Sat, Jul 31st - 9:40AM
I JOHN STUDY
Beloved, God is holy for that is what "God is light" means. But He is also love. But God does not save us by love, He saves us by Christ who is our mercy seat.
We can recall seeing all sorts of shady things done in the execution of justice in America, the result of which is that the judges and others who are in positions of authority have pushed to eliminate capitol punishment. Why? They know that if a person has wealth and influence, his life will not be taken. It is the poor who cannot escape from this sentence of death. The overall feeling throughout our society is that justice can be bought, at a price. God loves us, He can't save us by love, for salvation requires that something be done. God had to do something about the fact of sin because He is holy and righteous. Sin corrupts and defiles what it touches. A pure God can't tolerate it in His presence and thus it must be removed. Christ came to do just that for everyone who believes upon His name and is born again through the cross.
God did not give Christ because we are attractive, wealthy, or good. God loved us while we were still sinners and were defiled and filled with corruption. God does not wait to love us after we have gotten ourselves all cleaned up and prettied up. No, He loved us at the cross of Calvary some 2,000 yers ago. God made a way for each of us to become reconciled to Him, to move from open conflict with Him to peace. Jesus said that He was the way, the truth, and the life. We either come His way, or we don't come at all beloved. Just because God is love does not mean that everyone on this planet will ultimately go to heaven. What is going to work out is that the lost are going to a lost eternity, and the saved are going to a saved eternity. Are they going to work out for you? I sincerely hope so.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another(4:11).
Because God has demonstrated His love of us, therefore you and I ought to love others on that exact same plane. God loved us enough to send His Son down here to die upon a wooden cross in order to pay the debt that our sins required of us. Christ substituted Himself in our place, we ought to be the ones hanging upon that cross, not Him. But God took it upon Himself to provide us with an avenue of redemption, simply because He values us, He loves us.
So are we then to only love those who first love us? Heaven forbid! Jesus said that if we only love those who love us what kind of reward do we have? We are to love other believers in Christ and also those who have not yet accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. We simply can't hate other Christians, beloved. Doing so negates our claims to be Christians. This goes beyond chumming with other believers on Sundays and Wednesdays, or going to their cookouts on Saturday afternoons. Do we genuinely have concern for other believers? Do we genuinely have concern to get out God's Word? Do we have a genuine concern to serve Christ?
God's compassion towards all of us extended up onto the cross as Jesus said "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do...(Luke 23:34)." Stephen, first martyr of the new church said the same thing as they stoned him to death. Are we able to forgive like that today? Can you forgive others who have hurt you and harmed you and yet profess to be Christians? How about those who do not believe, and have abused you and caused you pain? John has given us the bedrock of the entire problem: Do you love God? Do you love other Christians? That is the primary test of a person being a genuine believer in Christ.
No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us(4:12).
How can this declaration be true? No one has seen God, ever. Jesus Christ is God and He walked the earth. What about Adam, and Moses and Isaiah? Ezekiel, Daniel, John? John says that no man has ever seen God. When God showed Himself to people in the Old Testament they did not "see" God for He is a spirit. God manifested Himself in some form to those men so that they could look upon Him. He did not reveal Himself totally to them. Moses came back from his experiences with God a changed man in appearance. Jesus said that anyone who had seen Him had seen the Father. But what form was Jesus in? He was veiled in human flesh and this prevented many people from being able to recognize Him for they only saw the flesh and not the Spirit. No person has yet seen God in all of His fullness, in all of His Godhead. It was true back then, and it remains true today.
But God can manifest Himself through believers loving each other. Since the world generally is not seeing Jesus as He is presented in the Word of God, the only way that it will know of God's love is through the lives of believers who represent Him. None of us knew of God's love until He showed it to us on the cross when Christ died. It remains true that there is none who seeks after God, so God has come down looking for man. What I can know about God is revealed through the person of Jesus Christ. I cannot know what God thinks about certain things, or how He feels about certain things. But when I follow what Christ did and said and felt, then I know exactly what God is thinking. There can be no doubt.
How is this blind, lost, world of ours to know God? Through witnessing how we treat each other in the faith. We need to stop trying to please the world and begin again to preach to the world. Do not be concerned about what the world thinks of us, but be concerned about what they think of Jesus Christ. What do they think of us as we represent Him? My friends, the world is starving for love, they do not know what love actually is. Their definition of love is S-E-X. They are consumed by what they can see, touch, and feel. They don't know anything about the love of God, an unconditional love. Too many of us remain in bondage to the concept that if you do something for me THEN I will love you. Do something better, then I will love you even more. We end up being treated like pet animals, beloved. Given tidbits to nourish our emotional starvation. We simply can't live life like that and expect to live healthy lives. We are to love people without expecting anything in return. What generally happens when two people go out on a dinner date today? One or both expect something in return. Usually it boils down to whose place they shall go to have sex. That isn't love, that is a cold, harsh, transaction being finalized. All it becomes is a physical exchange, a sacrifice of one's self image in order to gratify one's physical lusts and desires. No love is remotely involved in this. Someone will also be hurt in some way during these interactions. No wonder American society is unraveling at an accelerated rate, we condone behavior which damages people repeatedly and promotes the illusion that they are loving people. This is sad.
As believers in Christ we are to know that through loving other believers God's love is perfected in us. It is a growth within us. Christ is grafted into us and then grows to become a larger, and larger part of us. The world needs to see this happening, it has seen it in the past but it needs to see it more today and into the future.
That is all for today, beloved. I hope that you are blessed with this blog and that it increases your faith and strengthens your walk with Christ. Until next we meet, grace and peace be yours!
Fri, Jul 30th - 9:49PM
I JOHN STUDY
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him(4:9).
How does God love us? It is not found in the natural world, that is full of cold harsh consequences. Pain and anguish await us out in the natural world. There is blood and sharp tooth, rending claws; that is nature revealed to us. Someone on Yahoo Answers has messaged back and forth with me the past few days and they are very upset over the fact that God has allowed nature to be so cruel and full of suffering. But that is simply the way sin has played out through our natural world. If one wishes to find out how god loves us one must venture over to the cross at Calvary. Golgotha is the place where the love of God toward mankind is manifested. God has already proven His love. He laid down His life for us, and that is the proof of His love. The apostle Paul wrote, "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die(Romans 5:7)." Could you get someone to willingly lay down their life for you? I think that I would have some trouble finding a person who would be willing to do that for me. But God did just that for everyone. He did that when we were still unlovely, and stained with sin. While we still refused to believe in Him, He laid down His life for us, unconditionally. Read Romans chapter five, the first eight verses and see God's love revealed. The explanation for this love is found within God and not in us; we are not lovely, and some of us do not seem likely to become lovely at any point in the near future.
"God sent His only begotten Son" is a verse that is pointed to again and again by those who wish to deny that Christ is God. "Only begotten Son" means to have a unique relationship with the Father. Christ was not created. God called His angels His sons, and he says that those who trust Christ are sons of God, but yet He says that the Lord Jesus is "the only begotten Son." The same phrase appears in the account of Abraham bringing Isaac up the mount to be sacrificed. Abraham already had a son in Ishmael. But Isaac had a unique relationship with his father, his birth was miraculous and he stood in a unique place of which his other siblings did not stand in. Christ's position in the Godhead is that of the eternal Son of the eternal Father. God is not a father in the sense that human being is a father. John 4:14 says that He is a Spirit. Others may be sons by creation but Jesus Christ alone is the unique Son.
How are we going to live through Him? We are going to live through Him because He died for us. His death opens the portal to give us new life. The hard part for many people is the fact that we must go through the cross in order to reach newness of life.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins(4:10).
John used this term, propitiation, in chapter two. There are two words translated as propitiation in the New Testament; here it is a predicate accusative in apposition with the Son. That is a mouth full, huh?
Propitiation means "mercy seat"; it is the same as the Old Testament atonement, meaning "to cover." In the tabernacle in the Holy of Holies there was the ark of the covenant. On top of the ark there was a highly ornamented(carved) lid crowned with two cherubim of solid gold, facing each other and looking down upon the thing, for it was all made of acacia wood, and covered inside and outside with gold. The lid was called the mercy seat. It was here that the nation of Israel met God in the person of the high priest. Once per year and only once , the high priest came into the Holy of Holies, bringing blood to be sprinkled on the mercy seat. That made it the seat of mercy because they could meet God only in that manner. God loved them, but He didn't just gush all over with love and tell people that they could come to Him any which way they desired. Holy, pure, God required sin to be dealt with in some fashion. On that great Day of Atonement, the high priest went in and sprinkled the shed blood on the mercy seat for the forgiveness of the sins of the nation of Israel.
Now Jesus Christ is the mercy seat for our sins. His blood covered the mercy seat to forgive all of our sins in order that we may approach God. He has therefore expiated our sins so that you and I can boldly come to God's throne of grace. That throne is now full of grace because there is mercy there for us.
I will continue this train of thought tomorrow. I wish all a grace-filled day, full of peace.
Fri, Jul 30th - 12:37PM
I SAMUEL STUDY
"The churches would soon be filled if outsiders could find that people in them loved them when they came. This love draws sinners! We must win them to us first, then we can win them to Christ. We must get people to love us, and then turn them over to Christ."
"I think that love is the only spiritual power that can overcome the self-centeredness that is inherent in being alive. Love is the thing that makes life possible or, indeed, tolerable."
There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside You: neither is there any rock like our God(2:2).
In the Old Testament God is spoken of as a "rock." In the New Testament Christ Jesus is spoken of as being "the chief corner stone." And in Matthew 16:18 Christ spoke of Himself when He said, "...upon this rock I will build My church." Clearly, Peter was never intended to become the "rock" upon which Christ's church was to be built. There is no rock like our God, including Peter. The Rock upon which Hannah rested is the same Rock upon which we rest today, beloved. The Rock has not changed.
Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed(2:3).
In coming before God in prayer we must always be sure that we do not allow our pride get in the way. We need to recognize our weakness, our insufficiency, and our inability, and the fact that we can't lay any claim on God. Why doesn't God hear our prayers sometimes? Why should He? Is He someone whom we can order around? We speak and He jumps? No, beloved, we do have a wonderful claim on God but only through Jesus Christ. Because of what Christ has done we are able to come to Him in the name of Jesus Christ. But, we must always remember that our prayers must be in accordance with His will, and not our will.
The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.
They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren has born seven; and she that has many children is waxed feeble.
The LORD kills, and makes alive: He brings down to the grave, and brings up(2:4-6).
The entire thought for this passage is that God gives life. Only God has the power to give life, and only He has the right to take it away. We do not have the power to give life and so, we do not have the right to take life away. God does not apologize for the fact that He intends to judge the wicked. They will go down into death and be eternally separated from God. God runs the universe that He created and He does so justly.
We see here in verse six a reference to the future work of Christ. The LORD allowed His Son to die but He also made Him alive once again. God brought Jesus down to the grave but He then raised Him up into newness of life. Just as He did with Christ so God does with each individual who accpets Christ as their LOED and Savior.
The LORD makes poor, and makes rich: He brings low, and lifts up(2:7).
This hatches a common question here: "Why are some people rich and some people poor?" I know that I would distribute the wealth a bit more evenly if I could and for sure there are many others who would heartily agree with me on this. End the suffering! But God did not leave this wealth issue in my hands, or in the hands of any other person. God also did not explain to us why He has allowed it to be distributed the way that it has. That is His business and He will explain it to us when we get to heaven, I will be patient and wait until then. God's ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts. As lofty and noble as my thoughts may become, they still fall far, far, short of God's thoughts.
He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and He has set the world upon them.
He will keep the feet of His saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail(2:8-9).
We, by our own effort, power, and abilities, can never accomplish anything for God. All believers must understand this fact. It is only when you and I do by the power of the Holy Spirit that godly things are accomplished and count for all eternity. We need to learn to be dependent upon Christ.
Verse eight highlights what was to happen when God manifested Himself in the flesh. Christ took people from out of being poor and allowed them to become a part of society. He healed beggars and brought them into the temple for the very first time. And He made all of them heirs to the throne of glory, joint heirs with Himself.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time we shall see what happens to our enemies/adversaries if we remain faithful to Christ and then we will find out what sort of persons the sons of Eli really were. Until then, grace and peace be with you, may God's mercy find you right where you are now.
Thu, Jul 29th - 8:20PM
I JOHN STUDY
They are of the world: therefore they speak of the world, and the world hears them(4:5).
False teachers do get a following, sometimes very large following. The cults are growing much faster than is Christianity. They appeal to the flesh and to lusts. It is wrong for Christians to resort to fleshly means to attract people to come to their church. God can't bless those methods. We must make sure that the Word of God is getting out, not the Word of Man. Purely resting upon numbers as an indicator of how successful your congregation is will mislead you and others. The message being given out is what is important. Is the Word of God being taught in the power of the Holy Spirit so that God can take it and use it? Sentimental appeals have no place in our pulpits. Are people coming to know Christ? Are we investing in teaching people about Christ and about how to live holy, godly lives? Is something happening in our church? God must be allowed to move and use people within the congregation to reach out and touch the hearts, and lives, of others.
In chapter three John used Cain and Abel as an illustration. It was not that Cain lacked religion; he did bring an offering. In fact, his offering probably was more attractive than Abel's. However, Abel's offering was accepted by God because it recognized the sin of man. Cain did not recognize that at all and could not comprehend why his offering was unacceptable to God. He was in the flesh and the flesh depends upon itself and not upon God.
John makes it abundantly clear that the important thing is that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be, and that is the thing that we need to be very clear on in order to determine whether a teaching is true or false.
We are of God: he that knows God hears us; he that is not of God does not hear us. Hereby we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error(4:6).
I suppose that we could consider using our Bible as a geiger counter. The geiger counter detects the presence of radioactive substances and the Bible can detect the presence of God's people and the presence of Satan's people as well. Preach the message in the Bible and God' people will hear it, Satan's people will not. The Christian ministry does not depend upon those who can not hear God's message. God's people are to support God's work. The Ark of the Covenant was carried on the shoulders of the priests of Israel. The ark speaks of Christ, and if we are to take Him to the world, we must carry Him on our shoulders as well.
John was absolutely sure of who Jesus Christ was since he witnessed Him doing His work among the people of Israel. He knew that Christ came from heaven to dwell with man so that man could behold His glory. John had seen the evidence which proved to him beyond any doubt that Christ was God and that He had come to redeem sinners from their sin. That is the message which must be trumpeted from every pulpit, every classroom, of every congregation around the world.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God(4:7).
Why love one another? Because love is of God. Refuse to love others and you are not of God. We need to be very careful in this. False teachers are not to be loved nor prayed for; unless the prayer is for their eyes to be opened to the truth that Christ is God. John has given us the warning about false teachers and now he returns to speaking to believers about how to behave towards one another.
Once again, this is not erotic love but unconditional love that John speaks of here. It is agape love, a supernatural love. It is what the Holy Spirit places within our heart and only He can make it real to us. This verse gets misused by many a false teacher in order to mislead the unsure. Believers are those persons who love other believers and wish the best for them. They look out for their best interests. They put others needs ahead of their own. That is love and it is evidence of real born again children of God.
He that does not love does not know God; for God is love(4:8).
"God is love." This is an attribute of God. It is part of Him, can't be separated out. It is as much a part of God as is omnipotence and omniscience. All of His attributes work in unity of purpose, they never trump one another.
This is another test for determining whether someone is saved or not. A very simple question: Do you love other believers in Christ? This is sticking point in my conversations with lost people who accuse me of hating on Catholics. They say this whenever I point out some very questionable practices within the denomination. I am not hating anyone, I am merely pointing out errors between their practices and what the Bible teaches. That would be like accusing a teacher in the public classroom of hating on his/her students every time that she corrected their errors. Correction to the truth would never happen at that rate. I simply wish to get people to the point of considering what is truth, according to the Word of God.
Do I love all of the believers in Christ? Yes! I can't love just the ones that I like, or just the ones who are rich, or just the ones who vote the same as I do. I must love all of them: the good, the bad , and the ugly. Sorry for the Clint Eastwood dig.
John gives us three definitions of God in this epistle of his: (1) God is light; (2) God is love; and (3) God is life, which we shall see in chapter five. In The Epistles of John Dr. H. A. Ironside wrote:
"Years ago a lady who prided herself on belonging to the intelligentsia said to me, "I have no use for the Bible, for Christian superstition, and religious dogma. It is enough for me to know that God is love." "Well," I said, "do you know it?" "Why of course I do," she said; "we all know that, and that is religion enough for me. I do not need the dogmas of the Bible." "How did you find out that God is love?" I asked. "Why," she said, "everybody knows that." "Do they know it yonder in India?" I asked. "That poor mother in her distress throwing her little babe into the holy Ganges to be eaten by filthy and repulsive crocodiles as a sacrifice for her sins---does she know that God is love?" "Oh, well, she is ignorant and superstitious," she replied. "Those poor wretched negores in the jungles of Africa, bowing down to gods of wood and stone, and in constant fear of their fetishes, the poor heathen in other countries, do they know that God is love?" "Perhaps not," she said, "bt in a civilized land we all know it." "But how is it that we know it? Who told us so? Where did we find it out?" "I do not understand what you mean," she said, "for I've always known it." "Let me tell you this," I answered; "no one in the world ever knew it until it was revealed from heaven and recorded in the Word of God. It is here and nowhere else. It is not found in all the literature of the ancients."
We must understand how we have come to know that God is love. It is from nowhere else but the Word of God itself. God is revealed to us in the recorded words of the Bible and no where else. We can find evidences of Him in the natural world around us. But He does not reveal Himself to us there. He chose to do so through the Bible.
That is all for tonight, my friends. God willing, I will cover the next few verses tomorrow evening where we shall find how God manifested this love for us. We shall also find why we ought to love others. Until then, grace and peace be unto you all.
Thu, Jul 29th - 1:02PM
I SAMUEL STUDY
"If there is no God, it would be necessary to invent Him."
Now to finish up chapter one.
And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child was young.
And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.
And she said, Oh my lord, as your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman that stood by you here, praying to the LORD.
For this child I prayed; and the LORD has given me my petition which I asked of Him:
Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there(1:24-28).
Hannah did not forget her vow to God. She kept her word and brought her son to serve God for the remainder of his life. The use of the word "lent" poorly describes this woman's gesture to God. Her son was given to the use of God and it was irrevocable for all intents and purposes. Notice this transaction between Hannah and God still involved a blood sacrifice, this time a bullock. Separation from the world and service to God involves a price. It is why we are repeatedly told to count the cost before we decide to accept Christ, or before we decide to have children, or before we decide to begin a work for Christ. What will be the cost, and can we finish what we have begun?
And thus Samuel enters into service of the LORD at Shiloh and sets into motion the eventual selection of a king.
Chapter two's theme contains Hannah's prophetic prayer, Eli's evil sons who are judged, and the young boy Samuel in the tabernacle.
And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoices in the LORD, my strength is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over my enemies; because I rejoice in Your salvation(2:1).
Hannah's prayer of thanksgiving is prophetic since she mentions "salvation" which in the distant future came via the Messiah, a Son. The word represented by "strength" is horn. Horn is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to represent powerful rulers, or even kingdoms. Hannah rejoices over the fact that God has given her a son making her victorious over those who have denigrated her, ridiculed her, spoken to her viciously and wickedly. And she rejoices in her salvation. She has been delivered from out of her state of barrenness and has become a mother. She has been heard by God.
I have written previously that salvation comes in three tenses. (1) We have been saved. "Truly, truly, I say to you, He that hears My word, and believes on Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death into life(John 5:24)." This means that God has delivered us from death into life eternal by the death of Christ. This is justification, and it is past tense. (2) We are being saved. God also delivered us from what could be called "the pollution of sin." This remains present tense. It is a deliverance from the weaknesses of our flesh, the sins of our flesh, the faults of our mind, and the actions of our will. It is the deliverance of which Hannah speaks here. This is sanctification, and is in the present tense as mentioned. (3) Lastly there is the deliverance from death in the future---not physical, but spiritual death. We shall be saved. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is(I John 3:2)." This is future deliverance from spiritual death. That will be glorification, for we shall become like Christ in bodily form.
Jonah said, "Salvation is of the LORD(2:9)." The Psalms repeat over and over again that salvation is of the LORD. And the great truth of salvation is that it is by the grace of God. We have been justified freely by His glorious grace. God found nothing in us to merit salvation. He found the reason within Himself: He loves us unconditionally.
This is a good point at which to stop for today, beloved.
Wed, Jul 28th - 7:42PM
I JOHN STUDY
Hereby you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God(4:2).
How are we to distinguish, to know, who is a genuine believer in Christ? We are given the means right here in this verse. Everyone who confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is of God. Everyone who denies that Christ has come in the flesh is not born again and not a Christian, despite anything that they may claim. This is where it all begins; in Bethlehem. Christ was born in Bethlehem, the incarnation of God in the flesh starts right there in that manger. Calvary and the Tomb are meaningless, pointless, unless He is the God-man. The false teachers deny the deity of Christ, making Him either another prophet or an angel. They can't avoid the denial of Him being who He said He was. These people may very well speak glowingly about Jesus, about how remarkable a young man he was and that he was a superior child born into this world. They will say that he was a religious genius. They will admit that he had a greater knowledge of God than any other man before him. But they will never admit that Jesus was God in the flesh.
John spoke of "the Word" in his gospel. The Word was God, and He created all things, nothing that was created was created by anyone except God. God became flesh. Deny the incarnation, the Deity of Christ, then you deny His work upon the cross because all of it depends upon who He is. Jesus Christ may be spoken of glowingly, but what do they think of Him? Is He God, or is He just another man?
John is dealing with the early heresy of Gnosticism, one of the sects of which said that Christ came upon Jesus at His baptism and left Him at Calvary. That is nice. But that is not what the Bible teaches us. The Word of God says that that baby in Bethlehem was more than a remarkable baby, that His death upon the cross was not an ordinary death, and that when He arose from the dead, He rose bodily from the dead. Romans 4:25 is very clear about this. The prophet Isaiah wrote, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given...(9:6)." You see, the child is born but the Son is given. The Son came from out of eternity, He is the Ancient of Days, but the child, His humanity was conceived in the virgin Mary's womb. He came forth in due time in Bethlehem where a few shepherds came to witness the infant child. The wise men arrived later when He was somewhat older and gave gifts to the new King. Jesus was the precious Prince of Peace who made peace by the blood of His cross and some day shall bring peace to this war-torn world of ours in which we live. So let's find out what a person believes about Jesus Christ for that's what all the arguments end up being about.
And every spirit that doesn't confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world(4:3).
Here again John mentions the antichrist. If I am correct, John is the only one who mentions him by this name. John spoke about this person back in chapter two. In that chapter the mark of an antichrist person was if they denied the Father and the Son; of course they are both God and thus that person would be denying God outright.
Antichrist means both against Christ and imitating Christ. Many have, and will continue to come in the name of Christ to deceive many. Some times they claim to actually be Christ Himself. Other times they simply twist the truth of God's Word enough to make it untrue in certain aspects. That is what Satan did to Eve and to Adam in the Garden of Eden.
In Revelation 13 we are presented with two beasts of the End Times. The first beast is the great political ruler, who is coming--Antichrist to rule the world, a world dictator. Then there is a religious ruler who is coming, and he is called the false prophet. He will cause the world to worship the first beast. He will come to us like a lamb, but underneath he is a wolf; he will imitate Christ. These two men will claim that Christ has finally come to the world to bring peace. It will be a very compelling imitation of Jesus Christ that they present to the world at large, one that will fool most everyone.
All of our present day civilization is building towards the coming of this Antichrist. One world government is a precursor. The merging of all of the Christian denominations in the current "unity" movement is possibly another precursor. More and more talk is heard about the need for world peace at any cost. The climate is appearing which will support one man to step forward and fill that void globally.
Some scholars say that these first six verses of chapter four are a parenthesis. Whatever they might be, they most certainly are a red light flashing, a stop sign, for believers in order that we not cruise right on by them and not stop and consider what is contained in their words. We need to always remember that love must be exercised with judgment and knowledge. We must love other believers but first we must determine if they are true to God's Word, or not. In John's day there were Docetic and Cerinthian Gnostics who denied the humanity of Christ, and in doing this they also denied the deity of Christ. These sorts of attacks go on still today.
There are too many believers who fall victim to the "latest fads and spiritualistic humbuggery" as Dr. A. T. Robertson has called it in the past. It still goes on today. So John gives us this warning. Do not tell me that the Virgin Birth is not important. Do not tell me that the shedding of Christ's blood is not important. Do not tell me that His resurrection from the dead is not important. When you destroy any of these things you destroy the Christian faith. This is why Christ's birth often is the focal point of the denials, destroy that and you have a domino effect with everything else.
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world(4:4).
Some people feel that this speaks of the spiritual man versus the carnal man. But it does not address that. True believers in Christ have God's Holy Spirit dwelling within them and He is more powerful than Satan who is in the world around them. That is what is being discussed here. True, those who have Satan influencing them in all that they do are living carnally and are out to satisfy their fleshly lusts. But they are not the "one" who is in the world, that "one" is none other than Satan. Satan is the ruler of the world at this point in time, he pulls the spiritual strings of governments and their leaders. He attempts to dictate cultural revolutions in his favor. I Corinthians 6:19 tells us all about how we are not the owners of our bodies once we accept Christ. Our bodies become the temple for the Spirit of God. Paul wasn't speaking to super saints, he was talking to you and me. Every child of God is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
This is why you and I do not need any angel to come down and tell us all about the Bible. The Holy Spirit is fully able to teach us what we need to know about things written in the Bible. John tells us that we can test the teachings of all men. It is like putting litmus paper into any liquid to find out if it is acidic or alkaline. Does the teaching deny the incarnation of Christ? Many of those who teach falsely possess charismatic personalities and they make a carnal appeal to people. They may intertwine faith plus works to gain salvation, or promote prosperity salvation.
That is all for tonight, beloved. Tomorrow I hope to cover the next three to five verses. We shall see how it goes since there is much to talk about with these verses. Grace be yours, may you experience the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding!
Wed, Jul 28th - 12:26PM
I SAMUEL STUDY
"Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it."
And Eli said unto her, How long will you be drunk? put away your wine from yourself.
And Hannah answered and said, No, my Lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD(1:14-15).
I hope that I do some "thinking" today. How many people do you know who pray like Hannah was doing here? This woman bared her soul before God in prayer. Would people think that you and I were drunk if we prayed in such fashion? Perhaps, at the least they would wonder what in the world was wrong with us. Too many times our prayers remain very dignified. Hannah did not want Eli to have the wrong idea about her:
Count not your handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken up to this time.
Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant you your petition that you have asked of Him.
And she said, Let your handmaid find grace in your sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad(1:16-18).
Finally, Eli gains some comprehension of what is going on with this woman and gives Hannah a prophetic blessing. Obviously Hannah believed that her petition would be honored by God once the high priest spoke in such fashion to her. She wasn't depressed anymore, she went home and resumed eating food, she looked happier.
And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her.
Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD(1:19-20).
So Hannah is feeling better, probably looking much better, and the very next morning after returning from worshipping at the tabernacle she and her husband have an intimate interlude and she conceives a son. God remembered her request. It isn't like God did not know what she desired, He knows everything. But it drives home the point that God does respond to our prayers.
Hannah names her son Samuel, which means "heard of God." She never wanted to forget how her son came to her. So a godly woman cries out unto God and He responds. The Israelites, as a people, are also crying out for a king so that they may be like all of the other peoples living all around them. They wanted to "fit in" with their neighbors. Has anything changed in all of the centuries that have since passed? Nothing changes. So, Israelites desire a king, Hannah desires a son, and God builds a throne on this woman's cry. A woman takes her exalted place before God, and God builds her a throne.
What a contrast this is with our contemporary society here in America. All we have heard for the past thirty to forty years is abort unwanted babies! Here is Hannah who wants a child, and there are women today who do not want any child to get in the way of their lifestyle and pleasure. Sure there are abortions being done solely with the welfare of the mother's health in question. But there are far too many abortions driven solely by personal selfishness. The issue today is that people want to sin, but they do not want to pay the consequences for their sin. Be sexually permiscuous and a child is conceived, that child should be born and should be the responsibility of those who brought the child into this world through their actions. We need to understand this principle: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap(Galatians 6:7)." Men and women must live by this rule. We are living in a day of convenience abortion. Hannah lived in a day when she wanted a son, and she dedicated that son to the LORD. God heard her cry and He built a kingdom upon that cry. Did she expect such a blessing? No, but she received abundantly upon asking God to help her in her day of despair. We must not forget that lesson in all that is going on here. Ask and you shall receive.
And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.
But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever.
And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seems good to you; tarry until you have weaned him; only the LORD establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him(1:21-23).
Elkanah wished to go up to the tabernacle and offer up to God his annual sacrifice for sins in the past year. Hannah remained behind for their son was still nursing. She well remembered her vow to God, that she would give the boy into the service of God from infancy. Her husband, having gained new wisdom regarding his second wife whom he loved, deferred to her discernment in this matter. Elkanah obviously was a man who honored God in most things. He clearly understood what was at stake in lending his son to God's service and did not wish to stand in the way.
Next time I shall finish up this opening chapter of I Samuel. We shall witness this godly woman honor her vows before God and not go back on her word. I would point out to everyone that it is much worse to open one's mouth and promise God something that you will never follow through on rather than never promising Him anything. I hope and pray that you will return, beloved, and continue on this journey through God's Word with me. We are going to discover a wonerful prayer that can be used by us today. Grace and peace be yours this wonderful day!
Tue, Jul 27th - 8:48PM
Study in I John
This chapter four is very important, but I do not wish to go off the deep end and become even remotely fanatical. Too many Christians today remain preoccupied with the occult which is a dangerous thing, but we must know that the Bible says about it.
We must therefore pay attention to first six verses in this chapter for John gives us a warning against false teachers, false prophets. This warning comes on the heels of John establishing the fact that we have been given the Holy Spirit of God and that we have been given an anointing to understand the things of God. And so we read very carefully these verses.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world(4:1).
This verse ushers us into the world of the spirits, and our Bible has quite a lot to say about it. In Psalms 104:4, "Who makes His angels spirits; His ministers a flaming fire." That is quoted in Hebrews 1:7, "And of the angels He says, Who makes His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire." A little further along in that chapter of Hebrews we find, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation(1:14)?" I have never knowingly seen an angel, although I truly believe that an angel saved my life one night. This verse is what forced me to consider the possibility, and once all other possibilities had been exhausted to explain the event in question, I had to admit to myself that an angel must have been involved. This happened before I accepted Christ, which is what this verse speaks about. God sends His holy angels out to minister to those people who will one day become saved.
Once we are saved we have the Holy Spirit within us, what improvement can an angel provide us then? It would thus seem that we need to put the emphasis upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives once we are saved and not upon angels.
Not only are there good angels who serve God, but there are also fallen angels who follow Satan. All are spirits. The gospels speak a great deal about the fact that there were "unclean spirits" in Christ's day. We would call it demonism; the Scriptures call them demons.
Believers are warned to put on the whole armor of God because we are in a huge battle which is beyond the flesh, a battle that is a spiritual battle for our souls. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places." As the verse suggests, Satan has demons/fallen angels organized into groups which are entrenched in world government. Satan has influence in a multitude of places over a multitude of people. The sad part about it is that most of the people are not even aware of being pawns in a bigger game.
God tells us to not automatically believe every spirit but to try them and discover if they are of God. I simply shake my head in disbelief at the numbers of people who think that they have seen the Virgin Mary, or Jesus, all around the world. Have they not read their Bibles and understood that Jesus is not going to show Himself to only small groups of people when He returns? When He returns everyone on earth shall know and shall see Him in all of His glory. Mary is dead and her spirit is not roaming around on this earth of ours. She is with all other spirits who are to ultimately reach heaven, she does not appear before people today to speak with them, or to deliver special messages. These apparitions are not of God, beloved. They are of Satan, to mislead and estrange people from the true faith of Christ our Lord.
We have moved from a time when the supernatural was ridiculed to a day when Satan is openly worshiped and throngs of people search to find a way to communcate with the dead. It takes place on university campuses, and also in churches.
Some spooky things have happened in the recent past. The author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach, said that a voice dictated the book to him and that it was not his own style of writing. The theme of the novel is quite unChristian in that it surmises that birth, sin, sickness, and death are not realities but only illusions, and that biblical sins are really virtues, and that freedom is freedom to do what ever one pleases. It is not a new concept, it is an age-old concept just packaged in a new format.
More and more, we are witnessing an ever increasing manifestation of demonism today and it is all around us. It is weird that this would happen in our materialistic culture that once upon a time would have absolutely nothing to do with the supernatural. Today many young people continue to go off the deep end into this because they never have had any Bible teaching which warns against opening up something of which you have absolutely no control over.
John has been speaking to us, God's children. He has been telling us how we are to love one another and to help each other, but we still must be careful. Paul wrote to the Philippians, "And this i pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment(Philippians 1:9)." Yes, it is wonderful to love, but you and I are living in a big, mean, wicked world, and this world does not care about us. It will take us in and deceive us. Liberals focus too much on the lovey-dovey aspect of things and choose to ignore the other side of the coin. Paul prayed for the believers in Philippi to abound in knowledge and judgment. We must know enough to effectively judge whether or not to believe everything which we see and hear. There are wolves in sheep's clothing intermingling with the flock of believers today, readying themselves for a feeding frenzy.
All the talk about faith healers makes me smile. Most wish people to donate money to their ministry after being healed. If they were of God, would they really be asking to get paid for their services? I would imagine that they would be traveling America from hospital to hospital healing patients everywhere that they could in service to Christ. But that is not happening, is it?
There are very many "teachers" afoot today of whom the child of God must beware. The internet has only accelerated the onslaught of false teaching and not eliminated it. Too many so-called prophets are saying more than the Bible says, so we must be careful. They may not really be teaching the Word of God even though they carry a great big Bible and preach to a huge congregation.
That is all for tonight, my friends. God willing, I shall continue on with this study tomorrow. May you walk in the light, and may truth and wisdom abound in your life's choices.
Tue, Jul 27th - 10:45AM
Here are some thoughts to ponder during today's slower moments.
"Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.
~Charles H. Spurgeon
"Whatever is only almost true is quite false, and among the most dangerous of errors, because being so near truth, it is the more likely to lead astray."
~Henry Ward Beecher
"Will a Man Rob God? Everyone receives an equal supply of time. The only difference between us is in the way we spend it. Each week brings us 168 golden hours. We spend approximately 56 hours for sleep and recuperation. We spend approximately 28 hours for eating and personal duties. We spend approximately 40 to 50 ours for earning a living.
We have 30 to 40 hours left to spend just as we wish. But how do we spend them? How many hours for recreation? How many hours for family worship? How many hours for the regular worship of God? How many hours for personal service in the name of Christ?
Will a man rob God? He can; and he does. Perhaps we may be very busy with good things, yet be too busy for the best things. The geat question is: Have we made wise use of our time as good stewards of Christ?"
That last paragraph reminds me of what Jesus Christ said to Martha when she complained to Him about Mary just sitting around and listening to Him while Martha busied herself around the house getting things ready. Just what are the "best things" in which we ought to be investing ourselves in? I know for a fact that I steal time away from Christ. Some days it is almost unavoidable. Other days it is selfishness. The scarey aspect of it is that I do not even consciously think about doing it! That old nature! Have a wonderful day serving Christ!
Mon, Jul 26th - 9:10PM
I John Study
For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things(3:20).
Suppose we are not doing what we ought to be? Does that mean that we have lost our salvation or that we did not have it to begin with? John tells us here that God is greater and knows what is truly in our heart, even if we are blind to it. We do not lose our salvation, our lack of assurance is not greater than God. God is going to hear our prayer, and if we fail Him He won't fail us. isn't that great? There have been many times when I have come to the Lord in prayer and felt that I had nothing to bring before Him, that I had done nothing worthy of Him. But He still hears, and listens, to my prayers and then answers them according to His will. When you are feeling down, that is the time when you need to kneel in prayer before God and ask Him to help you up.
Beloved, if our heart doesn't condemn us, then we have confidence toward God(3:21).
See, if our heart is assured of doing God's works then we are not condemned by it. We then have confidence towards God. This condition leads to effective, fervent prayer that gets results. We must pray boldly, thanking God for blessing us so abundantly and then asking Him to fulfill our needs. We need to ask Him to be a part of our decision making process before we begin new projects, both at home and at church. Men in every church must get together and pray together on a regular basis, bathing all activities of the congregation in prayer, asking the Father in heaven to bless and enable those efforts. Praise/worship teams must pray before each service, dedicating their efforts to the effective transmission of God's message to those who need to hear it on that particular day. They need to ask God to sing through their voices, reaching the hearts of those who need spiritual encouragement, or healing.
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight(3:22).
When our life is pleasing to God we can fully expect Him to hear and answer our prayers. The apostle Peter was chained up in a dark dungeon but all of the brethren were fervently praying for God to free him from prison and return Peter to them. God heard their prayers and proceeded to answer their prayers before they were even done doing so. They were shocked at the quickness. During the early persecution of the church the people went to the Lord in prayer. They did not ask Him to stop the persecution per se, they began their prayers as shown in Acts 4:24. It is something which is absent in our prayers today. People are forgetting that God does run this entire universe and sustains it with His awesome power. God is in charge.
And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment(3:23).
We can't say that we believe in Christ and then not love one another. We cannot go around back-stabbing other believers, or spread ugly rumors about someone else in order to discredit them so that we can get their position within the church. That is wrong, and does not show we love our brethren. Our love must be seen in our life. It will be expressed through genuine concern for other individuals. You will not engage in gossip, or offending others. This then is one of those commandments of Christ's of which we must obey, there is no room for negotiation.
And he that keeps His commandments dwells in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He remains in us, by the Spirit which He has given us(3:24).
God's Holy Spirit verifies all of these things to our hearts if we have not grieved Him. Refuse to do His holy will and we grieve the Spirit of God within us. The mark that you and I are a child of God is that we are indwelt by the Spirit of God, and it is the Holy Spirit who will verify these things and make them real to our heart.
This completes our study of chapter three of I John. The next chapter has a theme of warning against false teachers, God is love, and that little children will love each other. It may prove to be a rather difficult passage of God's Word for we will be dealing with the spirit world. Another reason is that we are going to be in Satan's territory. Satan never likes anyone to stick their noses into his business, he prefers to work unnoticed and unseen.
So I look forward to blogging on this when we meet next. Grace and peace be yours! May God watch over you all as you go about your daily business. May He enable you to meet the needs of people within your congregations where ever you may be on this planet. May you extend hospitality to strangers, not knowing if you are entertaining angels.
Mon, Jul 26th - 1:43PM
I Samuel Study
And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb(1:6).
Who was Hannah's adversary? None other than Peninnah, Elkanah's other wife. Obviously no kind words were uttered by Peninnah. God approves of having two, or more, wives? I am afraid not. This trio were having family troubles, and they had no counselor to go to for help. Hannah probably was a very miserable person at this time, but guess what? She went to God in prayer.
And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why do you weep? and why do you not eat? and why is your heart grieved? aren't I better to you than ten sons?
So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD.
And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD, and wept bitterly.
And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget Your handmaid, but will give unto Your handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head(1:7-11).
"She was in bitterness of soul" amply describes Hannah's deep disappointment in not having produced a son for her husband. Elkanah didn't recognize the issue at work here. It went right over his head folks. So Hannah prayed to God for a son and she promised God two things if her request was granted: (1) the boy would be a priest in the Levitical service all the days of his life, and (2) she would make him a Nazarite unto God; he would be separated to the service of God. Think that not having a son was important to this woman? It sure was important. She would give him to the complete service to God, from when he was a child all through his adulthood. Oh, that more of us would be so determined to offer up one or more of our children to something akin to this! What mighty things they might accomplish in the name of the Lord!
And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth.
Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken(1:12-13).
Eli was the high priest and he saw this distraught woman come to the tabernacle to pray. He obviously watched her intently, saw her lips move, but no voice could he hear coming from her. Apparantly he could not read her lips either. What conclusion did he leap to? She must be drunk! Eli witnessed both of his sons get drunk and get rowdy so he made an assumption. What a statement about the condition of the service of God! Fleshly, carnal desires being catered to and fulfilled. Not very godly behavior at all. Eli was a man of God, but he was an indulgent father and it had led to the corruption of both of his sons. The tabernacle was not a safe place to go and worship God at. It had been defiled, corrupted.
Next time, beloved, I will show you Eli's response to Hannah's fervent praying at the tabernacle. Come back and witness his words as opens a dialogue with this miserable woman who was without child.
Sun, Jul 25th - 3:56PM
Study in I John
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren(3:16).
I haven't yet come up to that level in my own life. Do you know many people who would put their lives down on the line for you? How many of us would be willing to put our lives on the line for someone else? This sort of spirit is not visible much in our world today. This spirit is not manifested as prominently as it it ought to be. And yet, I am touched by those kind souls who went day after day to visit a dear saint of Christ as he lay unconscious in a nursing home bed. They went to read God's Word to him, talk to him of things going on in the congregation, and to pray with him and over him. All of them deeply wished him to recover and come back to spend more time with all of us. I don't know if any of them wished that they could take upon themselves the illness of which he suffered from. When a person has a disease, that is a case where every man bears his/her own burden and no one else is able to pick it up and carry it for that person. But we ought to want to accept their burden as our own in order to free them from it.
Here is the real proof that God loves us. He gave His Son to die for us. That is the one and only standard and John says therefore we should be willing to lay down our own lives for other believers in Christ. Until we reach that level, we are not exhibiting the love that we ought to have for the brethren of faith. But how does this love work itself out?
But whoso has this world's good, and sees his brother having need, and shuts his heart of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him(3:17)?
Love is not a sentiment, it is that which expresses itself in actions. James also had a great deal to say about this in his epistle. He wrote, "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say to them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding you give don't give them those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit(James 2:15-16)?" When a brother or sister of the faith comes to us and they are in obvious need we can't simply tell them that we shall pray for them and then send them on their way. It will be tragic to leave this life only to find out that we misused the goods that God had given to us. When the less fortunate are in need within our congregations we must provide for them as best we can, to do less is to show our lack of love for our brethren.
Real love gets into action. We always see it in a home where there is love between a man and a woman, but what about the love between believers? It ought to start doing something one for another. Until love is in action between believers there is only hypocrisy. My love for the brethren is expressed by what I do for them, not by what I say. Our tongues are very good at running, too bad our feet do not follow suit. But true Christianity, the real item, is a matter of the heart and not of the head or the tongue.
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth(3:18).
Self-sacrificing love is required of us as beleivers. It may not be necessary to give our lives, but it is necessary to give of our substance to those who are in need.
And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him(3:19).
When our lives manifest these things we will have an assurance when we come before God in prayer. It has been made plain that it is possible to be ashamed at the appearing of Christ. There is all sorts of talk about the second coming of Christ, but they don't seem to be doing anything. When we come before Christ He is going to ask us what we have done. Have we kept His commandments? Have we gotten His Word out to the crowds? Have we fed those who have been in dire need? Have we helped rebuild peoples' homes after natural catastrophes and/or fires? These are actions which we need to be involved in regularly.
Pretty much gone are the days when the neighbors come and pitch in to help one of their other neighbors whose husband or wife has fallen deathly ill and cannot do anything around the home anymore. We expect agencies, and bureaucracies to meet these needs. It effectively has ended the era of community togetherness across America. We must not lose this facet of Christian life. Too many Christians are not involved in the very thing/s that God is interested in and are unaware of the fact that they shall be required to provide an accounting before Him oneday.
Whether I am rich or poor, am I using my God-given substance to get the Word of God into the hands of people who are lost? If so, God gives me assurance in my heart that I am in His will and that I am doing the thing He wants done. This is how i feel about this blog. I have an assurance down deep in my heart that this is God's will. I am assured each time that I go before God in prayer, whether in private or in public.
Well, that is all for today, beloved. I hope that each of you are able to reach that point of assurance. It is a wonderful feeling! Next time I shall try to finish up this chapter in I John. Peace be with each of you the remainder of this day!
Sat, Jul 24th - 2:10PM
I John Study
For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another(3:11).
The beginning gets spoken of rather frequently in this epistle of John's. The beginning is the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
This is a repetition of what Christ had told His disciples as seen in John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another." Love of each believer for other believers is to be the hallmark of our lives. This message was not new, they had been hearing this from day one. Christ Jesus taught this message and the apostles all taught this exact same message. Christians need to learn to love one another unconditionally, it is woefully lacking in today's church.
Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And why did he slay him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous(3:12).
Cain and Abel were blood brothers of Adam and Eve. Cain killed his brother with malice and forethought. Cain's problem wasn't his brother, it was his sin in the forms of jealousy and envy. Jealousy is a term that misleads many people today due to its current use in society. Cain did not doubt his brothers fidelity, he wished that he had his brother's sacrifice. Envy is probably the term which many of us today can more easily understand. Our dictionaries give these two words as being synonyms but our world does not utilize them as much that way anymore.
Envy then, that is what characterized Cain. He was envious of what his brother had, of what his brother had done, and it led to murder. Rather than change within himself in order to become like his brother Abel, Cain opted for the much easier solution of murdering his brother and eliminate competition and stress. And this feeling of envy comes from within our hearts.
Here is our definition of envy: "discontent or uneasiness at the sight of another's excellence or good fortune, accompanied with some degree of hatred and a desire to possess equal advantages." I can not be envious of a woman's beauty or another man's courage. I can be envious of another person's home, occupation, reputation, and achievements. I will then desire to have that which I do not personally have.
These two feelings probably hurt the cause of Christ in our world more than anything else. A great deal of backstabbing that goes on in many congregations has its root in jealousy and envy.
Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hates you(3:13).
Do not be surprised when the unbelieving world begins hating you for declaring yourself for Christ. It hated Christ first, and it will hate every god-fearing person until He returns again. This is not my opinion, and it is not John's either. It is what Christ said in John 15:18-19.
Surprisingly, this remains an issue for too many people in the ministry. Being a minister isn't about popularity. It is about serving God and others. Pastors who do not bring the gospel message to the congregation and to unbelievers are "dropping the ball." There is sorrow in heaven each time that they do not present God's message to people who do not believe in Christ.
We, as children of God, must recognize that the world will hate us. There is an offense of the Cross, but we should guard against magnifying the offense by making ourselves objectionable and obnoxious. Too many Christians do this, and they are rejected, not because they are Christians but because they are simply obnoxious.
We know that we have passed from death into life, because we love the brethren. He that does not love his brother remains in death(3:14).
If we love the brethren of believers in Christ then we know that we are a child of God. The idea that no one can know they are saved is false. The Word of God tells us that we can know that we have passed from death into life. There should be no uncertainty in our minds over this point.
I remember one married woman who came to my wife and confided in her that she felt about me like I was one of her brothers, that I would look out for best interests. That made me and my wife quite happy for it had been difficult to gauge at times what she and her husband thought about others. I would have to guess that it came about due to the fact that I genuinely liked her and her family and did want the best for them in all things. I had prayed with her husband on at least one occasion at a Saturday men's prayer meeting. There obviously had been shown a love for other believers that they had been able to see.
This is what John is talking about here. Do you love other Christians? When you meet around the person of Christ, when you talk about Christ with other people who are believers, you have a brother or sister, beloved.
Then we observe that there are those who have no concern for the children of God. If they profess to be Christians and yet are unconcerned about their fellow believers in Christ, then I must say that they are still in death and have not been given newness of life through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. They pay lip service to God but their hearts remain far away from Him. If they only wish to associate with those types of people whom they highly esteem then they at best are poor Christians and at worst they are not Christians at all. Why do I enjoy going to men's retreats, bible conferences, and district conferences? Because when there I bump into people who love other believers. I am able to observe and listen to people who love Christ as much as I do, if not even more than I do. We can fellowship together around Christ and share with each other. Visible proof of salvation abounds all around me at these gatherings and fills my heart with joy.
Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him(3:15).
John quotes God. In Matthew 5:21-22 Christ said, "You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say to you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Christ said that if you or I have hatred in our heart toward a brother it means that you are a murderer. Envy and jealousy invariably lead to hatred, and hatred is murder. Think that we have a great many murderers around the world today? I think so. By this standard given by God there are many more murderers out of jail than behind bars in jail.
Of course, this verse does not teach us that actual murderers can't be saved. However, when a man is saved by Christ he will no longer live in hatred for he will leave that trait behind him with his old life.
Remember, John's emphasis has been that the two natures of the believer are at odds with each other. The new nature is the only one that can please God. Man in his natural state is unable to please God; the carnal mind is enmity(mutual hatred or ill will)against God. So, there are times as believers when we feel like praying, and there are time when we do not feel like praying. Which is true of the believer? Prone to wander in self-will or prone to worship God? I think the Bible clearly teaches us that it is both. As a believer I have a nature that is prone to wander and I have a nature that is prone to worship God. As a child of God I need to show that nature which is prone to worship God, my new nature in Christ.
That is all for today, my friends. Next time, God willing, I will move on to verses 16-19 and we will find some more assurances given to the believer in Christ. I hope that you return to gain some more understanding. I know that I have learned many things during the course of this ongoing study and I hope that you do too.
Fri, Jul 23rd - 11:08AM
It is time to begin a new study. This one is in the Old Testament in the book of I Samuel. The prophet Samuel was not the sole author of this book as his death is recorded in the 25th chapter of this book as well as in I Chronicles 29:29. In this book, and the next, we are to meet some outstanding people: Hannah, Eli, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, and David. Their lives provide us with many insights into how we ought to live our lives.
Prayer is one theme found in this first book of Samuel as is the rise of the kingdom of Israel. We will learn of the change in governmental form of Israel from a theocracy to a kingdom and the impact of that change.
The rise of the kingdom is quite important. It's origin is recorded here and it becomes a very important subject throughout the Old Testament and the New. The first message in Matthew comes from the lips of John the Baptist about the "kingdom of heaven being at hand." This kingdom has a king, has subjects who are real people, and it has an earthly tie.
God changed Israel's form of government because of the failure of the priesthood. God set aside the priests as His means of governing and speaking to the people and raised up the prophets as His messengers. The theocracy was not functioning properly as the priests failed in their duty to God and so God listened to the people and gave them a king, Saul.
It is possible to see a foreshadowing of the coming millennial kingdom in the books of Samuel. In the setting up of the kingdom of Israel we can see three things that our world today still needs: (1) a king with power who exercises that power in righteousness; (2) a king who will rule in full dependence upon God; and (3) a king who will rule in full obedience to God. The Lord Jesus Christ, the returning King of kings, is what this world so desparately needs today.
So join me in this study. Let's discover some truths in the Words of God.
Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:
And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children(1:1-2).
This first chapter opens up with us looking upon Hannah, a childless woman betrothed to Elkanah. He had two wives. No, God did not "accept" this situation nor did He approve of it. The mere fact of certain things being recorded in Scripture does not mean that God sanctions them. God simply gives us the facts concerning history, persons, and events. Because this Elkanah had two wives, there was trouble in that family. One wife had borne children and the other none. There must be some sort of tension between them, it would be ever so common for it to exist.
And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there(1:3).
These sons of Eli were not godly men dedicated to serving Jehovah in a holy fashion. The Tabernacle was located in Shiloh at this particular time and so that was where everyone went to give sacrifice/s for sins committed. These two men were actually "sons of Belial" or of the devil. Later on we shall find out what becomes of them.
At that time the tabernacle was not the best place to be in trying to cleanse yourself of sin and reconcile yourself with God. The same thing is true today in our churches. Many of our churches are dangerous places for the leaders there are not godly men/women and lead many souls astray. Many people have claimed, "OH, how wonderful it must have been in that Upper Room with Jesus and all of the disciples!" Why was it so wonderful to have been there? Satan was present and active. He entered into Judas Iscariot in that very room, so it was a dangerous place indeed. Approaching God in order to worship Him ought not to be a dangerous thing, but it surely was in Samuel's day. Evil was present in the persons of Eli's two sons.
And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and daughters, portions:
But to Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb(1:4-5).
Can you begin to see where tension must have existed, fomented, and grew in intensity? Elkanah gave more to Hannah than he did to his other wife all of her children all because he loved her. This pictures for us how God gives every person on earth their portion, but to those who have chosen to love Him He has given a greater portion of blessings.
That is all for today, beloved. I hope that this study can bless you deeply in the coming days and weeks as it unfolds before us; I know I look forward to being blessed. Consider how our church can be a dangerous place, especially if we are ignorant of warning signs of danger. Grace and peace of Christ be with you all.
Thu, Jul 22nd - 11:26AM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
Our duty to the world
My Christian life is a family affair, the children of God enjoy fellowship with their Father and with each other. If I am an orphan, I now have a multitude of loving brothers and sisters in Christ. If I am an only child, I now have many siblings in Christ with whom to relate. But don't think that this is the extent of the Christian's responsibilities. We are not to be a self-indulgent, exclusive group of smug, snotty, elitist snobs who are interested only in those who are like us. Oh no, every one of us must be deeply concerned about all of our fellow men. It is part of our Christian vocation to serve others in whatever manner we can. We are to meet the needs of others.
The church has a long and noble record of generous work for the needy and neglected people of the world. They are the poor, hungry, sick, oppressed, slaves, prisoners, orphans, refugees, homeless and dropouts. This has been ongoing for centuries and yet, followers of Christ continue to seek to lessen suffering and pain. Whether it is in Haiti, Chile, Africa, or the urban blight areas of major American cities, brethren of Christ go out in His name to help others in need. But an enormous amount of work remains to be done around our world. Shamefully, at times others who are not professing Christians seem to do do more, and more compassionately, than we who claim to know Christ intimately. Something must change.
Another responsibility we have towards the world is evangelism. To "evangelize" means literally to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Millions upon millions of people are ignorant of Him and His salvation. People are born every second, and they are going to need to know of the free gift which He holds out to every single person on this planet. For far too long the church has been asleep and not given out the true good news. Could this be the generation in which believers will wake up, hear Christ, and go out into the world to spread His good news? Will this be the generation who will truly embrace reconciliation, peace-making, and living a godly life? Time will tell, time will tell. All that I do know for sure is that each person must seek to discover God's will for their life, and then be surrendered to it completely.
Now, not every believer is called to be pastor of a congregation or a missionary to a foreign land. God does fully intend each of us to be ministers of His Word to other people. We are to do so with our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, our friends, neighbors, and coworkers. We are to be a true witness to Jesus Christ whereever we may be. We are to live a consistent, humble, loving, honest, Christ-like life in which we seek to lead people back to Christ. We are to do so discreetly and courteously, but determinedly.
We begin through the practice of prayer. Ask God to give you a special concern for one or two people. They may be members of your family, friends, or coworkers with whom you are fairly close, or not. Pray regularly and definitely for their redemption; cultivate your friendship with them for its own sake; take time to spend with them; and love them unconditionally just for themselves. By and by, an opportunity will show up to take them to a worship service, a concert, or even a special retreat. They will get to hear the gospel message, hear some personal testimonies, and perhaps receive some literature. Or you may have the opportunity to share your own salvation experience with them. Naturally, our most moving testimony will be of no effect if our conduct contradicts it; while nothing is more influential for Christ than a life which He is obviously transforming into something much better than before.
Thus are the duties of the Christian today. This simply reveals the tension to which every Christian is subject. We find ourselves citizens of two kingdoms, the one fleshly, carnal, earthly and the other heavenly, spiritual. Each citizen obligates us with duties which we are not at liberty to evade, to shirk. We may decide to turn our back upon these duties, but they still exist, they still need to be met.
The New Testament places considerable stress upon our obligations to the state, to our employer, to our family and to society as a whole. We are to pray for our governmental leaders, not curse them or denigrate them. We are to remain faithful to our employer and not be dishonest. The Word of God disallows us from escaping these obligations by going into mysticism, or into a monastery/nunnery, or even into a Christian fellowship which is insulated from the world. Yet on the other hand, the New Testament also reminds us that we are "aliens and strangers" on earth, that we are "pilgrims" and that we are on a "journey to a far country." That far country is our Promised Land, heaven, New Jerusalem. Thus we are not to store up treasure on earth, nor to chase after selfish ambitions, nor to become absorbed into the standards of this world, nor to be burdened by the sorrows and pain of this present life of ours.
There are two easy methods to release this tension; either by retreating into Christ and forgetting the world completely, or by involving ourselves in the world so much that we forget Christ. Neither of these are genuine Christian solutions since each denies one or more of our Christian duties. It remains then for the Christian to seek to live equally and simultaneously "in Christ" and "in the world, but not of it." There are no opt outs available.
This is the discipleship to which Christ calls us. Nothing else. He died and rose again that we might have newness of life. He has given us His Spirit so that we can have the power to live out this life in our sin-plagued world.
Christ beckons, "Come." The Holy Spirit calls, "Come." It is time to get up, follow Christ, and to give ourselves completely, without reservation, to His service.
That finishes my study on the basics of the faith. I would hope that you would continue to study out all of the lines which radiate from this jumping off point. Grace and peace be yours today.
Thu, Jul 22nd - 8:42AM
A couple of quotations to start the day!
"We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreameres. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter's evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true." ~Woodrow Wilson
"To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing." ~Martin Luther
Have a wonderful day!
Wed, Jul 21st - 9:01PM
Study in I John
In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doesn't do righteousness is not of God, neither he that doesn't love his brother(3:10).
I think that we as children of God need much more manifesting than we have been doing since most look like they belong to someone other than God. Maybe even looking like orphans. The Bible does not teach that God looks upon all mankind as His children. Jesus said to the Sanhedrin, "You are of your father the devil...(John 8:44)." Perhaps this is a very good reason why a Christian should not marry an unbeliever since the unbeliever belongs to the family of Satan. Hang out with Satan long enough and he will influence your life. So the two families that exist are the family of God and the family of Satan.
Now God is able to know our hearts and thus knows if we are His child or not. But our neighbor/s can't possibly know that. The only way for them to know is for the life of Christ to be manifested in us. This manifestation of Christ is not to be limited to speech and language but is to be seen in our daily living.
Now a little bit about this manifestation. Jesus Christ has been engrafted into us upon our salvation. If you understand anything about grafting, there is always a period of time when that which has been grafted in may be rejected, or fought against by the host organism. In fruit tree grafts everything which grows above the graft joint will have the characteristics of the graft tree. Anything which sprouts and grows from below the graft joint will have the characteristics of the parent, or host, tree. Obviously, the orchardist desires all growth to be from the grafted tree and nothing to grow from the parent tree. In us Christ is grafted into us and wishes to see all growth in us to proceed from Him and not from us. All good works originate from God and thus must come from Christ who is engrafted in us. This speaks of the new nature that we have versus the old nature which we labored under before. All sin springs from out of our old nature, which is represented by the parent tree stock in our grafting example. This spiritual growth must be pruned out to allow Christ to grow unhindered in our lives.
Each of us upon salvation are just like the fruit tree that has had a graft placed into it. We want all of our fruit to be borne upon the growth from the graft, not from anything which sprouts from the old nature. Grafted trees never lose their old nature, just like we don't as long as we live.
In Galatians Paul told the believers to learn to walk in the Spirit. In Romans 7 Paul pointed out two facts: there is no good in the old nature, and there is no power in the new nature. Help must come to us from somewhere and that somewhere is Christ's Holy Spirit.
Christ Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that bears no fruit He takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, He purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit(John 15:1-2)." God will "prune" us in order that once we begin producing fruit we may produce even more fruit. He will also "prune" the old nature branches out to provide more room for the good fruit bearing branches to grow. This picture covers the individual as well as His universal church body of believers.
So we will be able to properly identify people by the type of fruit that their lives are producing(Matthew 7:20). It does not matter what kind of occupation a person has, it is what they are doing in serving God. It does not matter how active you are, but what you are doing. Doing righteousness? Then you are a child of God. Satifying the lusts of your flesh? Then you are a child of Satan.
The second identifier is "Do you love your brothers? If you are a child of God you are going to love the other children of God. Throughout the rest of this letter by John the term love is going to crop up again and again. We need to be convinced in our understanding of it right here and now. There are actually three Greek Words that are translated by our one English word love. The first one is eros, and it is never used in the New Testament. It refers to erotic love, having to do with sexual relations. The Greeks spoke a great deal about sex and they had the god Eros and goddess Aphrodite, the worship of whom involved sex. The second word, phileo, means brotherly love. It means a love of the brethren or sibling love. The third word, agapao, is the highest form of love. This is God's love; unconditional love which expects nothing in return. This is what John uses here as he tells us that we are to love our brother unconditionally, expecting nothing from them in return. Our culture today talks a great deal about love, love, love! Much of the time it is framed in the context of sex but God does not frame love in that sort of context at all.
And so we are to be concerned for our Christian brothers; we are to be helpful to them. It does not mean that you necessarily care for their ways, their conversation, or the things that interest them. It does not mean that whenever you see them you must run up and embrace them heartily. It means that you are concerned for them, you desire the best for them. You can't hold hatred in your heart against another believer. It does not mean that you are to help every single person who comes up to you and asks for help. We are warned to be very careful and to keep our eyes open for the "wolves" out in our world. Our love is to be one that acts, a love that does something beneficial for others.
That is all for today, beloved. Grace and peace be with you. Help your brothers and sisters in Christ when they are in need.
Tue, Jul 20th - 12:44PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
Our duty to the church
This believer's life of mine is not a private affair. If I am born again into God's family, God not only has become my Father but every other believer in the entire world has become my brother and sister in Christ! The orphan with no family can now become part of an enormous family who will love them for who they are, not for what they have. One of the commonest names for believers in the New Testament is that of "brethren." It is a glorious fact of life. To be joint heirs with Christ and with thousands upon thousands of others who are also joint heirs with Him is a mind-blowing concept, one that takes some time to comprehend. But it is not enough to simply know of this membership in a global family, we must belong to some local branch of it. Every Christian's place is in a local congregation, sharing in worship, fellowship and witness.
Which church congregation should I join? There are so many of them. Do not sever an existing connection with a group of believers abruptly without very good reasons. If you are not connected with any group, here are two criteria to guide you in making a choice. One concerns the minister/pastor/elder/bishop, the other concerns the congregation. Ask yourself these questions. "Is the leader submissive to the authority of the Bible, so that he/she seeks in sermons to explain its message and relate it to contemporary life? And does the congregation at least approximate to a fellowship of believers who love Jesus Christ, one another and the world?"
Baptism is the visible way of entry into the public Christian society. It does have other meanings as well, but if you have not been baptized, you ought to ask your minister/pastor to prepare you for baptism. Then allow yourself to be drawn into the fellowship of the group. Much will seem strange or weird to you at the outset, but do not reject any of it. Regular attendance and participation in worship and fellowship activities is expected by God according to the Bible. The Lord's Supper, or Holy Communion, will be an important part of some or all services held corporately by the congregation. That is because Christ instituted this as a means to remember Him until His return. Through regularly doing these things one begins to gain knowledge and understanding of their importance to the individual.
I am not saying that worship times are simply treats or social times. Love for other Christians is a new and real experience, especially for men. In Christian fellowship there is a real interaction of cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, class, age, gender, and social status. There will be seen a depth of friendship and mutual sharing not seen anywhere else. A Christian's closest friends will become other Christians over time, and their life partner must be a Christian also.
Through the corporate church body a Christian is able to touch the lives of people all around the world through missionary outreach. Missionary teams can be assembled and sent out to provide education to others for better daily living skills, or to build a hospital, or a school, or a clinic. Perhaps to help locals to rebuild a well for fresh water, or to construct facilities to handle human wastes safely. These are things that few individuals on their own can achieve, but when combining with a greater body of like-minded believers great things can be done in the name of Christ.
Next time, beloved, I will write about our duty to the world. Oh yes, there is some duty to the world. Hope you come back to receive some words about this aspect of our Christian duty. Grace and peace be with you this day!
Mon, Jul 19th - 9:20PM
Study in I John
Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God(3:9).
This is the new birth being spoken of here. It is exactly what Christ said to Nicodemas in John 3:7, "Marvel not that I said to you, You must be born again." As children of God we have been given a new nature, and that nature does not and will not commit sin. The prodigal son could not remain living in the pigpen because of his new nature. He longed to be with his father once more and we too long to be with our Father in heaven.
However, this thought that whoever is born again of God can't commit sin can be misleading if we are not very careful. The thought is not one of committing just a single sin; the idea is one of living in sin. The believer will sin, John makes it very clear that God's will is that we live without sin(I John 2:1). So when sin comes into our lives, we are to confess it to our Advocate, Jesus Christ(I John 1:9). That new nature of ours will not continue to live in a sin-state, but our old nature sure is comfortable living that way.
If we are a child of God we have His seed inside of us. Christ has been engrafted into our very being, creating this new nature. That divine nature needs to be fed from the Word of God in order to grow stronger and to mature in the faith. John speaks about this as being real and genuine. This is not about making a profession down at the front of some church stage but about being born again of God. It would do all of us good to stop and take inventory of our lives. We must see whether we are in the faith or not. Do we long after the things of God?
Some might say that a homosexual person can't possibly be a child of God. I tell you that that person can be; but if they are a child of God they are going to give up that sin. The Holy Spirit will begin to work spiritual renewal within them and lead them back to God's will for their life.
The ongoing conflict between our old nature and new nature causes us to sometimes sin and at those times we must confess the sin to God. It is why the apostle Paul cried out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?(Romans 7:24)?" Only the Spirit of God can deliver us from the wages of sin. If you and I really want to get rid of that sin, if you and I really want to serve Him, if you and I mean to sincerely love Christ, then He means business with us. Christ's seed remains within us and we can't sin for we are born of God.
That is all for today, beloved. May the love of Christ flow through you and your family.
Mon, Jul 19th - 1:18PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
Our duty to God
Although our relationship to our Father in heaven is secure, it is not static, or stationary. God wants His children to grow up to know Him more and more intimately. Generations of believers have found that the primary way to do this is to wait upon Him each day in a time of Bible reading and prayer. If we wish to make progress in our spiritual growth then we must spend this time with God. It is indispensable. We are all too busy nowadays, but it is of paramount importance to rearrange our priorities in order to make time for prayer and scripture reading each day. If we do not consciously set aside time to be with Christ, how then will it ever happen? Exactly, it won't. It means rigorous discipline together with a readable Bible and an alarm clock that works! Begin the day with Christ, and He just might end up with you the remainder of the day.
It is insufficient to simply spend all of our time reading God's Word. Prayer is needful for through Scripture God speaks to our hearts while through prayer we speak to God. We ought to approach our reading of God's Word in an orderly fashion as well. Prayer before reading, asking the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and increase our understanding is of utmost necessity. We should read slowly, meditatively and thoughtfully. Read passages more than once if need be. Wrestle with concepts until they yield their meaning to you. Use a dependable version, one that has not removed reference to the blood of Christ being able to cleanse a person of all sins. Find one or two good commentaries to aid your research. Apply to your self the message found within the verses that you have read. Claim promises made by God for yourself; obey commands given by Christ. Look for sins to avoid and behavior to embody. Use a notebook to contain your notes from your study. Look for Jesus Christ each time that you open up God's Word. We can find Him revealed there, and we can meet Him personally through the pages of the New Testament.
To facilitate prayer it is helpful to establish what is called an "inner garden." This is a place within yourself where you and Christ are able to meet and have fellowship. Prayer begins with speaking back to God on the same subject on which He has spoken to you through His Word. We are not to change the subject! If He has spoken to you of Himself and His glory, worship Him from your heart. If He has spoken to you of yourself and your sins, confess them before Him. Thank Him for any and all blessings which may have become revealed to you through your reading of Scripture. Pray that those lessons may be learned by yourself, your family, your friends, and your coworkers.
Perhaps once done with praying over the scripture passage you will decide to go on and pray about other things. Your Bible may be the first great aid to your prayers but the next best thing will be your notebook, or a diary. Record there your doubts, your hopes, your fears and use that resource to increase what you pray about. In the morning bring before Him the details of the coming day set before you. In the evening review the day in prayer, confessing any sins you have committed, giving thanks for the blessings and asking for blessings be given to people you have met during the past day.
God is your Father, treat Him as such when conversing with Him in prayer. Be honest, be real, be sincere. Do not be fearful or timid. God is supremely interested in all of the details of your life. Perhaps you will expand out and include in prayer the future wives or husbands of your young children. Maybe you will begin to ask God to prepare those individuals that are going to become spouses to your children, ask Him to draw them to salvation and begin teaching them to become mature believers in Christ. Perhaps God will lay upon your heart to pray for your boss, the one who screams at people all day long and seems to be out of control most of the time. Or to pray for that quiet one who rarely speaks to anyone and seems to blend into the background in crowds. We all need to create prayer lists of those whom we have a heavy heart for, asking God to work in their lives according to His perfect will, not according to our will.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time I will write some about our duty to the church. That probably brings several questions to the front of your mind. Which church? A local church? Which denomination? All of that is for another day. May you walk in the light of Christ today, may you reflect the light of Christ in all that you may do, and may you trigger change in the lives of those who walk in darkness that they may turn, and see the light of the world.
Sun, Jul 18th - 3:56PM
Study in I John
Little children, let no man deceive you: he that does righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous(3:7).
Here again, John is talking to those who are God's children, he is not talking to the world. We are given that which reveals the child of God. To remain in Him is more than positional, it has a practical element to it. If we are to abide/dwell in Him in fellowship and service, then sin must be given up, or forsaken.
I personally know that God will deliver you from your sins, if you turn to God and ask Him to help you. He will answer your request but He will also direct you to the Scriptures which then inform you that you must keep your body and mind pure. You must refrain from continuing your previous bad habits of remaining where severe temptation exists. Separate yourself from temptation! Avoid it like the plague that it is! Why remain in its proximity for temporary pleasure when its fire will devour you in its flames for all eternity? Turn completely to God and He will deliver you from your sins. There are no short courses that can be taken for deliverance, it requires you to call upon God and have real contact with Him. And that scares people.
He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil(3:8).
Here is one of the answers to be given to anybody who asks you why Jesus Christ had to come in the flesh. Christ had to come in the flesh to perform the sacrifice to cleanse creation of sin. This verse also declares that whoever commits sin is not of God but of Satan. Satan brought sin into Creation and passed it along to our first parents in the Garden. Its infection has spread to every single human being who has ever existed on this fine planet of ours. Every time we choose to be dishonest with someone, we are acting like our father, Satan. Every time that we abuse our bodies or the bodies of others we are acting like Satan, our father. People do not like being told this sort of thing. The Jews didn't appreciate Jesus telling them this back in the day. They wished to stone Him to death. They acted just like their spiritual father, Satan. Satan has always desired to prevent Christ from being born, from becoming an adult, from finishing His minstry, to completing His sacrifice in order to become the holder of the keys to life and death. Satan understood what was at stake on Calvary outside of Jerusalem. He simply couldn't influence Christ to turn away from His Father's work.
No one can come to me and expect deliverance from their sins. Their pastor or priest can't deliver them from their sins either. Only Jesus Christ can deliver you from your sins. So go to Him and ask for forgiveness of your sins.
In looking at the purpose for Christ coming to earth in the flesh we would be prudent to read such scriptures as John 1:29 and Hebrews 7:26. Christ was a man and He died as our sin offering, paying the penalty for our sin, which was death. He died to make it possible for us to live the Christian life, the righteous life.
This verse eight also focuses our attention to the subject of verses 4-24 of this chapter in I John: every believer has two distinct natures. It is what Paul speaks about in Romans 7. "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do(Romans 7:19)." The new nature wants to do good things but the old nature remains in place, dragging its feet to change anything. The old nature does not want to serve God; it is in rebellion against God. It is impossible to please God until you are born again "But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His(Romans 8:9)." I am speaking about born again believers here, not so-called professing Christians. I am not including those who have only been baptized, or have only gone through a confirmation ceremony, there is a distinction here. Jesus Christ was manifested in the flesh to destroy the works of Satan, to offer redemption to you and me.
Next time, God willing, I will continue with the next few verses which cover this subject of believers in Christ having two distinct natures which are opposed to each other. May Christ bless you abundantly this day, and may you be a blessing to those around you.
Fri, Jul 16th - 12:32PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
Responsibilities of the Christian
The privilege of being a child of God comes with obligations also. As the great privilege of being a child of God is relationship therefore the obligation is to grow and mature spiritually in Christ. Everybody loves children, but nobody seriously wants them to remain in the nursery for the remainder of their lives. However, too many believers never grow up. Some even suffer from regression, and go backwards in their faith. Our heavenly Father's purpose is that children should become mature adults. Our rebirth must be followed by growth. Our justification, our acceptance before God, must proceed to the process of sanctification, or our growth in holiness.
There are two main areas in which the believer is meant to grow and mature in. One is in understanding and the other is in holiness. At the start of our Christian life, we usually understand very little, and we have just come to know God. Now we have to study and increase our knowledge of God and increase our understanding of Him. This knowledge is partially intellectual and partially personal. Regarding the studying part, I urge everyone to read the Bible and to also read good Christian books. We must feed our new nature or else it will wither and be crippled.
We must grow in holiness of living. The New Testament speaks to us about the development of our faith in God, our love for our fellow men/women and our likeness to Christ Jesus. Every child of God yearns to become more and more conformed in his/her behavior and character to that of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our life must be moving towards becoming one of righteousness. We must be seeking to obey God's commandments and to do His will in our life. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to help us in this endeavor, He has made our bodies His Temple. Jesus was immensely angry over the fact that the Jews had turned His Temple into a place of money exchange and profiteering, the people had defiled God's House of Worship. Will God treat us any differently today? If we defile our bodies, will He not force us to experience the consequences? Once He comes to dwell within us, shall He not clean out the "Temple" and return it back to its originally intended use? Yes, He shall. God begins working in the new believer's heart to return them to a life of prayer and worship of Him. We submit to His authority and surrender our authority to Him.
But then, how shall we grow? There are three primary avenues to spiritual growth. And that will be for another time, beloved. That is all the time that I have today for this study. Next time I shall pick up with the first avenue of growth: our duty to God. Until then, may the grace and peace of Christ permeate the fiber of your being and radiate out into the world around you!
Thu, Jul 15th - 2:47PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
Here are a few verses to begin memorizing. Each one contains a divine promise for us.
Christ will receive us if we come to Him(John 6:37)
He will hold us and never let us go(John 10:28)
He will never leave us(Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5-6)
God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our strength(I Corinthians 10:13)
He will forgive us when we confess our sins(I John 1:9
He will give us wisdom when we ask for it(James 1:5)
Secondly, God speaks to our hearts. "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit," "When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God(Romans 5:5; 8:15-16)." The Holy Spirit has been spliced into the very fabric of our being and His power witnesses to us through experience, of the reality of it's presence within us. And so we do not place confidence in shallow and changeable feelings; we expect a deepening conviction in our heart as the Holy Spirit assures us of God's love for us and prods us to cry out "Father God!" as we seek out the face of God through prayer.
Third, the same Spirit who bears witness to our sonship in Scripture and experience completes His testimony in our character. If we are truly born again into God's family, then God's Spirit dwells within us. This is one of the greatest privileges of being a child of God. It is the distinguishing characteristic of the believer in Christ. So He does not need to indwell us very long before He begins to work changes in our manner of living. He may change our vocabulary, our associations, our habits, our choice of clothing, our choice of music, our choice of movies, our reading materials. John applies this test ruthlessly in his first letter. If anyone persistently disobeys the commandments of God and disregards his duty to his fellowman, then he is not a Christian, no matter what he may say. Righteousness and love are indisputable marks of the child of God.
A secure relationship
Suppose we have entered into this intimate relationship with God, is it a secure thing? Or will it evaporate at the first signs of trouble? Can we be born into God's family one moment and expelled from it the next? The Bible indicates that it is a permanent relationship. "If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." The use of heirs indicates a legal standing that is supported by law. It is a more formal position which can be documented. At the end of Romans 8 we are told that God's children are eternally safe, for nothing whatever can separate them from His loving embrace.
But what will happen when I sin? Do I forfeit my sonship and get kicked out of God's family? No. In our human families a boy is offensive and rude to his parents. A black cloud descends upon the entire household. There is tension, palpably thick in the air. Father and son are not on speaking terms. Mother and father are disappointed in their son's actions. Has their son ceased to be their son? No. Their relationship has not changed; it is their fellowship which has suffered injury. Relationship relies upon birth; fellowship relies upon behavior. As soon as the boy sincerely apologizes, he is forgiven. Forgiveness restores fellowship. All the while, his relationship has remained unchanged. He may have been very disobedient temporarily, even defiant, but he has not stopped being their son.
This is how it is with children of God. When we do sin, we do not cease being His children. It is our fellowship with Him which then suffers harm and we are temporarily separated from Him. As soon as we genuinely confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He is our Advocate when we do sin. We can't wait until the following Sunday at the end of the worship service to go forward and confess our sins; we must confess them soonest. Our aim ought to be to preserve our conscience clear and undefiled.
We can be justified only once; but we need to be forgiven daily. Jesus gave us an illustration of this when He washed the apostles' feet. Peter asked Him to wash his hands and his head as well as his feet. Jesus replied, "He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over." In Jerusalem a man invited to dinner at someone else's home would bath before going out. At his destination he would be offered another bath, a foot bath. A slave/servant would meet him at the front door and wash his feet to remove the dust from the road. So, when we come to Christ the very first time He gives us a full bath(justification). It never needs to be repeated. But as we walk through life we dirty ourselves through sins and we constantly need to have "our feet washed" in order to become clean all over again. That is daily forgiveness.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time I will write about the responsibilities of being a Christian. Not always a popular topic but one which must be looked at.
Wed, Jul 14th - 11:25AM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
All right. So you have opened that door upon which Christ has been knocking. You have committed yourself to Him. You have begun your Christian life. Becoming a Christian is one thing, being a Christian is another. It is this latter thing of which I wish to write about now.
Some would say that you have taken a rather small step; you asked Christ to come into your heart and become your Savior and Lord. Admittedly it is a small step but it is a step which radically changes your position relative to God. God, without whose grace you could not have repented and believed, gave you a brand new life. You were born again. You became a child of God, of the Holy One of Israel, and entered into His family. You probably were not conscious of anything really happening, just as when you were physically born.
Perhaps you are thinking that all people are the children of God. Yes and no. God certainly is the creator of all people, and all are His "offspring" in the sense that they get their being from Him(Acts 17:28). But there is a difference between this Creator - creature relationship and the special relationship of father to child which He establishes with each person who becomes His new creation through Jesus Christ. I do not know about you, but I much prefer to be His child versus simply His creature. In John 1:11-13 we can read, "He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God." The three clauses beginning with the word "who" all describe the same people. The children of God are those who are born of God; and those who are born of God are those who have received Christ into their lives and who have believed in His name.
Like membership in any family, this means that it has its privileges and its responsibilities. What are they? Let's find out, shall we?
An intimate relationship
We have discovered through this study that our sins had separated us, or alienated us, from God. They had become like a barrier between us. It could be said that we were under the just condemnation of the Judge of all the universe. But now through Jesus Christ, who bore our condemnation and to whom by faith we have become united, we have been "justified," or brought into acceptance with God and pronounced as being righteous. Our Judge has become our Father.
"See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." John wrote those words and alerted us to the fact that we can now call God "Father" and think of ourselves as His "children." God has invited us to use these names as He has enabled this type of relationship to become a reality. The Lord's Prayer can now be repeated without any feeling of hypocrisy. In the past these words may have rung hollow; now they resound with new and noble meaning. As our Father in heaven, God knows our every need before we are aware of them and before we ask and He will not fail to give us good things.
Of course, being His children may mean that from time to time we require correction at His hand. Rest assured that He disciplines us for our own good. Rest assured that He always walks at our side, willing to carry us at those times when we become too wearied to continue on under our own effort.
An assured relationship
Our relationship to God as a child of His is not only intimate, but it is sure. Rather than merely hoping for the best, we can know for certain that the best is available to us.
It is God's revealed will for us. Knowing for sure of our relationship with God leads to peace of mind and a willingness to help others. What was the purpose of John writing his first letter? "I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life."
It is more than just feeling sure. Many people at the beginning of their Christian life make this common mistake. They rely upon their feelings too much. One day they feel close to God, the next day they feel very, very distant from Him. They think that their feelings accurately reflect their spiritual condition, so they fall into a frenzy of uncertainty. Their life becomes a treacherous rollercoaster ride as they move from the heights of elation to the depths of depression.
This is not God's purpose for you. Feelings are to be mistrusted since they are extremely variable. They change with weather, circumstances, and even our health. Depending upon our mood feelings often have absolutely nothing to do with our spiritual condition, or progress.
We must, therefore, stand firm upon the fact that God says we are His children. God declares to us that we are in an intimate personal relationship with Him, and God does not change. We are forced to remain objective, not subjective, in this most important matter. We cannot grub around inside of ourselves searching for evidence of spiritual life, but we must raise our eyes to heaven and God and God's Word.
I can understand raising my vision up and seeking God above me. I get that. But what about His Word? God's Word gives me promises concerning my spiritual life. I am not presumptuous in believing that I have eternal life in Christ, I am simply humbly acknowledging the facts. To believe God's Word is not prideful or arrogant but is full of wisdom. What would be foolish and sinful is to doubt.
So the Bible is chock full of promises. The sensible believer begins as soon as possible to memorize them. Then when he enters into periods of despair and doubt, he can use God's promises to pull himself up out of those pits of darkness.
That is all for today, beloved. I hope and pray that you begin to search out those promises of God in His Word and make them your own. Grace and peace be yours today.
Tue, Jul 13th - 6:51PM
Study in I John
And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin(3:5).
There is the sole reason for Jesus Christ coming into this world of ours. He came to take away our sins. He had to come and do it for no one else was sinless in the entire world.
Some things that are important for us to connect here. In John's gospel he wrote, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world." Christ bore the penalty of sin. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Christ died for the sin of the world. Now here in this epistle John shows us that Christ takes away the practice of sin in the life of the believer. Christ is the "propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." So Jesus died a redemptive death to pay the penalty of our sin, but He also died that He might deliver us from the power of sin right here and now.
"And in Him is no sin." The literal translation is "in Him sin is not." This is why He alone could be our sin offering - He was sinless. He was without spot or blemish as was the Levitical sin offering. Therefore He was able to remove the guilt of sin and to provide the power to deliver us from the habit of sinning. He has given to us a new nature that we might live for Him today. To gain more insight into this you should restudy the Tabernacle and its Ordinances as found in the Old Testament books. We need to be able to understand the relationship between the different parts of the Tabernacle and Christ, between the areas of the Tabernacle and the priesthood. It is important to us today for it is all about establishing a meeting place with God.
Each of us today is looking for a way to meet God.
Whosoever abides in Him sins not: whosoever sins has not seen Him, neither known Him(3:6).
That new nature of mine will not sin;it never sins. But I still sin, right? Sure I do. But it is not this new nature of mine that sins, it is my old nature which is in armed conflict with my new nature. I do not practice sin, I do not live in it. This is what the parable of the Prodigal Son shows to us, among many other things. Only pigs live in pigpens; sons do not. I might spend a short period of time in a place such as that, but I will realize that that is not where I truly belong.
God, through His Holy Spirit, provides me with the power to stay away from the habit of sinning. Every time that I fall off of the wagon into another "pigpen" it is my old nature which is exerting its influence over me. If I were to remain in the pigpen then I never was a child of God. To all of those out in the world caught in the chains of fleshly sin, God can give you deliverance from it. You need to claim that from Him. Ask Him to bring you to the place of peace and joy in your life. You will never be content remaining in a sinful state, if you are a child of God. Homosexuality is not just another lifestyle choice, it is sinful and it is wrong. God will deliver you from it, if you ask. But you see, that is a big problem with most people. They do not like to ask for help from anyone. It comes from childhood, when in school and the teacher taught us something that was difficult to learn. The teacher would turn and say, "Any questions?" And nobody would put up their hand for fear of being laughed at by the other students in the room. Not one person would be brave enough to admit that they did not understand. Did they receive understanding? No. God says we have not because we ask not. So, we need to get back into the asking business with God since He almost begs us to do so. He wants to give us so many, many things but we refuse to ask Him. We are a stubborn lot, aren't we?
That is all for tonight since I am battling a summertime cold and need to lay down for awhile. I hope and pray that the Lord comes and gives you visions and dreams tonight in your sleep. I hope that He calls you out to do a mighty work for Him! I hope that He asks you to do more than I have been able to do so far in my life.
Tue, Jul 13th - 12:45PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
Continuing this study's section on having to make a decision.
It is a deliberate act. I do not have to wait for a supernatural light to flash upon me from heaven, or for an emotional experience to overtake me. No, I do not have to wait. Christ came into the world and died for my sins. He has now come and stands outside the front door of the house of my life, and He is knocking. The next move is mine. The ball is in my hands. His hand already is stretched forth to the knocker, my hand must reach out and grasp that latch on my side of the door.
It is an urgent act. I can't wait forever, time is passing. My future is uncertain, my demise unknown. I may never have a better opportunity than right now. I mustn't be like Scarlet in "Gone With the Wind" and procrastinate about opening the door. If I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died to be my Savior, that is enough. Yes, there is an element of danger in rash action; but there is more danger in putting this decision off. If in my heart of hearts I know that I should act, then I should not delay a second longer.
It is an indispensable act. There is more to the Christian life than all of this. There is getting into fellowship with the church, discovering and doing God's will, growing in grace and understanding, and seeking to serve God and man. Yet this step is the beginning, and it is necessary. You can believe in Christ intellectually and admire Him; you can say your prayers to Him through the proverbial keyhole; you can push money at Him uner the door to keep Him quiet; you can be moral, decent, and upright and good; you can be religious; you can be baptized and confirmed; you can be well informed of the philosophy of religion; you can be a theological student/graduate or even an ordained preacher; you can be all of those things and yet still not have opened the door to let Christ into your life. This crucial step can't be substituted with anything else.
C.S. Lewis has described his experience with this in "Surprised by Joy." Billy Graham has written about the many people who have come forward and asked him to help them pray to Christ and to have Christ come into their hearts. They have heard the knock and have responded, they have made a choice, they have decided.
I must ask you all this question: Are you a Christian? A genuine committed Christian? Your answer depends upon answering this question: Which side of the door is Jesus Christ? Is He inside or outside?
Maybe you are ready to open that door to Christ. If you are unsure about having ever done so, my only advice to you is to make sure, even if you will be going over familiar ground once again.
I suggest that you get away and while alone pray to Christ. Confess your sins to God, and forsake them. Then open that door and ask Christ to come in as your personal Savior and Lord. Give Him the keys to your heart.
If you have humbly prayed thusly, then know that Christ has come into your heart for He promised that He would. Disregard your feelings; trust in His promise; and thank Him that He has kept His word!
That is all for today, my friends. Next time, God willing, I will begin the final section of this study. I will write some things for all of us who have opened the door of our lives to Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace of Christ be yours this day!
Mon, Jul 12th - 12:45PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
As I continue writing about reaching a decision concerning Jesus Christ, it must be remembered that if we choose to follow Him then it is required of us to repent, turn away from everything we know to be displeasing to Him. It is not that we make ourselves better before we invite Him into our hearts, but rather it is because we can't forgive or improve ourselves that we need Him to come to us. There can be no negotiations for pleasing terms, no partial surrender of parts of ourselves, but only an unconditional surrender to the lordship of Christ. What will this mean? In principle, it means a determination to forsake evil and follow Christ. In detail it will vary from individual to individual depending upon what form evil has appeared in each life.
Can I hesitate? Can I say it is unreasonable to submit to Christ in the dark? Surely not. This choice to follow Christ is more reasonable than marriage. In marriage a man and a woman commit themselves to each other without condition. They do not know what the future holds for them. But they love each other, and they trust each other. So they promise to take each other, "to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part." If humans can thus trust each other, can we not trust God's Son? It is more reasonable to commit oneself to the divine Christ than to even the noblest human being. He will never betray or abuse our relationship, He will never leave nor forsake us in our times of trouble. Christ is not a fair weather friend.
Okay, what must we do then? We must hear His voice. It is possible to turn a deaf ear to Christ's voice and knock at the door to our heart. Sometimes we hear His voice through our conscience, sometimes through the graspings of our mind. Or it may be a moral defeat, or the seemingly emptiness meaninglessness of our existence, or an inexplicable spiritual hunger, or sickness, bereavement, pain or fear, by which we become aware that Christ is outside the door and speaking to us, and to no one else. His call could also come through a friend, a preacher, or a book. However we hear His call, we must listen. "He who has ears to hear," Jesus says, "let him hear."
Next we must open the door. Having heard His voice calling, we must open to His knock. Opening the door pictorially is an act of faith in Him as our Savior, as an act of submission to Him as our Lord and Master.
This must be a definite act. The Greek verb makes this quite plain. The door does not just happen to swing wide open by chance. It is not already ajar. It is closed, locked, bolted, and chained shut. Christ can, but will not open the door Himself. There is no knob, latch, or handle on the outside of the door. The only handle or doorknob is on the inside of the door to our heart, we must be the one to lay hand to the door and swing it open. Christ may knock, but we must open.
It is an individual act. The message has been sent to the entire church of Laodicea, but the challenge is addressed to indivduals. "If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him." Each person must make his/her own choice, freely, and take this step themselves. Nobody else can take it for us. Parents, teachers, pastors, and friends can point the way to the door, but our hand must draw back the deadbolt and turn the doorknob.
It is a unique act. You can take this step only once in your life. When Christ has entered, He will bolt and bar the door on the inside. Sin may drive Him into the cellar or the attic, but He will never leave the house He has entered. This does not mean that we emerge from this encounter with the wings of an angel. No, and we do not become perfect in the twinkling of an eye. We can become a Christian in the blink of an eye, but not a mature one. Christ enters, cleanses, and forgive us in a matter of seconds, but maturity comes over time. It takes a bride and bridegroom only a few short minutes to be married, but it may take many years for two strong wills to be united into one.
That is all for this day, beloved. There are a few more points to make on this topic, which will come next time we meet here. Have you heard Christ knocking at the door to your heart? Have you gotten yourself up out of your Lazy-Boy recliner and opened the door? Have you invited Christ to come into your heart? Have you turned away from the things which you know displease God? If not, why not begin listening carefully for His voice? Why not hang out near that door and listen for His soft knock at the door? Why not desire a better life, a more joyful life, a more peaceful life? It can be yours through Jesus Christ once you open up to Him. Think about it.
Sun, Jul 11th - 12:25PM
Study in I John
Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is(3:2).
See, you and I are sons of God right now, not at some distant time in the future! How wonderful that is to know! Since the world did not understand Jesus when He was here how can we expect it to understand us once we accept Him as our Lord and Savior? It requires a spiritual insight, and that comes through the anointing which you and I have. Until the Holy Spirit confirms it to our hearts, we must say, “I do not know whether I am saved.”
Now I wish that I knew more about the Word of God than I currently do. I wish that I were a better man. But why be discouraged over such things? The fact is that none of us know what we shall be, but that the knowing will come when Christ Jesus returns for we shall be like Him.
Christ sees in each of us what He will make out of us. He is not through with us, He continues to work in us and to mold us into what He knows we can become. If God were to be done with me right now, I would be heartbroken. But I can rest assured that He who has begun this good work in me shall be faithful to complete it. That, my friends, is an accurate promise that can be found in praise songs. Steve Green has recorded a song which incorporates this thought into it. What a blessing is contained in that particular song!
What does this verse also imply? It is something wondrous. The last phrase informs us that we shall see God as He is. We will see the glorified Christ. We are not going to be equal to Him, but we are going to be like Him in our bodies. We are not to become little “gods” and we will not become little robots or duplicates. We shall have the same type of body that God has except with our personality, our individualities, our own selves. God is not to destroy the person that you are, but to bring you up to the full measure, the full stature of being like Him but not identical to Him.
In heaven we shall love everyone there. But wonder of wonders! Everyone there shall love me! What a change! What a thing to look forward to.
And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure(3:3).
If I believe that Jesus is coming and that someday I am going to be just like Him, that ought to cause me to live as pure a life as I possibly can now. We are not wonderful now, but we most certainly will be wonderful someday!
The study of Bible prophecy ought to encourage holy living. Today we can observe a lot of careless, lazy, chaotic living, but also a growing emphasis on prophecy. People claim to be waiting for Christ to come but are choosing to live like He does not even exist. It ought not to be happening.
One day the New Jerusalem where we will live is going to be a place here on earth where Christ will wipe away all tears. There will be no sorrow, no suffering. But the most wonderful thing of all to be found in Revelation 21 is that Christ will make all things new. I don’t know about you but I look back over my life and see many things that I wish that I had done differently but can’t go back and change at all. So now I must look to the future for the time when Christ will make me brand new. Then I will become the person that I wish I was now. I haven’t been the husband that I wish I could have been, too many shortcomings from my sinful nature I guess. I wish I could have been a better father. But I have not ever attained those goals in this life. But I do thank God for the way He has led me in my life. I thank Him for my wife, my children, and my grandchildren. I thank Him for the opportunity given to me to post messages on this blog. I thank Him for the opportunity to be a part of a new church start and to learn all of the things that go into making a church prosper and grow. I have not attained my goal but God says to me “Behold, Eric, I make all things new!” And I love Christ for doing that for me.
John is telling us of the wonderful love God has for His children. Now he moves on to cover the two natures of every believer as they are in motion.
Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law(3:4).
It could be said that who ever commits sin also commits lawlessness. “Commit” means to do. It implies one who lives continually and habitually in sin. I used to live that way. My interest was women, alcohol, and having a good time. Working was a secondary thing to achieve the primary things. I lived it continually and talked about it continually. That is living in sin.
God has made certain laws. When He said, “You shall not commit adultery” He meant it for all eternity. All of the free, new way to look at things is not a new way at all for it is centuries old. God put up the Law in order that each of us could know what He requires of us, and that we can know that we are sinners. That is the purpose of the Law. The Law is not meant to save, it is intended to reveal to man that he is a sinner.
Sin is that which is fundamentally contrary to the will of God. Christ said that unbelief is sin. So a sinner is one who is insubordinate to the will of God. Paul in Romans 8:5 speaks about being after the flesh or after the Spirit. It gets to the heart of how we are living. Paul went on and said that it is death to be carnally minded. It is one of the weaknesses of homosexuality, being carnally minded. That lifestyle leads to many sexually transmitted diseases. I understand the argument that heterosexual activity leads to many of the same disease, but AIDS has been tremendously spread through the homosexual communities of the world because of their type of lifestyle choice. No hatred intended just the honest truth. Anyway, death is separation from God and that is why you can’t have fellowship with God and be a carnal Christian. Being pious will gain no ground with God. Being carnally minded is enmity against God and that means no reconciliation. No reconciliation means no peace between you and God. You remain then at war with God, He continues to judge you according to your sins. I prefer to have peace between myself and God. I do not need open warfare between God and myself for that is a losing scenario for me.
John stated here in I John that whosoever does sin also transgresses the law. Before the law then, there was no transgression just simply sin. Sin came into our world through Adam and all mankind had a sin nature. Once God gave out the Law through Moses there began transgression of the Law. Reading further in Romans, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come(Romans 5:14).” They sinned, why? Because they were born sinners. Isaiah told us that we all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one of us to our own ways. Those last three words tell the story of each and every person on this planet. “Our own way.” Our personal willfulness is the problem. We want to have things our way. Infants scream at the top of their lungs. Why? To have their own way. They want their needs to be met and met now. That is the nature that each of us is born with. It is just that some of us continue to scream well into adulthood, having never really grown up at all.
That is all for today, beloved. May God bless you and keep you in His protective embrace this entire day!
Sat, Jul 10th - 2:46PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
It is a foreign concept to very many people in today's world that a decision must be made in order to become a Christian. Some believe that they are Christians because they were born into a Christian home, or even a Christian nation. Some use logic: We aren't any of those other religions and thus we must be Christians! Others assume that because they have had a Christian upbringing that nothing further is required of them. But no matter parentage or upbringing, every responsible adult is required to make up his/her own mind for or against Jesus Christ. Remaining neutral is not an option. No one else can settle this issue of faith in Christ for us. We must decide for ourselves.
Even if you agree with all that I have written in this study so far, it is insufficient. We can concede that the evidence for the deity of Christ is compelling, even conclusive, and that He was in fact the Son of God; we may believe that He came and died to be the Savior of the world; we may also admit that we are sinners and need such a Savior. But none of these things makes us Christians, nor do all of them together. True faith translates such mental belief into a decisive act of trust. Intellectual conviction must lead to personal commitment.
Many today believe that because Jesus died on the cross by some mechanical transaction the whole world had been put right with God. At first glance, the Gospel accounts would seemingly support such a belief. But upon sitting down and really digging into the teaching of Jesus Christ one must concede that it takes something more than just Christ's crucifixion to make me reconciled with God. One must accept Him as one's Savior.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
"The Lord is my light and my salvation."
"O God, You are my God."
"The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."
The personal pronoun is prominent in the Bible. Here is one verse from the Bible which helps seekers to understand the step of faith we each have to take: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me(Revelation 3:20)." The context of this verse is that it comes at the end of letter addressed by Christ Jesus through the apostle John to the church of Laodicea, located in what is now Turkey. This city was prosperous and created a sense of complacency which eventually contaminated even the church. This church was full of professing believers who were Christian in name only. Their religious interest was shallow and quite casual. Like the waters which were piped into the city from the hot springs of Hierapolis, their faith was neither hot nor cold, they were lukewarm. Because of their prosperity they had become complacent in their wealth and possessions. They reached a point where they felt that they had need of nothing else, they had achieved personal satisfaction. They felt they no longer really needed God in their lives. Christ told them that they were blind to the fact that they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
We are no different from them today, beloved. We utter the exact same phrase, "I need nothing." It arises from our independence which keeps us from committing ourselves to Christ. Without Christ we are morally naked, blind to spiritual truth, and beggars, having nothing with which to buy God's favor. But Christ can clothe us with His righteousness, touch our eyes into sight and enrich us with spiritual wealth. Until we open the door to admit Him into our hearts, we are blind and naked beggars.
He who stands at the door of our hearts and knocks is the man of Nazareth, He is the crucified Savior. The hand that knocks bears the scar of the nail that was driven though it. The feet standing upon the threshold still bear the print of nails.
John described Christ in the first chapter of Revelation. His eyes were like flaming fire and His feet like burnished brass. His voice thundered like many mighty waters crashing upon the rocks and His face was radiant like the sun shining in full glory. No wonder John fell at His feet. It is hard to understand how a Person of such majesty could ever decide to visit poor, blind and naked beggars like ourselves.
And yet, there is Jesus, standing and knocking at the door to our hearts. Importantly, He is not pushing the door in, He is merely standing and knocking. He is not hollering at us to open up, He is asking us to open up and let Him come in. Remarkable considering that He is the architect of our bodies, He designed it. He is the builder, He made it. He is the landlord; He bought it with His life-blood. We live in this body due to God's grace. He could quite easily put His shoulder to the door and burst it open. He could command us to open to Him; instead, He knocks and asks. He will not force Himself into anybody's life. He is content to give us advice. He allows us to make the choice to let Him enter, or not.
But why does Jesus want to come in? He wants to be both our Savior and our Lord. He also wants to be our best friend. But one can't become a best friend as long as they remain afar off, distant, uninterested. A best friend wants the best for you, looks out for your best interests and welfare. A best friend never leaves you nor forsakes you in times of need. A best friend is willing to sacrifice themselves for you. Jesus Christ is your best friend once you let Him into your heart. If we receive Him, He will be able to apply to us personally all the benefits of His death. He will renovate, redecorate and refurnish our "house." He will cleanse and forgive us; our past will be blotted out. He promises to eat with us and allow us to eat with Him. We shall experience fellowship with Him. He not only gives Himself to us but asks us to give ourselves to Him. We have been strangers; now we are friends. There was a closed door between us; now we are seated at the same table.
Jesus will also become our Master. Our life will come under His management, and there is no sense in opening the door unless we are willing for this to happen. Many people refuse to open the door exactly because of this. They refuse to surrender themselves to another authority, even a benign one such as God. As Christ steps across the threshold we must hand Him our entire clutch of keys, granting Him access into every room. There are to be no secret rooms kept for only ourselves. There are to be no locked doors at all anymore.
That is all for today beloved. Next time I hope to continue opening up this subject and present the case for making the only logical decision possible. I hope and pray that you have an enjoyable day, full of blessings and love.
Fri, Jul 9th - 7:23PM
Study in I John
If you know that He is righteous, you know that every one that does righteousness is born of Him(2:29).
And here is the final litmus test. The Word of God is the final word on whether someone is of Christ. John says that the children of God look like the Father, they take after their Father. If they do not do righteous works then they are not of Christ. It is that simple.
That finishes chapter two of I John. It was a chapter full of spiritual concepts for us to ponder and practice in our lives. It also gave us guidelines for determining who is a genuine child of God and who is not.
Now, chapter three has a theme of how the children of God may know each other and live together. We shall also discover the two natures of the believer in action.
Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew Him not(3:1).
The last verse of the previous chapter probably belongs with the first three verses of this chapter and more than likely was in the original manuscripts since they did not separate the writings out into chapters as we do today.
It is one thing to testify that we know Christ and are in Him; it is quite another thing to have a life that reveals that He is our righteousness and literally our all in all. John tells us that the way we recognize other believers is by their lives and not by their words. Righteousness is a family characteristic of the Father and His children.
Believers need to see the kind of love that God has bestowed upon us. They need to understand that the rest of the lost world can’t comprehend this love of God’s, just as they did not know it when Christ came in the flesh and died for them.
This verse declares that we are sons of God upon accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior. We don’t hope to be a child of God, we know that we are a child of God through Jesus Christ. We boast not in ourselves but in Christ. We exhibit a life that conforms to the Father. Right now we are the children of God, not at some distant point in the future.
What kind of love has the Father of lights bestowed upon each believer? It is a strange kind of love, an unusual kind of love, a kind of love to which mankind is not accustomed. God’s love for us shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. John will go on and show that God has already demonstrated His love by giving His Son to die for us. How many of us are willing to die for someone else? Is there any one in your life who is willing to die for you?
The greatest motivating force in our world is God’s love. Love is the greatest driver in the human family. A man falls in love with woman, a woman falls in love with a man, and some make tremendous sacrifices for each other. When human love is genuine it is a wonderful thing. But God’s love for us far exceeds anything that mankind can experience on the human plane of existence.
The true child of God will prove his spiritual birth by being obedient to God’s Word. God’s love makes us want to live for God.
John emphasized that we are God’s children right now. It would be prudent right now to note that our salvation is in three tenses: I have been saved, I am being saved, and I shall be saved.
1) I have been saved. “Verily, verily, I say to you, he that hears My word, and believes on Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death into life(John 5:24).” The very moment we trust in Christ we receive everlasting life, and we will never be any more saved than we are at that moment. We are born again, new children in the family of God. As we well know, children respond to the expressed love of their parents and so we respond to the love of our spiritual Father in heaven by obedience to Him and living a life that is well pleasing to Him.
2) I am being saved. “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure(Philippians 2:12-13).” Paul spoke those words meaning that salvation does not come through doing works, but that the works come from out of our salvation and that it is to be Christ who is the doer of the works through us. John tells us pretty much the same thing in that we are continuously saved and we need to be obedient and grow in maturity and grace.
3) I will be saved. When Jesus Christ returns for His saints, we will experience the final stage of our salvation. We shall receive glorified bodies, sin no longer will have power over us, and we will be with the Lord forever. Our salvation shall be complete at that point in time.
That is all for now my friends. Next time, God willing, I will continue along in this chapter of I John. I hope that you will choose to return and study out this book of the Bible and find some nuggets of truth for your life.
Fri, Jul 9th - 12:33PM
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul(I Peter 2:11).
Our text today is one that I have previously covered in my study on I Peter. But I hope to cover this a bit differently here today.
This command to abstain can be found only a few times in the New Testament, but there are three occurences which are relevant, especially for believers today: One is found in I Thessalonians 4:3: For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication." The Greek word here actually applies to any type of sexual relationship outside of marriage, and the command is not simply for temperance or for "love" in one's non-marital sexual relationships, but for total abstinence. I would say that this exhortation is sorely needed in today's society. It is needed even among Christians, and their leaders! But that is not the end of the matter. We are urged to "abstain from fleshly lusts," since these carnal desires are in constant, mortal combat with our very souls. One must avoid situations which might start or encourage fornication or its associated activities.
But even that is not enough for the commited Christian man or woman. "Now we exhort you, brethren...Abstain from all appearance of evil(I Thessalonians 5:14,22)." The word here means anything that in outward form might appear to be evil, regardless of whether it is really wrong in itself or not. God desires that we clothe ourselves with the doctrine of God our Savior in all things, and that we offer no offense to God.
Believers can't afford to be careless in this warfare against their souls. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour(I Peter 5:8)." Believers must remain aware of the fact that Satan is out there, looking for anyone whom he may seduce away from the faith, or whom he may destroy spiritually due to their ignorance concerning Christ. Satan wishes to prevent everyone from following Christ. To declare oneself to be on the side of Christ is to paint a huge target on one's backside for Satan to sling his numerous "arrows" at. Do the work of God in your life and you guarentee that Satan shall come knocking at your door with temptations to lure you away from doing God's business. That is part of the "cost" of becoming a Christian. Why do so many "leaders" fall to temptation? They fall because Satan works overtime on these individuals, some because they are weak in their faith, others because they never really gave their hearts to Christ to begin with. And it discredits all believers, tarnishes all believers' testimonies, each and every time a leader accepts temptation into their lives. Having temptation in your life is one thing, accepting it is another. Accepting temptation leads to lust which leads to sin which leads to death all over again. If I have trouble with lusting after women, I most assuredly cannot go and watch exotic dancers strip off their clothing to music in front of me on a stage. That is like pouring gasoline onto a campfire! You will not be able to control temptation in that sort of situation. Get out of there! Avoid those places, and situations, like the plague!
So, beloved. God exhorts each of us to abstain from fleshly lusts in order to allow our souls to pursue the work of Christ unencumbered. We are to abstain in order to reduce to a minimum the gossip of others about us. We are to abstain in order to not cause those around us to stumble and fall into sin themselves. I pray that this post can be of help to at least one person today. May the grace and peace of Christ be with you this day!
Thu, Jul 8th - 2:08PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
The first incentive is for our own sake. I direct your attention to Mark 8:35-37. Very many people are paranoid over the perceived fact that if they commit themselves to Jesus Christ, they will be big-time losers. They conveniently forget that Jesus came into this world that we might have life, and to have it abundantly. They forget that His purpose is to enrich not to impoverish, and that His service is perfect freedom for mankind.
True, there are actual losses to face when we submit to Christ. We lose self-centeredness, addictions, guilt, and potentially lose long-time friends. But we gain eternal life, reconciliation to God, peace, wisdom, knowledge, and the love of God. The gains far outweigh the losses. Here's the paradox that many never can comprehend: If we lose ourselves in following Christ, we actually end up finding ourselves. True self-denial is true self-discovery. Living for ourselves is insanity and suicide; to live for Christ and for man is wisdom and life eternal. If all we do is obsess about me, me, me, we can never discover who we really are nor are we able to discover who anyone else actually is. We become egocentric individuals with blinders on, unable to genuinely connect relationaly with others around me.
Jesus enforced this fact by placing in contrast the entire world and the individual soul. He proceeded to ask a very businesslike question of profit and loss. Jesus argued on the very lowest level of personal self-advantage, that to follow Him was to unquestionably have the best of the bargain. To follow Christ was to find oneself, whereas to tightly clasp on to ourselves and to refuse to follow Him is to lose ourselves and forfeit our eternal destiny in heaven. Whatever material gain we may have achieved during our lifetime is pointless, it can't be taken with us beyond the grave. We can gain the entire world itself and still have nothing that will last for eternity. And nothing in this physical world of ours will last forever. And while those things did last they would end up not satisfying us for very long. Jesus Christ basically asked how much is the human soul worth? Priceless is the answer. Yes, it costs to be a Christian, but it costs far more to refuse to be a Christian for that means losing oneself forever.
Incentive number two is for the sake of others. We submit to Christ not only for what we get, but for what we can give to others. Mark speaks of losing one's life for the gospel's sake. That means in proclaiming the gospel to others. In not being ashamed of Christ or of His words, we are to be boldly proud of Him to the point of wanting to spread His good news to others. His gift of salvation is for everyone who does not have it already. We can't hide it, nor can we hoard it in our homes and refuse to share it with others.
If you are like me, you occasionally become depressed by the heart-wrenching tragedy of this "enlightened" world of ours. Survival is questionable, people feel like helpless victims of politics, bureaucracy, and corporations. Perhaps you feel like a faceless unit/cog in the machine of modern society, a nonessential component that can be easily replaced by any other. Never noticed and most certainly never missed upon death. But the Christian need not give in to this sense of powerlessness. Jesus Christ described us as "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world." Salt has historically been used to prevent decay of meats. So Christians should stop society from decaying, from deteriorating, from immorality and chaos. They are to do this by helping to preserve moral standards, influence public opinion and secure just legislation. As the light of the world Christians are to shine brightly the reflected glory of Christ out into the darkness of this corrupted world. Having found Christ Jesus to be the secret of peace and love, of personal relationships, of changing people's hearts, they must share their secret with others. They must. The best contribution any believer can give is to live a genuine Christian life, build a Christian home, and reflect the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This does not require extraordinary people, anyone and everyone can do this. God uses ordinary people to effect extraordinary change within society when those people commit to live their lives according to God's Word.
The third, and greatest, incentive is for Christ's sake. "Whoever loses his life for My sake...will save it." When we are asked to do something extremely hard, whether or not we are willing to do it depends upon who is doing the asking. If the request comes from someone with whom we are indebted, we are glad to comply. This is why Christ's appeal to us is so persuasive. Deny yourselves, come, and follow Me for My own sake.
Surely this is why He words the renunciation as "taking up the cross." To take up the cross is a weighty matter, one with which there is a cost. Christ asks no more than He already gave. He asks a cross for a cross. So we ought to follow Him because of what He gave for us, not for what we can get or what we think we can give. Will it cost us much? Yes, but it cost Him more. Christ left the Father's glory in heaven, the immunities of heaven and the worship of the heavenly host when He came. He humbled Himself to assume man's nature, to be born in a stable and laid in a manger, to work as a carpenter, to make friends with fishermen, to die upon a rough wooden cross, and to bear the sins of the entire world, the entire creation.
Only obliging ourselves to carry a cross will make us willing to deny ourselves and follow in His footsteps. Our crosses are miniscule compared to that upon which He was crucified. Upon catching a glimpse of the immenseness of His love to suffer such shame and pain for us who deserved nothing but condemnation, only one path will seem to make any sense to us. How can we deny or reject such a lover?
If you suffer from moral weakness then steer clear of Christianity. If you wish to live a life of easy-going self-indulgence, do not become a Christian. However, if you want a life of self-discovery, deeply satisfying to the original nature that God has given you; if you want a life of adventure in which you have the privilege of serving Him and your fellowmen; if you want a life in which to express something of the overwhelming gratitude you are beginning to feel for Christ who died for you, then I urge you to yield your life, without reserve and without delay, to your Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.
That is it for today my friends. Next time I will write about making a decision. We have been going through Christ's Person, Man's Need, Christ's Work, and now the response of man to all of that. We just finished counting the cost and now it is time to reach some sort of decision in this matter. That shall come the next time we meet here in this study. I hope and pray that you decide to come back. Has the world somehow been made right through Christ's actions? Nothing else need be done by anyone? Or is there something more required by Christ? That is for next time.
Thu, Jul 8th - 6:59AM
Study in I John
And now, little children, remain in Him; that, when He shall sppear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming(2:28).
John speaks to all of God's children, no matter what their level of spiritual maturity. He calls for all believers to remain in Him. This not given so much as a commandment as it is a promise being given out to us. Fellowship is being indicated in this passage. To remain in the Lord Jesus Christ is to live in fellowship with Him. It means we are having communion with Him.
"That, when He shall appear," tells us that there is no doubt of His return. We may sometimes feel that it is becoming an "if" but "if" He appears today we still have confidence. We have the anointing of God's Holy Spirit, but He will not reveal to us when Jesus is coming back. That is one thing which God has reserved for Himself to know alone.
Why hasn't God shown all of us the exact time of His return to this earth? A Christian ought to live in the light of the imminent coming of Christ. We ought to live each day as if He was coming now. If I were to know that He wasn't coming for another ten years then I would tend to not worry about today, I could begin telling myself that I had plenty of time left yet. I can become careless in my living. But if Christ might come this very day, this very moment, He would find me typing up this blog message which I ought to be doing faithfully. I wouldn't be ashamed at His coming. So, each of us must live each day as if Christ were coming so that if He does come we will not be ashamed at being caught doing things we shouldn't be doing. I hope that that is understandable to you the way I have written it. The bottome line is this: You and I need to live all of the time in the light of Christ's imminent return.
It seems that a great number of people these days are talking about the coming of Christ. Books are being written about it, movies are being filmed with this as a premise in the plot lines. They get excited about it, much money is being made for some over it, but they are all going to be embarassed when Christ does return for they will not have any confidence and they will be very ashamed before Him at His coming. Why? Because of their personal lives. In Revelation 22:12 Jesus says to us, "And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be." Many are going to be ashamed of what they are caught at doing, there shall not be any confidence in them of going to heaven, let alone receiving crowns of glory for the good works they may have done for God. Christ shall reward each and every person when He returns, it is just that some rewards will be extremely temporary in nature. Our lives must commend the gospel of Christ if we expect entrance into the kingdom of God.
Finally, John and Peter have been saying the exact same thing: False doctrine and false living go together; true doctrine and true living also go together. Cult leaders eventually fall victim to their false living style and are arrested and judged in court. There is nothing that will affect our life as much as the knowledge that we are going to stand in the presence of Christ and give an account of our works to Him. Every believer will stand before His Judgment seat. Paul told us, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad(II Corinthians 5:10)." This is not about the issue of salvation, that has already been settled because we are His children. It is not a question of whether you are saved or lost; it is all about whether or not you are going to get any reward or recognition. Unfortunately, the rapture is not going to be such an exciting event for many believers because of the lives they lived here on earth. We must live lives dedicated to Christ, cleave to Him and to His calling. We must fight the "good fight" and run the race as if we actually mean to win it! There can be none of this half-heartedness involved in our faith and in our walk with Christ. We must be all in as the saying goes in the game of poker. Ante up!
That is all for this morning, beloved! Time to prepare for the work day ahead of me. I hope and pray that God blesses you this day, that you find some small nugget of truth in my blog that strengthens you today. Walk boldly in the light of Christ and keep your eyes looking out in front of you towards that glorious day when Christ returns to rule upon this earth, and brings His kingdom into being here on earth just as it is in heaven.
Wed, Jul 7th - 1:22PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
Some other private affairs over which Christ becomes Master when we commit to Him are our money and our time. Jesus spoke often about money, about the dangers of having riches. Much of what He had to say about this topic is disturbing. Many have studied His words and come away with the impression that we are to sell what we have and give it all away. Without a doubt, there are still some today to whom He makes this specific call. They become missionaries to foreign lands, serving God before these others who have not heard God's Word. But for the vast majority of us, Christ's command is to an inner detachment to these things, not a literal renunciation of them. The message of the New Testament is not that possessions are sinful, but that our attitudes towards them are what can be sinful. Thus, eliminating the possessions would not eliminate the wrong attitudes that we harbor over them. Sin would still reign within us, we would simply be poor and sinners.
Yes, Christ most certainly meant that we are to place Him above material possessions just as we are to put Him above family ties. Jesus said that we cannot serve Him and money. But He did not repudiate money, for He also told us that we must be conscientious in our use of our money. He also has declared that all that we find in our possession comes from Him, so how can it be evil, wicked? It can't be. So the money in our paychecks and bank accounts is not ours but God's. We simply hold it in stewardship from God. In this day and age we must be generous in our giving as the chasm between the "haves" and the "have nots" ever increases in width.
Time. Everyone's problem these days. Not enough of it. Or it passes by too fast. The new Christian is forced to rearrange his/her priorities for time management. We are to be known for our hard work and honesty. But we must hew out time for new tasks. We must make time for daily prayer and Bible study, for setting a day of worship aside for God and for rest, for fellowship with other believers in Christ, for reading Christian literature, and of course for some sort of worship service within a congregation of fellow believers.
This is what is involved if we are to forsake sin and self, pick up our cross and follow Christ.
The call to confess Christ
It is insufficient to merely follow Christ privately, we must confess Him publically. We can't deny ourselves in secret and deny Him in the open. A quick reading of Mark 8:38 and Matthew 10:32-33 provide us with the support for this position.
The fact that Jesus told us to not be ashamed of Him proves that He full well knew that we would be sorely tempted to be ashamed of Him. His addition of "in this adulterous and sinful generation" pretty much indicates His knowledge of why we would be tempted. Christ foresaw that His church would be a minority movement in this world. No matter how many profess to be of the faith, Christ's church is a minority, a remnant. This fact requires courage to side with the few against the many, especially as the few become more and more unpopular within the culture and you are not naturally drawn to them.
But an open confession of Christ can't be avoided or side-stepped. Paul declares this to be a part of salvation. Believe in our hearts and to confess with our lips that Jesus Christ is Lord. Public confession along with baptism through immersion in water are visible signs of the choice made to identify with Christ.
This public confession continues with a willingness for family and friends to know about this conversion through the life then led. This leads in time to opportunities to witness. Joining a congregation is next; associate with other Christians at work, school, or leisure. The person ought to begin seeking by prayer, example and testimony to win their friends to Christ.
The demands of Christ are heavy indeed; but the reasons He gives are compelling. For us to seriously consider the total surrender for which He asks, we must have some powerful incentives.
Next time I am going to provide three incentives for considering a total surrender to Christ. I hope you will return tomorrow to find out what these things are. May the grace and peace of Christ clothe you this day.
Wed, Jul 7th - 6:40AM
Study in I John
But the anointing which you have received of Him remains in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is not a lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall remain in Him(2:27).
The Greek word charisma gets translated as "anointing" in this verse. It is misleading since we automatically assign its meaning from our English word "charisma." But this anointing term in English comes from the word "charism." It means an extraordinary power(as of healing)given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the church. So each believer, upon becoming born-again through salvation by Christ, receives an anointing. This anointing gives us power to do good for the body of Christ, or the church. John tells us here that this anointing teaches us of all things, not just some things. This anointing is the truth, not falsehood. Then John personalizes this anointing, he calls it "Him." Him? Yes, this must be the Holy Spirit which anoints us upon repentance from all of our sins and once we become reconciled unto God the Father. On the Day of Pentecost the believers gathered in that room received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, as of tongues of fire, and were given a healing power, were given the truth. They then were able to go out into the streets and speak in foreign tongues, which people from those regions of the earth were able to understand and marveled at the ability of these common folk to speak their native languages so flawlessly. Speaking in tongues was not a hodge-podge of garbled words which no one could understand, no, these people suddenly could speak other languages.
But what does this mean for us today? In the Old Testament the prophets always were anointed with oil. This was a visible sign for all of the people to know that the prophet was specially endued by the Holy Spirit to perform a certain function for God. They were separated from the world and to God for a special purpose. That is what this means for us today. We have been separated from the world and to God for a special purpose. The Holy Spirit has come to dwell within each of us, providing us with wisdom, knowledge, and the Truth about all things. To access this we simply need to develop a solid, sincere, prayer life. We need to get into an intimate relationship with God's Spirit and devote time from our hectic schedules in order to obtain answers to our questions about life, love, and His Word.
I am not saying that we do not ever need good teachers of God's Word. We most certainly do. But we must not ever totally rely upon human teachers for our knowledge about God. That needs to come from His Holy Spirit which dwells within each believer. Paul wroe in Ephesians about God having given some to be teachers for they were separated to God for the purpose of building up the body of believers in Christ.
I have been blessed over the past 25 years to have had several men of faith cross my pathway in life. Many were members of Twin City Baptist Church. Brother Burke who was the senior pastor taught me about prayer, and the need to allow the Holy Spirit to lead during any, and all, sermons. His sermons could vary immensely in length! Dan Dunham, Paul Miller, Bill Seney, and a handful of others demonstrated to me daily how to walk a life of faithful service to Christ. We all need to have these sorts of individuals in our lives, they help to build up our faith, our knowledge of God. Today on the radio I listen to Chip Ingram, Alistair Begg, and the programs of Adrian Rodgers and J. Vernon McGee to gain inspiration and knowledge about the Word of God. I seek to learn from their lives and experiences in order to pass that additional knowledge along to others whenever possible. It is important to do. Those who follow in our footsteps must be inspired to lead holy lives, just as we need to be inspired today. So, good teachers of the Word of God are a necessary thing, just not the end all of things.
What is necessary for each of us as believers is to reach that point at which the Holy Spirit becomes our principle teacher of spiritual truth. As we study the Word of God we need to be asking His Spirit what the message there is for us today. Understand me? Ask and you shall receive! You have not, because you ask not! If we would only sincerely ask God for understanding we would surely receive it. And when it comes to teachers of God's Word, we all must test their spirits to make sure that they are accurately teaching what the Bible says. We cannot in this day and age become lazy, sloppy, or indifferent to what we hear others say about God's Word. We must go and verify that what is being said is accurate, or not. Go, and verify what I am saying is accurate. Do not take me at my word simply because it sounds good to your ears. I hope one day that you will reach the conclusion that I am accurate, but please do not base that decision on anything but verification through God's Word.
That is all for this morning, beloved. I shall continue studying through the next couple of verses in which this intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit is further opened up before us and explained. I hope that you will return once more. Grace and peace of Christ be with you today!
Tue, Jul 6th - 12:05PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
To make Christ Lord of our lives is to bring absolutely every single area of our personal and business lives under His control. That includes both public and private time. Career and hobbies. God has a plan for our life, and it very well could be vastly different from our parents' or our own. If Christ is our Lord, we must open our minds to the possibility of a change, sometimes a dramatic change.
What can be certain is that Christ calls every believer to "ministry," or service, to be the servant of other people for the sake of Christ. We can not live for ourselves any more. The uncertainty is what form this service will take. It might be ordained ministry of the church, or some type of full time church work in your home country or overseas. It could be raising your children, or grandchildren, to be Christians. The calling of a woman to become a wife, mother and home-maker is in the fullest sense "Christian ministry," since she is serving the interests of Jesus Christ, her family, and her community. Service comes in the form of every kind of work - medicine, research, law, education, social service, federal and local government, industry, business and trade - as long as the worker views him/herself as cooperating with God in the service of man. Wastewater treatment workers are the stewards of God's environment, cleaning and protecting the fresh water sources we use every day, and they protect the public health. All occupations may be viewed as ministerial opportunities to serve God, as long as the person believes that Christ has called them to serve Him in that capacity.
It does no good to rush around attempting to discover God's plan for your life. Simply surrender to it and wait upon the Lord to reveal it to you. He will show it to you at the appointed time. Whatever it proves to be, we are not then to remain idle. Whether we are an employer, an employee, or self-employed, we have a Master who has called us to do a work for Him. We must grasp God's purpose in our work and then labor at it with all of our heart, "as serving the Lord and not men."
Another important area of our life which falls under the lordship of Christ is our marriage and our home. Jesus spoke about the clash of loyalties which sometimes arises within a family when one of its members begins to follow God.
These family conflicts still occur today. The Christian can never seek them. The Christian is duty-bound to love and honor his/her parents and other members of their family. The Christian is called to be a peacemaker, thus he/she will make as many concessions as he/she can without compromising duty to God. The believer can never place their love of spouse, child, or parent, above their love of Christ otherwise they become unworthy of God(Matthew 10:34-37).
A Christian ought to only marry another Christian. II Corinthians 6:14 informs us that we are not to yoke ourselves unequally with unbelievers. To deliberately enter into marriage with an unbeliever is to invite great distress into your life. It is in direct opposition to God's will for your life, and can't but create trouble and divided loyalties. If you cannot be spiritually one with your spouse how can you achieve the relationship which God desires for you? God designed marriage to be an intimate union, not only physical, emotional, intellectual, and social, but spiritual. You would miss out on the fullness of the union God intended for you to experience. It also puts the children of the marriage at risk, for it introduces them to religious conflict in their own home and makes impossible any sort of Christian education they ought to receive from both of their parents.
Christian conversion is so radical that our entire attitude to marriage, and to relations between the sexes, is likely to change greatly. We begin to see sexuality _ the fundamental distinction between man and woman, and the need of each for the other - as the creation of God. And then sex is no longer debased and defiled by selfish irresponsibility into something casual and essentially impersonal, but becomes what God meant it to be, something good and right, the expression of love, a fulfillment of the divine purpose and of the human personality. We become what we were originally intended to be when we finally achieve a proper perspective on our sexuality.
That is all for today. Next time, God willing, I will continue along with this thought and hopefully finish it up. Stop and ponder deep and long your view of your sexuality. Does it align with God's Word? Do you respect the opposite sex? Do you understand the sanctity of marriage, and how honoring those marriage vows becomes ever so important? If one cannot honor vows made to one's spouse, how can one then honor vows made to God, whom one can't even see? Food for thought...
Sun, Jul 4th - 3:08PM
Study in I John
And this is the promise that He has promised to us, even eternal life. These things have I written to you concerning them that seduce you(2:25-26).
There is only one type of life offered by God, and that is eternal life. Seduce means "to lead astray, to lead from the truth." This is an appropriate word to be used here. It applies both physically and spiritually. Spiritual adultery is when someone leads you away from God's truth, you have been seduced. I believe we all understand the physical part of this seduction.
Even as soon as the latter part of John's life there were those who came along and began to deny the Father was the same as the Son. They denied that Christ was who He claimed to be. They began seducing some of the less mature believers away from the truth which had been taught by all of the apostles. John declares that we must hang onto the fact that God has promised us eternal life if we put our faith in Christ Jesus.
John told his people that they did not need anything that the Gnostics were teaching. That group pretended to have superior knowledge, that they knew a little bit more than everyone else. We have a new breed of Gnostics in our culture today. They threaten to overcome the church with their brand of Christ and a little bit more. They are the "super-duper saints" that feel like they can teach anyone and everyone a thing or two about God.
The proper response to gaining increased knowledge about God would be that of John the Baptist: "He must increase, but I must decrease(John 3:30)." Here is something which I will share with you that I hope you will ponder at great length. In my studies of the Word of God it is revealed to me how much I don't know and how dreadfully ignorant I am concerning God. I study the Bible now as I have never done in my entire life, but the more tha I learn the more I realize the depths of my ignorance about God. In my thirties there were some things that I thought were certain about Christ, and now I have discovered how wrong I was. How arrogant it is of anyone to think that they can reach a total understanding of the depths of God's attributes since He is infinite and eternal! I am not a super-duper saint by any stretch of the imagination; all I wish to do is rest upon the promise of God.
That is all for right now, beloved. I sincerely hope that you have thanked God for liberating you from the shackles of personal sin. This is an appropriate day in which to do this here in America. If you have not yet accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, why not do it today? Here in America it is Independence Day, a day of remembrance for becoming free from tyranny. Why not allow Christ to reconcile you with Him, gain freedom from the bondage of sin, and enter into newness of eternal life with the Father? Christ has offered to take up your burden/s and carry them for you, if you will only let Him. Your burdens are probably quite heavy, perhaps too heavy for you to continue to shoulder them by yourself. Christ has said that His "yoke" is light, and designed to free you from all burden. Why not let Him carry you for a distance? Let Him give you peace, and redemption from all of the bad choices that you may have made during your life. All you have to do is ask Him. He will come into your heart at your sincere invitation.
Sat, Jul 3rd - 9:45AM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
Circumstances prevented me from getting back to this study last evening, so I continue afresh this morning!
In speaking previously about restitution after conversion to Christianity, I must point out that we ought not to become excessively over-scrupulous in the matter. Sifting through past years and making an issue of insignificant words or deeds long forgotten by the offended person amounts to foolishness. If we really repent, we shall desire to do everything in our power to redress the wrongs of our past. Any gain we have from past sins must be removed from our lives if we truly wish to enjoy God's forgiveness.
There must also be a renunciation of ourselves. In order to follow Christ we must forsake isolated sins AND renounce the priniciple of self-will which rests at the root of every act of sin. Following Christ requires our surrendering to Him the rights over our own lives. It means to abdicate the throne of our heart and do homage to Him as our King. This renunciation of ourselves is vividly described by Jesus in three phrases.
It is to deny ourselves: "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself." The same verb is used of Peter's denial of Christ in the courtyard of the high priest's palace. We are to disown ourselves as completely as Peter disowned Christ when he said "I do not know the man." Self-denial is more than giving up sweets and tobacco. This is not about denying things to myself, but to deny myself to myself. It is to say no to self, and yes to Christ; to reject self and acknowledge God.
It is to take up the cross: "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." If we were living in Palestine during Christ's day and we saw a man carrying his cross, we would immediatley identify him as a convicted criminal being led out to pay with his life for breaking the law. This is what the Romans compelled their convicted prisoners to do. So to take up our cross is to put ourselves into the position of a condemned person on their way to execution. We are expected to adopt an attitude towards self which is identical to crucifixion. Paul the apostle also wrote of this concept of having crucified our carnal nature, or flesh, and thus belong to Christ. In Luke's accounting of this statement by Christ he adds the adverb "daily." Every day the believer is to die to self and reaffirm Christ's lordship over their life. The believer must renounce daily the sovereignty of his/her own will and renew his/her unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ.
It is to lose our life: "Whosoever loses his life...will save it." The word used for "life" here means neither our physical existence nor our soul, but our self. The psyche is the ego, the human personality which thinks, feels, plans and chooses. The person who commits himself to Christ, therefore, loses himself. He does not lose his individuality. His will is indeed submitted to Christ's will, but his personality is not absorbed into Christ's personality. When the believer loses himself he finds himself, he discovers his true identity.
So in order to follow Christ we have to deny ourselve, to lose ourselves. This is the full demand of Jesus Christ. He does not call us to a half-heartedness, but to vigorous, absolute commitment to Christ. He calls us to make Him our Lord.
The amazing concept rampant today is that we can enjoy the benefits of Christ's salvation without accepting the challenge of His sovereign lordship. This idea can't be found in the New Testament. That Christ was Lord is what caused many to become martyrs during the Roman imperium. The believers could not give Caesar their first allegiance because they had already given it to Christ Jesus.
That is all for today my friends. God willing, next time I shall continue along with this concept of forsaking ourselves in order to find ourselves. May the grace and peace of Christ be yours!
Fri, Jul 2nd - 8:11PM
Study in I John
But you have an unction from the Holy One, and you know all things(2:20).
"Unction" means anointing as a rite of consecration or healing. We, as believers, have an anointing, and it is by the Holy Spirit of God. I Corinthians 2:9-10 gives us this, "...Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. But God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit..." Since the Holy Spirit indwells every true believer in Christ, He is able to reveal to each one God's truth. We can know the things which are in the Word of God. If you and I really want to do business with God, if we really want to get right down to the nitty-gritty with Him, then we must come to Him, ask for light, ask for guidance, and ask for His assurance.
"And you know all things" does not translate into meaning that we suddenly have a Ph.D. degree in spiritual things. It does mean that by the Holy Spirit we can study the Word of God and through the experiences which God sends to us, we have the potential of maturing in our understanding of God's Word.
Seminary can be a wonderful place to learn various things about the Bible, but it can never replace that which God is able to make understandable to us through His Spirit. We need to let the Holy Spirit be our Teacher, our Instructor. The question than becomes, "Are we willing to learn from God?"
I have not written unto you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth(2:21).
These people had the gospel, they had the truth. John is not writing anything new to these people but rather, he is encouraging them and warning them due to the false teaching that was going on within the church.
John knew that this congregation had the truth and that they must stand firm against the lies that were beginning to be introduced into doctrine. Gnosticism was growing and there were many antichrists who were appearing. John now returns to talking about these antichrists.
Who is a liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son(2:22).
The language becomes much stronger here. John minces few words as he points out that anyone who denies that Jesus is the Messiah of God is a liar. These smaller anitchrists are all leading up to one who shall be Satan's main man, and he is the liar.
So anyone who denies Christ is God is antichrist. John gives us the foundational truth about Anitchrist, the one who shall come for the End Times. This Man of Perdition shall deny the deity of Christ, just as the lesser antichrists have all done down through the ages.
Today we have many systems in the world which deny Christ. They are against Christ, and they also imitate Him and try to supplant Him. Liberalism and all of the cults and "isms" have also denied His deity. Dr. William E. Hocking, who was professor of philosophy at Harvard University, once made this statement, "God is in His world, but Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed are in their little private closets, and we shall thank them, but never return to them." As can be seen, that is a direct, in-your-face denial of the deity of Christ.
John made it very clear that denying Christ as the Messiah and as the Son of God makes one an anichrist. Now he is going to expand this concept to include denial of the Father as a result of denying Christ. You see, the deity of Christ is essential to our salvation because if He is not God, the man who died on the cross over nineteen hundred years ago can't be our Savior. He couldn't even be His own Savior. None of us can die for the other. It was absolutely necessary for God to become a man in order that we might have redemption.
Whosoever denies the Son, the same does not have the Father: but he that acknowledges the Son has the Father also(2:23).
To claim that you believe in God and then deny the deity of Christ, you really do not believe in God, not the God of the Bible. Jehovah of the Bible sent His only Son into our world to die for our sins. And since the Son is also God, He alone is the one who could make a satisfactory sacrifice to God for our sins.
Let that therefore abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning. If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, you also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father(2:24).
The beginning for John is the incarnation of Jesus Christ. All that has been heard about His incarnation, His life, His ministry, His death and resurrection, all this is to be retained in our hearts and minds.
By never letting go of the truth about Christ we end up continuing in God. It is essential to have a living faith which rests in the One who came to this earth to redeem us from our sins. We have been told in John 1:18 that Christ was declared by God, the word exegeomai, meaning "declared" was used. God led Christ out to where we can know about Him because God became a man. This the only way that you and I are able to discover Him. The important thing in this entire passage of scripture is communion with the Father and the Son. Yes, we have life in Christ through faith in Him, but the emphasis is upon having communion and enjoying that fellowship with God.
That is all for tonight, beloved. May you enjoy this Fourth of July holiday weekend, may it be accident free. Stop and think at some point on the fourth, consider how Christ has made it possible for you to live independent of the power of sin in your life. It is truly an Independence Day for each and every believer in Christ! Amen.
Fri, Jul 2nd - 1:43PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
To continue about the forsaking when we choose to follw Christ Jesus.
First, there must be a renunciation of sin. In other words, repentance. This is the first part of Christian conversion. Repentance and faith belong together and repentance can't be bypassed at this stage. There can be no following Christ without forsaking sin in our life. Repentance is a definite turn away from every thought, word, deed, and habit which is known to be wrong. It is insufficient to feel pangs of remorse or to make some kind of apology to God. Repentance is not a matter of emotion or of speech. It is an inner change of mind and attitude towards sin which leads to a change of behavior outwardly. So repentance from sin begins in the heart of man and works its way to showing outward changes in man's behavior. It can't work from the outside on in towards one's heart.
Compromise has no place here. There very well may be sins in our lives which we do not think we ever could get rid of; but we must be willing to let them go as we turn to God for deliverance from the power of sin in our lives. Those who are in doubt as to what is right and what is wrong, what must go and what may remain, please go by the clear teaching of the Bible after much personal prayer. Christ through His Holy Spirit will lead you to all truth. When something stands up out of God's Word, give it up as told by God. It may be an association with people or places, some literature you read, some programming either on television or the internet, or it may simply be an unforgiving spirit in your heart.
Well, how determined ought I to be in eliminating sin from my life? Jesus told His followers to pluck out their eye and cut off their hand or foot if these appendages caused them to continually commit sin. Are we to do this literally? No! It was given to emphasize how ruthlessly we must deal with the paths along which temptation comes at us. Can I sit and watch the Victoria's Secret commercials on TV? I sure wouldn't. I sure don't anymore. They show more flesh than Playboy did thirty-forty years ago in their magazines. Those commercials are pornographic in nature. We must always be aware of where temptations are, and how they are being thrown in our way. Ignore this, and it is only a matter of time before we will trip up, stumble, and fall into sin again. The recovered alcoholic can't keep going to bars and nightclubs where alcohol is served freely, and expect to remain sober. He will fall again.
Unfortunately, sometimes true repentance must include "restitution." This means putting things right with other people, whom we may have injured. All of our sins wound God, and nothing we do can heal that wound. Only the atoning death of Christ, our Savior, can do this. But when our sins have damaged other people, we ought to help to repair the damage. Zacchaeus, the dishonest tax-collector, more than repaid the money he had stolen from his clients and promised to give away half his capital to the poor to compensate for thefts he could not make good. We must follow his example. There may be money, or time, for us to pay back, rumors to be corrected, property to be returned, apologies to be made, or broken relationships to be mended.
That is all for now, beloved. I hope to add a bit more to this post tonight as well as post in my I John study. See you then!
Thu, Jul 1st - 1:15PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
Counting the cost
It is now time to ask the same question put to Jesus Christ by Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road, "What shall I do, Lord?" Or the similar question asked by the Philippian jailor, "What must I do to be saved?"
Clearly we must do something. Christianity is not a passive acceptance of a series of propositions, no matter how true they might be. We may believe in the deity and the salvation of Christ, and acknowledge ourselves to be sinners in need of His salvation; but none of this makes us born-again. We have to make a personal response to Christ, commit ourselves completely to Him as our Savior and Lord. In essence, we have to get down off of the fence and choose which side we will live our lives on. Procrastination no longer is acceptable, a choice must be made.
Jesus never hid the fact that His church included a demand as well as an offer. The demand was as total as the offer was free. As He offered men His salvation, He also demanded their total submission. He gave no encouragement to thoughtless applicants for discipleship. He brought no pressure upon any enquirer. He sent irresponsible enthusiasts away empty handed. Luke tells us of three men who either volunteered, or were invited, to follow Jesus; but not one of the three passed the Lord's tests. The rich young ruler also, moral, earnest and attractive, who wanted eternal life on his own terms, went away thoroughly bummed out, with his riches intact but without eternal life or Christ as his possession.
On another occasion we find in Luke 14:25-30 a parable given by Jesus in response to the great crowds that were showing impressive outward expressions of allegiance and loyalty to Him. But how committed were they to these voicings? "Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Other wise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build, and was not able to finish.'"
Today's Christian landscape is littered with the wreckage of spiritual towers half built, abandoned; the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish. Thousands upon thousands of people continue to ignore Christ's warning and declare to follow Him without first counting the cost of doing so. The results of these choices is the presence of "nominal Christians." These are people who have covered themselves with a thin veneer of Christianity. They have become somewhat involved; enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. They have not been outside of their comfort zone. They are protected from the unpleasantness of life, and change its place and shape to suit their personal convenience. It is why cynics speak so openly of hypocrites within the church and dismiss religion as escapism from reality.
Christ's message was very, very different. He never lowered His standards or modified His conditions to make His call more readily acceptable. He asked His first disciples, and He has asked every disciple ever since, to give Him their thoughtful and total commitment. Nothing less than this is acceptable to God.
Let's talk about what Christ said. In Mark 8:34-38 we find, "He called to him the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
The call to follow Christ
The above text is a call issued by Christ to all mankind. It was "Follow Me." He asked for men and women to give their personal allegiance to Him. He invited them to learn from Him, to obey His words and to identify themselves with His cause.
Now, in order to follow there must first be a forsaking of something which was previous. To follow Christ is to renounce all lesser loyalties. In His time upon the earth this meant a literal abandonment of home, career, and even family. Simon and Andrew left their fishing nets and followed Him. James and John left their father Zebedee in the fishing boat and followed Him. Matthew the tax collector heard Jesus' call and left everything and followed Him.
Today, the call of the Lord has not changed. He still says to follow Him, and to renounce all that you have. In practice today this means an inner surrender of both home and career, and a refusal to allow either family or ambition to have first priority in our lives. It is to realize that all that we have is already God's, we have it on loan and it can be called in at any time. But God does not desire that we live in abject poverty or become homeless.
But let's be even more explicit about the forsaking which can't be separated from the following of Christ Jesus.
That is reserved for next time we meet here. Let each of us sit down and soberly count the cost of following Christ where He beckons us to walk. Let none of us attempt to begin a work for Christ without discovering what it will encompass in order to complete it. We do not need to look foolish in the eyes of the world. We need to plug into the wisdom of God and do things in an orderly fashion at all times. Chaos has no place in the business of God. Grace and peace be yours today!
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