Three Unbreakable New Year’s Resolutions God Will Keep For You

“But we ought to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this He called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 2:13-14)

As we take the time to reflect over the past year, and make resolutions we will inevitably break in the next, this New Year gives opportunity for us to freshly grasp old truth. To be “resolute” means to stand firm or be particularly determined about something. Instead of using our feeble resolute-ness on the shaky ground of P90x and Hollywood diets, maybe we need to stand firm on some truth that will build up our souls for an eternity

The early Thessalonica church was in a dungeon of doubt concerning their salvation and the second coming of Christ.  As Paul gives this fragile church encouragement regarding their salvation, there are also are some ancient gems for us to unearth. If we are to stand firm on anything this New Year, let it be on the undying promise of God that we are loved, chosen and set apart for His glory:

  1. We are loved by the Lord Jesus. Paul calls us the “beloved” (agapao) in verse 13. Agape love is the deepest most costly love one could express, and it is given to us in the Son’s self-sacrificial life and death on the cross. In the Christian faith, we can never get past the love of Christ and on to deeper things. It is our privilege and honor to spend eternity plumbing the depths of His love (Eph 3:18-20). The Son has accomplished our salvation with His wrath bearing sacrifice for our sins. This may not be the same type of general love He has for the whole world (jhn 3:16). This is a particular love for a particular people, His “beloved.” Like a husband loves his wife.
  2. We are chosen by the Father. Because of grace God selected us to be saved “from the beginning” (v.13), or from foundations of the world (Eph 1:4). The Father has appointed for us to experience this love even though He knew we were undeserving and unlovable enemies to Him (Romans 5:8-10). If our destiny is in the hands of the all Loving all Powerful Creator of the universe, then any fears regarding our salvation are a foolish wasted exercise. Christ came to die for us 2000 years ago, because the Father had already chosen us in eternity past. This is an alarming mystery. The implications that come with this are not something to be intellectually grasped by us, rather the particular love of God is to be adored by us in joyful trembling fear.
  3. We are set apart by the Holy Spirit. Our election has real results in real-time for us. The Holy Spirit applies the saving work of the Son and Father to our lives by making us born again (Titus 3:5-6) and giving us a new heart to love, fear, and follow after God in righteousness (Ezekiel 36:26-36). That is what “sanctification” is. It is something that has happened and is happening until we die. This “setting apart” has lasting lifestyle implications as the Holy Spirit continues to convict, encourage, illuminate and make us progressively more like Christ (Romans 8:29).  Notice, the primary result of us being set apart by the Holy Spirit is that we would have an unwavering “belief in the truth”, the word of God (v. 13).

In the light of all this, why should we never doubt our salvation?  Because the total Triune God has a vested interest in it: The Father appointed it, the Son accomplished it, and the Holy Spirit applies it to us. No wonder Paul asks rhetorically elsewhere: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” (Romans 8:33) The obvious answer is a resounding “NO ONE!”

In conclusion, I hope any newfound New Year’s resolve we may have this time of year will direct itself towards knowing this: The Father has sovereignly chosen you, Jesus has agape loved you, and the Holy Spirit is setting you apart to “obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus” (v. 14).

If we are resolute to hold these truths, this holiday season could bear fruit to eternity for our lives…and others.

Happy Holidays peeps!

Bryan Daniels

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The Perfect Bloody Antidote for Valentine’s Day

[This is an oldie but goodie, a remix, a regurgitation, a….just read the intro to this]

The more I study the scriptures I have had memorized since VBS, the more I am convinced of my ignorance of them. In my adult life I have often been guilty of neglecting the Sunday school stories of old: Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Red Sea, Jonah and the Whale, etc. This apathetic attitude overflows into the New Testament Scriptures too. My neglect is displayed specifically in what is probably the most celebrated verse in modern time: John 3:16. I can quote it frontwards and backwards and say all the doctrinally correct things about it, but rarely does this verse resonate deep within me anymore. 

You may feel the same way. But there is a multifaceted jewel here that we need to pick back up and dust off. We should not approach it lightly, as Spurgeon said, “like children, playing marbles with God’s diamonds.”

“For God so loved….”

We can never get over that truth. We can never “get past it” and on to deeper more substantial matters. If we believe we can God have mercy on our souls. There is still an untouched uncharted ocean that still dwells within John 3:16. This love that God loves with is an “agapao” love, or the highest form of love. It is the most emphatic love one can express. It’s not just that God loved the world, it is that he intensely loved the world. And the force of the word is coupled with way he loved (so loved), literally meaning, “God intensely loved the world in this way….”

God is a God who loves. That means He feels. He knows devotion. He knows affection. He knows heartache. He has emotions. Turn the computer off and let that settle within you. The transcendent One is an emotional being. Though human emotional makeup is so twisted with sin and prone to instability, we have emotions only because our gracious Originator had them first. And it is He who has granted them to us.

The Father is neither stoic nor unstable with His emotions. God’s emotions are perfect. His love is a perfect love (1 John 4:18). His hatred is a perfect hatred (Psalm 5:5). He even possesses a perfect jealousy (Exodus 34:14). When He loves, He does it with a precise intensity and purpose. He’s not a distant watchmaker or some general taskmaster living in a cloud of unknowing. He burns with perfect passion. He delights to love; and He delights to manifest this love to the world.

“For God so loved the world…”

This love was meant for the world. Not for Jews only, or Americans only, or the Reformed only. There are some intriguing ways to break down the word “world” here, which in the Greek is “Kosmon.” It could mean just the elect from all over the world (particular view), or it may mean every man, woman or child who ever lived on earth (most common view). A compelling article on the biblical usage of “Kosmon” can be found here. For now, lets take “world” in its most ordinary sense. That would mean the world God loves with such intensity is the great totality of fallen mankind. It’s incredibly provocative that a holy God would love such ones. It’s compelling because the great totality of fallen mankind is one mired and twisted mass of unlovables. If we seriously doubt this then just glance at the evening news, supermarket tabloids, or bathroom mirror sometime.

“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son….”

This is a love grounded in action. For an infinitely less significant analogy imagine this: You are a powerful King and you beckon your only son and heir of your throne for a mission. You tell him this:

 “There is something I want you to do for me: I have some enemies that deserve to die, and I want you to go and die in their place, so that they can have eternal life and inherit my kingdom.”

That’s what the Father and Son did at the cross; and incalculably more than that times a million millions.

We dwell too little on how undeserving we are of such a divine arrangement. My son would stay home safely in my arms forever before I would ever imagine sending him to die for even a thousand martyrs or missionaries. But the Father’s love was too great. God sends his son to die not for the righteous, but the blatantly unrighteous. His love is altogether not like any we have experienced. There is no category for this love in the human realm of categorizing.

This is one reason of many that universalism is a fatal and foolish heresy. A god who saves everyone regardless of unrepentant rebellion doesn’t need to send His own Son to atone for sins. If you are an atheist, Muslim, cultist, or open blasphemer of God it matters not to the universalist. This god saves all regardless of righteousness. But it cost this god nothing to save hell deserving sinners. As a result, this god is worse than worthless. He not only fails to give anything real in grace he also fails to judge anyone in righteousness.  It costs the false god of universalism/sentimentalism nothing to love humans. But the true God’s love is grounded in a decisive sacrificial act, not just a thoughtful feeling.

The love of God is not some theoretical sentimental feeling like butterflies, twinkling eyes, and fluttering heartbeats. God the Father looked at his perfect, precious Son in one hand, and the mass of wretched wicked unredeemed humanity in the other, and he literally crushed the blessed Son with His hand of wrath meant for us (Isaiah 53:10). This was the blessed eternally begotten Son, ripped from the bosom of the Father to endure an agonizing hell for mankind. This was a Father giving. But this was also a Father sending (John 3:17). The giving was not a giving over to, but a sending with a specific mission granted in eternity past. The Son came to die. And He laid down His life on His own accord (John 10:18).
 
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

All the groups and categories we place people in on earth are futile in eternity. It may be red state or blue state, black or white, male or female, or any other temporary niche one may find themselves in. In reality, there are essentially only two enduring groups: Those who will eternally perish and those who will eternally live. Namely, those who acquire God’s deserving wrath and those who acquire God’s undeserving mercy.  Where we fall between those two groups is the only question that will matter in one hundred years.
 
We are not left to our own devices. God graciously provides a means for us to accomplish His eternally good end. The God who loves and gave lavishly out of that love says, “Believe in Me. Trust in me. Put your faith in Me.”

There is much that the word “believe” entails.  It is a type of believing that perseveres for Christ. It is a type of trusting that exalts in Christ. It is a type of faith that knows the dead heart can only be raised with Christ. And part of that believing is a repenting before Christ.

Maybe repentance is the gift you and I really need this Valentine’s Day. Repenting of chasing lesser lovers because I believe Christ is not sufficient for all my needs. Repenting of allowing a fallen culture to tell me singleness is the same as aloneness. Repenting of my part in contributing to the commercialization and plundering of the word “love” in society. Repenting of believing God’s love is a reflection of human love and not the other way around. Repenting because the love of God set forth in John 3:16 has been memorized by me, but has not yet been realized in me.

The best gift we can get this Valentine’s Day is not cards, roses, fancy dinners, kisses or even companionship. The world says love looks like a good-looking young couple, dressed to the hilt, holding hands, giggling, and exchanging flirtatious glances with one another. God says love looks like a single Jewish man, stripped and forsaken, beaten beyond recognition, and scorned by all, even by his own Father. Do we desire the former love over the latter? May God grant us the gift of repentance if we do (2 Timothy 2:25).

And may we begin to return to the precious stones of our childhood, where the lost can become found all over again. 

Bryan Daniels

Three New Year’s Resolutions for the Beloved

“But we ought to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this He called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 2:13-14)

As we take the time to reflect over the past year, and make resolutions we will inevitably break in the next, this New Year gives opportunity for us to freshly grasp old truth. To be “resolute” means to stand firm or be particularly determined about something. Instead of using our feeble resolute-ness on the shaky ground of P90x and Hollywood diets, maybe we need to stand firm on some truth that will build up our souls for an eternity.

My wife's New Year Resolution : )

The early Thessalonica church was in a dungeon of doubt concerning their salvation and the second coming of Christ.  As Paul gives this fragile church encouragement regarding their salvation, there are also are some ancient gems for us to unearth. If we are to stand firm on anything this New Year, let it be on the undying promise of God that we are loved, chosen and set apart for His glory:

  1. We are loved by the Lord Jesus. Paul calls us the “beloved” (agapao) in verse 13. Agape love is the deepest most costly love one could express, and it is given to us in the Son’s self-sacrificial life and death on the cross. In the Christian faith, we can never get past the love of Christ and on to deeper things. It is our privilege and honor to spend our time plumbing the depths of His love (Eph 3:18-20). The Son has accomplished our salvation with His wrath bearing sacrifice for our sins. This is a particular love for a particular people, His “beloved.”
  2. We are chosen by the Father. Because of grace God selected us to be saved “from the beginning” (v.13), or from foundations of the world (Eph 1:4). The Father has appointed for us to experience this love even though He knew we were undeserving and unlovable enemies to Him (Romans 5:8-10). If our destiny is in the hands of the all Loving all Powerful Creator of the universe, then any fears regarding our salvation are a foolish wasted exercise. Christ came to die for us 2000 years ago, because the Father had already chosen us in eternity past.
  3. We are set apart by the Holy Spirit. Our election has real results in real-time for us. The Holy Spirit applies the saving work of the Son and Father to our lives by making us born again (Titus 3:5-6) and giving us a new heart to love, fear, and follow after God in righteousness (Ezekiel 36:26-36). That is what “sanctification” is. It is something that has happened and is happening until we die. This “setting apart” has lasting lifestyle implications as the Holy Spirit continues to convict, encourage, illuminate and make us progressively more like Christ (Romans 8:29).  Notice, the primary result of us being set apart by the Holy Spirit is that we would have an unwavering “belief in the truth”, the word of God (v. 13).

In the light of all this, why should we never doubt our salvation?  Because the total Triune God has a vested interest in it: The Father appointed it, the Son accomplished it, and the Holy Spirit applies it to us. No wonder Paul asks rhetorically elsewhere: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” (Romans 8:33) The obvious answer is a resounding “NO ONE!”

In conclusion, I hope any newfound New Year’s resolve we may have this time of year will direct itself towards knowing this: The Father has sovereignly chosen you, Jesus has agape loved you, and the Holy Spirit is setting you apart to “obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus” (v. 14).

If we are resolute to hold these truths, this holiday season could bear fruit to eternity for our lives.

Happy New Year’s peeps!

Bryan Daniels