Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wednesday, November 13th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Peter 5; Ezekiel 25-26
Today's scripture focus is Luke 21:12-19

Luke 21:12-19

English Standard Version (ESV)
12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.17 You will be hated by all for my name's sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

We are living between the times.  Between the time of Jesus first coming and the time of His second.  His first coming was one of mercy and forgiveness, with the offer of salvation.  His second coming will be one of judgment.  And we're living in between.

Jesus warns the disciples, and us, that the in between time will be very, very dismal at times.  We saw yesterday that war, terrors, plagues, famines, and natural disasters will wreak havoc on the earth - and we've seen that truth play out throughout history exactly as Jesus said it would.

And in today's passage we see that persecution will also be rampant.  This is also simply gaining in numbers.  MacArthur states (and is something I've heard said before) that more Christians have been killed for their faith in the 20th century, than in all the other centuries combined.  It's getting worse.  Just as Jesus said it would.

But there's a few things that Jesus says here that is amazing, and truly gives hope to those living under persecution.

First of all, it says very clearly we don't need to stress out ahead of time about what we would say and how we would respond to persecution.  Why not?  Genuine faith, though exercised of free will, is a gift of God, and one that cannot be taken away.  Genuine faith is proved genuine in times of persecution.

Those who fall away were simply not saved to begin with.

I know the whole "once saved, always saved" debate can get quite heated - but I am beginning to feel more and more that it is true.  Once genuinely saved, always saved.  Those who fall away simply give evidence that their faith was not genuine to begin with - they were the seed that fell anywhere but on the rich, fertile soil.

Jesus just said in this very passage... 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
He's obviously not talking about physical life, because He just said some would be killed for their faith. He's talking about spiritual life.

Here's just a few more passages to support this....

John 4:13-14 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
You drink it, and you never thirst again.

John 5:24 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
You don't go back and forth from life to death to life to death.  Whoever believes has eternal life.  And eternal life, by definition, lasts forever.

John 6:37-40 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
MacArthur: all believers who come to faith are brought to faith by the work of the Father, they are given to the Son as gifts of love, the Son receives them, the Son does not reject them, the Son holds them, the Son keeps them....the Son loses none and the Son raises all to eternal glory. Nobody falls through the cracks.

John 10:27-30 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Jesus gives believers eternal life.  We will never perish.  No one will every snatch us from His hand.  No one.  Ever.

God has given us a faith that cannot fail.  It's not up to us.  If it was up to us, we would fail, no doubt about it.  But's it's not up to us.  It's His gift.  And His saving faith cannot fail.  It will endure - despite war, terror, plague, famine, false teaching, and even persecution to the point of physical death.

Matthew 24:10-13 is a parallel passage that adds to this thought....
10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
The one who endures to the end will be saved, because his/her faith has been proved genuine.  Those who fell away were not saved to begin with.

Exactly like it says in 1 John 2:19 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
Those who are genuinely saved do not fall away.

We cannot see into people's hearts.  We cannot know who actually believes what they say they believe.  They may even live like they believe it for awhile.  But if hardship causes them to fall away - they were never saved to begin with.

Let's use an analogy of a man and a woman getting married.
How do you know they actually love each other?
By the marriage enduring the test of time and hardship.

You can say all the right words. You can pledge your love in front of a congregation in a church and in front of God.  You can vow to love.  You can even act loving for years.  The love may be genuine or it may not be.  The way it is proven genuine is when it survives trial.

Similarly with faith.  You can say all the right words.  You can speak Christianese with the best of them.  You can walk down the aisle and pray a prayer.  But there are no magic words.  If you do not understand the gospel, if you do not understand what you're repenting of and committing your life to, if you do not believe in your heart the words you are saying, if you do not live the newfound commitment you've made, and if you do not endure - then it wasn't genuine.

Look at 1 Peter 1:3-10 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
That just sums it up right there.

God gets the glory and credit for our salvation.  We've done nothing to earn or deserve it.  It's completely His mercy.
MacArthur: You have by God’s mercy been caused to be born again into eternal life, you have a hope that cannot die and to fulfill that hope, you already have reserved in heaven for you, not for anybody who happens to make it, but for you an inheritance which cannot perish, cannot be defiled, will not fade don’t have the power. But you’re protected by the power of God through...what?’s the key, “Through faith.” God protects you to the very end when you will receive that eternal inheritance, He protects you by His power, that’s the source of protection, the means of protection is your faith. That’s what He says. Protected by the power of God through faith. Faith is the means by which God protects you all the way to eternal glory. That faith which He has given you is an unassailable, unfading, undying, unfailing faith. It is a permanent faith. It is in that gift of supernatural faith that God does His protecting so that one day you will receive the final salvation to be revealed in the last time.

Protected by faith. Protected by the power of God through the means of faith. You see, the gift that God gave you when you came to Christ, you were dead in trespasses and sin, you were blind, you could not understand, you could not believe, you could not do anything to earn salvation, God gave it to you as a gift. He gave you faith to believe, a faith to save, and the faith that He gave you is a faith that cannot fail. And God keeps you by His power through means of the gift of that unfailing faith so that no matter what comes, you who are true believers endure it all. Not only do you endure it all, but you don’t necessarily endure it all hanging on by your fingernails. It’s quite the opposite....You rejoice in your trials....
This is what He’s saying. The difficulties of life, that troubles that come into life, whether it’s deception or disaster or persecution, tests your faith so that the proof of your faith is more precious than gold.
You know what the most precious thing you have is? No question, THE most precious thing you possess is the confidence that you’re going to heaven, right? That is THE most precious thing you have. There are some people who don’t know that. Maybe I’ll make it, maybe I won’t, if I can hang on I’ll make it... You know what you want to know? You want to know that your faith is the real deal. You know how you can know that? The only way you can know that is to have it tested. Did it survive the disaster? Did it survive the test of cancer? Did it survive the rebellion? Did it survive the doubt when you were caught in a false religion? Did it survive this and that and the other thing? Does it survive the world in which you live with all of its struggles? Did it survive when you were disappointed by the person you loved the most, when you’ve cast out, rejected by your own children? Where is your faith when tested by fire? Because when it comes through and it’s stronger, then that’s more precious to you than gold because now you know that you have the real thing.

Romans 8:35-39 almost seems written for this very passage!
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

MacArthur agrees: we’re protected by the power of God through faith. And God gives us that enduring faith because He loves us. Nothing can ever change His love for us. No one can ever tear us out of the secure hold of the Father. Therefore, salvation is forever. And so whatever comes in this world, we are not terrified. We know what our glorious end will be.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 21:20-24
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 2 Peter 1, Ezekiel 27-28

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