Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Why God Can Treat Everyone as Though He Were Innocent

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

On January 1, 1863, the president of the United States took a bold step. He issued his Emancipation Proclamation that legally freed every slave being held within the states that were in rebellion against the Federal government.

Some 40 years later a wise writer grasped the idea that Lincoln's Proclamation was an analogy that illustrated what Christ accomplished on His cross. She wrote: "With His own blood He [Christ] has signed the emancipation papers of the race." The Revised English Bible translates what Paul said that in essence is the same analogy: "The judicial action, following on the one offence [of Adam], resulted in a verdict of condemnation [slavery], but the act of grace [of Christ], following on so many misdeeds, resulted in a verdict of acquittal. ... It follows, then, that as the result of one misdeed was condemnation for all people, so the result of one righteous act is acquittal and life for all" (Rom. 5:16, 18). (All responsible translations say essentially the same.)

All Lincoln could do was issue the Proclamation (which he had a perfect right to do as military Commander in Chief of the nation). But no slave would experience freedom unless (a) he heard the news, (b) believed it, and (c) acted upon his belief and told his slave-master "goodbye." So Christ reversed for "all people" the "judicial verdict of condemnation" that came upon them "in Adam," and instead proclaimed His "judicial ... verdict of acquittal" for the same "all people." This is why God can treat everyone as though he were innocent!

Christ has truly borne "the iniquity of us all," died "everyone's" second death. God is reconciled to the sinful human race; now He begs us, "Be reconciled to God" (cf. Heb. 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:18-20). And in His closing work as our great High Priest, Christ is seeking to complete that reconciliation in the hearts of all who will believe and appreciate what He accomplished as "the Lamb" of Revelation.

That work of reconciliation in human hearts is spoken of as "the final atonement," which results in a people who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes" (Rev. 14:4, 5). Be one of them!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: December 15, 2000.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Can the "Kings of the Earth" Benefit From This Bible Idea?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

The ancients were amazed and mystified by the gospel, and so are people today: it says that God treats His bitterest enemies as friends. Jesus addressed Judas Iscariot as "friend" and forgave His own murderers. He actually took their guilt upon Himself, "for He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21). This is something that the Bible calls "justification."

The Father treated His own Son as an enemy so He could treat us as friends. One half of the process of the atonement is God being reconciled to His enemies (us). This was accomplished by the sacrifice of His Son, so that He has "reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, ... reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them" (2 Cor. 5:18, 19).

The other half is our being reconciled to God, which is accomplished by our understanding and believing the gospel--the truth of His reconciliation to us by someone preaching the message, "Be reconciled to God."

There are some who will never accept the reconciliation. But more than our sinful human unbelief is willing to recognize, many will respond positively if only the gospel truth is made clear. They will be the people anonymously identified in Revelation 18:4 as "My people," the Lord says.

There is a strange, unearthly love involved in this reconciliation-justification process--agape. It "never fails" (1 Cor. 13:8). It loves Muslims, Hindus, and atheists alike, because its source is God Himself. It "thinks no evil" (vs. 5). But neither is it naive, nor foolish. But it does recognize immediately that beneath the revolting exterior, the other person may have left some decency or self-respect, which will respond to "grace" and "justification."

Can "the kings of the earth" benefit from this Bible idea? Many will say, No; national interests are too valuable and complex to be influenced by any idea associated with "grace." But a "king-to-be" was once saved from a terrible mistake of unnecessary violence by a woman who spoke words of common sense inspired by the idea of justification by faith (the story of Abigail and David in 1 Samuel 25).

But even if the Bible idea of justification by grace won't work in international politics, for sure it would work in finding speedy solutions to conflicts within the church! Common sense is needed!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: April 4, 1999.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: How Is Justification by Faith More Fully Understood Than It Was by Luther and Calvin?

Dear Friends of “Dial Daily Bread,”

How is justification by faith more fully understood in these last days, than it was by Luther and Calvin in the 16th century? Didn't they proclaim it clearly?

Yes, they did--for their day. But they lived before "the time of the end" when "knowledge shall increase" (Dan. 12:4). Their work, which the Lord gave them, was to prepare a people to die and come up in the first resurrection (see Luke 20:35; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17). And they were faithful to the light they saw.

But now in this "time of the end," we are living in the great cosmic, antitypical "Day of Atonement." God is preparing a people to be "counted worthy ... to stand before the Son of Man," to be translated at His second coming (Luke 21:36). And there is no power in heaven or earth that can accomplish that objective except "the gospel of Christ." It alone "is the power of God to salvation" (Rom. 1:16). It's what Peter says is "the present truth" (2 Peter 1:12).

That clearer understanding of "the everlasting gospel" (Rev. 14:6) will teach God's people to sing "a new song" that "no one could learn … except the 144,000 who [are] redeemed from the earth," in whose "mouth [is] found no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God" (vss. 3-5). There is not a progression of truth involved, but there is a progression in the comprehension of truth. "Knowledge shall increase."

That will be the fruitage of Christ's work as the world's great High Priest in His closing work in the Most Holy Apartment of His heavenly sanctuary (see Heb. 4:14-16; 7:25; 9:23-28; 10:18-25; 11:39, 40; 13:20, 21).

A change of character is involved, and the Bride of Christ "has made herself ready" for the long-delayed "marriage of the Lamb." For the first time in the long ages of the great controversy, she is "arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints" (Rev. 19:7, 8).

Now the Bride is more concerned for Christ's honor and glory than even for her own salvation. That's biblical justification by faith. She "overcomes … as I also overcame" (3:21); self at last is crucified with Him.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: September 13, 2004.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Fellowship With Christ in David's Psalms

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Let me introduce you to a friend with whom you can have fellowship: David, King David, the man who wrote many of the psalms, the man who was a sinner but was a deep-hearted repentant. God gave him the most unusual "gift" anyone has ever had--intimate fellowship with Christ in His sufferings (cf. Phil. 3:10 for the phrase). In other words, David was permitted to taste firsthand by prolepsis the experiences which the Son of God must go through in order to become effective as our Savior.

David, of course, was 100 percent human, and totally a sinner. He was as low a sinner as anybody, yet God permitted him to feel what Christ felt and to write about it so we can taste it too. The fellowship went both ways: David felt as Christ felt, and Christ felt as the lowdown sinner feels. Which simply means that Christ felt as you feel--guilty, polluted, condemned. The only sinless human Being can feel compassion and sympathy for someone who has made a mess of his or her life and feels guilty.

The sincere Roman Catholic may long to find a sympathetic priest to kneel before and pour out his or her heart in bitter, shameful confession; but the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, the world's Savior, the One who was "made to be sin for us who knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21), the One who alone has come from the bosom of the Father, He is your only true Father-confessor. As you kneel alone before Him and let the bitter tears fall, and wait before Him in quiet loneliness, your heart open, with David's psalms also open before you, the two-way fellowship happens.

Where can you find this fellowship with Christ in David's psalms? Scattered all through, but especially in Psalms 22, 27, 40, 69, 119, 142. And don't forget Psalm 23--we need that one too.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: June 15, 2005.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: "Signs" in the Heavens

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

In mid-August our earth's rotation around the sun brings us near the tail of a comet with tiny grains of sand-like material that glow white hot as they strike our atmosphere. We call these shooting stars as they flash across our midnight sky. This August meeting is with the Perseid meteor shower. There is another similar encounter that occurs in late November.

In Matthew 24:29 Jesus spoke of "signs" in the heavens that would indicate that we are entering "the time of the end" that Daniel spoke of (11:35; 12:4). It's in the Savior's great sermon on the end of the world: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days" the signs were to appear. He has been describing the persecutions of the Dark Ages which Daniel and Revelation both pinpoint as 1260 years between 538 and 1798 A.D., when so many true followers of Jesus were martyred. But the actual martyrdoms in Europe ended soon after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

Mark reports the timing more precisely as "in those days, after that tribulation" (13:24, 25), "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light." Thoughtful people who revered the Bible recognized this "sign" in the mysterious May 19, 1780, darkening of the sun. Then Jesus added: "the stars will fall from heaven." On the night of November 13, 1833, the most spectacular burst of shooting stars ever seen was in populous New England. Again, people who revered the Bible were reassured that we have entered into Daniel's great "time of the end."

Some keep expecting that God must repeat these "signs in the heavens" in order for His people to be well warned. But when Thomas refused to believe the historical reports of his fellow-disciples of the resurrection, Jesus rebuked him (John 20:29). God expects us to respect the record of history!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: August 13, 2005.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Is It a Sin to Be Afraid?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

This question probes deep into our souls: is it a sin to be afraid? "Through fear of death [we are] all [our] lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:15). There is a healthy fear, without which we would be fools. There is also a morbid fear that enslaves us. "You shall not be afraid of the terror by night," says the Psalm of comfort (91:5). God wants very much to deliver us from fear. Says Jesus, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). The "let not" means that our choice is involved. Fear may assail us but we can choose not to give in to it.

It all boils down to believing God's promises in His new covenant. And for those of us who are born and nurtured in unbelief (isn't that everybody, according to the Bible?), the only difficult thing is learning to overcome our natural-born unbelief. We're back to square one in learning John 3:16: "Whoever believes in Him should not [will not] perish."

And here is where the Savior of the world touches us. He too was tempted to indulge in unbelief--but wait a moment, He never gave in to it. Read the two psalms that weld our souls to Him as nothing else in the Bible does--Psalms 22 and 69. There we find the closest fellowship with Jesus in His hour of feeling forsaken by His Father. Those two psalms probe deeply into how any human being can feel when suffering total despair. Jesus is "tasting death for every man" (Heb. 2:9). He is enduring the horror of hell. And in so doing He is "abolishing death" (2 Tim. 1:10; the second), and delivering us from the fear of it.

No way can we endure hell and triumph over it on our own; but we can corporately identify with Jesus while He endures it. We can sing with Paul, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). Our souls unite with Him "through faith" (Eph. 2:8). His cross becomes our cross and His glorious victory becomes ours. "Behold Him" on that cross; join Him there.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: July 20, 2002.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Dial Daily Bread: Believe Today and Skip the Depression!

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Of all people in the world, the last one you would expect to be living in the darkness and bondage of the Old Covenant is Abraham, "the father of the faithful."

God had already given him the sunlit promises of the New Covenant! (Gen. 12:2, 3). His taking Hagar for a second wife was entirely Sarah's unbelieving, Old Covenant idea. God had nothing to do with that trip into darkness. Nonetheless, Abraham plunged into it. Paul says that the Hagar chapter of Abraham's life was pure depression--"this Hagar is Mount Sinai," which because of unbelief, Israel turned into depression. These "things are symbolic," says Paul in his clear understanding in Galatians. The covenant "from Mount Sinai ... gives birth to bondage," which is always the horror of depression (read Gal. 4:21-31).

Some 430 years after Abraham, God tried to renew those bright New Covenant promises to Israel as they had come out of dark Egyptian slavery on their way to the Promised Land (Ex. 6:4-9). But Israel were Abraham's descendants who had to learn as he did the folly of Old Covenant promises. Likewise, God had nothing to do with Israel embracing their Old Covenant ideas at Sinai. He wanted to renew the same New Covenant with them (see Ex. 19:4-6), the same promises He had made to Abraham.

We lock ourselves into confusion if we try to interpret the covenants at Mount Sinai in any other way. Israel's slavery in Egypt had been a massive case of national depression. Would God at Sinai lead them back into that darkness? If we picture the character of our loving heavenly Father as One who deliberately led His people Israel into an Old Covenant spiritual bondage at Sinai, we distort His character.

The Old Covenant was not a preliminary step toward national salvation--that's twisting little text snippets with our own pre-set Old Covenant philosophy. Yes, He ratified their choice with animal blood; only in that sense can it be said that He "made" the Old Covenant with them--because that was what they insisted on. He had to let them take their long detour "under the law" until they could come to the place to be "justified by faith" as Abraham was (Gal. 3:19-24).

Now, you can believe today and skip the depression!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 21, 2006.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: What Is Faith?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

What is faith? It's important to know the answer, because only those who have faith won't "perish" at last, says John 3:16. Millions accept the definition, "Faith is believing what you know isn't true." Church members who believe that definition are lukewarm.

Another popular definition of faith is: "Faith equals trust. You trust God and that's faith!" But what they don't notice is that "trust" always involves an egocentric motivation. As long as we serve God with a self-centered motivation we are either "under the law" (Rom 6:14) or at best lukewarm. So, many Christians "trust God" like we trust our insurance company, or trust the police, or trust our doctors--always with an egocentric motivation. And lukewarmness is the natural result.

Two New Testament words for "trust" are peitho and elpizo, neither of which is the word for faith (believing). The New Testament word "to believe" is pisteuo, an entirely different idea. Jesus Himself must define "faith" for us: "God so [1] loved the world [with agape] that [2] He gave His only begotten Son, that [3] whoever believes [the verb for faith] in Him [4] should not perish but [5] have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

It's simple and it's clear: genuine faith is a heart-melting appreciation of God's loving and His giving! It includes trust, yes; but it precedes trust. It depends on understanding what it cost God to give His Son, and what it cost Him to sacrifice Himself for us. And that is precisely what Satan doesn't want the world to understand! Thus he has invented the false doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, which requires that Christ did not truly die on His cross; it short-circuits agape and obscures the cross like clouds enveloping snow-clad Kilimanjaro.

If you can't see agape, then your so-called faith is nothing more than like trusting your bank--no melting of the heart involved. The natural result: Laodicea's lukewarmness--that's what sickens Christ (Rev. 3:16).

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: October 19, 2000.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, August 07, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Joyous Messengers--One Outstanding Exception

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

When the Lord gives someone a message for the people through the gift of the "spirit of prophecy," it's a joyous message. And it makes the messenger (the prophet himself) joyous to deliver it.

But there is one outstanding exception: There was one man whom the gift of the spirit of prophecy brought unmeasured sorrow with tears--the prophet Jeremiah.

He is known as "the weeping prophet." He says: "Woe is me, my mother, that you have borne me, a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth!" (15:10). It was his misfortune to live in a time of unparalleled apostasy in Jerusalem. The people were in rebellion against the Lord, and since Jeremiah was at-one with the Lord, they were also in rebellion against him.

Yet, in spite of the heart-pain that was his burden to carry all his life, the Lord also managed to give him some delightful joy along the way in order to refresh his spirit and to keep him from perishing. He tells of one experience the Lord let him have: "Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts" (15:16).

That experience "fed" his soul and kept him from perishing!

Note: The blessing did not come through some epiphany, some special vision that the Lord gave him: it came through his reading the books of the Bible that he had at that time (don't forget, he had the books of Samuel, Moses, and the psalms of David).

Now we have far more than Jeremiah had at that time, so personally thank the Father in heaven for the sixty-six books of the Bible, which you have. Let His "Word" be the "joy and rejoicing of [your] heart" now and forevermore.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 2, 2009.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Sunday, August 06, 2017

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" (Gen. 17:8; Rom. 4:13), 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 a gift without question.

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 changed His promise 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 Mount 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 © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: God's Ministry of Mercy

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

When you finally wake up after a wasted life, the loneliness you feel is oppressive. You feel that God has forsaken you.

You may not realize what is happening but God wants you to understand. You are in Galatians 3:22-24, which says: "The Scripture has confined [locked up] all under sin, that the promise by faith [of, KJV] Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. ... The law was our tutor [disciplinarian, Greek; schoolmaster, KJV] to bring us [drive us] to Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

The broken holy law of God has become your "jailer," locking you up until you can learn to realize your lost condition. Nothing you can do can ease your burden; promising God that you will do better is in vain; all efforts to "pay" for your sins are useless. Nothing good you can do can make up for the sins you have committed. You cannot buy your way out of this prison-house. God Himself is not tormenting you--the holy broken law is tormenting you.

The only remedy is for that broken law to prod you, to drive you back to where Abraham was when he was "justified by faith." That is the teaching of Galatians.

Next it says, "After faith has come, we are no longer under a [disciplinarian]" (vs. 25). This blessed process of deep conviction of sin is the work of the Holy Spirit. Yes, it hurts! But it's not God who is punishing you--He is only trying to impress upon you the reality that Christ was punished for you! You lay your sins upon Him, He is already your sin-bearer.

This process of the law working "wrath" upon you (Rom. 4:15) is a ministry of mercy. It proves the Savior's intimate, personal concern for individual you, through the Holy Spirit. It's solid evidence that God loves you for yourself, that angels are your servants, that all Heaven is absorbed in your case.

God loves sinners, and He especially loves a sinner like you who at last knows that he or she has "blown" it. Turn to Him. Now humble your proud heart and accept His forgiveness.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: December 30, 2002.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Make Psalm 139 Your Own

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

The Lord Jesus says to each one of us personally, "I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you" (Jer. 31:3).

That is personal, individual, intimate love; not cold, electronic "love." It's the love of a Father--our heavenly Father. It's as intimate, close, and personal as any earthly father's love can be; only far more so.

Some people feel that they have never known an earthly father's love; what can the dear Lord do for them? Truthfully, none of us have ever had a human father who could perfectly portray the love of our heavenly Father, for us. So, let no one be the least discouraged if you have never known an earthly father's love: kneel, and make a choice to believe what you cannot see. He will respond to that prayer!

The dear heavenly Father will not forsake you, or neglect your prayer. He has already loved you with "an everlasting love," now ask Him to grant you the spiritual eyesight, the discernment, to recognize the gift He has already given you. If His love is "everlasting," that means that He loved you while you were still in your mother's womb. He was working on you even then, with that love.

Please read Psalm 139: it is devoted to the pre-natal influence that the Holy Spirit exerted on your behalf. The "everlasting love" of the Lord Jesus is very real; now let your own choice be to respond to that love, to thank Him for it, to ask forgiveness where you have doubted it.

Such a prayer comes "out of the depths" of your soul: "Out of the depths have I cried to You, O Lord" (Psalm 130:1). And immediately comes His assurance: "There is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared [reverenced]" (vs. 4).

Now, make Psalm 139 your own; may millions of prayers rise based on that blessed psalm.

--Robert J Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: April 14, 2009.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Two Sons--An Illustration of the Old and New Covenants

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

We need to know who we are as "children" of Abraham, who is some five times in the Bible declared to be "our father" (Rom. 4:1-16). The story is that "Abraham had two sons: one by a bondwoman [slave girl], the other by a freewoman [Sarah]" (Gal. 4:22). The son by the slave girl "was born according to the flesh," whose name was Ishmael; but the other son was the child of "promise," Isaac. He was the child conceived and born of faith in the promise of God (vs. 23).

Paul goes on to tell us that these two sons are an illustration of the old covenant versus the new covenant. The old covenant represents man's effort to fulfill God's promise; the new covenant is total faith in God keeping His promise to save us from (not in) sin, apart from our "works of the law." It's a lesson that God's world church desperately needs to understand, because the only light that can possibly "lighten the earth with glory" just before the second coming of Christ (Rev. 18:1-4) must be the light of the gospel, not the shadows of legalism.

But let's look at Isaac's character, for the Lord had declared that all His glorious promises to Abraham should be fulfilled through Isaac, for He had said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called" (Gen. 21:12; Rom. 9:7). That means we should be able to see some difference in character between Isaac and Ishmael. And we do, in Genesis 26:

• Isaac became prosperous, "until he became very prosperous" (vs. 13).

• "The Philistines envied him. … the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father's servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth" (vss. 14, 15).

• Isaac did not quarrel and fight over that, but his servants "dug in the valley." [I wonder if I would have been as patient!] But the Lord blessed him for he "found a well of running water there" (vs. 19).

• Lo and behold, the pagans quarreled again, "saying, 'The water is ours.' ... they quarreled with him," even though Isaac had dug the well!

• But Isaac's character was Christlike; he simply dug another well, hoping he could at last find both water and peace. But they quarreled about that also. What would you have done?

• "So he moved from there and dug another well" (vss. 20-22). A beautiful example of "turning the other cheek"! And the Lord blessed him for his good spirit. Abraham's son by faith said, "Now the Lord has made room for us."

Who are you? "Isaac" or "Ishmael"?

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: August 4, 2003.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, July 31, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Paul Wasn't Lukewarm!

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

"The love (agape) of Christ constrain[ed]" the apostle Paul. When he said that "One died for all," he reasoned that it had to mean that "all died," so that "those who live" cannot in peace of conscience go on living "for themselves." They are constrained henceforth to "live ... for Him who died for them and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15).

Paul saw something that set him on fire for the Lord until that last hour in the Roman Mamertine prison when he laid his head on the block before the executioner, and died for the One who had died for him. "God forbid that I should glory except in the cross" (Gal. 6:14) he had said. No glorying in his own response, or his own faith, or his own obedience. That's why he wrote these words:

"The grace of God and the gift [with it] came to so [the] many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ [in the Greek "the many" means all people]. ... The judicial action, following on ... so many misdeeds, resulted in a verdict of acquittal. ... The result of one righteous act is acquittal and life for all" (Rom. 5:15-18, The Revised English Bible).

All major Bible versions agree with The Revised English Bible. They render "judicial verdict of acquittal" as "justification." It's not that Christ's sacrifice makes everybody to be righteous, but He treats every person as though he were righteous, because God accepted the human race "in Christ." He is already reconciled to you; now, says Paul, "We implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:19, 20).

There are objections from some that Paul didn't mean "all people," only those "all" who first do something right to make it effective, but Paul was plain: the "all" upon whom comes this glorious "verdict of acquittal" are the same "all" who sinned "in Adam." They "all are justified by God's free grace alone, through His act of liberation in the person of Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23, 24, REB). Seven truths seem very clear:

(1) "All ... sinned" (that includes us). (2) The same "all are justified." (3) And they are "justified freely" (they pay nothing, they merit nothing). (4) It's by grace (that means free to all undeserving people, without exception). (5) And it's not only by grace, it's by grace "alone." (6) The "act of liberation" is for all, because (7) it's "in the person of Christ Jesus," "the Savior of the world."

There were those who worried that believing this would encourage people to go on sinning. What they didn't understand was that genuine faith "works by agape." One can't believe that on the cross Christ legally justified him by grace, without something happening in his heart. It constrains him to be obedient to all the commandments of God, for "agape is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10).

When you appreciate that "in Christ" God treats you as though you were just, then He can transform you and make you just "in Christ." It's called justification by faith.

--Robert J. Wieland

From In Search of the Cross, 1999.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Encouraging Promises in the Bible

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

There are encouraging promises in the Bible. One assures us that in the final proclamation ("the everlasting gospel" in the three angels' messages of Revelation 14:6-12), the Holy Spirit will be poured out in such fullness that He will convict people in the highest echelons of world leadership. Some will be motivated to step out fearlessly and identify with the despised "remnant" who "keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (cf. Rev. 15:2, 3; 12:17). The gospel commission will not be finished with a whimper but with a blaze of glory.

Isaiah 49 is a wonderful treatise on these glorious days as finally the pure truth of the gospel is understood and proclaimed. The Lord says, "I will say to the prisoners, 'Go free!' and to those who are in darkness, 'Come out to the light!' ... I will make a highway across the mountains and prepare a road for My people to travel. ... Look around and see what is happening! ... Kings will be like fathers to you; queens will be like mothers. They will bow low before you and honor you; ... I will fight against whoever fights you, and I will rescue your children" (vss. 9, 11, 18, 23, 25, Good News Bible).

Under that proclamation of "the everlasting gospel," agencies that have held people back are powerless to keep them from stepping out for the Lord--like employment that threatens dismissal because of the holy Sabbath, or friends or family; truth is more precious than all besides. Honorable people honor the Lord. Some in the very highest levels of the Roman Curia will respond, according to the Revelation 15:2 prophecy.

Abraham was a wealthy, distinguished man in his day. If God Himself preached the "gospel" to him (Gal. 3:8), it must have been "Christ and Him crucified," for that alone is the gospel (1 Cor. 2:1, 2). Jesus said that "Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56). It was not craven fear of hell that motivated him to leave his comfortable home in the great city of Ur and live in tents the rest of his life; it was a glimpse of the abounding grace of the Lord.

Yes, in the story of the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22, Abraham saw the "width and length and depth and height" of the love (agape) of Christ (Eph. 4: 17-19); that's what nerved and moved him to shine as "the father of all those who believe" (Rom. 4:11).

The same vision will move us today, and also many in time to come! Agape is a far more effective motivation than any kind of fear the old covenant can generate.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: January 9, 2007.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: The "Mind of Christ" Triumphs Over All Sin

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

The apostle Paul writes about the gospel. Some good Christian people say we rely too heavily on him, but the Lord inspired him to write fourteen of our twenty-one New Testament "epistles." The Lord inspired dear Peter to write two (he had shamefully denied Christ on that fateful Friday and then repented): "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind" (1 Peter 4:1; Paul put it this way, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," Phil. 2:5).

Both apostles are concerned with our "flesh" which we all have by natural birth, and "the mind" of Christ, which we have to acquire. The latter is to rule over the former. "The mind of Christ" is much stronger; the lusts and passions and depravity and selfishness that "the flesh" would impose on us are more than cancelled by a "new mind" that we are willing to receive--the process is that simple. Peter says "arm yourselves" with that "mind." Paul says, "let this mind" come in when it knocks at your door. It's as though God stands by you like a valet holding this "armor" for you to put on like a policeman "arms" himself with a bullet-proof vest.

But Peter says something else: Christ's sufferings were in the same "flesh" that we have by nature. Ours is sinful to the core. When Christ was "sent" from heaven, He came with a sinless nature. He did not "have" our sinful nature naturally; He had to "take" it onto His sinless nature if He was to save us from our ongoing sin in the "flesh."

Therefore we read that God "sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: [but] He condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). He "shared in the same" which we have, "made like [not unlike] His brethren" (Heb. 2:14, 17). The King James Version is more vivid: He "took part of the same."

The glorious result? That we "no longer should live the rest of [our] time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (1 Peter 4:2). "Flesh" is what Jesus "took" and it's the same "flesh" we have by nature. That "mind of Christ," if you open the door to "let" it in, triumphs over all the sin the devil can tempt you to fall into.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: October 22, 2003.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Dial Daily Bread: The Most Intimate Glimpses of Jesus

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

It's in Isaiah that we find the most intimate glimpses of Jesus to be found anywhere in the Bible. At least 40 times the prophet calls upon us to "behold" Him as He is--as in 42:1, "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him," the words the Father said of Him at His baptism (Matt. 3:16, 17).

Now "behold" how tempted Jesus was to utter discouragement. It's a sin to be discouraged, but it's not a sin to be tempted: "Listen to Me, ... you people who live far away! Before I was born, the Lord chose Me and appointed Me to be His servant. He made My words as sharp as a sword. ... He made Me like an arrow, sharp and ready for use" (Isa. 49:1-3, Good News Bible).

This glorious sense of divine destiny was ever before Him since He was a child of 12 when He sensed that He must be "the Lamb of God" (cf. Luke 2:41-49). But now "behold" His temptation to despair: "I said, 'I have worked, but how hopeless it is! I have used up My strength, but have accomplished nothing'" (Isa. 49:4). Here He was, the divine Son of God, the true Messiah, "the Savior of the world," yet He was snubbed as a despised and rejected fool from the small town of Nazareth. Only a mere handful seemed to believe Him.

Day by day this temptation pressed upon Him; but never did it assail Him with such tremendous force as when He hung on His cross and the crowd mocked Him: "People passing by shook their heads and hurled insults at Jesus: 'You were going to tear down the Temple and build it back up ... ! Save yourself if you are God's Son! Come on down from the cross!' In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the Law and the elders [the nation He had come to save!] made fun of Him" (Matt. 27:39-40). Tempted terribly! But was He a fool?

"Behold" what the Father said "to the One who is deeply despised, who is hated by the nations and is the Servant of rulers: 'Kings ... will rise to show their respect; princes also will see it.' ... This will happen because the Lord has chosen His Servant; the holy God of Israel keeps His promises" (Isa. 49:7). Jesus died gloriously triumphant (cf. Psalm 22:24-31)!

Now, as one who believes in Him, these same promises are for you. The Father honors you, too; He will lift this heavy heart-burden of many years that may lie upon your soul.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 27, 2004.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: A Bright Future for God's Work

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

A beautiful experience is on the program of coming events, unique in history. Zechariah, Christ-centered prophet of last-day events, tells us that there will come to the last-day church and its leadership a heart-response to Calvary that will completely transform the church. Speaking of the final events, the prophet says:

"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; and they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, ... In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech. 12:10-13:1).

Who are the "inhabitants of Jerusalem"? Jerusalem is a "city" of Abraham's descendants, the organized body of God's people. In Zechariah's day, Jerusalem meant a distinct group of people called to represent the true God to the nations of the world. Jerusalem was a corporate, denominated body of professed worshippers.

"The Spirit of grace and supplication" is not to be poured out on scattered individual descendants of Abraham, but on the inhabitants of the "city," a visible body of God's denominated people on earth. It is implied that no descendant of Abraham choosing to dwell outside Jerusalem can share in it. Those Jews were indeed lost to history who chose to remain in the nations where they were scattered, refusing to move back to the ancestral nation in Palestine.

Who is "the house of David"? It was anciently the government of the denominated people of God. Zechariah refers to the leadership of the last-day church, or "the angel of the church," or "the king and his nobles," to borrow Jonah's terminology. They are "the men of Judah" whom Daniel distinguishes from "the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Dan. 9:7). "The house of David" includes all levels of leadership in the organized church.

Does it seem impossible that a spirit of contrition shall be poured out on a leadership congested by organizational complexity? The more involved the church becomes with its multitudinous entities, the greater is the danger of its huge collective self choking the simple, direct promptings of the Holy Spirit. Each individual catching a vision is tempted to feel that his hands are tied--what can he do? The great organizational monolith, permeated with formalism and lukewarmness, seems to move only at a snail's pace. Aside from this "Spirit of grace and supplication," the nearer we come to the end of time and the bigger the church becomes, the more complex and congested is its movement, and the more remote appears the prospect of repentance.

But let us not overlook what the Bible says. We need to remember that long before we developed our intricate systems of church organization, the Lord created infinitely more complex systems of organization, and yet "the spirit ... was in the wheels" (Ezek. 1:20). Our problem is not the complexity of organization; it is the collective love of self. And the message of the cross can take care of that!

--Robert J. Wieland

From: "As Many As I Love": Christ's Call to Laodicea, 1986.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: The Only Thing That Can Avert a Global "Curse"

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

It's not pretty, but there it is--the last word of the Old Testament is "a curse" (Mal. 4:6), not so much a threat as it is the inevitable Bad News of disaster as the unavoidable consequence of sin. It's the "curse" that came in the flood of Noah when the earth was destroyed, only this one is to be fire (vs. 1). It's something God Himself cannot avoid, for "the wages of [our] sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). The human race brought it upon themselves "in the days of Noah," and will do so again, unless somehow help can come.

The "help" that God promises is a totally impossible miracle for humans: God will "send ... Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, and he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers" (Mal. 4:5, 6). That domestic "turning-of-heart" is the only thing that can avert a global "curse." It concerns marital fidelity and families.

Malachi's context is the "curse" of marital infidelity, for God says "I hate divorce" (Mal. 2:11-16, Good News Bible). The only remedy for heart alienation is a "turning-of-heart." Marital infidelity was a prime factor in the wickedness before the flood ("they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose," Gen. 6:2).

No one can "turn" his or her own "heart." Jesus predicted that "the love [yes, marital] of many will grow cold" and "lawlessness will abound" (Matt. 24:12). When love turns cold and the fire in the coals has gone out and hearts are estranged, only "Elijah's message" can reconcile the desolated hearts and cleanse the pollution.

And it can! God has promised to "send him" before the "seven last plagues" shall be poured out. The story of sinful humanity in the last book of the New Testament tells how the curse will come (Revelation 15 and 16). But the Elijah message must come first; perhaps it has come to you already. It's more than old covenant resolutions and works; it's a heart-turning "faith-which-works" proclamation of the cross of Jesus, of grace which abounds more than sin.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: January 26, 1999.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: You See Them All Through the Bible ...

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

You see them, all through the Bible--individuals who cared more for the cause of God in the "great controversy between Christ and Satan," than for their own lives (and that meant in their context, their eternal lives).

Probably the first is Job, the unknown man who worshipped the LORD, the Hebrew name for the God of Israel. Job's "LORD" was the God whose character is agape, the One who would die the world's second death. You can see intimations of agape in Job (try 6:14; 13:14, 15; 19:25-27). In those early days, life after a "first" resurrection was not generally understood; Job had to battle his way by faith. He was willing to sacrifice himself to defend the honor and stability of the government of God. He proved that Satan was wrong, who charged that God had no one who served Him "for nothing" (1:9) and thus he helped to save the government of God.

Did Noah understand? He proclaimed the "righteousness which is of faith" (Rom. 10:5-8, KJV), which you can't do meaningfully unless you understand agape.

Did David understand? At least sometimes (cf. Psalms 22 and 69).

Isaiah? How could he write chapter 53 otherwise?

Jesus Himself? (John 5:30; 6:38; Matt. 26:39, 42). He is agape; He died the world's second death; He endured the curse of God, which is the second death (Gal. 3:13).

Paul? At least he loved Israel more than he loved his own salvation (Rom. 9:3).

The great controversy between Christ and Satan, the battle of the universe, cannot be ended and won until God has 144,000 Job-like people who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes," in whose mouth there is "no guile" (Rev. 14:1-5). Their story is inserted at that precise point in the Bible where a last-days proclamation of the "everlasting gospel" grows to become a message that "lightens the earth with glory" (vss. 6, 7; 18:1-4).

Don't say the fulfillment of that prophecy lies maybe centuries away. The Holy Spirit is working, and around the world there are some (maybe few) who are responding to Him without resisting Him further. Join them!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: July 29, 2007.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: "Is There Any Word From the Lord?"

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

In the darkest days of God's people, just before the horror of the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of Solomon's Temple (586 B.C.), poor distraught King Zedekiah fetched Jeremiah the prophet out of his dungeon cell. "Is there any word from the Lord?" he pleaded. "There is," he was told; up almost to the last moment, the king could have humbled his soul, gone out to the king of Babylon, humbled himself prostrate before him, and though he would not have saved his own life he would have saved the city, the Temple, and the people.

For King Zedekiah that would have been the conscious equivalent of dying his second death. Such a move was the only recourse left that agape (the love of Christ) could have taken, had his heart been filled with agape. If King Zedekiah had read and understood Moses, he would have learned that most precious lesson, for Moses had sacrificed himself that way. In Exodus 32 he asks that his name be blotted out of God's Book of Life so as to save his people Israel (vss. 30-32). King Zedekiah could have gone down in history as a hero. The lack of agape left him a hopeless coward.

The horror of contemporary daily news is reminiscent of those days before the fall of Jerusalem. Everywhere desponding leaders should be asking (in heart) if there is any word from the Lord. "There is," says the Bible--the fall of Babylon, which is the key to the final outcome of world history.

But the fall of Babylon also requires another complementary development in world history--the proclamation of a message from heaven that must lighten the earth with glory (Rev. 18:1-4). The message will make sense of what "Babylon" is, and why it "falls."

Also, there must be a people prepared to proclaim the message; they are identified as "the remnant," the successors to the true church, which Christ established on His apostles (12:17). They are distinguished as those who "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." But no way can that truthfully be said of them unless they understand and believe "the everlasting gospel" of Revelation 14:6. It's the pure, true gospel, which makes them "obedient to all the commandments of God."

Therefore, "the word from the Lord" just now while the world is in turmoil is that the Holy Spirit is revealing to God's people the essence of that "third angel's message," which is "the everlasting gospel," not everlasting legalism.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: September 15, 2003.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: How Do We Overcome Worldly Temptations?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Many sincere Christians have a terrible time wrestling with the temptation to love the world. We are commanded, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). Quite straightforward! Further, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom.12:2). And Jesus prayed for us to be kept from the evil that is in the world (John 17:15).

But how do we overcome this temptation? By super-will power? If the attractions of the world are tugging at your heart, it is quite possible that you have never understood what Paul says is "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:5, 14). "I have been crucified with Christ," he says (2:20).

Jesus wanted His disciples to "watch" with Him "one hour," but they were too sleepy to stay awake (Matt. 26:40). It will take you an hour to be "crucified" with Christ; you are on your knees, every other "voice" hushed, you are absorbing Psalm 22 or Psalm 69, or the story in the Gospels; you have turned away from videos and movies that distort the cross; you let the Word speak to you.

You are now "seeing" things far more vividly than any movie. You see yourself crucified with Jesus. Paul says what you "see" on your knees has power to change you forever. "God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14). It's truth: once you've "seen" that cross as in the Word, the world's attractions lose their appeal for you.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: August 15, 2005.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: The Most Earth-shaking Letter Ever Written

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Probably the most earth-shaking letter ever written in history was dashed off by hand by a man with poor eyesight--God's apostle Paul. The impassioned epistle was sent to the Galatians to correct a fatal error threatening to poison the young church that Christ and His apostles had just raised up. The subtle deception came from the then-headquarters of the church in Jerusalem. The idea was that the gospel of Christ is a revival of Old Covenant "righteousness," supposedly by faith, but in reality by a counterfeit of it. The problem has plagued Christianity ever since.

The principal idea Paul made was that "God ... preached the gospel to Abraham" (Gal. 3:8). Still today a suspect doctrine! The usual concept is that the gospel came later than Abraham--430 years later at Mount Sinai.

Paul's idea is that Abraham's unusual response to God's New Covenant promises (Gen. 12:2, 3) was genuine faith--the kind that appropriates the much more abounding grace that saves us (Gen. 15:6; Eph. 2:8, 9). Abraham's faith therefore was like turning on a switch that allows the electricity to flow through the house. It's a simple idea: faith doesn't save us, but it opens the circuit so that God's grace is free to flow through us and save us. That idea has created theological explosions all through history.

Abraham's descendants at Sinai were the first of countless generations to brush off the gospel truth. They wanted the Old Covenant as their belief: "All that the Lord has spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8), they promised vainly.

The great Day of Atonement is now--when it's time for God's people to overcome every trace of Old Covenant confusion and recover the pure love for the gospel that Abraham knew when he "believed in the Lord, and He accounted it [his faith] to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:6).

True obedience to God's law is possible only through the New Covenant. Thank God He has given you a "hunger and thirst" to understand it.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: July 11, 2004.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, July 17, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: It's Not Too Late to Learn From Luther

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

It is July 5, 1519, in old Leipzig. Martin Luther is debating the great Dr. Eck on papal authority, maintaining that the true Head of the church is Christ. Eck finds himself overwhelmed by Luther's superior learning and logic. Losing the argument, he resorts to an old trick: he insinuates that Luther is tainted by association with the doctrines of someone held in public contempt. "Your doctrines are the same as those of John Huss!" he charges.

Duke George, the Elector of Saxony, listens. He hated the memory of Huss and the surviving Hussites. So did almost everybody else in Saxony and in the council chamber; there had been interminable war over the martyrdom of John Huss in 1415 in Prague.

This "mudball" thrown at Luther aroused public horror. In the morning session of the debate Luther had expressed contempt for Huss--the popular thing to do. Then came lunch, but Luther couldn't eat. What had he done? He did some serious thinking and reviewed what Huss had actually believed. He became convinced that he had made a mistake in condemning the martyr; Huss had been right! Never did Luther stand higher or nobler than when at 2 p.m. as the session began again he publicly apologized for maligning Huss, and proceeded to defend the martyr. His honest bravery cost him dearly; Duke George turned against him from that moment.

But Luther had won a great victory over himself; never again would fear motivate him. His courage was strengthened to stand for unpopular truth, alone. When God's true messengers to whom He gave "heavenly credentials" are publicly and popularly maligned, someone needs to follow Luther's brave example, and defend them.

Luther fulfilled Revelation 6:9-11, which tells how the time came when "white robes were given to every one of" God's faithful martyrs of the Dark Ages, who were honored and vindicated for their loyalty to truth when the world (and the Church!) had despised and hated them. The Good News is that it's not too late for us to learn from Luther.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: July 4, 2000.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Who Takes the Initiative in Your New Birth?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Our English Bibles translate what Jesus said in John 3:7 as "You must be born again." That word "must" has come across as a demand that I must do something, and unless I do it, I won't even be able to "see" the kingdom of God, let alone "enter" it. The problem is, we don't know how to do the something that we must do. Evangelists have told us three things we must do: (1) Study, (2) Pray, (3) Witness. But how can we know that we have studied, prayed, and witnessed enough? Are we to think of Jesus as demanding that we do something we don't know how to do?

The actual Greek of what He said turns out to be different. The little word is dei means literally, "it is needful for you to be born again." He didn't say, "You must take the initiative to do something in order to be born again!" What He said was, "The Holy Spirit must do something to create in you a new heart." Then He goes on in verse 8 to explain this work of the Holy Spirit--that it is He who takes the initiative in your new birth, not you!

The entire discourse as recorded in John 3 emphasizes a radically different idea than Christian legalism stresses ("do this, do that"; Laodicean lukewarmness). God has taken the initiative in your salvation, not vice versa; He is the Good Shepherd seeking His lost sheep, not vice versa (Luke 19:10); He is the Savior seeking fellowship with sinners, not vice versa (Luke 15:2).

Since you did not "born" yourself (your parents did that!), you cannot create your own "clean heart" (Psalm 51:10). You don't get to heaven by climbing up a ladder to get there, you "look," "behold," a Savior climbing down a ladder all the way to hell to find you (Rom. 10:7-10; Phil. 2:5-8). Bitten by a snake, you see Him "made" to be a snake on a pole, "made to be sin for [you], who knew no sin; that [you] might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). You see the Father's heart wrenched with agony as He "gives" (not lends!) His Son for eternity so that you might not "perish" (John 3:16).

And now, what finally, do you do? You believe the heart-melting "amen" of Abraham when he was justified by faith. Your richest gain you now count but loss, and pour contempt on all your pride. Were the whole realm of nature yours, that would be a tribute far too small; such love demands your heart, your life, your all. And lo, and behold,--you are born again!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: June 10, 1999.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: A New Covenant Story

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

It's been a sublime truth only dimly comprehended and kept in the background for millennia: the divine Son of God loves the corporate body of "Israel" as one man loves one woman. It surfaces in the Bible occasionally.

Ezekiel 16 details Israel's "life" from abandonment as a baby at birth to Christ's adoption of "her" and His loving upbringing of her; then the paternal love metamorphoses into marital love as she becomes a stunningly beautiful woman. All the centuries of Israel's existence from Jacob to Ezekiel are the life span of one woman personified. Her infidelity is powerfully portrayed.

Then there is Hosea: the poor man is captive to the love he has for the lady Gomer. He can't help himself--that's the nature of the love that "is as strong as death, ... Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it" (Song of Solomon 8:6, 7). The prophet is driven back to that one woman in spite of her repeated addiction for infidelity. At last her heart of hearts is won for him, and her love becomes the holy respect ("reverence," KJV) for a husband that Paul describes in Ephesians 5:33. The tragic sounding plot ends in the major key.

And Jesus also cannot help Himself: He loves His bride-to-be. He describes His second coming as a Bridegroom coming to a wedding (Matt. 25:1-13).

Finally, at the end of the last book of the Bible, the Revelator describes the climax of the cosmic Day of Atonement as a love alienation finally resolved. The very dilatory bride is conscience-driven to "make herself ready" to recompense the faithful love of her long-disappointed Bridegroom (19:7, 8).

It's a New Covenant story; now it's time for us to be concerned that our Savior receive His reward. That's what the Day of Atonement is all about.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: October 11, 2006.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: A Fabulous Discovery

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

There is a wonderful Bible truth that God takes the initiative in saving us. He is not, as many conceive of Him, standing back, His divine arms folded in disinterested concern, while we wallow in our misery. He is not saying, "Well, I did My part long ago; it's up to you now. You must take the initiative. If you want to be saved, come and work hard at it. If it seems hard to you, you just don't have what it takes to get to heaven."

No! A thousand times No! But many feel that way about God. And some shy and timid ones think God has plenty of good people ready to take my place--He doesn't need me, and I'm not really sure He even wants me.

In contrast, Paul helps us see the divine initiative at work for us: "Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" (Rom. 2:4).

The Good News Bible says "He is trying to lead you to repent." The goodness of God is actually taking you by the hand and leading you toward repentance as surely as a fireman tries to lead a victim out of the smoke and haze of a burning building. If you don't stubbornly resist, you will be led all the way to heaven. Astounding as it may seem, that's the message.

Sometimes we pray agonizingly for some wayward loved one, assuming we have to beg the Lord to wake up and please do something. The idea is that He is divinely indifferent until we touch His pity somehow. But the goodness of God is already working, leading your loved one to repentance.

The trouble is that we often thwart what He is trying to do because we haven't understood that goodness, mercy, and forbearance of the Lord in their true dimensions. We're horrified to realize it, but we pile stumbling blocks in our loved one's way to heaven. We don't realize how the selfishness and inconsistencies they see in us block their access to God, or shadow their concepts of His character.

And, yes, it is true, not everybody repents. Why? Some "despise" this goodness of God. Stubborn, they break away from that leading. Let's grasp this tremendous insight! The sinner may resist this love, he may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus. A knowledge of the plan of salvation will lead him to the foot of the cross in repentance for his sins.

--Robert J. Wieland

From: The Good News Is Better Than You Think," 2002.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: If God Is Love, Why Does He Torture and Torment the Lost?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Here's a question: If God is love, why does He torture and torment the lost people, if even for a little while rather than for eternity? Isn't there a more humane way to solve His problem of what to do with the lost at last?

Well, God hasn't asked us to tell Him what to do, but there are several truths about it in the Bible that seem clear:

(1) Yes, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). Always, even in the judgment.

(2) He never intended that any human being get into the lake of fire (Matt. 25:41). Those who at last get there do so because that's what they have chosen (Prov. 8:36; Jer. 8:3; Ezek. 18:25-32).

(3) It is sin that pays its own wages, not God (Rom. 6:23, Good News Bible).

(4) The Father has washed His hands of all judgment of the lost. He will condemn no one (John 5:22).

(5) Jesus says likewise He will not condemn the lost; the only ones whom He agrees to "judge" are those who believe in Him and He will vindicate them (John 12:47, 48).

(6) He came to reverse the condemnation that Adam brought upon "all men" and the lost are those who threw away the "verdict of acquittal" which He gave them and they take back upon themselves the "condemnation" which He had borne for them (Rom. 3 and 5; Isa. 53:6ff.).

(7) The real pain of the second death will be the final judgment that the lost themselves have caused to be written in "the books" (Rev 20:12-14). Every cell of their being will be as on fire with self-condemnation as they at last realize what they have done--they have repeated the sin of Esau who had the birthright but "despised" it and "sold" it for a mere trifle of worldly pleasure (Gen. 25:34; Heb. 12:16). They will welcome the actual "lake of fire" that ends their misery.

What a blessing if we can realize the truth about the character of God now, rather than wait until the end of "the thousand years" of Revelation 20. It's serious business, this believing that "God is love." We can resist it and not realize what we're doing until too late. (Jesus said that even those who crucified Him didn't know what they were doing, Luke 23:34.)

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: January 17, 2001.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Did God Pronounce Curses on Abraham?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Does anybody remember--did God pronounce curses on Abraham if he should fail to obey? All we have is God's gracious promises to him of divine blessings (Gen. 12:1-3, for example).

But Moses pronounces blood curdling curses on Israel if they fail to obey (see Deut. 28:15-68). God threatened "every sickness and every plague" (vs. 61). Abraham didn't need any of those curses to motivate him to obey. When the Lord made His promises to Abraham, the patriarch responded in the way God wanted--"he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (Gen 15:6; the Hebrew word "believe" is our word "amen"). "The faith of Abraham" kept him true in serving the Lord.

Unfortunately, Abraham's descendants at Mount Sinai did not share their "father's" faith. They were motivated by a works program. When the Lord tried to renew to them the grand promises He had made to Abraham, instead of saying "amen" with melted hearts, they thought God was striking a bargain with them, a "contract." They promised total obedience forever: "All that the Lord has spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8).

And there we have the Old Covenant versus the New Covenant. God's covenant is always His promise of redemption and salvation by grace through faith. Our humble, heart-melted faith is the only response He wants. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be  lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:14, 15).

Dear, beloved Joshua (who followed Moses) also is obsessed with curses if Israel fails to obey (24:20). Like their parents at Sinai, they repeated their mistake and promised vainly, "We will serve the Lord" (vs. 21). They had learned nothing by Joshua's time! They renewed on themselves the Old Covenant that Paul says "gives birth to bondage" (Gal. 4:24).

Ever thereafter, Israel's history is permeated with the Old Covenant. Paul says that legalism became their "tutor" ("schoolmaster," KJV) to bring them back on their long detour until they should be justified by faith, as was Abraham (Gal. 3:22-24). Is your detour over?

--Robert J Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: December 17, 2002.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, July 10, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Spiritual "Shoes"

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

"And having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:15-17).

When Jesus commanded us to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15), He meant that we must wear spiritual "shoes." The "shoes" are what make it possible for us to "go."

In the expression "the preparation of the gospel of peace," the word "preparation" implies clearing a highway for the king to come, taking away hindrances or obstacles (Matt. 3:3, for example, "Prepare the way of the Lord," repair the road, the king is coming). Paul's idea is to have good shoes put on properly so there is no obstacle to hinder your mission. And the Good News of "peace" will open doors that are presently closed by prejudice.

Jesus knew that we would meet with opposition and suspicion. As we go to proclaim the last message of salvation, we must let people know that we are desirous of their best good. Here is where the message of health reform and medical ministry fit in with the proclamation of the gospel. It literally "prepares" the way. The idea of "a preparation of peace" is appropriate.

As Paul studied the armor of the Roman soldier going into battle, he judged the shield to be the indispensable article. Fighting was dangerous business because the enemy shot arrows tipped with fire and poison. The shield must be deftly maneuvered.

How does Paul see "faith" as analogous in spiritual warfare to what a shield does in physical combat? The shield is grasped by one arm while the other arm grasps the sword. The two are complementary--one is defensive in battle, the other is offensive.

When we are proclaiming truth there is a kind of spiritual adrenalin that nerves us, but when the truth is attacked and we are on the defensive, we are especially tried in faith. Are we sure we are right in our understanding of truth?

If you are a soldier in a Roman battle, the confidence that your cause will triumph will strengthen your arm which bears your shield. It will be more adept at protecting you from these "fiery darts." Confidence and trust are also elements of Bible faith. To "believe in Jesus" is also to believe in the triumph of His cause.

--Robert J. Wieland

From: Ephesians: You've Been "Adopted," 2005.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: The Sin of Not Knowing

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Someone objects, "Why should I repent on behalf of Peter when he denied Christ before the rooster crowed once? That's his sin, not mine; I wasn't even born then!"

Here's the secret of the lukewarmness that permeates the church worldwide--the sin of not knowing. But even if we don't know, it's still ugly sin. "Thou ... knowest not" is our problem (Rev. 2:17). Evil of all kinds is buried deep where we don't know. When you get your eyes open, you will see that of yourself you are no more righteous than Peter that early Friday morning. When the Bible says of us, "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," it says, "all alike have sinned" (Rom. 3:23, New English Bible).

The one sin that is our human common denominator is the sin of hating and crucifying Christ (vs. 19). "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" asks the hymn. Yes! We were there--"in Adam." How can this be? The answer: "The carnal mind is enmity against God" (8:7). "Enmity" is hatred, and John adds this insight--hatred has murder buried within it (1 John 3:15). The human race is fallen "Adam." We share their corporate guilt at the cross.

When the inspired prophet Elisha cried tears and told Hazael the horrible things he would someday do when he became king, he sincerely objected. He had never dreamed he could be such a monster: "Is your servant a dog, that he should do this gross thing?" Elisha sadly said yes. Hazael went home, promptly committed unprovoked assassination, and thus began his "career" as a royal criminal (2 Kings 8:7-15). He didn't know what was in his heart.

When our Lord says, "Be zealous and repent" (Rev. 3:19), He means business; go back all the way to Calvary, yes to Eden. "The truth shall make you free," for it says that you are also corporately one "in Christ" (John 8:32; Gal. 2:20). Believe it!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 30, 2003.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread.