Sunday, December 19, 2010


May the grace and peace of God be with you this season. We are thankful for His blessings and grace in our lives.

Although it has been a colder than normal month of December, we have been very fortunate to not only have a well-working central heating system, but a wood-burning stove with plenty of wood. It makes for a very cozy basement. Kathy and I are doing well, and have become empty-nesters once again with the moving of Pat and Allie last weekend to a carriage house in Indian Hill - one of the nicest suburbs of Cincinnati. They have a very nice and reasonably priced place.

Pat has one more semester to complete before becoming an RN next summer. But his educational plans are more far-reaching. We are proud of what he has done and are confident that he will meet his long-range goals. Allie is doing well in her business endeavors. She has been successful in a tough economy and met her business goals for the year.

Aaron and Michelle completed their studies this year. Michelle became an RN this past summer, and is now working at Jewish Hospital, the same hospital she worked at as an LPN a couple years ago. We watched as Aaron graduated from Xavier with an MBA this past summer. It was a great day!

Joe is still working at Grace Plastics as our accountant. He and Danielle just returned from a three-week trip to Australia, Danielle's birthplace. We were all jealous, but know they had a good time. Danielle proved to be a top-notch photographer with wonderful pictures of the continent down-under.

Elizabeth and Brian presented us with our first granddaughter, Ava Kathleen. She is healthy and her big brother Garrett is getting used to the idea that the universe doesn't revolve only around him. They are still in South Carolina, and Brian has been doing a great job as estimator with Trehel, the commercial construction company he works for. Elizabeth has been putting in a lot of over-time in her job as a mom, although she feels a lot better than she did a couple months ago when she was great with child.

For a down economy, Grace Plastics has been doing very well. We added another grinder this past summer, and although we are still working two shifts, a third shift is planned within the next couple months. We just need to get more organized.
From Grace Place to your place, we wish you a very merry Christmas and a blessed new year!

All our love,
Harold and Kathy Johnson

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's a Girl!

A couple weeks ago, on Monday, November 7 Kathy and I left Batavia for Greenville, SC. We had heard that our daughter, Elizabeth was in the hospital. We were expecting this call because she was nine months pregnant. We finally reached Greenville General Hospital and as we stepped off the elevator Kathy received a call on her cell phone - Ava had just been born!

We had reminisced about a similar incident that happened 31 years ago when Kathy went into labor for our first child and when the beautiful baby was born we named her Elizabeth Anne. One generation follows on the heel of the previous. As parents we do our best to provide our children with the best we can offer. As young parents we didn't have much materially and couldn't offer much. In retrospect, it didn't warp our kids in the least. If anything, it helped them realize that society doesn't owe them a thing. They have all grown to be hard-working, law-abiding, honest citizens, and I am proud of each one. But I digress...

Ava Kathleen is our second grandchild. Two years ago Brian and Elizabeth had a son, Garrett. He is doing his best to adjust to life with a baby sister. As grandparents we will do everything to make sure our grandchildren do not go without, but I view my most important role as what I can impart to these children of my offspring. I am impressed first of all that these little ones have eternal souls, and it is my sacred duty to pray daily for their salvation. What a tragic shame if any of my children's children were to turn their backs on the Savior! Then I view my role as one of assisting the parents in leading these little ones to be followers of Jesus. I was not blessed with a great deal of intelligence. I look at my three brothers: a missionary with a PhD, an attorney, and an accountant. I'm just a scrap dealer whom God has been pleased to bless. But after all these years, surely I have gained some knowledge and wisdom. It is this that I wish to pass on to those who come after.

I have a wonderful heritage. On my father's side, my great-grandparents came from Sweden in the 1880's, settled in Minnesota, received Jesus as their savior, and on that side I am a 4th generation Christian. On my mother's side, we can trace our roots back to 1640 when my ancestor landed in Boston as a preacher. As proud as I may be of my heritage, God isn't looking at my ancestry; He is looking at my heart. It is the same for my grandchildren. I Sam. 13:14 'The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart.'

As soon as a baby is born there is the discussion of who he or she looks like. We are generally pleased if they have some of our genetic characteristics. As parents and grandparents may we do all we can to instill our 'spiritual genes' in our offspring; may we be known to our descendents as men and women of God.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What about mercy?

In this post I would like to clarify a biblical position on the mercy of God so as to avoid any fuzzy thinking on the subject. Those who take a more Reformed position on their theology than I do believe that the mercy of God is not conditional, claiming that otherwise it would not be true mercy. I understand why they believe as they do, but from what I understand about the Bible, there is a problem. Some could say since there are no conditions to the mercy of God, He will have mercy on everyone. So whether you have sought forgiveness from your sins or not, you have been shown mercy - no conditions. Thus, everyone makes it Heaven.

Now the strong Reformed will have no problem with this since God's mercy concerning salvation is extended to all - all the elect, that is. Although I love my Calvinistic brethren, I disagree with them about the doctrine of irresistible grace. But that is for another time.

God extends His GRACE unconditionally to every human being. He gives us a wonderful world to live in. Okay, it is not exactly the Garden of Eden (this is not God's fault), but as far as we know, the most suitable place in this universe for mankind. On this earth God blesses us with food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities as well as many luxuries. As moral agents each of us has rebelled against this good Ruler, who has specifically stated that if we disobey His rules, we must suffer punishment. The punishment is death - the separation from God in a place of torment. Since this wonderful Creator doesn't want His creatures to suffer, but justice demands it; God has sent His Son to suffer in their place.
This is a demonstration of the incredible mercy of God. But this act of mercy has strings attached. If you don't get saved, you don't take part in this act of God's mercy. But it is still mercy and I thank God that over 50 years ago, He was mercifully pleased to save my wicked soul.

Now I understand that salvation is all of God. He draws us, the Holy Spirit illuminates the plan of salvation to our darkened hearts, and blood of the Lamb washes our sins away. I had no part in that. It was God who saved me. But there is a human side to this. We have a responsibility since we are moral agents with wills to choose to resist when the God moves us to come to Him. Those who resist will eventually be punished. Those who respond to the wooing of the Spirit of God, will receive additional light until they understand salvation. I believe the native in a pagan land with no Gospel witness, if sincerely responding to the call of God in his heart, can be saved. God will reveal Himself, usually through a missionary, but that is not always necessary. No one can claim they had no chance. Through His creation, His Word, and each man's conscience, God reveals Himself. Although everyone has the opportunity, only those who come will be shown the matchless mercy of God.

For those who are having difficulty deciding what is mercy and what is grace, the following should help:
Mercy is God not giving me something I deserve. This would include salvation from sin and its eternal punishment.
Grace is God giving me something I do not deserve. This would include eternal life in His presence.

Monday, October 18, 2010


An American Christian leader recently stated that he was in China visiting pastors of the underground church there. When he was getting ready to leave, some of the pastors said they were praying for Christians here in the States. This statement prompted his question, 'What are you asking God to do?' Their startling response was that we Americans would face persecution, as they do in China. They did not say this maliciously, because they suffer persecution, and we face very little. Their attitude is that we are soft spiritually, and if we come under physical persecution, it will strengthen true believers and send the rest scattering.

With all due respect to the Chinese Christians, and I am sure they are among the heroes of faith of whom this world is not worthy, I take issue on this point. From my study of the Bible, I don't find anyone seeking or praying for persecution. In I Tim. 2:1-2 Paul says, "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." Paul's instruction is that we pray for our leaders and government officials so that we may avoid physical persecution. The object of our prayer for these individuals is that we may lead a godly life before others without fear of beatings or imprisonment.

Among the millions of Christians living on this planet, those of us here in America have the greatest freedom. There are those living in North Korea and Saudi Arabia who face the sentence of death for converting to Christianity. Many other countries have similarly harsh punishments for believers. In others the government turns a blind eye, while Muslims practice Jihad or Hindus burn Christian villages. Persecution is not something that we as Christians are exempt from. Read the book of I Peter. Persecution is rather to be expected. And if God does send persecution, our response is to rejoice as Jesus says in Matt. 5:11-12 and Peter reminds us in I Pet. 4:12-13.

So why would a God who has the power to send plagues to destroy Egypt, give the Israelites the Promised Land, and perform the other miracles we read of in the Old Testament, not be able to keep His children from persecution? The obvious answer is yes, but from what I read, our brothers and sisters do not consider persecution to be out the ordinary. They expect the hardships, but they know Jesus is with them, and that knowledge takes them through the rough times. Persecution is not a punishment from God. It is what God allows to draw His children closer to Him. Perhaps this is why the Chinese prayed as they did. If you study the heroes of faith in the Old Testament, and I think Joseph is a great example, you will find that many went through severe hardships before God really used them. The reason God was then able to use them effectively, is that the imperfections of the 'diamond in the rough' had been painfully cut away, and now a sparkling gem was ready to glorify God.

If we can get away from the 'it's all about me' attitude, and remember that it is all about God and He is working in lives to bring glory to Himself, then we will have less questions about what God is doing. It is much more important to allow God to work in our lives, than it is to tell God what and how much we want. We must keep in mind that He is our Sovereign and we are but His slaves. As such we can also take heart in this promise: in every trial I go through, I know that God is going with me and I know God loves me.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thirty-three Years and Counting

Last weekend my wife and I celebrated our thirty-third anniversary. I am neither boasting nor acting like a prude when I say I have been faithful both before and since our wedding to my one and only love. I have no regrets, and have missed nothing by experimenting or dabbling into sexual immorality. I have read the story of King David enough times and I have seen how horribly adultery and pornography can ruin families. I have a clear conscience, but I also realize that it only by the grace of God that I can say that.

If you are pure, I urge you to stay that way, praying that God will protect you from the temptations that bombard us constantly. If you have strayed, though there may be scars for the rest of your life, God is the God of second chances. It requires repentance, and may require counseling, but God promises to forgive and with His help, you may find the forgiveness of others and possibly restoration.

Although I believe God wanted me to say that, I did want to make this post a little different from previous ones. This is more of a newsy post; I hope you don't mind. Since I took a vacation from my blog the past two months, things have not slowed down. I have spent the evenings and weekends working on our little estate we call Grace Place, and yes, the heat finally got to me! The company, Grace Plastics, has been slammed with more plastic scrap than we can handle, so we have added a fourth grinder and are slowly digging our way out. Although we have been stressed trying to figure out where we would put loads when there was absolutely no room in the building, God helped us through, just as He helped two years ago when we almost lost our shirt when the economy tanked. We are now financially stronger than we were before the crash - God is faithful - and it certainly doesn't hurt when we daily remind God that Grace Plastics doesn't belong to us, but to Him.

Two weeks ago Kathy and I took a trip to eastern Pennsylvania where our son-in-law's sister was getting married. I n a previous life (25 years ago), we spent a year and a half just outside Reading, PA. We visited the church we attended then, and were disappointed that we didn't recognize anyone. With the help of our Garmin, we were able to find the two houses that we lived in back then. Wow! one of them is a real trash heap now. Then we went on to Philadelphia and visited Independence Hall. The next day we were in Gettysburg for a tour of the battlefield, hoping that General Lee would somehow pull out a victory, but it just didn't happen.

And now, back at work, enjoying what God has led me to do. Let us all be faithful to Him!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, America!

'When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them to another...' and so begins the document that was penned 234 years ago and was ratified by the Continental Congress on the fourth of July. Written by Thomas Jefferson with the assistance of John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, it is an amazing justification for the breaking of the political ties binding the colonies to Great Britain.

Notice the following key phrases:
all Men are created equal - no nation accepted that idea. Actually even in the United States that didn't become a reality for several decades.

endowed by their Creator - without the authority of almighty God the unalienable rights have no moral underpinning. If we lose the reverential respect the Founders held toward their Creator, we will soon lose the Republic they gave us.

the Pursuit of Happiness - there is no where a guarantee or right to happiness, nor does it say the government is to do all in its power to make us happy. As long as we do not interfere with others, we may pursue to be happy in whatever ways we believe we will attain it.

And may I say that the rights enshrined in the Declaration are given by God. There is so much talk today about 'human rights.' These rights are endowed, not by the Creator, but by the government. Whenever they offer a human right, they are taking away some of our liberty. Our politicians need to be reminded that our great nation was built by courageous men and women who desired to be free of government tyranny.

Though only 234 years old, young among the nations of the earth, may the experiment that is America play out for many years to come. So I say, Happy Birthday, America, may you have many more birthdays free from tyranny and oppression!

Thursday, June 17, 2010



A careful man I ought to be, A little fellow follows me. I do not dare to go astray, For fear he'll go the selfsame way.

Not once can I escape his eyes; Whate'er he sees me do he tries. Like me he says he's going to be That little chap who follows me.

I must remember as I go Through summer sun and winter snow, I'm molding for years to be - That little chap who follows me.

My mother-in-law gave me a card with this poem on it when my son was very young. I still have it, though Joe will be 29 years old this summer. The truth it illustrates is of immense importance. We as fathers cannot take it lightly. As Christians we must be the kind of examples who will lead our sons (and daughters) to follow the Lord our God. This is generational; my children are 5th generation Christians. Through the grace of God, a lot of prayer, and hard, consistent work, they were brought into the Kingdom of God.

Though they have been redeemed, my job is not finished. I am now a grandfather and I really want my grandchildren to go to Heaven. That is not going to happen by chance. The large job is up to their parents, but as their grandfather, I am praying daily for their salvation, and have been, from before their birth, when I first heard that another child was on the way.

So fathers, in many ways yours is a thankless job. You have the responsibility of discipline and example, and will one day stand before the eternal Judge for how you have raised your children. It is a solemn responsibility, but well worth it. Always remember, each child is a blessing from God. Enjoy and savor this Sunday as your children gather round you. Count your blessings. I only have four, but realize I have been greatly blessed by a loving God.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Humble Pie

This is not an easy subject to write about. If someone is truly humble, they certainly won't brag about how they have attained an exalted position among 'the few, the humble,...' Likewise, if someone isn't humble, they really don't know what it is about in the first place. I also think that humility is an often misunderstood subject.

First of all, let's get an understanding of what we are talking about. Humility is not being a doormat, letting others walk all over you. I think the Scriptures explain it best. In I Peter 5:5 we read, 'Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility...' Now being submissive to one another and being clothed with humility are very similar. Humility does not lord itself over another. As Christians we are not to act as the disciples did, arguing about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom, but we are to have a servant attitude, preferring others.

This is not the kind of attitude you will find in this world. We scratch and claw to get ahead, we tell whoppers to be thought of more highly than we ought, and we strut about, hoping to be noticed by those we want to please, or just to be well thought of. And of course there are those times it backfires, because people don't appreciate egotistical, proud peacocks. So why do we do it? I don't know about others, but I am just a slow learner. So we need the assistance of God. He gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud.

When I think of examples of those who are humble, the first person I think of is my dad. Of course he was not famous (although you certainly can, and still be humble). As a missionary to Japan and Korea, he was a tremendous preacher, gifted teacher, and wonderful soul-winner. But he never tried to lift himself up or encourage people to notice him. He worked for his Savior first of all, and then he always put others before himself. He also had a knack for detecting those who were stuck on themselves. He had no use for them.

This what humility is all about. Some may think that to be humble, they have to feel and act inferior. Nothing about that is humble, it is just degrading. You can be a pastor or leader and still be humble. In fact a humble leader is a better leader because he acts as a servant to others.

In I Peter 5:6 God promises this: Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. Now let's go forth and in humility serve others.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sacrifice of Praise

There are two places in the Bible that mention 'the sacrifice of praise.' But what does it mean? When I was younger I thought that the animal sacrifices in the O.T. were simply burned up and of no further use. However as I read my Bible more carefully, I realized that many sacrifices were actually supposed to be eaten. Some of the inner parts and fat were burned as a sacrifice to the Lord and the rest of the meat was eaten by priests, Levites, or the one who offered the sacrifice. When Solomon offered the thousands of sheep and oxen in the dedication of the Temple, there was plenty of food for the people who came to be a part of the celebration. Some may say if that is the case then it wasn't much of a sacrifice. Okay, that is a tough one to answer, but the O.T. sacrifices had a two-fold purpose: first, it often involved someone giving up something or costing something, which it often did; second, it was a picture of the ultimate sacrifice that the coming Messiah was going to make when, as the Lamb of God, He would offer the complete sacrifice for sin.

So where does the sacrifice of praise fit in? In the Law (especially Leviticus) there are a number of different sacrifices described, but none of them refers to praise. And why is it referred to as a sacrifice - a sacrifice of what? This is where I think the praise part of the Sunday service or celebration becomes so important. When we offer our sincere adoration and praise to our King, we offer a sacrifice of praise - it is a submission to His sovereignty over our lives. In Jer. 33;11 the sacrifice of praise was given by Israelites returning to the Promised Land. In Heb. 13:15 we are admonished to 'offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips.' The sacrifice of praise is an outward expression of what is inside: grateful hearts for the goodness of God showering His abundant and amazing grace on those of us who are so undeserving. I believe it is also an expression of our acceptance of servitude to God. My sister-in-law mentioned that when she lifts her hands, palms facing upward, it is as though she were lifting her life and offering it to God.

So a sacrifice of praise is exactly that - a sacrifice, one given freely, with no expectation of anything in return. But we are so richly blessed. When we give our puny lives to God, we entrust ourselves to Him. And then He just pours out His blessings...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Lamb of God

This is considered the holiest week in the Christian calendar, both among those true believers and those who simply pay lip service. There is good reason why we do this, but let's consider the geography of the origin of the place where the Lamb of God offered the final sacrifice that was required of the Father to redeem rebels to Himself.

Over 4,000 years ago God told Abraham to go to Mt. Moriah and there offer his son, Isaac as a sacrifice. Although Abraham did not understand why, he did exactly as God instructed him. As we all know, at the last minute, God intervened and showed him the substitute, a ram caught by his horns in the thicket close by. It was there that God called Himself by that awesome name 'Jehovah Jirah,' - the Lord will provide. This was a prophetic name of God, pointing to that future time when God would provide a substitute for man's lost condition. Why did God tell Abraham to go to Mt. Moriah? We will get to that, but first let's consider another scene.

Solomon built the temple his father wanted to build and before his death, David showed his son the plans, the gold, and other supplies he had stock-piled for the future temple. Solomon built a fabulous building for the glory of God on a hilltop on the edge of Jerusalem. At its dedication Solomon offered thousands of animals in sacrifice to God. All these sacrifices were pictures that God was using to show His people the ultimate Sacrifice that would take place hundreds of years later. These Old Testament saints were not saved by keeping the Law, because no one has successfully done so until the Messiah walked the earth. Rather they were saved by looking forward to a coming Sacrificial Lamb and demonstrated their faith by the sacrifices they offered. However there was a reason the Temple was built where it was.

On the morning after the last Passover meal Jesus celebrated with his disciples, He was taken to Golgotha where He laid down His life. Although I have never been to the Promised Land, I have been told that when you are standing there, you are standing on the northern slope of Mt. Moriah, the same place where God so perfectly pictured the coming sacrifice in Abraham's day, and the same mountain om which Solomon built a temple where thousands of pictures of the coming Savior were painted in the red blood of lambs. This was not just coincidence, but show the eternal hand of the Almighty.

Another thing that was not coincidence is the timing of the death of Jesus. As was stated earlier, He has just celebrated Passover. 3,501 years ago God instituted the Passover in Egypt. Moses told the Israelites to slay a male lamb and apply the blood to the doorposts and upper beam of the doorway. Doing so would cause the Death Angel to pass over and spare the oldest son from death. This also was such a beautiful picture of the coming Son of God, who would become the last Passover Lamb. If we have had the blood applied to our hearts, the Death Angel of eternal judgment will pass over - no condemnation, no second death.

This is not the end of the story. The best is yet to come. On that beautiful Sunday morning, Jesus was no longer in the tomb. HE IS RISEN! This was the what the apostles preached - the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. It was necessary that He bleed and die for our salvation from sin, but without the resurrection, there is no life, no justification. But we know that Jesus rose from the dead, He lives forevermore, and one day we will live with Him.

This Easter Sunday, let us worship the Savior with abandon of love for God's wonderful working out His plan of salvation.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Victory in Jesus

This is the third and final post on Christian Liberty. I hope you have read the previous posts before tackling this one.

The reference we should turn our attention to is Romans 8:1, where the great apostle says there is no condemnation to those who don't walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. He goes on to speak disparagingly about the law of sin and death. In contrast he revels in the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Now I believe the law of sin and death Paul is speaking of here are the 10 Commandments. They have slain everyone of us, placing us under judgment. But through the Son of God, by His perfect life and sacrificial death, God has provided the victory we can have. The law of sin and death no longer should have mastery over us. Romans 8 is a chapter of the victorious life that is available to every Christian.

Too many Christians are convinced that they can never live above sin. Too many preachers hammer home this falsehood. But my reading of the Word of God tells me a different story. I look at Romans 7:13-25 and I see the picture of a wretched creature who is either unsaved or carnal - an autobiography of Paul's life before his unexpected encounter with the King. But all that changes when Paul begins Romans 8. Now we see a new walk and a new life - filled with the promise of victory over sin. And doesn't it make sense? After all, our mighty God is so much more powerful than all that Satan can throw at Him. And I, who before knowing God, had no ability to live outside the chains of sin, now have been set free from the dungeon of sin in which I was bound. I step into the splendor of His light, breathe fresh air, and walk in His love. He takes me by the hand and gently tells me, 'This the Way, walk in it. Love and serve Me all your days.' I have been liberated, I Am Free! (By the way, I love that song.)

So the new life in Jesus can be a life of victory over sin. Remember that sin is not necessarily what man says it is. Sin is the transgression of God's law. If I allow God to fill my mind with His light, I will see clearly what is right and wrong. He is willing to give me the ability and strength to overcome temptation. That promise is in I Cor. 10:13 - God will with the temptation make a way to escape. (Great verse to memorize.) The possibility of a truly victorious life over sin is made available to us. God is offering to us all we need to live like saints. Although this sounds simplistic, we need to be reminded that our Father wants us to live a life liberated from sin. I know this is radical thinking, but it's so Biblical! Don' be discouraged into thinking it cannot be done. We are only held back from the life that Paul describes by our own faithlessness. 'If God be for us, who can be against us?' Rom. 8:31

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Sermon on the Mount

In Matt. 5-7 we have one of the most profound teachings ever uttered. This embodies the apostle Matthew's version of the Sermon on the Mount. Although in my last post I mentioned that as Christians we have liberty from ceremonial rules and traditions, we must be very careful to distinguish legalistic practices from holy living, and they are not necessarily similar.

First of all let us remember that God is the absolute ruler, bar none. Jesus Jewish title, Messiah, means Anointed One which signifies His role as King. We are His subjects. He reigns and we worship Him. We live under the authority of God. I know we are much more than servants. We are sons and daughters of a wonderful loving Father, but even here we have the authority idea coming through. If we are to live holy lives before God in world, there are things that we will have to forego.

I think that Matt. 5:39-42 are some of the hardest verses in the Bible. Here Jesus tells us to turn the cheek, give more than is required, and go the extra mile. This totally goes against the grain. Why would God expect this kind of doormat type of lifestyle from His children? Well, perhaps if we would live before the world the way God wants us to, we would see more conversions, we would see more revival. Instead of demanding more Christian Liberty, maybe we should concentrate on whether we are 'observing all things whatsoever I have commanded you.' We all want to be those who are blessed in the Beattitudes, we want to be salt and light, but the teachings of Jesus get pretty rough after that. I encourage you to read these chapters again.

The principles and rules that are laid out by His Majesty cannot be followed without a large amount of grace. As I allow God to work in my heart and ask Him to help me love Him with all my heart and to love others, placing them before me, slowly God works that work of grace in my life. He tells me in this situation and in that instance how He wants me to act and react. As I follow His advice, I live out the life that Jesus wants me to live, and it is a beautiful life, filled with light. I have a reason for living, the approving smile of my Master, and I worship the King with joy. However as I disagree with God, believing that I know better how to deal with others, my life is just that - mine. It is not beautiful, but full of pride, greed, and arrogance, and becomes hollow and without purpose. For the Christian to live for self is not only senseless, but often it is destructive.

I know there are some who say that the Sermon on the Mount is not for us today, but for a future time. I really don't think Jesus or the people He was speaking to had that idea. And then there are those bright-eyed idealists, bless their hearts, who think the Sermon should be practiced by the governments of the world, especially our government. I could not disagree more. The thought of a government trying to follow what Jesus gave as rules for His disciples is ludicrous. When Jesus came to establish a kingdom not of this world, He established it for His subjects, for those who, by faith look for a city whose builder and maker is God. Finally the Sermon on the Mount was and is not intended to followed and practiced by those who have not come to faith in the Son of God. Only after repenting of our sins and placing our eternal destiny in the Lamb of God can we take the step of liberty, no longer dominated by sin or Satan, but now free to follow Jesus.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Legalism andChristian Liberty

A year ago I wrote an article about rules and relationships which alluded to legalism. We are going to cover it in more depth this time. A great chapter in the Bible referring to this is Romans 14, where Paul described the quandary many early Christians faced concerning meat offered to idols.

At the outset let me say that it is important that we do not despise other Christians just because they have either stricter rules for themselves or less rules. Paul covers this in 14:3. Also it is wrong to condemn another believer because they do not measure up to your standard, unless your standard is God's standard. Be careful - just because you believe your standard is right, make sure it is in accordance with God's law of grace. There was a time when I thought the higher your standards, the better you were. I had a hard time coinciding that with Paul's discussion of Christian liberty. My views have changed. They are, I trust, more biblical and in line with what Paul was teaching.

So what are God's standards for New Testament Christians who have Christian liberty? No one should have a problem with the 10 Commandments being a good standard to start with. It was given in the Old Testament and restated in the NT. Okay, the 4th commandment is a little tricky - keeping the Sabbath Day holy. I am not going to get into it here. (Let me know if you would like a more in-depth study on that.) In addition, Jesus gave us 2 great commandments: 1) Love God with all you have, and 2) love others as much as yourself. Actually Jesus said that if you keep these two commandments, you don't have to worry about any others, because by keeping these, you will keep the others. Finally, just before He left this earth Jesus gave a commission to His followers: make disciples, baptize them, and teach them 'to observe all things that I have commanded you.' Therefore Christians are to observe commandments Jesus gave. So we need to go to the Gospels, as well as the epistles to find out what Jesus commanded. Now I believe that if we follow these three common-sense guidelines we will be on the safe side of legalism.

There are plenty of Christians who add rules to their own lives, and Paul says others should not judge or despise theses people. As an example, when I was first married, I would not allow my wife to wear pants, because I sincerely believed it was wrong - Deut. 22:5. Now I regard that as an OT rule given to the Israelites. And no longer is my wife restricted from wearing pants. From the outset, though, I never sought to impose my rules on others. They were for me and my family. However we do have those who seek to impose rules on other Christians that are not necessarily biblical. There are many controversial issues such as dress, music, Bible versions, amusements, and others that can be debated by good men and women. But I say, if it doesn't conflict with our guidelines, don't impose rules that God did not. You become a Pharisee when you do. The Pharisees had all sorts of traditions that many thought were equal to the Scriptures, and some of their traditions even contradicted the Word of God.

In the latter half of Romans 14 Paul goes on to say that if a brother is offended and weakened by your liberty, you must set the liberty aside in order to keep the brother from sinning. Reading the chapter will do much to explain what I am trying to say, but I will give an example. As a disclaimer let me say that I have never imbibed in alcohol (adult beverages as Rush Limbaugh would put it.) Since there is nothing in our guidelines which condemns drinking wine (and actually Paul recommended Timothy to use it as medicine), let us suppose I were sitting in a restaurant drinking wine. A brother in Christ walks in and notices what I am doing. If this brother believes what I am doing is wrong, I may have caused him to be offended and possibly weakened him. Therefore drinking that wine is wrong.

One final point is that if we believe certain practices are not right, even though not necessarily condemned by our Savior, to us they are still wrong. Going back to my wine illustration, if I believe that drinking is wrong, then I should not drink. I must be convinced in my mind that it is acceptable in the sight of God. If I don't believe that, and drink anyway, to me it is sin, Romans 14:23.

There is more I would like to discuss concerning the commandments of our Master. Perhaps in the next post. As always, your comments, even if you disagree, are welcome.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


'Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.' Ps. 107:2
This verse came to my mind this morning and especially the word - redeemed. It means to buy back, but for the Christian the implication is tremendous:

I was on the slave block of Sin and Satan was my master. I was dressed in tattered rags which barely covered me. I hung my head in humiliation feeling totally worthless. Then One stepped forward with authority and said, 'I will buy him.'
'The price is high,' Satan sneered, 'how much are you willing to pay?'
This One looked at me with compassion, and told Satan, 'I have redeemed him with My life, now let him go.'
Jesus took the rags from me, and gave me the finest clothes. He then said, 'I have set you free. You are no longer in bondage to sin. My Father is the supreme Ruler of all. You are being adopted into the family. You are an heir; you are a royal prince.' In response to my wondering question, Jesus responded, 'Because I love you, more than you will ever know.'
With that, I threw myself at His feet and declared, 'I was a slave to sin, and I am still a slave, but I will no longer do the bidding of Satan. You are my Master; you are my King. I will serve only You all of my life.'

The price of redeeming His children was high, and we as children of God should remember that. We should also remember that when Jesus bought us back from the slave market of sin, He also provided us the victory over sin. I was reading Romans 8 last week. There is a great contrast between the unsaved or carnal Christian described in Romans 7 and the Romans 8 Christian who has been freed from the bondage of sin. We are free! We have the victory! Let us go forward with this promise: nothing 'shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' Rom. 8:39