Monday, February 21, 2011

Jesus Christ, our propitiation

Propitiation,  is a word that many liberal Christians do not like at all. What is propitiation? The Greek word is “hilasterion” which means appeasing or expiating. Another meaning for the word propitiation can also be mercy seat. Paul when writing to the Romans expounded on why the wrath of God would fall on all of mankind who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. He also makes the point that no one can be saved by the works of the law. The law could make no one righteous before God. The rabbinical teachers of Paul’s days taught that by keeping the law i. e. the Torah with it’s 613 commandments would save a person. Paul makes it very clear that no one can keep the law perfectly and that righteousness before God cannot be attained by the works of the law. “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Rom 3:20.  Righteousness can only come by faith i.e. believing in God and His promises. There is not one righteous, no not one”. Paul writes: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…” Romans 3:9.  Since there is none righteous before God and the works of the law cannot save a person, how than is someone saved? This is where the word propitiation comes in, God in His mercy and grace provided the atonement necessary to appease Him and justify the believer. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Rom 3:21-26
“whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by His blood.” The phrase “by His blood” is to be taken in immediate connection with “propitiation.” Christ, through His expiatory death, is the personal means by whom God shows the mercy of His justifying grace to the sinner who believes. His “blood” stands for the voluntary giving up of His life, by the shedding of His blood in expiatory sacrifice, under Divine judgment righteously due to us as sinners, faith being the sole condition on man’s part. Liberal Christians are very uneasy about this wrath of God and that God needed to be appeased. Some of them even go so far to say that the God of the OT is an angry and blood thirsty God and so different from the God of the NT. Nothing could be further from the truth. The God of the OT is the same God of the NT. “For I am the LORD, I do not change…Mal 3:6. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Heb 13:8. God who is a just and righteous God has to punish sin, He cannot compromise or overlook sin. Otherwise He would not be a just Judge. In the OT before Christ, God judged people, nations and sin either directly or indirectly. In some cases God used Israel as His instrument through which the judgment cam
e to the pagan nations that surrounded Israel. In other instances He brought the wrath directly i.e. the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the rebellion of Korah and others recorded for us in the OT. In the OT times God gave the nations many warnings through His prophets about His judgment if they would not turn from their sins. God was and is long-suffering, take for instance the Amorites, God waited 400 years before He judged them for their iniquities. “Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. “And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. “Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. “But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Gen 15:13-16.   God gave this prophesy to Abram before his son Isaac was even born. We need to keep one thing in mind when unbelievers make the argument that God is a blood thirsty cruel god, who loves to punish people and wipe them out. The nations that God punished in the OT, were the most vile and brutal people. They sacrificed their children on altars to their many gods or burned them. These pagan nations did many ungodly practices that offended the true and living God. Throughout the OT we can read about the judgments of God against these nations and their vile and evil practices, which are also recorded in secular historical writings.

When we come to the NT, God through His Son Jesus the Messiah judged sin once and for all. The sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross paid for the sin of the world. There were no more blood sacrifices needed to atone for the sins of the people of Israel as instructed in the law given to Moses. God provided the sacrifice needed to appease Him and justice was served by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. God did what Abraham told Isaac on mount Moriah,  when God tested him and ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son. “But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”  Gen 22:7, 8.  This is a beautiful picture of what God did 2000 years later on the very same spot. God provided the sacrifice, His son as a propitiation for the sins of the people.  The blood of Jesus was sufficient to pay the penalty of sin. The instituted blood sacrifices of animals were done away with, they  could only cover sins, the blood of Jesus took away the sins once and for all. The price was paid in full. Believers in Jesus Christ are justified before God by faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. God looks at the believers through the blood of Christ and the believer is declared righteous before God because of what Jesus did for them. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves.
It is the imputed righteousness of Christ that is imputed onto the believer. There is nothing that anyone can do to appease God, not by works or any other means. People must come through Jesus Christ, the propitiator, the appeaser that justifies the believer. For those who do not believe in the wrath of God and object the propitiation of Jesus,  they will have no excuse at the time of the divine judgment. God has paid a very high price to redeem mankind, the precious blood of Christ.  Those who reject will be judged accordingly and the wrath of God abides on them. These are not my words, but the words of Jesus: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"You Must Be Born Again"

“This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:2, 3
Nicodemus came to Jesus because he knew in his heart that Jesus was someone special, nothing that he had ever seen or heard before. He saw the miracles Jesus performed, he heard Him teach with authority. He knew Jesus was no ordinary man, he saw the glory of God in Him. What did Jesus mean when He said to Nicodemus,  “you must be born again?” I’m sure many people have heard Christians use that term, “born again”. What does it mean to be born again? Nicodemus ask Jesus that very question,  not clearly understanding what Jesus was talking about.  Jesus was talking about a spiritual rebirth. Every person that is born, is born of the flesh with a sin nature due to the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden. The result of their disobedience was sin entering the world and sin brought forth death i.e. spiritual death. Mankind was separated from God because of the inherent sin nature that is passed on throughout the generations. The Bible speaks of iniquity and that all were all born in iniquity. What is the definition of iniquity?  1) lack of justice or righteousness; wickedness; injustice.  2) a wicked act; sin. King David wrote about iniquity in the Psalms. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” Ps 51:5 God also spoke about iniquity when He gave the ten commandments:  “…you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Exodus 20:5, 6. This passage make it pretty clear,  that those who hate God and reject Him have a curse upon them, from one generation to another. There is a lot of truth to this, character defects, personalty and behaviors get passed on from generation to generation. Many times we hear of people ending up doing the same things previous family generations have done. For example, the son that had an alcoholic father, has a tendency to be an alcoholic himself. The children of a dysfunctional family have the tendency to be dysfunctional themselves when they start a family. People that are born out of wedlock, most likely end up doing the same thing, bringing forth children born out of wedlock, just as their parent did. Divorces are another example, many children of parents that got divorced end up in divorce themselves. These tendencies get passed on from one generation to another and it is an endless cycle unless that cycle gets broken. The good news is that this generational curse can be broken when a person turns to God. The passage in Exodus states that He will visit the iniquity of people from generation to generation, but only to those who hate Him. “…but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Ex 20:6.
  Once a person turns to God, by repentance i.e. change of mind, that person has broken that endless cycle. He or she has becomes a new person, old things have passed away and all things have become new.  There are countless testimonies of people that have come to faith in Jesus Christ that had a life transforming experience and not only that, many times other family members will come to faith in Christ because of their radical transformation. I am no exception, I grew up in a non believing family and I inherited many of these iniquities/tendencies. My two grandfathers were alcoholics, my three uncles were alcoholic and I ended up being an alcoholic. I had the tendencies to become an alcoholic and I did. There are many other things that I did. Today I can see certain family members displaying the same behaviors and they have not changed, they go around in circles blaming everybody else or society.  So many say, I cannot help myself,  I am an addict or this is how I was made. I don’t believe that they were made that way. There is a way out to break free from this inherent curse. The way to true freedom is through Jesus Christ, He can change the life of anybody, if they are willing to come to Him and submit their will. Most people are self willed, they want to do as they please,  without being accountable for their actions. Actions have consequences and unless the cycle is broken, people will go around in circles doing the same things over and over again, just as the once that came before them, and as the once following them. Jesus wants to set people free from all of this bondage, this heavy load upon peoples lives. Jesus can break this viscous cycle. If you are reading this and find yourself in bondage to sin or in a seemingly endless cycle with no hope or end in sight, may I say that there is? The way out is through Jesus Christ the Savior of mankind who calls you out of this lifestyle of bondage, pain and grief. He wants to set you free from all of this and break the cycle. God loves you and He wants you to return to Him.  Turn to Him now and He will shower you with His love and will embrace you into His loving arms. It is never too late to turn, to turn away from those things that offend God. He will change you life, as He has changed mine and the life of countless others. He will give the believers a life of abundance.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
A lifestyle of sin steals the person of true joy. Sin is deceiving and may look inciting for awhile, but in the end it stings, making life miserable. That is not what God wants for us. He wants us to be free from the heavy load of sin in our lives. Whatever you may be facing in your life right now, turn it over to Jesus and He will set you free. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My personal testimony and how Jesus transformed my life.

May 14th 2006, a Sunday morning that began like many other mornings. I felt hungover and lousy after a week of heavy drinking. This wasn’t the first time, I had plenty of those lousy days. Alcohol was a big problem in my life, a huge problem.  Growing up Germany,  alcohol is a part of the lifestyle and culture.  Most of my friends that I hung out with started drinking from an early age. Meeting  your friends, hang out in the Gasthaus/Pub and drink beers. It became a daily routine, getting up for work and meeting my friends afterwards for some beers in the Pub.  At the age of 22 I moved from Germany to San Diego, California. I was pretty tired of Germany, mainly because of the weather, I loved the sunshine. I visited California a few times in the late 70′s and thought,  “that’s the place where I want to be”.  I loved the sun, the beaches, the palm trees and the relaxed lifestyle that many enjoy here in Southern California.  I had good times after I moved to the USA.  I had my own Piano business, played in a Reggae band and just enjoyed the relaxed lifestyle. Later I worked for Taylor Guitars and after that I and landed a great job with a major furniture manufacturer.  Things went pretty well, I got married in 1995 to Kristin and we lived in a nice place in San Diego near the beach. Somehow alcohol was always in my life, drinking some beers after work or at home, or just hanging out with friends after work. That was my life, meeting my drinking buddies, playing darts and whatever else came about. Once the alcohol took over, the judgment went out the window. I came home very late or sometimes not at all. I wasn’t thinking about my wife, my work, it was all about me .  Seeking my own pleasures was way more important than my marriage and the responsibilities that came with it.  In 2003 things got worse, my drinking increased quite a bit. I moved out of the house, found my own place and thought of it as my  little paradise, my sanctuary. But things only got worse from there, I got involved with people who were heavy drinkers and we hung out in various bars around town.  Alcohol influences people and brings out the worse in them. I was never a violent person when drinking,  I was just drinking to have a good time.  Many people believe that drinking is relaxing and brings about a better attitude.  I used to think the same way, somehow I thought after the 2nd or 3rd pint things looked much better and oh, how much fun I had. I used to call it an attitude adjustment. Have you ever hung around people that had a bit too much to drink and they thought they were cool and funny?  Life becomes very miserable when alcohol takes over your life and controls you. Everything starts to revolve around drinking and nothing else matters It becomes snare that entangles a person. I always denied having an alcohol problem, even when people pointed it out to me. I was just in denial as many others, that drink or do drugs. Alcohol and drugs are deceivers, giving pleasure for a short time but than they sting you like a viper and take control over your life. Early 2005, I received the news that my father had died in Germany.  I attended the funeral with my mom and some of my relatives. Hearing the news was terrible, but it really hit me while I was sitting in the small chapel facing my dad’s coffin. I loved my dad, he was a good man and I always had a good relationship with him. My mom of course was devastated and I stayed for 3 month with her  in Germany.  I started going out and drinking in the local pubs. I think I was just tuning out not wanting to deal with the reality that my dad had passed away. I was drowning my sorrows with alcohol.
Coming back to the States, I continued that trend, drinking before work, during work and of course after work. The drinking started to become more and more of a problem, it affected my work and one day I just walked off the job. I began to drink around the clock, going on binges that would last for at least a week. After those binges I got really sick for a few days, promising myself never to drink again. That promise would maybe last for a week or two and I was right back doing the same thing over and over again, a cycle with the same results, feeling terribly sick. I remember the morning of May 14th very well, I sat on my patio chair feeling extremely sick from a week of heavy drinking. As I was sitting there all by myself, I began to cry out: “God, please help me, I don’t want to be like this anymore, this is not me. Please if you are there, help me”.  From that moment on, my life changed. I was still feeling sick, but something happened to me,  something wonderful. I had totally lost the desire of drinking and I started to seek God. I bought a Bible and read for hours and hours taking in every word. Looking at my first Bible and see all the notes that I wrote, the verses that I had underlined, I find myself wondering, when did I do all that? To be honest, I did not know much about God before and what the Bible revealed to me about Him.  I didn’t know anything about repentance, forgiveness, justification and sanctification. I heard about God and of course I heard about Jesus and that He died on the cross, but that’s about it. I never really understood what it meant, God giving His only begotten Son for me and my sins. Reading God’s word opened my eyes to a whole new perspective on life and I believed. The word of God is so wonderful and healing  and it is the absolute truth. Jesus is the Savior of the world, and He became my personal Lord and Savior that day.
Today, I am so grateful to God, He continues to change my life day by day. I have become a new creation, old things have passed away. I have since reconciled with my wife, left the old things behind and I never looked back. Satan may accuse me everyday before God,  calling me unworthy and a failure. He is right, I am.  But I also know this, I am what I am, but I am not what I used to be. It is not my righteousness that God looks at, it is the imputed righteousness of Jesus that the Father looks upon. I don’t have any righteousness on my own, on my own I could never please God. The gospel or the good news is that God did for me what I could not do for myself.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
For me, it is all about Jesus and what He  accomplished on the cross, the word that became flesh and dwelled among us. Who is this Jesus that transformed my life?  He is God the Son Who became one of us, He came as the suffering servant to shed His blood on the cross for the sin of the world. Jesus was beaten to a bloody pulp beyond recognition, the Roman soldiers plucked His beard out, beating Him repeatedly.  He endured the cross, the shame and the mocking of His own countrymen and of the Romans because He loved us. Jesus came for that very purpose, to die on the cross at the appointed time for sinners like me. From the beginning of His ministry to the arrival to Jerusalem on a donkey to the death on the cross, was not only prophesied, but Jesus was on a divine time line determined by the Father long before the foundation of the world. The death of Christ was no accident or just another criminal dying at the hands of the Roman government. Jesus committed no crime, yet He was condemned to death. Jesus despite the shame, willingly laid down His life for you and me.  He gave His life to give eternal life to those who would believe in Him. All you need to do is to ask God for forgiveness and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There is no sin that you or anyone else has committed that God will not forgive, no matter what a person may have done. God loves the world, all He wants is for you to return to Him and He will heal you and cleanse you from all sin. Jesus has transformed my life and He is continuing to transform my life, He will do the same for you, all you need to do is ask Him to come into your life.
God is not distant, all you need to do, is to stop whatever you are doing,  turn around and He is right there with open arms.

“Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:6, 7

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Mat 7:7, 8

Jesus is Lord, yet He declares His Lordship through the power of humility and grace…

“Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty and then for three years was an itinerant preacher. He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of those things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself….
“While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed on a cross between two thieves. While he was dying his executors gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth – His coat. When he was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
“Nineteen long centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”  Jesus is Lord – Excerpts from “One Solitary Life” (author unknown)

Jesus is the only true and living God. I am thankful that He has saved me. He is the only One that can transform a persons life. Religions can not transform a person, certain philosophies cannot transform a person. All religions and philosophies are men centered and futile. Man cannot save himself by empty and vain attempts of reaching God on their own merit.  God reached out to mankind through His Son Jesus Christ, He is mighty to save. Only He can change the heart and only He can transform a persons life. Thank you Jesus for the truth and your love that You have shown to me, may others that are currently in a simular situation as I was seek you and find you. Maranatha Lord Jesus.