Who Will Pay Your Debt of Sin?

During a war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French Army by a kind of lottery system. When someone’s name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. On one occasion, the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, “I was shot and killed two years ago.” At first the officials question his sanity, but he insisted that was indeed the case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been killed in action. “How can that be?” they questioned. “You are alive now!” He explained that when his name first came up, a close friend said to him, “you have a large family, but I am not married and nobody is dependent on me. I’ll take your name and address and go in your place.” And that is indeed what the record showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another. This is what God has done for all of us who will receive the full payment of our debt of sin by the sacrifice of Christ

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

In the above scripture, Jesus compares our sins to debts. When we sin we violate the moral law of God and expose ourselves to the penalty of exclusion from God for eternity because of the sin debt that we bring upon ourselves. As debtors of God, in His love for us, He has made a way for us to be forgiven our debt of sin before Him. The only way was for someone to pay the debt. This was what Jesus did at the cross. He died in our place to pay our sin debt and to justify us before God. Here’s how Paul the apostle described what happened at the cross of Christ:

…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith (Romans:3:24-25).

Simply put, we are justified by God’s goodness to us, just as if we had not sinned. Debt is not a problem confined to the present day; it was a problem in the ancient world as well. If someone had serious debts, their only way out was to sell themselves to pay their debts, either that or the law courts forced slavery upon them. Suppose a friend happened into the market just as he was being sold and asked the price. Suppose that friend then paid his debt and let him go free. He would be redeeming him. In a similar way Jesus paid the “redemption fee” to buy us out of Satan’s slave market of sin.

Paul uses the words “justified freely.” Justification is a legal term. If you went to court and were acquitted, you were justified. Two people went through school and university together and developed a close friendship. Life went on and they both went their different ways and lost contact. One went on to become a judge, while the other one ended up a criminal. One day the criminal appeared before the judge. He had committed a crime to which he pleaded guilty. The judge recognized his old friend, and faced a dilemma. He was a judge so he had to be just; he couldn’t let the man off. On the other hand, he didn’t want to punish the man, because he loved him. So he told his friend that he would fine him the correct penalty for the offence. That is justice. Then he came down from his position as judge and wrote a check for the amount of the fine. He gave it to his friend, saying that he would pay the penalty for him. That is love.

This is an illustration of what God has done for us. In His justice, He judges us because we are guilty, but then, in His love, He came down in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, and paid the penalty for us. In this way He is both ‘just’ (in that He does not allow the guilty to go unpunished), and the one who justifies—Romans 3:26 (in that by taking the penalty Himself, in the person of His Son, He enables us to go free). Isn’t it time you received for yourself the payment of your sin by another—the Lord Jesus? Keith Thomas

The Main Thing Must be the Main Thing

I have spent a lot of time at sea being a commercial fisherman in my younger years. When you are out there in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, the Dover straits of England, you get to see all kinds of boats and ships designed for all kinds of jobs. But for us as fishermen, our purpose was to catch fish. It could have been easy to waste time doing all kinds of things out at sea that we were not designed for. Now that God has called me to work on His net, I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I invested myself doing things that wasted a lot of time, energy and money. The main thing must be the main thing! What is the main thing the church of Jesus Christ is called to spend herself on? Paul says that it is the gospel: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16). The gospel of Jesus Christ, when it is presented correctly and believed, brings about a radical change in the very core being of the believer. Paul, in the passage above, called it the power of God. Without this encounter with Christ, there is no change within:

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Every effort of the Church is to preach the gospel to bring about this change in the hearts of people all over this world. Some people believe that if they work hard at reforming their lives and live like a Christian, that is being a Christian. Let me tell you something important: You cannot become a Christian by living the Christian life. To live the Christian life, you have to have the Spirit of Christ living in you. He is the only One that can live the Christian life. Here is how Merrill Tenney put it,

“Christianity is not a system of philosophy, nor a ritual, nor a code of laws; it is the impartation of a divine vitality. Without the way there is no going, without the truth there is no knowing, without the life there is no living.”[1]

You must have Christ in you, living and seated on the throne room of the temple of your life. God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

We can help feed people, we can teach them to have better marriages, we can bring them into community with others, but if we do not help them to see that they need the main thing—to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20), all our efforts are for nothing. The main thing is to help each person we can to be born-again of the Spirit and living the life of Christ. This is not the job of the professionals or the gifted leaders; it is the job of all that name the name of Christ. I am convinced that if we can help each Christian to learn how to share the gospel, a revival will break out that will be world wide.

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 (1 Peter 3:15).

As Christians, we should be ready and prepared at any time to share the essence of what the gospel is, and how the person interested can know peace with God through what Christ has done for them.

Keith Thomas

[1] Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1948) Pages 215-216.

Nothing is Hidden from God

10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames (1 Corinthians 3:10-14).

In verse 10, Paul says that each one of us is building something with our lives. He reminds each of us to build with care. All labor in the Kingdom of God is built on the foundation of an intimate relationship with Christ. All other good works are just wood, hay and stubble. The quality of the building materials depends on the motives of the deeds done. There are a number of things that are significant about it, the first being that before Christ, every motive and every act will be brought out into the open:

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open (Luke 8:17).

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13).

John Bevere, in his book, Driven by Eternity, writes:

“Many have the erroneous idea that all future judgment is eradicated by their salvation. Indeed, Jesus’ blood cleanses us from the sins that would have kept us from the kingdom, however, it does not exempt us from the judgment of how we conducted ourselves as believers, whether good or bad.”[1]

At last, all will be made known. All things will be uncovered. We will find out the great mysteries of this life. Nothing will be hidden. We shouldn’t take this just in the negative, for there are acts of kindness that many of us have done in secret before men, but God has seen the desire and motive of our hearts and will reward us openly. There will be others who have had no notoriety, but have been laboring quietly in the backwaters of some jungle someplace where their labor has been sweet to our God. Some of you have given generously and sacrificially to care for the poor and have done it to God alone in that you have kept it a secret from men. “…your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:18).

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).

The Lord sees everything we have ever done for Him and nothing escapes His attention. The Day will come when we will gain our inheritance, given to us in Christ before time began.

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:34-40).

I find it interesting that the believers had forgotten the acts of kindness that they had done, but God hadn’t. He recorded every act of kindness and He will reward us openly at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Who was He referring to in calling some the least of His brothers? I think it would be those around us who are little noticed. Perhaps those who cannot help themselves, those sick or in prison. He is ever close to those who are poor in things of this world, those that are strangers to us, those who are in bondage to a religion of works. He wants to use each of us to set them free, to visit, to feed them not only bread and water but the Bread of Life too (John 6:35). Keith Thomas

[1] John Bevere, Driven by Eternity, Warner Faith Publishers, Page 186.

Angels Watching Over You

For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways (Psalm 91:11).

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14).

The writer of the Book of Hebrews in the Bible states that God knows ahead of time just who will take up God’s free offer of the gift of Salvation, and that He assigns an angel to them, even before they actually commit their lives to Christ. The creator God, the Lord of all the Earth, lives outside of time and acts inside of time on the basis of what He knows you will do with the gift of God—the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus. If you are a believer, or will be in the future, an angel of God has been assigned to you. You might have noticed that the passage above says that the angels are sent to those who will inherit salvation—future tense. This angel sent to you is a ministering (serving) spirit sent to serve you. The Bible has many instances of angels serving God and His people down through the ages. We don’t talk to the angels or reach out to them—we talk to God about whatever we are going through, and He instructs His angels as to what to do. Of course, there are evil angels as well. Satan is an evil angel that heads up an army of evil angels that are opposing God and seeking to corrupt and destroy God’s greatest creation—Man. Most of the time the angelic beings are not seen, but occasionally God has let men see just how many are on our side

In the Old Testament book of 2 Kings there is a story of a king reigning in Aram who was angry because his actions and intentions were somehow being made known to the armies of Israel. He could not understand how Israel knew everything he was doing, and everything he plotted (2 Kings 6:8-10). He thought that he had a spy among his leaders. His problem was that Israel had a man of God, Elisha, who lived his life in such a way that he was able, by the Spirit of God, to know the very words that the King of Aram spoke in secret to his generals (2 Kings 6:11-12). God was revealing these things to Elisha, who was very aware of the unseen realm, and who had an intimate and powerful prayer life, which gave him this special insight.  When the King of Aram found out about Elisha’s gift, he was so enraged that he sent his army to the town where Elisha lived, hoping to kill or capture him:

14Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. 15When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. 16“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” 17And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, “Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked (2 Kings 6:14-18).

When Elisha’s servant looked at the size of the army of Aram around and about the city, he began to lose heart. Things looked hopeless when seen only from an earthly perspective. But all was not as it seemed. There were spiritual forces around Elisha and Gehazi, his servant, which the young novice to the things of God was unaware of. Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened to the unseen angels in the spiritual realm around them. All of a sudden, at the prayer of Elisha, he saw beyond this physical world to the reality of the spiritual forces of God that were previously hidden from him, angelic beings that were much more powerful than the army of Aram. He saw the armies of heaven protecting and surrounding the prophet of God, available to serve him in whatever way the prophet prayed. The enemies of Israel were defeated with one display of God’s power at the prayer of Elisha. We too, as servants of the Living God, have angelic hosts that protect us. It’s about time you called upon the Lord to help you in what you are going through. Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (delivered) (Joel 2:32). Keith Thomas

Whose Side Are You On?

You are in the midst of a battle that rages all around us. This battle is being fought on two planes of existence, the visible realm and the invisible realm. On earth there are many kingdoms that are at war with one another, each of them trying to gain some kind of upper hand against the other, think China vs. Taiwan, India vs. Pakistan, Arab against Jew, but in reality these struggles on earth are part of a bigger cosmic battle for dominion over the souls of men and women. In the unseen realm there are only two kingdoms that are at war with one another. You are in one of these kingdoms—either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan. The kingdom of Satan is using a great deal of deception and ignorance to blind men to the truth. He has been doing this for several thousand years and has become quite expert at it. This division and struggle among nations and people groups is Satan’s plan to deceive you away from the true spiritual battle as to who will rule you—whose side are you on? Jesus put it this way:

30“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Matthew 12:30).

Are you with Jesus Christ? How do you know that you have crossed over to the Kingdom of God’s side of this battle? How can you be sure that when you die you will go to be with Him?

13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Colossians 1:13).

You might be living under communist rule or under Islamic Sharia Law, but who owns your soul? Have you made a divine transaction with the Living God and crossed over from the dominion of darkness to trusting Christ with your soul? What do I mean by a divine transaction? Jesus said that unless a man is “born again” (John 3:3) he cannot see the kingdom of God. Satan has so deceived the world that until you give your life to Christ and receive the gift of eternal life, you cannot see the things of Christ and live in the power of the Spirit of God. Being born again is receiving the gift of life from the Lord Jesus. It is a gift. Jesus came to give us life:

27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:27-29).

This gift of eternal life cannot be earned or worked for. It is a gift you are given when you repent of sin (turn the direction of your life over to God) and believe or trust in Christ to live for Him. The apostle Paul in the Book of Ephesians also speaks about this gift of life:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In the West, we celebrate Christmas. It is a time when we remember the coming of Christ to give us the gift of eternal life. We celebrate by giving one another gifts. Even if our children do something really bad the day before Christmas, we still give them a gift on Christmas Day—why? Because a gift is not dependent on what a person does, it is dependent on the love and grace of the giver. A gift is not earned; otherwise it is not a gift. God is the giver of this gift and no matter what you have done, how severe your sin is—you can receive this gift from God. Go to Him and with your whole heart, abandon your old life and receive the gift of eternal life from the Lord Jesus—the giver of every good gift! Keith Thomas