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.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: A Prayer That Heaven Had Never Heard Before

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

When Moses knelt and prayed to God, "Blot me out of Your book which You have written" (Ex. 32:32), he prayed a prayer that Heaven had never before heard from the lips of a mortal man.

It was a prayer in reverse gear. How could anyone who loved God, who appreciated His plan of salvation, who was obedient to all His commandments, actually beg to be sent to the hell of "everlasting punishment?" It takes your breath away!

Israel were God's true people; but they had insulted Him, rebelled against all that He stood for, and chose to return to the idolatry of the Canaanites and Egyptians. So far as they were concerned, their choice to worship a golden calf implied a rejection of any divine purpose to redeem the world from sin (vss. 1-6). Self and pleasure were their "gods" from now on. As a nation they would play the roles of Peter in denying their Savior and of Judas in betraying Him.

God opened Himself up and told Moses how He felt about it all. "Let Me alone," He said to Moses, "that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them" (vs. 10). His "wrath" must be allowed to run its course, "wrath" not against the people themselves but against the cruelty and murder and all the horrors of idolatry, of the World Wars, the Holocausts, and all the injustices that sin will bring on innocent people for millennia to come. I will start from scratch, says God; "I will make of you a great nation." I must save this world, says God; Israel--they hinder Me.

But when God said, "Let Me alone," Moses took it at face value. Here was the loving heavenly Father that Abraham had pleaded with to save Sodom and Gomorrah. No pleading now for "the sake of ten" (Gen 18:32); Moses must throw himself into that "wrath."

Moses loved rebellious Israel, and he sensed that the honor of God Himself was at stake. If He couldn't save Israel, forgive them, or convert them, then the entire plan of salvation must do down the drain. And Moses delivered an ultimatum to God: forgive Israel, save them, or blot my name out of Your Book of Life! Serious business.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 31, 2001.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: This Book Is "Dynamite"!

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Paul's Letter to the Galatians is as fresh as if he wrote it this morning. To "walk in the Spirit" is to believe that God is holding on to your hand, not vice versa (5:16-25). But the common idea is that you've got to hold on tight to God's hand or you'll be lost. Get it straight: you must believe He is holding on to your hand! (Isa. 41:10, 13).

We cannot truly help someone else unless we can put ourselves in his place ("there but for the grace of God go I"). That's the basic principle of corporate guilt and corporate repentance (Gal. 6:1-6). The final mark of the beast will be "persecution for the cross of Christ." "The truth of the gospel" as it is in Galatians will therefore be part of the final "loud cry" message that will lighten the earth with glory (6:12, 13; Rev. 18:1-4).

To understand and believe this gospel of the cross delivers one from captivity to worldliness in all its forms. Entertainment and new car showrooms will lose their charm if you, like the Galatians who heard Paul preach, "see" Christ crucified for you (Gal. 3:1; 6:14).

"The third angel's message in verity" is the full liberating truth of the new covenant (4:21-31). Salvation by faith cannot be understood unless faith is understood as that which "works by love [agape]" (5:1-6, KJV). Proclaiming "the truth of the gospel," the kind that lays the glory of man in the dust, always brings persecution on its proclaimer (5:11, 12). Genuine liberty inherent in true faith never produces license. It produces the glorious liberty inherent in self-control (5:13, 14). Just as light is stronger than darkness, love is stronger than hatred and grace is stronger than sin, so the Holy Spirit is stronger than the "flesh" with all its sinful addictions.

Therefore, if one understands and believes Paul's "truth of the gospel," he finds it easy to be saved and hard to be lost (5:16-18; compare Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 26:14). This is shocking to most Christians, but it is what Galatians says. This book is dynamite! Let Paul have his say, and people will love it or hate it. Nobody can sit on the fence after understanding Galatians.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 15, 2000-2.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, July 03, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: A "Call to Remembrance"

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Throughout history it has been the general rule for most of humanity that they have lived under oppression and injustice. Think of the pagan empires of antiquity--Assyria, Rome; also the horrors of the Dark Ages (a professedly Christian era in Europe!), when the masses knew little but useless toil and privation.

In antiquity the only real relief was under the divine government of Israel. There it was the law, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof" (Lev. 25:10). That was rare! Had you been born in a pagan land, you likely would have been a poverty stricken peasant or even a slave conquered by a ruthless invading army (unless of course you had been one of the oppressors!). You would have been fortunate to live in a land where paganism was replaced by the worship of one true God.

The oppressions of Europe have not been far behind some of us who remember parents or grandparents who "came over" in order to escape oppression in Europe. Many found here not only liberty, but prosperity too. As a blot to high heaven, slavery in America has been the horror of antiquity brought back to life.  What we enjoy in America would have seemed to ancient peoples as pure Heaven on earth. And yet many here still live in grinding poverty.

America, rejoice and revel in the multitude of your blessings! But "call to remembrance the former days" (Heb. 10:32). Think of what you would be were it not for the grace of God that lets you live under the American Constitution, however imperfect it may be, it has brought unequaled blessings, all the way from the commitment of those who signed the Declaration of Independence, fought the Revolutionary War, sacrificed themselves in the Civil War, helped win World Wars I and II, and in many ways have devoted themselves to the public good, up to the present.

Look upon what you have as not yours--only lent to you in trust to help relieve the still-present sufferings of humanity. Think of July 4 as a holy day.

--Robert J. Wieland

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

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: The Most Cross-Centered Book in the Bible

Dear Friends of “Dial Daily Bread,”

Paul, God’s faithful servant, suffered a humiliating rebuke in his evangelism crusade in the great city of Athens. He made the mistake of trying to match philosophy with philosophy, trying to meet the Athenian scholars on their own ground. The result: near failure in soul-winning, although a few did respond.

When he came to the immoral city of Corinth, he says he “determined not to know anything among [them] except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). The book of Revelation is also a presentation of the cross of Christ. In code language, “a Lamb as though it had been slain” (5:6) is the same message as Paul’s theme in Corinth. More than twenty-five times we find that word “Lamb” in Revelation--the book is the most cross-centered book in the Bible! It’s the same as Paul’s message of “Christ and Him crucified.” Without discerning this truth, the fanatics or enthusiasts find Revelation to be their playground.

As we near the end of time, their confusion will become more and more painful to endure. Each will proclaim that he knows the secret of “finishing God’s work,” “listen to me!” But he “multiplies words. ... The labor of fools wearies [everyone], for they do not even know how to go to the city!” (Eccl. 10:12-15). Are you bewildered by the multiplicity of voices crying, “‘See here!’ or, ‘See there!’” (Luke 17:21)?

Psalm 46 was written for this time of cataclysmic confusion when “the waters roar and [are] troubled” and “mountains [are] carried into the midst of the sea” (vss. 2, 3). The counsel is, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (vs. 10). The language is that of Revelation 18:1-4.

Be wise and patient; spend time in prayer alone with God so that you are ready to discern that true last-days’ message of the cross.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the “Dial Daily Bread” Archive: July 21, 2005.
Copyright © 2017 by “Dial Daily Bread.”