Blogs By Alan

Rescue: Justified

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:4-7

What is Justification?

Justification is one of those old Bible words and most of us read over, but only have a vague idea of what it means. The word comes from the Roman law courts and means the be declared not guilty, to be acquitted. If two people come before the court with a dispute, the one who the court agrees with is the one who is justified. This justification says nothing about the person’s character or morals, but that just in that specific case the court has sided with them.

Another closely related word in the New Testament is the word righteousness. Again, it is a standing in the law courts. The person’s case that prevails in court is said to be righteous in the case before the court.

As is often the case, words take on additional nuances when used by the biblical writers; especially because they are writing from a Hebrew perspective. To be just or righteous in a biblical sense is to be in right standing with God; to be a member in good standing in the covenant.

It is wonderful to know that when we place our trust in God and the work God did in and through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God declares us “not guilty” of all our past sins! We are freed from the burden and guilt of those behaviors and are acquitted. That is true freedom indeed.

But we are also placed in a new relationship with God and in that relationship, we have benefits and responsibilities. The benefits are numerous: forgiveness, continued grace and the presence of the Holy Spirit, to name just a few.

But we also have responsibilities, namely to live in a way that demonstrates our new relationship. Just before the verses I cited above, Paul tells Titus some of those responsibilities: we are to submit to the authorities over us, do good works, avoid quarrels and evil speaking, and be gracious toward everyone.

Why are we to do these things? He goes on to say that because we used to be different people with different motivation, God has done something very real in our lives and now everything has changed.

As we gather for worship this Sunday, let’s celebrate our justification, our rescue and determine to live as justified people.

CLICK HERE for Faith Notes


Alan Cassady serves as Senior Pastor at Navarre UMC, and has been at the church since 2011. When he's not preaching and teaching, he enjoys sci-fi movies and FSU Football. Read more about Alan here.

Rescue: Redeemed

Say therefore to the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians.
Exodus 6:6–7

I will find you...

We love stories of redemption. Whether a Disney animated film or an action adventure like Taken, we love to see people make real changes or helpless people rescued. Redemption makes movies and books intriguing. It also fills us with the hope that we could be redeemed as well.

That is what the gospel is all about - redemption. And it all started with the Exodus, Some 400 years before that event God told Abraham,

Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions (Genesis 15:13–14).

In the book of Exodus, we read how God kept the promise he made to Abraham and brought the people out of slavery and made them his very own people. But the redemption did not end there.

The people God brought out had not existed as a nation for 400 years; they did not even know the God who redeemed them, except by way of stories they had heard about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For their redemption to be complete, they would have to know this God for themselves, see God’s power, know God’s care, and hear God’s voice.

God brought the people to Mt. Sinai to meet and experience God’s presence. They saw God in the thick darkness and lighting. The felt God in the earthquake. They heard God in the thunder and the words Moses gave them.

God had delivered them as an act of sheer grace – a promise kept. Now, they would demonstrate their gratefulness and love to God through worship and obedience. In those ways, they would become God’s people and Yahweh would be their God.

That is what redemption is all about. It is not only about being set free from something; it is about being set free for something, namely God. God redeemed us because of his great love for us. And, God redeemed us so we could cooperate with God in the redemption and rescue of the world.

Blessings!

-Alan


Alan Cassady serves as Senior Pastor at Navarre UMC, and has been at the church since 2011. When he's not preaching and teaching, he enjoys sci-fi movies and FSU Football. Read more about Alan here.

Rescue: Born Again

[Nicodemus] came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

John 3:2–3 (NRSV)

 

It was a common occurrence in church circles to hear an exchange like this:

“Do you know Jesus?”

“I go to church; I’m a Christian.”

“But, are you born again?”

In the 60’s there was not only the Sexual Revolution but a resurgence of interest in Jesus. One favorite song from that time stated, “I’m not religious, I just love the Lord.”

Many people grew tired of the formal dead religion in many mainline churches of the 50’s and 60’s and were looking for more. They saw many Christian who were Christians in name only (nominal Christians), with little evidence of godly character. They wanted more from their relationship with Jesus.

If fact, that is what they sought, a relationship with Jesus, a real conversion, not just mental agreement with a few doctrines. They began to experience authentic conversion and invite others to do the same they became Jesus People.

Some in the movement wanted to be distinguished from the nominal Christians they knew and so latched on the term “born again.”

There have been other movements that sought to do the same thing. People identified themselves as Spirit-filled, Full-Gospel, and nowadays, Followers of Jesus. The one thing these monikers have in common is a desire to have a genuine experience of conversion – being born again.

The passage above translates the term accurately, "born from above." You can readily see Nicodemus’ confusion. He took the phrase quite literally and wondered how it was even possible.

Jesus was speaking in spiritual terms, as he often did. What does it mean to be born from above? Being born from above means that we have had an authentic experience of conversion with a sincere desire for our values, motivations, and ethics to be shaped from the perspective of the kingdom of God.

In this way, God rescues us from the self-centeredness of our lives and frees us for life as God meant it to be.

Join me Sunday are we talk more about this part of God’s Rescue plan for us.

Blessings!

- Alan

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FAITH NOTES


Alan Cassady serves as Senior Pastor at Navarre UMC, and has been at the church since 2011. When he's not preaching and teaching, he enjoys sci-fi movies and FSU Football. Read more about Alan here.

Rescue: Reconciled

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:8–11 (NRSV)

 

Estranged. That word just sounds bad, doesn’t it? Webster’s Dictionary defines the word this way: to remove from customary environment or associations; to arouse especially mutual enmity or indifference in where there had formerly been love, affection, or friendliness. Webster’s goes on to mention synonyms like alienate and disaffect.

One of the main messages of Scripture is that something has broken our relationship with God and God has been working throughout history to rescue us and restore the relationship. In most church circles, this idea is summed up in the words “saved” or “salvation.” But those words have a flat meaning – we are saved from hell and get to go the heaven.

What God accomplished in the rescue is infinitely more beautiful and comprehensive that that! For the weeks leading up to Easter, we are going to look at several of the ways the New Testament envisions God’s rescue plan for us.

We will look at images like Reconciliation, New Birth, Redemption, Citizenship, and Forgiveness. It is my hope that looking at these portrayals of God’s rescue work will help us grow in our appreciation for God’s work and the relationship God offers us.

This week we will look at the image of reconciliation. Reconciliation implies that there was a relationship that had been strained or broken; the emphasis is on the relationship. It is not just that we have broken some rules or laws and need to be forgiven, but that we have broken a relationship of trust with our heavenly Father. God has taken the first step to repairing that relationship and offering reconciliation to us. But, just like reconciling with a friend or a misbehaving spouse, reconciliation is on God’s terms and not ours. We just can’t tell God, “Yeah, I messed up, I’m sorry, so you need to just get over it.” God expects a good faith response called repentance and a willingness to submit to the relationship.

God has already done everything that can be done from his standpoint to provide for reconciliation (if he had not, reconciliation would not even be possible). Now, it is up to us to respond to that offer and come back to God.

I hope you will join us for this entire series as we explore the many-sided picture of God’s rescue.

Blessings!

- Alan


Click here to download Faith Notes


Alan Cassady serves as Senior Pastor at Navarre UMC, and has been at the church since 2011. When he's not preaching and teaching, he enjoys sci-fi movies and FSU Football. Read more about Alan here.

The Book: Resources

In last week’s sermon, I mentioned that I would share some beneficial resources for you as you begin you journey in understanding the Bible. Here are some very useful resources, including some favorite commentaries on the Book of Revelation.

 

Online and Electronic Resources

Bible.faithlife.com

This is an online Study Bible produced by FaithLife (formerly Logos Software). It can be used online or there are links to iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire. [Free]

 

Logos Basic

This is a computer program for both Windows and Mac. [Free]

General Bible Study – Method

Ausley, Matt Friedeman; Lisa Friedeman. LifeChanging Bible Study - Practical Keys to a Deeper Understanding of the Word. Wilmore, Ky.: Francis Asbury Press, 2009.

Thompson, David L. Bible Study That Works. Revised ed. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Publishing House, 1994.

General works on Bible Interpretation

Guthrie, George, and David S. Dockery. Holman Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Your Journey Begins Here. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2004.

Myers, Allen C. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987.

Bible Dictionary

Achtemeier, Paul J, Publishers Harper & Row, and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.

Myers, Allen C. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987.

Powell, Mark Allan, ed. The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated). New York: HarperCollins, 2011.

Concordance

III, John R. Kohlenberger. NIV Bible Concordance. Reissue edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2012.

———. The NIV Exhaustive Bible Concordance, Third Edition: A Better Strong’s Bible Concordance. 3rd Special ed. edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2015.

Strong, James. The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Expanded edition. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010.

Dictionaries to Help with Biblical Words

Mounce, William D. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Supersaver ed. edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2006.

Commentaries and Bible Background

Clendenen, E. Ray, and Jeremy Royal Howard, eds. The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary. Ill edition. Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Reference, 2015.

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. 02 edition. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2014.

Cross Reference

Nelson, Thomas. The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge: An Easy-to-Use One-Volume Library for Bible Study and Lesson Preparation. Edited by Jerome H. Smith. Rev Exp Su edition. Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson, 1992.

Commentaries on Revelation

Keener, Craig S. Revelation. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999.

Mulholland, Robert, and Grant Osborne. James, 1-2 Peter, Jude, Revelation. Edited by Philip W. Comfort. Carol Stream, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2011.

III, Ben Witherington. Revelation. Cambridge, U.K. ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.