Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: The Man of Romans 7, and 8

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

In reading Romans 7 and 8, you will see that in chapter 7 Paul is sad. He tells how he is "the purchased slave of sin. ... What I do is not what I want to do, but what I detest. ... I agree with the law [of God] and hold it to be admirable. But as things are, it is no longer I who perform the action, but sin that lodges in me. ... Nothing good lodges in me--in my unspiritual nature, I mean--for though the will to do good is there, the deed is not. The good which I want to do, I fail to do; but what I do is the wrong which is against my will; and if what I do is against my will, clearly it is no longer I who am the agent, but sin that has its lodging in me.

"I discover this principle, then: that when I want to do the right, only the wrong is within my reach. In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive that there is in my bodily members a different law, fighting against the law that my reason approves and making me a prisoner under the law that is in my members, the law of sin. Miserable creature that I am, who is there to rescue me?" (vss. 14-25, The New English Bible).

People have argued for many years as to who Paul is talking about. Does he mean he himself before he was converted? Or is he talking about himself while converted? Well, he ends the chapter by saying, "With the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin" (vs. 25, King James Version).

It's difficult to believe that while Paul was writing those words he could still be wallowing in alcoholism, adultery, envy, jealousy, or hatred. No, at this time Paul was living a life of victory in Christ. Therefore it is clear that Paul is describing himself as a representative of the entire human race. His "I" is the corporate "I" of humanity in general--anybody who wants to do what is right but who realizes that his nature prompts him to do wrong. That is all of us, by nature!

But in chapter 8 Paul answers his own question. There is somebody to rescue him, and that is Christ Jesus. There is a new law in Him, a new principle at work--of triumph over sin and evil. And as a human being you are a part of His purchased possession--the freedom and victory are already yours. Now believe it, and act upon that faith.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: 1994 Phone Message.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: A Bible Thanksgiving

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Suppose you were hungry, homeless, and sleeping under a bridge or in a cardboard box; could you celebrate Thanksgiving? Many of us tell how we say thanks for nice homes, cars, food, jobs, friends, and fun. Can those who have none of this have Thanksgiving? Don't say yes if only the Red Cross or Salvation Army gives them a turkey dinner. That lasts only one day, then back under the bridge again.

There's a Bible Thanksgiving that gets lost in the normal celebrations: thanksgiving that you don't have to die the second death; thanksgiving that you have actually been given eternal life "in Christ." That refuge under a bridge may be very uncomfortable, but it's your privilege to rejoice that "in Christ" you have already been redeemed from hell itself.

The Son of God also was homeless, had nowhere to lay His head, He says; but He was resurrected to eternal life, and "in Him" you too inherit the same. Welcome to sharing your living space with Him!

It's astounding, but it's Bible truth: you have already been "elected" to eternal life "in Christ," not that you deserve the gift for which you celebrate such transcendent Thanksgiving. Paul says, "by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9; when it says "not of works" it means not of your own volition).

Face reality: if Christ had not died for you, you would most certainly have been eternally lost. But He did die for you, and rose again; the "you" in Ephesians 1 and 2 is the "you" of the entire human race. All have been redeemed. Your seat at the heavenly banquet has your place card on it with your name.

Now, don't through away everything by choosing to disbelieve this gospel truth. Yes, you can be lost, and many will be; but not because they weren't elected or were overlooked. John 3:16-19 says the problem is unbelief. Believing the Good News will give you a Thanksgiving Day 365 times a year; and such faith will enable you to find a way out from under that bridge.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: November 26, 1997.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, November 20, 2017

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Dial Daily Bread: Have We Misunderstood the Gospel?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Galatians 5:16, 17 has spiritual nuclear energy within it. It says that if we have made the choice to walk with the Holy Spirit and let Him hold us by the hand (isn't that what baptism is?), He strives night and day 24/7 against our fallen, sinful "flesh," our sinful nature. Yes--personally, individually. The result? The text says we "cannot do the things that [we] would" (King James Version).

There are two ways we can read that: (1) We cannot do the good things the Holy Spirit prompts us to do. If the mighty power of the Holy Spirit is striving against our "flesh" and we still can't do the good things we'd like to do, that looks like the worst bad news we could imagine. That would mean that sin is stronger than God. In other words, He has lost the great controversy--in principle. That's an Old Covenant way to read Galatians 5:16, 17, popular but questionable.

(2) The other possibility is: if we choose to let the Holy Spirit hold us by the hand we cannot do the evil things that "the flesh" would prompt us to do. Paul goes on to detail "the works of the flesh" that the Holy Spirit saves us from doing: adultery, idolatry, hatred, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, envy, to name a few (vss. 19-21). A good list of things to be delivered from! But too often we seem to get entangled in them. Why? Have we misunderstood the gospel?

Then the apostle details some of the good things that the Holy Spirit prompts us (and enables us) to do if we "walk" with Him: "Love [agape], joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith," etc. (vss. 22-24). That's the best good news we could imagine; it's New Covenant news.

The traditional way to understand Paul is that we can't do the good things we'd like to do, so Jesus just has to "cover" for our continued sinning, which is nice of Him to do but leaves Him ashamed before the universe for the failure of His gospel to save from sin. In Romans 1:16 Paul says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes."

[Incidentally, we may have thought that Romans 7:15 is parallel to our text in Galatians, but it doesn't talk about a Spirit-consecrated life, but a pre-Romans 8:1-4 life.]

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: March 17, 2006.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: What Daniel "Saw" in God's Plan of Salvation

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

The only light that shone in the darkness of the ancient world was that from the prophets of the Old Testament. The God of heaven had endowed Abraham and his descendants with the only message of salvation ("in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed," Gen. 12:3). But Israel and Judah failed miserably, and became worse than the pagans whom they were sent to evangelize (Eze. 16). The honor of God as Creator and Redeemer of the world was dragged into the mire; Israel blocked His plan of salvation. In a desperate last chance to appeal to the hearts of His people and because of His love for the dark world, God permitted them to be dragged into Babylonian captivity.

Then it was that finally one of the captives saw God's plan of salvation made plain. But even Daniel could not "see" it until he grasped the principle of corporate guilt and repentance. When, like Jesus later at His baptism by John the Baptist, Daniel took upon himself personally the guilt of Israel (Dan. 9:3-20), the fog rolled away and he was able to receive "skill to understand" (vs. 22). Only then could he "see" what the Savior of the world would accomplish: (1) "finish the transgression, ... (2) make an end of sins, ... (3) make reconciliation for iniquity, ... [and] (4) bring in everlasting righteousness" (vs. 24). No superficial band-aids here!

Jesus would "condemn sin" "in the likeness of sinful flesh," get down to its roots and outlaw it forever (Rom. 8:3, 4). No more offerings of animals to only perpetuate egotism. No more Old Covenant blindness. Abraham's "Seed," that is, "One, ... who is Christ" (Gal. 3:16), would deliver the human race from the iron grip of egotism. God's New Covenant promise would no longer be sabotaged by rebellious Israel. The crucified Lamb would become "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Rev. 5:5, 6). But all that "the Lamb" accomplished in Himself must be demonstrated finally before the world and the universe in those who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes" (14:4).

The success of God's grand plan of salvation must ultimately depend on its final hour, and it is there that the "cleansing of the sanctuary" truth comes into its own. Christ must be able to demonstrate to the universe that He has indeed "finished transgression," "made an end of sins," "made reconciliation for iniquity" (not reconciled to iniquity--Satan's counterfeit!), and "brought in everlasting righteousness." God grant us grace to cooperate with Him!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: March 11, 2001.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: A Special Message for Youth--Why Was Christ Punished for Our Sins?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Today's "Dial Daily Bread" is a special message for youth (but adults are invited to read too).

Why was Christ punished for our sins? He was innocent.

In school, Billy does something wrong and must be punished. But the teacher decides to punish Johnny instead of Billy, when Johnny is innocent. He has done nothing wrong. Is this fair?

Youth have a keen sense of justice. Somehow they get the idea that God the Father is angry with sinners, but He knows that if He punishes them for their sins, they will perish. So, the common idea is that He lets His hot wrath fall on an innocent man instead, on Jesus. So Jesus dies on the cross instead of us sinners. That way, God can forgive us. Is this fair?

The answer is important:

(1) God did not kill His Son Jesus; people did.

(2) God was not angry with His Son Jesus, neither was He angry with us. He was angry because sin brings misery, agony, and death.

(3) God does not hate the sinner, but He hates the sin.

(4) When God forgives a sin, He does not merely pardon it and excuse it so that we go on doing it again and again. True forgiveness means taking the sin away so the sinner won't do it again. Therefore true forgiveness is what teaches us to actually hate sin.

(5) While it is true that Christ died to satisfy the claims of the law, which says that death is the punishment for sin, His death does more than that: it shows us how sinful we are by nature, and it shows us what sin can do--it can murder the Son of God. That's terrible! When we see this, our selfish human hearts are actually changed. We are reconciled to God, that is, our enmity is changed to true friendship. We become members of a new family--the family of God.

(6) When we see the cross of Christ we see that He not only died instead of us, He died as us. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul says, "If One died for all, then all died." You identify with Christ as He dies on that cross.

And (7), from then on you want to live for Him.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: 1994 Phone Message.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: The "Ravens" of the Bible

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

We don't pay much attention to them for they are lowly creatures--ordinary blackbirds, crows: the "ravens" of the Bible.

But the Great Ruler of the universe has noticed them and immortalized them in His holy Book, the Bible, because on one special occasion these humble creatures were obedient to His "commands."

Elijah had served the Lord faithfully as His prophet when he appeared in King Ahab's office suddenly and proclaimed that "there shall be neither dew nor rain these coming years unless I [that is, Elijah] give the word" (1 Kings 17:1, The New English Bible). The Lord told His faithful servant to "leave this place, ... go into hiding in the ravine of Kerith east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the stream, and I [the Lord] have commanded the ravens [the humble blackbirds] to feed you there."

Blackbirds are born thieves; anything they see and want, they simply take and fly off. It's amazing that the Lord has honored these pilferers by mention in His holy Word, but they obeyed the "command" of the Lord by bringing lonely, exiled Elijah his daily food, "bread and meat morning and evening" (vss. 5, 6).

There's a lesson for us here: the Lord did not want these birds to bring His prophet scraps of moldy bread and stale crackers; the Lord takes better care of His beloved servants, and here is where we can learn a lesson of the Lord's loving watch care over us.

It was famine time in Israel; "bread and meat" were not readily available. So where would the ravens, having been "commanded" by the Lord to care for His lonely prophet, go to pilfer some "bread and meat" for him? With the windows being open for the summer-time warmth, where better than from King Ahab's own royal table on which the greatest chefs of Israel were serving the king his royal cuisine?

Now I don't know for sure where the ravens went to do their pilfering; but I do know that when the Bible says that "God is love" (1 John 4:8) it includes the Lord's care for our daily food; He doesn't want to feed us moldy bread and stale crackers! Let's let Elijah remind us of the Lord's loving care for us, His unworthy servants!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: March 4, 2009.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: What God Promised in the Third Commandment

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

For hundreds of years people have thought of the Ten Commandments as ten prohibitions, stern warnings not to do what we naturally feel like doing, ten "don'ts" set in hard, menacing stone. As most people usually read them or hear them preached, they come across as discouraging. But now people are discovering that there are assurances of salvation in them, and that God has some great Good News for us in the Ten Commandments.

The third commandment, for example, is a promise of happiness deep within our hearts. It reads: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain" (Ex. 20:7).

Not only does it speak of saying a wrong word with our lips, but it goes deeper within. It says: don't pretend to be a follower of God when in your soul you know you aren't. Don't let people think of you as a great person when you know it's a lie. God has put into this commandment an assurance that He will give you authenticity of character. No deceptive veneer on the outside with cheapness underneath; no paint covering up flaws within.

We're talking about the kind of character God wants to see in us. If you become a billionaire, but in the end realize that your character is only an imitation, you can't be happy. So, in order to save us from that embarrassment now and in the end, the dear Lord has given us this third commandment--an assurance that if we will believe His Good News, He will guarantee to make us into a wonderful character of truth, uprightness, and purity. We will become a beacon of light in a dark world, a refuge where people will come for rescue out of the storm. Nothing can bring you such happiness as to know that both God and man honor you for being genuine through-and-through.

But God's great third commandment contains a warning that we dare not disregard. "The Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." His name is holy, no matter how many times in ignorance your lips have taken it in vain. When you "see" what happened on the cross, how the Son of God took your place, died your second death, endured the hiding of His Father's face--then something begins to happen in your hard heart. It is melted; tears come into your eyes. Never again will you want to take that holy name upon your lips in anger or in jest! Now you have begun to get acquainted with the One whose "name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6).

Now your lips, your speech, are different. Like the disciples who spent time with Jesus, the crowd understood they were "different." The people said, "The way you speak gives you away!" (Matt. 26:73, Good News Bible). The proud person becomes humble, the profligate becomes pure, the filthy language becomes clean. This is Jesus saving us from sin, now!

God has promised in the third commandment that He will hold you "guiltless" forever. "Happy are those whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned. ... whom the Lord does not accuse of doing wrong" (Psalm 32:1, 2, GNB). That happiness is especially precious in these last days as we prepare for the return of Jesus as He has promised (John 14:1-3).

--Robert J. Wieland

From: A New Look at God's Law, 2000.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."