Saturday, October 3, 2020

The GOOD News


The GOOD News


There is always plenty in the way of news each day, good and bad. And there are many interesting and important subjects and topics to take up, especially in the times that we live. But, as a follower of Christ, awaiting His return, we need to be careful not to get stuck “in the weeds” of lesser important topics and issues. We need to be acutely aware of what our main focus is to be and never lose sight of it.

There are many arteries and capillaries in the Bible, but one heart. There is one gospel. The news is GOOD! And we need to be about sharing it and helping people grow close to God and be in His Word until He returns to establish His Kingdom. Those around us will perish without Jesus!

“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).”


Sharing the gospel and ministering as the Lord has gifted each of us individually is the primary business of the Lord that we are to be about until His return (Luke 19:13).

We have daily work that needs to be done, taking care of ourselves, our family, friends and neighbors. We have political and community issues that we must support, as the Lord leads. We also need down time, rest, and to eat and sleep. But as important and necessary as all of those things are, we must be careful to never lose sight of the most important purpose for our lives on earth at this time.

The very heart of the Christian life is Jesus, who He is and what He has done for all that will turn from this world and follow Him. Though His Kingdom is in Heaven, and will be established on earth shortly, the Lord has kept His church here to share the gospel and minister as the Holy Spirit has gifted each of us. We have work to do for His Kingdom and an incredible offer of eternal life to share with the world around us.

“that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 3b-4)”

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).”


As followers of Christ, we know from the Bible that the Antichrist is coming and the one-world government and religion is coming with him. But, we don’t need to speculate about those things beyond what Scripture gives us. Why? Because we are not looking for the Antichrist, we are looking for Jesus Christ, and are to be about our Father’s business, not the business of the Antichrist and his short rule.


“how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10).”

“looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13)”

The tribulation coming on the earth is hard to imagine, and we must warn those around us of this reality. The signs are clear, and all around us. The judgment on sin is part of God’s Word and the day of God’s reckoning is coming quickly. But, if we are not extremely careful, our focus on the things of this world will take us offtrack. We have to keep the main thing, the main thing: The GOOD News of forgiveness and eternal life in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The time is at hand. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Brian Farrell is a follower of Jesus, saved by God's amazing grace through faith in Christ. Brian is a Bible teacher and the founder of Walking With Jesus Ministries. He lives with his wife Dana in Temecula, California.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Guest Post: What God Wants of You

Belief in God as Creator and in His authority as well as in our responsibility to Him is almost universal among men. The fact that our daily lives do not measure up to God’s standards is also quite generally conceded, but the solution to this evident shortcoming is the subject of many theories and religious practices: “How can a man please God and be accepted of Him?” “What does God want of me?” These are questions that have arisen in the hearts of men since the beginning of time.

No matter who you are, there is something that God does want of you; but one obvious problem always presents itself in any attempt to please Him or offer some gift acceptable to Him, and that is the fact of man’s sin in relation to God’s absolute holiness. What intelligent man would deny the basic fact of sin? Positive evidence is displayed with inexorable regularity on the news pages of the whole world, told out in crimes of violence, greed, hatred, jealousy, rage, vice, lust, worldwide mistrust, and strife. Regardless of date, place, names of individuals, or other details that may vary, each story can be told in one short word: sin. And every person who is honest enough to admit it knows that this infectious virus has festered to some degree in his own heart and life.

The Bible makes it clear that sin has separated man from God and placed him under the penalty of God’s judgment: “As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans:3:10—emphasis added). God is holy and righteous, and, as the great Judge of all the earth, His verdict will be perfectly right for every man and within the scope of His law. This verdict has been announced for centuries from the pages of His Holy Word: “The wages of sin is death—the soul that sinneth, it must die.” Death is, of necessity, a complete separation from the Giver of Life.

To think that God can be bought with money, time, or work given to a church or to some good cause, or that His verdict can be swayed by “influence” of church or “saint” is to expect less of the Righteous Judge than you would demand of a man in a similar position upon earth. Surely God cannot be enticed to break His own law.

A prisoner stands before the court. The evidence has been heard and weighed. He is found guilty of a great crime, for which the law demands that the judge mete out a severe penalty. Can any amount of promises to reform through positive thinking, pledges to devote time and money to good causes, or proof of membership in a church and charitable societies ever alter the fact that the prisoner has committed a crime? Would these deeds nullify the penalty demanded by the law? Of course not! Nor can good works or church membership or the act of belonging to any other organization alter for one moment the fact that man is a sinner before God.

In a court of law there is no procedure for adding up the “good” the accused may have done to see if it will outweigh the crime for which he is being tried. The question before the court is simply, “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.” And it is the same in the eyes of God. No amount of good deeds can ever nullify the fact of sin; and the verdict of “guilty” has already been pronounced by God upon the whole race of man: “Now we know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans:3:19—emphasis added).

When the verdict of “guilty” has been pronounced in a court of law, if true justice is to be done, friends of the prisoner, no matter who they may be, must have no power to change the verdict of the judge or sway him in his duty under the law. Do you, then, believe that any church body or official can sway the judgments of Almighty God?

What vanity, therefore, to trust in some church (no matter what type it may be) or in some “saint” that someone may have named as influential to mediate your cause with Almighty God! Can He be influenced to go back upon the righteous penalty He himself has pronounced upon sin? Can He be persuaded to compromise with the undeniable fact of our guilt before Him?

Certainly basic logic leads us to the inevitable conclusion that if any man is to be accepted of God it must be upon a righteous basis—not on the basis of penance, prayers, rituals, good deeds, gifts of time and money, or the influence of a church or a “saint.” None of these can alter the fact of our sin and guilt before a righteous, holy God and are therefore only bribes attempting to pervert judgment. These attempts may work at times among men—but never with God.

The teachings of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament gospels very strongly emphasize this point. If there was one thing that Jesus constantly stressed during His life upon earth, it was the fact that God is neither deceived by nor pleased with an outward show of piety, even when it comes to religious attendance to ordinances that He himself gave to the Jews of old. In fact, God’s eyes pierce through all of these things to examine man’s very heart.

In the well-known Sermon on the Mount, Christ dealt not with externals but with those things that are the result of a right attitude of heart: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (emphasis added). That this is not the natural condition of man’s heart is quite evident, and the Bible reiterates this fact again and again in such verses as Jeremiah:17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart.” Thus the question of man’s sins (the fruit) must not only be settled in effecting reconciliation to God on a righteous basis, but sin itself (the root) must be put away and the “deceitful…and desperately wicked” heart made “pure” in the sight of God.

Did the religious rituals of the Jews bring about this pureness of heart? Here are the words of Christ spoken to a group of the religious leaders: “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?” (Matthew:12:34) “For out of the abundance of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew:15:19—emphasis added).

These words of Christ are an indictment of the heart of man as well as of the form, ritual, and hypocrisy of the religious world. Thus Christ proclaimed that because the heart of man is corrupt, his good works cannot be accepted by God. Even religious ordinances once given by God to the Jews as a type and example of truth that was to be revealed in Christ became perverted by their evil hearts, and the empty form that remained had become an abomination to God.

Jesus taught that the very essence of what God requires of man is this: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew:23:36-40Luke:10:25-28). God wants the true love and devotion of your heart!

But how can the heart of man, which contains the “root of sin,” as Christ describes it, produce the true love and devotion that God requires? And how can a condemned sinner be brought to the place of reconciliation and love before a Holy God? How can God be just and yet pardon the sinner? How can He dispense love and mercy to a sinful race without compromising righteousness and justice? The answer could only be devised by God’s infinite wisdom, and it is the most wonderful message ever heard by human ears.

God’s answer to this seeming dilemma is proclaimed by the gospel, His “good news” to man. The message is one of perfect love, not prostitution; of infinite mercy, but not compromise; of complete and absolute pardon, yet the strictest of justice. It is the marvelous story of infinite Love giving its all to win us back to Himself: the story of God himself, who came down to earth to inhabit a body of flesh and blood, was born of a virgin that as a man He might be our representative, and, as our representative, might take our place in judgment, paying the extreme penalty demanded against sin by His own holy Law. Nevertheless, many would fail to respond in repentance, submission, and love to the Christ of the cross, who stands with outstretched hands that still bear the nail prints, and pleads—“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew:11:28).

O the love that drew salvation’s plan!

O the grace that brought it down to man!

O the mighty gulf that God did span

At Calvary!

God wants you to bow before Him just as you are, a guilty lost sinner, accepting gratefully and sincerely the pardon and forgiveness He offers in the person of Christ. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son: that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John:3:16).

Surely, it is evident that what God wants of you is not some outward form of religious ritual but is instead an inner reality. He doesn’t want your penance but the complete submission of your will; not your gift of any material thing but the true love and devotion of your heart. Yes, our hearts are corrupt by nature, and it is only by the “new birth” through faith in Christ on the basis of His having paid the full penalty for our sins that God can forgive us, create within us a clean heart, and accept us in the person of His Son. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John:3:3).

Oh, the wonder of God’s salvation! Our submission to God is not, in the final analysis, the giving up of anything but rather the receiving of the infinite “everything” that He offers to us in Christ! God wants to bestow His love, His riches, His grace, His infinite blessings in an endless flood upon you forever and forever! Won’t you right now stop trying to pacify God with religious ritual or some gift of yours to Him, and just by faith accept Christ as your Savior, surrendering control of your will into His hand, and giving Him the true love and devotion of your heart so that He can fill you with Himself?

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ...That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For 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” (Ephesians:2:4-9). “Mercy…God’s great love…making us alive…the exceeding riches of His grace…His kindness…[being] saved…through faith…as the gift of God…[throughout] the ages to come…”!

Only the God who has communicated to us through His Word, who is the Creator of the universe, has provided for His rebellious creatures a way for them to be reconciled to Himself, a way for them to live with Him forever. No other God or god or Supreme Deity or Force worshiped among men has offered himself or itself sacrificially for the salvation of his creatures. 

No other God claims to be love and then thoroughly demonstrates that consummate virtue by subjecting Himself to a humiliating death upon a cross as He pays the full penalty for the sins of mankind. 

The penalty had to be paid in order to satisfy Divine justice. It involved not only Christ’s physical death but the experience of the Son being separated from the Father. The dread of that event was foreseen by Jesus as He knelt before the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew:26:36-39). “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke:22:44).

In the 18th Century, the hymn writer Charles Wesley wrote these incredibly wonderful words: “Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” That act of love is beyond our ability to fathom, yet it is even more incomprehensible to understand why anyone would not want to receive it. In John chapter 15 verse 13, Jesus informs us of what that act means even for sinful humanity: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John:15:13). Who would not want to be His friend for all eternity?

By Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon

Monday, August 3, 2020

Guest Post: A Garden, Not a Factory

'A Garden, Not a Factory' 

From ‘Why Grace Changes Everything’ by Pastor Chuck Smith

Have you ever considered the vast difference between "works" and "fruit"? "Works" suggests a factory complete with pressures, deadlines, and the constant need to produce. But "fruit" pictures a peaceful, tranquil garden, a place where we are inclined to stay and drink in the beauty while we enjoy each other's company.

It's important to realize that God doesn't come to His factory looking for products. He comes to His garden to enjoy its fruit. The gospel of grace invites us to leave behind the smog and pressure of a factory-like life of works and instead bear the fruit that God desires to see in the garden of our lives.

The Natural Result of Relationship

Galatians 3:2,3 is a critical passage for those who desire to live in a way that pleases God. Paul writes, "This only would I learn of you, received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"

Notice the apostle is comparing two things: • the Spirit, which is related to faith; • works, which are related to the flesh. Whenever we get into the realm of works, we are dealing with the flesh. Whenever we are in the realm of the Spirit, we are dealing with faith. The Spirit and faith are related, as are works and the flesh.

Someone may say, "But Chuck, we must do works for the Lord." No, we mustn't. There is not one thing that I can do in my flesh that will please God. On the other hand, faith always produces fruit. If you are involved in works, then you are relying on the flesh. But if you are walking by faith with Jesus Christ, the Spirit is producing fruit in your life. Fruit isn't something you are generating because you think you have to; fruit is the natural result of relationship. Look at the luscious fruit hanging on a peach tree. The peaches aren't out there struggling and working day by day trying to get ripe; all they have to do is hang in there. Ripening is the natural product of relationship. As long as they are abiding, they are going to bring forth sweet fruit.

This is true of our own experience as well. If we are truly abiding in Christ - which is a position of faith - then fruit will come forth from the relationship. If there is no fruit in my life, then the relationship must be questioned and even challenged.

That is why Paul tells us, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (II Corinthians 13:5). Jesus told us that there is such a thing as a wolf in sheep's clothing. You can look like a Christian, act like a Christian, and talk like a Christian - but grandma, what big teeth you have! You may have all the outward appearances of a sheep but in reality be a wolf.

So how are we going to know who's who? Jesus said, "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20, emphasis added). We are called to examine our lives in order to determine what kind of fruit we're bearing. If the fruit is bad, then there is something wrong with our relationship, which means there is something wrong with our faith. A vital relationship of faith in Jesus Christ will bring forth fruit - without fail.

Our Big Mistake

One of our biggest problems is that we tend to be more interested in what we do than in what we are, while God is more interested in what we are than in what we do. He looks for fruit; we try to produce works.

Sadly, through the years we have all heard things like, "You ought to be doing these works for the Lord; you ought to be doing that work for God." We are always being exhorted and pressed into works for the kingdom. So we get out and start doing a work for God because the pastor or the committee has asked us to do it.

Maybe it is calling on visitors to the church when God hasn't called us to be a caller. I know some people who are petrified by visiting the homes of strangers. When they go to a door and knock, they're fervently praying, "Lord, please don't let them be home tonight." Visitation isn't natural for them. It is a forced effort, a work of the flesh, which they soon come to resent. They hate it and begin to drag their heels. So the committee chairman calls them up and says, "We missed you last Tuesday in our calling night. We want to make sure you are there next Tuesday night." They grudgingly respond, "Okay," and the downward spiral continues.

That's how you get pushed into molds for which God did not create you. You are forced into unnatural positions and you begin to chafe under your service to God. But God does not want you to give Him anything that you are going to gripe about. God can't stand "Christian griping." It's an insult to Him. Even I hate it when people gripe about what they have done for me. It makes me feel stupid and foolish. Who asked them to do it, anyhow? If there's something you just don't want to do, don't do it. Don't go out and do some magnanimous deed and then gripe and complain about it. You would be better off to do nothing.

Leave the calling to those who love to do it. There are people who are thrilled to talk to strangers. They get bored just sitting at home and they can't wait to strike up conversations with people they've never met. That is their nature. It's natural for them - and that is the key. When it is natural it is in the realm of fruit; when it's pressured it is in the realm of works. God always equips us to do whatever He has called us to do, and it will be natural for us to do it.

Many people feel like second-rate Christians because they can't do what others can. They run into a believer who says, "This past week, praise the Lord, I witnessed to five people and all five of them received Jesus." Oh man, thinks the person not blessed with the gift of evangelism, I am a horrible witness to the Lord. I didn't witness to anybody. I am such a failure. He is made to feel guilty because he wasn't out collaring people and asking them if they knew the four spiritual laws.

Why are some people so effective in evangelism? Because it is natural for them. God has endowed and equipped them for the work. Not everybody in the body is the mouth, however, and the mouth couldn't operate effectively unless there was a brain behind it and feet to carry it where it needed to go. We should not feel guilty because we do not have the same ministry or effectiveness as others. The body works as a unit, and God is the one who has assigned each of us our place in the body.

God wants you to do what He has naturally endowed you to do. The fruit of the Christian life blossoms from you naturally as you abide in Jesus Christ through your faith in Him. Jesus said, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8). God wants you to be extremely fruitful for Him. That fruit can come forth only as you abide in Christ - and that is a position of faith.

No Such Thing as Fleshly Faith

Matthew's Gospel tells us that one day many people will come to Jesus, telling Him of all the works they did for Him, and the Master will reply, "I never knew you" (Matthew 7:23). The Lord doesn't recognize works of the flesh; He never has.

Remember when God said to Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac... and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of" (Genesis 22:2)? The Lord's comment sounds a little odd - after all, Abraham did have another son, Ishmael, who was at least 14 years older than Isaac. What did God mean, "Take now thy son, thine only son"? The answer is, Ishmael was a work of the flesh. He was not the son of promise; he was not the son of faith. Ishmael was a product of the flesh. God refused to recognize Ishmael because he was the work of the flesh. God recognized only His work of the Spirit, Isaac, the child of faith. Therefore He said to Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac."

God never recognizes or rewards the works of our flesh. On the other hand, He jealously desires that the fruit of the Spirit be increasingly characteristic of our lives. The fifteenth chapter of John explains how believers bear fruit. Jesus said, 'Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me" (John 15:4). Jesus placed the emphasis not upon what we do, but upon what we are. What comes forth from our lives is the result of our relationship with Him. We can't have a true, right relationship with the Lord without bringing forth fruit. If there is no fruit - for "by their fruits ye shall know them" - then we had better reexamine our relationship.

Renegade Fruit Inspectors

God did a marvelous work in your fife by His Holy Spirit. When you were still a sinner, God loved you. And when by faith you called out to Him, He justified you of every wrong thing you had ever done. God wiped your slate clean. He obliterated the past so thoroughly that He made it as though it never existed. That is what the term "justified" means.

The moment you received Jesus Christ by faith - before you paid one penny tithe, before you did one thing - God took all of the black marks against you and wiped them out. Because of your simple belief in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, God justified you of all your past. Because of your belief, God imputed to your account the righteousness of Jesus. Your relationship with Him began by believing.

This is all very basic, but somehow we often forget it. Sometimes believers criticize other believers or find fault. They say, "Do you know what they are doing? This is terrible. They call themselves Christians, yet they are doing this and that. They are not living up to the standard - why, they even go down to the beach. That is horrible!" Now, what are such believers doing? They have set themselves up as judges. They have become renegade fruit inspectors. They are judging the quality of another man's servant. Paul had something to say about that; he wrote, "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth" (Romans 14:4).

It is much easier to please God than man. To please God, we only need to believe in Him and trust in Him. That is the gospel of grace. If you were serving me, I might judge your service. I might say, "You are a lousy servant. I don't know why I keep you around." If you were doing something that displeased me, I would be the one to tell you, "Look, I don't like the way you're drying the dishes; you are leaving too much water on them and you're putting them away still wet. I don't like to get a glass out of the cupboard that still has moisture in it. That is where germs are bred. Now dry them completely." On the other hand, I might say, "You are a wonderful servant. You do such great work! It is a pleasure to have you with me!" In either case, I would be the one to judge your service, not an outsider. The truth is, I am not your master and I can't direct how you are to serve. You must stand before your own master and I can't judge your service. I can't say, "What a lousy servant you are." I have no right to judge your service to God. God is the one you are serving, and before your master you either stand or fall. Paul goes on to say, "God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4).

Don't worry that some people can't see how you're ever going to make it. I have found that God has been much easier to please than man. It is an exercise in futility to try to please everybody. Even if you manage it, someone is going to fault you because you are a people pleaser. It's just not possible to please everybody. What's beautiful is that we don't have to please everybody. All we have to do is please God. And what do we have to do to please Him? Just believe in Him and trust in Him. We don't please God by all of our works and feverish activities. We please God when we believe in Him and trust in Him. That is the gospel of grace.

It's My Pleasure!

Faith pleases the Lord and faith produces relationship. The relationship produces the fruit. I don't just sit and be pure and holy and righteous and smile and be sweet and show love all day long. I am caught up in activities, but activities which are not work. It is fantastic to be able to say, "You know, I am doing exactly what I want to do; in fact, I'm doing what I love to do!" It isn't a work, it isn't a favor, it is simply something I enjoy.

Years ago when I served in a denomination I would go to conventions and see some of my buddies. We would go out for dinner and I would start talking about a scripture that the Lord had opened up to my heart. "Oh, come on, Smith - shop talk," they'd say, and change the subject. I would reply, "What do you mean, 'shop talk'? This is my life! There is nothing I would rather talk about. There is nothing more exciting to discuss."

When you are doing what you love to do, it is not a work. You are not in a shop. You are not laboring in a factory. Your activity is the fruit of relationship. When the love of God fills your heart, all you want to do is talk about Him: His Word, His goodness, His love. You don't go around looking for brownie points just because you have been doing what you like to do. You don't look to be rewarded for what is natural to you (even though God will reward you for the fruit that comes forth from your life). You do it because you want to do it, because it is your nature to do it, because God has put it in your heart to do it. The fact is, you feel as if you would die if you didn't do it.

"For the love of Christ constraineth me," wrote Paul (II Corinthians 5:14). "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (I Corinthians 9:16). I am sure all of us have had experiences like Jeremiah, who was thrown into a dungeon for declaring the word of the Lord to Israel's kings. As he was sitting in the dark he said, in effect, "That's it; I am through. God, here is my resignation. Don't ever ask me to speak in Your name again. I am not going to do it. Don't lay Your word upon my heart anymore. Lord, I am through, I have resigned. Do You understand? It is over. I'm never going to speak again in the name of the Lord. You treat me like this and let me get thrown in a dungeon. You don't take care of me. But it's all right; I am through!" (see Jeremiah 20:9).

Jeremiah was stewing. He was angry. Yet he soon confessed, "But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay" (verse 9). He could do nothing but speak. He had to speak. He didn't have to force himself as if it were a work; in fact, he tried to force himself not to speak, but spoke anyway. Why? It was natural; it was the fruit of his relationship.

Griping Is Not a Fruit of the Spirit

God does not run factories; He grows gardens. He is not interested in your works; He desires to enjoy your fruit. He does not want you to depend upon your flesh; He calls you to rely upon His Spirit. As Paul reminds us, having begun in the Spirit, we cannot be made perfect in our flesh (see Galatians 3:3). We cannot add works to our faith and improve the relationship, even though many people endeavor to do exactly that.

So many times people begin by believing in the Lord, loving the Lord, serving the Lord, and having a glorious time. The joy of the Spirit is theirs. Then some brethren show up and begin to lay heavy trips on them. "Hey brother, if you are really a Christian, you need to be doing this. How come you guys are doing that? Man, you mean you guys call yourselves Christians? Why, you don't even do this." They start laying down all of these heavy requirements so that Christianity becomes a grind. It ceases to be natural and a delight and begins to be a chore, a job, a work.

When will we learn? We cannot improve on the righteousness given to us by God. Any works-based relationship soon becomes a grind in which we lose the joy of our relationship with the Lord. Suddenly it's a duty, an obligation, an onerous task. Before long, we begin griping. The joy of the Lord departs from our walk. We no longer enjoy freedom, but labor under a yoke of bondage. We think, I had better say my prayers tonight, or I will really be in trouble. Oh, but I am so tired. I don't want to get out of bed. I suppose I'll have to, but - oh, man, it's so cold! I am sure God says, "Oh, shut up and go to sleep! Don't bother Me in that kind of a mood. Who asked you to call, anyway?"

You might think that if anyone should have mastered this lesson, it would be ministers of the gospel. Yet there are men who would have us believe they minister the things of the Spirit by the works of the flesh. They will describe what great consecration it takes to have their kind of ministry - what tremendous personal sacrifices a person must make to have such power. They will tell of their commitment and their fasting and their consecration and will lay it all out as though their works have achieved for them some level of spirituality that moved God to entrust them with His power. God can't trust everybody with this power, they say, but they have earned it. Oftentimes they actually say things like, "I went into the other room, closed the door, and said, 'God, I am not going to come out of here until I have the power.' And I stayed in there and fasted and prayed until I got it." They speak as though their righteousness earned them God's favor. But it didn’t; it was only a work. And God will never honor or recognize a work of the flesh.

Paul said, "Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Galatians 3:4,5). A true minister gives all the glory to the Lord. "Let your light so shine before men," Jesus said, "that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

We're All Invited

The works of God are not wrought because of our righteousness. They are wrought by grace through faith. And that means that any of us can do them. You don't have to be some specially anointed kind of instrument. Let your life be as a garden where God can come to enjoy the fruit you are producing as you abide in Christ.

James says that Elijah was a man of passions just like us (see James 5:17). He became discouraged, he got upset, he got angry, he blew it. Yet he prayed and it didn't rain for three years. Elijah was not some superholy kind of prophet. He wasn't a mystic. He was a person exactly like us, with the same kind of feelings we have - the same kind of discouragements. Yet God listened to him because of his faith. That same potential is yours. All it takes is believing the Lord and trusting in Him. Since you've begun in the Spirit, you must continue in the Spirit. Having begun in faith, you must continue in faith. Don't degenerate into works; don't let your Christian experience become a bore. Don't become a factory worker, but let your life be as a garden where God can come to enjoy the fruit you are producing as you abide in Christ by faith.

A Garden, Not a Factory (Chapter 6) 

From the book ‘Why Grace Changes Everything’ 

by Pastor Chuck Smith

Read the whole book in a free PDF here:

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Guest Post: The More Sure Word

Although Peter was one of the eyewitnesses, he does not ask that we believe only his testimony. He says that we should examine evidence even stronger than eyewitness accounts. He says we have “the more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19).

For over a thousand years, holy, godly men wrote down
the inspirations that God sent to their hearts, telling of One whom God would send to be the Savior of the world. They listed His birthplace, the circumstances of His birth, and the events of His life. They even predicted how He would suffer and the way He would die. Finally, they wrote of His resurrection.

Examining the records of these holy men of God, we find over 300 stipulations concerning the Messiah and what He would accomplish in His birth, life, death, and resurrection. It is fair to ask about the possibility of one person fulfilling all of the requirements by just “being in the right place at the right time.” There is a way to compute the chance factor of this occurring.

The scientific “Law of Compound Probabilities” allows us to accurately calculate the chance of any prophesied event taking place. Each stipulation added to the prediction lessens the chance of the event’s occurrence, because the possibility of several details coinciding is more remote than the possibility of one event occurring alone. When 300 details are considered, the chance factor becomes astronomical. Let’s look at the Law of Compound Probability by starting with just eight of the biblical prophecies pertaining to the Messiah and calculating the possibility of one man fulfilling all eight of those requirements.

For instance, Micah 5:2 said Christ would be born in the city of Bethlehem. The chance of an individual being born in Bethlehem is easy to determine by taking the average population of Bethlehem since the time of the prophecy in about 725 B.C.—it turns out to be about 7,000—and comparing it with the average population of the earth—about 700 million. Divide the second by the first, and you find there is one chance in 100,000 of being born in Bethlehem.

Then Malachi 3:1 said there would be a forerunner who would go before Christ to prepare His way. How many men have had a forerunner prepare the hearts of the people to receive them? Though I can’t think of any, let’s say one in 1,000. 

Zechariah 9:9 said Christ would make His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. How many of the great rulers of history have made their triumphant entries on donkeys? I don’t know of any others, but let’s say one in 1,000 again, to keep it conservative. Most triumphant entries are made on something like a majestic stallion or in a great chariot—certainly not on donkeys. But Zechariah said, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” 

Zechariah also said He would be betrayed for thirty  pieces of silver by a friend (Zechariah 11:12). How many men in history have been betrayed by a friend for exactly thirty pieces of silver? Again, keeping our estimates low, let’s say one in 10,000.

Then Zechariah 11:13 added that the thirty pieces of silver would be used to buy a potter’s field. What are the chances of that coincidence? Let’s say one in 100,000, though I don’t know of any others in history. Isaiah 53:7 says that, although He was innocent, He would make no defense. How many innocent men refuse to answer in their own defense when brought before a court? An innocent man falsely accused wants everyone to know about his innocence—that’s a natural reaction. Still conservative, we’ll say only one man in 10,000 would be silent in the face of false charges. Finally, Psalm 22 said that both His hands and feet would be pierced. On the average, how many men could you find with both hands and feet pierced? We’ll say one in 10,000.

Multiplying these chance factors according to the Law of Compound Probability, we establish how many men we would have to look at before we found one who met all eight stipulations. The number of men would be 10 to the twenty-eighth power, or 10 followed by 28 zeroes. And ours were just conservative estimates! (We can subtract the total estimated population factor of 10 to the eleventh power, but  that still makes the chance factor one in 10 to the seventeenth power.)

If you had that many silver dollars, you could cover the entire state of Texas with a layer of silver dollars two feet thick—and Texas is a big state! If you marked one of these silver dollars and let someone roam through them blindfolded, his chance of coming up with that marked silver dollar would be the same as the chance of one person just happening to fulfill the eight requirements laid out in the prophecies we looked at. But there were over 300 stipulations contained in the prophecies! Let’s examine the chance of 16 requirements being fulfilled by one man.

Assuming the chance factors for another eight prophecies would be fairly equal to the factors of the prophecies we examined, there would be one in 10 to the forty-fifth power, or 10 followed by 45 zeroes. This is a number so vast that if you had this many silver dollars, you could make a ball of silver dollars with a diameter which would be 30 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Can you imagine marking one of these silver dollars and letting some fellow dive into the pile blindfolded? Can you imagine him grabbing the dollar you marked, just by chance? The coincidence of this is the same as the chance of Jesus fulfilling 16 of the prophetic requirements, just by accident. And again, remember, He fulfilled over 300!

Increase the number to 48 requirements. Now the chance factor increases to one in 10 followed by 157 zeroes, a number so huge our minds can’t really conceive it. There’s no way to make a ball this size of silver dollars. Even if there were enough silver dollars to make it, the universe is just too small. Let’s compare the number to one of the smallest things we know—an electron. If two and a half quintillion electrons were placed single file, the line of them would only be an inch long. That would be 2.5 x 10 to the fifteenth power. To count these electrons would take one person nineteen million years of counting day and night at the rate of 250 per minute. Imagine how many electrons there are in a one inch cube—two and a half quintillion times two and a half quintillion times two and a half quintillion. To count that many would take 6,859,000,000,000,000,000,000 years!

Ten to the one hundred and fifty-seventh power electrons make a solid ball the estimated size of our universe, which has a radius of approximately six billion light years. In fact, if you could go into mass production and somehow start manufacturing these balls at the rate of about five hundred per minute, you could go on making them for six billion years (the estimated amount of time that this universe has been in existence) and you could do that 100,000,000,000 times over. Now if you marked just one of the electrons you had used to make the balls and asked someone to find it, the chance that it would be found by random selection is the same chance that Jesus had of fulfilling forty-eight of the requirements set forth in prophecy just by accident. And Christ fulfilled over three hundred!

That is why Peter said: I was an eyewitness; I saw it all happen; I heard it all. But if you don’t believe me, look at something more sure than what I’ve seen and heard: evidence that is stronger than an eyewitness account. Look at the evidence of God’s sure word of prophecy fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

It’s Time for Your Verdict!
In the prophecies mentioned, I didn’t include Daniel 9:25, in which Daniel said: “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be [sixty-nine sevens]…” (or 483 years). Because Daniel was computing with the Babylonian calendar, we refer to a year with just 360 days, so it was 173,880 days from the time of the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah, according to Daniel’s prophecy. Artaxerxes, the Persian king, was the one to command the restoration of Jerusalem in the year 445 B.C. on March 14. We know this because the Persian record has been preserved by God so we can be sure of the exact date.

Starting then, on March 14, 445 B.C. and marking the next 173,880 days off the calendar, we come to April 6, 32 A.D. This happened to be a Sunday, the day that Jesus made His triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem.

Luke 19:41 tells us that Jesus wept over Jerusalem that day as He beheld it. Now how many men made a triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem that day? Just one man, the one who fulfilled this and all of the other prophecies concerning the Messiah…Jesus Christ!

Now you must make your decision based on the evidence set out for you. Jesus asked, “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42). Now you must answer that important question.

If your verdict is: “Yes, Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah,” then you should make Him the Lord of your life. There is something very interesting about your decision concerning Jesus Christ. Though you are the judge, what you conclude will not change HIS destiny at all. Your decision determines your destiny because you will eventually be judged by your decision concerning Jesus Christ. He is what He is, whether you believe it or not.

John said, “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11–12).

It’s time for your verdict. You have examined the evidence. What will you do with Jesus who is called the Christ?

Taken from the chapter "The More Sure Word"