Sun, Aug 31st - 5:12PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. Genesis 4:1-7
Here we see favoritism, or do we? Have you ever been the victim of favoritism or its beneficiary? Ever been in that position of witnessing the teacher's praise always falling upon one particular student while you knew you worked just as hard but never got the recognition? Perhaps most of us have experienced this. Or maybe the tension and stress struck much closer to home. A sibling who could seemingly do no wrong (or right) in the eyes of your parents. Despite what children may believe, adulthood does not automatically end such bias for or against each of us. This beast can rear its ugly head in the workplace, among friends, or within our congregations.
How do you treat favoritism? Chalk it up to your good fortune, or just rewards? When you are shunned from such favor, do you grow angry or resentful? Do you vent your feelings towards the one showing favor and/or the recepient of the favor?
If you have experienced these feelings from both sides of this issue then you will more quickly understand the interplay of emotions in this story of Cain and Abel. It is the very first of the brother stories in Genesis. As an omen of struggles ahead, a crucial wedge jeopardizes the relationship between Cain and Abel. It does not come from their parents or other siblings, but from God. Our text does not explicitly explain the difference in regard, simply that one found favor over the other. That one's offering pleased God and that the other's did not we know from the text. Exactly down to details, that we do not know. And we do not need to know those minute details in order to reach an understanding of what happened here.
With whom ought we to identify ourselves with? Abel or Cain? Or with God? For Abel, God's favor is gracious. For Cain, God's favor is capricious. For God, favor arises from autonomy. God will be gracious to whom He will.
Grace does not need to cause tragedy; but that is what happens this time. Cain explodes in anger. Honestly, before trusting in Christ, wouldn't you have done the same? Now, God does not say to Cain, "Don't be angry" as if his anger is unfounded. Instead, God replies with a question: "Why are you angry?" Why? Because of your bad fortune or your brother's good fortune? If it is your bad fortune, hope remains: "If you do well, will you not be accepted?" The entire aim of the sacrificial system is to obtain God's acceptance. Cain can reverse his ill-fortune, it is within his grasp to do so. But if his anger remains focused solely upon Abel, tragedy looms on the horizon: "If you do not well, sin is lurking at the door."
This begs the question: What is on the other side of that door for Cain and Abel? That question will be answered tomorrow, my friends. But today, this story of God's favor and these two brothers is enough to teach us an important lesson. For whatever reasons, life is not always fair. We bask in God's grace when it falls upon us; other times we grow anxious and resentful when it does not and falls upon others.
Each day opportunities arise for us to become angry over perceived wrongs, perceived favor falling upon undeserving others rather than ourselves. Tragedies arise when we focus our envy against those we deem to have received their due unfairly. "Why are you angry?" God asked Cain, and he asks us that very same question today. If I do well I will be accepted. What will we do with our anger? That answer awaits our living.
Oh Father, guide me when You seem distant or when life's unfairness seems to overwhelm me. Help me rejoice in others' well-being, rather than resent their good fortume. Lead me into Your grace that accepts, loves, and embraces me as I am. Amen.
Sat, Aug 30th - 12:32PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
I will put enmity...between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3:14-19
Here we discover that disobedience bears consequences. Some of those consequences offer explanations for physical oddities in our world. The serpent slithers upon its belly. The woman bears children in pain. The man sweats in order to eat. The earth now produces thorns and thistles as well as grains and fruits.
Some other consequences run much deeper. The bad blood between the serpent's offspring and that of Eve is depicted in the general human aversion to snakes. The subordination of wife to husband comes out of creation's corruption, not from its original goodness where male and female shared both God's image and blessings. Their original career of tending the Garden of Eden is cast down into the drudgery of cultivating profaned soil, soil full of sin. Adam, the one formed from the dust has brought down God's wrath upon the ground. Life everywhere on this planet would never be the same.
Sound familiar to any of you? Bad choices brings bad results? And the bad choices' results too often impact innocent bystanders who are outside the circle of guilt. Tell me, what had the innocent earth done to deserve receiving sin into itself? But then again, what do victims struck head-on by cars driven by drunk drivers do to deserve being caught in the wake of others' poor choices? Fact: The sin of one remains a leading cause of pain and suffering in innocent others.
Perhaps God ought to have literally kept His promise concerning the price for disobedience? I notice that God did not say that death would be symbolic, or even spiritual. God said, "you shall die."
If God was only concerned about righteous judment, then I guess He would have made them die instantly. But this God of Genesis chooses to be a God of grace. Doesn't God act like a parent confronting a child's serious offense? Should I issue severe consequences that will insure "never again" shall this happen? Can I guarantee such a thing? Severity could very well contradict love. The relationship between parent and child does not end with punishment and discipline, does it? God has invested too much love in creating this relationship and will not totally destroy that.
It is not a perfect analogy, I will grant, but it does help us understand some of God's actions in Genesis 3. Enmity and pain will follow without any doubt. But life will still continue for God does not enact death immediately. As we all know, as long as there is life, hope endures.
God provides hope in the form of a seed. On the surface this verse may offer very little comfort: Bad blood will exist between the serpent's and woman's progeny. Their kids are going to fight with each other. Later on tradition gives messianic overtones to these words. The "bruising" of the serpent's head suggests that one of the woman's seed will crush the consequences of Eden's disobedience. In the same fashion, the bruising of the heel implies that disobedience will carry a cost to the woman's seed. Perhaps that is one of the root reasons why Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus to "son of Adam," it is an echo of that ancient hope that all have forgotten.
Maybe you have experienced the grace of God's not giving up on you so easily, I know that I have. Remember that experience when you feel like giving up on another---or yourself. See, you and I bear that seed within ourselves to this very day.
One last point I want to throw out to you today about Adam and Eve. Each of them wounded themselves on that fateful day of disobeying God. Each wound was slightly different from the other. Eve's wound caused her to suffer pain during childbirth and to try and fill that void within her for a "father figure." She lost her Father, and now had to fill it with something less. She turned to a man expecting him to know her every thought and feeling, and he could not meet that expectation. Adam's wound separated him from God. Adam chose his wife, Eve, over God. Now he has a void within himself, and tries to validate himself through a woman. She is his means to defining who he is, his manhood. And when she rejects him he suffers a reopening of his wound. When he fails to meet her expectations her wound reopens and enlarges. In order to heal both man and woman must turn from seeking validation from each other and seek this from God. Only from Him can we be validated for who we really are. Only from God can we receive that which we desparately need, forgiveness. And the opportunity for a fresh, clean start to the remainder of our lives.
Too frequently, Father, I speak or act without taking the time to consider the consequences. And when those consequences fall hard upon me, I forget about hope, and grace, and forgiveness, and most importantly, You. Help me to remember, Father. Amen.
Fri, Aug 29th - 9:47PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
The man and his wife hid themselves... Genesis 3:1-13
Was one of your first childhood games one of hide and seek? One child counts while the others scatter abroad and conceal themselves from the soon to be searcher's sight. To be successful at hide and seek one must use whatever is near to draw attention away from one's self and body, or actual location. And don't we all learn this game early, and doesn't it become one that we practice all of our lives? Over the years don't we become more and more skillful at finding things, or people, to cover us?
So shall we consider this text in Genesis that traditionally is dubbed "The Fall." It usually falls upon poor Eve's shoulders with all of the blame. After all, she listened to the serpent rather than God; she took the first bite of the forbidden fruit. Guilty, right? Well, yes. But she isn't the only guilty person in this scenario, and not the most guilty. Adam listened to his wife rather than correcting her error. He opted to satisfy his wife at the expense of ignoring God. Adam was the head of their family, put in that position by God. His responsibility was to look out for the best interests of his wife spiritually. Adam dropped the ball when it was in his court and he condemned the rest of us to follow. But his is another story altogether for another time. But hold that thought, for we are looking into the Garden at another story unfolding before our eyes. The Garden is the setting for what may be the very first recorded incident of hide and seek, though it most certainly is not the last.
In all honesty, two games of hiding take place here. The first comes when the man and the woman conceal themselves from God among the trees. This one was merely physical in nature. The second hiding, however, has no lightness of spirit. When God asks the man why he ate from the tree of which he had been commanded not to eat, does Adam answer honestly, quickly? No, he tries to cover himself, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree." Oooh, she twisted my arm, she made me do it! When God questions the woman about her action, what's her response? "The serpent tricked me.". Have they accepted responsibility for their actions? I don't think so, my friends. They sound like a couple of kids, pointing fingers somewhere else, or at someone else.
So, when the trees fail to cover physically, blame of others becomes the preferred method of hiding from the truth. Truth be told, blame of others has been our favorite hiding place ever since. The litany rings in my ears, "It's not my fault... I was only doing what I was told to do...If she hadn't been dressed like that...If he had only minded his own business..."
In the long run, such attempts to hide are no more successful than turning sidewise behind a fencepost in the hope that it will hide us. Why? Because we can't hide from the sight of God. Genesis 3 and Psalm 139 reveal the foolishness of trying to hide.
Besides failing, hiding in blaming others creates another dark dilemma. As long as we avoid responsibility we hold at arm's length the grace to heal, forgive, and renew. The man finds it difficult to ask for forgiveness when he says the woman was to blame. The woman has difficulty asking for forgiveness when she says it's the serpent's fault. This only obscures our view of grace.
But with surprising tenacity grace sticks. Even after this couple from Eden chooses the path of disobedience, even when they attempt to transfer guilt to hide from God's wrath, God still seeks them out. Notice, it is God who goes after them. God finds them. The grace of God in Genesis proves as persevering as the presence of God in Psalm 139. No matter how much we attempt to hide or distance ourselves, God comes, God finds, and God graces our lives.
Father God, do not let me hide from You for fear that I might think to succeed. Prevent me Father from using the wrongs of others, real or perceived, to camoflage my own wrongs, for I do not need distraction but I do need Your grace. Amen.
Thu, Aug 28th - 6:16PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
It is not good that the [adam] should be alone. Genesis 2:18-22
The weight of loneliness gazes out from the Garden of Eden. Even God knew that communion with Himself would not be enough for the "adam." Through grace God determines that it is not enough. Genesis 1 showcased "goodness" but here in chapter 2 we find the lack of goodness. Something in Creation is still unfinished, that something is human community, fellowship.
Helper is the word used to describe what the "adam" is lacking. He needs a help-meet. There are plenty of creatures all around the "adam" but none to whom he can personally relate. This calls for a new creation.
Picture this. Sleep falls; flesh opens; God takes part of the "adam's" own rib to create this new creature. This passage speaks little about origins nor about gender bias or primacy. It does speak much about relationship. "Adam's rib" is a virtual statement of mutuality, how intimately human life intertwines at the deepest levels.
So God created a helper for Adam. Today, that picture speaks of subservience: a helper as in "little" or as a servant. It is presumptuous to take such a reading of its true meaning. Help or helper is found 21 times in the Hebrew scriptures. Two times are in our text today, the others refer either to the help God brings us or to God as the helper. Nothing subservient about that. It occurs as the word ezer, and is shown for its true meaning in Exodus 18:4, "The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh."
So this is what this new creature is to be to the "adam." God in His wisdom realizes the loneliness that exists in the human condition. In love, He responds by making the potential for community in this helper. It reveals God's grace. This "helper" too, bears the image of God.
Alone one is liable to either lose self-worth in despair or to elevate self-importance in arrogance. In a community, we find help, we find responsibility, we find accountability. And in this way we are able to maintain a faithful balance between these two extremes.
The saying is, "The more things change, the more they remain the same." Loneliness is still our adversary. Relationships remain our allies. God's grace remains our ultimate source of community: His gift that reminds all of us that we are not alone.
Oh Lord God, You reach inside of my loneliness through the touch of Your Holy Spirit, through the hand of family, through the voice of friends. When I am sorely tempted to withdraw deeply within myself, please draw me out into Your community that I may see Your grace incarnated in the love and friendship of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.
Wed, Aug 27th - 9:53PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image." Genesis 1:26-27
Here is the definitive statement of our being made in the image of Almighty God. Creation continues along on this day as it had on each day before. God's Holy Word begets God's Creation. The Creation then begets God's declaration of its goodness. There are no exceptions: "It was very good."
On Ash Wednesday each year many Christians of differing denominations place ashes upon their foreheads. It is the beginning of a special season in faith. So it has been for more than a thousand years. This is how Lent is traditionally entered into.
So what have traditions of Ash Wednesday and fingerprints left on our foreheads and the goodness spoken of in Genesis chapter one to do with one another? First of all, when the mixture of ashes and water are applied to the skin it is easy to leave a fingerprint behind. God also marks each of our lives with His fingerprint of grace. We can find in Psalm 8:3, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place," which speaks to us of God's artistic talents that He manifests through the work of His hands. Combine this with Genesis 1:26 and we see that Creation itself is an act of grace. What compelled God to create any of our universe? Nothing but grace. Who forced God to create living beings in His divine image? No one but grace. God's fingerprints mark us from the beginning, fingerprints of grace.
So before anything else marks, or scars, our life, Jehovah's fingers leave the lasting imprint of grace upon us. But why are ashes apparantly so important? Perhaps it comes to us from out of another verse in Genesis.
The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground. Genesis 2:4-7
Mankind begins in dust. Mozart, Crick, Gould, Einstein, Bach, Plato, Charlemagne, Washington, Gandhi, and many, many more brilliant people have all begun from dust. Even a young Nazarene woman named Mary was begotten from dust.
Dust of the earth even gave man its name. In the Hebrew, the word for ground, or earth, is adamah. In this play on words God did form adam (Adam) from the dust of the adamah. This also aptly describes who we are as well as what we are.
Perhaps God should have made us out of something more precious? Like gold, or silver? Surely God would have been much better served by something created out of the more "noble" elements? Perhaps we all would value each other more highly then, if just to protect our "market value?"
But what difference does it actually make? No matter what we are made of, it still takes the breathing in of God's breath to bring us to life. Nothing more ordinary than dust and yet God took dust and made it into man, fashioned into His own image. More grace than we deserve.
It brings us to questions such as: What in dust merited His gift of life? What was it in dust that held promise of man and woman loving each other more than life, or that a parent would hold such love for a child? What potential was inherently held within that dust? Could it be discerned by today's scientists with their amazing measuring and scanning devices? Could our electron microscopes find this potential within dust? But somehow God knew of its potential, He knew what His breathe could bring into existence. Grace of God.
Well then, this suggests something else. If He can breathe life into dust, what does that say about the potential in our lives today? Who on this entire planet can discover what God's breath might mold us into yet; our minds, our wills, our imaginations and compassions are all as clay in this Potter's hands, this God of grace whose fingers tenderly created each and every one of us in our mother's wombs.
How does God grace our lives now? Think about how God graces you with relationships, with faith, with love, with fellowship, and with family. Each of them bring a little more of God's breath into your life, a little more of His grace. And each of these things can grow, deepen, and expand. The potential lies there, waiting.
Our origins are in the dust but Genesis does not leave us there. God's grace in creation gives to us the promise that is carried within us; our potential to be the very image of God if we trust in His Son. If we believe in Christ we become joint heirs with Him. We shall one day be reunited into the very presence of God from whom we have been separated since the Garden of Eden.
Father God, you have made me from the dust of this earth. Please help me to see Your hand and to feel Your breath in all the ordinariness of my daily life, that I may feel the extraordinary potential of Your eternal grace. In Jesus's precious name, amen.
Tue, Aug 26th - 8:26PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
Paul now sends greeting from those who were with him as he was writing this epistle to the Roman church.
Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.
I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord(16:21-22).
All of these were companions of Paul. All were sending greetings to their fellow brethren in Rome. Tertius was not the author of this epistle but rather the secretary who wrote it down as Paul spoke it to him.
Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, salutes you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city salutes you, and Quartus a brother(16:23).
Paul stayed in the home of Gaius and this man sent greetings as well.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began(16:24-25).
"The mystery" means that it had not been revealed in the Old Testament. It is a reference to the present age when God is taking both Jew and Gentile and forming both of them into one body, the church. This mystery had been kept secret since before creation.
But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith(16:26).
The mystery was made apparant to all people. It was then made known to all of the nations through the reading of the scriptures of the prophets of the Old Testament. It is here that we see the obedience of faith. When you trust Christ, you will obey Him, my friends. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me"(John 10:27). Obedience is the work and fruit of faith. And we conclude with a benediction:
To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen(16:27).
That finishes the book of Romans, beloved. I hope that it strengthens your walk in Christ and that it helps you share the gospel with others. If you have any questions please feel free to message me with them. I will do my best to answer them.
Next time I wish to begin a study that covers parts of the book of Genesis from a "grace" perspective. After that rather short study I will begin another study covering the endtimes with its armies and stuff. "Stuff" is a technical term for mystery and things that might not be knowable at this time in history. LOL Until then, grace and peace be with you all.
Mon, Aug 25th - 8:19PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.
Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine(16:12-13).
The first two names mean "delicate" and "dainty." Can you picture two little old ladies who are old maids, perhaps sisters? At any rate, they worked for the Lord at the church in Rome. "The beloved Persis" is another woman who did much work for the Lord. Her name is the name of a freedwoman and perhaps allowed her to do more than the previous two women mentioned.
Although Rufus seems to stand in the shadows of history, we can actually determine a few things about him. His name means "red." So perhaps his hair was red, or maybe his complexion was reddish in color. The one thing that marks him out of all of the other redhaired people is that he was chosen in the Lord. He was a great saint of God.
We can assume, perhaps, from Mark 15:21 that the father of Rufus was Simon who was compelled to carry the cross of Christ. Simon carried that cross all the way up the hill of Calvary, his son was affected the rest of his life by what his father had done. We also see that Rufus' mom was a Christian and that Paul knew her quite well since he considered her as a mother.
Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them.
Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them(16:14-15).
We know nothing specific about any of these people other than they were solid Christians in Paul's book. Men and women who loved Christ and each other, like-minded individuals giving their all to spread the gospel to those who had not heard.
Once we get through this section we enter into a brief stretch of verses that returns to conduct toward other Christians.
Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you(16:16).
I am unsure just what entailed a "holy kiss." This seems to be the formal greeting in Paul's time. I need to research this some more.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them.
For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple(16:17-18).
Are we allowed to create divisions within our congregations? No. Can we offend people all of the time? No. Sure, we can do those things, but be prepared to be ignored by those who recognize what you are doing. They will shun you, avoid talking to you, or fellowshipping with you. Be on guard against those who talk a good talk but do not walk a good walk. Those who are excellent speakers many times simply depend upon their speaking talents and never accept Christ into their hearts.
For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil(16:19).
Their faith came abroad, but the faith was manifested in obedience. Being wise to that which is good means being taught the Word of God. Being simple concerning evil means not having any duplicity in wicked things. What was it Paul said to the Corinthians? "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be you children, but in understanding be men"(I Corinthians 14:20). So we ought to act as men in understanding, whereas when we act in malice we act childishly.
And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen(16:20).
Who will put down Satan shortly? Is it us? No, it will be the God of peace. Meanwhile we are to resist the Devil, be sober and vigilant. In other words, we are to be watchmen on the lookout for our enemy, Satan, who prowls around looking for those whom he can devour, destroy. Do we strive against people, or is our battle against spiritual powers that influence other people to act against us? I would say it is a spiritual battle that we are engaged in, my friends. Love the person, hate their actions. That is how God looks at us.
That is all for today. Next time I shall finish up this book of Romans with the final seven verses. Until then, may the God of peace guide your feet and His Word be a light to your path through life.
Sun, Aug 24th - 9:55AM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ(16:5).
Here we have a reference to a local church meeting in a private home. Other instances of this are seen in Acts 12:12; I Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; and Philemon 2. I believe there is a growing number of people today who believe that the church which began in the home will return to meeting in the home. Many of these great big buildings that we call churches, with their immense steeples, are nothing more than a pile of bricks, stone, and mortar. They are mausoleums, not living churches that contain a real, living body of believers. The church of Christ was never intended to be spoken of as a building, nor was it intended to be anchored to the ground in such fashion. For the first three centuries the church was the body of believers and it met in the homes like that of Aquila and Priscilla.
Epaenetus is a Greek name meaning "praised." Evidently he was Paul's first convert in the Roman province of Achaia.
Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us(16:6).
Mary is a Jewish name, the same as Miriam, meaning "rebelliousness." She evidently labored to the point of exhaustion. What a change took place in her life! Previously she had been a rebel, but now she was working for the Lord! She was being obedient to Christ. She did what Jesus Christ wanted her to do.
Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me(16:7).
Andronicus is a Greek name, and it has been identified with a slave. Junia is a Roman name and can be either a man's or woman's name. Paul calls them "my fellow countrymen," which may mean that they belonged to the Benjaminites as did Paul. It does not mean that they had to be bloodkin to Paul.
Paul says that they were his fellow prisoners. Obviously he met them in one of the many prisons that were throughout the Roman Empire. These two were well known to the apostles, held in high regard by them also. Paul says that they had accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior before he had done so.
This church in Rome was founded by Paul almost by remote control. He had met Aquila and Priscilla in the Corinthian agora, the marketplace, and then he met these two other men in some jail. All had then gone to Rome via their own paths and formed the church there.
Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord.
Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved(16:8-9).
Amplias is a common slave name and occurs in the tombs of the early Christians in the catacombs, always in a place of honor. He evidently was one of Paul's converts and dear to his heart.
Urbane means "city bred." In other words, he was a "city-slicker." It was a common slave name, and it may mean that he was brought up in the city rather than out in the countryside.
Stachys has been found listed in the royal household. It is a man's name. He was close to Paul's heart.
Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household(16:10).
Apelles is either a Greek or Jewish man. Tradition identifies him as bishop either of Smyrna or Heracleia. It is unsure other than that he and his household were strong Christians.
Aristobulus has been identified by some as the grandson of Herod the Great. Or perhaps he was a slave who took the name of his master, we cannot be sure.
Salute Herodion my kinsman.
Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord(16:11).
Herodion was evidently a Jew, as Paul calls him a fellow countryman. The suggestion is that he was of the Herod family. Again, he very well may have been a slave who adopted the name of the family to which he belonged.
Narcissus is the name of a well-known freedman put to death by Agrippina. The one whose name appears here was most likely a slave who formerly belonged to him and had taken his name.
That is all for this first day of the new week, beloved. Give all praise, honor, and glory to the Living God! Serve Him cheerfully this day and always!
Sat, Aug 23rd - 3:55PM
THE PEOPLE ARE AFRAID
Exo 20:18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
Exo 20:19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
Exo 20:20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
Exo 20:21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
Here are some verses that my eldest grandson wants me to comment upon here. Ponder them this afternoon while I go to a birthday party and I shall provide comments this evening. Adieu.
Alright, here we go. This passage immediately follows God speaking the ten commandments on the mount. All of the people have heard the rumblings and thunderings along with the lightenings while Moses was up there communing with God. They are on edge. They are very scared of God. The Israelites fear for their lives, thinking that if God speaks directly to them they will surely die. Many today feel that they can't possibly approach God at all for being struck dead in their shoes. God is approachable my friends, through Jesus Christ His Son. Notice what Moses told the people. Fear not. Why? Because God is come to prove you so that you will not sin. And isn't that still true today? Christ is come to prove each of us so that we will not sin. Moses told them that the fear of the Lord was to be before them, and so it should be with us today, beloved. We should walk each day with the fear of the Lord before our faces so that we will not sin. We ought to be in total awe of Jehovah and of what He is capable of doing.
Moses drew near to God and where are the people? Near by, trusting in his words? No, there they are way off yonder. They did not trust what the man of God told them; and isn't that exactly our problem today? We refuse to trust what the man of God tells us. Whether it is one of the prophets in the Old Testament or an apostle from in the New Testament, the issue remains steadfastly the same: refusal to believe what the man of God has said. I do believe it is one of the main reasons that the genuine saints who walk very closely to Christ lead rather solitary lives. Nobody understands what is actually happening and they "stand afar off." They begin to think that something is wrong with this dear saint, they are losing it. In reality, they are probably closer to God than at any other time in their lives, the rest of us simply do not comprehend correctly what we are witnessing.
Grace and peace be with you all tonight.
Sat, Aug 23rd - 9:27AM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
I suppose many people skip this last chapter since they begin seeing lots of names of people being mentioned and they start to think that this is just like those books back in the Old Testament that are incomprehensible. But there are 35 persons mentioned in this chapter by name!
All of these people were either believers living in Rome or they were believers who were with Paul, who more than likely was in Corinth. Here is expressed a mutual love and tender affection which was a contradiction of Roman philosophy and culture then, and is rather unlike many of our churches today.
This chapter begins with a commendation of Phebe, the woman who brought this epistle to Rome.
I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:
That you receive her in the Lord, as becomes saints, and that you assist her in whatsoever business she has need of you: for she has been a succourer of many, and of myself also(16:1-2).
Phebe is first mentioned in this additional listing of heroes of the faith. As her name suggests, she was a Gentile. She was named for the Greek goddess, Artemis or Diana, who in Greek mythology was the goddess of the moon, as her brother, Apollo, was the god of the sun. Although many believers adopted new names at baptism, Phebe kept her heathen name.
Phebe brought this letter to the Romans. She was a prominent woman in the church, which means she was strong in her faith. Cenchrea is the eastern seaport of Corinth, being some eight or nine miles away from Corinth. She was a servant of the church, meaning she may have been a deaconess. Women occupied a very prominent place in the early church.
It could very well be that we would not see women today becoming pastors in churches if they had been given their rightful places in the church to begin with. They ought to be deaconesses so that the church may gain from the insights and sensibilities that women possess. Women have been given a sense that men do not have. They can watch a strange woman and in five minutes know a great deal about her simply by observing her clothing and her manner. Men have a much harder time making such observations in general.
Paul apparantly trusted Phebe completely, otherwise he never would have entrusted this letter into her care. He would have given it to another person to take to Rome. Paul was heading back to Jerusalem so he gave his epistle to Phebe to carry to Rome. Perhaps she was a businesswoman and was going to Rome anyways. We just do not know today.
Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helperes in Christ Jesus:
Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles(16:3-4).
"Priscilla and Aquila" were a Jewish couple. How had Paul encountered them? Rome had experienced a wave of anti-Semitism and most likely this couple had had to leave the city. They traveled to Corinth and there met Paul. All three were tent-makers (Acts 18:1-3), and Paul probably lead them to the Lord. In Acts 18:26 we find that they were helpful to Apollos. Notice that in Acts they are spoken of as "Aquila and Priscilla" yet in Romans it is reversed? I believe it is evidence of the woman becoming the more dominant in spiritual matters. She became the leader.
Next time we shall see that this couple hosted a church in their home. It did not meet in a hall, a recreation center, or a large sanctuary. In a home. I believe that is the proper way today. I think that we have lost our way in this matter of meeting together. Until then, grace and peace be yours.
Fri, Aug 22nd - 7:30PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
It has pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things(15:27).
This gift he carried was a freewill offering. "Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver"(II Corinthians 9:7). And that is the type of offering Paul collected and delivered. Paul also says that the saints had a moral obligation and debt to pay. The Gentiles had received the gospel from the Jews of Israel. Since the gospel began in Jerusalem, the Macedonian and Achaian saints were obligated to Jerusalem. It was kind of like foreign missions in reverse! The missionary church was helping the home church through a rough patch financially.
When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain(15:28).
Paul was intent upon doing this great deed by delivering the alms to Jerusalem, but in doing so he put himself at personal risk. Once he went to Jerusalem his enemies had him arrested.
"And have sealed to them this fruit" is an awkward phrase to say the least. I think he is saying that he was going to put it into their hands, this "fruit" of an offering from the othr saints of Christ. Today we would be expecting a receipt to prove that we had indeed delivered the goods. Plus, Paul would see firsthand what the money was going to be used for by that church. Today we see too lax of an attitude in our giving. People give to on-air ministeries and they never know for sure what exactly that gift of money will be used for. They assume it will be used for good, but they never make sure. If your money is not going to help get out the word of God in some fashion that is effective, then do not give it away. Paul was not getting sidetracked at all, my friends, for you see, he ends here by telling the Roman church that when he is done in Jerusalem he will be coming to them on his way to preaching the gospel in Spain.
And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ(15:29).
You see, Paul was convinced that his actions were according to the will of God. He was still doing things in an orderly fashion as God desires. He was not out of God's will in going to Jerusalem nor in going to Rome before setting foot in Spain. It is easy for any of us when trouble comes and things look dark to say, "I must be out of the will of God." Just because we have trouble and disturbed feelings does not mean that we are out of God's will. It could very well mean that you are in His will. If you are living an absolutely calm life today, nothing is happening, the chances are you are not in His will.
Now I beseech you, brehren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me(15:30).
Paul has been speaking from his heart in these matters and this verse is no different. He strongly desires that the saints in Rome join him in praying for him. We are also seeing how Christianity operated in the first century. This is the practical side of faith in Christ. In the first part of Romans Paul gave us doctrine, now he gives us how to put it into practice.
Paul knows he is facing danger when he goes back into Jerusalem and so he wants all of the prayer that he can muster. None of the saints could physically prevent anyone from arresting Paul, they had to ask Jesus Christ, through prayer, to watch over Paul on his journey.
"For the love of the Spirit" brings us back into remembrance of how love is one of the fruits of the Spirit. And this is what joins all saints together.
"That you strive together with me" has the Greek word from which we get our English word, agonize. Paul is saying, "Agonize with me." And this is what all of us ought to be doing with everyone within our congregations, and within the universal church.
Paul ends by begging the saints in Rome to pray fervently for his safety so that he could come to them in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. This is how we ought to be praying today, beloved! We need to get away from our prayer lists and the prayers by rote. Get down on our knees and pray for someone from our hearts! Beg God to watch over them and keep them safe while they are traveling. Beg Christ to abundantly bless a saint who is striving to reunite a family in love. Shed tears if need be! It is still manly to do so. Come on men! Do not be afraid. God tells us to lead by example, here is an area we all need to work on. Do I pray as well and as often as I ought to? My hand goes up and I say, "No!" This admonition is for me as much as for anyone else. Pray for your wife, pray for your husband. Pray that God will raise up a fine spouse for each of your children, start praying while they are just toddlers.
So, you and I need people who know how to pray for us daily.
That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints(15:31).
Here is Paul's prayer request of the saints. His life is in jeopardy form the unbelievers in Judaea, the religious rulers. Secondly, the church in Jerusalem might be hesitant in accepting a gift from Gentiles, and he wanted them to accept it. Both requests were answered. Oh yes, he was arrested, but he was immediately put into the hands of the Romans and was enabled to appear before kings, and finally he actually appeared before the Caesar in Rome, which was a fulillment of the will of God for Paul.
That i may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed(15:32).
Here is the conclusion of Paul's prayer request. Paul may not have made it to Rome quite the way any of us would have expected, but he did get to Rome in the joy of the Holy Spirit.
Did Paul find rest and refreshment in Rome? It is debatable. However, we can say that he was full of joy because he did go to Jerusalem, went to Rome, and eventually made it to Spain as well. And all along the way he spread the gospel of Christ to those who had never heard it before. That is how we are to be today, my friends. We are to be like Johnny Appleseed, planting seed everywhere we go in life.
Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen(15:33).
The chapter ends with Paul's benediction. God is peace. No matter where Paul found himself he was at peace in Christ. In chains, in prison, in shipwrecks, in storms, marooned on an island, it did not matter for he was at peace in Christ. You and I need that kind of peace in our lives each day. That is my prayer for my entire family, and for all of you too.
Well, here we are! The last chapter of Romans! The last chapter of Romans shows the gospel walking in shoe leather as Dr. McGee used to say. This last chapter will show us all of the common people who walked up and down the streets of those ancient cities and towns with the joy of the Lord in their hearts. I look forward to sharing this with you next time. Until then, may the God of peace be with all of you.
Fri, Aug 22nd - 6:49AM
THE CROSS DIVIDES MEN
THE CROSS DIVIDED EVEN THIEVES
Here is our last couple. The two men who were there, hanging on crosses on either side of the Lord Jesus Christ. Physically these two men were literally divided by the cross of Christ, one on either side of Him. But the cross of Christ also divided them for all eternity. What was the difference between those two thieves? Both had been tried before a Roman court, both were convicted for the same kind of crime, both merited capital punishment, and they both agreed that it was a right sentence. So what was the difference? To what church did those two thieves belong? Dr. McGee uses an illustration to get a point across, which I am going to use here. He asked a liberal preacher friend of his one day, "What would you tell that thief on the cross to do in order to get to heaven?" The man said, "I don't know." "Well, you had better hurry and tell him something, because he is dying," responded Dr. McGee. "I don't know, I guess he would be the exception." Dr. McGee replied, "Don't you think he might be the rule that is being set for all time and eternity? Are you going to tell him to perform some good works with his hands? If you said that to him, you'd mock him. He would say, "Look, my hands are nailed to this cross, and they'll not be taken down until my death." Tell me something else, would you tell him to run on errands of mercy? He would reply, "Again, you mock me! My feet are nailed to this cross." What are you going to say to him?" What would you say to that thief?
That thief that began by ridiculing Christ, came to the conclusion that the One dying on that central cross was not only innocent, but He was actually dying for somebody else. So in faith he looked to Him and said, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom"(Luke 23:42). He had absolutely nothing to offer but his simple confession of faith. To that man, who society had condemned to death, Jesus said, "Today you shall be with Me in paradise"(Luke 23:43). One thief went with Christ, the other thief went his own way into eternity. Here's a poem that puts it quite nicely, I think.
Three men shared death upon a hill,
But only one man died,
A thief and God Himself made rendezvous.
Three crosses still
Are borne up Calvary's hill
Where sin still lifts them high.
Upon the one, hang broken men who cursing die;
The other holds the praying thief.
And those as penitent as he
Still find the Christ beside them on the tree.
So, what do you see in the cross on Calvary's hill? An innocent man dying unjustly? Or do you see the cruelty of the executions and your heart goes out in pity? Christ said to the daughters of Jerusalem, "Weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves"(Luke 23:28). Jesus does not want your sympathy.
Can you see in the cross of Christ what the dying thief saw? What John the beloved saw? What the apostle Paul saw? The cross is the sign of God's redeeming grace. Multitudes of people have come to it and have found the power of God unto salvation.
My dear friends, what does the cross mean to you? Have you really turned to Christ and away from the world? He is the One who died for you on that cross, rose again, paid the wages for your sin, lives today in glory, and is returning to earth some day to rule in power and glory forever. Have you trusted Him?
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.
Those two thieves represent the entire world. Those who finally "see" Christ for who He really is and then trust Him, and those who only curse at the foolishness of such a thought and perish. A very simple picture given for us to understand the truth of the entire matter.
This completes this study, my friends. I hope that it helps you clarify any doubts you may have had about that old rugged cross. I also hope that it can help you preach it to those you know, who are in need of finding that cross. May the grace and peace of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, be with you all.
Thu, Aug 21st - 4:51PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation:
But as it is written, To whom He was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand(15:20-21).
It was a point of honor with Paul, so he went as a pioneer where the gospel had not been spoken. He did not minister where a church already existed or where other apostles had already gone. He was a true missionary, which is the meaning of the word evangelist in the New Testament. When Paul entered a town he was not given a welcome party. The mayor did not greet him and throw a sumptuous banquet in his honor. Generally, it was usually the chief of police who would arrest him and put him in jail.
The apostles were known by their credentials of speaking boldly in the Lord, and doing great signs and wonders with their hands. They did not have a New Testament handy to read out of.
But the day did come when signs and wonders were no longer the identifying mark. The apostle John, near the end of his long life, wrote: "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed" (II John 10). Correct doctrine was the identifying mark for a man of God even back then. And today, my friends, the identifying mark is correct doctrine, not signs and wonders. Remember that.
Our world is literally flooded with fanaticism, by wrong teaching, and by false doctrine. Although there is a movement of the Holy Spirit today, there is also a movement of Satan. He is very busy. A great multitude of people are being carried away and trapped by incorrect teaching. Paul has gone to great lengths to make it clear that the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but it is not signs and wonders either. It is not any of these outward things at all. It is righteousness.
Since Paul said that he did not go where the gospel had been preached before, who is the founder of the church in Rome? He makes it very clear that he is the founder of the church in Rome.
"To whom He was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand" is a quotation from Isaiah 52:15. Paul you see, he knew the Old Testament very, very, well and he could quote from it freely whenever he spoke. Paul's intent was to go and preach to those who had never heard of Christ and see them understand and become saved.
For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you(15:22).
When Paul says that he had been hindered, you can be sure that it was extremely hindered! All sorts of roadblocks were put in his way.
But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you;
Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, it first I be somewhat filled with your company(15:23-24).
Paul makes it clear that he wants to take the gospel all the way to Spain since there is nowhere else for him to preach in the area he has been covering these past few years. On his way there he desires to stop in Rome and visit with the church there. Paul made it clear that Rome was not his final destination, just a stopping point along the way where he could fellowship with believers before continuing on.
Did Paul ever get to Spain? We have no record of it in scripture. But we never would have known that he went to Illyricum except it was mentioned in verse 19. So I would have to say that Paul did make it to Spain at some point in time. If he had not made it to Spain, could he have said towards the end of his life, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith"(II Timothy 4:7)? I think not considering the type of man that Paul was.
But before Spain, Paul wished to go back to Jerusalem:
But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.
For it has pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem(15:25-26).
So Paul was heading to Jerusalem with a gift for the poor saints there. Why take it in person? Why not have someone else take it instead? Perhaps because with his own two hands he had "wasted" the church at Jerusalem; he had led the persecution of the saints. Now it was time for this apostle to make up for that by taking a gift of grace to them.
"A certain contribution" comes from the Greek word, koinonia, meaning a "fellowship." This word was used for everything that saints could share among themselves: Christ, the Word, prayer, the Lord's Supper, and material gifts. Fellowship is not just patting each other on the back. For a believer, fellowship is sharing the things of Christ. In Acts 24:17 we have the historical record of this gift that Paul wanted to deliver in person. It was very important to him. We see him writing about it in II Corinthians 8-9.
That is all for today, my friends. Next time I shall cover the remaining verses in this chapter. We shall see that Paul wished that the church in Rome would continue to pray for his safe passage to Jerusalem and that the ones in Judea who still did not believe would not cause him trouble. For as important as this gift was to him, Paul still desired to visit with those saints in Rome on his way to Spain. Until next time, grace and peace be yours in Christ Jesus.
Thu, Aug 21st - 9:56AM
THE CROSS DIVIDES MEN
Pharisee Number Two
Let's look at another Pharisee who eventualy came to the Lord Jesus Christ. He arguably was the greatest human enemy Christ ever had up to this point in time on earth. It is hard to imagine anyone has ever hated Christ as Saul of Tarsus hated Him. Saul was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, the best prospect that they had. He was a young man; he had been trained in the best school, the school of Gamaliel. He was brilliant, probably one of the most intelligent men the world has ever produced. He was an educated man, and he thoroughly hated Jesus.
The scriptures are silent on this point, but it makes perfect sense that Saul was present at the crucifixion of Christ. We know how much he hated Him. We know that after the death and resurrection of Christ, and after the Day of Pentecost when the church began and persecution arose against it, the man who led the persecution was Saul of Tarsus(Acts 7-8). All of the other Pharisees, once the Christians were driven out of Jerusalem, seemed satisfied and did not particularly care about pursuing them any further. But Saul went to the chief priest and asked that he be given letters to the synagogues in Damascus, for he had heard that many of the Christians had gone there and he did not intend to stop until he was assured that every last one was either in prison or dead. That is how much he hated Jesus Christ. Can you imagine this young man staying home on the day of Christ's crucifixion? It had to have been like a magnet for him. He would have had to have been there with the other Pharisees to mock and spit at Him.
Later, on his way to Damascus with papers, the Lord waylaid him, knocked him down into the dirt of the way. This man, Saul of Tarsus, found out that Jesus of Nazareth was alive and that He was his Savior and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. And there, on that dusty road, he yielded his heart and life to Jesus Christ:
Act 9:1And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
Act 9:2And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
Act 9:3And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
Act 9:4And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
Act 9:5And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
Act 9:6And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
Act 9:7And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
Act 9:8And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
Act 9:9And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
Act 9:10And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.
Act 9:11And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
Act 9:12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
Act 9:13Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
Act 9:14And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
Act 9:15But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
Act 9:16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
Years later Paul would write in Galatians 2:20, "He loved me and gave Himself for me." I think that he was remembering this day upon the road to Damascus, and even more, remembering that day as he stood near to the cross at Calvary and heard Jesus say, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do"(Luke 23:34). I am sure that he had thought that he knew what he was doing back then. At that time, the cross was foolishness to him, but years later he declared, "It is the power of God unto salvation." It utterly transformed his life.
Two Pharisees came to the cross of Christ. One of them said, "It's foolishness," and went into eternity his way. Another Pharisee came to the cross, it had no meaning for him; but wait, then he personally met Christ who had died on that cross, and was able to say to Him, "He loved me and gave Himself for me...for the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God." Saul of Tarsus went into eternity God's Way. Even the worst of sinners can be saved by God. Nothing is impossible with God. Do not turn away from Christ just because you have done some very bad things in your lifetime. Instead of running away from Him, why not run toward Him and ask for His forgiveness? If you ask sincerely, then you will receive His power unto salvation of your eternal soul. Do it today, my friend.
That completes looking at the two Pharisees. Next time we shall look at how the cross divided even thieves. You remember those two fellows who were crucified alongside Jesus Christ? Ever wonder how come you see so many churches that station three crosses out near roadways? I do believe it has something to do with what happened at Calvary. But that is for next time. Until then, beloved, think on what message the thieves crucifixion is for us today. Grace and peace be yours.
Wed, Aug 20th - 8:21PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
Now Paul seems to pick up that personal note with which he began this epistle to the Romans.
And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brothers, that you also are full of goodness, filed with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another(15:14).
Paul, it would seem, is offering in this verse a gentle apology for his earlier frankness and boldness. This isn't saying that they were lacking in goodness and knowledge, but rather because they possessed these qualities that Paul was able to be so explicit. God gave us this letter to the Romans so that He could talk to us about these important issues. If it hasn't occured to you as yet, this letter to the Romans is an essential part of any Christian's growth spiritually.
Nevertheless, brothers, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God.
That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost(15:15-16).
Paul is referring to this letter when he says, "I have written." He wishes to put to rest any argument that might arise over him being the apostle to the Gentiles. He is also ministering to them. He is adopting the language of the Levitical temple worship in describing himself as a minister preaching the gospel.
He informs all that the Gentiles are "acceptable" even apart from the Law or any religion, through Jesus Christ.
"Sanctified" means the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Gentile believers, beginning with Cornelius. The sanctifying work of God's Spirit begins the very moment of regeneration when the Holy Spirit takes up His dwelling place within each believer. It is difficult for us to completely understand the full significance of all this, and yet we as Gentiles have gained all that this implies. Each of us ought to thank God for the apostle Paul since God gave Paul to us.
I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God(15:17).
Paul wrote to these Romans with confidence. We can find no personal assumption creeping into his words. He is a servant of Christ Jesus and is doing His will. One thing that ought never to characterize a servant of God is pride. We need to take the position that we are merely serving Jesus Christ and He is the One in charge.
For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed.
Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ(15:18-19).
If we are to understand Paul, we must pay close attention to what he says here. He says that he will not take credit for the work of God that is done by others, especially among the Gentiles. He couldn't take credit for what was accomplished on Pentecost, he couldn't take any credit for the ministry that brought the gospel to the very first Gentiles. It was Simon Peter who took the gospel to the home of Cornelius.
"Through mighty signs and wonders" were the credentials of the apostles and the ministers of the early church. This helped establish the foundation of the early church since there was no written New Testament as of yet. He is not saying that the apostles are the foundation, for only Jesus Christ can be the foundational stone(I Corinthians 3:11). But the apostles were the ones who put down the foundation of Jesus Christ.
How much area is covered from Jerusalem to Illyricum? Illyricum was a province of Rome next to Italy. It extended to the Adriatic Sea and the Danube River. Paul had preached from Jerusalem to right up to Rome. He had not yet reached Rome itself, but he had traveled all around in this region. Did he eventually go to Spain and England? Perhaps.
Next time we shall see that Paul strove to preach the gospel in places where no one had yet preached Christ risen. Until then, I give credit to all those who have written of these things before me, and to those who will write of these things after I am long gone from this world. I hope and pray that some of you will be included in that group of individuals. Today I began once again to read "Pilgrim's Progress." I am simply in awe of the man who wrote this epic Christian work. And he wrote while he was in jail! Amazing love. Grace and peace be yours this night.
Wed, Aug 20th - 7:09AM
THE CROSS DIVIDES MEN
We have looked at how the cross of Christ divided two Romans, two apostles, and two women. Notice its effect on the lives of two Pharisees who at first saw eye-to-eye, but who were later on divided by the cross so that one went into eternity his way and the other went into eternity God's Way.
The Pharisees were a religious-political party. As a religious party they were what we would describe as fundamental in the faith. They believed in the inspiration of the Old Testament, the existence of the supernatural, the existence of angels, and the Resurrection. Today, they would be considered as "cold-blooded fundamentalists." Even though they believed the Word of God, their personal lives did not contain evidence of its influence. As always, it is so easy to say, "Yes, I believe," without the Word of God actually affecting the heart!
When the Pharisees came into the presence of Christ, they were very impressed with Him and initially felt that He was the One that they wanted. I imagine that many were feeling just a wee bit uncomfortable talking to God in person. At any rate, they sent Nicodemus to talk to Him, thinking perhaps that somehow they would win Christ over to their side. They soon found out, however, that they weren't the ones persuading, but rather they were the ones being persuaded by Christ! They did not like that at all. Gradually, the Pharisees became His sworn enemies, and ultimately they joined forces with the rest of the Sanhedrin and the Herodians to plot His death.
Pharisee Number One
This first Pharisee goes nameless in the scriptures. It is fairly certain that this man was an enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ. One Sabbath Day, he invited Christ home to have dinner with him. Now, you would think that if this man invited Jesus to dinner he couldn't possibly be His enemy. Why not? His invitation was not a gesture of friendliness. He asked Christ to dinner in order that his crowd of cronies might find something with which they could charge Him. What awaited Jesus at this man's front door?
And it came to pass, as He went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat on the sabbath day, that they watched Him. And, behold, there was a certain man before Him who had the dropsy(Luke 14:1-2).
It is fairly certain that this ill man was a plant by the Pharisees, to see what He would do. Would Jesus heal him, or not? Without even knowing it, these men were paying Christ the highest compliment they could. Christ's host was one of the top Pharisees and He willingly entered into the enemy's terrain.
But this Pharisee soon found out that he had a guest who could take care of Himself. As dinner was announced, our Lord watched as the guests took their places at the table. We can see His decision in Luke 14:7-11. Please read the entire 14th chapter to see how Christ dealt with them at this dinner.
Christ had gone to this man's home. This man had joined with those who crucified Him. When he looked at the cross and the crowd beneath it, this Pharisee said to himself, "It is foolishness, I see nothing in that cross for me." So this man went into eternity his own way.
That is all for this morning, my friends. Next we shall see another Pharisee who encountered Christ and decided that there was something for him at the cross. Until then, the grace and peace of God, the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all this day.
Tue, Aug 19th - 5:37PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to you among the Gentiles, and sing unto your name(15:8-9).
Jesus came as a minister of the Jews. This is the only time it can be found in scripture. His ministry was confined to the nation Israel. This He said Himself in Matthew 15:24. Jesus also directed the disciples in Matthew 10:6. Jesus came in this capacity to confirm the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was called Jesus when after eight days He was circumcised, just as the angel had foretold before He was ever conceived in Mary's womb. He came to fulfill the entire Mosaic system. Galatians 4:4-5 tells us why Jesus Christ came. Christ fulfilled and confirmed the Old Testament promises. Also, through this method salvation was brought to the Gentiles. We Gentiles only claim is upon the mercy of God. No promise was ever made to any of the Gentiles' fathers of old.
"As it is written" introduces four quotes from the Old Testament that show us that the Gentiles are to praise God Almighty.
"For this cause I will confess to you among the Gentiles and sing unto your name" is a quote from Psalm 18:49. Christ praises God through the Gentiles, which implies their conversion.
And agin He saith, Rejoice, you Gentiles, with His people(15:10).
This quote comes from Deuteronomy 32:43. It is the conclusion to the song of Moses, which is a prophetic recital of the history of the Israeli nation until the coming of the millennial kingdom. The Gentiles are invited to join with Israel in praise to God.
And again, Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; and laud Him, all you people(15:11).
Another quote, this time from Psalm 117:1. The invitation continues to be offered to the Gentiles to join with Israel in praising God.
And again, Esaias says, There shall be a root of Jesse, and He that shall arise to reign over the Gentiles; in Him shall the Gentiles trust(15:12).
This quote comes from Isaiah 11:10. Obviously it always was the intent of God that the Gentiles should come to Christ. Some had come to Christ during Paul's day, and they were the firstfruits of an even greater day to come. Paul was writing to the Roman church, and they were mostly Gentiles, which is very true today of our churches.
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost(15:13).
"The God of hope" is a new title for God. The believer finds here the Rock of Ages who is the shelter from the fury of the storms of life. Upon studying God's Word one should come out of it with a feeling of joy and peace from believing what you've read to be true. God's Word ought to strengthen your faith. How much hope should we have? Just a little bit? No, we are to abound in hope and this comes through God's Holy Spirit which dwells within us. If you do not have lots of hope today, then I say you need to recheck how much of God's Word you are reading, studying, and believing.
That is all for today in this study, my friends. Next time we shall delve into a continuation of Paul's personal testimony as an apostle to the Gentiles. Until then, may the God of hope fill each of you with all joy and peace in believing that you might have abundant hope through the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Tue, Aug 19th - 12:43PM
THE CROSS DIVIDES MEN
Let's look at two women who came very close to the cross of Christ.
THE WIFE OF PILATE
First up is Pilate's wife. We do not know her name, nor much else about her. We do know that she was very aware of the trial of Jesus, and she knew how her husband was being involved. Not wanting him to be a part of it, she sent this word to him:
When he was seated on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have you nothing to do with that righteous man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him(Matthew 27:19).
She would appear to be superstitous. We know from historical records that much of that Greek-Roman world was dealing in mystery religions in which women participated. In fact, women were often leaders in them. We find that some of the religions were the most immoral that you could imagine. Their initiations were unspeakable. For example, to be initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, the female initiates were brought in, and immediately after a large bull was mortally stabbed, these females set upon it, eating the flesh while the animal was still alive, and continued this way until the bull was dead!
Rome was aboil with superstitions. The wife of Pilate reveals this. Perhaps she also gave him the idea of publically washing his hands of Jesus, I do not know. She dreamed a dream and believed what she had gone through.
When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this righteous person. See you to it(Matthew 27:24).
Pilate's wife was very close to the cross, but it meant nothing to her personally, for she was locked into superstition and ignorance. If she had not been, then she would have told her husband that he had to free Jesus Christ. This woman went into eternity her own way apparantly.
MARY OF BETHANY
This woman was one of the loveliest people in the bible. We find her account in Mark 4. At that supper at Bethany Mary took her alabaster box of ointment, the most valuable thing that she had, broke it, and poured the spikenard on the head and feet of Jesus Christ. The disciples, lead by Judas Iscariot, began to rebuke her. They even said to Jesus, "Why was this waste of the ointment made?" But Jesus erected a monument to her, a monument to stand for all time. He said, "Wherever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she has done shall be spoken of, for a memorial of her." Jesus knew that this woman had entered into His death. His disciples did not understand His impending crucifixion, but this woman most certainly did. How do we know this?
For the day of my burial has she kept this(John 12:7).
To this woman, the cross of Christ was not something from which to turn away. No, she found in it the power of God unto salvation and realized somewhat of the ordeal that Christ faced soon. Mary of Bethany went into eternity God's Way.
That is all for today, my friends. Next up will be two Pharisees who were divided by the cross. We will see how their lives were affected. Until then, think about all of the funds that we waste in our buildings, funds that could be used to affect peoples' lives directly in a powerful way. We do not need cathedrals, old sports arenas, or lavish sanctuaries in order to worship Christ. I think that many times we still do not realize that all of our possessions are God's. We need to make as much of it as possible available for God's use. In this day and age we generally dig ourselves into large financial holes that make it very difficult to give God back most of His money. It bothers me personally.
Mon, Aug 18th - 8:12PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
The next few verses talk to us about the fact that Jews and Gentiles are in one body to glorify God.
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope(15:4).
So that is why all of those books are a part of the Bible! For our learning, so that through the scriptures we might have hope. The Old Testaement has a definite application to all believers in Christ today. It is simply up to us to be patient and seek God's leading while we read and study His Holy Word.
In the opinion of Dr. J. Vernon McGee, the greatest sin in the church in this generation is ignorance of the Word of God. Any elder or deacon who says that they don't know much about the Bible ought not to be in that position! Such ignorance leads to the insertion of personal opinion which often contradicts God's Word. No one has excuse. God wants us to know His Word. All of the Bible was written for our learning. We ought to be learning things, then, shouldn't we? And that is why I am blogging here.
What do we gain through this "learning?" We gain patience, comfort, and hope. Can I find any hope in the daily newspaper? How about the local, national, or international news on television? None of them bring us any hope. It is rather dark and dismal these days out in the world. The war on terrorism, Pakistan's government in turmoil, Russia possibly flexing its imperialistic muscles again, the Sudan problems, and the Middle East. None of this bodes well for us having hope that things are getting any better.
How do we gain hope for ourselves in this distressing world? By immersing ourselves on a regular basis in God's Word. It is there that we can find patience, and comfort, and hope. God's Word is able to transport us to the higher planes spiritually, to fly us up into the sunshine from beneath the raining clouds at the surface. Reinforcement of this concept comes to us from I Corinthians 10:11, "Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." God put David's sin on display, even though it wasn't very nice, and He painted that picture as an example to us today. Job's ordeals were written to be a comfort to us today. Noah's life is there as an example for us. Jonah, Elijah, Daniel, and all of the rest are there as examples for us.
Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus(15:5).
Paul points out to us that God wants all believers to demonstate that they are one in love and consideration of one another.
That you may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ(15:6).
God desires such harmony in our praise that we reveal the unity of our congregations. This can cross all denominational lines for true believers do not belong to just one denomination. Unity comes from like-minded fellowship in Christ Jesus, not from negotiating acceptable doctrines.
Wherefore receive you one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God(15:7).
God receives all men on the simple acceptance of Christ. That is why we are instructed to let both the strong and the weak receive each other in fellowship. The glory of God is the all important objective of our lives.
When we agree on the major doctrines of the faith in Christ, even though we may disagree on minor points, we need to receive one another, as Christ commands us. For instance, I may disagree with Pentacostals over speaking in tongues but there is no reason to break fellowship with them. The same goes for the Seventh Day Adventists over the Sabbath Day, there is no reason to break fellowship over it. On those points over which we disagree we ought to be taking them to the Lord in prayer. And do you know something? One day we are all going to agree with each other. When we enter into His glorious presence we are all going to change some more and reach agreement with one another on all things. So I think that we all ought to be working on concentrating on those things in which we do agree upon now.
That is all for tonight, beloved. Next time I shall continue along with the next few verses which speak to us about how Jesus came as the minister of the circumcision. It is a strange term for sure. Until next time, be more open to receiving those who disagree with you over minor points in God's Word. Concentrate on being longsuffering over these points which tend towards being questionable in nature. May our Lord and Savior's grace and peace be with you.
Mon, Aug 18th - 12:59PM
THE CROSS DIVIDES MEN
Some scholars of God's Word have a theory that Judas Iscariot was predestined to betray Christ. It may be true, I am not wasting my time to try and figure that out. But I do know this much: Jesus Christ didn't turn against Judas even when he came that night with the throng of armed men with the understanding that the person he kissed would be the one they sought to arrest. What did Jesus say to Judas upon being kissed by him? "Friend, why art thou come?"(Matthew 26:50) Jesus still called him as "friend." Why? Could it be because in just a few short hours He would be dying for Judas also? Was God thinking that, as with all of us, there was still time for him to repent and turn to God. Judas had the opportunity to confess and repent. It would appear that Judas did not want Jesus to be killed, but to be apprehended, expecting Jesus to "break out" and assume His kingship. This thought is supported by Matthew 27:3-4. True, Judas was confessing, but to whom? It was not to Jesus Christ but to the priests with whom he conspired. He should have gone and asked Jesus to forgive him for what he had done, he would have been forgiven. But Judas went into eternity his own way.
The apostle John stands in sharp contrast to Judas. John is called the apostle of love today. He would probably get a tremendous laugh out of that if he were alive today among us. While John wrote the epistles that bear his name and do speak about God so loving the world, Jesus Christ never called him by that name. Jesus called him a son of thunder in Mark 3:17. John was not like the artistic portrayal of the Middle Ages where he is seen with his hair in curls. My friends, John was a rugged fisherman, not an apostle of love. What kind of man was he? Let's see:
And John answered, and said, Master, we saw one casting out demons in your name; and we forbade him, because he follows not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not; for he that is not against us is for us(Luke 9:49-50).
Then later on when the Samaritans did not receive Jesus into their village, we see John again:
And when His disciples, James and John, saw this, they said, Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did?"(Luke 9:54).
Does that sound like someone who is all full of love? Then again, he and his brother James came before the Lord Jesus and said this,
|35||And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.|
|36||And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?|
|37||They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.|
|38||But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?|
|39||And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:|
But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared(Mark 10).
This doesn't sound much like a man full of love. But this is who John was. This is also the man who stood at the cross of Christ, and when Jesus was dying He turned over His mother to John's care. John might not have fully understood the magnitude of what was to take place in Jerusalem, but he loved God. He trusted in Christ with all of his heart. Later on John would be able to write:
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His name(John 20:30-31).
John, you see, went into eternity by a different route than Judas. His heart condition and attitude were vastly different from those of Judas Iscariot.
That is all for today on this topic, my friends. Next we shall look at how the cross divided two women. You ladies may have been thinking that you were escaping this contrast, but you too are here in this study. We shall look at Pilate's wife and Mary of Bethany. Until then, ponder whether or not you fall into the realm of Judas or John. Are you only claiming to be a Christian in order to be a thief? Or are you in love with Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God? Are you busy casting ill-gained money down onto the floor out of confusion, or are you standing at the foot of the cross? The choice, as always, is still yours to make.
Sun, Aug 17th - 9:15PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
In the preceding chapter we saw two of the principles of conduct for Christians. Now we are to see the third: consideration of the weak brother/sister, which continues the thought from chapter 14.
We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves(15:1).
When I invite a Christian over to my house who does not believe in dancing I can't put on a square dance for them because they will be offended. There are certain things I very definitely feel I can't do because of a consideration of others. I could do them without losing my fellowship with Christ, but a weak brother/sister might be strongly influenced and their fellowship with Christ harmed. Perhaps their physical well-being as well. Therefore, those of us who are strong in our faith need to bear up those who are weaker in their faith. We ought to be working hard at building their faith up to our level so that all of us can share in all things. Hoarding does not fit into the plan of God.
Here are some other verses that parallel this concept: "Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend"(I Corinthians 8:13). I can eat a good pork roast, I love it. But I will not eat it if it is going to offend my brother in Christ. I give consideration to my brother. Or here, "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth"(I Corinthians 10:24). We are to seek for the interests of the other man, to help him out. "Bear you one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ"(Galatians 6:2). Any brother who has a burden that troubles him needs to have me try to help him bear that load. He ought not to have to carry it by himself for he is my brother in Christ. Christ bore my burden on the cross, I need to be willing to carry someone else's. In doing this we fulfill the law of Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification(15:2)
"For his good to edification" means to build them up. The object of all Christian conduct is to increase the faith of our neighbor. It is not to gain favor in the eyes of God, or of our pastor, or of our deacons, or of our elders. All that we do is to help increase the faith of our fellow servants in Christ. In reading I Corinthians 9:19-20 we get to see Paul's minset in that he was willing to become whatever was necessary to win people to Christ. As long as this did not violate God's precepts, Paul was happy to do so.
Let's please remember that we are still in the area of questionable things, those things that are not mentioned in the Bible as wrong. So, let's summarize what we have learned here. We have been given three tremendous guidelines, three principles of separation: (1) conviction; (2) conscience; and (3) consideration.
For even Christ pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached you fell on Me(15:3).
This quotation comes from Psalm 69:9. Jesus never put His interests and pleasures ahead of others, unlike all of us.
That essentially ends the section dealing with our conduct. We now begin a new area of discussion that speaks of the consolidation of Jews and Gentiles into one body of believers. That is for next time, my friends. Until then, be longsuffering towards those whose faith is not yet as strong as yours. Continuously search out ways to build up their faith and belief in Christ. Be not so busy that you fail to remember that your purpose on earth is to serve God joyfully.
Sun, Aug 17th - 1:06PM
THE CROSS DIVIDES MEN
All of those people who gathered to watch the crucifixion upon Golgotha were drawn there by God Himself. They did everything they could think of to ridicule Him as He was suffering. They tried everything they could think of to cause Him to decide to come down off of that cross. I can picture in my mind's eye, Satan stalking through that crowd whispering in their ears all of the things that he wanted them to say. Satan needed Jesus to come down off of that cross, for Him to stay up there meant Satan's defeat. Then at twelve noon, God dropped down utter darkness upon that entire hill so that no one could witness how horrible the suffering of the Son of God would be.
There are many ministers who try to show the cross in all of its gory, bloody detail, but from where do they obtain these details? It is not from within scripture, that much I know. Yes, we can garner some factual information from how Romans crucified others. But we do not have any insider information about the ordeal of bearing everyone's sins in the person of one man. God deliberately left out those details. All that we prove when attempting to depict the cross in its bloodiest detail is that we are crude, not fundamental.
We can say that during those last three hours that cross became a sacrificial altar on which "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" was finally offered(John 1:29). It was these three hours to which the prophet Isaiah spoke, "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief"(Isaiah 53:10). This also fulfilled what John the Baptist had prophesied of. This period of time fulfilled II Corinthians 5:21, "He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us." Dear friends, He took your place; He took my place. He died in our stead and that is the way God must treat sin and sinners.
Then, as glorious light broke upon that cross, I believe the centurion looked at the most horrible sight he'd ever seen, because Isaiah said that our Savior was bruised more than any man(Isaiah 52:14). Was He even recognizable? Disfigured? This centurion stepped out from the crowd, took his place beneath the cross, and said, "Truly this man was the Son of God"(Mark 15:39).
There might be those today who would say, "That is not an adequate confession. He could not join my church by only saying that." But that centurion was living up to the light he had up to that moment. He had come a long way spiritually. Granted he had never read any theological treatise, nor had he attended any seminary. That probably was a blessing! Although this centurion did not know very much, he knew enough to take his place under that cross of Christ. It had become crystal clear to him who he had just witnessed being crucified. And this is all God has ever asked any sinner to do, to take his/her place beneath the cross of Christ. It never has been how much you know, it has been whom you believe. Do you believe Jesus Christ? Do you? That Roman centurion went into eternity a different way than Pilate probably did.
THE CROSS DIVIDED TWO APOSTLES
Calvary's cross divided two apostles who, six months earlier, had heard Him announce for the first time that He would go to Jerusalem to die. This can be read in Matthew 20:17-19. It would appear that they did not really get, and accept, the message. None of them did. According to Matthew, Jesus went over this same ground five times as they went down from Caesarea Philippi to Jerusalem. Five times! The Son of Man was going to Jerusalem to die. Not to party, not to have a feast, and not to set up a new Israeli kingdom on earth to rival that of David or Solomon. We need to remember what Luke said in his gospel account: "He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51).
Let's contrast Judas and John, for the cross definitely divided these two apostles. These two men came closer physically to Christ than any others. Judas kissed Him, and John reclined upon His chest.
Now with Judas it would seem prudent for us to properly identify who he actually was.
Mat 10:2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;
Mat 10:3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;
Mat 10:4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
So Judas Iscariot was one of the original twelve apostles. Hand picked by Jesus.
Joh 6:66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Joh 6:67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
Joh 6:68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
Joh 6:69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Joh 6:70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
Joh 6:71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.
Jesus knew exactly who Judas was, and what he would ultimately end up doing to Him. He still picked him so that scriptural prophecy could be fulfilled. Was Judas simply a good man gone wrong in the end?
Joh 12:3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Joh 12:4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him,
Joh 12:5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
Joh 12:6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
So, we can know for sure that Judas was not an honest man. His motivation for following Jesus was not for spiritual rebirth, but for some other agenda. Perhaps he desired the rebirth of nation Israel's glory? Jesus to be King as had been their kings of old? Maybe. At any rate he became forced to make a choice.
Joh 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
Joh 13:2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;
Here we see that Satan was allowed to enter into Judas' heart, the man had chosen his path earlier. We know that he was a thief, and we also know how God feels about thieves. Was free will then taken away from Judas? No, it was not. This all reveals what God knew would happen and chose to allow to happen.
Joh 13:26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
Joh 13:27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
Joh 13:28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.
Joh 13:29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.
Joh 13:30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night
Was this a revealing of personal evil for our benefit today? I am unsure. I find that I still do not completely understand evil today. Evil is complicated; goodness is simple. An example: I have a stick held behind my back. If I ask you to draw me a picture of a straight stick you will not have too much difficulty doing so, right? But if I ask you to draw me a picture of the crooked stick behind my back, how do you draw an accurate picture of that? Evil can be crooked in a million different ways, we can never be sure until we actually see it. So I don't fully understand Judas but I do know that God gave him ample opportunity to repent and turn to Him.
I will stop right there for today, my friends. Sorry if this became too long. I will continue next time and finish up with Judas Iscariot. We will begin looking at John and figure out how he was so different from Judas. Until then, pray for spiritual guidance from God's Spirit; ask Him to open your eyes to the truth in His written Word. Grace and peace be with you.
Sat, Aug 16th - 12:16PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it it evil for that man who eats with offence(14:20).
Food items are of no effect in destroying God's work among mankind. Believers have the liberty to either eat meat or abstain from it, but neither choice commends the believer to God. We are not to tear down, or apart, the work of God in the heart of a weaker believer just for the sake of any physical gratification. What's that old adage? "One man's porridge is another man's poison." Esau, for example, had no regard for God or for his birthright. He exchanged it for a bowl of soup. Do not sell your birthright just to satisfy your physical appetities, beloved. If you do you will live to regret it later on in eternity.
It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak(14:21).
Paul returns to these two points: eating and drinking. Think it was a big problem with people back then? How about today? Then he goes beyond these with the sweeping statement: nor anything. Here is the verse that I have put to people many times in order to convince them that they must conduct themselves more conscientiously around other believers, at the very least. And they many times refuse to listen and hear the truth coming from God's Word. This verse covers everything that might be questionable conduct-wise in our lives. If my faith is stronger than the next person's then I must be aware of avoiding offending them through my liberty in Christ. As we are told in scripture, "all things may be available to me but not all things are expedient." Perhaps this is another reason why Paul says that he would become all things to all men in order to snatch some of them from the fires of hell. If I offend someone through my conduct, how in the world will I ever be able to draw them closer to Christ? I will not be able to.
Now we come to verse 22 which gives us another principle of Christian conduct:
Have you faith? have it to yourself before God. Happy is he that condemns not himself in that thing which he allows(14:22).
Paul dealt with conviction and now we look toward conscience. As we move toward doing something for God, we ask ourselves this question: "Will it be right for me to do this? Can I do it with excitement and anticipation and joy?" So this verse looks back at what has been done already. Happy is the person who does not condemn themselves in what they have done. Believers ought to be able to look back on their actions and not have any questions about it.
Friends, do you look back and hate yourself for what you have done? That is your conscience condemning you. Despite how many other people do the exact same thing, for you it was wrong. Your conscience speaks to you about it, and reminds you of your wrong-doing.
Now we come to a verse that drives nails into many a person's coffin, beloved.
And he that doubts is damned if he eat, because he eats not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin(14:23).
Beloved, we are to believe in what we are doing. There is no room for doublemindedness here. If you are in doubt, then you ought not to do it. Here is the new definition of sin for believers: Any line of conduct or any act which is not the outflow of faith becomes sin. This is the way that the Holy Spirit answers questionable things. As we are saved by faith, just so we are to walk by faith.
That ends chapter 14, beloved. I hope that this helps you to understand those areas in your life that might need some remodeling. It has helped me to realize how important it is to have strong faith in Christ, and in what He has said to us in His Word. I must not doubt God, nor doubt my conscience. I hope that this study of this particular chapter will cause all of us to stop and reconsider our conduct when around others. Are we causing others to be offended by what we are wearing, or saying, or doing? Perhaps for you it centers around what kind of music you listen to around other believers? I know in my heart that I can listen to rock and roll music. But if a new believer hitches a ride home in my van and hears this music playing they could very easily be seriously mislead. So we must be very careful. I would say here, we all need to be "watchmen" up on the walls, or in the tower, alert for our enemy. We must look out for our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as ourselves! Christ commands this of us!
Until next time, grace and peace be yours today.
Fri, Aug 15th - 8:26PM
THE CROSS DIVIDES MEN
First up, two Romans who had a great deal to do with the crucifixion: Pilate and the centurion who crucified Him.
This man was a puppet of Rome. He did not want to make a decision concerning Jesus; he made that abundantly clear. He also did not want to offend anybody. A typical politician who would fit in nicely today in American politics.
When Jesus was brought to him he did not quite understand what they were really after. He brought Jesus into the judgment hall and in essence said, "If You will just cooperate with me, I can get You off. No problem." But he soon discovered that Jesus was not about to cooperate with him. Pilate became uneasy. He went out to the people:
Luk 23:1And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate.
Luk 23:2And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.
Luk 23:3And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.
Luk 23:4Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man.
Luk 23:5And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.
Luk 23:6When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean.
Luk 23:7And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.
Luk 23:8And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.
Luk 23:9Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.
Luk 23:10And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.
Luk 23:11And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.
Luk 23:12And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.
Luk 23:13And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people,
Luk 23:14Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him:
Luk 23:15No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him.
Luk 23:16I will therefore chastise him, and release him.
Luk 23:17(For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)
Luk 23:18And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:
Luk 23:19(Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)
Luk 23:20Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them.
Luk 23:21But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.
Luk 23:22And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.
Luk 23:23And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.
A true politician! He couldn't do what he knew in his heart was right, he gave in to a poll of the people that was being skewed by the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. Those rulers were working the crowd to get the results that they desired.
Pilate had tried to get off of the hook for he did not want to have Jesus crucified. He sent Jesus to Herod for questioning, hopefully taking Him off of his hands. But, like a boomarang, Jesus came back to Pilate. So Pilate tried to placate the Sanhedrin by announcing he would have Jesus flogged and then set free. Nope, not what they wanted. They said away with this man and release unto us Barabbas. Pilate makes another request of the Sanhedrin but they only scream, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" Didn't Pilate realize what the Sanhedrin were all about?
Mar 15:10For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.
When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.
Here we can see that Pilate knew why the Sanhedrin had brought Jesus to him. And we can see that the crowd was being swayed by workers of the Sanhedrin. This was a true political event!
So all through this give and take, it never was about Jesus trying to escape; it was Pilate who was trying desparately to escape the inexorable conclusion of the matter. Jesus was not the one on trial, it was Pilate himself who was on trial before Almighty God. Pilate was attempting to free himself, Jesus was not.
Mat 26:1And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,
Mat 26:2 Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
Mat 26:3Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,
Mat 26:4And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.
Mat 26:5 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.
The enemy laid plans deceitfully while preparing for the Passover feast. They did not desire the people to get all riled up. However, Jesus was the one in control, not the Sanhedrin. In verse two above Jesus told His disciples that He would die on the Passover.
When did Jesus die? On the Passover. God appointed the proper time and it was carried out to the letter. Jesus Christ was a King then and He is a King today, my friends. God was in control the entire time. Does this sound like Pilate was in control?
Mat 27:22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.
Can you imagine a courtroom judge today asking a defendant's accusers what he should do with him? Ludicrous! But here it happened with Jesus.
Mat 27:24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
Pilate thought that he could escape being guilty in this entire messy business by ritually washing his hands in public view. Then he released Barabbas to the crowd, the worst criminal that he had locked up in his prison. Pilate did not escape judgment. He had to make a decision relative to Christ. His decision was that Christ's death was good for nothing. And Pilate went into eternity his way, not God's Way.
Many traditions are around about how Pilate spent the remainder of his life after the crucifixion. Which one is true is difficult to ascertain, but I am sure that Pilate never forgot the trial of Jesus of Nazareth, nor the words of his wife:
Mat 27:19 When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
There was also a Roman official, who wore the same kind of clothing as Pilate. His paychecks were signed by the same person as Pilate's were. He had the same philosophy of life; he had the same religion---he worshipped Apollo and Caesar. He was responsible for crucifying hundreds, if not thousands of people. You see, Rome was in the wholesale business of crucifying. I wonder if, when this centurion readied himself to leave home on Crucifixion Day, his wife asked him, "Shall I fix you a good lunch today, dear?" He may have replied, "Yes, I've got a big day ahead of me---several men are to be crucified today." He went out to his job that day and paid very little attention to the men he was executing, until he came upon this One, this Jesus.
Now this man was experienced. He had been cursed in very many languages. He knew what it was to handle criminals at their time of death. On this day, into his hands was placed this One, Jesus of Nazareth. I am sure when he read the charges laid against Him, he could not believe it. Then, later, he heard Jesus say, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do"(Luke 23:34). I am sure that alerted the centurion that this man was different. And he watched.
Mark in his record of events gave us the crucifixion by the clock. At nine o'clock Jesus was put on the cross. For three hours there was physical light but there was spiritual darkness. The next three hours there was physical darkness but there was spiritual light. The first three hours man did his worst; in the last three hours God did His best. The first three hours it was man venting his hatred upon the Son of God; then at noon God dropped down the mantle of night upon that hill with its cross as the wages of everyones' sins was laid upon Jesus.
I will break right there for tonight, beloved. What a powerful moment in time and history! The moment of our salvation had finally arrived! The promise made to Eve in the Garden of Eden being fulfilled! Breathtaking in its magnitude and scope! Next time I will finish up this centurion's journey toward salvation. Until then, grace and peace be yours.
Fri, Aug 15th - 9:06AM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
Let not then your good be evil spoken of(Romans 14:16).
Here we are told that our liberty does not equate license. The believer is to use his liberty, not abuse it. We must always keep in mind how our conduct will affect weaker Christians. I might be doing something that is good, but if it also leads one, or more, believers to stumble or fall in their Christian walk then it could be spoken of as being bad, or evil.
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost(Romans 14:17).
Here is the only reference in this letter to the Romans of the kingdom of God. It would not be correct to assume that the kingdom of God is the same thing as the kingdom of heaven(Matthew). The kingdom of heaven will find its final realization in the millennial and messianic kingdom here on earth. The kingdom of God would seem to embrace all that is in God's created universe, which includes the church. It is simply broader and larger. As can be seen in the New Testament, God rules everywhere but there is a realm where He governs by spiritual forces or laws alone. That realm would be the kingdom of heaven, see? In order to "see" the kingdom of God one must be born again(John 3:3) otherwise one would remain oblivious to its existence all around them.
"Righteousness" here means the same thing that it does in chapters 1 and 3. It means to be right with God; it means a life lived well-pleasing to Him.
"Peace" means freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony; a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity. Doesn't this describe how our relationship to God is today? Once we trust in Christ we are no longer at war with God, there no longer is enmity between us. And once we are no longer experiencing enmity with God those disquieting and oppressive thoughts of ours can begin to dissipate and go away, leaving us with a feeling of peace, of tranquility. We are in harmony with God's will for our lives which eliminates any hostility between us.
"Holy Ghost" seemingly goes with righteousness and refers to our walk; we are to walk in the Spirit. This is a practical point rather than a theological one. It is moral rather than spoken. And though it is a righteousness in the Holy Spirit rather than a righteousness in Christ, it is all one and the same. For both are God, are they not?
"Joy" is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Sadly, it is too often absent from believers' lives today. There ought to be abundant joy in our lives each day. It does not mean that I walk around looking like the Cheshire Cat from Alice In Wonderland! It does mean, however, I am to have a joyful feeling deep down in my heart.
For he that in these things serves Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men(14:18).
Christ is not served by eating or drinking, but our service must refer to righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit of God. These are the "things" spoken of here. If we do this then it is well-pleasing to God and we gain the approval of men.
"Approved of men" does not mean that I am to gain a cheering section. People will probably despise me for doing these things, but deep down inside of themselves they will grudgingly approve of genuine belief. They will do so because they despise and reject that which is hypocritical and phony.
This is another great principle of conduct. Our walk and talk should please God and meet the approval of the conscience of men.
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another(14:19).
In following after things which make for peace we are then eagerly pursuing this course of action. We are to make a concerted effort to avoid the use of food or any physical thing which offends a Christian brother or sister. This is the negative aspect of what to avoid. The positive aspect is to push forward toward the goal of spiritual values: righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit of God. These things build up the believer and others around them. If I am trying to persuade a Jewish person to believe in Jesus Christ then I cannot sit down at meal with them and eat pork. I must fit into their comfort zone so that they will listen. It holds true once they accept Christ as their Savior. If they wish to continue to avoid pork, then when I visit for a meal I too shall avoid pork in their presence. In this way I do not provide a stumblingblock for my fellow servant in Christ.
That is all for today, my friends. Next time I will cover some verses that speak about not tempting others through our thoughtlessness at the table. Then we shall begin to study about conscience. Until next time, grace and peace of our God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thu, Aug 14th - 12:47PM
THE CROSS DIVIDES MEN
Here is our reference scripture:
|25||And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.|
|26||And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS.|
|27||And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.|
|28||And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.|
|29||And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,|
|30||Save thyself, and come down from the cross.|
|31||Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.|
|32||Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.|
|33||And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.|
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?(Mark 15:25-34)
This study will attempt to illuminate reasons why the cross of Christ is so divisive. We will look at many scripture references along the way to gaining some insight and understanding of why this must be so.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God(I Corinthians 1:18).
Let's examine this verse so that we may gain an understanding of what the apostle Paul is saying here. There are three words here that should concern us. The first is "preaching"---"for the preaching of the cross." The Greek word Paul used here is logos, and it simply means "word." This verse could literally be translated as: "For the word of the cross is foolishness..." But it seems that God had something else in mind.
Paul said a great deal in I Corinthians about the gospel. For instance, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified(I Corinthians 2:2)." Then in the fifteenth chapter Paul said, "I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also you have received, and in which you stand; by which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain"(I Corinthians 15:1-2). Then he presented the gospel facts: Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures. That is the gospel. Anything else is not the gospel. So, let's use the word that it would appear Paul had in mind:
For the gospel of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.
It would seem to fit quite nicely, don't you think? The second word of concern is "foolishness." It is a good translation but may not transfer the total thought here. The Greek word moria is used here, from which we get our English word "moron" or "moronic." It is something that is good for nothing, something stupid. The preaching of the gospel of the cross to those who do not believe is good for nothing, it means nothing to them.
The third word of concern to us is the word "power." It comes from the Greek word dunamis, from which we get our English word "dynamite." Scientists chose the wrong word years ago when they named their discovered explosive "dynamite." Dunamis indicates the nth of power. Infinite power. Right now, atomic energy comes closest to this idea of nth of power. Whatever nth of power is, that is what the gospel is according to Paul. Unto us the gospel of the cross is the dunamis of God Almighty.
Now we have two types of people who come to the cross of Christ. To one type of people the cross is good for nothing, it is stupid. Another group of people come to the cross and find in it the unlimited power of God unto salvation.
Try to picture the cross as a big disc plow. For more than 1900 years that cross has been coming down through this world, turning mankind, as the dust of the earth, on one side and on the other. Men have come to that cross, looked at it, and said, "It is stupid!" and have gone in one direction to their station in life. Others have come to this cross and have found in it the power of God; it has saved them, and they have gone a different direction into eternity. Yes, there are plenty of people who say, "I have my own opinion, my own viewpoint." That is fine, but it will not change the truth. Your viewpoint does not change God but it sure will change your eternal destination. What I think of the cross tells who I am; it does not tell who God is or what the cross is. Too many people down through the centuries have found in the cross the power of God for anyone else to question its existence. My friends, when you come to the cross of Christ, what you think of the cross will not affect it at all. It has been the dynamite of God for over 1900 years and still counting, but it will tell who you are and what your eternal destiny is.
That is all for today, my friends. Next time we shall examine some people who were actually present at the crucifixion of Christ. We shall see how the cross separated them. Until then, make Christ's cross the central point of your life. It is there that we all may gather together in unity of spirit and have fellowship in Christ. It is there that we may meet in unison of thought and determination. May the grace and peace of our God, the Lord Jesus Christ be with you throughout this day!
Wed, Aug 13th - 8:43PM
THE ENEMY WITHIN
Now we have come to the last matter: the resources provided by God to overcome our enemy. First, let's look at what happened to them in Joshua:
And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be you dismayed: take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land(Joshua 8:1).
Joshua had dealt with the sin of Achan, and God was now ready to give him the victory over Ai.
Dear friends, you and I cannot control our flesh. Only God's Holy Spirit can do that. The problem is that thousands of us are trying to control and eliminate it in our own strength. The results will be the same as taking a gallon of expensive perfume out to the barnyard and dumping it on a pile of horse, cow, or chicken manure and expect to eliminate the odors. The flesh can not be set in the right path and controlled. God says we can't do it. In discussing this issue we must acknowledge the fact that there is a war that we must fight.
For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would(Galatians 5:17).
My flesh is contrary to the Holy Spirit. They are always at odds. It is what causes me to not be able to do the things I know God wants me to do. But there is a second fact that none of us can afford to miss. Christ died a judgment death that was required against the sin nature of mankind. Christ did not die just that you might have salvation, but that this sin nature might be dealt with; this nature which you and I have.
...God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh(Romans 8:3).
If you have followed along in the study on Romans you will recall it being said that when Christ came to this earth He not only died for your sins that you might have salvation, but He died to bring into judgment this old carnal nature. If God had not done this, He would still be unable to approach any of us due to our sin.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
Is this His name? I believe "Holy" is His title. In giving Him His title we speak of Him as the Spirit of God, one of the three members of the Trinity.
If the Holy Spirit comes into you life, my friend, it must be because God has adequately, and completely satisfied Himself that your sin nature has been judged. Therefore He tells us to depend upon it, to count on it, or to reckon on it. When Jesus Christ died upon that cross at Calvary almost two thousand years ago, you and I having accepted Him as our Savior, died there also. This is what Paul wrote to us in Galatians 2:20. Paul speaks of this again in Galatians through a verse that doesn't seem to be quoted often:
And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts(Galatians 5:24).
If you belong to Christ, you have crucified the flesh; not today, but almost two thousand years ago when He was nailed to that cross outside of Jerusalem. Christ died there because I have a sin nature, and God's Spirit could not touch us until Christ had paid that debt off. When the wages of sin were paid and our sin nature was condemned, then the Holy Spirit could, and did, come into our hearts and lives bringing victory out of defeat.
You and I have tried to control this enemy, haven't we? Every News Year Eve we make resolutions that have to deal with this flesh of ours. Perhaps it is not centered upon your diet, perhaps the resolution year in and year out has to do with your trigger temper? Or, you don't intend to tell lies, but they continue to tumble out of your mouth. Your flesh is defeating you as you attempt to control it under your own power. The bottom line is that your victory over the "flesh" is only by the Holy Spirit and not by your own personal resources.
Before leaving this profitable subject, we ought to look back over our steps and see the path. We must return to Romans,
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit(Romans 8:3-4).
God knew that this carnal nature of ours was condemned. He had no thought of salvaging it, but because He loves all of mankind so much He sent His Son to not only die for our sin, but also to condemn this old sin nature. Once being condemned, it is judged:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me...(Galatians 2:20).
My carnal nature is bad, and I can't get rid of it, nor can I control it. But through Christ's Spirit I can live.
Let's close this study with an illustration out of the life of Dr. C. I. Scofield.
He often told the story of when he was a boy, attending a country school, that the school bully jumped on him. He did the best that he could, which was all too little, for he was much smaller than the bully. Finally, the bully knocked him down, and got on top of him. He was taking an awful beating. Through the dust kicked up during the fight he spotted his big brother coming down the road and pulling his coat off as he came running. Dr. Scofield said, "All I did, when my brother pulled this big chap off me, was to crawl up on a stump and rub my bruises as I watched my brother beat the stuffing out of him."
My friends, your worst enemy is your old carnal nature. You cannot whip the "bully" who lives within you. He is on top of you and he is whipping you silly, isn't he? Why don't you just turn him over to your Big Brother coming down the road at a run to save you? Jesus is capable of handling your "bully." Why not turn him over to the Holy Spirit today?
That concludes this study, beloved. Next time I will begin a study on how the cross divides men. It should prove to be enlightening to those who do not understand its power. Until then, I pray that you would determine in your heart today to enter into the holy life by dying to self. Enter in and find peace within. Those words come straight from the lyrics of a song sung by Steve Green. The holy life awaits us, abundant life awaits us, we just need to choose to enter in. I pray that each of us will make that choice today.
Wed, Aug 13th - 1:50PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
For none of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself.
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living(14:7-9).
We cannot point to verse 7 and say that that is proof that our lives do affect others. Is that truly the thought behind it? Paul here is speaking to Christians, to believers in Christ. The indisputable fact is that we as saints of Christ can't live our lives apart from Jesus Christ. So, whether I live or die, I live or die to Jesus Christ. My conduct is not gauged, or judged, by the kind of foods spread out on the table at my home. It is judged by the fact that my entire life is spread out before God Almighty. One day I am going to have to give an account of the things that I have done in this life, as I am told in II Corinthians 5:10. At that time it will not be a question of the meat on my table; it will be the question of my relationship to Christ when I sat down at that table. I can be Godless without meat; and I can be Godless with meat.
Of course, we also see in this passage that Christ is Lord of both the living and the dead. That was part of why He came and allowed Himself to be hung upon a cross. This passage also reinforces the important concept that our bodies no longer belong to us, but are owned by Jesus Christ who purchased them with His precious blood. And thus we reach the conclusion of Christ having the grounds to exercise lordship over the dead and the living:
But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at nought your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God(14:10-12).
Remember that bunch of Pharisees who wanted to stone to death an adulterous woman? Jesus said to them, "...He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her"(John 8:7). How many stones got thrown at her that day? None. They all knew that they had sin. I do not know about any of you, but that disturbs me. I am going to have to give account of myself to Christ one day. I will not be giving account for my children, nor my wife. Only myself. I am sincerely wondering how I am going to tell Him about some of the things that I have done in my life. Based upon this, how can I sit in judgment upon anyone else, my hands are full with Eric Rajaniemi!
We see in verse 11 a reference to the Last Day when everyone will acknowledge that Christ is God. People might not want to do that now, but a day is coming when it is guarenteed that public acclaimation will happen. There will be no more ability to hide in the shadows, use the darkness to not confess your sinfulness. Everything will be laid bare before God.
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way(14:13).
This is a verse that I have spent considerable time meditating upon over the years. In my younger days I had point blank told Catholics that they were wrong in their beliefs. Made no difference to me if they had actually accepted Christ, they were wrong! Can you see my error? Judgment of others. If they had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior then these other things become "questionable." By judging them, did I teach them how they may have been in error? If they hadn't really come to know Jesus already, were my actions meant to bring them closer to accepting Him? The answer again, and again, is a resounding No! I cannot approach believers, and unbelievers, in such a fashion. At the very least I have deliberately insulted them, and at worst, I have driven them away from perhaps ever aceepting Christ. That is a very sobering thought, I will have to answer for those things.
So, just what is my purpose for being here? Christ dwells in my heart, I am to love others as He has loved me. How to love others? By teaching them God's Word, showing them in scriptures how we are all to conduct ourselves. By meeting their needs, whatever they may be, if it is within my means. Another reason I am here in this world still is to practice not being a hindrance to others as they seek to find Christ, or once they have found Him to not cause them to doubt, or be mislead by my actions and words. Ladies, that means that once you trust in Jesus you can't justify wearing cleavage-baring blouses, skin-tight pants, or probably bikinis at the local swimming hole. Those are all forms of creating stumblingblocks for the male gender. If the revealing clothing happens while at a worship service, where is the male attention going to focus, upon Christ or upon the person who is wearing the revealing clothing? I think we all know the answer to that one. The same goes for men. None of us are to dress in order to seize the attention of the opposite sex at the expense of Christ. Neither are any of us to engage in sexual innuendo. That is pandering to temptation, placing an occasion for someone to fall. We are to build up our brothers and sisters in Christ, not create ways for them to fail, or worse, to turn away from God completely.
Paul is giving us the thought here that our conduct then, has to be for the sake of our weaker brother/sister. Example: If I am traveling with a person who believes he should not travel on Sunday, guess what, I'm going to have to stay with him; not because I might agree with him, but for the sake of a weaker brother in Christ. Look at this:
I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteems any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
But if your brother be grieved with your meat, now you do not walk charitably. Destroy not him with your meat, for whom Christ died(14:14-15).
Since Christ was willing to die for all of us, certainly we should be willing to stop from doing things that would hurt another believer in their Christian walk. Sound logical? I hope so, my friends, I hope so. I will stop here for today. Tomorrow I will continue with this entire train of thought. Remember, there are things that God instructs us we are never to do. But there are also all of these other things that we have liberty to do, but only if they do not cause another believer to stumble in their pursuit of a Christian life. Please feel free to read through to the end of this chapter. We are going to see what the kingdom of God is not, and what it is made of. We are to see also exactly what sin encompasses. That will be a very sobering realization. Until then, consider those weaker members of your congregation/s and what you can possibly do for them to strengthen their walk with Christ. Ponder the ways of building them up, esteeming them higher than all of the other believers. Here is one that I have heard that is dead on: What someone else does is more important than what I do. Grace and the peace of our God, the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.
Tue, Aug 12th - 12:52PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
Who are you that judges another man's servant? to his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand(14:4).
Paul asks here, "What right do you have to judge another man's servant?" What right do we have to sit in judgment on another Christians's conduct when it involves something that is questionable? Are we God? Do we know what resides within anyone else's heart? Is that person accountable to you? Paul says here that that person is accountable to God. God is the master being spoken of in this verse. Who am I to judge God's servants? I am nothing compared to God.
Now perhaps you disapprove of my conduct in one of these doubtful areas. I don't have to account to you; you are not my Master. I am responsible to Jesus Christ, He is my Master. I do hope that you understand this point. Each believer is to be persuaded in their hearts on each of these "questionable" things in our conduct, and each is accountable for those beliefs to God alone.
One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind(14:5).
This is the first great principle of conduct for saints in Christ. "Fully persuaded" means to be convinced, to be assured in your own mind. Paul is changing his illustrations from diet to the day in question. Some people insist that the Lord's Day is different. Some observe Sunday as the Lord's Day and others observe Saturday as the Sabbath Day. Both believe that that is the proper day for worship and physical rest. But it is not the day that should be different, but the believer. Paul said, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days"(Colossians 2:16). Inspite of legalists attempting to convince people of which day is commanded to be observed, I will stand upon this verse for it persuades my mind, it gives me conviction, that I am to approach every day the same. I am to esteem today the same as yesterday or tomorrow. I suspect that there are way too many "weekend" Christians who do not have any song in their heart during the week. You see, you cannot tell me I have to worship on Sunday, or Saturday, or any other day of the week because I am accountable in these matters to God alone. They are a matter of faith.
Beloved, a believer ought to do only those things to which they can give themselves fully and without any reserve. Why come to worship God and not have any enthusiasm for it? Why sit quietly in the pews, or chairs, or what have you? Aren't you fully persuaded in your mind that God loves you and you love Him? Well? If you are fully persuaded, then why not let out some war whoops of joy? The Pentecostal congregations ought not to be the only ones showing some feelings for our God. Stop being cold, formal, and always proper. Let your feelings show through for othrs to witness and be a blessing to them! Amen!
Now let's corral this principle and bring it over to questionable things. Frequently, people ask if doing this or that is wrong. I might tell them that for me it is perfectly okay but for them it is wrong. What do I mean? The point here is if you have a question about doing something then it is not okay for you to go ahead and do it. You are not fully persuaded that it is alright to do. Can you see how big this guiding principle is? If you are unsure that watching sports is wrong, then you ought not to do it. If you are unsure that both sexes can swim together in mixed company, then you ought not to participate in that activity, it is wrong for you. Those things might not be wrong for me, but you would be wrong to try and enforce them upon me.
Today it is the weak brother in faith who is the "separated" brother. People who set up little legal systems of "do's" and "don'ts" really bear close watching. They usually are the weaker faithwise. Questionable amusements are wrong for any believer if they are questionable to him. Able to participate in them AND maintain a close relationship with Christ, they are not wrong for him. Always it boils down to being convinced in your mind and heart that it is correct to do, or incorrect to do. But never force your beliefs in these areas onto others.
He that regards the day, regards it unto the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks(14:6),
Maybe you play golf on Sunday. If you can take Jesus Christ out with you, if you are able to stop out on the course somewhere and have a brief prayer meeting with your entire foursome, that would be fine. The important thing to notice here is that the day is to be "regarded" or observed unto God.
The one who eats meat gives thanks to God from his heart, grateful to have it before him. The one who does not eat meat gives thanks to God from his heart also. It is not what is on the table, beloved, but what is in the heart that is important to God. The heart attitude conditions Christian conduct.
That is all I have time for today, my friends. Next time we shall continue along this path of thought and see that God really, really does not want us sitting in judgment on others conduct in these questionable areas. God wants us to reach that point in our faith where we become convinced in our hearts on these matters. Until then, grace and peace be with you all.
Mon, Aug 11th - 7:55PM
THE ENEMY WITHIN
Just what is it that the flesh does? If we flip on over to Galatians we can find out exactly what our flesh is capable of doing.
Gal 5:19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Gal 5:20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
If you pick up your daily newpaper you will see almost all of these works showcased in various articles at any one time. All are ugly words, yet that is what the flesh is capable of doing. Remember, you and I were born with it. King David said, "In sin did my mother conceive me."
What has been born as flesh will always be flesh. Thus we need to rear our children in the nurture and admonition of Christ otherwise they will assuredly turn their back on God.
Count de Maistre of France left us this statement: "I do not know what the heart of a villain might be, I only know the heart of a virtuous man, and that is frightful." So what about you right this moment? Are you willing to admit that you have that kind of nature? Are you willing to admit that your old carnal nature has the potential to absolutely wreck your Christian life and destroy you? Until you are willing to admit this, you can't go out to battle, for you will meet with defeat as did Joshua at Ai.
Turn back to the record in Joshua for there are two basic reasons for defeat at the hands of our enemy:
And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord God, wherefore have you at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of Jordan!(Joshua 7:6-7)
These people experienced such a shameful and humiliating defeat that Joshua is simply crushed and crying out in agony to God. So much so that he openly wishes that they had never crossed the river to begin with!
Why did they experience such an awful defeat? Here are the reasons, and are they ever relevant for us today!
First of all, they failed due to depending upon their own ability and strength. In reality they were no match for the men of Ai. Ai was much stronger and smarter.
Today our flesh can dominate and destroy us; we can't get the victory over it on our own. How many times I have heard people say out loud, "Now I am going to get a grip on myself, I am going to quit drinking alcohol and I will be alright from now on." Or, "I can quit smoking cigarettes, it is merely a matter of my deciding to quit for good!" Has this been your situation? How have you fared? Been successful trying to do it in your own strength?
What do we learn here in this eighth chapter of Joshua? At Jericho it was all about depending upon God's plan and His strength. Paul said,
I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me(Philippians 4:13).
At Ai we learn about our weakness, for God said, "...without Me you can do nothing"(John 15:5). If there were one man who could have ever lived with the flesh by overcoming himself through his own efforts it would have been the Apostle Paul. Here was a man who had as a Pharisee a discipline backing him that would put all of us today to shame. At first Paul tried to live the Christian life but he eventually reached the point where he came to say, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?(Romans 7:24)" Struggle against our flesh under out own power and we are doomed to fail.
The second reason the Israelites were defeated at Ai was because of a defection in their own camp. Joshua spent an entire day before the ark of the covenant wailing and carrying on. Finally, after an appointed time, God spoke to Joshua:
And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get you up; wherefore do you lie upon your face? Israel has sinned...(Joshua 7:10-11).
Can't you just hear the tone to God's voice here? How many times do we weary our Lord by our complaining and whining? I know He has told me more than once "Get up and stop your crying! I can hear you. You have sinned against me." How many times do we refuse to deal with something in our lives that is sinful? Here we find that God is telling Joshua, "Get up off of your knees, and get dressed. I do not want to hear from you until you deal with that sin in your life." Then God said,
...There is an accursed thing in the midst of you, O Israel: you can not stand before your enemies, until you take away the accursed thing from among you(Joshua 7:13).
Too many of us today lose the joy and power in our lives because we do not deal with the sin still there. God is through with us until we do this. I am not talking about losing your salvation. I am talking about living a victorious life. Just like the Israelites, we must deal with "the accursed thing."
God told the Israelites they had to ferret out this sin. One man had sinned, but it screwed up eveyone's efforts in war. They were instructed to find this person. The procedure was complicated.
So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: and he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: and he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken(Joshua 7:16-18).
They continually and methodically whittled it down to one man. Achan admitted to what he had done once caught. They took him, his entire family, and all of their possessions including the items that Achan had personally taken from the ruins of Jericho and burned them all after having stoned to death Achan. A rather extreme measure to eradicate sin from amongst the people. He coveted something he ought not to have. He sinned and paid the wages for it.
Today we have Christians who are marching around Jericho, blowing trumpets and talking about how "separated" they are. And they also are suffering a glaring defeat at Ai because their flesh is overcoming them. Perhaps they say, "I am a separated Christian. I never accept alcoholic drinks wherever I go." That is fine. Alcohol will be the downfall of America. But I would still ask this question of them, "Are you filled with the Holy Spirit?" Do you have the Holy Ghost fulfilling in your life all of the wonderful things that the Father wants done? Are the fruits of the Spirit evident?" No? Then you are still at Ai my friend. Are you sowing strife and division among your congregation? Then you are overcome by your flesh. You may have a victory over at Jericho, but you have been soundly whooped here at Ai. And so it goes with each of the fleshly works.
Achan is asked to give a confession which can be read in Joshua 7:19-21. Achan saw and coveted a possession along with some gold and silver. Notice the coveting did not begin until he saw the items. How many of us tempt ourselves by not removing ourselves from "seeing" things that will lead us into comitting sins? If I am an alcoholic, can I reasonably think that if I keep a bottle of Scotch whiskey hidden in a cupboard in the cellar that eventually I won't go and drink it? Come on, get real. Temptation.
Of course, if I slip and sin then I must confess this to God.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness(I John 1:9).
That is comforting to me. Not only will God forgive me, He cleans me up afterwards! He cares about me! That is a wonderful way to end this day, don't you think? Next time we will look at what resources are provided by God so that we can overcome the enemy. Until then, beloved, search your heart and be sure that you are not still running from your personal Ai. Perhaps you are just finished with a personal "Jericho" and do not even know yet that Ai is coming up fast on the horizon. Get yourself prepared now. May our God provide for all of your needs. Grace and peace be yours.
Mon, Aug 11th - 1:06PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
There are two areas of Christian conduct. As we saw in the last chapter, in one area the Bible is very clear. The duty of the Christian to the state is submission. The believer is to obey the laws of the land, he is to pay his/her taxes, and show respect to those in authority. Chapter 13 was specific on a believer's relationship to his neighbor: He is to pay his bills; he is not to commit adultery, kill, steal, bear false witness, or covet what another has. He is to love his neighbor as himself. He is to be honest, and to avoid reveling and drunkenness, striving with others, and jealousy. There is no room for negotiation on them.
However, there is another area of Christian conduct on which there is no clear word. Let me give you just two examples: the use of tobacco and mixed bathing at beaches and pools. Some areas of America it is frowned upon to smoke at all, let alone at church, while elsewhere it is perfectly alright to do so. What about mixed bathing at beaches and pools? Some parts of this country do not like to see mixed bathing. Elsewhere there are no problems with Christians participating in it. Is mixed bathing all right in one place and wrong in another? Is smoking right in one place and wrong in another place? Believe me, I am not condoning nor condemning either practice. That is not my place to decide.
In this section of scripture Paul puts down precepts of conduct for Christians relative to questionable matters. He gives us three guidelines: conviction, conscience, and consideration. Don't forget those as we study this area. As Christians we ought to have a conviction about what we do. Conviction means "that which anticipates." Do I look forward to what I am going to do in high anticipation and enthusiasm? The next guideline is conscience. Do I look back on what I have done, wondering if I was right or wrong? Do I hate myself for what I have done? The third guideline is consideration for others. Are other people adversely affected by what I do? These guidelines give us some principles of conduct for our daily lives.
Today there seem to be two extreme viewpoints about this praticular matter. One extreme position has no wall of separation from the world; the lives of these believers are carbon copies of the unsaved man of the world. Their lives appear to be no different from what they were before their so-called conversion to belief. They indulge in all forms of worldly amusement. They go everywhere the world goes, spending their time and energy in those activities that have no spiritual profit. Read Philippians 3:17-19 and compare your life to what is said there. It could be a sobering moment for you, as it was for me. Then there are other people who do not indulge in any form of worldly amusements, yet they are as worldly as they can possibly be. They gorge themselves. They do not get drunk, but they most certainly overeat. They also over talk---gossippers. Passing on questionable stories.
Reading Philippians 4:8 one ought to determine that questionable things must not be dealt in, participated in, or encouraged. Our thought life eventually affects our outward world. It will affect our conduct. Dwell upon something long enough and you will do it. Paul seems to question whether or not these people really are Christians, because there is no discernable change in their lives after accepting Christ.
Now, for the second group that is extreme. They have reduced the Christian life to a series of negatives. Paul warned the Colossians against this group of people; "Touch not, taste not, handle not." These people rejoice in salvation by grace and the deliverance from the Mosaic Law, but they then immediately make a new set of commandments. They tend to become very self-centered, critical, and proud. They are labeled as "weak in the faith" by Paul in the very first verse of chapter 14.
Have you known those who will rattle off the negative virtues of "Christianity?" "Don't smoke, don't drink, don't play cards, don't dance, don't listen to non-gospel music, don't attend movies, don't use cosmetics are just some of the many negatives employed. This is separation from the world, without a doubt. But this kind of separation will not bring joy into your life.
So somewhere between these two extreme positions on conduct is where the Christian needs to walk. My apologies for this extensive preliminary section, but we need to have these things in mind as we read and study this chapter.
Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations(14:1).
Those who are weak in their faith we are to welcome into our congregation but without any passing of judgment on them. We are not to condemn their conduct and viewpoint. This opening verse continues the thoughts from the preceding chapter/s. Having condemned things which are immoral and obviously wrong, like killing, Paul now warns against the danger of condemning questionable matters which are not expressly forbidden in the scriptures.
He is not speaking about being weak in matters of the great truths of the gospel. Rather he is talking about these matters of conduct in areas that are not painted in black and white for us. One who is weak in faith falters and hesitates in these murky areas of personal conduct. "What should I do here?" Paul tells us that we are to welcome them warmly into our fellowship. Do not receive them in order to begin an argument about questionable things. One group of believers is not to pass judgment upon another group of believers about questionable things in personal conduct. If believers choose to separate themselves from questionable things, that is their perogative or choice. It is not wrong. But they cannot try to force those choices upon other groups of believers as a form of doctrine. I choose to watch movies, fine, but I cannot force that viewpoint upon others. My liberty in Christ cannot be used this way. Likewise, if I personally choose to not drink or smoke, then I can't force this upon all other believes as some sort of doctrine. I could encourage them to stop drinking and smoking on the grounds that their bodies are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and thus the body ought to be kept clean. If they accept that point, great! If they don't, I am not to get angry, or decide to leave their fellowship, or declare them to not be believers in Christ. They are weak in faith concerning questionable aspects of personal conduct.
For one believes that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eats herbs(14:2).
The strong brother in faith is the one eating all things; the weak brother in faith is the one who is a vegetarian. The one who is strong in faith understands that Jesus made all meats "clean(Mark 7:19)." God made a distinction between clean and unclean animals for nation Israel. But this was superceded in the New Testament by Christ. We can see in I Corinthians 8:8 and in Acts 10:9-16 how God puts this in its proper perspective. Paul could eat any meat without his conscience bothering him, but Peter had some problems that had to be worked out. See, even among the apostles there were some who were stronger in their faith concerning these conduct matters than others. So what is the principle being put forward here?
Let not him that eats despise him that eats not; and let not him which eats not judge him that eats: for God has received him(14:3).
One group cannot condemn the other. If I sincerely believe that I should not eat pork then I ought not to eat it. But I cannot force that belief upon others, it would be wrong. If I believe that I should worship on Saturday, then so be it. But I cannot coerce others into that belief, it is wrong to do so. God's grace covers both positions in this area. If I believe it is wrong to eat any meat then so be it for me. But grace does not allow me to force eveyone else to become vegetarians.
That is all for today in this study, beloved. This area of personal conduct applies to many other things other than food or day of worship. Whatever is not expressly forbidden in scripture automatically falls into this realm. Another example: What is the day of the week when I can worship God? Is it Saturday, Sunday, or some other day? According to scripture I believe that it is any day of the week. That is my personal belief. Am I going to try and convince you to believe likewise? No. If you don't believe like me, am I going to claim that you are dead wrong? No. Grace covers both of us in belief.
Next time we shall see the devastating statement God makes concerning trying to judge another's servant. You may automatically say, "I don't judge anyone's servant since none of my friends have any servants?" You will come to see how this next verse of chapter 14 applies timelessly throughout the centuries. Perhaps all of us need to realize that we are not our own masters anymore, eh? Think on that. Grace and peace to you this day. God willing, we will meet here again.
Sun, Aug 10th - 9:03PM
THE ENEMY WITHIN
Here are the three "musts" that are revealed in this incident at Ai, and they must be in our experience if we are to lay hold of the spiritual blessings and gain a victory over our flesh.
1) There must be a recognition of the enemy and his potential.
2) There must be an examination of the reasons for defeat by the enemy.
3) We must look carefully at the resources provided by God with which to overcome the enemy.
The first "must" is seen in Joshua 7:2-3:
And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. And they returned to Joshua, and said to him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labor thither; for they are but few.
What a colossal failure to properly observe and document their next objective. These people were still basking in the warm sunlight of the first flush of military victory at Jericho. They obviously were dreaming because they had overcome mighty Jericho. But they forgot one very important thing. They forgot that the victory over Jericho did not come due to their fighting prowess. The victory had not been theirs; it had been God's. They got possession, but God got the victory. So, what happened at Ai:
So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty-six men: for they chased them from before the gate even to Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water(Joshua 7:4-5).
The general staff of Joshua were guilty of military stupidity. The top brass had blundered. But we ought not to point our fingers critically at Joshua. Our enemy defeats us exactly the same way today because we still fail to recognize or acknowledge him and do not give him credit for the potential he has.
WHO IS THIS ENEMY?
Why, it is the flesh; that guy who lives in our body. The flesh is called sarx in the New Testament. This word is used about 393 times in the Scriptures and is used always in one or two connections.
Sometimes it is used to refer to that which is physical. Often it simply means nothing more than the flesh on the bones. Used this way it always carries a note of weakness. Isaiah said, "All flesh is as grass." Grass is weak and it is short-lived.
It is curious to note that our word "sarcoma" has its roots in this Greek word, sarx. Sarcoma is an awful thing in our flesh. We also get the word "sarcasm" from the same root word and it originally meant "to tear the flesh."
Most of the time, especially in the New Testament, sarx is used in a moral and ethical sense. It gets used in speaking about this old Adamic nature which we still have. It is sometimes called the "carnal man" or the "old man" and is properly labeled as "the flesh."
You have it, and I do too. The question is, "Are you prepared to look at it now and to identify it, to recognize it, to call it by its proper name? Not many believers are willing to do this.
Now let's look at the scriptures again:
For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not...I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I of myself with the mind, indeed, serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin(Romans 7:18, 25).
Have you had that experience? Someone once said, "Everything I like is either illegal, immoral, or fattening." Why is that true? Because our old nature, that carnal nature, is evil. And we all have it.
Are you willing to label and recognize it? Do you know that you have it today and that it is contrary to God? You see, the carnal nature is in rebellion against God. Perhaps you go to church only on special days---Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day---because you do not like going to church every Sunday. That is the carnal nature at work.
Let's look at this nature of ours through scripture:
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin(Romans 3:20).
God does not plan on renovating our carnal natures. He has not established any program through which we can get it remodeled for use by Him. It is condemned, my friends, condemned by Christ on the cross.
Well, if God will not use our carnal nature, it becomes necessary to have a new nature and that new nature must come from God.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God(Romans 8:7-8).
See, while we remain controlled by our carnal nature we cannot please God at all. God does not like it when the flesh lifts itself up and boasts in itself. God says that no flesh is to glory in His presence at all.
Another question: Do you want to know what the flesh does? If so, then come back tomorrow and find out the deeds of the flesh. Until then, I pray that you will begin to properly identify the flesh and to recognize its potential to run your life and do you harm. Grace and peace by yours.
Sun, Aug 10th - 9:26AM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
Let's spend a little time on examining our relationship to our neighbors, shall we?
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law(13:8).
If I borrow my neighbor's chainsaw, do I return it promptly once I am done using it? If I borrow some molasses from my neighbor in order to finish preparing my cookies, do I return some afterwards to my neighbor? Do I even offer to do so? We are to owe no one anything. Does this mean that I can't buy anything on credit? Of course not. But I ought to see clearly how I am going to repay this debt on time and in full. If I can avoid debt, then I am directed to do so.
Believers always owe the debt of love to his/her neighbor/s. This includes everyone that you meet. Some say that it involves all people. I will not argue that point at all. This love is not some sentimental thing either. How do we reveal our love?
For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself(13:9).
Here is a tall order for Christians. If I say that I love you but then I go out and commit adultery withsome else, then I do not really love you. If I say that I love you and I am committing adultery with you then I really do not love you at all. I am engaging in sex, a physical act between two people. No actual love is involved. It is called licentiousness, fornication, and it is sinful in the eyes of God.
Killing can be accomplished in many ways, and forms. Physically a person may killed, or indirectly they can have their reputation "killed" and then they die as a result of all of the attended stress that follows such an attack. If I love you, then I am not going to steal your stuff. If I love you I will not covet your possessions, your job, your status in life, or anything else about you. Please know that coveting usually leads to stealing that which one covets. If I love you I will not spread lies about you behind your back. I will be honest.
Paul here says that our love for our neighbor/s gets revealed in what we do rather than in what we say. Oh, you mean, actions speak louder than words. This does not put the Christian back under the Law; love shows itself in not committing adultery, not killing, not stealing, not coveting, and in not being dishonest. Talking about love does not allow us to commit these acts against our neighbors. To do so means that we have no love for them.
Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law(13:10).
Do not scheme to get property from your neighbor. Do not scheme how to make your neighbor's job yours. Work no ill against your neighbor. This love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is the actual fulfillment of the Law as given by God.
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light(13:11-12).
These words were penned some nineteen hundred years ago, and we most surely ought to say them with a little more urgency today.
This is the equivalent of a spiritual alarm clock set to go off to awaken believers who have dozed off while out in the world and have totally forgotten this incentive for yielding their total person to God. Beloved, this is not the time for the child of God to live for the things of this world. Many a rich Christian is going to be embarassed when Jesus Christ returns. How big shall your bank account be, my friend? Are you using your time and what you possess for the kingdom of God? I take this time to exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, that you yield yourselves completely to God. This is rational, this is reasonable, this is what you are supposed to be doing.
If you and I are really looking for the return of Christ Jesus, it will purify our lives. That blessed hope will "filter out" all of the fleshly works that our old nature desires to continue doing each day. All of these people who marry and divorce multiple times, and then talk about being premillennial and pretribulational and looking for the imminent return of Christ, are not being honest at all. So let us wake up, my dear friends. Let us live for God in this hour!
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying(13:13).
In other words, we need to be walking honorably, not joining in riotous living. "Chambering and wantonness" means to be going to bed with someone in a sexual liason. Immorality should not be any part of our daily lives, as John Edwards should have known. He was unfaithful to his wife, immoral, adulterous, and dishonest. Can he truthfully say that he loves his neighbors? I think not, beloved.
We cannot engage in strife and envy. Fighting with each other gets us no closer to the kingdom of God. Wanting what my neighbor has gets me no closer to the kingdom of God. Getting drunk is not a part of any believers life, it must get "filtered" out of our lives. Can I engage in the "night life?" Well, this verse and the one before it instructs me to leave the darkness and walk as in the daylight. I am not to be identified with darkness, to be associated with any aspect of darkness. I am to be clothed with the armor of light. That is a study in, and of, itself. The believer is identified with day life, walking as one who belongs to the day, not to the night. Personally, I know about the "nightlife." I was there five or six nights every week before I found Christ. It has nothing to with light. Shadows and impaired vision along with impaired senses is what the nightlife is all about in reality. It is about the loss of inhibition, doing what one normally would not think about doing. It is about the perception of freedom. In reality, it is all about becoming more enslaved to the flesh and the dictates of Satan. My friend, if you think that because God is your copilot you can frequent bars, nightclubs, exotic dance clubs, and gentlemen's clubs; you are sadly mistaken. God is not a copilot, either He is your pilot, or you are your own pilot without any copilot. God may see you home safely each night from these establishments but each time that you frequent them you are sucked in deeper and deeper. Exotic clubs are set up to separate you from your money through the visual senses primarily. They pressure you on the fronts of desire, envy, covetousness, and freedom of abandonment. They sing a siren song to the flesh, drawing you in until you are trapped and can't escape without hardship. I have personally seen men lose thousands of dollars thinking that they are going to gain happiness there, only to witness their agony, despair, and bankruptcy later on. Believers ought to walk as belonging to the daylight.
But put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof(13:14).
And that puts the period to what I was talking about just above it. Do not tempt your flesh, for it will win out in the long run to your chagrin. How many believers still make every provision for their flesh but make none to enter into His presence. Beloved, I beg you to put Christ first in your life and to get out the Word of God and study it in truth. That is what is truly important.
That brings us to the end of chapter 13 of Romans. Next time I shall begin chapter 14 in which we will read about the separation of the "sons of God." This next chapter deals with conviction and conscience. Until then, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and His armor of light, walking in the day and not in the darkness of the night. Remember that your salvation is nearer today than at any other time in your life! Jesus' return draws ever closer, day by day, and minute by minute.
Sat, Aug 9th - 4:13PM
THE ENEMY WITHIN
Your worst enemy is not your neighbor, your bill collector, nor your mother-in-law. He is not your meanest critic, nor backstabbing coworker. He is positively identifiable without resorting to calling the FBI. As a matter of fact, we can arrest and condemn him quite soon, giving you a victory over him. Go, look in a mirror, and see him looking back at you.
That is right, your worst enemy is yourself. He occupies the same skin as you, uses the same brain you do, all the while concocting his destructive thoughts. He uses the exact same hands that you do to perform his own deeds. I say to you that your flesh can do you more harm than anyone else in the world; he is the greatest handicap you have in your daily Christian life.
There are two factors that make dealing with this enemy mine very, very, difficult:
First of all, we are reluctant to recognize and identify him. We are leary to label him as an enemy. Truth be told; most of us sort of like him. Secondly, he is on the inside of us. If he would come out and fight like a man it would be different, but he does not, and will not. He remains on the inside, not because he is any sort of coward, but because he can fight so much better from that position of being within us.
Nations, cities, churches, and individuals have been destroyed because of the enemy within. Russia succumbed to the Communists in 1917, not because of the pressure that the Germans on the outside applied, but because of the doctrine spread abroad on the inside.
The story of the Trojan horse applies here as well. As we change our viewpoint from ancient battlegrounds to the fields of spiritual warfare, we amazingly find much evidence that churches are ruined from within, not from the forces without.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus Christ writes to the seven churches in Asia Minor and He does not give one warning about the enemy who attacks from the outside, but rather He gives voice to concerns about the enemies who are on the inside:
...You have there some that hold the teaching of Balaam...So have you also some that hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans in like manner...But I have this against you, that you suffer the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess; and she teaches and seduces My servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols(Rev. 2:14,15, 20).
Christ told these churches that they had something within them that was bringing about their own destruction. Disloyalty and unfaithfulness in the church is hurting Christ's cause more than anything that Satan does on the outside.
We can be destroyed from within. Alexander the Great was probably the greatest military genius to ever live, but before the age of 32 he had conquered the known world and died a drunk. He conquered the world around him, but he could not conquer the enemy within himself.
The only battle that Israel lost in taking the Promised Land was a battle in which the defeat came not from without, but from within. Fact of the matter is that upon entering the Promised Land, only three conspicuous and outstanding enemies stood in the way of the Israelites. Those enemies foreshadowed the three enemies that Christianity has today.
CONSIDER ISRAEL AND HER ENEMIES
Jericho, Ai, and the Gibeonites prevented Israel's enjoyment and possession of the Promised Land. The land was theirs. God had told them that it was theirs, Abraham got the title deed when God said to him:
"And I will give unto you, and to your seed after you, the land wherin you are a stranger, all the land of Canan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God"(Genesis 17:8).
And then to Joshua:
"Every place that the sole of your foot shall walk upon, to you have I given it, as I spoke unto Moses(Joshua 1:3)."
How more clear did God need make it? It is yours, go on in and take possession of it. Enjoy all that you take. These people of God were given property amounting to around three hundred thousand square miles, and in their best of times they occupied only thirty thousand square miles of it! What a lesson for us today, huh?
CONSIDER THE CHRISTIAN AND HIS ENEMIES
We have been told in Ephesians 1:3:
"Blessed be the God and Fathere of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ."
We have not been given only some spiritual blessings, but all spiritual blessings. Those blessings are ours, given to us by God. How many of them are you enjoying today? How many of them do you consider to really be yours? See, you have the title to them, but have you claimed them and are you enjoying them as Christ intended you to?
Dr. McGee was in Chicago many years ago, and he read a news article about a search for one Stanley William McKenna Walker who it turned out was an heir to half of an 8 million dollar estate in England. One problem. He was an alcoholic and lived amongst the many who hung out on curbs, under bridges, and slept off their binges in sleazy hotels. Imagine, a man wearing clothes covered in filth from sleeping in the gutters of Chicago, a wino, sometimes lining up at some mission to get a bowl of something to eat and a drink, and he has 4 million dollars just waiting for him! A tragedy.
Let's think of the many Christians today who are just like that. They are blessed with all spiritual blessings and yet are living as if they were spiritual winos. None of these blessings are immediately in our possession to enjoy. God has indeed given them to us, but if we are to get them, there are battles to be fought and victories to be won. In fact, how does the Epistle to these fine Ephesians end? It closes with the clanking of armor being put on, and the sound of battle with the call to us to put on the whole armor of God. Get the picture? We are definitely not out on some picnic, or vacation trip to Disney World. We are in a war, and battles arise sometimes every day. We must be prepared to fight those battles; whether they are over the morality of our children, the faithfulness to our spouses, or over being obedient to Christ.
Let's look at the methods Joshua selected in his battles in the Promised Land. His abilites in strategy and tactics in moving into the land were tremendous. He had a blockade to break. Three formidable foes needed to be taken care of. He decided to attack Jericho first for it rested right in the center of the land and was all but impregnable as a fortress. To the northeast stood Ai. To the south was a combine, the allegiance of Gibeonites. Joshua's strategy was to take Jericho and then be able to move either north or south.
How do these three enemies of Joshua's represent the enemies of Christians today?
1) Jericho represents the world.
20 Ai represents the flesh.
30 The Gibeonites represent the devil.
So you and I have a threefold enemy robbing us of our possessions: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
We shall concentrate on one of these enemies, Ai. The flesh. This city was located up among the hills, 13 miles north and west of Jericho, which was down on a plain. From the plains of Jericho up to Ai was an ascent of some 3200 feet. Ai had stout defenses and was not easily ambushed by surprise attacks.
When we read about this ancient battle over a little city so many years ago, it seemingly means nothing to us today. But perhaps God has placed great spiritual truths here for us to discover, and His Holy Spirit can make this real and living to us as we read it today.
Ai and I have something in common. There are three "musts" that are revealed in this incident from long ago, and they must be in your experience and mine if we are to lay hold of the spiritual blessings and gain a victory over the flesh.
But that is for another day, my friends! Next time we shall see what these "musts" are, and then begin studying this Ai account over in Joshua 7. Until then, beloved, be a watchman up on the citywall, on the lookout for the enemy. Protect your family, your congregation, and yourself from the enemies that are out there seeking whom to destroy, discourage, and dishearten. Put on the whole armor of Christ, be prepared!
Fri, Aug 8th - 5:44PM
HAVE YOU CROSSED THE JORDAN?
Peter adds this tidbit to the fact of our redemption, that we are "born again."
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever(I Peter 1:23).
And now let's examine the conduct of the two and a half tribes that did not cross over the Jordan River. We must realize that there is no such thing as thinking wrong and acting right. It does not logically follow. We have to think right before we can act right.
Okay, so we know what was happening in the days of Altar Ed and the division of the tribes. Let us move up to the time when Jesus Christ was on earth. Here we read in Mark 5:1:
"They came over unto the other side of the sea into the country of the Gadarenes."
This was an occasion when Jesus was trying to get away from the crowds. The Gadarenes; just who were these people? Well, obviously they were inhabitants of Gadara. But who were the inhabitants of Gadara? If you will, notice the word "Gad" is there, and it seems that if we do a little recall we will find that Gad was one of the two and a half tribes that remained on the wrong side of the Jordan River. Fancy that, here they crop up in history again!
When the Lord got over on that side, He came into contact with a man out of the tombs who was posessed with demons. Our dear Lord cast out the demons, and they went into a herd of pigs that was nearby and the pigs were ultimately destroyed. There is a question that must be asked here. "What in the world were these Gadarenes doing raising pigs?" Joshua had said to them that they must be sure to keep the commandments of the Lord, and one of those commandments was that they should not eat pork. They ought not to have had anything to do with pigs, and yet here they were, raising the animals!
Have you and I crossed over Jordan, or are we still on the wrong side of Jordan and in the pig business?
Let's listen to what Paul had to say over in Colossians 3:1-4:
"If you then are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory."
You might say, "But Eric, they were only raising the pigs, not eating them." That might have been true, but how much temptation can a person deal with before he/she gives in to it? How long can someone be around pigs day in and day out before they just resign themselves to eating the animals since they are raising so many of them? My friends, if you and I have truly crossed over Jordan and are buried with Him and raised with Him, we are to seek the things which are above. That effectively will take us out of "the pig business."
Paul continued on, speaking with the Colossians:
"Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds"(Colossians 3:9).
Again in Titus 2:10:
"Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things."
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He save us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit."
But let's continue in Titus 3:
"Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that you affirm constantly, that they who have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These thing are good and profitable unto men(Titus 3:6-8)."
How many right now think that if their doctrine is pure their life can be impure? How many believe that if your theology is straight your practice can be very crooked? Their thinking is quite untrue in fact. Unfortunately there are too many fundamentalists who cannot be trusted, they simply are not honest. This ought not to be happening in our day.
If you have come to that altar which speaks only of the cross of Christ and have trusted Him as your Savior, it is going to transform your life. You are going to be forever changed from who and what you were. If it does not, then have you really been to the altar?
HAVE YOU CROSSED OVER JORDAN?
You might be asking, "I would really like to, but how am I to do it?" I must warn you that what is about to be read WILL have eternal ramification in your life, whether or not you believe it to be true.
1) We are told here that we are to know that when He died, we died. When He went to the cross He died in our place. We are to know that!
2) We are to "Likewise, reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sen, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord"(Romans 6:11). You are to reckon on that.
3) And then
"Neither present your members unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God"(Romans 6:13).
You have crossed Jordan when you come to Christ and know that when He died, you died; when He was raised, you were raised; and now you are joined to Him for all eternity and you are to consider that fact as you go out into life each day.
So, here is your first step out into the stream called Jordan. Come, let's read about it together in Romans 10:9-10:
"That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
That is what Christ asks you to do. Trust Him. That is all. This is that all-important first step for you to take in crossing over the Jordan River in your life. Do not be like the two and a half tribes that chose to remain outside of the Promised Land, do not choose to live among the pigs.
That is all for this topic today, beloved. I know it is quite hard-hitting. I know that it is rather "preachy." But I also know that it is God's Word and it needs to be clearly presented to the entire world. Next time I shall continue on and look at your, and mine, worst enemy in the entire world. Until then, check and be sure that you actually have crossed over the Jordan, do it now. :)
Fri, Aug 8th - 12:45PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
We are finally back into Romans today! As I said several days ago, America is in the hands of those who do not understand its spiritual heritage. Let's continue to explore this relationship that we are supposed to have with government.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Will you then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same:
For he is the minister of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that does evil(13:3-4).
So our government is to maintain law and order. When it does not do that, it has failed its purpose. All Christians ought to be opposed to the breakdown of law and order. We are to respect our rulers who are enforcing the law. Is that what can be seen across our country today? I do not think so. I can have great respect for our military, law enforcement, and government agencies, even though they may be riddled with corruption and personal agendas. In these two verses is seen that we are to not break the law, even when we are certain that the law is wrong. Work within the system to correct the errors would be the evident solution. Am I saying that we are to forget about what God wants us to do? No, I am not. We are to to ever be aware of God's law and match it up with our government's laws. When the human laws depart from what God commands us to do, or not do, then as believers we have a choice to make.
Wherefore you must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake(13:5).
Believers are to obey the law not only because we will be judged and have to pay a penalty if we do not obey, but to obey for our conscience sake.
For for this cause you pay tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing(13:6).
Even though we may resent the way our tax money is spent, we are to still pay our taxes anyway. In this verse the word for minister is one from which we get our word liturgy. It is strictly religious and is the same word used of angels in Hebrews 1:14 where they are called ministering spirits. This implies that the ruler holds a divinely-appointed office over us. He has no religious function, of course, but he still holds a God-appointed office. I believe too many of us mortals have forgotten this aspect of our government. We ought not to trash it, and the people in it, but rather, we ought to be on our knees praying for it and them daily. Pay my taxes, pray that they use it wisely.
We need an old fashioned, heaven-sent revival of individuals. It is extremely tiring to listen continually to those who are always shedding crocodile tears over how bad things are! It reminds one of Alice in Wonderland. Remember how the Walrus and the Carpenter were walking down the seashore weeping because there was so much sand and not enough oysters? They kept on eating and eating and weeping and weeping. A picture for us of corruption. Stop weeping and eating, start praying!
Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour(13:7).
We are to respect the office, if not the individual who resides there at any point in time. We are to show respect to authority, to do less is to teach the younger generations to disrespect authority. Perhaps that is why we are seeing so much disrespect in the current generation of children? They have been taught extremely well by their elders. When stopped by the police officer for speeding we are to be polite and respectful in answering his/her questions and requests. Of course, we ought not to even be speeding in the first place. This verse demands that we render our respect to authority in our lives. There ought not to be any part in the prevalent attitude of "stick it to the Man!" So are we prevented from ever starting a revolution to correct evil practices? I would say no, we are not strictly prevented from doing any such thing. But it can not be our first choice of actions in responding to what we view as being wrong. Jesus commands us to live peaceably with all men, whenever possible. In other words, we are to be the best citizen of our particular nation although our true citizenship is in heaven.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time I will look at what our relationship ought to be like with our neighbors. Until then, rebel less against authority, pray more for their salvation. Bless those who treat you wickedly, pray for their salvation. Pray that God will raise up from within this current generation of children several individuals who will think along the lines of our forefathers. Individuals who will have a heart for God, who will seek out His counsel first, and then act. That is my heartfelt prayer, I hope it becomes yours also.
Thu, Aug 7th - 9:05PM
HAVE YOU CROSSED THE JORDAN?
Let's take a closer look at this altar they named "Ed." When God called these people out of Egypt and gave them His law, He gave them an altar upon which they were to make sacrifices. Again and again He repeated the command to them that they were to make sacrifice only upon that particular altar. Here it is in Deuteronomy 12:27:
And you shall offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, upon the altar of the Lord you God; and the blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out upon the altar of the Lord your God, and you shall eat the flesh.
And when they move into the land of other peoples, God said to them that they were to destroy their altars. That is found in Exodus 34:13-14:
But you shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their idols. For you shall worship no other god; for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
God, in effect, told them that they were not to have any other altar. When they eventually arrived at the Jordan River, ready to enter into the Promised Land, God gave them definite instructions through Moses in Deuteronomy 27:4-7:
Therefore, it shall be when you are gone over the Jordan, that you shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in Mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with plaster. And there shall you build an altar unto the Lord your God, an altar of stones: you shall not lift up any iron tool upon them. You shall build the altar of the Lord your God of whole stones, and you shall offer burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord your God. And you shall offer peace offerings, and shall eat there, and rejoice before the Lord you God.
Then He said they were to write the commandments upon the altar. The two and a half tribes never crossed the Jordan. They thus never had the opportunity to sacrifice their offerings at that altar at Mount Ebal. They saw that the river Jordan separated them from their brethren, and the altar Ed that they built spoke of the fact that they were divided. It was prime evidence that there now was a division in the nation and that there were two altars; this made way for the division of the nation later in history.
The division at this time was east and west. Later on it became a division of north and south, ten tribes and two tribes. And this separation/division is highlighted by Jeroboam when he went into the northern tribes and said to them, "I will build an altar." This can be seen in I Kings 13:4, where Jeroboam's hand withered when he raised it against God's prophet.
Altars are important to God. The "Altar" spoke of Christ. It was the accepted place of sacrifice. Even though this altar Ed was only "to see to" it was if effect another altar and thus divided the nation.
There are many altars such as the "altar Ed" around today. But the only place of unity for believers is around the person of Jesus Christ. We can meet with anyone who will exalt Him. When we elect to meet about His glorious person, we are already as one. Is oneness important to God? Christ prayed about oneness in John 17:20-21:
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You have sent Me.
My dear friends, that is not a prayer which any church organization can answer. It cannot be answered by the National Council of Churches, nor by the Vatican in Rome. That prayer has been answered. And this prayer is not asking for church union. He refers to the unity of the Trinity and the unity of those who have accepted Him, the body of believers. The believers are to meet around the glorious person of Christ. When we put up any other altar today, it may be very beautifual, it may be built around some person, or it may be built around an organization; but if it takes men away from the person of Christ, it is dead wrong.
Liberalism has divided the church in the past, and it is liberalism that is forming schisms today. They have in effect erected an altar without blood. The only place that we, as Christians, can meet is around the cross of Jesus Christ; we can meet any person there! So we can say to those who are liberal, "come, let's meet around the person of Christ and His shed blood for our sins." If they are willing to come, fine. If they are unwilling, then we cannot meet with them in fellowship with Christ. There will not be unity with the Trinity. The writer of Hebrews said to us in 13:10-14:
We have an altar, of which they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle. for the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
Today, anyone who is willing to come out of the camp and meet around the person of Christ and His death upon the cross at Calvary, with them we will assuredly have unity today. It is tremendously important to understand the significance of having only one altar. It was important to the nation of Israel back then, and it still is important to the world today. No person is redeemed with silver and gold or any beautiful thing that has ever been made. They can only be redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.
That is all for tonight, beloved. Next time I wish to look at the conduct of the two and a half tribes. God says, "You shall know them by their fruits..." But that is for next time. Until then, be watchful for the erecting of modern "altars" that are meant to be seen and not sacrificed upon. They are divisive. The grace and peace of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, be with you.
Tue, Aug 5th - 8:47PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
I am back after two days of workshops and a conference that were job-related. Here we are entering chapter 13. In this chapter we are to see that we are still dealing with the service of the children of God. There is a dual citizenship that exists for the children of God. One is a citizen of heaven, which is spiritual, and then one is still a citizen in this world, which places each of us under a government. One spiritual, one secular; each is a separate function, and to attempt to combine them is to fail at keeping church and state separate and distinct.
The Jew in Paul's day was quite reluctant to bow before the proud Roman state. Jews had created disturbances in the city of Rome, and Claudius had banished them on one occasion because of it. The proud Pharisees rejected the Roman authorities in Palestine in their desire to restore the government tothe nation of Israel; it was they, afterall, who masterminded the encounter with Jesus and raised the isuue, "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" The implications dripped with revolution, as can be plainly seen. We need to remember that the authorities in Paul's day were mad and murderous. Nero was on the throne of Rome, and there was Pilate and Herod, all a bunch of snakes, and yet Jesus said that believers were to obey those in authority over them.
Our Lord Jesus Christ made it very clear that we have a responsibility to human government. When presented with the above question by the Pharisees He asked them to show Him a coin. He asked them whose name and image was upon that coin. They replied, "Caesar's." What was Christ's reply to them then? "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's"(Luke 20:25).
Governments are ordained of God, given certain authority over us. God has regard for human life; it is precious in His sight. I have no right to take another human life. If you do, you forfeit your own life. Today we live in a society when evil is called good and good is called evil. If I am for saving babies from being aborted then I am painted as being anti-feminist and sexually bigoted. If I am for killing babies then I am pictured as being tolerant, enlightened, liberal, and for women's rights. Evil called good, and good called evil. We have been living with this particular one since abortion was made legal in America. And yet, as a believer I have a responsibilty to my government. We are exhorted to pray for our leaders in I Timothy 2:1-3. Pray, and not curse. This means all believers, not just the preacher in the pulpit on Sundays.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God(13:1).
You and I are to submit ourselves to governmental authorities because they have all been ordained by God. This means the good and the bad governments. Many a government throughout our history has fallen into ruin due to corruption and lawlessness becoming rampant within it. God still rules and He does judge governments that He has ordained into existance. God has not abdicated His throne nor is He disturbed by what is happening currently on this earth. The allegiance of the Christian today is to God's throne and his relationship to his government on earth is submission. We are to be model citizens.
Whosoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation(13:2).
Lots of people do not want to read that verse! I am supposed to oppose the oppressors! Down with the enslavement of the people! It is humane to organize revolution to overthrow totalitarian rulers, but do not drag God into the equation. That is improper according to scripture.
The basic principle put forward in verse 1 raises many questions which the following verses explain. It would seem that a believer being any part of a rebellion or revolution is precluded. Cromwell and Washington both were Christians and led a revolution, were they okay in doing so? I am unsure whether I have an answer but here it goes. Believers have opposed bad government and supported good government on the theory that good government is the one ordained by God. The believer is all for law and order, as opposed to lawlessness. He is for honesty and justice, as opposed to corruption and injustice.
But we must remember, Christianity never was meant to become a movement to improve government, help society, or clean up the town. The gospel has the power of salvation of the individual. Did Paul lament the deplorable and despicable conditions of Roman jails? No, he did not.
In America today there is corruption in our government from the top on down, and it is not found in only one party. The unsaved, godless men and women who are in postions of government do not understand the American system anymore. The men who made our Constitution had a Bible background. Thomas Jefferson might not have been a true Christian but he had a deep respect for the Word of God. However, today the government is corrupt. There is no other word to describe it. Billions of dollars are allowed now to move from our country into the banks of foreign governments that do not like us even a little bit. Millions of dollars each year are wasted on pet projects endorsed by members of Congress, while poverty still spreads within our society. Homelessness still rears its ugly head. Half of our children in their senior years of school within key metropolitan areas drop out and do not graduate. Manufacturing jobs are fleeing America and are replaced with lower paying jobs. What's wrong? The thing that is wrong is the human heart. It is what has been wrong all along.
So what is the believer to do? My business is to get out the Word of God, preach the gospel message of salvation, and my business is to obey the law of the land. We are not to lose focus by attempting to improve the government or to help society clean up this neighborhood, or that neighborhood. Sounds harsh, doesn't it? But it is the truth, my friends. We are to preach a gospel that is the power of God unto salvation which will bring into existence individuals like the men who signed the Constitution of the United States of America, and the Declaration of Independence.
Nothing wrong with the "form" of our government, just something wrong with the individuals who are in positions of power within our government. Should we make it a requirement of anyone who wishes to run for political office that they be from a background of Christianity? As tempting as that might be, it would be wrong. "Tempting" is the word that gives it away as being wrong. It would be the first step towards combining the spiritual with the secular and thus violate separation of church and state. No, we must preach God's Word more freely, passionately, consistently. That is the solution to our problems.
Hhhmm, I only made it through two verses tonight. So be it. Next time, beloved, I will review verses 3-9 where we shall see that indeed, we believers are supposed to be the best citizens around, models for those who see us each day. Until next time, ponder how you can become a "model" citizen. How can you become what these verses suggest that you must be? Can I truly refuse to join the military due to my faith in Christ? I do not think so. If I do refuse military service, then I must surely be prepared to gladly suffer the consequences of that choice. Can I refuse to pay my taxes? No, Jesus clearly answered that question in scripture, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's." God wants us to obey Him, and be submissive to the government that He has ordained to be over us. Grace and peace be yours.
Sun, Aug 3rd - 12:38PM
HAVE YOU CROSSED THE JORDAN?
Let us look at three things:
1. The Red Sea speaks of redemption.
2. The Rod of Moses used in judgment also speaks of redemption for us.
3. But the River Jordan speaks of sanctification, and the death of Christ was for our sanctification.
Here we want to give a passage of scripture from Romans:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life(Romans 6:1-4).
My friends, Christ went into death for you and me, and it is set before us here in the bookof Joshua.
And it came to pass, when all the people were completely passed over the Jordan, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, and command you them, saying, Take here out of the midst of the Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, and you shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where you shall lodge this night(Joshua 4:1-3).
They did as commanded. And here is what happened:
And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day(Joshua 4:9).
Joshua set up twelve stones in the water of death, one for each tribe of Israel. They were placed there to speak of the death of Christ. One verse earlier we see the people doing as God commanded:
And the children of Israel did so, as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan, as the Lord spoke to Joshua, according tothe number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there(Joshua 4:8).
The twelve stones taken from the Jordan and placed upon the west banks of the Jordan River speak of the resurrection of Christ. Jesus Christ died over 1900 years ago and in Romans it is made clear that we are identified with Him in His death. It is unfortunate that the word "baptize" was transliterated and not translated. The Greek word baptizo and its primary meaning here has no connection whatsoever with water. It speaks of identification. We are identifed with Christ in His death on the cross, when He arose from the grave we are identified with Him, and today we are identified with Him as a living Lord and Saviour. It is only through the actual measure that we are joined to Him that you and I can enjoy all spiritual blessings. If I withhold myself from total commitment to Christ how can I expect to receive the full blessings God intends for me?
So, when the children of Israel crossed over the river, they became citizens of Palestine. They became forever identifed with that land, so that even today that is why they are in Palestine. Whenever the Jews are out of that land they are referred to as "wandering Jews." Let us join this fact with another fact: When you, my friend, came to Christ and accepted Him as you Saviour, His death bcame your death and His resurrection became your resurrection. When you "wander" from this identity, however briefly, think of the tragic meaning!
But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has made us alive together with Christ, (by grace you are saved); and has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Chist Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus(Ephesians 2:4-7).
Beloved, I bring it to your attention again how much God loves us! How great is our God! When He died, He died for your sin that you might have eternal life; and when He came back from the dead, His life was then your life. So now you are joined to the living God. And that is one of the great truths of God's Word.
But getting back to our line of thought, there were two and a half tribes that did not cross over the Jordan River, and there are two things about them which need to be seen:
1. The confession of the two and a half tribes.
2. The conduct of the two and a half tribes.
So we return to the book of Joshua to examine this in more depth:
...You have kept all that Moses, the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you. You have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord your God(Joshua 22:2, 3).
Joshua first of all commended them for what they had done. They not only agreed to seand their army of men to join the other nine and a half tribes in conquest, but they kept that promise to do so. Then Joshua warned them:
But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses, the servant of theLord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments, and to cleave unto Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul(Joshua 22:5).
Isn't that pretty much what we, as believers, ought to be doing today? Diligently heeding what Christ has commanded us to do. To love Christ, to walk in all of His ways, and in keeping all of His commandments to cleave, or join, ourselves to Him. And serve Him with all of our being. Funny how it is the same expectation of us as it was for the Israelites.
Then Joshua dismissed them with a blessing in verse 6. Up to this point all seemed well, but as the two and a half tribes came to the Jordan River to cross it, they saw that this river was going to separate them from the remainder of their brethren. So, they decided to build an altar on the west side of the river. Look to Joshua 22:10 for this event. It was an altar "to see." The literal translation is "an altar great to sight." It was obviously an imposing structure which could be seen from the other side of the river. Why not build it on the east side of the river where they were living? That would not have given them a sense of being connected to the rest of their people who were living in the Promised Land. Having an altar there that they could see from the other side of the river gave them a feeling that they were still joined to other tribes. It was a "bridge" to cover the fact of their separation physically.
No sacrifice was to be offered upon this altar, it was for looking at. But when the children of Israel heard about this altar the whole congregation of Israel gathered themselves at Shiloh to wage war against them. Israel judged that these two and a half tribes were trying to divide the nation. It can be read in chapter 22:10-34 how this scenario played out. The argument put forward for building the altar was to prevent ahead of time any forgetting of the fact that these two and a half tribes were part of the nation. They were thinking long-term here, the altar was meant to be a witness between them and their brethren living in the Promised Land. The altar was called Ed: A Witness Between Us that the Lord is God.
How like that are we today? Quick to criticize other people without knowing all of the facts.
Well, beloved, that is enough on this topic for today. Next time I want to take a look at the altar called Ed. Those two and a half tribes said to their brothers that they had created a replica of the real altar upon which sacrifices were made to God. We need to understand how this fact would affect history. Until then, rest in the knowledge that you are identified with Christ in all aspects. Death, burial, resurrection. You are joined to Him today, and always. Amen.
Sat, Aug 2nd - 7:30PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits(12:15-16).
Here we are being informed to identify with our fellow believers whether they are joyful or sad. We are to intimately share in those times with our fellow saints. Are you prepared to cry with members of your congregation? Share their sorrows? If not, then you have some one-on-one time ahead of you with Christ. Willing to laugh and congratulate other members of your congregation during their times of good fortune?
"Be of the same mind one toward another" isn't speaking of having uniformity of thought but that we all should have the mind of Christ so that we understand one another. Believers ought to enter emotionally into the lives of other believers. It is so fulfilling when one does this as a Christian.
"Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate." This is one of those concepts that rubs alot of people the wrong way. What? I am supposed to hang out with poor people? With skidrow drunks? With druggies? With ladies of the night? Get real! My friends, let's associate with humble men and things of low estate. We are not to strive to become friends with all of the wealthy members of our communities only, we must strive to befriend the poor, the destitute, the sick, the elderly, the orphaned. Philippians 2:5 ought to be our motto in this matter.
"Be not wise in your own conceits." Stop being fooled into thinking that you are so wise. It is merely your own opinion most of the time anyways. We are not to think that we are spiritual giants. Solomon, who was a man with much wisdom given him from God, gave a very interesting injunction: "See a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him"(Proverbs 26:12). Politicians come to mind rather quickly right now.
You and I live in a world full of unbelievers. What is to be our relationship with them?
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
If it be possible, so much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men(12:17-18).
The suggestion here is that the believer may expect evil at the hands of unbelievers out in the world. But we are not to return an eye for an eye. "Provide things honest in the sight of all men" is important to us for nothing hurts the Christian cause more than a dishonest saint. The unbeliever is not interested in the doctrine that you adhere to; whether you are a premillenialist or whether you believe in election or free will. He does want to know if you are truthful or not, and he does want to know if you pay your honest debts. Are you someone that can be depended upon? This character trait is vastly more important than handing out tracts or knocking on doors. Do not misunderstand, handing out tracts and knocking on doors is a good thing. But we have to have lives that will back up those other deeds of ours.
"If it be possible..." is a verse I have loved ever since first reading it. There were those who accused me of not liking everyone around me. They felt that as a Christian full of love that I had to love everyone and not ever get put out with their actions or words. Jesus Christ knows that there are going to be individuals that you are simply not going to be able to live in peace with. They will not allow it to happen. Those are the people that we are to stop trying to physically approach in any manner, resorting more to praying for them. How could one live peaceably with Adolf Hitler? Or with Josef Stalin? Or with any of the Islamic terrorists today? It is not possible all of the time.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.
Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head(12:19-20).
This is one of the greatest precepts you could find in the Bible, and yet it is so difficult to accomplish for a child of God. When someone punches you in the mouth, it is extremely hard to not ball up your fist and haul off and smash them in the face too. Our flesh is hardwired for this type of response. God knows this for He is the one who made us to begin with. And so He tells us the way around this temptation to avenge our hurts is to leave it to God. The minute you and I take matters into our hands and try to settle the conflict by striking back as hard as we can, we have wrenched control out of God's hands and we are no longer walking by faith. Our works are what is controlling us then. God tells us in these two verses, "You keep on walking in faith with Me, and let Me handle all of the jerks in this world, because I will handle it properly and justly." I can tell you what to do, but I must confess that I find it difficult to do myself most of the time. But we must always remember that God wants us to allow Him to deal with revenge for transgressions made against us, He does it much better than we ever can.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good(12:21).
As we walk through this evil world with its satanic belief system, we must realize that we cannot fight it. If we do then the result will be that we get whipped. You cannot adopt the tactics of the world, hate and revenge, to beat the world at its own game. To attempt to do so assures you of defeat.
God has given the believer the resource to overcome evil with: the Holy Spirit. He dwells within you and aides you in walking in the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 speaks of this truth: "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."
Well my friends, that finishes chapter 12 of Romans. Tomorrow, God willing, I will begin chapter 13 which deals with our relationship to government and to our neighbors. Until then, be of good cheer for Christ's Spirit lives in you and will lead you into all understanding of the Word. Grace and peace be yours this night.
Sat, Aug 2nd - 1:51PM
HAVE YOU CROSSED OVER JORDAN?
One of the first lessons that we ought to learn in reading/studying the bible is in distinguishing between that which is written to us and that which is written for us. Not all of the bible is directed to us, but all of the bible is for us. Got that? It is very simple but very important at the same time.
Regarding this I want to call everyones' attention to a very familar passage of scripture in II Timothy 3:16:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
As can easily be seen in this passage, the Word of God can be used for very many different reasons and in many different ways. For example, in Ephesians 4:1, Paul wrote,
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation to which you are called.
This is from what is called an epistle, or letter, and these epistles are love-letters to the church; and so it is to you and me.
But in Joshua 1:11 we read,
"...Within three days you shall pass over this Jordan..."
I can only hope that you have already made your flight arrangements and are heading out your front door for the airport if you feel that this verse speaks to you. You will have to rush to make sure you get there in time to pass over that river. Hopefully some are saying, "But that is not directed toward us today." And you are completely correct. Joshua was not talking to you and me, telling us to cross over the Jordan river but he could be directing us to a real lesson, a spiritually rich lesson, that lies here waiting for us to uncover it. Which is why I have asked the question, "Have you crossed over the Jordan?"
Did all of the tribes of Israel cross over the Jordan and into the Promised Land? No, they did not. Did you know that? I didn't until I studied this topic. Two and one-half tribes never went over the river and lived in the land of Canaan.
Moses was still alive when they first came to the east banks of the river Jordan and we find that they made a request:
Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle; and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle, the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, and to Eleazar, the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation, saying, ...Wherefore,...if we have found grace in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession, and bring us not over the Jordan(Numbers 32:1-5).
In addition to them, one-half of the tribe of Manasseh joined them. Moses agreed to let them do this only if they were willing to send their fighting men over the river to help the other tribes subdue the land of Canaan. They agreed to do so. Not only did they agree but they made good on their promise. Joshua 1:12-16:
And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spoke Joshua, saying, ...The Lord your God has given you rest, and has given you this land. Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side of the Jordan; but you shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valor, and help them...And they answered Joshua, saying, All that you command of us we will do, and wherever you send us, we will go.
I would point out that they honored their pledge to Moses. They said they would do it and when the time came, they did it. I think we ought to be the same way today, beloved. When we give our word to do something we ought to then do it when the time comes.
This sort of raises a question. "What is wrong with dwelling on the east side of the River Jordan? Is it essential to cross over the river? Isn't the east bank of the river part of the Promised Land?" I know, that is actually three questions. But you understand what I am saying here. If we never look at the passage of scripture in which the account of the crossing of the River Jordan is found, then we would think that nothing significant could possibly be attached to which side of the river they ended up on.
Three immensely important historical facts turn up being connected with this crossing. When they went over the Jordan it was quite different from their crossing of the Red Sea. When they crossed the Red Sea, Moses went down to the water and smacked the water with his rod. All night long the waters rolled back. A great miracle for sure. But I say that this crossing of the Jordan was an even greater miracle for it seemingly was flood time and their crossing caused a holding back of the waters that were rushing towards the Dead Sea. We can see this in Joshua 3:3:
And they commanded the people, saying, When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then you shall remove from your place, and go after it.
See the new element added here? The Ark is to go down ahead of the people and it is to be carried by priests who are to come to the edge of the Jordan and stand in the water. As soon as the priests' feet touched the water it began to dam up. Dry ground began to immediately appear. The Levites carrying the Ark walked out to the midpoint of the Jordan and stood there with the Ark until all of the people had crossed over. Read Joshua 3:3-17 for the entire account. An incredible miracle to be sure. Perhaps the greatest one of all was when the sun was made to stand still.
Now the Ark of the Covenant is one of the finest pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ given in the Old Testament. The Ark had been in the heart of their camp for forty years in their wilderness march. Every night when they came into camp, the entire twelve tribes of Israel set up their tents about the Ark in a very specific pattern. The Ark was always in the very center, but now, for the first time, that which spoke of Christ went ahead to the Jordan River and entered first.
Christ went before us into death, but He goes with us in life. He went before us in death, and when our Lord entered death, He entered it for you and me. The Jordan sets before us the death of Christ but under no conditions does it set forth our physical death. Christ has already gone in for us and He has already crossed for us in death.
That is all for today, my friends. Next time I shall continue along with three other things we ought to consider about this river and what took place there. Until then, may God guide your footsteps today, and may He guide your thoughts as well.
Fri, Aug 1st - 8:38PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good(12:9).
What is "dissimulation?" My trusty Merriam Webster Collegiate dictionary says that it means "to hide under a false appearance; conceal facts, intentions, or feelings under some pretense." Hhhmm. Sounds to me like hypocrisy. Someone at worship service comes up to you, shakes your hand, and commends you on your singing. Then they turn around and later on tell someone else that your singing was awful and you should be banned from ever singing again. That is dissimulation. I suppose we could call it being "two-faced." Let our love be without hypocrisy.
"Abhor that which is evil" means to express your disgust of that which is evil, wicked. When you find something wrong within the church, bring it to the attention of the elders. Things being done dishonestly? Then speak up and stand for the truth. Do not be afraid of hurting someone else's feelings. If you do it with compassion and love all ought to go alright. Too many congregations shy away from confronting anyone for anything wicked, or downright destructive to the body of believers. It is why so many of them are in trouble spiritually.
"Cleave to that which is good." Cleave means to stick like super glue, to be welded or cemented together with the good things, the noble things. Each believer ought to be identified with only good things rather than questionable practices and shady deals.
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord(12:10-11).
Amazing, we are to have a code of honor. Put others before ourselves. Have a zeal for the things of the Lord. We ought to be aglow with the Spirit of God. Love the brethren in the faith as though they were bloodkin. They are closer to you than your actual siblings are if your siblings are not believers. My friends, you ought to be nicer to your fellow saints because you will have to live with them for eternity. Practice now at getting along better with them while they still have their old natures and you will be ready for when all of us receive our brand new bodies and natures!
We are not to be lazy when it comes to zeal for the Lord. If you are cooling off and do not think that studying and sharing God's Word is that important anymore then you are in need of a revival! Get fired up!
All of this points us inexorably towards "serving the Lord."
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not(12:12-14).
Rejoicing in hope ought to be part of every believer's daily regimen. My circumstances may not lead me to want to rejoice, but I need to remain focused upon the future, and my hope in attaining those better circumstances there. My favorite scripture verse is "It came to pass." It is my favorite 452 times! That is how many times it appears in the bible. My wife and I have said it like this many a time, "And this too shall pass." We must remember that all things do pass in time. During these times we are to be patient, waiting on the Lord.
"Continuing instant in prayer" means to be a prayer warrior all of the time. It contributes to being in intimate dialogue with Christ each and every day of your life.
Now this next verse is an area where the church as a whole falls dreadfully short of the mark established here. "Distributing to the necessities of the saints" is sharing your surplus with those who are in need. I have a feeling that a great many churches do not spend as much as they should meeting the needs of their poorer members. Is that how our physical bodies treat their various parts? No. God is expecting what He has blessed us with to be shared with fellow saints who are in need. This is when I really have to question the correctness of attempting to maintain a large meeting hall, sanctuary, or church. What percentage of tithes and offerings is gobbled up in mortgages, heating/cooling bills, maintenance, and groundskeeping fees? How many people could be helped by sharing that money with them? How many lost people could be given tracts, pamphlets, or other forms of literature that would challenge them to consider their choices in life? I do not know about you, but I rarely feel like I am in a family get -together when I attend a worship service in a large building. That is not how my family gatherings act, or talk to, and with each other. God intended us to gather together in homes and actually get to know one another. To be able to "see" the various needs of the saints. Then, and only then, can distributing to the various necessities of the saints take place.
"Given to hospitality" goes hand in glove with the previous phrase. In order for us to know how to distribute to meet saints' needs we have to be full of hospitality, willing to open up our homes and welcome others in. Is someone in your congregation shy, an introvert? If so, how do you know if they really desire to have Christian fellowship with anyone? You won't unless you invite them to come to your home sometime. Get to know them.
"Bless them which persecute you" is a difficult command to meet on a daily basis. Some times I can go months successfully doing this, and then bang! I go on a stretch of time where it seems I am unable to bless those who cut me off on the highway, or slam doors in my face. Just today as I traveled across Salem, Virginia a man slithered his minivan between my work truck and the vehicle in front of me while we were waiting for a red light to change. He simply was in a hurry and desired to go from the right hand lane over to the left lane to make a lefthand turn at the intersection. He could not have missed scraping either vehicle by more than a couple of inches, not to mention the fact that he was too busy to look at any traffic moving up the outside lane. All I had time to utter was, "Oh my God!" As I witnessed him making another lefthand turn at the intersection I quietly said, "Please be with that man, Lord, for he needs watching over." Granted, he was not cursing me, but it is similar in nature. Anyone who irritates, angers, or frustrates us needs to be blessed. They need God as much as anyone else in this world of ours.
That is all for tonight, beloved. Tomorrow I will finish up this section on our relationship to other believers and begin exploring our relationship with unbelievers. I know, that last portion that I wrote above deals with unbelievers, but it can also deal with saints. Until next time, grace and peace of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, be with you.
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