Is God Ever Unjust?

Today I’m sharing from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Is God Ever Unjust?

by John MacArthur

Have you ever considered the stark contrast between Judas Iscariot and the thief on the cross? One was a close disciple of Jesus Christ and gave three years of his life to the best, most intensive religious instruction available anywhere. But he lost his soul forever. The other was a hardened, lifelong criminal who was still mocking everything holy while being put to death for his crimes. But he went straight to paradise forever.

The difference in the two men could hardly be more pronounced—nor could the endings to their respective life stories be more surprising. Judas was a disciple in Christ’s closest circle of twelve. He preached, evangelized, ministered, and was even given power “over all the demons and to heal diseases” (Luke 9:1). He seemed like a model disciple. When Jesus predicted that one of the twelve would betray Him, no one pointed the finger of suspicion at Judas. He was so thoroughly trusted by the other disciples that they had made him their treasurer (John 13:29). They evidently saw nothing in his character or attitude that seemed questionable, much less diabolical. But he betrayed Christ, ended his own miserable life by suicide, and entered into eternal damnation laden with horrific guilt. Christ’s words about him in Mark 14:21 are chilling: “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

The thief on the cross, on the other hand, was a career criminal—a serious enough villain that he had been sentenced to die by the slowest, most painful form of capital punishment known to man. He’s called a robber in Matthew 27:38—the Greek word there speaks of a brigand or a highwayman. He was crucified with a partner—both had been slated to be executed along with Barabbas, an insurrectionist and killer (Luke 23:18–19). All of that indicates that the thief on the cross was part of a gang of cutthroat ruffians who stole by violence and lived by no law but their own passions. He was clearly vicious, mean-spirited, and aggressive because in the early hours of the crucifixion, both he and his cohort in crime were taunting and reviling Jesus along with the mocking crowd (Matthew 27:44).

But as that thief watched Jesus die silently—“oppressed . . . afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7)—the hardened criminal had a remarkable last-minute change of heart. Literally in the dying moments of his wretched earthly life, he confessed his sin (Luke 23:41), uttered a simple prayer: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42)—and was ushered that very day into paradise (Luke 23:43), clothed in perfect righteousness, all his guilt borne and paid for in full by Christ.

Apparent Injustice

Those who think heaven is a reward for doing good might protest that this was throwing justice out the window. The thief had done nothing whatsoever to merit heaven. If it’s possible to forgive such a man so completely in the dying moments of a wretched life filled with gross sin, wouldn’t it also be proper for Judas’s one act of treachery to be canceled (or mitigated) on the basis of whatever good works he had done while following Christ for three years? People do occasionally raise questions like that. The Internet is dotted with comments and articles suggesting Judas was dealt with unfairly or judged too harshly.

Judas himself seemed to be the type of person who kept score on such matters. He protested, for example, when Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with a costly fragrance. He knew the precise value of the ointment (equal to a year’s wages), and he complained, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” (John 12:5). He no doubt would have thought that the grace Jesus showed the thief was inappropriately extravagant as well.

People who have devoted their lives to religion do sometimes seem to resent it when God reaches out and graciously redeems someone whom they deem unworthy of divine favor.

Justice vs. Grace?

What we have to bear in mind is that all people are totally unworthy. No one deserves God’s favor. We are all guilty sinners who deserve nothing less than damnation. No one who has sinned has any rightful claim on the kindness of God.

Read the rest here.

Rekindling Your Love for Christ

Thank you all for bearing with me during my short hiatus. I am feeling a lot better now and will share more about that in a future post. Today I’m sharing an excellent post from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Rekindling Your Love for Christ

by John MacArthur

As we begin this new year, before we get back into our study of the gospel of Luke, which we will commence again next Sunday, along with our series on doctrine next Sunday night, I want to talk to you just personally and pastorally a little bit. Last Sunday I spoke on 1 Corinthians chapter 10, on the danger of spiritual privilege, from the verse, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” How that those who are singularly blessed can become smug about that blessing and thinking they’re firm in their stand can be headed for a serious collapse. I want to follow up on that same perspective today, because I feel like part of the ministry that I must discharge before the Lord, and you, is a ministry of warning about danger.

Our church is not in particular danger from some dominating iniquity. It is not in particular danger from some infiltrating heresy. It is not in danger from some loss of resources financially or human. Everything you can see on the surface looks to be good. And we would have every reason to think that we stand, and still be on the brink of a fall. And following that idea up a little bit, we have to go to the real core of what it means to be a Christian. And I, from my perspective, believe that the church in our day is completely losing this simple perspective. I think the Christian life is essentially a simple thing to understand. It is a life of loving Jesus Christ. I know that sounds probably pretty basic, and indeed it is, but just that simple statement has been lost to us.

The Christian life is best defined as an ongoing relationship of love between the believer and Christ. We don’t need to talk about His love for us. That’s fixed. The issue is our love for Christ. Evangelical Christianity has all but lost this perspective on the Christian life. Most people have the idea that the Christian life is about how much God loves me and wants to fulfill my dreams and my desires and my ambitions and my goals and my objectives. And what He wants to do is make something wonderful out of me and life me up and elevate me and fulfill all the hopes of my heart. It’s more about God loving me so much that He wants to do all of this than it is about me loving Him.

But in reality, the Christian life is about loving Christ. It is about loving Him singularly. It is about loving Him totally. It is about loving Him sacrificially. It is about loving Him obediently. It is about loving Him worshipfully. It is about loving Him in terms of service. It really is about loving Jesus Christ. That’s what it means to be a Christian. It’s that you now commit your life to loving Him.

Now if you understand the Old Testament, the great commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the sum of all that God requires, and your neighbor as yourself. But it starts with loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, which is just a way of saying loving God comprehensively, totally, completely. Now if that’s the sum of the Law, then that has to be the sum of the relationship. That can’t be altered when it comes to being a Christian. It is still the purpose of God that we would love the Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Being a Christian is about loving Christ so much that you want to know Him, so much that you want to exalt Him, so much that you want to please Him, so much that you want to serve Him, so much that you want to be with Him, so much that you want to tell others about Him. It’s about this overwhelming, consuming affection for Christ. This is at the core of what it means to be a Christian.

And so, the real question to ask people when you talk about their spiritual growth or their spiritual condition or where they are in terms of their life is, how much do you love Jesus Christ? How much do you love Christ? Are you growing in your love for Christ? Do you love Him more now than you have in the past? Do you desire Him more now than you did in the past? 

Read the rest here.

Faith That Works

Sharing today from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Faith That Works

by John MacArthur

Saving faith is a divine gift, not a human work. But that doesn’t mean true faith is passive or unaccompanied by good works.

The faith God graciously supplies produces both the volition and the ability to comply with His will (cf. Philippians 2:13: “God . . . is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”). Thus faith is inseparable from obedience.

Louis Berkhof sees three elements to genuine faith: An intellectual element (notitia), which is “a positive recognition of the truth”; an emotional element (assensus), which includes “a deep conviction [and affirmation] of the truth”; and a volitional element (fiducia), which involves “a personal trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord, including a surrender . . . to Christ.” [1] Augustus Strong argues similarly concerning the volitional element of faith, saying that it involves “surrender of the soul, as guilty and defiled, to Christ’s governance.” [2] Modern popular theology tends to recognize the intellectual and emotional elements of faith but dispenses with the volitional aspect. Yet faith is not true faith if it lacks this attitude of surrender to Christ’s authority.

Writing about the verb “to obey” (peithō), W. E. Vine says:

Peithō and pisteuō, “to trust,” are closely related etymologically; the difference in meaning is that the former implies the obedience that is produced by the latter, cp. Hebrews 3:18–19, where the disobedience of the Israelites is said to be the evidence of their unbelief. . . . When a man obeys God he gives the only possible evidence that in his heart he believes God. . . . Peithō in N.T. suggests an actual and outward result of the inward persuasion and consequent faith. [3]

So the person who has believed will yearn to obey. Because we retain the vestiges of sinful flesh, no one will obey perfectly (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:11 Thessalonians 3:10), but the desire to do the will of God will be ever present in true believers.

Romans 7 is the classic text describing the believer’s struggle with his sinful flesh, and in that passage Paul acknowledged his changed attitude to sin despite the ongoing struggle. He wrote that the desire to do good was his consuming passion as a believer:

I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)

The willing [to do good] is present in me. (Romans 7:18)

I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man. (Romans 7:22)

I myself with my mind am serving the law of God. (Romans 7:25)

Although the apostle Paul described himself as the “foremost” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), those who love reveling in debauchery will not find a kindred spirit with him.

Read the rest here.

The Infinite Value of #Redemption

Another good one from John MacArthur’s Grace to You site. 

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The Infinite Value of Redemption

1 Peter 1:18 and 19, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” Two very wonderful verses; a glorious statement about being redeemed.

Redeemed used to be a very popular word in the evangelical vocabulary; I don’t hear it much anymore. It was a part of many, many hymns and gospel songs. There were even songs, many of them, and hymns with the word “redeemed” in the title. Reference was often made to Christ as the Redeemer. Don’t hear that very much anymore, and I think we may have lost an understanding of this most wonderful reality of what it means to be redeemed, and so we’re going to look at that in a little bit. But I want to give you some context.

As Peter writes, he is writing to some believers who are scattered around the Roman world. He describes them in verse 1 as aliens. They are aliens in the sense that they are part of God’s kingdom and so they are aliens in the world. They’re scattered throughout many of the countries and provinces: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. But they are God’s chosen. They are those who are being sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit, those who obey Jesus Christ, those who have been sprinkled with His blood, and Peter is addressing this wonderful letter to them.

The circumstances are dire for them. Obviously, they are a first-generation church. No church existed before the Day of Pentecost. Here are these believers in the Gentile world made up of some Jews and Gentiles. They are definitely alienated from the paganism that literally dominates the world, and life has become very difficult for them. I’ll tell you why specifically.

Read the rest here.

Jesus vs. Demons

Here is another great devotional by John MacArthur. Please visit his Grace to You site, where you will find tons of wonderful Biblical information, sermons, studies, links and other resources. This was last Sunday’s daily Bible reading, which I subscribe to via email. 

August 2 – Jesus vs. Demons

“When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him . . . and they cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’” (Matthew 8:28–29).

Demons can attack people mentally, physically, or spiritually. Spiritually, they oppose true religion, promote the false, and control the occult. Intellectually, they advocate false ideologies, insanity, and masochism. Our Lord always recognized demonized people as being victims of powers beyond their control and in need of deliverance, not condemnation or exhortation.

By calling Jesus “Son of God,” the demons controlling the Gadarene men showed they knew His true identity. They recognized Him as their spiritual antagonist who had the full authority to destroy them at will. Their question “Have You come here to torment us before the time?” further recognized that there is a God-ordained schedule, not yet completed, when He will relegate them to eternal damnation. As in other subjects, the demons had a correct doctrine of last things. But such belief is mere recognition, not acceptance. James reveals that even they tremble at the consequences of unbelief: “the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19).

Demons despise everything about God and His Son. Yet they can’t do anything but pay Jesus the greatest deferential respect when in His presence. That supports Paul’s teaching that one day at the name of Christ, “every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11).

Ask Yourself

Seeing the demons so obviously in fear of Christ’s dominance should encourage us that He is more than able to handle any situation. Have you been withholding a need from Him, not sure He cared or could do anything about it? Bring it boldly to Him today.

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610,www.moodypublishers.com.

This devotional originally appeared at Grace to You.