What does it mean to be gospel-centered?

The gospel is the great news about what God has done to make it possible for us to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with Him in Christ.

A summary of the gospel is outlined in II Corinthians 5:17-21. 

Gospel-centered living happens when three tenses are kept in view:

  1. What we were apart from Christ (past)
  2. What we already have in Christ (present)
  3. What we will have through Christ (future)

Reflection: Titus 3:5-6 – “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Galatians 2:21 – ”if right standing with God could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Colossians 3:1-4 – “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.”

Gospel-centered living is based on two confessions:

  1. Romans 7:24 – “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death (my imprisonment to sin)?
  2. Romans 7:25 – “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” – 8:1)

Reflection: “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24). (see: Romans 3:19-20). “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (Romans 11:32).

Have you responded to what God has done for you through Jesus Christ? 

Here is a way to express your need to God:

“God, I am ready to admit that I am a sinner. I have done many things that don’t please you. I have lived my life for myself and deserve to be punished for my sin. But I believe that Jesus Christ died for me to pay the debt I owe.”

“Today, the best I know how, I am placing my trust in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I am turning to you for forgiveness and salvation. I believe that you sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty my sin deserves. I believe that when he died on the cross, his death was for my salvation. Through Jesus death and resurrection, you did what I could not do for myself.”

“I thank you right now for the gift of eternal life promised to those who believe in Jesus Christ. I now turn my life over to you. I thank you that by believing in Jesus Christ I can be your forgiven child and be completely assured that I will never perish but have eternal life with you. Help me to always recognize that my relationship with you is only based on what Jesus did for me. Protect me from the kind of pride that thinks that I can do what is needed to make myself right with you.”

Reflect on these Scriptures: Luke 18:9-13; John 3:16-18; Romans 10:9; II Corinthians 5:17-21; Ephesians 2:8-10;

Share this with others. 

Steve Cornell

Resurrection is life after life after death

I expect to be resurrected one day because Jesus promised that, “…everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39-40).

But when I say I expect to be resurrected, I am not only saying I expect to live after the death of my physical body. I do expect this, but resurrection is more than life after death.

Resurrection is bodily life after life after death. It is postmortem existence stage two. In other words, I expect to return to identifiable bodily existence just as Jesus did.

Everyone should expect to be resurrected because Jesus also promised, “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29).

The last experience of life is death. It is the most certain thing in every person’s life. “There is a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2). But death is not final. Some definitions for death use the word irreversible. One defines it as the irreversible cessation of organismic functioning. Another includes the irreversible loss of personhood.

Do these definitions oppose all forms of postmortem existence? Or, do they only deny the possibility of physical life after death? 

Six events of history remind us of how important the body is to God.

  1. Creation: God fashions the body from the dust of the earth
  2. Incarnation: God enters the body prepared for him (Hebrews 10:5)
  3. Resurrection (Christ’s and ours)
  4. Ascension: Jesus has bodily existence at the Father’s right hand
  5. Salvation: The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit
  6. Glorification: Final redemption of the body (Romans 8 )

Most people expect some kind of life after death and also fear the possibility of postmortem accountability.

Yet how many really expect dead people to rise from the dead in actual bodies? Clearly the early disciples of Jesus did not expect his bodily resurrection. Despite his repeated predictions of his death and resurrection, the crucifixion of Jesus crushed their hopes of a kingdom with Jesus as their king. The notion of a crucified Messiah (much less a resurrected one) was not part of their worldview. And, to be fair to them, the resurrection of Jesus is unparalleled in ancient near eastern religion.

But after the unavoidable evidence that Jesus had broken the power of death and was alive again, the disciples became bold witnesses and the Christian Church was born. Apart from the actual resurrection of Jesus, it would have been exceptionally strange for his dejected disciples to go everywhere spreading the message that Jesus had risen from the dead. They boldly announced to everyone that, “God raised him up putting an end to the agony of death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24).

If this was only a self-fabricated story, there is no reasonable explanation for the birth and flourishing Christianity. And they didn’t go to some distant town to preach the resurrected Christ. They began announcing it in the very city where Jesus had been buried. Their message would not have lasted for one day if Jesus’ body were still in the tomb. The religious leaders who were eager to silence the message could have easily done so by revealing Jesus’ body.

Even more incredulous are theories about a stolen or resuscitated body. It is nonsense to suppose that the disciples got past a Roman guard, rolled a massive stone aside, unwrapped the grave cloths and restored Jesus’ body to health after crucifixion.

The first recorded witnesses to the resurrection were women. This is significant because a woman’s testimony was not credible in first century legal systems. Yet the documents telling the story don’t pander to the expectations of the times to make the story more plausible. The facts are presented as they happened.

The four gospels were written by and on behalf of eyewitnesses. They were circulated during the lifetimes of those who were alive at Jesus’ resurrection. If Jesus’ body had still been in the tomb, these people could have easily discredited the accounts.

It is simply beyond imagination that Christianity and two thousand years of the legacy of Jesus would have flourished based on a resurrection hoax. I realize that other religions have flourished based on lies but most of those who embraced them did so under coercion. True Christianity is not spread by forced allegiance.

Certainty of death, judgment and resurrection

Scripture says. “each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The Apostle John wrote, “I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:12-13).

Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:17-18).

“Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).

“when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (I Corinthians 15:54). “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57).

Steve Cornell

 

 

Evil and death are conquered!

As we approach the time of year when Christians focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we stand in awe of the way God chose for victory over evil and death. 

Take time to reflect on this great quote and the Scriptures and song of worship below:

“Evil is conquered as evil because God turns it back upon itself. He makes the supreme crime, the murder of the only righteous person, the very operation that abolishes sin. The maneuver is utterly unprecedented” (Henri Blocher).

  • “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:21, NLT).
  • Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25, NLT).

Christ appears in Heaven for us!

When the apostle encouraged us to “set our affections on the realities of heaven,” he specifically identified it as the place “where Christ sits at God’s right hand.” 

“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands… he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence” (Hebrews 9:24).

 What makes heaven so desirable is not the absence of anguish and suffering (as great as this will be), nor the presence of angels and fellow believers. Heaven is so desirable because it is the place “where Christ sits at God’s right hand.”

The apostle Paul spoke about his death with this perspective. “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

After Jesus finished His mission of bearing our sins and being raised from the dead, He returned to heaven and took the seat of highest honor to appear before God “for us.” These two words “for us” are amazing!

In the highest court, those who know Christ as their Savior are represented. Let these words settle deeply into your heart: “Christ went into heaven itself to appear in the presence of God for us.”

In Colossians 3:3-4, the apostle reinforced his call to focus on heaven by writing: “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

Reflection

“The Christian’s whole and only status before God is in Christ. True and wonderful though this is, however, the sphere of the Christian’s existence is still here on earth. He is still beset by temptations; he is hampered by weakness and frustrated by failings; he falls short of ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13); the perfection for which he longs is not yet. He needs a holiness not his own, made available to him by the Lamb of God who has made atonement for his sins and who now interposes himself as his representative in the heavenly sanctuary. And this is the representation which Christ fulfills as he appears in the presence of God for us” (Philip E. Hughes, Hebrews, p. 349).

For deeper meditation on Christ’s representation, see: Romans 8:33-34; Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:23-27; John 2:1-2. The apostle John said those who confess their sin (I John 1:9), have an “advocate” with the heavenly father (I John 2:2). The N.I.V. translates advocate as, “one who speaks to the Father in our defense.” It pictures a legal setting with Christ as counsel for the defense. And His position as advocate is based on His redeeming work (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

“Our advocate doesn’t plead that we are innocent…He acknowledges our guilt and presents His vicarious work as the ground for our acquittal” (John R. W. Stott, I John, TNTC, pp. 81-82).

We must guard against misguided understandings of representation. We should not picture a dualistic situation where a well-pleasing son is trying to persuade a hostile father to look on us with favor. God was the one who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (II Corinthians 5:18-21).  God “spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32; cf. 1 John 4:9-10).

Reflection

“The intercession of the Son, then, is in no sense a pleading with the Father to change his attitude toward us. Nor does the Father have to be reminded of the full redemption that he himself has provided for us in his Son—the very thought is preposterous! The presence in heaven of the Lamb bearing the marks of his passion is itself the perpetual guarantee of our acceptance with God, who gave his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. In ourselves, however, though we have the forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ and though we are united to him in love and trust, we are unworthy because Christ has not yet been fully formed within us (cf. Gal. 4:19) and we still sinfully fall short of the glory of God (cf. Rom. 3:23). This consideration explains our continuing need of the advocacy and intercession of him who alone is accounted worthy before God (cf. Rev. 5:1-10). It is in his worthiness that even now we rejoice in the blessings of the divine favor, for by the grace of God his merit has been reckoned to us as our merit, his heaven has become our heaven, and his eternal glory our eternal glory” (Philip Hughes, Hebrews).

 Do we need the assistance of saints or angels to bring us to God?

“To imagine that saints or angels can be influenced to intercede for us is not only delusion; it is to cast doubt on the perfect adequacy of the intercession of Christ on our behalf and thus to deprive ourselves of the fulness of the security which is available to us only in Christ. Our Lord clearly taught that no man can come to the Father except by him (John 14:6) and that our requests to God are to be made in his name (John 14:13f.; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26), precisely because there is no other name which avails and prevails with God (cf. Acts 4:12) (Philip E. Hughes, Hebrews, p. 353).

Christ alone is our mediator, advocate, intercessor, high priest, and way of access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; John 14:6). “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He (Jesus Christ) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:1-2; cf. Hebrews 7:26-27). “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:18). 

Let your heart dwell on these great words: “Christ went into heaven to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24).

Steve Cornell 

 

Top 5 Arguments against eternal punishment

Along with great emphasis on God’s love and mercy, Scripture presents God as the Judge who sends some people into hell.

Jesus warned his followers not to “… fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Jesus referred to hell as a place where God sends people (Matthew 25:41,46).

The Bible doesn’t describe a pleasant end for those who reject God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. But what type of judgment falls on them?

Is it eternal suffering or eternal annihilation? Eternal in consequence or in duration? Part of the debate centers on whether ‘eternal’ is meant as a consequence (i.e. eternal punishment– not eternal punishing; the result being eternal destruction,) or as a duration (i.e. never ending, on going punishing).

Five arguments against eternal punishing

1. The fire is metaphoric

The late John R. W. Stott (a teacher I hold in highest regard on most subjects) suggested that, “The fire itself is termed ‘eternal’ and ‘unquenchable’ but it would be very odd if what is thrown into it proves indestructible. Our expectation would be the opposite: it would be consumed forever, not tormented forever. Hence it is the smoke (evidence that the fire has done its work) which ‘rises forever and ever’ (Rev. 14:11; cf. 19:3)” (Evangelical Essentials, David Edwards, p. 316).

But how does this same approach apply to the burning bush of Exodus 3:2-3 which “burned with fire yet was not consumed”? Consistency of metaphor would lead one to think that smoke rising forever and ever indicates something is burning in the fire.

2. The matter of justice:

Sins committed in a finite realm should not suffer an eternal consequence. Justice demands punishment in proportion to the crime. This argument may sound appealing on the surface but it fails at the Cross of Christ. Why did the infinite, eternal God have to come and die for the sins of finite creatures? Sin against an infinite God is infinite in consequence. Are we implying that people can sufficiently pay the consequence of sin against God? I am sure we are incompetent judges of the penalty sin deserves.

“The Bible does not present us with a God who chances upon neutral men and women and arbitrarily consigns some to heaven and some to hell. He takes guilty men and women, all of whom deserve his wrath, and in his great mercy and love he saves vast numbers of them. Had he saved only one, it would have been an act of grace; that he saves a vast host affirms still more unmistakably the uncharted reaches of that grace. Hell stands as a horrible witness to human defiance in the face of great grace” (How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, p. 92).

“Unless we come to grips with this terrible doctrine (of hell), we will never even begin to understand the depths of what Jesus did for us on the cross. His body was being destroyed in the worst possible way, but that was a flea bite compared to what was happening to his soul. When he cried out that his God had forsaken him, he was experiencing hell itself” (Tim Keller).

3. Conditional immortality of the soul:

This is argued by the late Philip Hughes in The Image Restored, pp. 398-407. He taught that immortality belongs to God in the purest sense and to believers only through Christ (I Tim. 6:15-17; II Tim. 1:9f). This seems to be based on a limited understanding of death as total extinction of existence. But, if spiritual and physical death do not result in cessation of existence, why would the second death? (Eph. 2:1-3; Heb. 9:27; Rev. 20:6; 14:21:8). Scripture does not equate death with non-existence. The evidence points in the opposite direction.

4. Luke 16:19-31 is a parable (and should not be considered a literal source of information)

This text is not identified as a parable, but even if it is parabolic in nature, treating it as an unreliable source ignores the one who is telling the story. Should we believe that Jesus Christ would use speculative imagery on such a serious matter? If this refers only to a temporary intermediate state ending in a judgment of annihilation, the judgment seems like it would be a welcomed end. This is clearly not the point Jesus is making.

5. The problem of eternal dualism:

Philip Hughes wrote: “With the restoration of all things in the new heaven and the new earth, which involves God’s reconciliation to himself of all things, whether on earth or in heaven (Acts 3:21; Col. 1:20), there will be no place for a second kingdom of darkness and death” (p. 406, The Image Restored).

The lake of fire is certainly not a Kingdom. Ongoing punishment itself would be a continuous testimony to the defeat of evil. The reality of victory over death secured by Christ is not threatened by hell (Heb. 2:14-16; I Cor. 15:54-55; Rev. 20:14; 21:4).

What does Scripture teach?

All humans will be resurrected (Jn. 5:28-29; Dan. 12:2; Acts 24:15); all will be judged by God (Heb. 9:27; Rom. 2:4-10; 14:10-12; Rev. 20:11-15), and all will be separated between two distinct eternal destinies (Mt. 25:32,41,36; Jn. 3:36; 14:1-3; Rev. 21:3-8).

Where people go after death

Theologian Millard Erickson offers a six-point answer to the question of where people go after death. His points are worthy of careful reflection.

  1. All humans are sinners, by nature and by choice; they are therefore guilty and under divine condemnation.
  2. Salvation is only through Christ and his atoning work.
  3. In order to obtain the salvation achieved by Christ, one must believe in Him; therefore Christians and the church have a responsibility to tell unbelievers the good news about Him.
  4. The adherents of other faiths, no matter how sincere their belief or how intense their religious activity, are spiritually lost apart from Christ.
  5. Physical death brings an end to the opportunity to exercise saving faith and accept Jesus Christ. The decisions made in this life are irrevocably fixed at death.
  6. At the great final judgment all humans will be separated on the basis of their relationship to Christ during this life. Those who have believed in Him will spend eternity in heaven, where they will experience everlasting joy and reward in God’s presence. Those who have not accepted Christ will experience hell, a place of unending suffering and separation from God (The Evangelical Mind and Heart).

Steve Cornell

See: Hell bound?

Open letter to a new Christian

What should you expect now that you’ve become a Christian?

Becoming a Christian is a personal response to a loving Creator. Instead of leaving you in your sin, God lovingly made a way for you to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with Him. This is what we mean by salvation.

  • Salvation is a gift of God’s undeserved grace (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9) through Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13; 14:6; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-6) and not based on our works (Titus 3:4-7). 
  • Salvation is eternally secure in Jesus (John 6:37-40; 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39; Philippians 1:6). 
  • Salvation received by God’s grace is the motive for living in a way that pleases God. 
  • Salvation is what God did by grace, not what I do to keep myself worthy of grace. Faith itself is a gift from God (Philippians 1:29). Rehearse these truths often.

As a new Christian, you will begin to experience significant changes. Inwardly, you will feel joy because your sins have been forgiven and you are right with God. Your joy increases as you realize that forgiveness is a free and undeserved gift from God (see: Ephesians 1:7, 13-14; 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

Along with a sense of forgiveness, acceptance and joy, you will experience several new desires. 

  1. First, there will be a desire to please God. You will begin to be concerned about whether or not your decisions, actions, and attitudes please God (see: 2 Corinthians 5:9). Sometimes this desire is accompanied by feelings of guilt because you become convinced that much of your life doesn’t please God (see: 1 John 1:9).
  2. Secondly, there is a desire to be with other followers of Jesus Christ. People whose company he would not previously have chosen become important to us. You will feel a special kinship with fellow-members of God’s family (see: 1 Thessalonians 4:9). This usually leads to a new habit of attending church.
  3. Thirdly, there is a desire to know more about God. This leads to an intense interest in the Bible—God’s word—the place where we learn about the character and works of God. You will begin to read and study the Scriptures and desire to listen to those who teach the Bible.

What might others think about these changes?

When these changes take place in someone’s life, well-intentioned (and some not so well-intentioned) friends often see it as nothing more than an unusual new interest in God and religion.

They sometimes consider it a phase that you’re going through—one that will pass with time. Yet the person who has experienced God’s saving grace knows that his or her experience is much more than a passing interest in God. Something decisive has taken place in your life.

Although the new Christian cannot completely articulate what has happened, the Scriptures speak clearly of this change. In Colossians 1:13 we learn that, “God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son.”

At the time of salvation, the Holy Spirit of God comes to live in the new believer and opens up a whole new dimension of existence in the kingdom of God’s dear Son (see: 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14).

It’s a spiritual dimension in which you begin to experience spiritual realities. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit explains the new desires. It is not a matter of getting religion. It is not a phase someone goes through. It is an encounter with the living God in which He reconciles you to Himself, brings you into His kingdom and gives you the gift of the Holy Spirit (see: Romans 8:9).

Expect change

As a believer in Jesus Christ, God is now actively and progressively changing you into His image. Although new believers commonly look for changes in their circumstances, God is far more concerned about changing you than He is about changing your circumstances.

The really great thing is that God uses our circumstances (especially our trials) to transform us into His image! God’s changes are aimed at every part of our being—our thoughts, attitudes, values and actions.

Our past, present and future must come under the gracious and compelling influences of God’s Spirit. God requires every key to every room of our lives. Perhaps you thought you only needed to give Him a key to the front door, but be prepared for His active interest in each room of your life.

God’s primary focus for transformation is on what the Bible calls the inner person. Our bodies continue to age and succumb to their fallen condition – ultimately returning to the dust from which we came. Yet inwardly we experience renewal in this life. And then our salvation will one day include a renewed body (see: Philippians 3:20-21).

What about you…..? 

If you desire to receive God’s gift of salvation, you need to recognize that Jesus Christ died for your sins and that salvation only comes through Jesus (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Admit to God that you have sinned against Him and that you need His forgiveness. Ask God to forgive you and to give you His free gift of salvation (Romans 3:23; 5:8, 12; 6:23; 10:9-11).

God promised to save those who call on Him. Now talk to a trusted friend about your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. 

Steve Cornell

Encouragement from Jonathan Edwards

“Now, it is for the abundant comfort of believers, that their own Redeemer is appointed to be their judge. That the same person who spilled his blood for them has the determination of their state left with him, so that they need not doubt but that they shall have what he was at so much cost to procure.”

“What matter of joy to them will it be at the last day, to lift up their eyes, and behold the person in whom they have trusted for salvation, to whom they have fled for refuge, upon whom they have built as their foundation for eternity, and whose voice they have often heard, inviting them to himself for protection and safety, coming to judge them (Adapted from: “The World Judged Righteously by Jesus Christ” Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)).

_____________________________________________________

Remind yourself often that the one before whom you will stand is your advocate with the father, “Jesus Christ the righteous one” (I John 2:1-2). He is your “merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17) and “not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). He “…is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Identify with this prayer

“O God of Grace, You have imputed my sin to my substitute, and imputed His righteousness to my soul.” If Jesus had not been made sin for me and I had not been made righteous in him, where would my hope be placed? (see: II Corinthians 5:21).

Steve Cornell

Good-bye for now Dad

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Today I was given yet another reason to look forward to heaven. At 11:30 AM my mother called to tell me that my father passed away (picture to the right is my dad and our daughter).

Just four days earlier, I received a call in the evening to tell me that my pastor, mentor and friend (Dr. Richard Gregory) passed away.

Many years ago, Pastor Gregory led my dad to Christ. It was a result of what he always considered one of his worse sermons. He and my dad were the same age. I love the thought that they can now fellowship together in heaven with their Lord and Savior!

As the oldest son of eleven children (with seven boys), I was always amazed at my dad’s perseverance in providing for what many would consider three families. And he did this under great trial because in his mid thirties he was afflicted with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. His badly bent up hands will always be remembered because he often held them out to tell others of God’s grace in his life.

Not knowing that my Dad was soon to pass away, I did a message last week and will continue this week on his life verse – II Corinthians 12:9 - “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’”

I took some time today to revisit some truths about life, death and eternity. Great comfort is found in these truths

The Heidelberg catechism asks, “What is your only comfort in life and in death? Answer: “That I am not my own, but belong body and soul to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.”

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

Those who take the promises of Scripture seriously know that there is never a loss of personhood and consciousness with death — only the temporary death of a body.

Scripture specifically states that, “the body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). By spirit, it could refer to “breath” or in keeping with the way Scripture views humans, as the immaterial part of our being separating from the material — the departure of the inner person from the outer body.

When Jesus died, he cried out, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit” and breathed his last breath and died (Luke 23:46). His body was laid in a grave, when he was “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (I Peter 3:18).

The distinction between inner person and body:

Philippians 1:21-24 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

II Corinthians 5:6-8 “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (with 4:16-18)

7 truths about death

  1. Death is a curse - Death, according to Christian teaching, is the result of a curse on humanity because of our rejection of the rule of our Creator. With vivid description, God declared that humans must “return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). This has been the experience of all people from the time it was announced.
  2. Death is a penalty for sin – “For the wages of sin is death….” (Romans 6:23)
  3. Death is an inheritance - “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
  4. Death is an enemy - Death is an enemy and a thief – not a welcomed friend. Death is a separator. It brings things to an end and removes loved ones from our presence. But gratefully, our Creator did not allow death to have the final word. Jeremiah the prophet animated death when he wrote: “Death has climbed through the windows and has entered our fortress; it has cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares.”  (Jer. 9:21). In a sense the apostle Paul also animated death when referring to is as: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  (1 Cor. 15:26). Death is an enemy that stalks and threatens us.
  5. Death is agony - “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24)
  6. Death is a spiritual and a physical reality - “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live …. We were dead in transgressions…” (Eph. 2:1-2, 5)
  7. Death occurs twice for unbelievers - “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15; 21:8).

Should we expect to live after our earthly lives end?

The story of Jesus didn’t end with death because, “God raised him up putting an end to the agony of death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24). And because Jesus broke the power of death, those who trust him as their Savior rest confidently in his promise, “my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39-40).

Based on this promise, I expect to be resurrected one day. But when I say I expect to be resurrected, I am not merely saying I expect to live after the death of my physical body. Resurrection is more than life after death. Resurrection is life after life after death. Yes, you read that correctly. Resurrection is bodily life after life after death. It’s postmortem existence stage two. I expect to return to identifiable bodily existence just as Jesus returned (see: Philippians 3:20). I expect the same for my Dad and former pastor. 

Six major points of biblical history support the importance of the body.

  1. Creation: God fashions the body from the dust of the earth
  2. Incarnation: God became man
  3. Resurrection (Christ’s and ours)
  4. Ascension: Jesus retained bodily existence at the Father’s right hand
  5. Salvation: The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit
  6. Glorification: Final redemption of the body (Romans 8 )

If we take Jesus Christ at his word, everyone who has lived should expect to be resurrected. Jesus said, “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29).

7 Great truths about heaven

  1. Heaven is a place of unhindered fellowship with God.
  2. Heaven is a place where we always do what pleases God.
  3. Heaven is a place of unhindered fellowship with believers. No more conflicts!
  4. Heaven is eternal — no separation in heaven.
  5. Heaven is home to Jesus our Savior, the Holy Spirit our comforter and the Father of mercies.
  6. Heaven is beautiful beyond comparison: It’s architect and builder is God (see: Revelation 4:1-6).
  7. Heaven is a place of unimaginable joy! (see: Psalm 16:11; Luke 15:10)

Here I rest and here I flourish — in living and dying and anticipating a reunion with those who go before. 

To God be the glory!

Steve Cornell

See: 

He says he’s a Christian, but …

How can we know if someone is a true follower of Christ?

  • Should we even try to discern another person’s faith?
  • Isn’t this between the person and God and no one else’s business? 

I can think of a few important reasons why we sometimes have to do our best to discern the authenticity of someone else’s faith.

  1. Most importantly because we love the person and want what is eternally best for them. 
  2. Sometimes we must know because we don’t want to violate II Corinthians 6:14-15 – by being unequally yoked together with an unbeliever.
  3. We especially need to know when deciding whether or not to marry another person (see: I Corinthians 7:39). 
  4. There is a great danger of self-deception on this matter (Matthew 7:21-23).

When evaluating the genuineness of another’s faith, search your own heart first. Jesus said, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). With these concerns in place, let me suggest a few important considerations and please don’t miss my final point!

1. Verbal profession of faith does not always mean true possession of faith

We live in a fake it till you make it culture. So, for example, in the decision of marriage, you need more than verbal profession from the one your considering. You need substantive evidence of one’s love for God and commitment to follow Him. Remember the words of warning from Jesus:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” (James 2:14). “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (James 2:19-20).

Thought: People can come into the Christian community and culturally adapt by learning acceptable practices and words, and yet deceive both themselves and the community as to the genuineness of their salvation.

The most sobering illustration of this is Judas. Jesus revealed to the twelve that one of them would betray Him (John 13:21). Did the disciples all say, “We know who that is!”? No. According to John 13:22, the disciples were unsure about who Jesus intended. Judas had so cunningly hidden his true identity that none of the others immediately thought of him. A parallel gospel informs us that, “each one began to say to Him, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’” (Mt. 26:22).

2. Fruit inspection

“just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matt. 7:20). “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT).

3. Objective measures for confirming genuine believers

  1. The primary direction and characteristics of a person’s life- I John 3:9 (NIV)
  2. Works of the flesh vs. the fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:19-24.
  3. The wisdom from below vs. the wisdom from above – James 3:12-18.
  4. The works of darkness vs. the fruit of the Light – Ephesians 5:5-11.
  5. The description of the unrighteous – I Corinthians 6:9-11.
  6. Love for the world vs. love of the Father-  I John 2:15-17.
  7. Love for other believers – I John 3:14; 5:1.
  8. Keeping God’s commandments – I John 2:4, Ti. 1:16.

4. Five desires found in true believers - A practical summary for easy communication

  1. To please God (II Corinthians 5:9)
  2. To know God’s Word (I Peter 2:1-2)
  3. To be with God’s people (Hebrews 10:25;I Jn 5:1)
  4. To share the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20)
  5. To overcome sin (I John 3:9)

Thought: While it is clearly possible for a true believer to have serious moments of disobedience and unfruitfulness, the focus of the lists above is on the primary emphasis of one’s life (Rom. 7:19; I Jn. 2:1; II Pet. 1:5-10).

If the overall direction and characteristics of a person’s life is described by the negative side in the 8 lists above, the person does not have any firm reason to believe that he or she is saved.

If my life testifies against my profession—the apostle Paul’s words apply: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves.” (II Cor. 13:5).

5. What do these verses imply about one who truly comes to faith in Christ?

  • Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit”
  • Luke 18:13,14 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ ”I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.’”
  • I Peter 5:5 “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

A final consideration - Not hungry or thirsty enough

“I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35 cf. John 4:14).

From these words, we learn that belief is not merely an agreement with facts about God. It is also a matter of appetite, of longing, of hungering and thirsting and finding satisfaction and fulfillment in the one who is the bread of life itself.

Belief is not merely thinking correctly about God and Jesus.  It’s a turning to Jesus as the source of nourishment for life (tasting and seeing).  Rarely is unbelief solely or mainly a matter of changing one’s mind about facts.  It’s a turning of one’s heart away from the Creator and Redeemer. Unbelief, therefore, involves a turning of the heart away from God to search for satisfaction from something or someone else.

Remember these words

“Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Blessed are the poor, needy, hungry and thirsty.  Augustine prayed, “Hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee…”  We add that hearts are hungry until they find satisfaction in God; Our hearts are thirsty until quenched by God.

Steve Cornell

Please take time to listen to this message: What Should you Expect?

A Closer look at Hope

shining_hope

The Nature of Christian Hope

1. Hope is a response – of those who have experienced the mercy of God’s loving intervention and by faith embraced the certainty of God’s promises for the future.
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  • I Peter 1:3-4 –

“In His great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.”

  • Hebrews 6:18-19

“So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”

2. Hope is a choice – to focus on the certainty of God’s promised future
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  • I Peter 1:13

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”

  • Colossians 3:1-2

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

  • Philippians 3:19-21

In contrast with those “who set their minds on earthly things…. our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

3. Hope is a calling 

  • Romans 12:12

  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

  • Psalm 42:5, 11

  “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God,”

4. The prayers for hope

  • Romans 15:13

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

  • Ephesians 1:16-19

“I do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” 

5. The certainty of hope

  • The hope of the believer is not wishful thinking but confident expectation; not based on probability, but on certainty. Not only a blessing in this life, but assurance of greater life in eternity (Romans 8:18). 
  • Hope flourishes where there is belief in the living God who acts and intervenes in human life and who can be trusted to keep his promises.

6. The reach of hope

  • I Corinthians 15:19

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

This life? Is there another one? Yes, resurrected life! If you just know Jesus so that you can have a better day or week or earthly life, pity you! The focus of hope is so much more!

  • Colossians 1:4-5

“because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel”

  • Colossians 1:27

“Christ in you, the hope of glory.

  • Titus 2:13-14

“….waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us…” 

7. The development of hope

  • Romans 5:2-5

“Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

  • Romans 8:24-25

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 

8. The purifying effect of hope

  • I John 3:2-3

“we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

9. The witness of hope

  • I Peter 3:14-15

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”

10. A loss of hope

  • Loss of hope involves a loss of perspective resulting from a loss of focus.
  • When we disconnect our ambitions, values and priorities from eternity, we lose focus and perspective. Hope (of the kind found in Scripture) traces a clear line from your life to:
    • the fame of God’s Name,
    • the coming of God’s Kingdom and
    • the doing of God’s Will — on earth as it is in heaven?
  • Hope is typically transferred to another source when no longer focused on eternity
    • Jeremiah 17:5-8

“This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.”

  • The remedy for a loss or transfer of hope is found in these verses:
    • II Corinthians 4:16-18

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Steve Cornell