Sun, May 30th - 9:50PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
There have been many pretenders to greatness and divinity over the centuries. Psychiatric hospitals are full of deluded people who claim to be Julius Caesar, Napoleon, President of the United States, or Jesus Christ. No one believes them, they have no followers who are changing the world. They are unable to convince anyone that they are who they claim to be. Their character does not support their claims.
With Christ the believer's conviction about Him is strengthened by the fact that Christ does appear to be who He claims to be. No discrepancy exists between His words and His deeds. His character does not prove His claims to be true, but it strongly confirms them. His claims were exclusive and His character was unique.
To us, the believers, it is a question not of comparison, but of contrast. The rich young ruler said that Jesus was good. Jesus wasn't simply better than other men, or even the best of all men. He was good, as in the absolute goodness of God.
Christ responded to the young ruler, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone." This claim is important to us. Sin is a congenital desease among mankind. We are born with its infection in our nature. It is universal in its coverage. So if Jesus of Nazareth was without sin, He was not just man as we know men. If He was sinless then He was distinct from the rest of us. He had to have been supernatural. He came from outside of our natural world.
SINLESSNESS OF CHRIST
Once or twice Christ directly stated that He was without sin. A woman had been discovered in the act of adultery and was dragged before Him, but not the adulterous man, Jesus issued a gut-wrenching challenge to her accusers. He who was without sin could cast the first stone at her. No one remained to throw anything at her. A little later in John 8 Jesus issued another challenge, this time concerning Himself: "Which of you convicts Me of sin?" No one dared and they all slipped away. They were all sinners; He was without any sin. He lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father's will. No boasting was involved.
Likewise, the very nature of His teaching placed Him in a moral category all by Himself. Jesus assumed His uniqueness unself-consciously. He did not draw undue attention to it. It did not require emphasis. All other men were lost sheep; He had come as the Good Shepherd to seek and to save them. All other men were sick with the disease of sin; He had come as the Doctor who would heal them. All other men were mired in the darkness of sin and ignorance; He had come as the Light of the world. All other men were sinners; He was born to be their Savior and to shed His blood in death for the forgiveness of their sins. All other men were hungry; He had come as the Bread of Life. All of these express the moral uniqueness of Christ Jesus.
It is not surprising that we only hear of Christ's temptations and not of any sins. He never had to confess His sins nor ask for forgiveness. He shows no awareness of moral failure of any kind. There are no feelings of guilt to be seen. Christ's baptism by John was no indication, or acknowledgment, of His sin but was an example given to us as to how obedient we are to be. Christ had to fulfill all righteousness and show us the way to newness of life. His was a life of unbroken communion with God.
Jesus possessed a keen moral judgment. He clearly perceived the questions and perplexities of the crowds. This also allowed Him to boldly expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Another reason why His self-conscious purity is astonishing to us is that it is utterly unlike the experience of all saints and mystics. The believer in Christ knows that the closer he approaches God, the more he becomes aware of his own sin. The believer thus becomes like the scientist. The more the scienfist discovers, the more he appreciates the mysteries which await his discovery. So the more the believer matures spiritually the more he perceives the vastness of the gulf which separates him from God.
Mature believers become more and more prone to lament their moral corruption. They will complain of how their flesh betrays them at the most inopportune times. They point out their lack of prayer and love for Christ. Insufficiencies rise to the forefront of their awareness. It is this perspective in which Paul writes about himself being a wretched man. Living close to Christ makes one painfully aware of their shortcomings.
But Jesus Christ, who lived closer to God than anybody else has ever done, was free of any sense of sin.
That is all for now, beloved. God willing, I will find time tomorrow to post some more on this. May Christ guide you in all things, may you experience a blessed Memorial Day in America and recall those who have sacrificed themselves for your behalf. Spend a moment in prayer and thank God for people who were willing to lay down their lives in order that we may live freely and worship freely. I hope and pray that there are still some among us who are willing to do that.
Sun, May 30th - 11:59AM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
I am not going to try to conduct a thorough discussion of the possibility and purpose of miracles. I aim only to indicate that the value of Christ's miracles rests less in their supernatural character than in their spiritual significance. These miracles were said to be "signs" and "wonders." They were not done selfishly or senselessly. They were not done in order to show off or to compel submission. They were illustrations of moral authority. We could say that they are the acted parables of Jesus Christ. They demonstrated His claims visually to everyone who witnessed them.
The apostle John saw this aspect clearly. His Gospel account is centered around several "signs" (John 20:30-31), and attaches them with the great "I am" statements which Christ made. The very first sign was the changing of water into wine at a wedding reception in Cana. At first glance it appears rather ho-hum. We need to look below the surface to find significance. We are told in the account that the waterpots of stone were ready for the rites of purification. The water stood for the old religion while the wine stood for the emerging religion of Christ. So, as Christ changed the water into wine, the gospel superceded the law. The sign indicated that He was competent to begin a new order. He was the Messiah.
His feeding of the five thousand illustrated His claim to satisfy the hunger of the human heart. He said that He was the bread of life. A little later He healed a blind man, already having said that He was the light of the world. If He could give sight to the physically blind he could restore "sight" to humans so that they could see God again. Finally, He brought a dead man back to life after having been dead for four days. Jesus claimed that He was the resurrection and the life. The life of the body symbolized the life of the soul. Christ could be the life of the believer before death and would be the resurrection of the believer after death. All of the miracles are parables, for we all are spiritually hungry, blind, deaf, and dead, and only Christ can satisfy these things.
So, what can one conclude from all of this? The claims cannot possibly be separated from the teaching of Christ. They were not invented afterwards by the evangelists, nor were they unconsciously exaggerated. They are fairly evenly distributed throughout the gospel accounts and the overall portrait painted is too balanced and consistent to have been imagined or made up.
The claims are there for all to read about. By themselves they do not compose evidence of deity. Granted they may be false, but some explanation of them must be found. We can't regard Jesus Christ as simply a great teacher if He was completely mistaken in one of the chief subjects of His teaching---Himself. Scholars note the certain amount of disturbing "megalomania" about Christ which if recognized in a mere would be considered outrageous. If He were a mere man then it is disturbing to see such tendencies, but being God it is perfectly understandable that He would teach in such a manner.
Was He a deliberate imposter? Did He attempt to gain the confidence of men to His views by assuming a divine authority He did not actually possess? This is very difficult to believe based upon the actions of those followers after His death. Why continue with following a man who so obviously had failed in what He had been preaching and teaching? No, there is something genuine about Christ. He despised hypocrisy in any form as found in others and was transparently sincere Himself.
Could He have been sincerely mistaken then? Did He have a delusion about Himself? Those who push this view have greater delusions than Christ's. Christ does not impress me as having the abnormality which would be expected to be found in those who are deluded. His character appears to support His claims.
That concludes this part of our study. Next up will be investigating the character of Christ. God willing we shall all meet here again to open up God's Word and continue this study in the basics of the faith in Christ.
Sat, May 29th - 8:34PM
II Peter Epistle Study
In beginning study of this chapter there are three major divisions (1) The attitudes toward the return of the Lord as a test of apostates; (2) the agenda of God for the world; and (3) the admonition to believers.
This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance(3:1).
Peter puts to rest the question of authorship of these two letters. He is the writer of both.
"I stir up your pure minds" is not meaning that the saints of his day were any better than any of us in the present time. Rather, I believe that he meant that they had sincere minds. I know that my mind is no where near being pure and I am sure that each of you would agree in similar assessments of your own minds.
Beloved, our minds are not pure minds, and we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that they are. Peter was addressing genuine believers in this verse. He wished to stir up their sincere minds by the means of remembering. Nothing new was to be brought to their attention, but rather he desired to remind them of the things of which they had already learned.
Someone once said, "My memory is pretty good. My problem is that my forgettery is even better!" I have that same problem, and I am sure that all of you suffer from this same malady. Simon Peter knew all about this affliction. Three times he denied His Lord while warming his hands next to a fire; he forgot all about the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ had said that he would deny Him. And doesn't the account say, "And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said unto him, Before the cock crow, you shall deny Me three times(Luke 22:61)." Peter had the same shortcomings that each of us suffer from, and so he wanted to remind all of these believers(and us too)to not forget what God has told us.
So what is it that he wants them, and us, to remember?
That you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior(3:2).
"Holy prophets" are none other than the Old Testament writers. These are the judges, the righteous kings, and prophets. Once again we notice that Peter did not elevate himself above the other apostles, he says the commandment of all of the apostles. He includes Paul in this assessment as later on he will include something which Paul had written. He is telling them that they must remember what had been written about by all of the apostles and what had been the subject of the Old Testament.
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts(3:3).
Peter declares what must be known first of all: that in the last days there will be those who scoff at belief in God and Christ. We live in "those days" and there are plenty of scoffers to ridicule us and belittle our faith in God. They tell us repeatedly that we are "small-minded" or "weak-minded." We must need a crutch to make it through life. I tell you plainly that it takes a strong-minded person to choose to follow after Christ's footsteps in this day and age. A Christian life is not taking the easy way out, nor is it a crutch to aid us in our walk.
Scoffers refers back to the apostates spoken of back in chapter two. From our days onward into the future scoffers will become ever more numerous and vocal in their opposition to God. Evidently they shall be members of churches, and many of them could very well be pastors who shall be walking after their own personal lusts. They will not be attempting to walk after the Word of God. This type of person will be the one who attacks the truths of the Bible. Any person who is willing to give up their sins and be willing to receive Christ into their heart, God will make His Word very real to them. Those who are unsaved have something akin to a veil over their minds preventing them from seeing the truth. But if their hearts will turn to God, the veil will be lifted, or removed. The problem is not intellectual, it is of the heart.
And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation(3:4).
These people scoff at any return of Christ. They will point out that it has been, what almost 2,000 years, so where is He? Has He forgotten about us? Was He just joking? Is He fallen asleep? Why hasn't He returned? This is done by atheists, but also by apostates from within our churches across the denominational spectrum. None are immune from this spiritual disease. From the pulpits across America, and elsewhere, comes the message that God does not intend to bodily return to this planet at any point in the future. That Christ does not require anyone to personally absolve themselves of their sins in order to reach heaven upon their death. They change the gospel message.
So, what did the prophets of the Old Testament write about? That is a natural question I believe. They wrote about the coming of Christ to the earth to establish His kingdom. The apostles wrote about Christ's coming to take the church out of the world and then, after the Great Tribulation, about His coming physically to the earth to establish His kingdom. Notice that the prophets did not write about the church at all. They just wrote about His coming to establish His kingdom.
Christ Jesus came and was the first to reveal that He would be coming for His own(John 14:2-3). That place He went to prepare for us is not down here on earth. It was not on the other side of the Mount of Olives. The place is in heaven. He promised to come back for us and in I Thessalonians 4:17 He said that we shall meet Him in the air.
The apostates have adopted a doctrine of laissez faire, or let's just continue with the status quo. Nothing unusual has happened in the past, things have simply progressed along. Man has evolved, and things have come along pretty nicely. Give us enough time and we will figure how to solve all of our problems.
Next time I shall lay out God's agenda for the world. This will start with the past world then move on to the present world and finish with the future world. Grace and peace be yours.
Fri, May 28th - 12:06PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
CHRIST'S INDIRECT CLAIMS
The implications of His ministry were as strong testimony to His person as His statements. On many occasions Jesus performed things which properly belong to God. Let's look at just four of these things.
The first is the claim to forgive sins. Two separate times Jesus forgave sinners. One was a paralytic who was brought to Him by his friends and lowered down on his pallet bed through the roof. Jesus said to this man, "My son, your sins are forgiven."
The second declaration of forgiveness was to an immoral woman. Jesus was having a meal in a Pharisee's home when she came up behind Him and washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair, kissed them and anointed them with precious ointment. Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
Both times bystanders were amazed and puzzled. They said, "Who is this? What blasphemy is this? Who can forgive sins but God only?" See, they clearly understood the connection between forgiveness of sin and God. Their questions were correctly phrased. We may forgive the sins of others committed against us, but we can't forgive those committed against God.
Christ's second indirect claim was to bestow life. He freely described Himself as being "the bread of life." He likened His followers' dependence on Him to the nourishment branches of a vine get from the vine itself. He offered the Samaritan woman at the well "living water" and promised eternal life to the rich young ruler if he would come and follow Him. Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd who would not only give His life for the sheep but give life to them as well. He stated that God had given to Him authority over all flesh, that He should give life to as many as God gave Him, and declared, "the Son gives life to whom He will."
Jesus made this claim so definitively that the disciples clearly recognized its truth. Leaving Him was unthinkable, it was impossible. "To whom shall we go? asked Peter. You have the words of eternal life." So, life is an enigma. Whether it be physical life or spiritual life, its nature is as baffling as its origin. We are unable to say what life is nor where it comes from. If we were that intelligent we would not be faced with the issues that swirl around abortion. Thus we must call it a divine gift. It is that gift which Jesus claimed to bestow upon each of us.
That is all for right now, more to hopefully come this evening. Give all praise, honor, and glory to Christ who is worthy!
Christ's third indirect claim was to teach the truth. It is not so much the truths which He taught as the direct and dogmatic manner in which He taught them which demands our attention. Those to whom He spoke were deeply impressed by His wisdom.
"Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? Is not this the carpenter...?"
"How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?"
"No man ever spoke like this man."
"His word was with authority."
"When Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes." (Mark 6:2-3; John 7:15; Luke 4:32; Matthew 7:28-29)
His authority was not of the scribes, but it was not of the prophets either. The scribes never spoke without quoting their authorities. The prophets spoke with the authority of Jehovah. But Jesus, he claimed an authority of His own. He did not say "Thus says the Lord," but "I say unto you." Yes, he did say that His doctrine was not His own but that of the Father who had sent Him. Nevertheless, He spoke with great personal assurance. He never hesitated or apologized. There was no need to contradict, withdraw, or modify anything that He said. He spoke the unequivocal words of God. He predicted the future with complete conviction, and has been correct. He issued absolute moral commands such as "Love your enemies", "Do not be anxious about tomorrow", "Judge not, that you be not judged." He made promises of whose fulfillment He had absolutely no doubt: "Ask, and it will be given you." He asserted that His words were as eternal as the law, and would never pass away. He warned His hearers that their destiny depended on their response to His teaching, as the destiny of Israel had depended upon their response to Jehovah's word.
Christ's fourth indirect claim was to judge the world. This is perhaps the most fantastic, to the unbelieving world, of all His statements. Several of His parables imply that He will come back at the end of the world, and that the final day of reckoning will be postponed until His return. He, Himself, will arouse the dead, and all the nations will be gathered before Him. He will sit on the throne of His glory, and the judgment will be committed to Him by the Father. He will then separate people from one another just as a shepherd separates his sheep from his goats. Some will be invited to come and inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. The rest will hear the dreaded words, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels(Matthew 25:31-46)."
Not only will Jesus Christ be the Judge, but the standard of judgment will be peoples' attitude to Him as shown in their treatment of His "brethren" or their response to His word. Those who acknowledge Him before men He will acknowledge before His Father: those who have denied Him before men He will deny. All that it will take from Jesus to be excluded from heaven are these words: "I never knew you(Matthew 7:23)."
How can anyone exaggerate the magnitude of this claim? Can you imagine any preacher today attempting to make such claims? Of course not. Either Jesus Christ could do what He said He could do, or else He was a fraud.
I have presented, for your sincere consideration, excerpts from eyewitness accounts of what took place back in the time of Jesus Christ. Were the words used by Christ indicative of a person who was insane? Or were they indicative of someone who spoke truth, and knew that he spoke the truth? Have any of His predictions come true? Yes, they have. More are to become fulfilled in the future, as the years roll on by. Each person must decide what they are to do with Christ, His words demand that we give serious consideration and reach some sort of conclusion.
Next time I will post some more about His dramatized claims. This will draw this section to a close and prepare us to move forward to consider the character of Christ. I pray that you decide to draw near to your God, to ask Christ to help you deepen your walk with Him. I pray that we all will decide, whatever is put before us, to do with the utmost of our efforts and abilities.
Until next we meet here on this site, grace and peace of Christ be yours!
Thu, May 27th - 10:12PM
II Peter Epistle Study
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning(2:20).
These people have a head knowledge of Christ. They know the truth but have no love of the truth. They reject what they once professed and become enslaved in corruption all over again.
Beloved, do you know anybody who speaks of their church this way? "Oh, we are very religious. We belong to a church which does not believe the Bible is really the Word of God. How can it possibly be accurate anyway? But we do talk a lot about love and the brotherhood of man. We have a beautiful church building and lovely services that make us all feel good." These people have escaped the pollutions of the world. They are aghast at hearing of crime and violence. They have escaped the pollutions of the world but not the corruption. They do not love Christ more than their cleverly devised imaginations.
It is not because these people have not ever heard the gospel message either. They have heard it, but they do not believe that it is all true. Time is not to be wasted upon them by presenting the gospel to them again. They have heard but are entangled in the ways of the world all over again.
Peter spent much time in this chapter dealing with the apostasy that he knew was coming into the early church. God desired that people would be made aware of the dangers that apostasy would introduce into His church. These have been teaching false doctrines, perversions of God's truth, for their own advantage. They have exalted themselves instead of exalting Christ. They do not rely upon the Word of God during their sermons other than to be used as a jumping off point for what they really wish to speak about. They try to impress people with their "intellectualism" and are very interested in making money. Anyone who claims to have a supernatural power ought to be vetted very, very carefully before being given your money. Accepting monetary payments for healing by the laying on of hands is not a very Godly act. We need to be careful. We do not need to waste our time exposing each and every false teacher around. We do need to be able to discern who they are and steer clear of them and teach others about them.
For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them(2:21).
Peter tells us, the reader, that it is worse by far to turn away from Christ once we come to know the truth. It is better if we never hear the gospel than to hear it and then turn away in refusal.
But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire(2:22).
To the Jewish mind there was nothing worse than a dog. Peter drew from Proverbs 26:11 to illustrate that apostates will return, will resume their true, natural, unchanged spiritual condition.
This reference to a pig pulls us back to the tale of the prodigal son. He ended up feeding the pigs and eventually, being so hungry, he ate what the pigs were being fed. Can this parable be used to preach the gospel message? I think that it can effectively draw people to Christ. In Luke 15:11-32 we can find the account. We learn how a son becomes a sinner. The son believed that the "grass was greener on the other side" and desired to go and partake of it. Faraway places often have an atmosphere of mystique, allurement to them due to the distance from us. I think that the primary allurement of sin is its mystery, its being unknown.
So the son runs off to a far country to spend his inheritance in riotous living. I envision him to be like many of the big sweepstakes winners of our time. Fair weather friends galore while the money lasts. But foolish spending, endless partying, and paying for sex eventually meant that all of the son's money was gone. His "friends" all left him. He had nothing to eat, nowhere to sleep. He was forced to go out and get a job working for a man who raised pigs. Imagine, a Jewish man working around pigs! This Jewish son had hit rock bottom of his culture.
Again, this parable is not teaching about how to get saved, but it reveals the heart of the Father who will not only save a sinner but will take back a son who has sinned. This son may have been down in the pigpen with the pigs but he was not a pig himself! He was a Jewish son. He was a son when he left his father's estates; he was a son when he arrived in the far country; he was a son while he lived in sin; and he was a son while in the pigpen with the pigs. But one day this son remembers where his father lives, and how his father treats his servants. He determines to return to his father and beg forgiveness for what he has done to him and God. No pig can do such a thing.
What ought the father to do when his boy returns home? According to Mosaic Law that boy was to be stoned to death(Deuteronomy 21:18-21). But this father did not stone his son to death. Instead, when the boy came and made his confession the father rejoiced at his return. You see, all prodigals get their whipping in the far country while away from their home. When they return to the heavenly Father there is always a banquet, a robe, and a ring. A great feast is laid out for all to partake of.
But prodigal sons/daughters are transitioning in both directions which makes things confusing to us. How do we tell the pigs from the sons? Equally stressful is when an occasional pig gets out of the pigpen and wanders up to the father's house. But being a pig they won't end up liking it up at the "big house." In time they will return to the pigpen. We simply need to be patient and wait to find out if people are "pigs' or if they are "sons." God has said that He will separate out the wheat from the tares and I believe Him. Read Evelyn C. Sanders' poem, "A Pig is a Pig," it will bring a smile to your face and hopefully it will crystallize this concept in your mind.
Next time I will begin chapter three of this epistle by Peter. We will find given to us a test to be used of apostates. May Christ's grace and peace fill your hearts and flow out through you into those around you each and every day! May you be able to make connections with your neighbors and coworkers.
Wed, May 26th - 1:32PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
Upon reading the gospel accounts in the Bible, Jesus clearly believed Himself to be the Messiah that the Old Testament predicted. He had come to establish the kingdom of God foretold by generations of Jewish prophets.
Significantly, among the first recorded words of His public ministry was the word "fulfilled." He assumed the title "Son of Man" which was an accepted Messianic title which had come from out of Daniel's visions. Jesus accepted the description "Son of God" when challenged by the high priest, another Messianic title taken from Psalm 2:7. Jesus interpreted His mission as being one of a suffering servant of Jehovah just as described in the book of Isaiah. At Caesarea Philippi Peter confessed his faith in Jesus as the Christ. Others might be inclined to judge Him to be a prophet, but Simon Peter recognized Him as the One to whom the prophets had pointed. Jesus was not simply another signpost, but the actual destination to which all of the Old Testament signposts had led.
Fulfillment colors Jesus' ministry. Looking in Matthew 13:16-17, "But your eyes are blessed because they do see, and your ears because they do hear! For I assure you; Many prophets and righteous people longed to see the things you see, yet didn't see them; to hear the things you hear, yet didn't hear them." Jesus told them that their prophets and righteous leaders had longed to live to the day when Christ appeared amongst them. Fulfillment of their prophesies was claimed by Christ.
He made, therefore, direct claims to His Messiahship. But He also claimed deity. Claiming to be the Son of God was more than Messianic; it described the unique and eternal relationship with God which He claimed to possess. I give you three examples of this greater claim.
First, there was the claimed association with God as His "Father." He spoke constantly of this relationship. As a boy of twelve He announced to his human parents that they ought to have known that He must be about His Father's business. Was He referring to Joseph's business? No, He was speaking about doing God's business. Then later He made statements such as this: "My Father is working still, and I am working," "I and the Father are one," "I am in the Father and the Father in Me(John 5:17; 10:30; 14:10-11)."
Granted, Jesus also taught His disciples to address God as "Father" but so different is Christ's sonship from ours that He was obliged to differentiate between them. He never, ever, said "I ascend to be with our Father." No, it was always a separation in His inference. "I go to My Father, and you go to your Father." This same unique relationship is also revealed in Matthew 11:27. That Jesus did claim this intimate relationship to God is confirmed by the indignation, by the outrage, which was aroused in the religious Jews. Jesus so closely identified Himself with God that a man's attitude to Him was equated with his attitude with God. From which flowed these statements:
"to know Him was to know God;
to see Him was to see God;
to believe in Him was to believe in God;
to receive Him was to receive God;
to hate Him was to hate God;
to honor Him was to honor God(John 8:19; 14:7; 12:45; 14:9; 12:44; 14:1; Mark 9:37; John 15:23; 5:23)."
Jesus made to other direct claims. At the end of the eighth chapter of John He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps My word, he will never see death." The religious leaders argued with Jesus over this and His following claims. They clearly rejected the claim to have known Abraham. And at the end of this dialogue Jesus rocked them to their very cores: "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." The Jews picked up stones in order to stone Him to death right where they stood. Those men knew right well what Jesus was claiming as His. Why was this claim so outrageous, so blasphemous? Claiming to have come from heaven and to have been sent by God was nothing to the Jews. Those were fairly innocent claims. We must notice what words were used by Jesus. He said, "I am" and not "I was." That phrase indicated His claim to eternity. "I am" is the title that God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. This divine title was quietly taken by Christ and it was this which moved the Sanhedrin members to seek to stone Him to death.
The next example for claiming deity took place after His resurrection(momentarily assuming it did take place :)). John reported in 20:26-29 that on the Sunday following Easter Day, incredulous Thomas was with the other disciples in the upper room when Jesus appeared. Thomas, overwhelmed, cried out: "My Lord and my God!" At no time did Jesus rebuke him but rather accepted the designation. Jesus did rebuke Thomas for his unbelief, not for his worship.
Next time I will cover Jesus' indirect claims to be God. Grace and peace be yours!
Tue, May 25th - 10:38PM
II Peter Epistle Study
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error(2:18).
Their words are learned and pretentious. These false teachers use beautiful, descriptive language. They know how to use language to its best effect. They aim to entice, persuade, allure us into believing them to be correct in what they say. Their brand of religion appeals to the eye, and the ear. Do not misunderstand, I think that a place of worship ought to be clean and not foul smelling, it ought to look nice. But appearance and fragrance can't be depended upon for they lend a path to the desires, the lusts of the flesh. But Peter is pointing his finger at more than this. He is accusing them of wantonness which is lewdness, sexual excesses, and gross appetites which they feel the need to satisfy. "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God(I Corinthians 2:1-5)." Paul puts a finger directly upon the problem today. Too many feel that the preacher must have excellent oratory skills honed in a seminary somewhere. That he/she must have topnotch academic background. But none of that is important when declaring the purposes of the living God. The man, or woman, of God speaks what the Spirit brings into their minds. The Spirit provides power to the words being spoken. And the bottom line is always this: we do not ground ourselves in the wisdom of this world for it is always changing; we ground ourselves in the power of God Almighty.
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage(2:19).
With each false teacher some habit has them enslaved, and through their subsequent blindness they still promise liberty to others. But how can they promise what they themselves know nothing about? How does a person who is captive in bondage convince someone else that they know what liberty even is? Why should anyone follow an enslaved person, or heed what they say? Their followers remain unaware that the false teacher remains "of the world." Let's turn to I John 4:1-4: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know you the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesses not 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. 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." No amount of fancy robes or rituals negates the fact that they have not left their old nature behind and signed on with Christ's team. They are the "wolves in sheep's clothing" that sneak in and decimate the household of God through their deception and wiles. "They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God: he that knows God hears us; he that is not of God does not hear us. Hereby know we the Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error(I Corinthians 2:5-6)." False teachers are of the spirit of error while genuine believers are of the Spirit of truth. So here is one more way in which all of mankind is divided, those following the spirit of error and those who follow the Spirit of truth.
The other thing which false teachers affect is liberality. While they preach "liberty" they themselves remain firmly enslaved to various forms of corruption. It may be greed, it may be food, it may be sexaul errancy, it may be power, it may be fame, it may even be addiction to drugs. The false teacher will have some form of corruption which has dominion in their life.
As is seen in verses 5-6 of I Corinthians 2, these individuals draw a large crowd of followers out in the world. The unsaved flock to them for they like what they hear from them. They ought to like it, for it is not the true gospel message from God but a watered down litany tailor-made to fit the situation.
So, beloved, you and I need to be aware of these false teachers. They abound in our world and would lead too many people to certain destruction spiritually. We need to teach the truth about God, and about Christ Jesus so that people gain knowledge about the Holy One of israel. We need to advise those around us, try to empower them with truth so that they avoid these deceitful ones.
I pray that you have grace and peace in your life, and in the lives of your loved ones. May each of us determine in our hearts to walk closely with our God each and every day. May we determine in our hearts to stop, and really notice the people all around us each day.
Tue, May 25th - 1:25PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
Luke described in detail the visit Jesus paid to his home synagogue in Nazareth. He was given a scroll which contained the Book of Isaiah and He proceeded to stand up and read Isaiah 61:1-2:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
He closed the scroll, returned it to the attendant and sat down, while all eyes were upon Him. He then said into the deafening silence, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Who else in history has made such claims? And to fulfill such things? No one has dared to make such claims for any mortal man knows full well that he can not meet those claims. So Jesus issued a call for people to come to Him, to follow Him. He promised to lift the burdens of the weary, to satisfy the hungry, and to quench the thirst of the dry soul(John 7:37-39). Jesus also commanded those men who followed Him to obey Him and to confess Him before men. These "totalitarian" claims were soon seen to be justified as they witnessed Him heal the sick.
On top of all this, Jesus offered Himself as the proper object of their faith and love. These men did not need physical proof in order to have faith, rather they were able to witness firsthand all that Jesus did. It is for man to believe in God; yet Jesus reached out to plead with men to believe in Himself, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent(John 6:29)." "He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him(John 3:36)." Jesus claimed that it was simply a matter of "belief or unbelief."
The first and great commandment is to love God with all the heart and soul and mind. This is consistent with the message brought by Christ. Jesus claimed everyones' supreme love. Either He was God and deserved it, or He was a fraud. To put feelings for your father, mother, siblings, spouse, or children ahead of your love for Him was to be unworthy. The Hebrew language gives it a much stronger flavor than this: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters - yes, and even his own life - he cannot be My disciple(Luke 14:26)."
And Jesus was so convinced of His central place in the purpose of Jehovah that He strove to send One who would take His place after He had returned to heaven. This One was the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Paraclete. It is a legal term, denoting a barrister, an advocate, a counsel for the defence. The Holy Spirit would plead the cause of Jesus Christ before the entire world through believers. The Spirit's witness was to be to the world and revelation to the church, both of which would concern Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
But that is not all. Jesus predicted: "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." He knew that the cross would exert a moral attraction to men and women alike. They would not be drawn primarily to the church nor to God the Father, neither to truth nor to righteousness, but to Himself. Yes, they would be brought to these other things but only through Him. Mankind had to go through Jesus.
All of this egocentric teaching on the part of Jesus would make us assume that He must have been an elitist. But He insisted upon humility in others. He rebuked self-seeking and became tired by the disciples' desire to be great. To drive the point home, Christ took a little child and set him in their midst as their model.
God willing, I will next time look at some verses from Mark, Luke, and Matthew that reflect some of Jesus's direct claims to deity. Until then, beloved, I pray that you will remain in the world but not of it. Abide in Christ and renew your minds daily.
Mon, May 24th - 8:51PM
II Peter Epistle Study
These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever(2:17).
Out west in America there often are thunderheads which develop and give off impressive amounts of lightening and thunder. But very little or no rain ever fall from these storms as their bases are located too high above the ground. They are clouds without water, they are empty of rain. What use is a well when it contains no fresh water, no water whatsoever? It is worthless.
Here then, is the second characteristic of false teachers and apostates. They are destitute, or empty, of the Holy Spirit. Let's go to John 4:14, "But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Here is the difference between apostates and believers then, one is bereft of the Holy Spirit and are empty vessels while believers are vessels of the Holy Spirit and shall never thirst spiritually. Then in John 7:37-39, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believes in Me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." Those people who are connected with the Holy Spirit are sources of replenishment to others who are seeking God. They are able to quench their "thirst." Romans 8:9 says, "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. " This verse informs us that if the Spirit of Christ is not in a person then they are not a Christian, they cannot be one. They are spiritually empty but outwardly can appear to be believers through their words and actions. Jude 12-16 expands on this picture of apostates being empty wells, empty clouds; "These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaks great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage." We see in Jude some elaboration upon what sort of person to look for when trying to identify a false teacher. Their "fruit" is not sweet nor does it last for very long. These people speek harshly at times, giving forth with grandiose plans. They are charismatic and eloquent in their speech. They bask in the admiration of others. They speak behind backs, quietly knifing others in the back. They complain about other denominations actions on a regular basis, usually regarding how they themselves are doing things.
Finally, we can see that God will not hand out reprieves to these apostates. At the appointed time He shall execute judgment upon them.
Next time, God willing, I shall cover verses 18 and 19 which give us two more characteristics of the false teacher. Grace and peace be yours today.
Mon, May 24th - 1:34PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
PERSON OF CHRIST
In getting back to this study, I will remind you all that it is necessary to seek if we are to ever find anything. But usually we must ask ourselves, where shall we begin our search? For us, we must begin at the historic person of Jesus of Nazareth; for if God has spoken and acted, it is fully and finally in Jesus Christ that He has done so. So, was the carpenter of Nazareth the Son of God?
Perhaps there are two good reasons why we begin our search with Christ. First, Christianity essentially is Christ. He is the rock upon which the religion is built upon. If He is not who He said He was, and if He did not do what He said He had come to do, then the entire foundation is flawed and everything else supported by that foundation will collapse. Christ is the center of Christian faith. Who was He?
Secondly, if Jesus Christ can be shown tohave been a uniquely divine person, many other problems begin naturally to be solved. The existence of God is proved and the character of God revealed if Jesus was divine. Questions about man's duty and destiny, life after death, the purpose and authority of the Old Testament and the meaning of the cross begin to be answered. If He is divine then His teaching must be true.
To study Jesus we must turn to the Gospels. I mean to treat them as the historical documents that they are. Literary origin is irrelevant. Inspired or not is moot. Their contents appear to be honest, objective, and to be of eye-witnesses. We shall concentrate on what is plain and general.
I purpose here to gather the evidence to prove that Jesus was the Son of God. I mean to be persuaded that Jesus was a historic person possessing two distinct and perfect natures, Godhead and manhood, and be absolutely and for ever unique.
The evidence to be searched out is of a threefold nature. It concerns the claims He made, the character He displayed, and His resurrection from the dead. No one of these is conclusive, but the three converging lines of evidence point unfailingly to the same conclusion.
The first witness is that of Christ's own claims. Claims in and of themselves do not constitute evidence. But here are claims that demand an explanation.
I will separate out four different types of claims. First of all, there is His self-centered teaching. He was constantly talking about Himself. He spoke much about the fatherhood of God and the kingdom of God. But then He added that He was the Father's Son, and that He had come to establish the kingdom. Entry into this kingdom depended upon men's response to Him. He did not hesitate to call the kingdom of God "My kingdom."
This teaching immediately sets Him apart from other great religious teachers of the world. They were self-effacing, He was self-advancing. They pointed people away from themselves by saying, "That is the truth, follow that." Jesus said, "I am the truth; follow Me." None of the ethnic religions ever dared to say such things.
"I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst(John 6:35)."
"I am the light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life(John 8:12)."
"I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die(John 11:25-26)."
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me(John 14:6)."
"Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me...(Matthew 11:28-29)."
"Who do you say that I am" was the first great question Jesus asked of His disciples. Jesus affirmed that Abraham had rejoiced to see His day come, that Moses had written about Him, and that three huge divisions of the Old Testament - the law, the prophets, and the writings - were actually things concerning Him.
Next time I will present passages from Mark, John, Luke, and Matthew. I will look at the time when He read from the book of Isaiah in the synagogue at His home town of Nazareth. Until then, may there be grace and peace in your life. May each of you reach out and notice people all around you, the waitress at the restaurant, the baggage handler at the airport or bus station, or the conductor on the train. Actually stop and look at them, consider what life would be like walking in their shoes. Pray for them.
Sun, May 23rd - 10:30PM
II Peter Epistle Study
And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots are they and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you(2:13).
We are coming to some verses which report what the judgment of God will be for these false teachers, these apostates. This and the next verse offer descriptions of them in which can be seen the complete corruptness of the human heart. A man thinks wrong, he will act wrong. It is well known today that we have men and women in government who are definitely immoral. They have affairs with partners who are not their spouses. Most of them drink alcohol in excess. They most likely think, "This is my private business, nobody can tell me what to do." Well, contrary to their opinion, their private lives aren't their business when they represent our country. If they wish to live that type of life then get out of public service completely! They hurt our country and they hurt us. We need men and women who are sober, honest, and are moral. It is desparately needed in our society today.
These apostates revel in their deceptions, all the while sitting amongst us and eating at the exact same table as us. They claim to be Christians but their acts speak otherwise. We must know how to discern the truth in these things otherwise we put ourselves at risk by associating with them, helping them in their deceptions.
Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: a heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children(2:14).
Harsh language has been given to Peter from the Holy Spirit! Supposed evangelical leaders found out to be cavorting with prostitutes, drinking heavily and doing other drugs in private, all points to the validity of these verses found here in II Peter. They may try to stop from feeding these sins but they can't stop. What's worse, they fool, deceive, others into believing that they have the answer to their personal need. The harsh reality is that these supposed moral leaders need to find the answer to their needs from within the Bible. But they can't for they are spiritually blind.
Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness(2:15).
Balaam gets mentioned three times in the last few books of the Bible. Here it is the way of Balaam. In Jude it is the error of Balaam. And it is the doctrine of Balaam in Revelation. Each is different. This verse marks the beginning of certain marks of the false teachers being given to us. The first "mark" of a false teacher is this "way of Balaam." Back in the Book of Numbers beginning in chapter 22 we find that the Moabites approached this Balaam. The king sent messengers asking him to curse the approaching Israelites. God had warned Balaam not to do this thing. So Balaam told them no thanks. After telling the Moabite king, more messengers were sent to Balaam to ask him to curse the Israelites. Again he refused. But the offers continued to come and the rewards kept escalating. Eventually Balaam compromised by teaching Balak of Moab how to corrupt the Israelite people, for a price. So Balaam had been told by God to not curse His people, but then went and did something just as bad, for money. Today's televangelists must be checked out very carefully otherwise they corrupt God's saints through error-filled preaching and teaching. And they do it for monetary gain. Balaam coveted what the king of Moab finally offered to him. So the way of Balaam is the covetousness of one who does religious work for personal profit.
But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbade the madness of the prophet(2:16).
Balaam went to teach Balak. The donkey that he rode upon spoke to him with a man's voice. Please read that entire story in order to gain understanding of what Balaam was doing.
Today we can judge the religious racketeer by his/her lifestyle, or standard of living. What kind of home do they live in? What kind of car do they drive? How many cars do they have? What do they spend their money on? How much do they get paid? We need to find these things out before we decide to give them our own money. If we don't know, then we could very well be helping our spiritual enemy, Satan.
That is all for tonight, beloved. We shall be getting into several characteristics of false teachers in the coming verses and will require that we visit several other passages of scripture. So that shall be reserved for another day! God willing, we shall meet here tomorrow to learn more from God's Word. I will leave you with a short update on the conference which I attended this past week. God's people need to "notice, pray for, and then engage lost people via great questions." We need to connect with people through serving them and not by knocking them over the head with scripture. We need to become more like Jesus: go to where they are and meet their needs first, then tell them about Jesus and what He desires for them.
I pray that all of you find more ways of serving those around you, and do it with a loving, willing heart.
Tue, May 18th - 11:50AM
II Peter Epistle Study
I'm squeezing one in before I hit the yard work!
The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished(2:9).
This verse is a reassurance for each and every person who believes upon the name of Jesus Christ. You may be tempted, but God knows how to deliver you from out of that temptation. Worrying about when the ungodly are going to get their just deserts? God knows how to reserve the unjust until the day of judgment comes.
Now once more I wish to point out to you that believers do not always get removed from dangers, persecutions, and imprisonments. Those who declare that God would not, in His love of us, force us to live through the Great Tribulation Period for that would not be just, are missing a characteristic of God. He knows all things and He is all powerful. Okay, that is two. My point here is this: God is able to see us through the worst situations in life and bring us out on the other side in one piece. Jesus Christ said that He would be with us always right to the end. That statement tells me to not worry about anything that might happen on this earth because my God is with me every step of the way! The Antichrist is to make martyrs of many believers which means that saints of Christ must be alive and walking this earth. Jesus said that the wheat and the tares are to grow together and be separated at a later date. You and I are not able to discern each and every ungodly person from the godly ones, but God surely can. Noah and his family were saved by God but were not snatched away to heaven during the Flood now were they? They got to ride out the storm in the Ark and I am sure that it was not one big party inside of that Ark. I imagine that they were frightened from time to time by what was going on outside. But they trusted in the Lord to see them safely through the storm and were brought safely to the other side. I believe that God will do the exact same thing during the Great Tribulation Period. Saints will have to trust in Him, do His will, and wait for Him to carry them over to the other side. Is the rapture before all of the really bad stuff? Or halfway through it? Or is the rapture immediately before the physical return of Christ to earth? If it is the last one, then we need to prepare people for living through all of that temptation and persecution which shall surely exist.
But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities(2:10).
Peter minces no words here. This pictures those people whose actions place them lower than animals. These people delight in the vulgar, vile, and vicious acts of this world. They revel in it being done by others, and in doing it themselves.
"Government" here can be confusing. Is it referring to human government? Or is this a reference to spiritual dominion? The Greek word kuriotes occurs in Jude and in Ephesians. There it is translated as "dominion" and "lordship" respectively. So it would seem that perhaps here in this verse the same word probably means the same as in those two other instances of usage. So these people despise that which is spiritual, that which God has ordained from heaven. They are the ones who ask God to damn everything under the sun.
These people are also presumptuous, they are gamblers, daredevils, and do not mind blaspheming God. To do so makes them feel big, important, powerful for they see no consequences to their actions. What they fail to take into account is the fact that God will require them to stand before Him in judgment of their actions at a later date. Isn't that how all law-breakers feel? The longer they go without being apprehended the more they believe that there will be no consequences for them to face. They have beaten the system! Until the day arrives when the long arm of the law catches up to them and they are brought before a judge, found guilty, sentenced, and then serve out the court's judgment. God merely waits, in many cases, for the ungodly to die. Then they must go to Hell and await the time of Judgment before God's Throne.
These are people who are self-willed. They decide to do whatever they want to do. Nothing will stop them. They will speak evil of that which is sacred, that which is holy. Why else do people take God's name in vain? What other deity's name gets invoked as frequently as part of a curse? I have never heard anyone take their boss's name in vain, or even the name of a city in vain. But deep down in peoples' hearts it becomes quite obvious that they understand that God does exist and that He does have the ability to damn people. They simply are acting improperly, shamefully, when they take the Lord's name in vain.
Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord(2:11).
The angels do not bring accusations against false teachers before the throne of God. They know better than to do so. In Jude it can be found that when Michael the archangel was disputing with Satan about the body of Moses he did not bring any accusation against him. Satan did not want Moses to appear later at the transfiguration of Jesus up on the mount, so there was some disputing going on over Moses body. God buried Moses, not Satan. Michael is said to have not railed against Satan but simply said, "...The Lord rebuke you(Jude 9)."
Here is the spirit which we need to manifest in our daily lives today. One of humility in which we turn everything over to Christ. Pride causes us to utter many things which detract from the work of God. We ought not speak about Satan jokingly, or denigratingly. If an archangel dared not to do so, then neither should we. We need to be very careful in what we say.
But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption(2:12).
These apostates God considers the same as wild animals. They have been given their opportunity to make free choices, but now they shall be judged accordingly. Evolutionists wax long about how man is descended from the apes and is so much better they. But the Bible plainly teaches that man is very capable of living lower than the animals. Man is not descended from anything. Man is right down with all of the animals, living like one of them, and proud of it! Once having descended to such a low point they reach the place where they are hopeless and helpless and must face judgment from God. I shuddered years ago when I first heard the "experts" claiming that man is forced to deal with the vestiges of his evolutionary heritage. He must deal with the "flight or fight" instinct, the "mate to propagate" instinct, and many of the other animal instincts which he obviously must have deep down in his psyche. These experts were opening the door to justify all of the evil and wicked acts that men commit. Territoriality is of the animal kingdom and man suffers from it also so do not blame a man for defending his "territory." Men will do what men will do is essentially what they were justifying. So much for listening to experts! Wicked acts cannot be whitewashed into being okay, they forever remain wicked acts which God shall judge accordingly.
"Speak evil of the things that they do not understand." It is amazing how smart some people who are not Christians can be and yet they do not comprehend the Word of God at all. It is a complete and utter stumblingblock to them.
William Wilberforce, a member of the British Parliament, was an alcoholic and lived a very fast and loose life until he was converted to Christianity. He wanted his friend, Edmund Burke, to hear one of the great preachers of Scotland, and when they were both up in Scotland, he took Burke to hear this man preach. Wilberforce wished to know his friend's reaction to the sermon. Burke's reaction was very simple. He said, "That man is a brilliant orator, but what was he talking about?" Here was one of the great English statesmen, and upon hearing a gospel message didn't even fathom what it was all about!
In too many churches there remain those who believe that they are saved by their own works. They have not understood the message of justification by faith in Christ. They hear it over and over but they do comprehend it at all.
Too many of us have escaped the pollutions of this world and yet have not escaped the corruptions. They are the ones who will say, "I wouldn't do the things that they are doing!" And they won't. On the outside they appear clean, they are religious; they are going through forms, but their heart is not right with God yet. Their heart is still corrupt and something must be done to make it right with God. Look around you and you may very well discover that there are those people who on the outside appear to be rather good saints but once they begin to experience some problems and irritation in their lives their true colors show up. They have been simply dealing with pollution and not the underlying corruption. The source must always be dealt with, not just the symptoms.
That is all for today, beloved. Chores beckon and I must be off in doing them! I pray that you all have a blessed week and I look forward to posting again sometime on Sunday after my return from Indiana. Grace and peace be yours!
Mon, May 17th - 6:00PM
II Peter Epistle Study
And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly(2:6)."
The account of this is found in Gensis 19. The inhabitants were judged according to what their flesh had done. Sodomy ruled, homosexuality was approved in Sodom and was commonplace. Sound a little familiar?
You and I have that old nature which attempts to rule our flesh. This nature expresses itself in ugly ways which tend to be wicked. You can't add dignity to homosexuality by passing a bill that legalizes it. Anyone who gives in to that path of behavior is given over to by God. Romans 1:18-32 speaks to this issue and simply being lenient on this type of thing causes it to increase and grow in America.
And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) (2:7-8).
This word "vex" is translated from the Greek word kataponeo which means "to tire down with toil, to exhaust with labor." It essentially means to afflict, to torment. Lot was constantly surrounded by wicked deeds and language which wore him down spiritually. It was his choice to go and live near those two cities, and it turned out to be a poor choice in the long term.
God saved Lot from the coming destruction, but did he pay a price for his poor choice of where to live? He lost his wife and both of his daughters defiled him and themselves. Consequences to actions always follow us. Lot was a saved individual but his poor choices cost him much.
Verse six informs us that this is as an example to us today. Some people who did not have very much of a witness while alive on earth will be found in heaven. Lot would appear to be one of them. When the two angels came and advised Lot of the coming doom to the two cities no one believed what he then told them. None of them were impressed enough to leave. Lot stands out as a saint of God who was justified because of his faith, but his lifestyle denied everything he believed and he never had much peace living there.
Lot was forced into listening daily to foul, filthy language. This sort of thing enters the ears whether or not it is desired when you are living amongst it. Meanwhile, Abraham was praying for him and speaking with God about that judgment. He wanted Lot to be saved, his entire family if at possible.
Lot's wife is an example of disobedience, of not believing what God has said. She pictures for us the temptation to turn and look back with longing for our former life once we have accepted Christ as our Savior. It is very tempting, when tough times come along, to begin thinking about how much luxury you lived in before becoming a Christian, how many parties you attended. Mrs. Lot obviously did not really believe that God would destroy an entire city, let alone two of them.
This event also is a figure of the coming snatching away of saints in the Great Tribulation period. Now, some claim that this demonstates that saints of Christ will not experience any of the trouble of the End Times. I do not agree that it does this. It does not instruct us to believe that we shall not experience trouble during our time of salvation. It does picture that before this earth is consumed by fire that believers will be snatched away to be with Christ. It does not say that we will not be here to experience what the Antichrist unleashes upon mankind. We have been justified by faith in Christ but we will still be in the world, just not of it. "Rapture" does not negate what God's Word says in Revelation about the fact that even the "elect" would succomb to the attacks of Antichrist if the time were allowed to exist long.
That is all beloved. I am unsure if I will be posting anything tomorrow as time will become tight. I have chores to accomplish before leaving for Richmond, Indiana on Wednesday. Grace and peace be with you all.
Mon, May 17th - 1:28PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
God has spoken and He has acted. The account is found within the pages of the Bible. Alas, for too many people that is where they remain. They either believe that what God has said and done belong to past history, or they believe that it is all a fairy tale, a mythological story. For them nothing has come out of the Bible and become real. They have not heard, they have not seen, the truth.
At this stage I only point out a single thing: we must seek if we expect to find. God has sought us, He is still seeking us. God implores us to seek Him early, He informs us that we have not because we seek, and ask not of Him. It would seem that God's main quarrel with mankind is that none of us seek. "The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of man, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one(Psalm 14:2-3)."
But Jesus promised us, "Seek and you shall find." The shepherd searched until he found his lost sheep. The woman searched until she found her lost coin. Why should we expect to be any different? God desires to be found, but only by those who earnestly seek Him.
This matter of seeking God is so serious that we must do it diligently. We have to overcome our natural tendency towards laziness and apathy and give ourselves over completely to this quest. There is no place for fence sitters who cannot decide whether to search or not. God rewards those who seek Him.
We must seek humbly. Pride is as much of a hindrance to a walk of faith as is apathy. We have to admit to ourselves that our minds, being finite, are incapable of discovering God by their own effort without His self-revelation. It does not mean that we must suspend rational thinking, as some contend we must do. Rather, we are told by the psalmist not to be similar to a horse or mule which have no understanding. We must use our mind; but we must also admit its limitation.
Why is it that Jesus so loved children? They are teachable. They are not generally proud, self-important, and critical. A person must have the open, humble, and receptive mind of a little child.
We must seek God honestly. We must search for Him without any prejudice; with an open mind. Too many people today attempt to convince us that they have sought out God honestly but in their speech it becomes clear that they are prejudiced against God and what He represents. Preconceived ideas always are a danger when seeking truth or knowledge, just consider evolution proponents. If your mind is already made up and is against Christ being God, then your search is already doomed before it ever begins. God's promise is addressed to the earnest seeker: "You will seek Me and find Me; when you seek Me with all your heart(Jeremiah 29:13)." This means we must open our minds to the possibility that Christianity may be true after all.
We must seek obediently. This may very well be the hardest condition to fulfill. In searching for God we must be fully prepared not only to change our ideas but to reform our lives. God's message has a distinct moral challenge to it. Perhaps all Bibles ought to have a warning label on the cover: "Warning: Opening and earnestly reading this book may cause you to reform your entire life! Proceed with extreme caution!" So, if the message is true, then the moral challenge has to be accepted. Many reject the message once they realize that they are to be challenged morally. They do not wish to change at all. Man cannot fix God to a microscope slide, place a slipcover over Him and make casual observations about Him. We cannot say, "How interesting!" God is not interesting, He is deeply upsetting to mankind. The same holds true for Jesus Christ. Why else do they cause such hatred, such intense emotional rejection? Christ has not allowed anyone to take a neutral position concerning Himself. There is no place for procrastination. Either believe in Christ, or not. Either you declare yourself for Christ, or against Him. No middle ground exists. You are either a member of the family of God, or you are a member of the family of Satan.
Thus this is the spirit in which our personal search must be conducted. Casting away apathy, pride, prejudice, and sin we seek God in disregard to the consequences. Intellectual prejudice and moral self-will are the two greatest barriers to finding God. They are expressions of fear, with fear being the enemy of truth for truth shall set you free. Fear paralyses any search. To find God and accept Christ would be a very inconvenient experience for us. It will involve rethinking our entire world view, our outlook on life, and force us to readjust our entire lifestyle. Whoa! I am not ready for that! And so we cave in to the combination of intellectual and moral cowardice. We hesitate. We end up not finding because we stopped searching. We stopped searching because we did not want to find, and as we all know, the way to be certain of not finding anything is to not search.
So it requires being honest enough to be open to the possibility that you may be wrong in your beliefs. Christ may very well in fact be true. And if He be true, what then? I must then go to the Word of God and search out Christ in that book to discover more about Him. I must then allow myself to be funneled to the Gospel accounts of His life in the flesh. Give Him the opportunity to confront you with Himself. Come ready to believe and obey if God brings conviction to your heart. God is no man's debtor. He honors all earnest search. He rewards all honest seekers of Him. Christ's promise is very plain, very clear: "Seek and you will find."
I encourage you to embark upon a quest to find God. Upon finding Him, determine in your heart to obey Him and reform your life to align with His desires and His will. You will not be disappointed in the results.
Next time I shall begin to lay out where we ought to begin our search. Perhaps the crucial question is whether the carpenter of Nazareth was the Son of God. Since Christians take their name, their identity, from this person then it stands to reason that that may very well be the only starting point of logic.
Hopefully, beloved, you will gain some new insights into being a Christian, or become one for the very first time. In either case, I hope and pray that you continue to follow along as this study progresses over the coming weeks. May Christ's grace and peace permeate your entire being and that of your families. May your mind be transformed daily through the reading of God's Word.
Sun, May 16th - 9:46AM
II Peter Epistle Study
"Whose judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not." This is something that disturbs quite a few people both in the past and here in the present. The psalmist was disturbed that the wicked were getting by with their sin, or so he thought. What did the psalmist do? He went into the temple of the Lord and he learned there that God is in charge and He will take care of the wicked(Psalm 73).
The apostle Paul was mistreated repeatedly. He did not allow the authorities at Philippi to release him, he was a Roman citizen and he forced them to do things properly. But Paul told us not to take vengeance on those who mistreat us. We are to turn revenge over to the Lord. To attempt to exact revenge is to put ourselves in God's place, which is wrong. To attempt revenge is also to depart from our walk of faith. Does this mean we are to be wimpy individuals? No, for we turn these people over to God, we let God execute judgment upon them according to their acts(II Timothy 4:14).
The one thing that each of us must remember is that one day we shall have to turn in an accounting of our life. Have we skirted a passage of God's Word and not spoken it truly simply because we were afraid of what people would think of us? If so, then we shall be held accountable for that before God one day. Have we lived hypocritically, led a life of double standards? If so, then we shall be held accountable before God one day. We cannot talk the talk, we must walk the walk.
Now, what bothers many today is that it appears God is asleep or that He does not care about what is happening down here on earth. Habakkuk wondered if God would do anything about the enemies of Israel, but he found out that in reality God was moving much too fast for him. God does not slumber at all.
In the next verses Peter is to give us three examples of apostates in the past. His first example is of those angels who sinned, and is an example of how Satan works. The second example is that of the world of Noah's day and is the example of the world. The third example is the turning of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, and that is the example of the flesh. These are the three enemies that you and I need to be aware of. In I John 2:15 the apostle John warns against loving the world and the things of the world. He speaks of the world system of mankind that is in place and not of the natural world which is filled with birds, flowers, and beautiful vistas.
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment(2:4).
Some commentators believe that this refers to Genesis 6. It would not appear to be so for that chapter deals with the state of society down on earth leading up to the Flood which was brought in judgment upon mankind. It does not speak about angels at all but the geneology of man and especially that family which would ultimately lead to the coming of Christ into our world in the flesh.
What does this verse refer to then? Scripture only gives us a few glimpses into this subject but they are enlightening. We find that Jude refers to these things and also the book of Revelation. Several of the prophets of olden times spoke of it also.
Mankind has not been upon this planet very long. Once God had created everything, except man, there was apparantly a conflict in heaven. We are told in Revelation 12:7, "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels." In the distant past there was open rebellion against God in heaven led by Satan, or the Devil. Satan goes by many different names. This creature rebelled against God and there followed with him about one third of the angels of heaven.
Peter informs us that some of angels who rebelled are already in chaims, they are already incarcerated, but some of them have not yet been brought into custody. They are very active in our world today. It would be consistent to think that they are the ones who are called "demons" in the Bible. Just because a miracle takes place does not signify that it must be only of God. Visions of Mary mother of Jesus are from the Devil and not from God. We walk by faith, not by sight. Satan has been named as the ruler of our world at this time. He is the prince of the power of the air. The supernatural world is his to command here on earth so beware!
It would appear then that this verse is a reference to that which took place before man was created in the Garden of Eden. Satan used to be allowed to stay in heaven but after this event took place he was only allowed to enter heaven to speak before God(Job, and make accusations against the saints of God).
Now, some would claim that earth is hell. They claim this because of this verse. It says God cast them down to hell and if they are walking around our world doing mischief and harm then earth must be hell. The Devil is not in hell for he is walking about God's creation as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He went into the presence of God to bicker about Job's faith. The word translated as "hell" in this verse comes from the Greek word tartarus. The Greeks spoke of the lost being in this tartarus. It is not hell as we think of it. Hell opens up a bit later in time.
The Greek word for "chains" is seira. Many of the angels who opted to join in Satan's rebellion are bound in chains of darkness. Hell is not necessarily a place of fire but of darkness in which nothing can be seen. Ever been in a house without any electricity and no lights outside either? It is extremely disorienting for one cannot see anything or at best, very little of anything. It even begins to affect your sense of hearing, noises are difficult to locate and tend to sound different than what they actually are.
These rebellious angels have been chained up in darkness for they have not been judged by God yet. They have been indicted, God has declared them to be guilty of insurrection, and they are awaiting judgment. That judgment will not come until God's final judgment of the entire creation which we can read about in Revelation.
And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly(2:5).
In chapter three Peter will speak about three worlds, one of them is this old world. It was the world before the flood of Noah's time. Noah was the eighth person upon that Ark. The others were his wife, his three sons and their wives.
Why did God feel it was necessary to bring the flood in judgment upon our world? The people were quite religious; they simply omitted the living and true God from their religion. They lived in the flesh, gave themselves over to their lusts. So we today cannot fool ourselves into believing that by living in the "flesh" there is anything good about it. We must remember the words of Paul in Romans 7:18, "I have discovered that in my flesh dwells no good thing."
One Dr. Turnbull wrote a book called Mountain People in which he reported upon a study he made of a people called the Ik in Africa. Among these people the children are sent away by their mothers at the age of three to fend for themselves. These children must provide everything for themselves or else die. The stronger individuals literally take the food out of the hands of the elderly. Dr. Turnbull said that it would be an insult to animals to call the Ik's behavior bestial in nature. Dr. Turnbull, a humanist. said that these people teach us that our much vaunted human values are not inherent in humanity at all, but are associated only with a singular form of survival called society. All of our values, including society itself, are luxuries that can be dispensed with. Recall what happens virtually each time a natural catastrophe occurs in large communities. In other words, man apart from God is nothing but an animal, and that would appear to be an insult to the animal kingdom. It is God who gives values; it is God who gives moral standards, and none of them are inherent in us.
Noah lived in a day when there was rebellion against God, the world had become lawless. Violence was afoot in the world in that day, it was everywhere. God brought judgment to end that world. If God had not judged our world at that point in time there would have been no righteous people left to save and ultimate salvation through Christ would not have ever happened. God knew that He had to do something right then. It reveals His care and respect for the human life that He created.
In Genesis 9:6 we find an edict from God which supports capital punishment in society. This does not trump "Thou shalt not murder" since murder comes from one who holds hatred in their heart and expressing his/her fleshly feelings in anger or hatred they slay another person. God has given the authority to governments to execute any person who takes another person's life. We do not show respect for human life by letting a murderer off scott free.
It would seem that the liberals are winning the debate and public opinion is swinging towards favoring the criminal. We are told to sympathize with him: "Oh, he is a human being, it's not his fault he had a horrible childhood. We should not traumatize him further!" He murdered someone, took their life without any sort of permission. He stole someone from a family of loved ones, preventing them from spending time with them. Some sort of accountability must exist in our society for actions. Instead of locking criminals up to protect society our government is allowing them to roam our streets and forcing honest citizens to be prisoners in their own homes without proper protection. How many locks do you have on your front and back doors? Do you have bars on the outside of your windows to prevent burglars from entering that way? People living in the larger cities have these issues which they must deal with each and every day, causing them stress and fear. Why must shopkeepers decide to purchase guns to protect themselves and their hard earned profits? Why can't our society protect them? Society is failing its citizens.
America is a nation of alcoholics, drug addicts, thieves, and murderers. It used to be a small percentage of society but now it is an ever-increasing proportion because moral standards are not taught in enough homes anymore. Accountability for ones' actions are not believed and taught anymore, or not enough. It is why governmental employees feel it is okay to steal, or to lie,
Why treat children like they are miniture adults? They are not tiny adults who simply need to increase in size. They are immature children who must be taught how to act, to speak, to treat others and their possessions. Correction is occasionally required to change improper behaviors. But our society has moved towards not wanting to do these things for the fear of traumatizing our children. I have news for you: a major disservice has been committed against our children by not forcing them to be accountable for their choices. We all need discipline. The government provides discipline otherwise society unravels into chaos and rebellion. God is the One who laid down this fundamental law of life.
That is all for today my friends. Monday shall be the last day this week that I shall be able to post anything for I will be attending a new church planting conference in Indiana. I hope that a week from today I shall be back online! Grace and peace of Christ be yours this day, and every day!
Fri, May 14th - 8:32PM
II Peter Epistle Study
Let's continue the train of thought from verse one. "Even as there shall be" puts this period of apostasy out into Peter's future as well as of his readers of that day. Jude also discusses this same subject of apostasy. Critics claim that one or the other copied the other. I would simply say that when God wishes us to really get something He gives it to us more than once. Therefore, this is something that God considers rather important.
It would seem then, that in this first verse of chapter two we have been given a good definition of a false teacher. Damnable heresies also translates as "destructive heresies." The chief identifier of these teachers is that they deny Christ's work of redemption for them. They appear as members of the church, they will claim to be Christians, and they will work secretly in hypocrisy.
Every false teacher will have some true doctrine. Every cult has some truth in it. It is what makes it difficult sometimes to recognize a group as a cult. The same goes for talse teachers. At first hearing they seem to be spot on doctrinally. The right questions must be asked of them otherwise we will be deceived by them. They will believe some things that are true, but deny Christ in some form. Recall here Matthew 7:15: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Paul also warned the brethren of Ephesus, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock(Acts 20:29)." These false teachers, once they enter into your congregation, will proceed to tear it apart, shred its unity.
Jesus Christ told us a picture of this state of affairs. He said that the kingdom of heaven would be like a sower sowing seed, like a mustard tree, and like leaven. Leaven has gotten into the bread today and the bread, of course, is the Word of God. The leaven is brought in through the efforts of the false teachers, changes what the Word of God actually says, and gets passed off as the truth.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of(2:2).
Unsure followers of Christ will follow after false teachers. Those who refuse to study God's Word will follow after false teachers for they do not know better. It is a matter of discernment. The elect of God must show themselves approved by studying the Word, knowing the basic doctrines. God allows the cults and the "isms" to exist in order to remove the "dross," or impurities, from the family of God. Paul speaks of being approved and being made manifest among the congregations over in I Corinthians 11:19. So, learn how to hear Jesus Christ's voice so that you will not follow after that of the false teacher.
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation does not slumber(2:3).
"Feigned words" comes from the Greek word plastos. It means "molded, formed, as from clay, wax, stone." Plastos sounds familiar doesn't it? How about plastic? Plastic can be formed into virtually any shape. False teachers can mold themselves into just about anything they desire to. Worse, it is only transient in nature!
There are plastic preachers out in the world, beloved. They shape and mold themselves to suit their situation. They say what their congregation wants to hear, not what they need to hear. The false teacher/preacher will even use the same words and phrases as they ought to, but they do not believe in a bit of it. Ask them point blank if they believe in all of those things and you will become shocked at the responses! So, we must discover what they mean by what they say.
What is the motivation of these false teachers? Peter tells us that it is covetousness, plain old greed of one sort or another. Perhaps it is for a particular position, or a name, or popularity, or just plain old money.
I urge you to check all Bible teachers and preachers that you listen to. Check me out. Am I teaching the Word of God accurately? Am I twisting and distorting passages to mean what I personally want them to be? Check yourselves as well, make sure that you are properly in the faith.
These feigned words are all to "make merchandise of you." These people desire to make money off of you and I. They will promote all sorts of things which all require money. It may be bricks, or books, or videos, or tape series. They will not contain heavy amounts of Scripture in them, they will be "Bible lite." They will send out propaganda letters to convince us to send them our money so that they can reach more people with the Word. But do they even preach the Word to begin with? That is the question we must ask and get an answer to before sending any money to anyone.
I am going to stop right there my friends for stormy weather is fast approaching our area tonight. I hope to return to finish this verse tomorrow. May Christ's grace and peace be yours this fine Friday evening!
Thu, May 13th - 7:51PM
II Peter Epistle Study
APOSTASY BROUGHT ON BY FALSE TEACHERS
The days that Peter is speaking of in this chapter have come upon us today.
But there were false prophets also among the people, evenas there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction(2:1).
Peter points out that what was true in the past will still be true in the future. Israel had false prophets who mislead many people into making very poor choices in their behaviors. And there are false teachers in our world today, beloved. False prophecy today is not a concern of ours for it shall be revealed as such in fairly short order. The psychics and astrologers attempt to persuade us that they know the future and can tell us things to help us out. They are liars all. Every new year that comes along also brings out a gang of predictions of what will happen in the coming year...and then we hear nothing from them again until the end of the year when they trot out a fresh set of predictions for the new year. On and on it goes without end and without success.
What we most certainly need to remain aware of are false teachers of Christianity. We need to check each one out including myself. Are they accurately relating the Word of God? Does all of their statements agree with God's Word? Do not believe it simply because I have posted it here and it sounds mighty good to your ears! Go and check it out in the Bible yourself! You need to rest upon the Word of God, not the word of Eric.
How easily people are deceived by those who claim to be Christians and yet commit atrocities against others. There are cults of which we all ought to beware of, but even worse are those individuals who misrepresent God's Word in acceptable churches around the world. They receive a stamp of approval from their congregations for those people do not take the time to read their Bibles to know if they have heard the truth or not. People send money for artifacts which are purported to heal disease. They pay money to help dead loved ones make it into heaven. They support leaders who do not even believe Christ is God. The list is endless.
One example of a false prophet is in the time of King Ahab and Jehoshaphat. Both were going to battle against the Syrians. They wished to gain a prophecy concerning the outcome of the battle. Ahab called in a group of priests of Baal who urged them to go out to battle. Jehoshaphat saw that they were not real prophets and asked where a true prophet of God was. Ahab told him that he had that person locked up in prison because he never said a good word about him! People today too often do not want to hear a preacher tell them what they do not really want to hear. It might be the truth, but they do not want to hear of it.
A false teacher is one that knows the truth but deliberately lies for some selfish reason. He/she either desires to please people or wants wealth. They will tell you what you want to hear. There are others who teach error ignorantly. They believe that what they are teaching is true and so they are not false teachers. They simply are ignorant or wrong.
I am going to stop right here for now. Next time I will continue with this line of thought and hopefully finish it up. May the grace and peace of Christ be with you all.
Wed, May 12th - 7:56PM
II Peter Epistle Study
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation(1:20).
Peter says that the first thing we are to know is that prophecy cannot be privately interpreted by anyone. We cannot separate out portions of scripture to decipher what they mean apart from the rest of the Bible. If other parts of the Bible contradict your personal interpretation of some part of it then you are wrong and the bible is correct. It is that simple.
You and I cannot create doctrine based upon just one verse. No passage of scripture ought to be interpreted by itself, it needs to be compared with other passages which speak about the same thing.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost(1:21).
In answer to those who claim that the Bible is simply a collection of fables created by many different men over the centuries, I give them this verse. The Holy Spirit of God inspired men to say and write down exactly what God wished communicated to mankind. Isaiah did not sit down one day and decide to write a book so that he could earn a bunch of money to live upon. "Holy men" does not mean that they were some sort of super saint. If you are a holy Christian, it means that you are set apart for Jesus Christ.
"As they were moved" in the Greek portrays a sailing vessel. A nice picture, the Holy Spirit moves us through life just as the wind moves sailing vessels across the waters. Peter has given us one perspective of this inspiration and Paul has given us another. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God...(II Timothy 3:16)." God was able to use each man and not change his style or affect his personality, to write His Word so that others could receive God's message.
The written Word, like Jesus Christ, the living Word, is both human and divine. Jesus was a man but He was God also. Peter has given us a "rock" to stand upon. The Scriptures are something that we can have the utmost confidence in, they shall not deceive us. Our senses and our emotions can easily fool us, mislead us into poor choices. Not the Bible, it does not change and it must be our foundation upon which to rest our faith. It is why Satan attacks the Bible incessantly trying to discredit part or all of it. As any builder knows, weaken the foundation of any building and it becomes much easier to make it topple down.
God has told us to walk by faith and not by sight for our vision sense can mislead us badly. Satan can appear for short periods of time as a shining angel. How could we discern that he was not a holy angel? By listening to the Word of God.
Fulfilled prophecy is one of the best proofs that the Bible is God's Word. Over one fourth of all biblical prophecy has been fulfilled. That means one fourth of one third of the Bible is fulfilled prophecy since one third of the Bible is prophetic. Three hundred thirty prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ were literally fulfilled. The odds of one person meeting those prophecies is astronomical. The Bible nailed it, beloved. It is accurate in what it reports to us.
That completes the first chapter of II Peter. Next time I shall begin the next chapter which will begin by relating how apostasy will be brought into the Church by false teachers. May God's mercy, grace and peace by yours forever!
Wed, May 12th - 12:25PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
If we are to come to know God personally, to have our sins forgiven and to enter into a relationship with God, we need more revelation. God's self-disclosure must include His holiness, His love, and His power to save from sin. God has seen fit to to give us this too. It is special for it was made to a specific people(Israel) through special messengers(prophets) in the Old Testament and to apostles in the New Testament.
It is supernatural for it was given through "inspiration," and its chief expression came in the person and work of Christ Jesus, the Messiah.
Much of the controversy between science and religion has come from a failure to appreciate this point of divine revelation. The scientific method is inappropriate in the realm of religion. Scientific knowledge advances through observation and experiment. It works on data supplied by the five senses. But when we attempt to enquire into the metaphysical, no data are available. God is neither tangible, visible nor audible. There was a time when He chose to speak, and to clothe Himself with a body which could be seen and touched. This is why John begins his first Epistle with this claim: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands...we proclaim also to you...(John 1:1, 14)."
GOD HAS ACTED
Christians' good news includes the fact that God has also acted. He has taken the initiative because of the character of our need. We are ignorant and we are sinful. Could God rid us of our ignorance simply by revealing Himself to us? No, He must take action to save us from our sins. He began this particular work back in the days of Abram. He called this man out of Ur, made him and his descendants into a nation, delivered them from slavery in Egypt, entered into a covenant with them at Mount Sinai, lead them across the wilderness desert into the Promised Land, guided and taught them all the while.
This was all merely preparatory to His greater deed of redemption in Christ. We need to be delivered, not from slavery in Egypt or from exile in Babylon, but from the exile and the slavery of sin. This is primarily why Christ Jesus came. To save.
"...You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins(Matthew 1:21)."
"The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and I am the worst of them(I Timothy 1:15)."
"For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost(Luke 19:10)."
Christ came as the Great Shepherd who missed the only "sheep" which was lost from the flock and went out to search until He found it. Christianity is all about salvation, and there is nothing in the non-Christian religions to compare with this message of a God who loved, came after, and died for, a world of lost sinners.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time, God willing, I shall write about man's response to this. I pray that God's grace and peace is with you always.
Tue, May 11th - 9:55PM
II Peter Epistle Study
For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.
And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount(1:17-18).
Here is where Peter, James, and John witnessed the majesty of Christ revealed. Up on that mount they witnessed Christ in His glory along with Moses and Elijah. Read Matthew 16:28 and 17:1-2 and you will find that these verses are apparently together even though in different chapters. In the original manuscripts there were no chapter breaks as there are in our Bibles today. So Jesus was accurate in His statement that there were some who would see Him in the kingdom before they ever suffered physical death.
The transfiguration was a miniature picture of the kingdom. Moses represented the Old Testament Law. Elijah represented the prophets. Christ's passing from this world into the presence of the Father was what they wrote about in the Old Testament. The disciples present represented the living saints of Christ. Moses and Elijah represented the dead saints of the Old Testament. The three disciples also would become apostles and along with the prophets form the foundation of the Church of Christ.
Immediately after the transfiguration Jesus and the three disciples descend from the mount and they find a man with a demonized son. The entire episode is a picture of today's world. The kingdom is in suspension. Jesus sits at the right hand of God, all of the Old Testament saints and prophets are in heaven. Meanwhile down here on earth we are living in a demonized world. Doubt I am accurate in my assessment? Read any newpaper, watch any TV newscast, or read any online news service. This world is in a terrible mess, wicked people are doing wicked things to themselves and others. The church ought to be a beacon of light and hope, helping this demonized world but instead it is being ridiculed because it is not about the Father's business as it should be.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts(1:19).
When Peter uses this word "prophecy" he is meaning the entire Word of God. He speaks of the Scriptures as having been spoken by God. And the prophets were more than just scribes taking dictation from God; they expressed their own feelings and thoughts. Still, God was able to transmit His complete will and word through the men who wrote the Scriptures. The Word of God is both divine and human. It is like Jesus Christ who was both God and human. It is a book which deals with human life down here where you and I live each and every day, where we move and have our being, and yet it is God speaking to mankind in a language that is understandable to us.
Yes, it would have been exciting to have been right there with Peter to witness these things alongside of him. But we have something even better. We have the Word of God which will speak directly to our heart if we open our heart and allow it to speak. The Word of God is better than seeing and hearing.
"A light that shines in a dark place." The Word of God is light, a lamp, a source of enlightenment, just as our sun in the sky. The Word of God sends out a light, a force, and a power. It is why Satan works so hard to discredit it.
"The day dawn, and the day star arise," speaks of the second coming of Christ. Jesus is called the Bright and morning Star in Revelation 22:16. Until He comes again His Word is the light which will pull people from out of darkness of their sins and into His blessed light of redemption.
That is all for tonight my friends. Next time I shall try to finish up this opening chapter of II Peter. I pray that Christ's Holy Spirit comes and persuades you to turn your entire life over to Him. I pray that each of us would not hold back in fear or doubt. We are to step out boldly in doing the Father's work here on earth for we know that He shall enable us to complete the tasks that He puts before us.
Tue, May 11th - 12:49PM
SOME BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
"Hostile to the church, friendly to Jesus Christ."
Does this describe you? Many young people feel this way towards the church as an institution. They have a deep mistrust of an institution which has been experiencing scandal after scandal. They view the leaders of churches as being privileged. They reject the church because they think of it as impossibly corrupted by the very things that it preaches are to be avoided.
What we must hope is that they have rejected the contemporary church and not Jesus Christ. People see a contradiction between the founder of Christianity and the current state of the church He began and they are critical and aloof. Jesus Christ's teaching has not lost its appeal, it is simply the messengers who have little appeal. Christ's ideals are incorruptible and He practiced what He preached which is in contrast to how too many Christian leaders live today.
So how can we reach the hearts of all sorts of people today? We need to find the right approach. If we desire to give any person the key to unlocking God's Word then we must start with the first four words of the Bible: "In the beginning God." These words tell us that faith requires an acceptance of this basic premise. I just finished a study on the knowledge of the Holy and these four words fit right into that study's purpose. We must know that God was the beginning, is the beginning, and will be the end. Alpha and Omega. God always makes the first move for we cannot anticipate His actions nor are we able to surprise Him. Throughout the Bible we always see God reaching out to mankind, not man seeking after God.
The common world view of what God must be like must be jettisoned from our minds. The Bible reveals a God who, long before it ever occurs to man to turn to Him, while man is still lost in darkness and sin, takes the initiative and comes to seek until He finds the man.
God took the initiative in creation, in revelation, and in salvation. God has acted, God has spoken, God has created. These statements are a very basic summary of the entire Bible. God's greatest word to the entire world is Jesus Christ.
God has Spoken
We are extremely curious creatures. Our minds are made so that they cannot rest. Our mind is always prying into the unknown. Man pursues knowledge relentlessly. Life is a voyage of ultimate discovery. Man goes on quests, explorations, investigations and research projects. Our inner child's incessant complaints are voiced through science: Why?
But man becomes baffled when he begins to consider God and what He could be. Man is forced to grope in the dark. It shouldn't be surprising since man is attempting to understand that which is beyond his faculties, beyond his senses. God is infinite and man is finite, how can the finite comprehend the infinite? Our minds work very well in conjunction with instruments in the empirical sciences for we are interacting with our natural world, which is finite. But our minds cannot climb up a ladder and enter into the infinite mind of God. No ladder, just a vast, unmeasurable gulf exists between man and God.
This would be our lot in life except that God took the initiative to solve the problem. We would all still be asking Pontius Pilate's question: "What is truth?" No answer that was acceptable would be forthcoming. Man would still become a worshipper, just not of God.
But we do not have to grapple with that sort of world for God has spoken. He has taken the initiative and has disclosed Himself. God has "unveiled" Himself to our minds through His Word. He has also unveiled Himself through the natural world:
"The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork(Psalm 19:1)."
"What can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made(Romans 1:19-20)."
I love that Romans quote. It is one of my favorites. This is commonly called God's general revelation, or natural revelation. It is something that any person anywhere on the planet can see. It makes His existence known to us, but is that enough?
Well, I am going to stop right there. Next time, God willing, I will pick up this thought and try to complete it in a coherent manner. I hope that you will follow along as I meander along this particular trail of study in God's Word! May the grace and peace of Christ be with you all!
Mon, May 10th - 1:27PM
Knowledge of the Holy
Perhaps the single most critical need today is for the Church to be brought back from her "Babylonian captivity" and the name of God be glorified in her again as of old. The Church is not some mystical religious abstraction, nor is it an anonymous body. We Christians are the Church and whatever we do is what the Church is doing. If we are watching R rated movies then the Church is doing the same. If we are chug-a-lugging shots with beer chasers then the Church is doing the same. If we are dressing to attract the attention of the opposite sex then the Church is doing the same. We are the Church and we must pay attention to what we are doing. It becomes a personal matter and any forward movement begins with the individual.
Is there a way for us to bring back the glory of God? Is there a formula for personal revival? The answer is yes!
But the answer may disappoint many for it is far from profound. I, following in the footsteps of A. W. Tozer, bring no mystical code that need be deciphered. There are no secret rites or rituals one must perform a specific number of times. No occult knowledge is needed. No hidden laws. The "secret" is something which anyone may read. It is simply the time-tested counsel: Acquaint yourself with God. The Church must see heaven opened up and have a transforming vision of God.
Now, the God that we must see can't be the one which the world has promulgated over the centuries. He must be the God who is the Majesty in the heavens, God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, the only wise God our Savior. We must find once again Jehovah, He who sits upon the zenith of our world.
Knowledge of such a Being comes not only from study but by becoming reborn spiritually. To know God is simultaneously the easiest and the most difficult thing to do. Easy because the knowledge is not won by hard mental work, but is something freely given from God Himself. But the knowledge is difficult because there are conditions to be met and the stubborn nature of fallen man does not like those conditions.
Here then are those conditions as taught by the Bible:
1. We must forsake our sins. We have to repent of our sinful behaviors otherwise we are locked out of knowing God for who He is. We must purify our hearts and turn away from wickedness in order to become personal with God.
2. There must be a complete commitment of the whole life to Christ in faith. We cannot play games by only sharing parts of ourselves with God. To believe in Christ is to turn over our entire life to Him. It involves our emotional attachment to Him followed by a firm determination to obey Him in all things. It means we must keep His commandments, carry our cross daily, and love god and our fellow men.
3. There must be a comprehension that we have died to sin and are now alive to God in Christ Jesus. Following this there needs to be a virtual "open house" attitude to the Holy Spirit. Then we must practice self-discipline as required in order to walk in the Spirit and to gain control over our bodies in order to avoid the lusts of our flesh.
4. We must reject the values of this fallen world around us. In this way we can be in the world but not of the world. We must become shining beacons of honesty and righteousness which will attract those souls who are earnestly seeking a way out of their "lostness" and desire to find God. We can't hide our knowledge, neither can we refuse to share it. We must show ourselves to be approved of God by earnestly studying His Word.
5. We must practice long and loving meditation upon the majesty of God. This takes effort, for the concept of majesty has all but disappeared from mankind's memory. Man's focus is upon himself. Humanism in its many forms has replaced theology as the key to the understanding of life. This is not something brand new to today's world. The nineteenth century poet Swinburne wrote, "Glory to Man in the highest! for man is the master of things," and intellectuals ever since have thumped their chests with this concept in mind. Man is the master of the universe! Not God. This mind-set must be reversed through a deliberate act of will by the individual and kept so by a patient effort of the mind.
God is not some innocuous force, He is a person and thus can be known as deeply as He has allowed us to be. If we desire an intimate relationship with Him we must prepare our hearts for the utter wonder of it all. It may be necessary for us to change our prior beliefs about God as His glory bathes us. We may have to periodically break with lifeless textualism found among gospel churches and graciously protest the frivolous character of much of Christianity today. We may lose friends and temporarily gain a reputation for being holier-than-thou; but no one who allows expectations of unpleasant consequences to influence them in a matter like this is going to be fit for the kingdom of God.
6. As knowledge of God becomes more wonerful to us it will become imperative that we have greater service to our fellow man. This knowledge is not for us to hoard, to enjoy selfishly. The more we come to know God the more we will feel the desire to apply this knowledge in our lives. This application is seen as deeds of mercy towards those who suffer. The God who gave all to us will continue to give all through us as we come to know Him all the better. In this fashion God works through us to reach out to others in need.
It becomes a necessity that we must seek purposefully to share our increasing knowledge with the children of God, the saints. We can achieve this by keeping God's majesty in the forefront of everything that we do. Our private prayers ought to be filled with God, our witnessing, our singing, our preaching, and our writing all should center around the Person of Jesus Christ and praise the greatness of His dignity and power. We must remember this: There is a glorified Man on the right hand of God in heaven faithfully representing each of us there. We, who have been left for a season among men, must faithfully represent Him here.
Well, that completes this study. I sincerely hope that it has assisted you in bringing who God is into a better focus. I know that when I studied this out upon reading Tozer's book I was forced to change some of my perceptions and to alter how I was looking at certain things in my life. It has forced me to embark upon an internal transformation which may take the remainder of my life to achieve. I gladly accept it for I desire to know my God. I hope that you will too!
Mon, May 10th - 6:36AM
II Peter Epistle Study
Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me(1:14).
Peter speaks of knowing what type of death he must face soon. Jesus told him of this moment back on that beach in the morning when He prepared breakfast for several of the disciples. It is found in John 21:18-19 and that passage, along with this verse, speak to believers in every age. The time comes when we too must face the fast approaching departure from our earthly bodies when we die. We too must put off our tabernacle as we end our physical lives.
This passage is one of the most important ones in the whole Bible. This is in essence his deathbed statement. Many times a man will say very important things upon his deathbed that he ordinarily would not say up until that time. Often a person who has been a liar their entire life will become very honest on their deathbed and will tell the truth.
In God's Word we can discover that some importance is attached to deathbed statements. Follow along with me through a few illustrations from the Word of God.
Genesis 49 contains a scene that is both sad and dramatic. Jacob called his twelve sons to stand around his deathbed as he makes a prophecy concerning each of them. All of these prophecies have been literally fulfilled.
When Moses knew that he would not enter the Promised Land but would die up on Mount Nebo in the land of Moab, he gathered the twelve tribes about him and blessed each of them before his death, which was very much similar to what Jacob had done.
When Joshua was old and ready to pass over to heaven, he also gathered the tribes of Israel together and issued to them his final charge. Then he challenged them to follow God and gave the testimony of his own life and that of his family(Joshua 24:15).
When David was about to die, he called Solomon to his side. Solomon was not the natural first choice for this blessing but Absalom his brother had been slain. David told his son, "I go the way of all the earth." What a picture is painted for us right there! See, I do not know who you may be, or what you do for a living, or where you are living, but I do know the exact road on which you are traveling. You are going the way of all the earth, and that is to the cemetary. This may not sound very nice to you, but reality is that each of us are traveling that exact same road. Then David went on to charge Solomon to build the Temple of God and exhorted all Israel to help his son(I Chronicles 29:1).
Then, in the New Testament when Jesus Christ came into Jerusalem for that last Passover, He made it very clear to His own in that upper room that it was His last time with them while He was here in the flesh; before He would die and rise again in a glorified body. The tremendous truths that He gave to them He also gave to us!
The apostle Paul gave his final epitaph in II Timothy 4:6-8. It is the well known "I have run my course" speech which enlightens all of us as to what sort of life we Christians are to be living.
Now Simon Peter says that knowing his death is upon him he is prepared for it. Tradition tells that he was crucified with his head down and there are those who interpret that to mean upside down. It could simply mean that Peter died with his head hung down since he did not feel worthy to die in a like manner as his Lord and Savior.
That is all for now, I shall add to this post later today. Grace and peace be with you all!
Of course, when Peter said that he must put off this tabernacle he was referring to his physical body. A tent is a fairly fragile thing, and if you don't think that your body is fragile then just step on out into some rush hour traffic and find out how long you will last out there. Life is fragile, beloved.
When we die our physical bodies in which we live are laid to rest. The body returns to the dust of the earth from which it arose originally. The body is what "goes to sleep" at the time of death while the soul does something entirely different. I simply point out to you II Corinthians 5:8 in which we are told that to be absent from our bodies is to be present with Christ. Our souls do not simply evaporate into nothingness upon death. Our souls return to be with Christ. The word resurrection refers to the physical body. In the Greek it is anastasis, which means "to stand up," and quite obviously is in reference to the body.
Moreover I will endeavor that you may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance(1:15).
The word Peter used for decease means "exodus." He knew that he would be moving to another place, not simply disappearing into nothingness. Death is not an end it is merely a moving on point in our existence. How we live our lives here on earth determines where we shall "exodus" to after our physical bodies die.
Peter desires that everyone would have access to these things, to be able to remember them, after he is dead. "These things" once again is the Word of God. Peter deals with two forces in our world. One is centrifugal force and the other is centripetal force. Centrifugal force pulls outward away from a center of rotation. Centripetal force pulls inward towards a center of rotation. The world we live in exerts centripetal force upon us, wanting to pull us into it. The Word of God is centrifugal force trying to pull us out of the world. The only way for us to manage to get out of the world value system is through the Word of God pulling us out.
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty(1:16).
The Bible is not a pack of fables, or lies. It is not a fairy tale nor is it a myth. It is historical and factual. If you pick up the Bible, open it up, read it, and cannot understand what it is saying then perhaps it is because you have a veil over your eyes. It is not because you are mentally blind, it is due to you not wanting to give up your sins. Become willing to repent of your sins and God's Holy Spirit will open up His Book to you.
Peter says that he witnessed Christ's majesty and power. When was that? That we will see the next time that we get together here and open up God's Word once again. Until then, consider how much longer you have to dwell in your "tabernacle." Might it not be high time to make some more postive changes in your life and place more of your spiritual treasure in heavenly places for safe keeping? I know that it is time in my life for I figure that I might have another 30 years to go, if I am fortunate. Grace and peace be with you all this night!
Sun, May 9th - 11:03AM
II Peter Epistle Study
For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ(1:11).
Peter zeroes in on the fact that all of our diligence to become mature believers will obtain for us entry into the kingdom of heaven at the moment of Christ's return. He does not waste time upon the rapture of saints into the air but upon the hard fact that the way we live our lives once we become born again determines if we receive entrance into the coming kingdom of Christ. Peter knew that he was not going to live to see the rapture, he knew that his death fast approached. He had done that which Christ desired of him and now his "race" was reaching its finish.
Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though you know them, and be established in the present truth(1:12).
Peter refers to those things spoken of back in verses 5-7 and of his comments in the verses that followed. He does not want his readers to forget these things. We ought not to ignore nor forget them ourselves. We all are supposed to be growing in grace, knowledge, and truth. To stand still is to become stagnant spiritually. We can't simply maintain the status quo in our faith. I know that it is very tempting to do this and rationalize it away as being a strong defender of the faith. But it means that you are not moving forward in maturity. To take such a position in reality means that you have become senile.
Yes, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance(1:13).
Here is something of which I am accused of doing the rest of my life. I wish to stir people up by reminding them of these things. Peter says that it is proper as long as we are alive to stir people up by reminding them of how they ought to be living their lives. Will everyone be happy for you doing this? Of course not. There will always be some who do not want anyone to "rock the boat" by uttering reminders of what we are supposed to be doing, and of how we are supposed to be acting. So, until my last breathing day here on this earth, I shall remind you all of "these things."
That is all for now, beloved. It is time to worship Christ! Amen!
Sat, May 8th - 2:50PM
II Peter Epistle Study
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you so that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ(1:8).
Peter talks here about what is going on internally with believers. The things he speaks of are everything in that list found in verses 5-7. These things must not simply appear in our lives they must be abundantly evident. This is a case of multiplication, these characteristics are to build upon each other and become abounding in our lives.
If these traits are in our lives then we shall not be barren nor unfruitful. Barren here means "to be idle." The fruitfulness is not prosperity but is referring to the fruit of the Holy Spirit. So we are not to be idle and have no fruit of the Spirit in our life. It is difficult to produce fruit of the Spirit by standing on the sidelines of life. True, we cannot produce these fruit on our own but require the Holy Spirit, yet we are to yield ourselves to Him, present our bodies as a living sacrifice to Him. Jesus Christ is the "vine" from which we are to draw our nourishment spiritually. The question becomes: Are you influencing other people to be Christians? Are you helping to get the Word of God out to people who need it?
But he that lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins(1:9).
Here Peter addresses a problem that exists in our churches today. People who attend services, consider themselves to be Christians, but do not exhibit any of the characteristics mentioned in verses 5-7. They live sterile lives. There is no movement or growth internally. Their lack of enthusiasm will bring them to a point where they become unsure if they were ever really saved. Paul gave this warning: "Watch you, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity(I Corinthians 16:13-14)." And again in his second letter to them, "Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates(II Corinthians 13:5)?" We are to examine ourselves to make sure that we are in the faith. We are to hold ourselves up to the standard given to us in the Bible. Can I live a careless life knowingly and still be a Christian? No! It is impossible. I might be saved but I surely wouldn't know that I was. I would be blind, as Peter stated.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall(1:10).
Want assurance of your calling and election to be saved? Then diligently study God's Word in order to attain knowledge of the Holy and to cultivate fruits of the Holy Spirit in your daily life. Do this and your security becomes an objective thing. If your life is not filled with sincerity and truth it is difficult to sleep soundly each night. You and I must work out our salvation by becoming filled with these fruits.
I have been married for quite awhile now. I do not need to lie in bed at night and wonder if I am married or not. I know it as a fact. To make my marriage meaningful I must work at it. So too, to make my salvation meaningful I must work at it.
Each believer who does not have assurance of their salvation is walking a fine line from which they can easily fall into committing sin. If I have assurance of my salvation I have no doubts as to where I am going to go upon death. It becomes a simple matter of my working diligently to make my salvation mean all that it can be. The declaration made by Peter at the end of this verse is something we all need to remember for the remainder of our lives. If we diligently work at becoming solid Christians, maturing in the faith, we will never fall. That is a great promise to keep close to our hearts each and every day!
That is all for today, beloved. Grace and peace be with you all the remainder of this fine May weekend!
Fri, May 7th - 9:21PM
II Peter Epistle Study
Maybe you will be surprised to know that there is something beyond salvation. Paul said to Timothy that the Scriptures were able to make you wise unto salvation. But Timothy was already saved. Hhhmmm. Salvation is in three tenses. Salvation is in the past tense: "I have been saved." It is also in the present tense: "I am being saved." And it is in the future tense: "I shall be saved." It is a process which is ongoing during our entire lives. I am not yet like Jesus Christ, I have not arrived at what I am to become.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity(1:5-7).
Peter talks to us about Christians maturing. God lays out the process of maturing for all believers. Once we are born again we cannot remain in the "crib" the rest of our lives. We need to grow, to mature in Christ.
Too often we have made the Christian life extracurricular in nature. We have allowed the rest of the world to convince us that it cannot be brought into the business world or the school. Peter tells us here that it is to be something to which we are to give all diligence. What is "diligence?" It can mean a persevering application characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort. Nothing passive about this. It is to be an active ongoing effort on our part to learn what we need to know about Christ.
These things which Peter lists here are not like beads on a necklace. We can't simply plop them on a thread one at a time, one after the other. This is not like putting one brick upon another when buiding a wall. Peter may have used the figure of living stones being built up into a spiritual house but we must remember that the stones are "alive."
The Christian life is a growth process. These three verses picture this growth process for each of us. Each step of growth arises from out of the previous stages of growth. We cannot leap around like a frog and expect to become mature, grounded, Christians. We need to picture a growing tree in our minds. As the old proverb states, "From little acorns mighty oaks do grow," so too we must grow from a small seed of faith.
Out in the natural world two processes are simultaneously taking place. There is vegetative growth and there is vegetative material which is dead and decaying. This is also taking place in our lives. As children of God we are to grow. Peter listed the attributes which are to characterize our growth. There should also be some dead things in my life which need to decay and disappear from my life for good. This process is enhanced by feeding our minds from God's Word and not from the things of this world.
To our initial faith we must add virtue. This word's meaning has changed down through the ages. Today it mostly is used to mean "chastity." It used to mean strength, valor, courage, and excellence. These are qualities which we need to immediately add to ourselves upon saving faith. To virtue we must then add knowledge. Gnosis meaning "to know God in His salvation," indicates growth. In verse two the word for knowledge was the Greek word epignosis, meaning "super knowledge." Paul wanted his readers in Colossae to have super knowledge. The Gnostics at that time claimed to impart super knowledge by their secret rituals. Peter and Paul meant growth and development in the Christian life via the super knowledge imparted by the Holy Spirit.
Today I stand firmly upon my faith in Christ and some claim that I am dogmatic. I am not dogmatic, I am simply sure and positive, that is all. I know what I know. If I did not believe that the Bible was the Word of God to us then I would not teach it to anybody.
Beloved, you can be sure of the Word of God, and as you study it and share it with others, the Spirit of God will confirm it to your heart and you will experience growth in your spiritual life. But you and I need courage, and valor, and strength in order to do this. Courage is needed to declare the Word of God. Then you can declare it boldly.
Once we have knowledge from the Holy Spirit we are to then add to it temperance. Again, this word does not mean today what it once meant. Today it means to not drink alcohol. A better meaning is "self-control." It's proper meaning is moderation in action, thought, or feeling; habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passion. And so we are to exert moderation in all areas of our life. We are not to get out of control emotionally. Being out of control leads to saying things we will regret later on or even actions which get us into trouble legally.
Then we are to add patience. Patience is being able to endure when trouble comes. It is endurance. We are not to simply cave in when bad times, or things, come into our lives. We are to stand firm in our faith, leaning upon Christ for strength.
To patience we are to then add godliness. This word has gotten lost to current usage. It means exactly what it says: to be like God. It doesn't mean that you will be God, but that you have that desire and purpose in your life. This should be our desire, to become just like Christ. We ought to want to become just like our Father.
To godliness we are to add brotherly kindness. This is brotherly love of fellow believers in Christ. We are to be fond of other saints and to wish the best for them.
Finally, we are to add charity to our brotherly kindness. Charity means we are to love the sinner just as God loves the sinner. We are to bring the gospel to them in a loving way. We must be willing to share our knowledge with everyone who does not have any or has insufficient amounts of it.
That is all for today my friends. I hope this post will give you pause, and that you will examine your spiritual life and see if you need to make any course corrections. Perhaps you are stuck on virtue. Perhaps you are circling around temperance. What ever it might be, I strongly urge you to enter into fervent prayer and ask God to enable you to learn what He desires you to learn during your times of studying His Word. I am confident that you will continue to grow in your faith if you genuinely seek to learn all that you can about the knowledge of the Holy.
Fri, May 7th - 12:25PM
Knowledge of the Holy
This is the attribute by which He rules His entire creation, and to be sovereign God must be all-knowing, all powerful, and absolutely free. Here are the reasons why:
If there were just one datum of knowledge unknown to God His rule would break down at that point. To be Lord over all of Creation He must possess all knowledge. If God were to miss even one small quantum of power He would cease to be all-powerful and His rule would end.
His sovereignty requires that He be totally free, for He must be free to do whatever He wills to do anywhere at any time so that His eternal purpose will be carried out without any interference from another.
We are not psychologically conditioned to understand freedom except in its imperfect forms. That is understandable since we are finite creatures limited by our physical senses and finite mind. Our concepts of it have been shaped in a world where no absolute freedom exists anywhere for anything. Every natural object is either dependent upon many other objects or it is affected by many other objects. Is the asteroid out in outer space absolutely free? No, since it is slave to gravity wells of other heavenly bodies. Are bacteria absolutely free? No, they have their own dependencies upon nutrients, hosts, hostile environments, etc.. Are the stars out in the universe absolutely free? No, for they are captive to decay rates of the elements which compose them.
Wordsworth at the beginning of his "Prelude" rejoiced that he had finally escaped the city where he had been stuck and was now "free, free as a bird to settle where I will." But to be free as a bird is not to be free at all. Birds are full of fears, hungers, and instincts. They are governed by weather conditions, air pressures, food supply, predators, and territorality. Birds live in their own specific "boxes." Only God is absolutely free.
God is free for there is no one and nothing that can hinder Him nor compel Him or stop Him. God does not have to request permission from anyone in order to do anything He pleases to do. Our denial of Him does nothing to slow down His purposes. Our cursing of Him does nothing to halt what He shall do. Our lack of giving will not slow down what He will accomplish. This whole question of authority is behind God's declaration, "Thus says the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of Hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside Me there is no God."
God's sovereignty is declared by the logic of truth and it is established within the Scriptures. But it does raise some questions, mainly two of them. One is the presence of those things which God does not approve of, such as evil, pain, and death. If God is sovereign He could have prevented their coming into existence. So why didn't He?
Dualism neatly solves the problem by proposing two deities exist, one good and one bad. But Christianity can't partake of this explanation, for it contradicts the truth taught throughout the entire Bible. There is one God and He alone created everything that is(this also puts to rest the theory that Jesus is a created being and that he created everything for God). The Christian can admit that he/she does not have the final answer to this riddle of evil existing in our world. But he/she does know what the answer is not. Dualism is not the answer.
While we cannot perfectly explain why sin ever had to enter into creation we can know some things about this. God, in His wisdom, allowed evil to exist in restricted areas of His creation, a kind of fugitive outlaw whose activities are temporary and limited in scope. I suppose it is a necessary thing since He gave each of us the power to freely make choices in our lives. In doing this God has acted according to His character, He has remained true to Himself.
The other problem has to do with the will of man. If God rules His universe sovereignly, how can it be possible for man to exercise free choice? And if man cannot exercise freedom of choice, how then can he be held accountable for his conduct? Is he not then a mere puppet of God who pulls the strings as it pleases Him?
In attempting to answer these questions Christianity has divided basically into two camps. These are represented by Jacobus Arminius and John Calvin. People get into one camp or the other by denying the sovereingty of God or the free will of man. Is it inevitable that we all must do so?
I have arrived at the point where I must agree with A. W. Tozer. God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby negate the will of God but fulfills it, for the eternal decree decided not which choice he would make but that he would be free to make it. Man's will is free because God is sovereign. If He were less than sovereign He could not bestow moral freedom upon any of His creatures.
God's steady sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history. God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfillment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began. We do not know all that is included in those purposes, but enough has been revealed to us to provide us with a broad outline of things to come and to give us hope and firm assurance of future well-being.
We know that God will fulfill every single promise made to the prophets; we know that sinners will some day be cleansed out of the earth; we know that a ransomed remnant will enter into the joy of God and that the righteous will shine out in the kingdom of their Father; we know that God's perfections will yet receive universal acclamation, that all created intelligences will own Jesus Christ Lord to the glory of God the Father, that the present imperfect order will be done away, and a new heaven and a new earth be established forever.
God moves toward this with infinite wisdom and perfect precision of action. He cannot be forced into detouring His course of action. There are no unforeseen circumstances that take God by surprise. There are no accidents.
Within the broadness of God's sovereign, permissive will the deadly conflict of good with evil continues in ever increasing fury. God will yet have His way in the whirlwind and the storm. As responsible moral beings, we must make our choice in the present moral situation and make the best choice that we can.
Certain things have been decreed by the free determination of God, and one of these is the law of choice and consequences. All who willingly commit themselves to His Son Jesus Christ in obedience of faith shall receive eternal life, become sons of God, and live in heaven. All who love darkness and continue in rebellion against the high authority of heaven shall remain in a state of spiritual alienation and suffer eternal death at last.
Let's consider this in basic terms: In the moral conflict raging all around us whoever is on God's side is on the winning side and cannot lose; whoever is on the other side is on the losing side and cannot win. There is absolutely no chance, no gamble. You and I have freedom to choose which side we shall be on but no freedom to negotiate the results of the choice once it has been made. By the mercy of God we are able to repent a wrong choice and alter the consequences by making a new and morally right choice. Beyond that we have no recourse.
The entire matter of moral choice centers around Jesus Christ. Christ declared plainly, "He that is not with Me is against Me," "No man comes to the Father, but by Me." Notice the three distinct elements here: an announcement, a command, and a call. The announcement is of the good news of redemption accomplished in mercy; it commands all men everywhere to repent and it calls all men to surrender to the terms of grace by believing on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Thus, we all must choose whether we will obey the gospel or turn away in unbelief and reject its authority. Our choice is our own and it has consequences for every action has a reaction. The differnce here is that the consequences of our choice have already been determined by the sovereign will of God, there will be no appeal possible.
That is all for today, my friends. God willing, next time I shall finish up this study. Admittedly, this study is short but it will resonate throughout any other studies I may do from here on out. "The truth shall set you free" means that knowledge of the holy is mandatory to living a free life as a Christian. Why would anyone choose to remain partially chained up? Why not walk completely through the open door of my prison, enter into the sunshine and experience freedom completely? Why not discover what God has intended for you, as a child of God? As always, it is a matter of choosing wisely, just as that old crusader said in the Indiana Jones movie so long ago.
Thu, May 6th - 12:53PM
Knowledge of the Holy
In being separated from God we suffer from a moral shock. It affects every part of our beings. There is disease in ourselves and in our environment.
Isaiah realized the depth of his personal depravity when confronted with a vision of the holiness of God: "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
This describes the feeling of each person who discovers the truth about themselves when confronted with the truth about God. Such an experience can not be other than emotionally violent. In the Bible people who experience this are seen to fling themselves upon the ground, prostrate themselves before God.
As long as we do not see ourselves as God sees us we will not be very disturbed over our actions and the actions of others all around us, especially if things do not threaten our comfortable way of life. We live with unholiness for so long that it becomes "normal" to our thinking. We must shake ourselves out of this little box and find the actual truth.
As with all of His other attributes, we can't comprehend the true meaning of divine holiness by simply imagining someone or something very pure and then raising it an order or two in magnitude. God's holiness is not simply the best that we can imagine infinitely bettered. No, we know nothing like the divine holiness. We, as natural creatures, are blind to it.
But, thankfully, the Holy Spirit is able to impart to us some knowledge of the holy. And just as electricity flows through a conductor, so the Holy Spirit flows through truth and must find some amount of truth in the person's mind before He can illuminate their heart. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." Knowledge comes via God's Word and is the substance through which the Holy Spirit fills the heart. Repentance must exist however before truth can produce faith. We are told repeatedly that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. It is impossible to have the truth apart from the Spirit, and vice versa.
People have a feeling for mystery, even for the "Great Mystiery", and it is a basic part of human nature and necessary to religious faith. In the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures Jehovah carries His self-revelation to us and in so doing He gives it personality and moral content. He is the absolute quintessence of moral excellence; infinitely perfect in righteousness, purity, rectitude, and unimaginable holiness. And in all of this He remains true to His immutable character.
Holy is simply the way God is. He does not conform to any standard for He is that standard. His purity and holiness are infinite and immeasurably full. Here is what logically follows from this concept of God: Whatever is holy is healthy, evil is a moral sickness that must end ultimately in death.
God's first concern for His universe is its moral health, its holiness. So whatever is contrary to this is of necessity under His eternal displeasure. In order to preserve His creation God must erradicate that which would destroy it. What appears to be wrathful judgment all through history in reality are acts of holy preservation. God's wrath is an utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys His creation.
There is a contingent holiness which God shares with angels and seraphim in heaven and with redeemed people on earth. He shares it with us by imputation and by impartation, and because He has made it available to us through the blood of the Lamb of God, He requires it of us. God does say to us to be holy as He is holy for that is impossible for us to do. He simply tells us to be holy as He is holy.
So what are we Christians to do? We need to be like Moses and cover ourselves with faith and humility and steal a glimpse of God in passing. We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ Jesus as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed him by. We must take refuge from God, in God. We must believe in our hearts that God does see us as being perfect in His Son.
In reading the Scriptures we can find instances of holiness uncovered by man. In the Garden of Eden, with Abraham, Moses at the burning bush, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Jonah. There are many more. How to decipher whether we are reading about an angel or about God? God is present whenever a person is told to take off their footwear for they stand upon "holy ground." Does this mean that Jesus Christ was not God for He never told others to take off their sandals when they stood in His presence? No, it does not. God was sheathed/veiled in human flesh which concealed His glory. Remember the transfiguration upon the mount? Jesus unveiled His glory temporarily. Jesus came to do a specific task, to buy our freedom from sin and to defeat Satan. He also wished to show us how to live our lives appropriately in pleasing Him.
Well, that concludes this study of God's holiness. Next up is God's sovereignty. I hope you return to read about this aspect of God. Grace and peace be yours.
Wed, May 5th - 3:14PM
Knowledge of the Holy
Does the apostle John intend for us to think that God is equal to love? Are we to believe that God is totally love and nothing else? No. To do that would force us to negate all of the other attributes of God.
Had John in deed declared that love is what God is, we would have to believe that God is what love is. Love would have to become our God. Love would have to be worshiped. As we all know, that does not work out very well in the long run.
Thus, we must not become slaves to words and need to become loyal adherents to meanings instead. Words express ideas and do not originate them. The words, "God is love" means that love is an essential attribute of God. It is something that is true about God, but it is not all that He is. God never suspends other attributes in order to express only one attribute. They all become expressed simultaneously and interact with one another as well.
We know that because God is self- existent His love had no beginning; because He is eternal it is without end; because He is infinite His love has no limits; because He is holy it is like all spotless purity; because He is immense it is an incomprehensible, bottomless, shoreless sea at which we kneel in joyful silence.
But we must try to speak of His love. I can not do it justice. No more than a child can reach up and grasp a star in the nightime sky. Still, in the act of attempting to grasp the star the child can bring attention to that awesome and fascinating object in the sky. The child can even direct our attention to where it must go. And so that is what I do as I stretch my heart upward and toward the high, shining, glorious love of God. Someone else who has not yet known about it may be lead to look up and have some hope.
We can know how love manifests itself in our world. We see it as showing itself as good will. Love wills the good of all and never wills harm or evil to anyone. It is why apostle John could say, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear." Fear crops up whenever we fear of being harmed or made to suffer. It generally comes from being under the will of someone who does not desire our well-being. The effort to conquer fear without removing the causes is utterly futile. Here is a truth to hold onto: As long as we are in the hands of chance, as long as we look for hope to the law of averages, as long as we must trust for survival to our ability to outthink or outmaneuver the enemy, we have every good reason to be afraid.
Let a man be convinced that nothing can harm him and instantly all of his fears dissipate. The deep torment of fear is gone forever. God is love and God is sovereign. His love disposes Him to desire our everlasting welfare. His sovereignty enables Him to secure our welfare. Nothing can hurt a good person who is loved of God.
His love tells us that He is friendly and His Word assures us that He is our friend and wants us to be His friends. Abraham would never have said, "I am God's friend, but God Himself said that Abraham was His friend. Christ said of the disciples, "You are My friends," and we too can realize this as being true of us today. We do not need to hide in self-conscious humility among the trees of the Garden anymore.
Acts of self-sacrifice are common to love. Christ said of Himself, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." It is a true statement. Would you give your life up for a total stranger?
It is beautiful that God has allowed His heart to be emotionally identified with men and women. Despite being self-sufficient, He wants our love and will not be satisfied until He gets it. He has let His heart be bound to us forever, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
Love also takes pleasure in its object. God enjoys His creation. John tells us that God is happy in His love for all that He as made; that His purpose in creation was His own pleasure. Psalm 104 expresses the pleasure and delight of God in nature and in all of His works.
God takes pleasure in His saints. Rather than being far removed, gloomy, despondent, or displeased with everything, God is involved in our lives. Yes, God hates sin and can never look with pleasure upon iniquity, but every time that people seek to do His will He responds in genuine affection. Many try to claim that God is against music. A reading of the Book of Job convinces me that God often does His work to the accompaniment of music from on high. Music is both an expression and a source of pleasure, and the pleasure that is purest and nearest to God is that of love.
Hell is a place devoid of pleasure for there is the absence of any love there. Heaven is full of music because it is the place where the pleasures of holy love abound. Earth is a place where the pleasures of love are mixed with pain, for sin is here, and hate and ill will. In our world love must sometimes suffer, just as Christ suffered in giving Himself for His own. But we have the certain promises of Christ that sin shall be abolished at last from this creation and we shall enjoy forever a world of selfless, perfect love.
Love is also active. It cannot lie quietly but rather it must be creative and benign. God commended His love toward us while we were yet sinners. He also gave His only begotten Son because He so loved the world. These are actions taken, nothing about waiting until we got ourselves cleaned up before He would act. No, God decided through His boundless love for us to sacrifice Himself upon that cross and redeem His children from the power of sin and restore the relationship that had been corrupted since the Garden of Eden.
The love of God is one of the great realities of our universe. The hope of the entire world rests upon it. And God loves individuals, not populations. His love is intimate, personal. He wants to have a personal intimate relationship with you today. What about you? Are you ready to experience eternal love?
That concludes posting for today, beloved. Next time I will write about God's holiness. May God's boundless love embrace you, surround you, encapsulate you this day. He waits with outstretched arms for you to turn from your ways and return to worshipping Him.
Wed, May 5th - 6:33AM
II Peter Epistle Study
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might e partakers f the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust(1:4).
Peter tells us that these promises are great and they are precious. In the opening verse he spoke about the precious faith that we have and now he speaks about the precious promises that have been given to us. Here are some of these great promises: "...him that comes to Me I will in no wise throw out(John 6:37)"; "Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest(Matthew 11:28); "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls(Matthew 11:29)"; "Jesus said unto him, I am the ay, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me(John 14:6); "He that has the Son has life...(I John 5:12); "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which lives and abides for ever(I Peter 1:23)." All of these promises, and many more, come through the knowledge of Jesus Christ and by faith in Him.
"That by these things you might be partakers of the divine nature." We are meant to be children of God. We are meant to experience part of God's divine nature while we walk in these fleshly bodies of ours. When we are born again we are given a new nature, the nature of God. Our lives are not reduced to a series of do and don'ts; if we do this and don't do that we will be living the Christian life. Beloved, you and I are partakers of the divine nature of God Himself, and we ought to want the things of God!
"Having escaped the corruption" means that which is within us. The pollution of the world is what is on the outside. Religious people go through antipollution programs every Sunday. They participate in a few rituals, some reading, some praying, some cleansing of the mind. It is all exterior refurbishing, a whitewashing to make themselves look better, and feel better. But their hearts have not been affected at all and so there is no basic change in them. Jesus would say that they were whitened sepulchres. Many times the people you see on Sunday in church do not resemble the same people that you see during the week! They are miraculously transformed! Why? Because they are only involved in antipollution programs and not in anticorruption programs. A person must engage in studying God's Word and applying what is learned in their lives. That is how one eliminates corruption from their life.
To escape the corruption of this world, which surrounds us daily, you and I must have a new nature. To partake of the divine nature we must first be saved, and secondly we must learn about this new nature of ours and how we are supposed to feed it so that it may remain strong.
But, just because we have the nature of God through our being born again, that does not mean that we have totally lost our old nature. There is now an ongoing conflict in the life of every believer between the old nature and the new nature. The parable of the Prodigal Son illustrates this issue. Eventually the son said to himself, "I will get up and go to my father." His new nature drove him back home.
Beloved, you and I are the children of God and we cannot remain living down in the pig pens of this world. We must leave them and go back home to our Father in heaven for we have His divine nature residing within us. Do not continue to frequent those stripper clubs, those nightclubs, those bars and taverns! Don't chum around with drug addicts and alcoholics. Get out of there and get back to your true home, with God.
That is all for today, my friends. Next time I hope to add some more comments on this verse before moving on to verses 5-7 of this wonderful chapter. Grace and peace be with you all on this fine day!
Tue, May 4th - 1:36PM
Knowledge of the Holy
As mercy is God's goodness applied to human misery and guilt, so grace is His goodness applied to human debt and lack of merit. By His grace God imputes merit where none existed previously and then He declares our debt to be null and void, it ceases to have ever existed.
Grace inclines God to bestow benefits upon us, the undeserving. It is inherent in His divine nature but appears to us as pity of the wretched, sparing of the the guilty, welcoming of the outcast. Its use to us is that God saves us and makes us sit together in heavenly places to demonstrate to all the coming ages the exceeding riches of God's kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
The apostle Paul, who above and beyond all others is the exponent of grace in redemption, never separates God's grace from God's crucified Son. Always in his teachings the two are found together, organically as one and inseparable.
We can find a full summation of Paul's teaching on this topic in Ephesians, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." In the Gospel of John we find this, "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
Right here, at this point, it is very easy to stray off of the path and go far, far, astray from the truth. Some people have compelled this verse to stand by itself, unrelated to other Scriptures bearing on the doctrine of grace, and have made it teach that Moses knew only law and Christ only knows grace. Thus they make the Old Testament a book of law and the New Testament a book of grace. This is wrong doctrine.
The law was given down to mankind through Moses from God. The law had existed in the heart of God from before the foundation of the world. Up on Mount Sinai it became the legal code for the nation of Israel. It's moral principles are eternal and apply to everyone. Was there ever a time when the law did not represent the will of God for mankind? No. There was never a time when violation of it did not bring a penalty. You should review the arguments of the apostle Paul in chapters 3 & 5 of Romans to understand his perspective on this topic. The well-spring of Christian morality is the love of Christ, not the law of Moses; but there has been no release of the moral principles contained within the law. There is no privileged class of people who are exempt from the righteousness which the law requires of us.
The Old Testament is a book of law, but not just law. Noah found grace in the eyes of God. So also, did Moses. God remains true to Himself. He is full of grace and therefore He always dispenses grace to people who are worthy of receiving it. God cannot hide His grace. We may despise His grace, but we can't extinguish it from existing. We could more easily extinguish the brightness of the noonday sun.
If there had been no grace throughout Old Testament times then there would have been no Abraham, no David, no Samuel, no Isaiah, no Ezekiel, no Daniel, there would be a great big dark hole in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Grace allowed sainthood to be possible in Old Testament times, just as it does today.
Since mankind was banished from the Garden of Eden, none has ever returned to the divine favor except through the goodness of God. Grace found man and it was always by Jesus Christ. Grace surely came by Jesus Christ, but it did not wait for His birth in the manger or His death on the cross before it became operative. Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The first man in human history to be restored into the fellowship of God came through faith in Christ. In the times before His crucifixion men looked forward to Christ's redeeming work; afterwards they gazed back upon it, but always they came and they they come by grace, through faith in Christ.
The grace of God is infinite and eternal. Since it had no beginning it can have no end, and as it is an attribute of God it is boundless. We simply need to compare our personal need with God's grace. We need to remember that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."
To "abound" in sin is the worst and the most we could or can do. This word defines the limit of our finite abilities. Even when we think that our sins are the size of a mountain, that they tower over us, threatening to crush us under their immense weight, we must still remember that the mountain has definable boundaries: it is so large, so high, so heavy, and yet no more. Who defines the limitless grace of God? It is "much more" than any sin, or any number of sins, that we can commit.
So today, beloved, let us all give thanks to God for His grace abounding! Let us celebrate the fact that no matter how sinful we have been, God's grace is so much more. It is why we can return as Prodigals to our Father in heaven and He shall welcome us with open embrace and love in His eyes. It is why there shall be singing in heaven and a feast prepared for us. Grace abounds all the more. Grace, grace, God's grace. Grace that is able to cleanse within. What sweet words to sing to give glory back to
God! Grace that is greater than all my sin! I pray that each of you achieve this understanding today, beloved. God's grace is greater than all of your sin. There is nothing that you have done, or can do, that His grace does not cover and cannot cleanse you from. That is part of your blessed assurance in Christ.
Mon, May 3rd - 1:00PM
Knowledge of the Holy
We children of the darkness who through the blood of Christ have reached our eternal home in the light shall sing a new song, one that gives voice to the perfect mercy of God.
By what right will we be there in heaven? Not by our own efforts, for through our sin we took part in that rebellion which sought to dethrone God, the King of Creation, and place ourselves upon His vacated throne. Did we not walk according to the ways of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the sons and daughters of disobedience? Didn't we live in the lusts of our flesh? Weren't we by our very nature the children of wrath? But, glory of glories, we who were once enemies and alienated in our minds through evil and wicked deeds shall be able to see God face to face and His name shall be in our foreheads. Instead of the banishment that we rightfully earned we shall enjoy communion with God. We who earned the pains of hell shall know the bliss of heaven. And all of this comes through the mercy of our God, Jesus Christ. He who was willing to die upon a rugged Roman cross for all of the world's sin, it is He who extends such tender mercy to one and all who will believe on the name of Christ.
As with all other attributes of God, mercy is an infinite and inexhaustible energy comprising the divine nature which disposes God to be actively compassionate. God's compassion did not stop with the resurrection of Christ, it is ongoing in today's world. His sweet compassion was there for me so many years ago. His sweet compassion was there for both of my grandsons last year. And His sweet compassion will be there for countless others today, tomorrow, and on into the future. Both Testaments of the Bible proclaim the mercy of God but the Old Testament has at least four times as much to say about mercy as does the New Testament.
One thing that must be thrown from out of our minds is this concept that justice and judgment characterize the God of Israel, while mercy and grace characterize the Lord of the Church. In principle, there is no difference between the Old and New Testaments. The New Testament provides us with a fuller development of redemption, but one God speaks in both covenants. Wherever and whenever God appears to men, He acts like Himself. Whether in the Garden of Eden or the Garden of Gethsemane, God is merciful as well as just. God always has dealt in mercy with mankind and will always deal in justice when His mercy is rejected. Thus is how He acted with Adam and Eve, with the people of Noah's time, Sodom and Gomorrha, and with the entire world in the End Times yet to come.
God's mercy never began to be, it has always been through eternity. It will never be more than it is today, or was tomorrow, for it is infinite. Forever His mercies stand, an overwhelming tsunami of divine pity and compassion.
As judgment is God's justice confronting moral inequity, so mercy is the goodness of God confronting human suffering and guilt. If there were no guilt in our world, no pain and no tears, then God would yet be infinitely merciful; but His mercy probably would remain hidden, unknown to the created universe. It is human misery and sin that call out the divine mercy, and that is why it becomes visible to us.
The Church has pleaded down through the centuries for mercy from God. But it seems to be repeated in a tone of voice which infers that the Church does not actually expect to receive it. The plea for mercy sounds like a forlorn cry for hope and nothing more. Heavenly mercy is not a gift to be longed for but never really enjoyed.
What could be preventing us from receiving the pure joy of mercy consciously experienced? Our unbelief? Our ignorance? Both? "I bear them record, that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge," is what Paul testified of Israel. They failed then because there was at least one thing they did not know, something that would have made a difference. And of Israel out in the wilderness the Hebrew writer said, "But the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." To receive mercy we must first know that God is merciful. It is not sufficient to believe that God once showed mercy to Noah and Abraham or David and will again show mercy in the future. We must believe that God's mercy is boundless, free, and through Christ Jesus it is available to us now today. We can spend our entire unbelieving lives pleading for mercy, and in the end be no closer to achieving it. It is to slowly starve to death just outside of the banquet hall to which we have been warmly invited. Or, we can grab ahold of God's mercy by faith, enter into the hall, and sit down and join the wedding feast along with all of the other faithful souls who would not allow indifference and unbelief to keep them from the celebration that has been planned for them since before the beginning of time.
That is all for today on this study, beloved. God willing, I will next write about the grace of God. I hope that everyone who reads these posts either have already experienced the mercy of God, or they determine in their hearts to believe on Christ for God's mercy has become real to them upon reading these things. That is my heart's desire.
Sun, May 2nd - 2:02PM
II Peter Epistle Study
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord(1:2).
We will always find grace and peace in this order. We must first know the grace of God---that God has saved us, not through our own efforts, our character, or our many good deeds, but He has saved us because of our faith in Christ Jesus. Because Christ loved us so much that He died for us on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins it is possible for Him to reach down here and save us. Therefore God saves by grace. Simply trust in Christ and you are saved from the wages of your sin. No need to get cleaned up first, turn over a new leaf, or become solvent financially. But once we experience God's grace we can then experience the peace of God also. This is what Paul speaks about in Romans 5:1.
Simon Peter reached the point in his life where he was rock-solid for Christ. There was no hesitation in his decision making. He fed the sheep of Christ consistently on a daily basis. Peter deals with more doctrine in his short letters than in any other New Testament books. Peter utilizes mathemaical concepts to get his points across to the reader. Multiplication takes place with grace and peace, not merely addition. But how will grace and peace be multiplied in us?
Grace and peace do not come to us through visions, rituals, or the traditions of men. They only come to us through the knowledge of God, and Christ Jesus. Here we are back to this word knowledge. Paul also emphasized its importance, he wrote, "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings...(Philippians 3:10)." Christianity is a Person, not a religion. We are not only to believe Him but also to know Him. We need to claim as our own what the prophet Daniel wrote so long ago, "...but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits(Daniel 11:32)." We will only be strong when we know our God. Our service to God will fall short of what it could be as long as we refuse to study and learn all that we can about God.
How do we gain this knowledge of God? Peter does not leave us wondering. By the end of this letter we will definitely know exactly how to gain this knowledge. Many people today claim to be Christians and yet they do not have a clear idea of who God is. They operate in a hazy area in which they make many error-filled assumptions about what God will do, or not do. It all originates from having a false sense of who God is. The word Peter used in this verse for knowledge, "epignosis", means "super knowledge." This knowledge is imparted to us through the Holy Spirit's actions to make the things of God real to us. There are those of us who know about Christ, and then there are those of us who actually know Christ. And to know Christ is to have life eternal.
According as His divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that has called us to glory and virtue(1:3).
God's divine power has given us all of the things which you and I need to live life to the full. We cannot say that God has not made an arrangement for us to live for Him. He has made every arrangement for our life in Christ and our godlines of life for Him.
Again, it is only through the knowledge of Christ that you and I can really learn to live here on earth and grow to be more godly. When we come to "virtue" we must realize that it means something other than what we normally think it means. This word is not restricted to chastity. We use it frequently today when we refer to a woman being virtuous or morally chaste. As Peter uses it here, it has to do with excellence and courage. It means that you have the courage to excel in your life. We need this virtue in our lives so that we may stand and be counted for God.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time, God willing, I will continue with the next two to four verses. I hope and pray that you decide to learn all that you possibly can about who, and what, God is. This knowledge allows us to properly make choices that please God.
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