Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: The Early Pioneers of Prophetic Study (Part 1)

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

The books of Daniel and the Revelation are an integral part of the Holy Bible: Jesus expressly charged us with the duty of "reading" and "understanding" Daniel (Matt. 24:15), and Revelation is obviously the fulfillment of His promise to the disciples that "the [Holy] Spirit of truth ... will tell you things to come" (John 16:13; Rev. 1:1-3).

We need a rock-solid understanding of those prophecies as valid as the original inspiration that gave them to us. Daniel was "sealed" until it was opened when "the time of the end" came at the end of the 1260 years of the Dark Ages (Dan. 7:25; 11:35; 12:4; Rev. 12:6, 14, etc.). That unsealing was a dramatic miracle of awakening that occurred simultaneously in many lands among many Christian churches in the early decades of the 19th century.

Foremost among the early pioneers of prophetic study was a little group who were united in a common hatred of slavery in the United States of America. They risked their lives in publishing their abhorrence of that devilish traffic in the souls of men and women and children; these students of the prophecies were in "at-one-ment" with Jesus Himself, for He too has always hated the slavery cruelty of man to man. They actively opposed the terrible injustice of the Fugitive Slave Law and helped runaway slaves to freedom at the risk of their own lives (would you do that today?).

Several of these noble men were led by the Holy Spirit to pursue a study of all the prophecies of those two inspired books. They may not have had every tiny detail perfectly understood, but they were united in the same basic convictions; people far and wide became convinced that the Spirit of God was leading; it wasn't emotional miracles based on shallow understanding--these were solid, reasonable dissertations on Daniel and Revelation that appealed to and convinced highly intelligent, honorable, reasonable men and women.

The little group developed until they became a leading movement of 19th century Christian reformation that also led the world in health reform, building the finest health institution of the day in Battle Creek, Michigan, to which came kings across the Atlantic.

The point of this little soliloquy: the understanding those pioneers gained from Bible prophecy was taught by God; none was of the "private interpretation" that the apostle decries in 2 Peter 1:19-21. These pioneers were led by a loving fellowship in Christ to lay aside their private views and recognize together the leading of the Lord. The Holy Spirit led the community, and His leading has stood the test of these centuries of time.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 3, 2007.

Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: Have Sins Broken Your Connection with God?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

What's the use of getting up early to pray if your sins have broken your connection with God? That's the problem that brought Jesus to this world, in order to solve it. He is our Savior from sin. He welcomes sinners to come, just as they are. Someone might say, "But the Bible says that the Lord is seeking people 'whose heart is loyal to Him,' and I am not perfect!" (2 Chron. 16:9). That's the very reason why He invites you to have a visit with Him, so you can talk to Him and He can communicate with you. In fact, the people whom He especially invites for such a reasoning session with Him are those whose "sins are like scarlet, ... red like crimson," for He says, "Come now, and let us reason together" (Isa. 1:18).

But here's the objection: "The more I pray, the more sinful I feel myself to be!" Hold on, don't run away: that is how it should be, for the first work of the Holy Spirit when He comes to anyone is to "convict ... of sin" (John 16:8). The truth is, that's a good experience, for it is first-hand experiential evidence that God loves you individually, personally. That same passage in Isaiah that speaks of the Lord inviting us to come for a reasoning session with Him tells us what our problem is. We are "sick," like having a spiritual cancer: "Your head is already covered with wounds, and your heart and mind are sick. From head to foot there is not a healthy spot on your body" (Isa. 1:5, 6, GNB).

That cannot be Bad News if you believe the Good News that you have a Physician "nigh at hand." If we never know our true condition, we are like the symphony orchestra conductor who collapsed from a heart attack on the podium before a vast crowd of concertgoers and died in the midst of his orchestra--we need the Holy Spirit to tell us the truth about our spiritual health before it's too late.

"But it's painful to hear my Heavenly Physician tell me the truth about my heart!" That's because you don't stay in communication long enough for Him to heal you. You rush away before you give the Great Physician time to heal your heart wounded with sin. When the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, say "Amen!" Confess He is telling the truth; "I acknowledge my transgressions. ... Blot out all my iniquities, ... do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation" (Psalm 51:3-12). Let Him do it! Don't resist Him!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: April 24, 2001.

Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: "What Must I Do to Be Saved?" (Part 2)

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Let's return to eavesdrop on the conversation between the Philippian jailer and our "beloved brother Paul" (cf. Acts 16:22-34).

The jailer has heard Paul's preaching which stirred the anger of the city fathers who threw Paul and Silas into prison. The jailer could have heard Paul's message and been convicted of truth, but stubbornly hardened his heart; it took an earthquake that night to deliver him from his prejudice.

The apostles had sung midnight hymns, the psalms of David. The hard heart was melted; then came the earthquake, and the question, "What must I do to be saved?" It is Paul's answer that troubles many: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Was that simplistic and maybe unbalanced? Shouldn't the man be told to keep all the commandments and do good works?

Yes, he should do them; but it's not that he has to do all these things in fear of God's rejection; he will do them through a heart appreciation of who "the Lord Jesus Christ" is! He has heard Paul declare that what "avails" is "faith working through love [agape]" (Gal. 5:6). Such faith works! It's a verb, not a noun.

One of the psalms that the apostles sang may have been Psalm 22, which probes the depths of Christ's love in giving Himself for us eternally. The jailer was overcome with ... what can we call it? Faith: a heart appreciation of the "width and length and depth and height [of] ... the love of Christ which passes knowledge" (Eph. 3:18, 19). It's not being motivated by the fear of not working to do everything just right; it's faith "constraining" one to join Christ on His cross in self "crucified with Him" (Gal. 2:20).

Then there's no end to the good works the jailer will be motivated to do--forever.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 10, 2006.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Dial Daily Bread: "What Must I Do to Be Saved?" (Part 1)

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

God does not tease someone who sincerely asks, "What must I do to be saved?" When Paul and Silas answered the jailer in Philippi, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," they were not giving an unbalanced and thus deceptive answer (the story is in Acts 16). In fact, they were quoting what Jesus Himself had told Nicodemus: "The Son of Man [must] be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:14, 15). Believe what?

He answers that question in the next verse: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish ..." (1) Believe that God is a Father. (2) Believe that He loves the world with a love that is agape. (3) Believe that His love embraces a sinful world. (4) Believe that His giving was complete--it was not lending. It was not just for a time; the giving was for eternity.

You must believe that God is your Father in heaven and that He loves you personally, and has adopted you as His child "in Christ." Too complicated?

The Bible explains this simply. The Son "emptied Himself" (Eph. 2:7, NASB), like pouring out the last drop of a bottle (Isa. 53:12), which means that this love known as agape drove Him as far as hell in His search for us as the Good Shepherd (Luke 15:4-7). He died the same death that we would have had to die if He had not come and died it for us!

"But," says the Jailer, "aren't you leaving out the real answer to my question: the works that I must do?" [We'll dig a little deeper tomorrow.]

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 9, 2006.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: A Spiritual "Ambulance" for Our Youth

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

We've heard the story of the town that was located on a cliff. People would often fall off the cliff and get hurt. So the good townspeople, who were "caring" people, built a hospital and sent an ambulance to pick up these poor people who fell off the cliff. This went on for a long time until somebody thought of a better idea: why not build a fence at the top of the cliff to keep people from falling off?

During a prayer meeting the faithful "caring" church members prayed for young people who used to attend church and Sabbath School, but have given up church and are out in the world. They used to attend Sabbath School, and the church school and academy. Some estimates are that nearly three-fourths of such youth turn away from the church by the time they are 18. Parents weep, and every effort is made to send a spiritual "ambulance" to bring in these casualties.

But why not build a fence at the top of the cliff? Why not give these youth the pure gospel, the genuine Good News? The apostle Paul guarantees that it will work! It's "the power of God to salvation," he says (Rom 1:16).

And what is the Good News? Most of the time the root cause for youth leaving the church is legalism. And what is legalism in contrast with the gospel? Wherever you find the teaching that salvation is due to man's initiative and man's works, you are in an atmosphere of legalism. And when you find the teaching that our salvation is initiated by God, and is His work, you are in an atmosphere of the gospel.

The first teaching leaves the human heart cold, discouraged, in spiritual despair; the second captures the heart, holds its affections, and motivates to faithfulness to God, because it is the essence of the "atonement," reconciliation to God through the blood of the Lamb. Let's give somebody the gospel today!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: April 16, 1998.

Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Dial Daily Bread: Which Came First--God's Forgiveness or His Cross?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

There's an interesting but important question in connection with the subject of "overcoming sin." Did God forgive sin before the sacrifice of His cross? Or could He forgive sin only as the result of the cross? Which came first: His forgiveness, or His cross?

On the surface it appears to be a trivial chicken-egg question. God forgives, period; be happy. Why even bother with why or how or when He does it. But the principle here is so important that the stability of God's universe is involved in the answer.

The general idea is that God is omnipotent, that is, He can do anything He wants to. You and I sin; we ask Him to forgive us, and He does. Someone has rightly written, "alienation from God is the natural habitat of humanity," therefore we sin again and again. And God always forgives, like a kind grandfather, because He is omnipotent and it's easy for Him to do so.

Finally, after our endless cycle of sinning and repenting, we die; and for the sin itself that is so deeply rooted in us to be overcome (Augustine's theology), there must be an experience after death called Purgatory. There at last the job gets done. Millions of Christians believe this.

But the Bible says differently. "The sting of death is sin," for sin carries death within itself (1 Cor. 15:56; Rom. 6:23). God cannot pardon it without His cross; to do so would fill the universe with death. Adam and Eve would have "instantly" perished in the Garden had not "the Lamb [been] slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8).

Which must "come first"? That slain Lamb! Yes, God can do anything He wants to, but He doesn't want to fill His universe with death. Therefore He cannot forgive sin apart from a tremendous "giving-for." Without a deep heart-melting appreciation of that "giving-for," sin remains in the human heart, not "overcome." Forgiveness apart from first the sacrifice of the cross would be a cheapening of sin itself, and thus a cheapening of the sacrifice required to overcome it.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 18, 2001.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: Stay Close to Your Bible

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Are you ever bewildered by the force of philosophies or theologies that are thrown at you? You are busy with daily tasks that you know are your duties, and these teachings that are clamoring for your attention seem to be over your head. You're drowning in an unending flow of words.

If some genius is trying to overpower you, don't let him or her entice you away from the simplicity of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Everything that God Himself wants you to understand is simple and clear, so much so that a child can understand it. That's what Jesus meant when He said of children, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:14).

The Lord told His prophet, "Write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance" (Hab. 2:2, Good News Bible). You can't get a lot of words on clay tablets. The correct understanding of justification by faith, of the atonement, of Daniel and the Revelation, must be caught "at a glance."

So stay close to your Bible. Think of the vast amount of information in Daniel and the Revelation, and in Solomon's Proverbs--all brilliantly simple.

And when that last great angel comes down with the message that will "lighten the earth with glory" it will be a message to go to "every nation, tribe, tongue, and people" with the powerful impact that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount had on the world two millennia ago, because it will all be simple (Rev. 18:1-4; 14:6, 7).

The Lord does not overburden you (Rev. 2:24). But do study!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: September 30, 2005.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: "Elijah" Is Here--Let's Listen!

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

The last words of the Old Testament give us hope. The Lord Jehovah (or Yahweh--no one seems sure how to pronounce the sacred name) promises to send us "Elijah the prophet" on a blessed mission of reconciling hearts that are estranged.

But tucked in our very last Old Testament phrase is this ominous word from the Lord: "Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse" (Mal. 4:6). On the surface it appears to be a terrible threat of severe divine retribution if we treat the returning Elijah as Ahab's and Jezebel's Israel treated him long ago. The Lord appears to cap the Old Testament off with a final thunder appeal to raw fear--"straighten up or else!"

If we do a little research in the Old Testament about a "curse" and the suffering land, we come up with an interesting truth: whatever "curse" comes on the land is the direct result of the sin and rebellion of the people--not an arbitrary act of personal vengeance on the part of God. In a consistent pattern in the Bible, He takes the blame for evil that He does not (or cannot) prevent in this world of sin. He even takes the blame for the death of His Son, Jesus (see Isaiah 53:10, "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief," yet we know well that it was the scribes and Pharisees who tortured and murdered Him!).

There is an extended essay in Isaiah 24:1-6ff about how to understand what appears to be a "curse [from the Lord that] has devoured the earth." The picture appears to be a dramatic divine temper tantrum of "scattering abroad its inhabitants" and turning the poor earth upside down, etc., when in reality the truth is that "the earth is defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, ... broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth ..."

Stop and do a little thinking. "Elijah" is here; he wants to save us from destroying ourselves! Let's listen. A godly physician in my childhood told us, "There are more blessings in God's curses than in man's benedictions."

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: March 23, 2006.

Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: The Blessings of David's Psalms

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

It's been three millennia now that David's hymn of praise has been singing its song to win souls to salvation--Psalm 40: "I waited patiently for the Lord ..." he says (just telling people what the Lord has done for you is soul-winning in itself!).

Imagine the joy that David will have in God's eternal kingdom as people come by to tell him what a blessing his story has been to them! He will sit there in joy as countless people file by to tell him.

He "waited patiently," he says. He had no adverb to use with the meaning of "patiently," so he simply wrote, "waited, and waited, and waited."

He was in a mud-hole with no place for his feet to find solid rock to stand on; and he was sinking lower and lower. He probably thought of Psalm 130: "Out of the depths have I cried to You, O Lord. ... .Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications" (vss. 1, 2).

But literal mud-holes aren't David's concern, bad as they are; he was thinking of the mud-holes of sinful guilt that were torture to him. For example, his sin with Bathsheba that was on his mind as he wrote his famous Psalm 51: "Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, ... Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You" (vss. 11-13).

Imagine the joy David will have in God's eternal kingdom as people tell him how his Psalms brought them to conversion and atonement with God!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: February 25, 2009.

Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Friday, April 17, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: The Problem of the "Haves" and the "Have-nots"

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Are you ever tempted to feel a bit envious of people who seem to have everything? The Bible says, "He who is of a merry heart has a continual feast" (Prov. 15:15). In modern language, "The one with a happy disposition finds life to be a continual picnic." But try as you can, you don't seem to have that "merry heart."

You feel at home in Psalm 73: "My faith was almost gone because I was jealous of the proud ... They do not suffer pain; they are strong and healthy. ... They do not have the troubles that others have. And so they wear pride like a necklace ... Even God's people turn to them and eagerly believe whatever they say. ... They have plenty and are always getting more. ... O God You have made me suffer all day long; every morning you have punished me" (vss. 2-14, GNB; the KJV says "chastened me").

There's a secret behind this enormous problem of the "haves" and the "have-nots"--the cross of Christ. We know He was penniless when He died because the soldiers who gambled for His clothing found no coins in His pockets to quarrel over. He was the world's preeminent "Have-not." But He died in order to give the "haves" of the world what they enjoy. Yes, they don't realize it but everything they have is the purchase of His sacrifice.

A wise writer says that even their daily gourmet food has been an unknown "sacrament." The uncaring, unthankful wicked have actually eaten "the Lord's supper" "in an unworthy manner ... not discerning the Lord's body" (1 Cor. 11:27-29). All that they think they have earned or inherited from rich parents, has been a gift of God's grace. The penniless One is the Source of their wealth. And He has loved them; let them have what they want for as long as they can enjoy it. Let them revel in the only life they'll have.

Says He: "Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward," present tense (Matt. 6:2). Stop envying them; you have one yet future. Rejoice in it.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 30, 2002.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: A Bible Verse That Needs Special Attention

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

There is a Bible verse that needs to be studied with special attention: "You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9).

Here is the gospel in clarity: Every blessing the world has ever known comes through that "grace of our Lord." Never suggest that such grace comes only to those who deserve it! And don't suggest that only a little grace comes to those who don't deserve it! All of the grace of Christ is given to all people, even those who don't deserve it--which really means, no one deserves it.

A wise writer said that God has encircled the world with an atmosphere of grace as real as the air we breathe (Steps to Christ, p. 68). That means everybody breathes it as surely as he takes his next breath. In 2 Corinthians 6:1 Paul begs us not to receive that grace "in vain." In other words, everyone receives it; but only a few appreciate it and say "Thank You!"

Christ was once "rich," but He made Himself to be poor. That doesn't mean that He temporarily laid aside His wealth, like a millionaire who has emptied his pockets temporarily and can't buy a newspaper. It was for eternity that Christ emptied His heavenly savings account. He became so "poor" that on the cross "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21).

All this so we could "become rich"--but not in the far distant future. The wealth of heaven is deposited as a credit in your account. You can write a check on all of it. "Then why don't I possess it now?" you ask. Because you could never enjoy its possession until first you share the experience of Moses who "esteem[ed] the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt" (Heb. 11:26).

There's a new song you have to learn to sing: "The song of Moses, ... and the song of the Lamb" (Rev. 15:3). But while you learn to sing it, that full credit is in your name. It's time to be happy--and thankful.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: August 23, 1998.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Dial Daily Bread: The Gospel Proclaimed Before the Law Was Given

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

By nature we all have a love/hate relationship with God's Ten Commandment law. "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). As descendants of the fallen Adam, with his sinful nature, that is our natural condition--"enmity" against the pure, holy law.

Don't let anyone fool himself that he or she was born with a sinless nature. We all need to be converted. But there is also a sense in which we fallen humans have a love affair with the law, because God promised in the Garden of Eden that He would implant in every human heart an "enmity" against sin and its author, the "serpent." This is true of every human being, for Christ is the "Light which gives light to every man who comes into the world" (John 1:9).

God doesn't keep His purposes to Himself; He is not shy to say what He believes. "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3, 4). So, this love/hate relationship is true of everybody and it all adds up: "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do!" (Rom. 7:15). What an unhappy tension! The reason why God did not leave us in a 100% hate relationship is because He loved us.

The law of God in the Ten Commandments has often been misunderstood, even misquoted. Most printings, especially in charts, leave out the indispensable preamble: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Ex. 20:2). Before we even come to the first commandment, He gives us Good News. He does not say, "I would like to deliver you out of bondage, IF ... IF" No! He says, "I have [past tense] brought you out of bondage." And there we have the Gospel proclaimed to us before the law is given!

Christ has already done what God promised in the Garden of Eden He would do--He has trampled the serpent on the head. "What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:3, 4).

All this Good News is included in the preamble to the Ten Commandments, which is why a wise writer said long ago that they are ten promises, if we correctly understand them.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: November 21, 1999.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: A Clearer Vision of Christ's Substitution

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

For ages, millions have died trusting in Christ as their Substitute. For the most part, their idea of substitution has been "vicarious." Christ stands in their place, like an insurance company stands in your place when you suffer a loss. Or, as a lawyer stands before the judge in your place in a court case.

Now, in this Day of Atonement, God's idea of substitution is a clearer one, a "shared" one. It's not that "vicarious" substitution is wrong; but the closer God's people come to the Savior, the clearer is their vision of His substitution.

For example, in the Day of Atonement they "[sing] as it were, a new song before the throne," a song that no other group in history could sing (Rev. 14:1-5). This indicates a new experience in relating to Christ, a new and dearer understanding of Him. Further, they "follow the Lamb wherever He goes," indicating a new experience that means a closer identity with Him as the crucified One and as their High Priest.

It can't be a righteousness by works experience that is "new," for legalism can never inspire a body of God's people to follow Christ so closely in His closing High Priestly ministry. It must be a righteousness by faith experience that is "new." The goal is changed from merely preparing a body of people to die and then come up in the first resurrection (a wonderful goal that requires the miracle of regeneration). But the "new song" that is sung prepares a body of people for translation at the second coming of Jesus. Thus it closes His ministry as High Priest, and inaugurates what leads to His coronation as King of kings.

How do these people identify so closely with "the Lamb"? It's not a fanatical "me first" to be among the 144,000 idea. Personal reward is the last thing on their minds. By mature faith they "grow up … into Him," "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:15, 13), identifying with Him.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: September 27, 2001.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: A Word of Unearthly Origin

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matt. 5:44).

But no one knew what He meant. It went right over people's heads. No one really understood the true dimensions of "love" until the cross (cf. Eph. 3:18, 19). The word Jesus used for "love" was not the ordinary, day-to-day one that people used in the Greek or Latin world--it was agape. The idea was foggy; it couldn't be defined until the cross.

The world marvels at the miracle of His resurrection after three days in the tomb; but the even greater miracle was the love He demonstrated. It was unearthly--it had never been seen since time began. Every crucifixion done by the Romans had been a demonstration of cursing, and raw hatred. Here was one where the Victim prayed for His murderers! It became talked about throughout the Empire. No advertising could have been purchased at any price that was more effective for proclaiming the gospel.

This love known as agape is in a different category than what we call love. Unlike the "natural" love we are born with that loves its own, or loves nice people, agape loves ugly people, mean people, unworthy people, yes, enemies. Unheard of!

On the lips of the apostles, it became the word that "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). Its origin was unearthly. It had to be "poured into" emptied human hearts from an Outside source (Rom. 5:5). It couldn't be conveyed by lectures, and it can't be propagated by PowerPoint. It has to be communicated by a white hot flame burning in a human heart that has been deeply moved by the Holy Spirit.

You look, you stare, you wonder; you "behold the Lamb of God" on His cross. It takes time. You'll be doing it right on into eternity.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: September 5, 2004.

Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: The Solution to a Basic, Universal Problem

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

People can twist Galatians 5:14 to cause a problem for themselves. It tells us that obedience to the law of God is summed up "in one word": "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." They say that you must love yourself; you can't love anybody else unless you first love yourself. Then, when they think about it some more, some have ended up believing that "love of self is love of God." This has actually been accepted as righteousness by faith! Paul was an inspired apostle--what's the truth? Does he teach us to love self as the foundation of genuine Christian experience?

Clear-thinking people have wrestled with this problem for centuries. It doesn't take too much thought to recognize that the love of self is a very ugly thing, for it is the essence of all selfishness. When we see it in ourselves we usually like it but when we see it in others we are repulsed. Hundreds of years ago Martin Luther broke through the fog and saw what Paul meant. The law indeed is summed up "in one word": Love your neighbor as you used to find it natural to love yourself.

From the first breath we ever drew it has been natural for all of us to love self. No baby cries because some other baby is hungry. Children are naturally self-centered. It's cute to see; but just let that "natural" self-centeredness grow undeterred, uncrucified, and what do you see? All the evil that curses this world.

What's the solution to this basic, universal problem? The previous verse: " ... through agape serve one another"! This would be as impossible for us as jumping over the moon were it not that the Son of God was "made in the likeness of men." At the price of His cross He condemned this natural selfishness "in the flesh" (Rom 8:3), that it might be possible for us to "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5).

Christ was agape in human flesh; none of us is born that way, but by faith we can become "partakers of the divine nature"--which is agape.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 22, 2000.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: Christ's Love for the Lost

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

The idea of "in Christ" appears many times in Paul's letters. Sometimes he applies the phrase unmistakably to the personal conversion experience of those who believe. Other times he applies it to the entire human race, which has been redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ. Both the righteous and the wicked will come up in resurrection because they are all "in Christ" (1 Cor. 15:22).

That does not mean that the wicked have had a conversion experience, far from it; but when Adam sinned and lost the headship of the human race, Christ stepped in to become the second Adam. Paul says he reversed the evil to the race that Adam had done. Christ came to save the world, and He redeemed it. He did more than offer life to "all men"; He gave the gift to all men. It's like Esau and his birthright; it was not offered to him, it was given to him. The only reason he failed to reap the blessings of the inheritance was because he despised and sold it (Gen. 25:33, 34).

There was once a lady who believed in Christ whose husband did not. He had firmly fixed his heart against giving himself to the Lord who had died for him. A wise counselor told the wife to be as good to him as she could because her kindnesses to him were the only "heaven" he would ever have. He chose to "perish."

Jesus still loves the world, even the perishing. The Father gave Him and He gave Himself so that whoever believes should not perish but have everlasting life. But if someone chooses not to believe in Him, He still loves that poor perishing soul and wants him or her to enjoy this life as much as he or she can. That's how great is His love for the lost.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: June 4, 2005.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: Has God Changed His Promise to Abraham?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

God does fantastic things, and the sooner we understand Him the better. He made what appear to be wild promises to His lone patriarch who was willing to forsake his home in the great city of Ur of the Chaldees, and live in a tent the rest of his life. God promised to give Abraham the whole world for "an everlasting possession" (Rom. 4:13; Gen. 17:8), and the everlasting life needed to enjoy it (2 Peter 3:13), and of course the righteousness necessary to inherit it. All this God promised to Abraham and his descendants as an out-and-out gift.

But millions of Christians cling to the idea that 430 years later God revised His promise and changed it into a bargain, a mutual contract with legal terms and conditions. The inheritance must now be "offered" to Israel on condition first that they become obedient. The "promise" must now involve numerous "curses" threatened for disobedience--all of which were fulfilled in the multiple destructions of Jerusalem.

The popular notion of the covenants requires that God change His out-and-out promises into a conditional "offer" of salvation that leaves salvation to the initiative of the people. "Obey and live" is now the fundamental idea; disobey and die.

But there's a snag: when God made His "wild" promises to Abraham, He not only promised--He swore an oath to "give" it all to him and his descendants. He staked His very throne, His existence, on His promise to give it all for free. God giving His law on Mt. Sinai introduces no new feature into His "covenant," for if He made the slightest change in its provisions He would nullify the "will" that was fixed for eternity by the "death of the testator" when "the Lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the world." No, says Paul; salvation is fixed for eternity: it's by grace through faith, which itself is the gift of God.

Which do you want--the New Covenant or the Old?

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: December 26, 2002.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: How Much Forgiveness Was Given to Us?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

How much forgiveness was given to us when Jesus died on His cross? In a story that Jesus told, He explained it so clearly that a child can understand.

"A certain king" found that his servant owed "ten thousand talents," obviously an expression intended to mean an impossibly enormous sum. The servant "was unable to pay"--he had nothing. So the "master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt" (Matt. 18:23-35). Imagine an electronic transfer of funds; the king's account debited, the servant's, credited.

Now think of "all men" being likewise credited--you have a penniless "king." So was Christ "penniless" on His cross--"forsaken" of the Father, bearing the debt of "every man's" sin in His soul, "made to be sin for us," "all men." An infinite transfer of credit!

The "servant" promises in old covenant terms, "I will pay you all," and his master, "moved with compassion," treats him with new covenant "much more abounding grace." But the servant then demands "a hundred denarii" from his neighbor, thus demonstrating he does not receive the forgiveness, although it was truly given him.

The king's account was drained by the debit of what He gave His servants; He had given away all His righteousness, "emptied Himself." The servant cannot reverse the transaction, for it was "done" (the cry on the cross was, "It is done!"). But he takes the debt back on himself voluntarily, and totally, unnecessarily must from now on deal with "the torturers" until he shall "pay all that was due" (which of course, will never be).

So in the final judgment, when the lost die the second death, they can never "pay" the debt of sin they owe; they can't. Christ already paid it, even though they have never repented. "By grace" they had been saved, but like Esau with his birthright, they had thrown away what "the king" had given them.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: June 8, 2002.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: The Boy of Twelve Called to Be the "Lamb of God"

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

When the little Boy of 12 watched His first Passover at Jerusalem, He wondered what it meant. He had to reason it out through His inspired mind and conclude that it meant that Someone sinless must come and be sacrificed as the Lamb of God. What's amazing is that this teenage Boy did not fight the conviction that He was called to die as the "Lamb of God"!

We know He accepted the call, because the first words we have from His lips were what He said to His mother when she later found Him in the Temple, "Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49). That 12-year-old Boy was dedicated! He was the first of many who have out-thought their parents, and yes, their pastors, in understanding the leading of the Holy Spirit. That "Boy" stayed dedicated to His Father's "business" until He "set His face" to go to Jerusalem to be crucified (see Luke 9:51).

There are in the world today many teens who likewise hear and respond to the call of the Holy Spirit to dedicate themselves to the Lord Jesus. The nation's religious leaders in the Temple in Jerusalem had no idea what was happening up in Nazareth in Galilee, while this Teen was growing up and while He was working as a carpenter. The Holy Spirit was teaching Him.

So there are youth today, some as young as 12, who are thinking very seriously, and responding to the Holy Spirit very deeply. They may be 144,000 in number!

Let them ponder that Youth of 12. He does not impose upon them the heavy burdens of Old Covenant living; He invites them to fellowship with Himself in joyous New Covenant freedom. Theirs will be the once-forever joy of proclaiming the message that will lighten the earth with glory (Rev. 18:1-4).

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: November 24, 2007.
Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Dial Daily Bread: What Can We Say to Help Discouraged Youth?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

We read in Psalm 14:1, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" Christian teachers are surprised that sometimes they meet discouraged youth reared in good homes who say they wonder if there is a God, who are not sure of His existence. In other words, such a youth is tempted to be a fool. But is it always his fault? There are many who say they are atheists, or agnostics (those who just don't know). What can we say to help them?

Some doubtless are just wickedly rebellious against everything about God; they are determined to choose to be a follower of God's enemy, Satan. But there must also be others, perhaps many, whose atheism or agnosticism is the result of being taught a false conception of God. They are not rebelling against God Himself, but against a distortion of His character.

For example, the so-called "Christian" doctrine of an eternal burning hell in which God roasts and tortures lost human souls in eternal, conscious torment, has caused many people to say, "If God is a cruel sadist, then I want nothing to do with Him! How could a decent person want to torture even an animal like that?" People who have been so misled need our sympathy; and we pray that somehow we might be given wisdom and an opportunity to tell them the truth about God's character of love. He will not save everybody against His will, but He will not torture the lost endlessly.

But what about those who in deep disappointment at apparently unanswered prayers can't understand why God seems so unconcerned about their suffering? If you're in that category, then you too have been tempted to be a fool! Remember, temptation itself is not sin. What you need is the atonement-reconciliation with God, the ABCs of the gospel.

In this great antitypical Day of Atonement, we need a "final" atonement, or reconciliation. The Good News? There is a great High Priest administering it right now. Don't hinder Him!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: October 6, 1998.

Copyright © 2015 by "Dial Daily Bread."