, a board member from the ACMU (Agency for Campus Ministry Utah) walked into the bookstore, sat down, and said, "We've got a building up on campus not being used for anything, and we would like you both to do a Bible study in there, anytime you want. And we've also a got a load of money sitting around doing nothing; we want to throw it your way." Yes, God has provided marvelously! Not only will we have a building, but we will have money to finance the book table we set up in connection with the open air meetings and give away hundreds of books, which is very expensive. God is already way ahead of us!

Continue also to pray for the television program. Next week we will be recording our sixteenth episode of "Practical Christianity" which is played throughout the valley as well as on the university channel. Our messages are always strongly evangelical, and the potential is there to reach many souls in the valley with the gospel who could otherwise not be reached. Please pray!

Pray for our mid-weekly Bible studies that we conduct in the bookstore. People have been coming in from the streets and others who have read our tracts and have been joining us as we are reading through Romans. One young man God has saved, and we are trusting Him for many more. Pray that people would continue to come into the bookstore to talk to Brad and I, that hearts would become anxious concerning their eternal welfare. Pray that God would give Brad and I wisdom and kindness to share the good news with everyone who comes in.

"And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles." (Acts 14:26-27)

Lastly, and the reason I'm writing this, is to let you all know I'll be coming home to New Brunswick for two weeks this month, July 15-28, and hope to see some of you when I return to Fredericton shortly! I have missed all my brothers and sisters back home and have not stopped thinking of you. America is great, but Canada is my "home and native land"! (by the way, happy late Canada day!) I'm definitely looking forward to this visit, to see my family, and to recuperate for the coming challenges ahead.

Until then, may the Lord richly bless you and keep you; may He cause His face to shine upon you and fulfill the plans He has prepared for you since the foundation of the world.

To God alone be all the glory,
-Eli

Friday, June 13, 2008

Spiritual Service

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." - Ephesians 2:10


There are a lot of people who want to do something for God. I was like that. When I was 18 years old I stood up on a make-shift soapbox and delivered my first open air sermon. I'd like to talk to you about why I did that.

If you were to ask me at the time why I did that, I would probably have answered you something like this: "God has called me to preach His word. I do this I out of love for the lost and for the glory of God. We must preach the gospel to a lost and dying world!" This, of course, would have been partly true. On the one hand, I know today that I was indeed called to preach the gospel, and the desire of my heart to serve God and my neighbor was real and sincere. But on the other hand, I hardly knew what it was to love the lost and to glorify God (though I thought I did), and I thought that God needed my services. Let it be known to all those who desire to serve the Lord: a calling itself is not enough: there must be a preparation in the one that is called, a spiritual maturation within the heart whereby the one who is called is utterly persuaded of his natural inabilities and of the impotency of his flesh (that which issues out of self) to procure anything of value for God, so that he comes to solely rely upon the Spirit of God that is within him to do the work for which he's been called.

In the Old Testament, consider Moses. Moses knew that he was called to deliver Israel from the tyranny of the Egyptians, and he thought everybody else knew it too. "For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them." (Acts 7:25) Moses was called, but he was not prepared. At 40 years old he was "mighty in words and in deeds" according the flesh, but at 80 years old he was "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" according to the Spirit. God Himself dealt deeply with the heart of that dear saint through forty years of solitude and failure, withering up the fleshly confidence he had within himself that clung so deep. When God finally sent Moses forth to fulfill his calling, Moses' answer was: "O my Lord, I am not eloquent... I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue." (Exodus 4:10) So withered was he, that he was even reluctant to fulfill his original calling! There was no more confidence in his flesh. So it is that the men whom God uses to do the greatest things for heaven are first the "meekest men on earth".

In the New Testament, consider Peter. Peter had received one of the highest callings a man could receive from the Lord: "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." (Matthew 16:18) He would be one of the great pillars and shepherds of the Church, the flock of God, but first he had to undergo a severe humbling in self-realization. Wanting to do something for Jesus, Peter, in the power of the flesh, vowed, not to deny, but to die with Christ that climactic night of nights. What ended up happening? He slept during the very hour Jesus needed him most, was rebuked for nearly killing somebody, and betrayed the Lord of glory three times, with a curse. He was a complete failure. "Peter went out, and wept bitterly." (Luke 22:62) He went out: out from a high opinion of himself into the depths of humiliation and helplessness; out from the notion of spiritual heroics into the realm of spiritual dependency; out from the confidence he once had in human willpower and strength into the place of weakness where God's strength is made perfect. When the day of Pentecost had fully come, Peter was fully prepared to fulfill his calling (though he may not have felt so), as one whose flesh had been thoroughly dealt with by God.

So why did I do what I did? I was going to do something for God: "This world is going down, but not me! I'll stand up for truth even if nobody else does! I will serve you, Lord!" Called? Yes. Sincere? Yes. Prepared? No.

God uses our failures to bring us to a new place of maturity in Christ. It is the flesh that must die for the glory of the Lord to be revealed, and there's no greater weapon against the flesh than failure. When God lets us in on just who we are apart from Him, so that we shrivel up and die like a branch detached from the life of the vine, then are we ready to receive that power that comes from on high, the power of Christ's resurrection which issues out of the place of death. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." (Zechariah 4:6) It is there that God alone gets all the glory; and it is there where our Christianity ceases to be the wisdom of man but the power of God.

All spiritual service is "of Him, and "through Him", and "to Him", to Him be all glory forever (Romans 11:36). God must destroy in us that which is inherently contrary to His glory that He might fulfill in us the works which He has called us to walk in. Can we say with the Apostle Paul, "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Corinthians 15:10)? Our God is jealous for His glory, and He will produce in us that same jealousy, for He will only move among those who are jealous for the same.

Let us learn this lesson of grace, and submit our flesh to be thoroughly dealt with by God, that we might grow up into Christ, and fulfill the works which God has called us to do. Amen.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Pre-Regathering of Israel in Unbelief

The following is a response to a question that was asked me concerning the 1948 re-establishment of Israel to their land while in a state of unbelief. Was it was Scriptural?


The idea of Israel returning and being established in the land while in a state of unbelief is only and absolutely drawn from Scripture. First of all, consider that Israel as a nation has never once existed in a state of true covenantal obedience to God. As a people, they have not only broken the covenant of God which they bound themselves to under solemn oath (Exodus 24:7-8), but they have also rejected the God of the covenant who alone is the wellspring of life and the very enabler of the covenant. Their numerous captivities never once produced the change of heart that is required for them to be the inheritance God intends them to be: a nation of Him, and through Him and to Him. Consider the results of the Holocaust: Jewish sentiments after 1/3 of them had just gone through one of the most appalling sagas of history was not "God, we repent", but "Never again!" And not a "never again because God will be with us", but because "we won't ever allow something like that to happen again. Our own arm will see to that." Not the disposition of contrition that we would expect necessary for Israel to return to the land after 2000 years! But they have returned. What does this mean in the light of Scripture?

The solution to the Jewish question is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Israel has been blind ever since they became a people; they have never truly known the God of their covenant, nor have they understood their election by grace. "Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you." (Deut. 9:24) What is required for them to turn to God in spirit and in truth? What is determined by God to bring this about? Nothing less than the second coming of Jesus Christ following the unparalleled time of Jacob's trouble.

Jeremiah 30 and 31, which have to do with this event of tribulation and revelation, begins first with a command for Jeremiah to write the prophecy down in a book and seal it for the "days to come". I believe that those "days" refer to ours today. Such language signifies an extended period of time between the giving of the subsequent prophecy and its fulfillment, seeing past the Babylonian captivity and into the latter days
(for none of the Jeremiah 30-31 prophesies were fulfilled in the Babylonian time; Jacob's trouble, Israel's regeneration, etc.). But what does God say immediately after this sealing (30:2-3), and immediately before the verses concerning Jacob's trouble (30:5-7)?

"For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it." (Jeremiah 30:3)

Here you'll find no language describing repentance, humility or a godly return to the land. There is no sense of Israel returning to an everlasting possession, as in Isaiah 60:21. It's just a fact. God is stating that they shall return to their land in the latter days immediately prior to the great tribulation.

Notice another, or second, regathering prophesied in 30:10, "Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid." AFTER the great tribulation, when Israel shall AGAIN be scattered from the land into the Gentile nations, as the Scriptures have foretold, Christ shall appear in glory and will gather them back to Himself and to His land. "He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock." (Jeremiah 31:10) Then, and only then, will Israel stand before God in bright shining righteousness, a nation redeemed from death by the blood of Jesus Christ, established in her covenant by her covenant keeping God. Thus there are two regatherings spoken of here in this one chapter: a return to the land in unbelief, and a return to the land in grace. A return in preparation for Christ's return, and a return in consequence of Christ's return.

Israel becoming a nation again in 1948 should cause every Christian believer to rejoice and lift up their heads for their redemption draws nigh. It is one of the greatest signs of the times, and though there are many very evil days ahead of us, whatever darkness there shall be is but a momentary light affliction in comparison to the weight of glory that shall be revealed when our Lord Jesus shall come. Praise God!

For Christ to come, first antichrist must revealed. For antichrist to revealed, first the temple must be built. For the temple to built, first Israel must be a nation again. That happened in 1948. When will the temple be built? Let us watch and pray, and occupy ourselves in preaching the gospel to every creature, that we may be found in Him, doing His will, patient in faith, waiting in hope.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

One Faith

"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all." - Ephesians 4:4-6


There are many beliefs in this world, but there is only one faith. There are many winds of doctrine, but there is only one truth.

Today, it is often said concerning various religious convictions that such are all "faiths". We hear it said, "the Muslim faith" or the "Jewish faith", or "the Baptist faith", but this type of thinking is not accurate. There are not many faiths, just as there are not many Christs nor many gods, and here is why: Faith fixes itself upon the truth, and without the truth faith cannot exist, therefore, just as the nature of truth is exclusive and singular, so also the nature of faith is exclusive and singular. There is one faith, and everything else besides that is speculation, opinion and belief, not grounded in the truth.

Let us examine this wonderful faith! The Bible says that faith is something precious (2 Peter 1:1) and as rare as gold (1 Peter 1:7). It is the one thing that can please God (Hebrews 11:6) and without faith all else is sin (Romans 14:23). It is most holy (Jude 1:20) and we are told to contend for it (Jude 1:3). By faith we overcome the world (1 John 5:4), and through faith we glorify God (Romans 4:20). What is faith, that it is given so much prominence? What kind of a heavenly gift is this? What inestimable value! This is not an ordinary object, but a rare and precious treasure.

Let us look at faith in action. "Abraham believed God." (Romans 4:3) Here we see faith in it's truest and perfect sense. One night, God showed Abraham the stars and promised him that as innumerable as the stars were in the sky, so shall his offspring be. But let's suppose Abraham had replied, "Yes God, I believe you! As innumerable as the stars are in the sky, so shall Lot's offspring be!" Or, "Yes God, I believe you! My offspring shall be as numerous as the fingers on my hand!" What? Would that be faith? No! Abraham may have believed his own speculations, but he would not of had any faith; for faith is believing God, what God has said, nothing less and nothing more. In this way, only faith glorifies God, for faith says, "You are God. What you declare is true. I believe you, and bow my knee to your Lordship." That is what faith says, and that is how faith glorifies God.

The most important thing God has said is that which He has said by the Gospel of His Son:

"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)

"But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
(Hebrews 9:26)

"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
(Romans 4:5)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been declared loudly and clearly, and this is what God has said: All men have sinned and deserve wrath for their wicked deeds, yet all can be made right with God freely by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Eternal life is the gift of God which you cannot earn, it has already been purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Receive this life by faith, without works, and you will never perish; but if you try and offer to God your works rather than trust fully in the offering which was already made, Christ will profit you nothing. This is what God has said. Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone, by grace, through faith, and not of works.

Do as many good deeds as you may, but without faith "it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11:6) Pluck out your eyes, cut of your hands and give all your money to charity, but "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23), and "all your righteousnesses are as filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6) Any attempt to please, approach, satisfy, or even believe God apart from His spoken word is as blasphemous as pulling Him off the throne and erecting an image upon it of your own likeness. If faith glorifies God, then unbelief assassinates Him (albeit in vain). Unbelief says, "No God, I will not believe you. You are a liar. I will believe whatever I choose to believe; I refuse to glorify you as God."

Once we rightly define faith, then we can understand man's dire condition as described by God in Psalm 14 and restated in Romans 1-3: "There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Men are fallen and everything about them is ruined by unbelief. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, "When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me." (John 16:8-9) The world refuses to glorify God by not believing in Christ, and persists in doing things their own way.

By this, also, we understand Galatians 3:12, where it says that "the law is not of faith." This Scripture used to confuse me before God brought me into this understanding about faith. For I thought, "How is it that the law is not of faith? Don't you have to believe that keeping the law is the right thing to do?" The answer came loud and clear: Ah, but belief is not faith; nor was the law given for righteousness. As long as you are trying to fulfill the law you are not believing Me, but a hopeless vanity, for I have said that righteousness comes not by the law but by faith in the blood of My Son Jesus Christ. "But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Romans 9:31-33)

There is one faith, and that faith is "the faith of the Son of God", without which no one man can glorify God, and without which no man can be right with God. Belief is general, but faith is specific. By way of analogy, an electric appliance is dead until it plugs into a specific source. You are the appliance, God is the electricity, Christ is the outlet, and faith is the cord. You can try to plug into whatever else all day long, but there will be no power and you will still be dead until you plug into the prescribed electric outlet (Christ). Faith in Christ, who died for sins, once for all, and rose again, is the only way to be righteous before God. God has spoken. Christ alone saves. Believe on Him and you will not be ashamed.

Do you have this one faith? It is most precious and rare. It is specific; it lays hold on Christ; it glorifies God. You are blessed if you do! But dear reader, if you do not... if you are still attempting to keep the law thinking that this will obtain your salvation... or if you are chasing after others gods and practices... you have only belief, which is as common as grass... it is impotent opinion; it does not regard God's word; it believes what it wills; it blasphemes God. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, unbelief, and everything evil.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Weber State University

Hello saints,

It's time for another update, and I hope this finds you all well, strong and in Lord, and rejoicing in His grace.

April was a busy month. With the weather shifting more and more from winter into spring, there's also been the opportunity to head onto the campus scene, taking the gospel to the student population once again. Brad and I spent three days at Weber State University in Ogden earlier in the month, handing out literature and open air preaching.

Though the weather was suppose to be nice, it seemed to vary dramatically each day. Valley weather, and being at such a high elevation (nearly 5000 ft!), tends to do that. So the day might start sunny and quickly turn to snow... the first two days were like this, but we preached and handed out tracts regardless, engaging in many fruitful conversations.

The first day, no sooner had I begun preaching, a student who had listened to me preach last year chimed in and we had excellent dialogue concerning the difference between Joseph Smith's 'gospel' and the gospel of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. I spoke to him about the law, how God has shut up the whole world under sin so that they may be justified by faith in Christ, while other people listened in. Ryan, who was LDS, afterwards exclaimed in shock, "Are you saying that all I have to do is just humble myself, go down low, admit I'm a sinner who has no righteousness, and call upon God to for mercy to save me!?" It was amazing to see him 'get it', even though he didn't receive it that day; many Mormons do not even get that far! He was intrigued by the thought that God justified those who had no righteousness of their own, and came back the third day to talk more about it. The preaching of the cross is indeed foolishness to all other perishing religions, which teach that you must work to achieve acceptance with God.

On day two I noticed a fellow sitting down on the bench listening to my message, and afterwards he came over to talk with me. He said he was searching for the meaning of life but was struggling with faith. We talked for quite a while, and I was able to share with him that he was spiritually dead and needed to be born again, which was the work of the Spirit alone. Before he had to go, he said, "I want to hear from God, but it never seems like He speaks to me." I replied, "You're talking with me now, how do you know God didn't arrange this conversation?" Very thoughtfully, he said, "You could very well be right... I was actually halfway to my class, and I don't know why, but I felt compelled to turn around and come back and listen to you."

There were others Brad and I spoke with too. One young lady who had heard us last fall saw us again and expressed her dislike of us preaching the way we do, but stayed around to listen, and the last day she changed her attitude, was very friendly, and contributed to the discussions. Another young man, a Roman Catholic, was challenged to study the Scriptures and not just believe what the church told him to believe. He admitted to having believed without question, and decided he would look at the Scriptures for himself.

Brad also was able to hand out plenty of free books, and had a steady queue of conversations with students. Several Christians spoke with Brad and were really encouraged to get serious about their faith. We also were delighted to link up with two Christian-workers from Ogden who spend most of the day with us on Thursday. It was encouraging for us to see brothers coming together with one mind, and they were glad to see how the gospel was being spread on campus through literature and preaching.

"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God." (2 Corinthians 9:8,11)

How easy it is for God to do HIS work! He is the God of all grace, and through Him nothing shall be impossible.

Thank you all so much for your prayers. Please continue to pray for me, that Christ to would fulfill His purposes in my life, that I would grow up into Him in all things, that I would be diligent to hear His voice, respond by faith, and follow Him into every battle.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Your brother in Christ,
-Eli

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Human Government vs. The Kingdom of God

The following was written in response to a question asked me concerning the current U.S. election and a comment Hillary Clinton made about Iran and Israel.


I can't remember if we talked politics or not when you were in Logan, but, as Christians, our relationship with human government is casual at best. We belong to the kingdom Jesus spoke of to Pontius Pilate in John 18:36. I am neither a republican nor democrat. Men were never designed to exist independent of the sovereignty of God, and the history of our attempt consistently proves disastrous. The only form of government I come under is Theocracy, with Christ as King, and I believe that one day, according to Scripture, the whole world will come under His divine authority. However, in the mean time, Christians are exhorted to respect and obey the present human governments, understanding their place and role, so far as they do not interfere with the believers conscience. Almost always they do, hence the bloody martyr's story. Human governments that attempt to exist as the Kingdom of God on earth (such as the Holy Roman Empire; Crusaders; even 'Christian America') are unscriptural and not in accordance with Christ's statement, "Now is my kingdom not of this world... if it were, my followers would fight for me." So we have to be careful to distinguish between true Christianity and the christianity that is so often projected today.

So my view on the election, and Hillary's comment, is that I see sinners trying to lead sinners for the sake of power and it is sheer corruption and blindness. God alone is the rightful King of all men, and until this world learns that we'll find ourselves again treading the oft repeated course of disaster.

Concerning Israel, they, by God, were established as a Theocratic nation, and if you know their history Israel rejected God and met with defeat and exile time and time again. Was this a mistake by God? No! God knew this would happen; it was for His eternal purposes and in His wisdom to do this, to declare to all mankind the sinfulness of men, as demonstrated by Israel, and the incapability for men to submit, obey, even love God. The revelation of Jesus Christ follows the acknowledgment of this vile condition. Christ brings life to the dead, healing to the wounded, and grace to the sinners. The future Theocratic government that will reign "from sea to sea", replacing the crooked kingdoms of men, can only work and be established through the power of the cross; the Gospel of God. Only the cross can change a man to love his neighbor, walk humbly, love justice and bow the knee to God, so that the glory of the Kingdom of God does not come from man, but from God.

Well, that's why I have no confidence in earthly governments. How can men govern the world when we can't even govern ourselves?

Your friend,
-Eli

Friday, April 04, 2008

Short Meditations on Faith, Repentance and the Will

These thoughts were written as a response to a question that was asked to me concerning faith, repentance and will in the role of salvation.


This is what I've always thought too, until I started probing deeper into the nature of those words "faith" and "repentance".

The first thing I saw (and I believe God was showing me) was that repentance was not just another word for 'keep the law', which most people, without realizing it, use it that way. What do you mean when you say "repent"? A common response is that it means to turn from sin and turn to God. What does that mean? What is the definition of sin?
"Sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4) So turn from transgressing the law? How comprehensive are we talking about?

Do we mean turn from outward sins only or are we also speaking of inward sins and inward defilements? How much sin do we have to turn from, some or all? Is it just a desire to stop sinning, or is it actually stopping? According the Bible, if a person doesn't
continue keeping all the law he is under a curse (Galatians 3:10). It would seem then that to stop transgressing the law, you would have to turn from all sin. That means no more sinning, inwardly or outwardly, ever; and that's not just talking about the "thou shalt not's" but also the "thou shalt's". So if repentance means to turn from sin and turn to God, that's pretty comprehensive, and is no different in any way from being under the law and living by the principle of works: "if you stop sinning, you'll live". That didn't sound like the gospel to me.

For the first time I began to see that God was holy... REALLY holy, and the reason the standard of the law was so high was because God's law was requiring me to "be holy as God is holy", and that is altogether too much for any man on His own. All truly have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. A person isn't holy just because he stopped lusting or swearing. A person isn't holy even if he ceased from anger or self-pity. In fact, the law has a way of making so-called "righteous" men even more proud! And so ironically, the more you 'stop sinning', the worse you get, because of the wicked heart of pride. Holiness is not something you do but is something you are. As long as we are still trying to 'do' holiness we are getting worse, as Israel did. The cross is the only remedy. Cross-less holiness is disastrous.

Repentance, then, cannot mean what many think it to mean. I have learned that the word 'repentance', in its purest sense, has nothing to do with sin! just like the word 'turn' has nothing to do with sin either, unless '...from sin' is coupled onto it. In the Bible, God repents. That doesn't mean God repented of sin! What is the repentance about is the question in point. Repentance, by itself, doesn't make sense unless we know the object it is being connected to.

Now I understand far better what Jesus meant when He preached, "Repent and believe the Gospel." Essentially, what He was saying was, "Change your mind and believe the Gospel", not, "Keep the law and believe the Gospel" which is a complete oxymoron. And the same with John the Baptist: "Bring forth fruit meet for repentance", and Paul, "that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance." Thus repentance is distinct from the fruit of repentance. True repentance is obeying the true gospel. The true fruits of obeying the gospel is a life zealous for good works; a good tree bearing good fruit.

Secondly, faith.

I also used to think the same way about faith, until God started giving me a deeper understanding of the nature of faith. I saw that, contrary to what I used to believe, faith was not 'square one' so to speak; it is not the 'first thing', according to Romans 10:17,
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Before faith, there must be a hearing of the word of God. That hearing, which predicates faith, is a supernatural work of God. It is the kind of hearing that Jesus spoke of when He said, "He who has ears let him hear." It is a spiritual hearing (and seeing), and the opposite is spiritual deafness (and blindness).

This is why the majority of the Jewish nation
could not believe in Christ, because they could not see or hear. "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them." (John 12:37-40)

The reason why a person believes is because God first opens their eyes and ears to see and hear! "Faith cometh by hearing." There are numerous accounts in Scripture to confirm this; for one, consider Lydia in Acts 16:14,
"And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." Neither does a Christian necessarily need to understand this for it to happen. Many who believe in Christ are clueless to the fact that God had first opened their eyes.

I've now come to see that faith, as the Scripture says, is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). It is the lack of understanding this truth, however, that many are "wise in their own conceits", because they have not properly understood that their "standing" is God's gift, and have boasted in their own ability to believe!

"Boast not against the branches... because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee." (Romans 11:18, 20-21)

There is a humility that comes with faith, because, as John Newton said so well, "Amazing grace... I once was blind, but now I see." Faith is the gift of God, and without the supernatural illuminating of the Spirit of God in our hearts, we could never believe God, nor receive that divine righteousness which comes through Abrahamic faith in Christ. It takes God for this kind of believing!

As for the will, I absolutely agree that the will must desire to be changed. The problem is, as you know, the will alone is not sufficient to produce such a change. I may full well want to obey the law, but "that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I."(Romans 7:15) I may want to follow Christ, but the will alone cannot follow: "Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake." (John 13:37)

Men must come to see that they have no sufficiency in themselves to love, serve, believe or obey God. No confidence in the flesh. One person put it this way: "It takes God to love God!" That is so true. Our will, as well meaning as it can be, should bring us to the place where we cry out, "Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" I believe that it is when God sees the work of His law penetrate this deep into the individual, He responds by revealing Christ to the heart.
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24)


Love in Christ,
-Eli

Saturday, March 29, 2008

My Lunch with Six Mormon Missionaries

I have written the following account because it will be helpful to have the reader witness a Mormon/Christian dialogue as if they were there first hand. Talking with Mormons can be intimidating for some people because they aren't exactly sure what to say when a Mormon appears to speak Biblically. I have attempted to be as accurate as I could, while at the same time condensing the entire conversation. Be blessed as you see how the truth of God prevails against the lies of the devil.


A REAL FIND

Bob walked into the bookstore with a determined look on his face.

"You won't believe what I've discovered!", he said with a grin. Brad and I looked up from our Bibles and awaited the interesting news.

"I just had breakfast with a friend at great little place over in Richmond... it's a real find, their breakfasts are to die for!... but that's besides the point... Well get this: as we were finishing up our meal and enjoying pleasant conversation, about half a dozen Mormon missionaries came walking through the door! Of course, I couldn't resist making a comment: 'What's this? General Conference?' They laughed and told me that there were even more of them coming. No sooner had they said that, three more missionaries followed through the door."

"Really...", I exclaimed, "What's was the occasion?"

Bob smiled, "Well that's what I had to find out. It turns out that every Thursday at this place the owners give the missionaries a free lunch, and they come, and I don't blame them!"

My eyes shot over to meet Brad's. We were both thinking the same thing.

"Do you suppose they will be back next week?" I asked.

"I don't see why not...", Bob's eyebrows gave an inquisitive look, "Why?"

"Bob, would you like to have lunch with me next Thursday...", I grinned, "with a group of Mormon missionaries?"

Both Bob and Brad perceived the opportunity. We proceeded to plan going back to the restaurant about the same time next week to see if we could engage the Mormon missionaries in discussion. It was decided, and Bob and I agreed to meet next week to take an expeditionary trip to Richmond.


IT'S ALL ABOUT SPONTANEITY

The restaurant was classic Americana. It was small enough to feel like a house visit, and old fashioned enough that I felt like I took a step back into the 1950's. Bob and I arrived early and ate our lunch, enjoying each others company. Some time went by and it looked like the missionaries were not going to show.

"Regardless, it was a nice time spent...", I started to say, but before I could finish saying it the door pushed open and in strolled four missionaries, dressed to kill. My heart jumped, and I saw a smile come across Bob's face. The the door opened again and two more walked in. As they saluted the owners, I thought to myself, 'So we will indeed get our chance to talk with them; now how are we going to get in conversation?' I was aggressively turning it over in my mind.

"Eli, you think to much", Bob said with a laugh, "Don't worry. It's all about spontaneity. Follow me!" Without warning, Bob stood up and made a move for their table. 'Oh no', I thought to myself, 'What is Bob going to do...'

Bob approached the missionaries who had just given the waitress their order. With a loud voice that only a retired L.A. deputy could have, for all the restaurant to hear, Bob boomed. "So what are you guys up to?" They looked up surprised. "We are missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints", the first missionary answered smoothly. Bob nodded, "So you're here to fill up the tank, huh?" They laughed, and Bob continued to break the ice with his light-hearted humor. At last he became serious and asked them, "Well guys, we have some questions that we'd like to ask you. Would it be too much trouble to meet with you after you're done eating, to talk?" The missionaries smiled pleasantly and unanimously replied, "Pull up some chairs and talk with us now, we don't mind!" We couldn't resist the invitation.


PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS

After the introductions I decided to pick it up from there.

"So how long have you guys been on your missions?" I asked. Most of the six had been on their mission for 20 months of the prescribed 24, which meant they were nearly finished, and that we had stumbled upon some 'veterans'. One of them was nine months in. They told me that they were representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ, and traveled about sharing the gospel and encouraging the faith of the faithful.

My first question came as a bit of a surprise to them: "Do you believe that Jesus Christ was perfect; that He never sinned?"

"Oh yes!", one elder quickly responded. "Jesus Christ was the only one who was perfect, because He fully obeyed the Father in all things."

"That's right", I replied, "and would you agree therefore that Christ was the very embodiment of the law, since He fulfilled it perfectly and never broke any of God's commands? That is, if we were to look at Jesus, we would see what it actually looks like for a man to obey God?"

They all nodded thoughtfully, "Yes, I suppose that is definitely true. He is our greatest example."

"So really," I said, "the moral standard of Christ is equivalent to the moral standard of the law. They are one and the same thing. If you are keeping God's commandments then you will look like Jesus, since He is the picture of obedience."

"Very true." One missionary mused. "I hadn't thought of it like that before."

By this time their food had arrived and they were all munching happily. My second question then followed.

"What would you guys say is the Biblical definition of sin?"

They paused for a moment, then one missionary who hadn't yet said anything answered. "I would say sin is anything that is contrary to God's commands." The rest of the group gave their approval. "We sin when we don't do what God wants us to do, or when we do something that God doesn't want us to do."

"Yes," I agreed, "the Bible says in 1 John 3:4 that sin is transgression of God's law, and since Jesus never sinned, He never transgressed God's law. Do you guys think that you have sinned? Do you think that you are like Jesus?"

"Of course not," one quickly remarked. "Everybody sins, and nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes, and God knows that. But He sees our hearts... He knows we try to do good but fail."

"Ah, but why do we sin?" I asked.

A missionary sitting to my left flipped open the Book of Mormon and turned to a passage. "The Book of Mormon says that 'the natural man is an enemy of God, and has been since the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.'"

"Interesting," I said, "The Bible also speaks of the natural man, and that he is an enemy of God, but it says in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that 'the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he' by the very fact that he is an enemy of God. Have you ever thought of yourselves as enemies of God?"

I pressed further. "The Bible doesn't say that we are mistakers... it says that we are sinners; enemies of God who have chosen to sin and disobey God because we only love ourselves and actually hate God."

The missionaries looked a little stunned.

"Doesn't even the Book of Mormon say that God does not give us any commandments unless we are able to fulfill them?" They nodded. "Then according to the Book of Mormon, the only deciding factor as to whether you sin or not is your own willful choice. A sin is a sin, not a mistake."

They had to agree. "Yes, but this is why Jesus came and gave us the atonement," said a missionary who was looking a bit uncomfortable. "Through the atonement we can be made right with God again."

I concurred, but my next question was pointed: "Tell me, how does a person receive the atonement?"


JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE

The missionary sitting right next to me smiled and gladly began to expound the Mormon 'plan of salvation'. "Well first, "he said, "you have to have faith. Then, through faith you must repent of all your sins, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands, and endure to the end. If you do all these you will receive forgiveness of sins."

I noticed there wasn't anything about Jesus in his plan of salvation, but I proceeded to ask him, "Could you define repentance?"

He went on to explain how repentance was a multi-step process. First, you must feel sorry for your sin. Second, you must make full restitution for that sin. Third, you must promise never to sin that sin again. And lastly, you must forsake that sin and never do it again.

"So," I inferred, "unless all steps are completed, repentance has not been accomplished."

"Correct," he replied, "If you only do steps 1-3 but you don't do step 4, you have not repented at all."

The next question was obvious. I turned to the whole group of six missionaries sitting there and asked them all plainly, "Guys, have you repented of all your sins, as your plan of salvation requires?" The silence at the table was painful.

"Well... no." One said, looking downward. "But I'm trying... and it's a process."

At this I remarked, "Elder F., did you know that the idea of 'trying' is nowhere to be found in the Bible? Trying has to do with what you do; salvation is all about what Christ did. Neither does the Bible speak of salvation as a process, but as an event. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says this: "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." Salvation is something you receive as a gift, not something you work for."

"In Ephesians 2:8, 9 and 10, it tells us that "by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." If we could earn our salvation, then we would have something to boast about, but God has ordained that salvation is by grace, which means it is something that none of us can merit."

"If I were to give a birthday gift to Elder B. here, what would happen if I told him he had to help me pay for it? Why, it would cease to be a gift! A gift is free... but not because it didn't cost anything. A gift costs the receiver nothing, but it costs the giver something. Salvation cost the sinner nothing, but it cost God everything: the death of His only begotten Son. All we have to do is receive God's gift of forgiveness and new life by faith: simply believing it to be so."

Suddenly one of the missionaries objected: "But faith without works is dead!"

"Okay," I replied, "then have you repented?"

He had nothing to say in response. Clearly he had not repented, and therefore, by his own admission, his 'faith' was dead.

"Elder F., according to your own doctrine, you are still a natural man and have not repented of your sins. The desires of your heart are not pure, but are corrupt and sinful. According to your own words, you don't even have faith, because had you had faith, you would have repented long ago."

"The LDS 'plan of salvation' has no power in it because the very solution it offers is the whole reason for the problem! You say that no one is perfect, no one is like Jesus, and that all have sinned because they are natural men who are enemies of God. You say that this is why Jesus gave us the atonement. Then you say that in order to receive the atonement, we must repent of all our sins and become perfect like Jesus. So to be forgiven, you must do that which you can not nor could not do, which is the very cause of our fall in the first place! It's an impossible circle that cannot be broken."

The missionaries looked anxiously at one another for something to say.

"Guys, let me tell you this. You will never repent of your sins, because the Bible says you cannot. You are telling others to do something that you yourselves haven't even done."

"God's way is free undeserved grace. God is saying to you that right now He is willing to give you total forgiveness from all your sins, absolutely free. You don't have to work for it, perform for it, or pay Him back. He bought it and it's yours. He did this for you because you can't repent of your sins that enslave you. To be saved can only mean that you can't save yourself."

At this point the missionaries were becoming uneasy and told us that they had to leave in order to make an engagement. Then one missionary who was sitting near the back wall chimed in for the grande finale.

"Eli, have you ever prayed about this?" I knew immediately where he was going.

"Elder B., are you referring to James 1:5, which says, 'If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally'?" I said, looking at him.

"Yes, actually!" he answered, a bit surprised.

Then as kindly and as graciously as I could, I answered his question like this, "Elder B., in this matter I don't need to ask God about it, because I don't lack wisdom about it." And at that his face crumpled like a wrinkled bulldog, having lost his finest missionary aphorism. They were stunned.

We stood up, shook hands, and departed ways very cordially. The entire conversation from beginning to end lasted about an hour and half, and remained polite and gracious throughout its whole duration. As Bob and I left, we rejoiced in God's faithfulness in providing this opportunity, and left them in God's hands to finish the work in the lives of those six men. God alone can open blind eyes, and may He do so very soon for these missionaries who have been trapped in Mormonism from the day they were born.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Parable of the Marriage Feast

"And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for His son." - Matthew 22:1-2


I thought it would be both instructive and helpful to write a short commentary upon this parable of Christ's, found in the 22nd chapter of Matthew just days before His crucifixion; and there is a great possibility that this parable was uttered earlier on the very same day that the Olivet Discourse was delivered (the Olivet Discourse given after he left the temple that evening, probably Monday). This particular day, which fell two days before the Passover, was one of the most intensive engagements our Lord entered into with the Pharisees, who, because of parables like this one, were filled with anger and sought to catch Jesus in His words that they might condemn Him to death.

What was it about Jesus that the Pharisees despised so much? Was it because He had exposed their hearts so precisely and shamed them publicly before the crowds? Was it because He had rode triumphantly into Jerusalem and had not restrained the people from declaring Him to be the Christ of Israel? Or, was it because Jesus was to them so evidently the Son of God, that the very prospect of this truth threatened the very core of their personal 'kingdoms' and 'autarchies', contesting that sacred place where dwelt their blackest pride, and manifested the deepest and vilest undertones of man's inherent hatred and envy against God and everything God?

It is into this setting that we turn to our study, and into this hostility that Jesus brought this parable.


A CERTAIN KING

"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son." (v. 2)

This parable is about a king, and that king is God. God is the supreme personality in the kingdom of heaven; he is its architect, artisan and administrator all at the same time. The kingdom of heaven is also called the kingdom of God, because that's exactly what it is: the dominion, the authority and power of God.

Now what does this king do? Jesus says that the king makes a marriage for his son. The Father makes a marriage for the Son, and what a mystery this is! By divine revelation we have learned that God is complex unity, that three persons make up the Godhead of God, but what is this marriage? What would compel God, who lacks nothing and needs nothing, to, first of all, form the earth, and then call out a people for His own? The mystery of the marriage is the mystery of the Church, the ekklesia, the "called out ones". "To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ephesians 3:9-11) There are some things we may not fully understand now, but we will understand them later. There are mysteries that from the beginning of the world have been hid unto man, and who can sound the depths of the wisdom of God? That the infinite God should choose to manifest His wisdom to heavenly bodies by creating the universe and preparing a people for His own eternal purposes is not for us to decide. God has done this, and He knows perfectly. He has prepared a marriage for His Son; He has called out a people for Himself.


BUT THEY WOULD NOT COME

"And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come." (v. 3)

By this, "his servants", it is understood to be God's servants, the prophets, but who are these people who were bidden to the wedding; this choice few, this elect of God? Those here bidden are not all mankind, but friends and relatives of the bridegroom. It is plain to see. This is Israel, God's chosen people, the very ones who were listening to Jesus speak this parable, to whom pertains "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came." (Romans 9:4-5) This is the people to whom God disclosed Himself, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to Moses, to bring the true knowledge of God into the earth. This is the people who rightly had a place at the wedding, and who were so called: but they would not come.

"Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise."
(v. 4-5)

What wrong had the king committed, that would instigate such a reaction? He had done nothing wrong! He had made everything ready; he had prepared the dinner and killed the fatted calf, he had made ready a feast for joy and gladness and invited his friends to share in His joy. This was to be a jubilant occasion and a happy time! "But they would not come". What more could God have done for Israel? He had 'formed them in the womb' and had caused them to grow strong. He delivered them out of Egypt and from the house of severe bondage, he had brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey, with fields that they did not plant and cities that they did not build! He had given them His Law to be a lamp unto their feet in a world that was dark with wicked paganism and unspeakable idolatry. He had risen up unto them prophets, judges and kings to care for the flock and lead them into His perfect pastures. "What could have been done more... that I have not done it?" (Isaiah 5:4) But Israel "made light of it" and "went their ways".

"And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them." (v. 6)

One cannot but marvel at the folly of the nation! What foolishness of those bidden! They scorned the grace of God, they mocked His mercy, and made light of His salvation. To presumptuously despise the goodness of Him who cares and provides for you, to bite the hand that feeds, is the ultimate expression of contempt. What would be the motive for such a reaction? What would fuel such evil treatment of God's gracious prophets, as history so strikingly records, that would inevitably climax in the crucifixion of the Son of God Himself? There is no explanation but one, and this one, by its very nature, we reject. And that is: that man hates God because of the pride of his heart; and oh, how we are loath the admit it! And though we marvel at Israel for their treatment of the One who gave them such divine blessings, we cannot marvel at their folly without immediately applying the same to our own vile hearts. "What then? Are we better than they?" (Romans 3:9) No: if God had chosen the Sumerians, or anyone else, the parable would have still turned out the same. Therefore let us look upon Israel and fall on our faces as men.


INTO THE HIGHWAYS

"But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city." (v. 7)

We have here a most significant prophetic Scripture. It does not say that the king himself came to destroy, but that he "sent forth his armies", which prophecy was fulfilled precisely 40 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, when three Roman legions, commanded by Emperor Titus, "the rod of mine anger", besieged and utterly destroyed Jerusalem. They burned the city and the temple as a frightening token of God's righteous anger and judgment against the nation. "Seest thou these great buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." (Mark 13:2) The crucifixion of Christ, followed by the destruction of the Jewish temple, marked the beginning of a new dispensation in the unfolding of the mystery of God.

"Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid them to the marriage." (v. 8-9)

In accordance with the divine mystery which was hidden since the world began, God foreknew the rejection that He would experience by the Jewish nation. Jesus stood only a few days away from the cross, and yet He had been telling His disciples all along exactly what things He must suffer in Jerusalem. The king's command was not a second plan, nor a fall back position: "Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid them to the marriage." This was not some hasty proclamation given to save a reputation, but this was the great unveiling and opening of the kingdom of God unto all men, the broadest invitation of grace to a world now finally prepared to receive His grace, having beheld Israel's unsuccessful history with God. If Israel proved "unworthy" of God's covenant, who had had so much divine care invested into them by God, how much more the Gentiles, who had neither sought Him nor knew Him? "Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles..." (Romans 11:12) The falling of the nation of Israel is the conclusive statement to mankind that no one can attain the righteousness of God that is by law because the heart of man is desperately wicked and will not be subject to God's law and authority. Thus the necessity of the cross and the necessity of grace, which gospel alone has the power to transform the heart. This is the true wisdom of God, "which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." (Ephesians 3:5-6)

"So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guest." (v. 10)

So it is that the gospel is preached today, which was first preached by the apostles of Christ and has since extended to "the uttermost parts of the earth." The message is "Come!" "Come to God through the Lord Jesus Christ! for no one can come to the Father but by Him." "Come! for you are a sinner, worthy of death, and unworthy of such an invitation, but God has grace for you." "Come! Come and drink freely from the waters of eternal life. Come and draw joyfully from the wells of salvation!" "Come to God! for Christ has died, the just for the unjust, and has purchased your redemption with the blood of His cross. There stands nothing now between you and God." "Come! and find forgiveness for all of your sins, for God declares peace on earth, and goodwill toward men." "Come! for Christ has risen and invites you to His wedding feast. You have been cordially invited, by this gracious invitation, which was bought by the precious blood of Jesus."

"The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." (Luke 16:16) Thus the house is being filled, with "both bad and good", for wherever men hear the gospel invitation they rush toward the gate. But just as God has sowed His seed, and has sent forth His invitation, so has an enemy sowed his seed, and has sent forth his invitation, speaking falsely, blinding men's eyes to the truth of grace and righteousness which is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Many shall come to the wedding saying 'Lord, Lord', who, by trusting in their own righteousnesses, have not been instructed in the wisdom of God.  
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)


WHEN THE KING CAME

"And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there was a man which had not on a wedding garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king unto the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen." (v. 11-14)

At last the king comes! At the end of the age, when the "fulness of the Gentiles be come in", when the "gospel of the kingdom shall have been preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations", when all things have been made ready and the end shall have fully come, "then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory" (Mark 13:26), and then Jesus Christ shall ride forth out of heaven, with the name written on His vesture for all the world to see: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Our blessed hope, and the consummation of the mystery of the kingdom of God, is bound upon the second coming of our Royal Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Christ shall take His place at the head of the feast, and the Church, the Bride of Christ, shall present herself before Him.

"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." (Revelation 19:7-8) Who is this man who is not wearing wedding garments? "Friend, how camest thou in hither?" What right do you have to be here? Why would you come to the feast not wearing a wedding garment? You are not a saint, for you have not upon you the righteousness of saints, which "righteousness is of Me". You have not believed in My cross, and yet you have believed that you were worthy enough to come in here? Did you not know that Israel, My people, had proved unworthy of this marriage, and did you think that you were better than they? You wicked, unbelieving presumer. Who told to come here without a wedding garment? Servants! Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. "For many are called but few are chosen."

My dear reader, have you yet confessed yourself unworthy to appear before God, and have you admitted yourself unfit to attend the marriage feast of His Son? Have you understood the failure of Israel's history with God as a statement to all mankind of the sin and wretchedness of our own vile hearts? Have you beheld the cross of Jesus Christ and laid hold of the righteousness of God that is by faith in His blood? Have you cast your pride to the dust and humbled yourself under the mighty hand of God? There is no other way. Your garments will not do, but God has invited you to take off your filthy rags of sin and self-righteousness and be clothed with the priceless wedding garments of His grace. Many are called, but will you be chosen? Will you appear before the King "holy and unblameable in His sight"?

Even now the house is filling up and the King is almost here. Will you accept His invitation?

"And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God." (Revelation 19:9)