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The Uniqueness of Christ

June 15th, 2017

As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Cor. 1:18-20 ESV)

Here is a jewel of scriptural insight, a principle that should guide us to understand the Scripture more fully. The entire Bible points toward Christ - either in prophecy and in examples or “types” in the Old Testament or in retrospect, experience, and anticipation in the New Testament. He is the essential Person of our redemption and of our life, and the main character of the book. He is the One through whom God works in our lives today.

The unity of the Bible: There are some who view the Bible as a collection of the random thoughts of lesser deities, superstitious tidbits for reflection of varying levels of inspiration or usefulness. But here is proclaimed a principle that clearly refutes that: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” Everything that God did in the Old Testament pointed to Christ - “These testify of me” said Christ of the Old Testament (John 5:39).

Christ said that He was the “Truth” (John 14:6), not that He spoke the truth but that He was in His very nature Truth itself.

The singleness of the work of God: God has only one work of redemption. It is multi-faceted in its outworking, properly called the “manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10), but the Redeemer is One and only One. All the promises of God are channeled into our lives through Christ, and through our faith in Him. God has sent only one Savior. He establishes only one Church - the Church Invisible comprised of all true believers in Christ. And though there are redeemed through the ages who were people of faith before the gospel of Christ was preached, even their salvation is mediated by Christ.

The ‘Amen’ is in Him as well: The word “Amen” meant the affirmation of the promises of God, and, for Christ, the acceptance of His role in the Father’s plan for salvation. There is solemnness in this fact. Christ called Himself “the Amen” (Rev. 3:14), meaning that He has taken on the responsibility of our redemption. It does not say that he said “Amen” to the plans of God, as though He merely agreed to them. It says He was the Amen, meaning that He Himself worked his salvation.

Looking at the sin of the world, God’s heart was burdened.

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no man,
and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
and his righteousness upheld him.
He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing… (Isaiah 59:15-17 ESV, See also Isaiah 63:5)

Fullness of Redemption Is in Christ! And here is, I believe, Paul’s main point he was making to the Corinthians - that because Christ is the Amen, because all of the promises of God are fulfilled in Him, this means that Christ offers full redemption. Every believer should be thrilled with this truth! All sin is forgiven in Him. Every soul, no matter how affected we may be from sin, can find full redemption in Christ. We have fullness in Him not only of life after death but of life in the Spirit today.

The secret of living abundantly and joyfully is knowing Christ, trusting Him, submitting to Him, worshiping Him, following Him. The Phillips Translation says it this way:

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom Silvanus, Timothy and I have preached to you, is himself no doubtful quantity, he is the divine “yes”. Every promise of God finds its affirmative in him, and through him can be said the final amen, to the glory of God.

We are helped in our understanding and spiritual growth by godly teachers of the Bible, but the basic experience of the believer is with Christ, and not with any other teacher. Simply taking His Word and listening to Him speak to our hearts, and meditating on its truth, and speaking to Him, opens for us the very doors of heaven. And God delights to bless people who trust in Christ with joy, wisdom, and abundance of life.

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Having a Confident Conscience

June 14th, 2017

For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you… Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. (2 Corinthians 1:12,15 ESV)

We can live confidently in Christ, our consciences cleaned by His grace and guided by His Spirit. “Conscience” is that aspect of the human soul that knows right from wrong. The Bible has much to say about the matter. Consider these few verses:

  • Our consciences bear witness to the fact that originally we were made in the image of God, but that image is scarred because of sin. We do not perfectly follow our consciences. “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them” (Rom. 2:15). They defend us one moment in that we have a conscience, and accuse us the next because we do not follow them all the time.
  • Our consciences are imperfect, so they they are not the same as the Holy Spirit of God who resides within the believer. “Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2). We each often feel guilty for the wrong reasons and do not feel guilty when we should. (See also 1 Cor. 23-29)
  • To regularly neglect our conscience will lead to a shipwrecked faith: “holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith” (1 Tim. 1:19 NIV)
  • Yet the more we walk with God in fellowship, the more informed and healthy our consciences are. “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5 NIV).

Paul had just finished writing about the overwhelming pressures he felt in his life and ministries that caused him to even despair of life (2 Cor. 1:8-11) . God had delivered him - not only from the deadly peril but also from the overwhelming fear that he had felt in its presence. In the verse above he explained the reason for his confidence, and laid down for us a principle of life - how to live confidently with a clear conscience.

Here is what he stressed:

He had listened to and heeded the Spirit’s voice: Above the deafening din of the world’s noise, he had learned the discipline of hearing from God. He meditated on the Word and communed the Spirit. He had worshiped Christ in his heart. His conscience was shaped not merely from his childhood memories, not merely from the voice of his teachers as a young man, and not from his fears or superstitions, but from the voice of the living God and the purity of His Word.

He had shunned worldly “wisdom”: The word “wisdom” appeared in 1 Corinthians, and it was apparently a word used quite often in the church of Corinth. Paul wrote to them:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Cor. 2:6-7 NIV)

The spiritual person may have many friends who are less spiritual than he, but he follows only one voice and only one Master. He distinguishes between the ways and values and thoughts of the world and the thoughts of God. We cannot be spiritual if we have never learned to say “no” to the world and to its influences - especially to its false “wisdom.”

He behaved with simplicity, godly sincerity, and according to the grace of God: The complexity of the world’s thinking that says, “on the one hand” and then “but on the other hand,” that knows neither pure good nor admits to pure evil, was cast away from his mind. Instead he walked in simplicity of heart, eschewing all and any impure motives, and in sincerity. Grace was the value he held, which meant that he knew he himself was undeserving of God’s favor, but that God poured this out freely through Jesus Christ to all who believed.

In this grace and simplicity he engaged others lovingly and kindly. As he wrote to the Colossians, “Him [Jesus] we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28 NKJV). He had come through the fire of trials with the life of God and the grace of Christ guiding his thoughts and every decision, relationship, and value.

Grace meant that he had not considered himself perfect, but rather his direction was Godward and he was quick to confess his failures and live daily in the reality of the grace of God. He refused to live under the illusion of his own moral perfection or perfect determination. He knew that he did not always know what to do in and of himself alone, but he trusted that God did and would guide and enable him to stand. As he wrote to the Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)

This is God’s goal and plan for every Christian, that we might in simplicity of obedience, in freedom of conscience, and in the joy of the Spirit. The two Christian disciplines that we should have are to daily confess our sins and to surrender to the Lordship of Christ - forsaking the world and following the Christ.

You can have a clean conscience if you will confess your faults to Christ and commit to follow Him daily.

This was the blessing that he wished to share with the Corinthians - the Christian joy of confident living in purity of conscience with the Lord.

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