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1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
We will be looking at this text today. I would like to first however, do some equipping for all of us. To some this may be review and to some this is completely new. Before we get started in the first verses of scripture, I would like to look at the nuts and bolts of how we are going to understand our Bible. Further to that I think we should look at why it’s the Bible we study. How do we know its trust worthy? And then finally how do we understand it. This is to empower you all with the ability to know how to always be able to hold yourself and others accountable to the teaching they try and give you. There cannot be growth by hindering anyone from proper spiritual growth and understanding of the Bible. This is not to say that you all are interpreting scripture wrong. I have no way to know that or not, that’s why it may be review in spots for some. New information perhaps for the younger people and all around strengthening to your walk in faith.
Let us pray and Begin.
First: Why the Bible and not a different religious text?
My first stop in helping to answer this question was to turn to a big brain. Ravi Zacharias for those who don't know is a very intelligent apologist. He writes the following.
Ravi Zacharias wrote on a blog the following:
“With the numerous religions in the world, how can Christians claim exclusivity? I am often asked this question in different settings. But I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the Christian faith is the only one that seems to have this question posed. The truth is that every major religion in the world claims exclusivity, and every major religion in the world has a point of exclusion.
Hinduism, for example, is often represented as being the most tolerant and accepting of other faiths. That is just not true. All Hindus believe in two fundamental, uncompromising doctrines—the Law of Karma, and the belief in reincarnation. These will not be surrendered. In fact, Buddhism was born out of the rejection of two other very dogmatic claims of Hinduism. Buddha rejected the authority of the vedas and the caste [sic: Ritual purities] system of Hinduism. The issue here is not who was right or wrong. The truth is that they were systemically different—both claiming rightness.
Islam, as you know, is very clearly an exclusive claim to God. A Muslim will never tell you that it doesn’t matter what you believe or that all religions are true.
But before we get upset with such claims, let us remember that it is the very nature of truth that presents us with this reality. Truth by definition is exclusive. Everything cannot be true. If everything is true, then nothing is false. And if nothing is false then it would also be true to say everything is false. We cannot have it both ways. One should not be surprised at the claims of exclusivity. The reality is that even those who deny truth’s exclusivity, in effect, exclude those who do not deny it. The truth quickly emerges. The law of non-contradiction does apply to reality: Two contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense. Thus, to deny the law of non-contradiction is to affirm it at the same time. You may as well talk about a one-ended stick as talk about truth being all-inclusive.
Christ is either the immeasurable God or one dreadfully lost. Apply the tests of truth to the person and the message of Jesus Christ. You see not only his exclusivity, but also his uniqueness.”(http://rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/point-of-exclusion/)
So where does that leave us? We must not be surprised at truth claims but we must test them before we believe them. If the test demonstrates truth then we are morally compelled to believe it. And this is precisely the point from which many are trying to run. As G.K. Chesterton said, the problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried and found wanting, but that it has been found difficult and left untried.
There is a method of testing a worldview that is attributed to Dr. Zacharias, (that I can’t seem to find a source for) called the 3-4-5 method
1) A worldview must pass 3 tests:
- Logically consistent: It cant contradict itself
- Empirically adequate: It has to match what we see in reality
- Existentially relevant – Its teaching must speak directly to how we live our lives.
2) A worldview must answer four questions:
Origin – Where did I come from?
Meaning – What am I worth?
Morality – Why is it wrong to do things/ or is it wrong to do certain things?
Destiny – Where am I going when I die. If anywhere.
3) Five academic disciplines used to study the worldview
- Theology: Study of God
- Metaphysics: the study of what is real
– Just a note: Can you believe we have to talk about this now? We have masses of children who cant decide if we are really here or not.
- Epistemology: The study of how we can know things
- Ethics: The study of moral right and wrong.
- Anthropology: The study of what and who humans are.
The beauty of boiling every worldview and faith to these points is there is no need then to read every piece of literature of a certain faith. Once a worldview breaks a rule it is falsified.
For example: Islam denies the death of Jesus on the cross. Islam cannot comprehend a prophet, being killed. Therefore Jesus in the Qur'an was caught up before death and perhaps switched with someone else. All the other historical evidence shows Jesus died. Greek history, Jewish history. Therefore something is fundamentally flawed.
Now that would be a Philosophically motivated answer to the question of why Christianity. If your interested in those types of discussions, Ravi Zacharias' ministry has a ton of info and I highly encourage you to check them out.
Perhaps you feel like the late Adrian rogers and that “Philosophy is the study of things we already know… using words we can't understand.”
How about this then perhaps?
Fulfilled Prophecy as a proof of authenticity of the Bible.:
Looking just at Jesus, He fulfilled 333 prophecies from the Old Testament. Here are a few.
His Virgin Birth. (Isa 7:14; Mt 1:23)
His Bethlehem Birth. (Micah 5:2-3; Mt 2:5-6)
His flight to Egypt. (Hos 11:1; Mt 2:15)
His Childhood in Nazareth (Isa 11:1; Mt 2:23)
His Healing ministry (Isa 53:4; Mt 8:16-17)
His betrayal money by a friend for 30 pieces of silver (psalm 41:9, 55:12-14; Zech 11:12-13; mt 26:14-16, 21-25)
The betrayal money used to purchase a potters field. (Jer 18-14; 19:1-3; Zech 11:12-13; mt 27:9-10)
His scourging and being spat upon. (Isa 50:6; Mt 26:67; 27:26)
His crucifixion between thieves. (Isa 53:12; Mt 27:38; Mk 15:27-28; Lk 22:37)
The piercing of His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; Zech 12:10; mk 15:25)
The ridicule and mocking as He hung on the cross (psalm 22:7-8; Lk 23:34; Jm 19:23-24)
His resurrection (Psalm 16:10; Mt 28:2-7)
His ascension. (psalm 24:7-10; Mk 16:19; Lk 24:51)
If one prophecy was fulfilled that would be neat. However that’s only 13, of some 300+ prophecies. Just for Jesus alone. Bearing in mind the following.
The Bible is technically 66 books not 1
Written over a period of approx 2000 years
by ~40 different authors
over 3 continents
from three different languages.
Keeping all consistency and free of error. Some STILL critique the Bible and say it was fabricated for gain.
1) looking at the above how on earth would that even be possible.
2) For what gain? The Bible is a book stained in martyrdom for the cause of Christ. No story of a man using God for gain ended well for that man.
So those would be two different ways to come to the conclusion that the Bible is the true text holding Gods word. There are certainly more ways to delve into this topic, for time I will stop there. Resources if your still interested, would be places such as Gotquestions.org, carm.org, RZIM.org, answersingenesis has been delving into these things, same with places like the ICR, and creation.com lots and lots and lots.
So we know the Bible is our source for truth, how do we know we can trust what we have.
Inspiration: Crash course in Bibliology.
First thing to note: Inspiration means to be “God Breathed” therefore came straight from the mouth of God.
A few false views (there are tons):
Natural inspiration theory.
This view says that the bible was simply written by “inspired men” just as anyone is inspired when they write a novel or a story
Partial Inspiration theory.
As the name suggests this gives the idea that portions and parts are inspired, however others are not. The decision of what is inspired work and what is only mans words are left up to each individual interpreter.
Mechanical dictation theory.
This view is that God mechanically moved the hands of the writers. No personality or person(s) distinct vocabulary or influences are shown in the text.
A Biblical view of inspiration:
Verbal plenary inspiration.
That is each and every word in the Bible is the words of God. Written by men while fully keeping their own writing style, vocabulary and influences intact.
What about preservation: Here at Bethel we have made a distinction as “The King James type”. From a leadership point of view we have taken that position and while not everyone who comes through these doors as a whole may agree with the view. That is where we currently stand. So what does that actually mean? We would say that the copies from originals to English we believe to be preserved. I would personally urge you that if you hold to this view strongly like even I do myself, let us not beat people with our convictions.
More information on VPP -> From the dean burgeon society:
What does VPP mean? “Verbal” means “every word to the jot and tittle” (Ps 12:6-7, Matt 5:18). “Plenary” means “the Scripture as a whole with all the words intact” (Matt 24:35, 1 Pet 1:25). So VPP means the whole of Scripture with all its words even to the jot and tittle is perfectly preserved by God without any loss of the original words, prophecies, promises, commandments, doctrines, and truths, not only in the words of salvation, but also the words of history, geography and science. Every book, every chapter, every verse, every word, every syllable, every letter is infallibly preserved by the Lord Himself to the last iota.
VPP extends past just the originals, the question is can God keep His word intact from one language to the other. Dean burgeon society like we here at bethel feel God has done just that into the English language with the KJV. There are still numerous projects to take the proper source texts and get them into other foreign languages and we should be praying for those and supporting if we can.
Now that we know why the Bible, how it got inspired, and that we have what was written from time past in our hands today. How do we understand it.
Instead of going through every different way some people come to interpreting the Bible, lets first look at how not to do it.
Things not to do:
1-Don't make a point at the expense of a text; This is known as the deductive method, or Eisegesis we do not approach a text with our conclusion set. Emotions have a sneaky way to getting into our conclusions before we have even read the text.
2-Think not of “what does the passage mean to me”, but rather what does the passage mean. What was the author getting across, and to what people? and knowing that! What is the implication of this truth?
2a-Generally; there are not multiple literal meanings to the text.
While some few passages are indeed both prophetical and historical, we must use the principles outlined in a few moments to be sure that is what’s happening. Otherwise as a general rule plain meanings in scripture are singular in interpretation.
3- Don't spiritualize or allegorize a text.
Eg: Davids slingshot that flung the stone that killed Goliath: The sling shot is the church and the rock are missionaries we send out to slay the false faiths in remote areas where we send them.
The following is not the plain sense of the text and therefore makes no sense to claim. It sounds nice to the ears, and could make any man behind the pen feel like he's unlocked some sort of new meaning. I would submit there are no new meanings, scripture is clear, literal and singular in meaning.
Through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in illumination (Think of a light bulb turning on; That is a supernatural assistance in guiding our knowledge and wisdom of a text, it is the spirit opening our eyes to see what God is saying) we attempt understand the word through:
Historical grammatical interpretation: Exegesis (to draw out)
-Literal principle: Interpret the scripture according to normal language.
-Historical context: How the people think, the politics, what was going on in that time. What was the city like, what where the social pressures, customs. Etc.
-Grammatical principle: look at the language, the syntax, the way things are arranged.
-Synthesis: Scripture interprets scripture.
-Practical principle: What are the implications of this.
We are attempting to reconstruct the setting so we can understand ancient documents. We want to drop ourselves into that time and period while knowing the customs and beliefs at the time. Then see where else in scripture we see similar things and draw out the truth from the text. Then not ask “what does it mean to me” as that could lead to all sorts of weird theology. Rather ask what are the implications of this? What do I know now that I can apply practically to my life.
I hope that helps equip you a bit more, to hold yourself, me, any teacher accountable. Its never wrong to ask “Where do they get that idea from?” and go looking.
Ok Part 2!
Genesis “Book of beginnings”:
Now before we start lets ask this important question is Genesis Historical or allegory? (Biblical support for historical). It is my opinion that without taking hermeneutic jumps you must land on a literal historical view.
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
From one verse we can't delve to deeply into the structure of how Genesis is written, however we will see that the language it self is not written using allegorical words that imply personal interpretation. Genesis is written as a historical document. (a quick example would be the use of the word day yom followed by a number is always indicative of a 24hr period of time, which is what we find in genesis)
In a brief sentence I would like to echo a sentence I learned in FBI. “Genesis is the story of the beginning of the Redemption of man through the promised seed of Abraham.
Note this point: “THROUGH THE PROMISED SEED OF ABRAHAM”. We will get to this later in Genesis but it is extremely important we always remember this point. The Jewish people have been and still are apart of Gods plan. This will help you understand scripture from end to end.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”
First what do we learn immediately?
1) God lays out clearly summarizes what He did, and leaves no doubt of His creative work, and His alone.
In the beginning God
a) This disproves atheism.
1) because everything must have a beginning, and everything with a beginning must have a cause. A watch needs a watch maker and the universe begs for a creator. We need an un-caused first cause for the universe. This is and must be God.
B) disproves evolutionary thought: God created everything, there is no mention of a half baked creation and a period of waiting. Furthermore the Bible goes on to call everything very good at the end of creation week, billions of years of cancers and death and disease would not be a perfect creation by any means.
c) Disproves pantheism. (Pantheism identifies God with the universe. The Universe is God. This is where ideas like karma come from) we see Biblically God must be and is apart from His creation. Also God created Ex Nihilo That is “out of nothing”, not a “reconstruction of the pre existing universe)
d) Disproves polytheism. (ie many Gods)
The Bible here speaks of one God. Now just some… information on this word God I found extremely fascinating and hopefully I dont lose you but rather peak your interest a bit.
So lets pause for a second on this. We're going to get technical, so bear with me for a moment as I attempt to unpack a thought here.
It should be noted the ENGLISH word here “God” is the Hebrew word Elohim → Elohim is the PLURAL of the Hebrew word “Eloah”, the (-ohim) in Elohim makes it masculine plural. However, looking at the next word bara or “Created” is a singular verb. It is implied that the verbs / context surrounding the word Elohim define the singular use/definition of Elohim (at this time in scripture). Its not lost on theologians that this “plural” version of the word God, with the singular verb. Seems to be a blinding light towards the idea of the trinity. I will in a moment read from Adam clarkes commentary (but it should be noted now once and for all. I use a lot … A LOT of commentary’s when I teach, I do not agree with any single one of them 100%… Which kind of worries me, however feel free to check them out yourself but in all things practice solid disernment, there is only one and only one perfect Book, just know that while I use a variety of resources and I encourage everyone to do the same, I am not fully endorsing anyone. ever). Continuing on:
The original word אלהים Elohim, God, is certainly the plural form of אל El, or אלה Eloah, and has long been supposed, by the most eminently learned and pious men, to imply a plurality of Persons in the Divine nature. As this plurality appears in so many parts of the sacred writings to be confined to three Persons, hence the doctrine of the Trinity, which has formed a part of the creed of all those who have been deemed sound in the faith, from the earliest ages of Christianity. Nor are the Christians singular in receiving this doctrine, and in deriving it from the first words of Divine revelation. An eminent Jewish rabbi, Simeon ben Joachi, in his comment on the sixth section of Leviticus, has these remarkable words: “Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim; there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet notwithstanding they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other.”... He must be strangely prejudiced indeed who cannot see that the doctrine of a Trinity, and of a Trinity in unity, is expressed in the above words. The verb ברא bara, he created, being joined in the singular number with this plural noun, has been considered as pointing out, and not obscurely, the unity of the Divine Persons in this work of creation. In the ever-blessed Trinity, from the infinite and indivisible unity of the persons, there can be but one will, one purpose, and one infinite and uncontrollable energy.
I was going to quote from Keil & Delitzsch. However, while I love their commentary, it takes me about 30 reads to understand what they are getting at, So for your own clarity, they may be a resource for you to check out as well if you ever get to interesting spots in terms of language or culture in the OT. You can come back and tell me how many reads it took you! Ha!
Also let us think about the scripture “in the beginning”
If this is the beginning, this is the beginning of everything, The beginning of Time. The beginning of space. The beginning matter. (Think of energy as a form of matter)
None of these can exist without the others. Can you have, matter and time with no space? Where would you put matter? Can you have space and time with no matter (energy)? What would you put into space? How about, Space and matter with no time? Of course not. When would you put anything? All three must co instantly come into being. Not gradually but instantaneous. This can only be plausible with someone/thing outside these rules creating time, space, matter and the laws that govern how they behave. This can only and therefore demands that uncaused fist cause beginning we discussed before. Beyond our level of understanding. He is God.
In the beginning...“God”
Who is God?
- uncaused first cause.
From this passage alone we can draw some simple charactistics about God thus far. As we progress through scripture we will pull out more and more and more etc. At this time, just a few things to note already.
Omnipresent → He is everywhere.
Omnipotent → He is unlimited in power, and able to do anything within His nature.
Omniscient → He is all knowing.
“Created the heaven and the earth”
Created once again:
This word Created Bara, in the Hebrew, is creating Ex Nihilo out of nothing. Not a reconstruction of something already existing.
Notice the separation between Heaven and Earth. Some say that it could be the solar systems in creation perhaps everything but the lights listed in Genesis 1:14. I personally would reserve the celestial bodies as a whole for those following verses. Perhaps we see the creation of vastness of space...and in this (to us) seemingly endless space.
then we read:
and the Earth.
In the midst of all the grandeur of special creation. God creates Earth. The immediate question(s) of what is His plan? Why would He create earth? What was God doing before creation? And many more come into play and later on we can hopefully address those.
I didn’t know where to tag this in for fun so right here works, does anyone else find it neat we live in a Universe? (Uni → single, Verse → spoken sentence) “And God said…” I heard that when I was 16 and came to know God as creator and moments later Lord. It has always stuck with me I’m sure many have heard it, but I still enjoy repeating it.
What we do know and can say for sure real fast, God created earth. God created us, and we fell into sin. God in His foreknowledge saw our fall and had a solution. He would redeem His people by becoming a man, Gods Son, fully divine and fully man. Pay for the sins of those who trespassed Him. So that whosoever believes in Him/Jesus. Shall not perish in the sin they have laid on their own heads, But receive the everlasting life God graciously bestowed on those who love him.
And it all started with Creation.
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SPIRITUAL GROWTH, AS TAUGHT BY SCRIPTURE AND THE SCIENCE OF BOTANY
By Jim Foley
Text: “…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow” Matthew 6:28.
INTRO: In this scripture Jesus gives us an object lesson as to what constitutes spiritual growth, and how it happens. Jesus made the lilies and He made me, and now he describes to me how both biological and spiritual growth takes place. People often create for themselves a great deal of anxiety because they assume there must be some formula they must rigorously conform to in order to make themselves grow spiritually. Spiritual growth is not a secret formula process we must discover for ourselves.
Jesus points to the lilies of the field as an illustration of how natural and spontaneous both natural and spiritual growth is. When Jesus points us to the lilies of the field it is not simply an appeal for us to see and enjoy nature and admire its beauty. Everything in nature, as well as in scripture, is given to teach us a spiritual truth. Natural life and spiritual life are governed, as is everything God has made, by natural law.
Now let’s take a close look at the lilies of the field, and let them teach us about growth, both natural and spiritual. The point we must consider is not just that they are there for us to admire, but rather to consider “how they grow,” as Jesus puts it in our text. Many Christians live with anxiety because they are trying to make themselves grow spiritually. The lilies grow without anxiety. Without taking conscious care or effort the lilies grow naturally into full beauty. There is no conscious toiling to weave the tissues of their leaves. Their complex tissues have spun themselves naturally and automatically.
Jesus follows up by implying that we care-worn and anxious people need not fret about causing ourselves to grow. He implores us to “take no thought” about what we will eat or drink, or how we should be clothed. We mortals create ghosts in our minds and then worry about them. We allow ourselves to be controlled by circumstances rather than allowing God to perfectly order our life.
All men and women who have just a little faith have learned the secret of a composed life in many respects, but when it comes to spiritual growth we do not seem to make the connection. Early on in our Christian lives we settle down at times in calm trust in God, trusting Him to provide the necessities of our bodies. Then by and by we begin to become anxious about spiritual growth, especially when someone tells us we must follow this or that formula if we are to grow spiritually. But how do the lilies grow? They grow by grace, and take no thought, because the growth comes naturally. How does a child of God grow spiritually? He also grows by grace. Yet as we are told by others how to do this, we start fretting about it, and the anxiety comes back. We then have transferred our anxiety from our bodies to our souls. Then our efforts at Christian growth seem only a succession of failures.
Why does this happen? It happens because we forget the lesson of the lilies of the field. Strenuous efforts to grow spiritually are right in earnestness, but are wholly wrong in principle. In both the natural and spiritual realm there is but one principle for growth. That principle is the same for plant and animal, and for body and soul. If we would know that principle, look again and “consider the lilies, how they grow.” There are two characteristics of all growth. They are:
First let us consider the spontaneous nature of spiritual growth. There are three categories by which we may seek for evidence of the spontaneous nature of both bodily and spiritual growth. The first category is Science. We need not be a rocket scientist to understand that the lilies grow of themselves. It is one of the most natural things in the world. They grow automatically and spontaneously, and that without trying, without fretting about it, or without having to think about it.
Take for example a new born baby boy. He begins growing shortly after birth without being aware of it, and is so uncontaminated by the advice of others that it is all automatic. As he grows he eats because he is hungry, and the growth goes on without giving it a thought. He does not fret about the condition of growth, but has a habit of eating and so the result is that growth goes on automatically and naturally. The boy’s parents have no need to tell the boy to grow, for it is a law of nature that he will grow without having to give thought to any process.
Well-meaning people may tell us that the formula for spiritual growth is more prayer, more self-denial, more good works, etc. These are all well and good, but are not the cause of spiritual growth, but the results of it, just as many of our activities in life increase as we grow into a greater and grater capacity for various and greater ventures. The scientific fact is that the soul grows as the lily grows, without trying and fretting and thinking about it.
Another thing that teaches us that growth, both bodily and spiritually, is spontaneous and automatic is experience. Getting back to the example of the boy in the above illustration that grows without taking thought, experience teaches us that he cannot make himself grow no matter how hard he tries. Doesn’t scripture also tell us this fact? No person can add to his stature by taking thought. “And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?” Mat 6:27
The Christian’s life unfolds itself like the lily of the field, from a divine germ planted centrally in his nature, and it grows as naturally as a flower from its seed. Though this flower can be imitated, one can always tell the artificial flower from the real one. This is the distinction between the natural growth of the Christian principles in the life of the Christian, and the moral copy of it. The first is natural and the second is mechanical. There are many artificial Christians marching about in society like little tin soldiers, but little tin soldiers only mimic the real thing.
In the natural world in which we live there are crystals that GROW and organisms that GROW, but there is a real and fundamental distinction between them. The distinction is that the crystal is DEAD, while the organism is ALIVE. The crystal increases, but the organism grows. The organism is from within, while the crystal simply adds new particles from the outside. This is the difference between the true Christian and the mere moralist. The moralist’s works are all an external put-on. The moralist’s so-called meritorious works are all external while the true Christian’s meritorious works are from an internal divine growth. It is the distinction between the true Christian and the hypocrite. Now the crystal may be ever so beautiful, but it lacks the vital principle of a living germ of divine life within.
Another fact that we need consider is that salvation in the first instant is never connected directly with morality. This principle is totally foreign to the thinking of the merely religious pretender since he thinks of his put-on show of morality as earning him salvation. It is true that salvation does demand morality, but the problem is that it demands so much morality that the moralist can never reach up to that level. True salvation results in the perfection of the inner man, i.e., a Christ-like mind. Col 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: There must first be a spiritual awakening that can only be accomplished by God, then comes the natural, internal morality. The moralist, with his external morality, may go a long distance towards perfection, at least in the eyes of his neighbors, but he can never reach true moral perfection, and so he is lost, for God demands perfection in the inner man. Only true spiritual life in the inner man can be perfect, and that life in the inner man of all true Christians is "Christ in you, the hope of glory. And that divine life, i.e., “Christ in you,” is the germ that sparks spiritual growth in the inner man that produces true good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10. Divine life always produces good works and so spiritual growth results because God has ordained it, and those ordained good works will flow out of, and give true evidence of, that natural automatic and spontaneous spiritual growth. Life develops according to its type and so out of the Christian’s inner man will flow “rivers of living water,” and “springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14 But whosoever drinketh 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. It will be the most natural thing in the world.
Growth is synonymous with a living, automatic process. The Christian is a new creature in Christ Jesus, and he adds cubits to his stature just as the old man (flesh) does, naturally. To use another scriptural metaphor he abides in the vine (Jesus), and because he abides in the vine, and not because he is toiling, but rather because he is growing, he brings forth fruit. Fruit is always because of growth and not growth because of the fruit. The fruits of the Christian’s character are not manufactured things, but living things that have grown from the secret germ. In short they are the fruits of the living Spirit.
Now let’s consider the second great characteristic of growth: mysteriousness. The lily Jesus spoke of grew mysteriously. It pushed up its weight of stem and leaf in the teeth of gravity. How the flower does that, we know not, but observation tells us it does. Along the edges of asphalt paving one often sees plants break the pavement to reach up their leafy heads towards heaven. What mysterious force causes that? It is God who causes it to grow. God has put within the lily the nature to grow. Likewise when the soul rises slowly above the world and pushes up its virtues into the very teeth of sin and depravity, and displays the very image of Christ, it is then as natural for the lily to grow mysteriously from the seed to the flower.
New Christians are often misled into believing the secret of spiritual growth is a strong will, a high ideal, a strong resolve to live virtuously, and the influence of Christian fellowship. We allow that the growth of a lily is a miracle, but then assert that a Christian must resort to self-imposed formulas to grow spiritually. We say the lily may grow naturally and spontaneously, but the Christian must fret and toil to grow spiritually.
A man or woman may, by hard work and self-denial attain to a very high character, but this is not spiritual growth. If such efforts at self-improvement cause spiritual growth then spiritual growth is not mysterious. Jesus Himself spoke of the mysteriousness of spiritual birth and growth when He said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8. The fact that it is mysterious implies you cannot account for it on philosophical grounds such as a favorable Christian environment, charitable works, or efforts at self-improvement. The result of such thinking produces only artificial flowers. You can easily discern where that kind of religion comes from and where it goes. A lot of what passes for Christianity is formed by external influences, social opinions, and the voices of the world, which may be observed and explained. But the genuine thing comes only by the unseen power imparted by the mysterious thing we call the new birth.
True Christians stand out from among the crowd, just as a real lily stands out from all the artificial ones, because of that unseen power that produces spiritual life in them, a life totally different from that lifeless counterfeit of the self-made that call themselves Christians.
As long as anyone tries to manufacture his or her own spirituality, they can never be free from the pressure cooker of trying to measure up. They do not understand that the energies that produce spiritual growth, which results in spiritual improvement, are already there. That energy is the energy of the Omnipotent God Who fills their souls. If they are saved, growth moves them upward just as the lily grows upwards naturally by reason of the energy to grow that is inherent in their cells.
When I was born of the Spirit of God I was hungry for the bread from heaven. That is also the natural result of being born again. It was a pleasure to “taste and see that the Lord was good.” I had “tasted the good word of God” and it made me want more. When one is born of the Spirit of God, growth is automatic. One need not even be thinking of that or even be aware of it. The only thing that can prevent growth in a Christian is not feeding on the word of God. But when one is born of the Spirit of God one has a craving for the bread from heaven, and so eating and growing will go on.
When one is born again growing begins and continues. At first he is satisfied with the “sincere milk of the word.” I Peter 2:2. And as he grows spiritually he automatically develops a taste for the strong meat of the word. “Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age.” And so his spiritual growth continues until he becomes a mature Christian. The lily of the field grows spontaneously and mysteriously because that is naturally inherent in its nature. I believe the Lord was pointing out to us that those born of the Spirit of God will just as spontaneously and mysteriously do the same.
Are you growing, or still working at it?
1 Kings 15:11-15, “Right in the Sight of the Lord”
11 "And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father.
12 And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
13 And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron.
14 But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa's heart was perfect with the LORD all his days.
15 And he brought in the things which his father had dedicated, and the things which himself had dedicated, into the house of the LORD, silver, and gold, and vessels."
The heart of King Asa was perfect in the sight of the LORD. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23 All of the issues of life; eternal salvation from hell, service to the Lord, and our relationship with others, are determined with the attitude of our hearts. Like Asa, we need to have a perfect heart in the sight of the Lord.
God established King Asa
For 41 years, King Asa reigned in Jerusalem. King Asa did the will of God as recorded in the scripture. God blessed him and established him. God is also willing to establish us in our homes, our jobs, in our spiritual life is we do His will.
Colossians 2:6 & 7, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” Salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus as ones personal Saviour. As we obtained salvation by faith, after we get saved, we need to walk with Jesus by faith. The Lord Jesus is the root of the tree. A person cannot see the root of the tree. The root establishes the tree. The Apostle Paul is teaching that as we take deep root in the Lord Jesus, the Lord builds us up and establishes us in the faith. As we discover these wonderful truths, as Paul said, we need to have a thankful heart.
God uses the scriptures to establish us and to teach us His will. This includes correct doctrine, holiness and righteousness in our lives. We need to listen to and study the scriptures in order to be established.
King Asa Followed God
Asa trusted in and loved God. As King, Asa determined to fear God and do what is right in the sight of God and not man, or society. Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” When we put our trust in God, and do those things that are right in His sight, than we are safe. We have a safe home in eternity and God will protect us on the earth. The fear of man brings a snare. When a person fears man, or society, he caught in the snare of the devil. False religion is the snare of the devil.
When we fear God and trust in Jesus as our Savior then God will bless us. Deuteronomy 12:28, “Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou dost that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God.”
1 John 3:22, “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” When we obey the Lord Jesus then the Lord Jesus will answer our prayers.
One of the reasons why the Lord Jesus does not answer our prayers is because we miss-use His name, we say, ‘Lord Jesus,’ but, we do not do what is pleasing in His sight. We need to do what is pleasing in His sight, not ours. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4: 4
King Asa knew the history of King David and did as King David did. King David is a good example for all of us.
King Asa removed the Sodomites and the idols
King Asa was a very moral person and righteous in his authority. The physical act of sodomy is vile, unnatural, destroys society and the family. King Asa obeyed the commandment of God in removing the Sodomites and the idols from the land of Israel. “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.” Deuteronomy 23:17
Exodus 20:3 & 4 “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
In the New Testament, we read that an idolater will not enter into heaven. Revelation 21:8, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
King Asa removed the evil things in the kingdom of Israel. We need to get remove evil things, thoughts, beliefs, personal agendas, and desires, from our lives.
God blessed King Asa with wealth. King Asa brought the dedicated things into the House of the Lord. Three items are mentioned: Silver, gold, and vessels. King Asa knew his wealth came from the blessings of God.
In our age, the visible house of the Lord is the local church. We need to dedicate our lives to the Lord Jesus and to the furtherance of the gospel. 1 Timothy 3:15, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Every Christian needs to learn how to behave themselves in the church. The church is not an entertainment center, or a social club.
When a person loves the Lord Jesus, he will love the church. If a person loves the Lord Jesus, he will learn how to behave in the church. In a local New Testament, Bible believing, independent, fundamental, Baptist church you will find the doctrinal truth of the scriptures and practical behaviour that pleases the Lord.
The Removal of the Queen
The Queen of Jerusalem, Maachah, was King Asa’s mother. King Asa’s own mother was involved with idolatry. Because King Asa wanted to do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, instead of doing that which is right in the sight of man, King Asa removed his own mother from being Queen.
So often, in churches, in politics, in the affairs of this world, people who know to do right do not do right because they fear man and want to please a person, or an organization, or a denomination, or the lay people of the church. This was the attitude of King Saul. “And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.” 1 Samuel 15:24 “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” Proverbs 29:25
The Chief Shepherd of the local, New Testament Church, is the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 5:4, “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” The pastor of every church has only one person he must be accountable too; the Lord Jesus. The pastor obeys the Lord Jesus through the scriptures.
Like King Asa, good pastors will remove any false teacher, false bibles, or individuals following the gods of this world (music, methods, a denominational hierarchy, or anything contrary to scripture), from any church office. The Apostle Paul gave us an example in 1 Timothy 1:19 & 20, “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they learn not to blaspheme.” The blasphemy of Hymenaeus and Alexander was a departure of the faith; they were heretics.
King Asa was a good king. He loved the Lord in heaven as David loved God. King Asa removed evil from the Israel as David removed evil. King Asa had a perfect heart with God. We need to have a perfect heart with God.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 is one of the the most familiar verses in the Bible and one of the verses people most like to "claim." It also seems to be one of the most misunderstood and misapplied. All too often, the misunderstanding arises when someone refuses to simply allow the scripture to say what it says. The most obvious misunderstanding is the fact that the verse does not apply to everyone -- it applies to "them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." This is not a promise that a lost world is in any position to claim, as they do not fit that description. Rather, this promise is one given to true believers who know Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.
Sadly, even among Christians, there often seems to be major misunderstandings in relation to this verse. Some mistakenly take it to mean that nothing bad can come their way, and they then find themselves completely bewildered when something comes along that rocks their world. In a case like that, it is the first half of the verse that has been misinterpreted and misapplied. There are most certainly bad things that come into the lives of believers. Death is not good. Sickness is not good. Pain is not good. When God created the universe and found His creation to be "very good," those things were not a part of it. They were brought about because of the sin of mankind. The wonderful truth of the matter is, however, that an almighty, sovereign God can take bad things that were not a part of His original creation and use them to work for our good. If you will allow me, I would like to give you a personal account in which I found that to be true.
I will not go into the specific details of my experience because there were other people involved and I do not wish to say anything that would violate their privacy. Suffice it to say, I faced one of those situations that I spoke of earlier that rocked my world. I thank God that I was grounded in His word, because if I had not been, the situation that I lived through could have easily washed me out and severely damaged my faith. It was something that forced me to rely on God far more than I ever had before. It was also something that pushed me to action in something that I had said for years that I wanted to do "one day."
I stated in my introductory post that I have recently published a book. While I did not explicitly state this, if you read between the lines, you might have also deduced that I have a soft spot for kids. Children's ministry is, in fact, one of my greatest passions. I have taught kids' classes at my church since I was 19. I've been one of the sponsors that took my church's elementary school aged kids to camp four times. Vacation Bible School week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I could continue, but you get the point: I love kids. That thing that I said for so long that I wanted to do but never completed was writing a children's novel.
Ultimately, I truly believe that God held me back from doing in until the time was right. There were a few abortive attempts, but none of them ever went very far, and I never came anywhere near writing a full book. Then, my foundations were shaken. At that time, I decided to try once again to write a book, this time, in large part to keep my sanity. However, I did not want to write just any book. I wanted to write something that would be a help to young people who read it. I wanted it to be an entertaining story, but a story that would teach Biblical values. I wanted it to feature characters that were not ashamed of their Christianity. I wanted it to be something that might be edifying to its readers. Lo, and behold, this time it happened.
I would be lying if I said that there are no longer times that I struggle with what happened in my life two years ago. It was something that completely reordered large parts of my life, and in some very negative ways. I very much wish that what happened would not have happened. If I told you what it was, you would no doubt say the same thing. Even so, I would not undo what it changed in me. As I said, it helped me to learn to trust in the Lord much more than I ever had. It is my natural tendency to worry, but my experiences in these last two years has greatly cut that down. It also strengthened the passion that I already had for young people, and gave me an even greater desire to minister to them. When I think about my own troubles and how difficult they were for me as an adult, if makes me think about how much tougher they are for a child, thus increasing my level of compassion. Since then, I've found that new opportunities to do that, such as the book, have presented themselves, and I see other possibilities on the horizon, no doubt because God has used the trials of my life to give me a fuller understanding of the needs that exist. It is truly amazing to see how He moves.
All things are not good, but we serve a God that is more than capable of using even the bad for our good. He can use those things to strengthen us personally and to make us a better witness to others. Nothing catches Him by surprise, and nothing can thwart His will. I have learned not to say that something can never happen to me. I have been affected by things that I would never have believed could happen. But more than that, I have found that my God can use them all to shape me into someone whom He can more easily use. Yes, for the believer, all things work together for good.
The Wonders of God’s Grace
by Ronald W Robey
Luke 5:37 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.
Luke 5:38 But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.
Luke 5:39 No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.
In the above passage, Jesus was demonstrating the fact that Law and Grace CANNOT mix. The Old wine representing Law, the New representing Grace. The Old man, upon trusting Christ Jesus, becomes a New man. Grace (New Wine) is bestowed to the New man (New wineskins)
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Many refuse the New Wine, saying, "The Old is better". Yet Christ came to make all things New and in His death on the cross, has done away with the Old.
Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Ephesians 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
Genesis 3:16 (KJV) Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
Genesis 3:17 (KJV) And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
Genesis 3:18 (KJV) Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
Genesis 3:19 (KJV) In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
In Genesis 3:16, we see the God of all creation, who is clearly angry because of man disobeying Him, pronouncing judgment upon the first married couple who ever walked upon this Earth, and He put a curse upon the Earth as well. One man’s disobedience affected not just that one man, but the entire world and all of mankind who would be born upon the face of the Earth
Romans 5:12 (KJV) Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
God had promised earlier in the creation story, death as the sentence to be carried out should the man and woman partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And just as God promised, the man and woman died that day as a result of disobedience. The immediate death was not physical, but rather it was spiritual.
In 1 Timothy 2:14, we read: And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Eve, being deceived, was in the transgression. At that moment that she partook of that fruit that God had forbidden, God could have struck her dead. He could have removed her life force from the face of the Earth and created another help meet for man. But, because of His infinite mercy, His unfailing love, and the Wonder of God's Grace, He did not.
God allowed the woman to live. He allowed her to give the fruit to her husband. Her husband ate of the fruit, and died spiritually with her. His love for his wife was so strong that he partook of the forbidden fruit, in spite of the fact that he knew he was being disobedient to God.
No doubt, there must have been a change in Eve’s countenance after partaking of that forbidden fruit… a change that caused her husband Adam to know that his wife was, though standing before him with life-giving blood flowing through her veins, now spiritually dead.
Jesus, toward the close of His speaking to the multitudes in what would later be known as “The Sermon on the Mount”, warned of false prophets, stating, “Ye shall know them by their fruits”. Adam must have witnessed something in Eve’s actions or expressions that instant that made him to know that his wife, the woman that God had told him to procreate with, had indeed spiritually died after eating of that forbidden fruit. For the Bible tells us that the man was not deceived, but the woman was deceived. Adam partook of that fruit with full understanding and full knowledge that he too, would die spiritually.
And so He ate, and subsequently hid from God. As God walked in the Garden in the cool of the day, the man and his wife hid in the flora, ashamed because their eyes had been opened to knowledge of good and evil. They realized their nakedness and were afraid of being seen by God.
God called out to Adam, and Adam answered. In His calling out to Adam, God was revealing the Wonder of His Grace. God, being omniscient, already knew Adam had partaken of the tree that God had forbidden him to eat from. But God, in His infinite mercy and great love with which He loved Adam revealed His Grace by calling the man and his wife out of the bushes and unto Himself. What a perfect picture of the Wonder of God’s Grace so early in the first book of our sacred book, God’s Word.
God, in His infinite mercy, manifested the Wonders of His grace. Instead of destroying man for his act of disobedience, God extended that grace toward man and allowed him to live in a world that was once perfect, but now was cursed with thorns and thistles. Man, through his one act of disobedience had lost the authority to tend the Garden in Eden where the Tree of Life was planted. Man lost the ability to eat of that Tree of Life and live forever. Man lost his privilege to care for and dress the Garden that God had placed him in. But the Wonder of God’s Grace allowed him to continue to live outside the Garden in the now cursed world.
The woman, as our text above shows, did not go unpunished. God said that because of her rebellion she would have great sorrow in childbirth. We are not told whether the man and his wife had any children while he was filling the position of Caretaker of the Garden. However Genesis 1:28 reveals that God did tell them to “go forth and multiply”. God had given them His blessing to have children, thereby showing the Wonder of His Grace even before the fall.
The curse God gave to woman was that where there may not have been great pain in giving birth, she now would be tasked to endure much pain… “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception” Sorrow where joy may have once been. Sorrow, not just because of the stress on her body during childbirth, but also because of knowing the life every child born to her would ultimately have to face because of her being deceived and giving in to the lust of the eyes.
Oh, how it must have torn at her heart to know what she had lost and what her children could have had if she had only been wise to the serpent's words when he beguiled her. And how she must have remembered God’s Words each time she brought forth children and experienced that “great pain” that God said she would experience through childbirth.!
But Oh, the wonders of God’s grace that the woman was given the chance to live a long life, if only outside of the Garden that she once walked with her husband and the Lord God in the cool of the day.
We read in the third chapter of Genesis how that after God sentenced mankind through judgment, God clothed man with coats of skin. We are not told what skin was used to cover the man and his wife. We do know that it was a type and shadow of a future sacrifice and covering that would be offered for all mankind through the death, burial and resurrection of God’s only begotten Son Jesus Christ.
By one man’s disobedience sin entered into the world. And that man’s disobedience brought sin and death upon all men. We are told that because of that one’ man’s disobedience, the world quickly became full of wickedness. The Bible tells us that “man’s heart was only evil continuously.” God set His heart against man and against the Earth that He had created. He decided that the world was useless to Him and that He would destroy it completely.
No doubt, just as He spoke and the worlds were framed, He could have just as easily spoken and made them vanish in an instant of time. But because one man caught God’s attention, the Wonder of God’s Grace was shown to that man and his family.
The Wonder of God’s Grace allowed righteous Noah and his family to enter the ark and stay safe while the rest of the world, mankind, flora and fauna as well, perished in the great worldwide flood.
We are reminded of the Israelites, slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, who witnessed the Wonder of God’s Grace as God poured out plague upon plague upon Egypt. The plagues affected the Egyptians, but the Israelites were not affected. Prior to the last Biblical plague upon Egypt, the death of the firstborn of every Egyptian household and of every firstborn animal in the Egyptian flocks and herds, lambs were slain by Israelite households and the blood from those lambs put upon the doorway of the Israelite home, a type and shadow of the blood sacrifice that Jesus Christ the Righteous gave on Golgotha, the place of the skull, for all mankind.
It was that final plague that caused Pharaoh to release the Israelites and allow them to journey away from Egypt to go worship the LORD their God.
As they were journeying toward the Red Sea, the Wonder of God’s Grace is seen once again as God guided them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night until they reached the Red Sea.
We all know the story… Pharaoh had a change of heart once again and gathered an army to chase after the Israelites. The Wonder of God’s Grace made a way where there was no way. He parted the waters and they walked across on dry land! The Egyptians pursued them. God caused the waters to fall upon the Egyptian army and they were drowned. The Wonder of God’s Grace had protected the Israelites and destroyed their enemies.
We read of the wilderness wanderings, how that men began to murmur and complain, God provided manna from Heaven, birds brought them food as well. And twice they were given water from a rock. And yet, they did not see the Wonder of God’s Grace even though He had clearly bestowed it.
It is no surprise that Jesus later said, “No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.”
The Israelites murmured and complained, they voiced how they wished Moses had left them alone under the hands and rule of the Egyptians. The Wonder of God’s Grace had provided for them constantly, and yet, they were not focused on God. Had they focused on Him, they would not have complained as they did and would have recognized the Wonder of God's Grace.
Moses went up on the Mount to speak with God and God gave him commandments for the Israelites to observe and follow. There were 613 commandments in all that God told Moses the children of Israel were to observe.
It must be noted that God gave these commandments to Israel alone. He did not give them to Gentile nations.
God’s Word tells us in Exodus 12:49, “One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
God was very careful to construct His words as He spoke them to Moses. Notice He said “and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you,” and not “and to you who live among the strangers” This reveals to us that the Mosaic Law was restricted to those living in the Promised Land.
We find further confirmation of this decree in the writings of King David,. In Psalm 147, we read:
Psalms 147:19 He sheweth His Word unto Jacob, His statutes and His judgments unto Israel.
Psalms 147:20 He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for His judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.
God’s Law given to Israel, which was in effect from 1450 BC to 70 AD, all 613 statutes, torts and ordinances contained in that Law, was never given to Gentiles.
We have examined only a handful of the accounts of the Wonder of God’s Grace being shown in the Old Testament. There are many, many more. It was the wonder of God’s Grace that was bestowed upon the widow of Zarephath who shared her last meal with the Prophet and we are told that God multiplied what she had. We see the Wonder of God’s Grace in the story of the Hebrew children Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego as they declared to the king “we will not bow to your image, nor worship it”. The Wonder of God’s Grace was seen in a den of lions when the man of God, Daniel, was cast in for praying to Almighty God, disobeying the kings command.
Oh, that we will have that same boldness in the face of tribulation and persecution, that we might witness the Wonder of God’s Grace as the men of God in the Book of Daniel did!
Let us move forward to the year 4 BC. The year that an angel appeared to a young virgin named Mary. We are told how that God sent His Son into the world, made of a woman, to save His people from their sin.
Oh, the Wonder of God’s Grace extended in the giving of His only begotten Son to a sin-sick world! God’s chosen people Israel were still under the Law handed down to Moses from Heaven above. They were bound to the sacrifices, the offerings, ...all ordinances, statutes and torts written in that Law.
They could not deviate from the guidelines that God had established. In Deuteronomy 12:8, we read:
Deuteronomy 12:8 Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.
Man could not just do whatever he chose to do. God did not give those 613 Laws to man so man could simply ignore them and do his own thing. He had to follow the Law precisely in the way that God had prescribed. Where God did allow substitutions, God revealed what those substitutions were to be. Things were to be done God's way, not man's.
But after nearly 1,440 years of the the Wonder of God's Grace being displayed in the dispensation of the Law, in an even greater demonstration of the Wonder of God’s Grace, God sent His Son, whose life, death, burial and resurrection would be the catalyst for a New Covenant with Israel. And not with Israel only, but with every nation upon the face of God’s Earth.
Throughout His life on this Earth, Jesus Christ was manifesting the Wonder of God’s Grace everywhere He went. At twelve years old, the child Jesus amazed Rabbi’s in the Temple, answering questions concerning the Holy Scriptures. At twenty-nine He performed the first miracle man had ever seen Him do at a wedding feast in Cana. The wonder of God’s Grace is seen in His raising Lazarus from the dead, His healing blinded eyes, His casting out devils, in multiplying a few loaves and fishes for hungry crowds of thousands who had come to hear Him speak, and in the countless other miracles He performed while walking this Earth as the Son of man.
The Wonder of God’s Grace is seen in His restoring a servant’s ear after Peter had cut it off with a sword in the Garden of Gethsemane.
And then, we come to Golgotha, that horrible hill on which the Saviour was hung. As He was dying, He revealed once again the Wonder of God’s Grace when He said, “It is Finished!”
It is true, as He said in Matthew’s Gospel, that He did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. And fulfill it He did. He did what no other man was able to do, He kept every aspect of the Law that applied to Him as an Israelite, born of the lineage of David.
But, we are told in Ephesians 2:14-15 that Christ, in His death, burial and resurrection, abolished the ordinances written in the Law.
Ephesians 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
Abolished! Cancelled out. Completely! Man, who has trusted and is now married to Jesus Christ, no longer has to be governed by the Mosaic Law.
Romans 7:1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
Romans 7:2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
Romans 7:3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
Romans 7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
In Romans 7:1-4, the Apostle Paul likened a person who submits to the Law, while married to the One who has risen from the dead, to an adulterer married to a spouse, but living in the home of another.
My Brethren, The Wonder of God’s Grace has called us out of the bondage of the Mosaic Law. We have been freed from not only the law of sin and death, but we are told that we have been brought into a New Covenant. The old is ready to vanish away, as the author of the Book of Hebrews said nearly 2,000 years ago.
Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Colossians 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
Where Grace abounds, there is liberty. There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
The Word of God has indeed freed us from the Law, never to be entangled again with its yoke of bondage. We needn’t wear that yoke, Christ wore it for us. We needn’t submit to the ordinances, Christ took them out of the way, nailing them to His cross. As the Apostle Paul wrote in the third chapter of Galatians, it is foolish for one who has begun in the Spirit to subject himself to the Law. How are we to expect Grace and Mercy from the Father, when we turn our backs on the price his Son paid for our freedom and choose to walk in ordinances that God’s Word said belonged to national Israel alone?
So many today are being told that they are lost and in need of a Saviour. This is true. So many are told that eternal life is a gift from God to man, and that the only things man has to do to receive this wonderful gift is to believe on Jesus Christ. This also is true.
The problem arises when we get the new Convert into the Church, the Convert quickly finds that, according to the pastor, there is a price to pay. The new Convert is told to keep certain of the ordinances that were given to national Israel. That God requires these ordinances to be observed by the Church members today. My Brethren, nothing could be farther from the Truth.
My Brethren, cast out the bondwoman and her son. Break away those chains that cause you to be unfaithful to the Lord. It is only when you walk away from the Law, that you will truly know the fullness of the Wonder of God’s Grace.
What is the Wonder of God’s Grace? It is all that I have mentioned previously, and more. It is the recognition of where God found us, what God offered us, what He has given those of us who have accepted that offer, and what He has prepared for us… despite the fact that we are a fallen race, despite the fact that we fail from time to time, despite all of our shortcomings.
The Wonder of God's Grace assure us that we are accepted in the Beloved.
As we come to the close of the short message, My prayer is that it has spoken to our hearts and challenged us to be more diligent in our studies of God’s Holy Word.
For those who may be unsure of your eternal state after this short existence on Earth, do not hesitate to make that decision today. Our Lord’s return is more nigh us that it has ever been. If you should die without Christ, you will miss the Wonder of God’s Grace, If you should die without the Lord, your only hope is to face Him in His wrath. .
God bless all who work for His eternal Kingdom!
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There is a balance to life. Everything we do is, or should be, by balance. However, balance does not necessarily mean in even proportion. For instance, if I want a good balance of flour and yeast in my bread, I will surely not use the same amount of yeast as I do of flour! Life is the same. Different situations call for different proportions, and sometimes the balance is somewhat hard to find.
This morning, I was looking in the back of my Bible and I saw a thought that I had written down a few years ago. "The difficulty I find in my Christian life is that, when I should be a man, I am a child, and yet when I should be a child, I am a man." Let us consider what the Scriptures say. I Corinthians 13:11 says, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man , I put away childish things." And yet, when you look at Mark 10:15, we see Jesus say, "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein." So where is the balance? When do we be "as a little child" and when do we "put away childish things"? The difference, I believe, is the difference between childish and childlike.
The word childish is defined as, "Belonging to a child; trifling; puerile (boyish, immature). However, the word childlike is defined as, "Resembling a child or that which belongs to children; becoming a child; meek; submissive; dutiful; as childlike obedience."* Notice the difference in the following: one is to belong to a child and one is to resemble a child. Let me give you an example. I am, and always have been, a bit of a cut-up. Now I have often been accused of being immature because of this; however, if I was childish, I would have no sense of when to cut up and when not to. Hence, we see that the difference between being childlike and childish is that being childish applies to all the aspects of children, whereas being childlike applies to the excellency of children. Spurgeon put this way, "It would be a good thing for us all if we had never stopped being boys and girls, but had added to all the excellencies of a child the virtues of a man. Surely, it is not necessary to kill the child to make the saint?"**
So, in my Christian life, there comes a time when I should be more like a child. Children tend to be more forgiving. How often have we seen two children squabble one minute, and be best of friends the next, as if the incident had never happened. How blessed it would be if we could find this in our own life. Unfortunately, adults tend to be much too full of pride to do this. Children tend to be trusting. We as Christians do not trust God. Whatever our reason is, we lack trust. Children are quick to love. However, adults tend to look for a reason not to love people. Why? Simply because we like to feel sorry for ourselves.
And yet, in my Christian life, there comes a time for me to be a man. A child, by nature, is fearful. A man (or adult) should not be. Isn't it funny that a child's fear is far less damaging than an adult's, simply because a child knows how to trust. Adults when they fear, also refuse to trust. A child tends to be dramatic. Unfortunately most people do not grow out of this. A child is mostly selfish; they have to be taught to think otherwise. The problem is, many of the adults instructing them to not be selfish are often selfish themselves.
I finish with a very sobering thought from Spurgeon. "Do not others expect from children more perfect conduct than they themselves exhibit? If a gracious child should lose his temper, or act wrongly in some trifling thing through forgetfulness, straight way he is condemned as little hypocrite by those who are a long way from being perfect themselves."*** Let's stop being so childish, and start being childlike.
*All definitions are taken from the Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary. **Spiritual Parenting pg. 17 ***Spiritual Parenting pg. 18
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The Foolishness of Preaching
In todays society, all understanding, education, knowledge, and mankinds advancement is based on science, with the omission of God. The idea of God is seen as foolishness, and as an outdated close-minded mindset. Let alone the idea that there is something wrong with society, that their lives are filled with sin and they are in danger of perishing and going to Hell. These in societies eyes are the rantings of a lunatic, not understanding the seriousness of its fact. But Christ suffered first, He started the work and showed us the path that we must walk, and the cross of scoffing, mockery, ridicule, persecution, and in the end the wonderful words "Well done my good and faithful servant".
The Bible says -
1Co 1:18-21 - For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
The Lord teaches that the understanding of the Word of God is more important and more powerful than any knowledge that the world could offer. The understanding of the Cross of Christ is more critical to a persons soul than anything you could attain in this life. The world offers all kinds of pleasures, in entertainment, wealth, and luxuries. But how they pale in comparison to the mighty power of a loving God who offers eternal life through the repentance of sin, and belief and acceptance of the Gospel of Christ.
The world would rather pursue and preach the pursuit of happiness. In their mind and in their understanding that is nothing more than physical gain. But try and tell them that their understanding is wrong, that it is more than that, then they will hate you.
John 15:18-19 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
The Bible is seen as foolish and outdated, but that is only because they do not have the Spirit of the Lord to give them the understanding (1Cor 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.). The Lord said many times throughout the Bible that one must only ask and He will hear. Because If you believe the Word of God, then you have nothing to fear - 2Tim 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Christ said Mat 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to OBserve all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
This is not only just a commandment, but a promise. Christ promised that He would be with us, but we also have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. What have we to fear. If Christ commanded that we preach the Word of God, then He will make sure to give you the words with which to speak - Eze 3:27 But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house.
The Lord promised to give you the wisdom and knowledge you need if you but ask. The fear of man is nothing, the persecution you may have is nothing, if you fully trust in the Lord He promised that He would help, He promised that He would give you the words, and He promised that he would never leave us nor forsake us.
It comes down to faith, do you have faith in the Lord? Do you actually believe that He will help you? You trusted the Lord to save you, and you believe that you will spend eternity in Heaven. So why would a Christian doubt or fear that they would be on their own in preaching to the lost?
Trust in the Lord and the power of His might, the world cannot touch you if the Lord is protecting you. The Lord said countless times throughout the Bible, that He will give you utterance. The Word of God is just that, the Words of God, not ours. We do not speak, the Lord speaks through us.
The message of the Gospel is hated by this world, it is seen as nonsense, but that does not negate its importance. The greatest reason that the Gospel is not preached to the lost is because of the fear of man. Fear can be crippling, it can freeze your thoughts and your body. The fear of man and the wild imagination that follows can be the worst, but God said that He would help you if you only ask Him. Paul the Apostle faced many an opposition, whippings, being stoned to death, beaten, and in the end he was killed for the faith. The trust that one has in God in that no matter what the outcome, no matter how foolish the world may see you, God will always give you the ability to stand.
God said that if any man lack wisdom, let Him ask of God. He also taught that it is not of us that the Gospel is given, but that the Holy Spirit is speaking through us, that is convicting of sin. We are a voice for the Holy Spirit, an instrument of His grace, to provide a message of hope to the lost. When you understand that it is nothing of ourselves, that it is in OBedience to His word when we witness, we have nothing to fear.
Like Peter before the Jews, he trusted in God and opened his mouth, and God spoke through him and many were saved. These were the men that not to long before had sentenced and killed Christ. And now Peter is and the other disciples are standing in front of over 5000 of them and is preaching Christ.
Fear of not knowing what to say, of how someone might react, of _____ you fill in the blanks. Fear is the manifestation of an imagined undesirable outcome, it is your imagination, not a reality. But it is not up to us to make people like us, that's just our own ego and pride taking over. God cannot use you if you are always trying to change the outcome to better suit yourself and your own fears. Besides, in this world you would have to not preach Christ and avoid any Biblical topics to ensure that you would not be disliked. You must give yourself wholly and completely, with no thought to your own desires. (the servant of the Lord must not strive) you must not fight the will of God with your own wants and desires. You must not worry or care for anything, the Lord said to take no thought of tomorrow. That He would supply your every need, this includes safety and the words with which to speak. You must not fear or doubt what the people think.
This is what the world calls foolishness, the absolute trust in the living God. A God that came to this earth and died for our sins, and rose to life again. A God that loves us and promises that He would never leave us. A God that promises that if we would just take the time to spread this Word, that He would do the speaking, He just needs us to be willing.
Doing or saying anything that would make us appear foolish to others, or have others look at us with disgust, contempt, or even pity, goes against everything we strive for. We don't want to appear different naturally, but to appear like everyone else we would have to put Christ on the shelf and avoid Him. To do that would be knowingly sentencing them to Hell, you have the key to salvation in your own hand and are refusing to show them because some may see you as acting and speaking foolishness.
Preach the word, and nevermind what people think, spread the Gospel whether they want to hear it or not. The word of the Lord is unto them which perish foolishness.
But as Romans 1:6 says – For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
We have received salvation of God, we have been washed in the blood of Christ. Our eternity is secured, we have nothing to loose. Sticks and stones may brake my bones, but the Gospel of Christ compels me.
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Repent Part 1: A SERIES OF MEDITATIONS ON THE WORD
June 26, 2014 at 9:50am
Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
People generally don't read really long articles so we will explore and discuss what it means to repent together, in parts.
In the days after creation the number of people grew. Mankind was wicked and God was "angry" that the internal thoughts of man were constantly about doing hurt to other people. So the Bible says that "it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart."
We see that the word repent in Genesis 6:6 has a primary feeling of REGRET and God has redecided, essentially changed his mind, about creating man.
Now move the picture to Exodus. Moses and the Israelites are heading to the promised land. Moses is in the mountain in the presence of God. The people get impatient and make a golden calf and they begin to treat the golden calf as their deliverer from Egypt. God led them out of Egypt strongly and they are crediting a statue! They had a pagan style party and a celebration with the calf overlooking the festivities. In Exo 32:10 God says he is ready to "consume them." Moses intercedes and verse :14 "And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people." The "evil" was not a sin but God was ready to kill those people.Then God changed his mind. In this case there is no regret (he is ready to consume them) but he decided not to do it.
We now see in one verse repent is regret with a change in another it is strongly a change of mind. In none of these cases is it turning away from sin. Repent has a range of meanings. The semantic range will grow as you read all 109 verses the word appears in. I will link all the verses using repent at the end.
The Israelites are in the promised land. The people start doing what they think is right instead of what God says is right. The Israelites also failed to drive out all the inhabitants of the land. So God stirs up the inhabitants against the disOBedient Israelites. We will recall the Philistines were one of the peoples that gave the Israelites trouble in the book of Judges. The Israelites groaned and complained about all the inhabitants of the land giving them trouble. God's response is, in Judges 2:18, to give the people leaders called judges, to lead and help them and "delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them" In this case we see there is a temporary change of mind about allowing the oppression of the Israelites (the judges weren't permanent) and there was only some regret (the oppressors were not fully dealt with).
We now see here that repent is some change of mind and some regret. In another repent was mostly to regret. In another repent was strongly a change of mind.
Now, one day a man (Levite) and his "wife" are traveling. It is late and they arrive at a city in the tribe of Benjamin's territory. There is no place to stay but an old man is kind and helps the travelers out. Soon a loud banging is heard where the Levite is staying with his "concubine." The Benjamites forced the stranger to give his "wife" and they abused her all the night long. The nation of Israel is angered and gathers an army and asks for the wicked men that abused the woman. Benjamin refused to turn the men over and Israel goes to war with Benjamin. Nearly the entire tribe of Benjamin is wiped out in the war. When the israelites finally realize the degree of the slaughter they exclaim in Judges 21:6 "And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day." Primarily this is regret a "what did I do! I can't believe we wiped them out!." They certainly did not change their mind about the war but they regretted the degree to which they defeated the Benjamites. You can say they reconsidered wiping out the Benjamites. But again we see the degree of "change of mind" and "regret" implied by the word "repent" is different.
One more illustration. The Judges situation isn't working and the Israelites want someone more permanent. People like Samson were just a temporary solution. God gives them a king instead of judges like Samson. God chooses Saul to be king. Saul messes up and the Bible says (1 Sam 15:35) "the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel" Now, the primary meaning here is regret but includes a change of mind.
NOW, BASED ON WHAT WE READ FAST FORWARD TO A VOICE CRYING "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"
Interpreting the above words in light of what the word repent means in our study so far:
In this case "for" is a way of saying "because." Also, KINGdom indicates the system and rules and regulations coming under the just and good rule of Jesus Christ. So that verse currently interprets as "change your mind about the system and regulations of this world, possibly regret you even live under the world system, and point yourself to the kingdom under the Lord Jesus Christ". Based on what we studied so far the is no way to get repent of your sins out of that word. Stay tuned as I plan to develop the definition of the word repent with further installments of this meditation on the word repent.
“When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick.”
(Matthew 8:16 KJV)
This verse emphatically states Jesus healed ALL individuals who were brought unto Him. This verse clearly tells me God can absolutely heal any physical, mental, spiritual sickness on this earth today if it be in His will to do so by prayer. We do serve the same God today who walked upon the ground in fleshly form, among many spiritually ill individuals, during His earthly ministry. A number of individuals Jesus came into contact with in His earthly ministry suffered from a putrid spiritual virus darkening the inside chambers of their hardened hearts and clearly affecting their outward demeanor and actions.
This Bible verse does not say He healed some of these individuals who were ill but rather He healed all that were sick. This verse tells us His “holy prescription” for their mental ailment; was His word. Today we have the complete Bible, His Word, which contains all the spiritual “antibiotic” necessary to eradicate evil and dark spirits dwelling in the minds and hearts of many who are in great spiritual need.
Jesus healed many individuals, while He sojourned here on earths which were physically, spiritually and mentally ill. Crowds of people thronged to His side bringing Him family members and close friends in need of healing. People were so desperate to come in contact with Jesus a man of short stature named Zacchaeus even climbed a sycamore tree to fight the throng of the crowd catching a glimpse of Jesus and His ministry.
We serve the same powerful and holy God today. He has not changed. He has not moved. He has not had a power failure or loss of ability to destroy any spiritual maladies and demons as He did in Biblical times.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 KJV)
What has changed; people have. Many do not seek Him. Many do not want to hear the message of His truth. Many choose to suppress the truth of His Word. He is the only lasting cure for their spiritually based mental ailments.
Today families and close friends do not bring their loved ones unto the feet of Jesus Christ; laying their burdens at the foot of the cross. Many individuals battling mental illness choose to be shuffled off to psychologists, counselors, treatment centers, hospitals, psychologists and the like. They are treated with high potent prescriptions, counseled for their behavioral condition, and treated “culturally appropriate;” never discriminated against for their out of control mental disorder and underlying psychotic behaviors.
But I ask you to consider:
What about the man whom Jesus met in the Gadarenes?
"And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea." (Mark 5:1-13 KJV)
This evil spirit instantly knew and acknowledged who Jesus was. This spirit never considered denying or suppressing innate knowledge that Jesus was in authority over him, understanding the authority and power came from the highest authority, God, ruling the Heavens. Jesus spoke and the unclean spirits verbally recognized Jesus as the Son of the most high God. That is much more than many will dare to acknowledge today.
Jesus showed His power by verbally commanding the many spirits to come out from this man. The spirits begged Jesus to allow them to go into a herd of swine nearby, knowing He was their authority, and that He could send them straight to Hell. This knowledge caused fear to swell and rise to ultimate levels among these dark spirits. The unclean spirits entered into the herd of swine sending the herd instantly reeling over the side of a cliff and into the sea. The Bible tells us there were many unclean spirits; thousands, as in a legion of soldiers, were removed this man. This scripture proves an individual can become infected with numerous unclean spirits. Demon spirits can only take up residence in individuals who are unsaved and living amid spiritual darkness and death today as well.
This man from the Bible spoke of was from the Gadarenes and was actually living in and around the tombs; possibly having an attraction or affinity of some sort with the dead. It is possible he had some sort of occultist activity or nature that led him to live among the tombs but the Bible does not expand on the reason he was found living there. Today occult activity and demons often go hand in hand because it is the very essence and nature of darkness and evil.
Take note that the spirit within him affected everything about this man’s behavior. Scripture tells us he was wild and uncontrollable; no man could bind him or tame his behavior. He was uncontrollable all the time. Day and night he was roaming about through both the valleys and peaks of life without self-control. The outer circumstances had no effect upon the behavior of this demon possessed man. He went about crying and cutting himself without regard for himself or others. Jesus healing him of this devil possession was his only hope for a normal existence. There are individuals today who are living in an out of control fashion just like this demon possessed man.
“And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.” (Mark 5:14-15 KJV)
Those who witnessed this biblical scene play out; the owners of the swine and the crowd that had gathered, clearly understood the power Jesus had used in conveying the unclean spirits be removed from this man into the herd. What was powerful, even more than the spirits being removed, was the countenance and nature of this man after this eradication had taken place.
“And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” (Mark 5:18-19 KJV)
The man was so overwhelmed with what Jesus had done for him. He begged Jesus to allow him to accompany him on His earthly journey of spreading the gospel message. Jesus sent him instead back to where he had come, his former lifestyle, to witness to those who were familiar with his disOBedient and unhindered lifestyle before the legion of unclean spirits was removed. Jesus knew this would be a powerful testimony all on its own and many people would clearly understand the power and compassion Jesus conveyed when he spiritually healed this desperately lost man.
The Bible records others who were spiritually healed from demons as well:
“And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.”
(Luke 8:2-3 KJV)
“And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.”
(Acts 16:16-18 KJV)
“And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.”
(Mark 9:17-20 KJV)
“And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.” (Mark 1:23-25 KJV)
“Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”
(Jude 1:8-9 KJV)
There are many instances in scripture of demon possession, depression, and mental illness among Bible believing Christians. There are several examples of spiritual deliverance from a variety of mental illnesses and demon possession in the Word of God through faith, fasting, and prayer. There are examples of depression in the Psalms and the book of JOB. Christians do get depressed and there are many scriptural examples of this. David lost the joy of his salvation and asked for God to restore it in Psalm 51. Clearly God’s power is necessary and powerful in the treatment and eradication of depression and many varieties of mental illnesses.
Often a stigma is attached to Christians who have depression or mental illness of some sort and many are often not forthcoming in admitting they suffer from mental illness. Churches and Christians vary in their approach and understanding of mental disorders. Even different church denominations will vary in their approach to combating mental illness. There are many approaches used today. It boils down to separating man’s attempts at throwing various secular resources towards the many mental illnesses versus the record the Bible contains about biblical precepts Jesus and His disciples employed when dealing with mental maladies.
Unfortunately there are many who suffer the effects of some form of mental illness without seeking any form of treatment, secular or biblical. It is okay for any individual to admit they have a mental issue or prOBlem of some sort that needs to be further dealt with. The first step in finding a solution is admitting there is a prOBlem. Secondly it is a prOBlem which needs to be dealt with in a fashion that line up with the precepts of the Bible because the Bible is the foundation everything about life is built upon. The spiritual condition of the heart is of utmost importance in any circumstance of life.
The first step should be to search the Bible for examples of mental disorders plaguing God’s people and solutions employed in those situations. One important facet of mental illnesses is trying to discover the root of the situation. The Bible tells us foremost:
"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
(Proverbs 4:23 KJV)
It is important to keep this precept at the front of the line when considering biblical solutions for mental illness. The heart is the very center of our will and emotion. If the heart is not in a right relationship with God, then nothing in one’s life will stack up in decent order accordingly. A proper spiritual heart condition is the most important aspect to consider when evaluating a mentally challenging illness. A heart darkened by unbelief, or by unconfessed sin in a saved individual can greatly hamper or hinder mental processing and condition of the heart and mental facilities as well.
Never under-estimate the immense power love of Christ and the unequaled power of quoting Bible verses to a person who is hampered by mental illness by a pastor or a person who is widely versed and knowledgeable about scriptures and the power contained therein:
"May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us."
(Ephesians 3:18-20 KJV)
Christ has the power, if it be His will, to successfully weave a person into the power and control of His spirit whether it is from oppression or possession of an evil spirit(s) upon or within a person.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
(2 Timothy 1:7 KJV)
God has given us all the possibility of the power of a sound mind which has the full potential of operating clearly, concisely and within the realms of the standards set forth of godly discipline and order. A mind that operates outside of those precepts or boundaries is not a sound mind but rather one that is tossed to and fro by outward stimuli including one’s emotions and circumstances of the world, rather than being under sound spiritual control from God.
Sin raging within the heart creates chaos and confusion. In the fifty-first Psalm David confesses his sin before a holy and knowing God. David’s contrite and has a heartfelt intention seeking to be made right with God. A heart that is full of sin and/or evil spirits can make one miserable, bitter and full of anger to himself and others around him. David prays for relief of attitudes and desires not befitting a child of God.
“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”
(Psalms 51:12 KJV)
A great question for those who are in wretched and miserable disorder is about the spiritual condition of their heart including the degree or temperature of their faith in God. A cold heart does not know or understand about faith or the love of God. A lukewarm heart is neither heated up for the purposes of God or cold nor withdrawn and suppressing the truth. A heart that is in fire for the Lord is all about advancing the principles and godly lifestyle; becoming more Christ-like as they march onward towards eternity.
Often individuals suffer in this world. There are different or varying reactions or responses to suffering. Some people suffer loudly, always complaining, to anyone that will listen about the condition and quality of their life. The glass is never half full but always almost empty. Others take suffering on with a quiet and humble spirit. It is very interesting to note that the Holy Spirit sent from God, enters into a saved person’s life, is a spirit of peace and has a calming effect upon us as we choose to live in OBedience to Him and His will for our lives.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
(John 14:27 KJV)
This may not cancel all prOBlem situations, doubts and fears from your life but it will considerably alleviate fears and concerns grounded in viewing life through a worldly viewpoint. The Bible does tell us:
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."
(1 John 4:18 KJV)
If fear hath torment than a person who is living buried amid many fears and concerns about things of this world would be tormenting themselves spiritually; causing a fearful storm to erupt forth. While some fear may be validated as worthwhile in planning and evaluating. The only fear that is constructive in the spiritual life is fear of the God; all other fear is destructive in nature and serves to tear apart a person’s life. Fear causes anxiety, depression, low energy level, and anxiety attacks. Fear causes an overwhelming feeling of impending doom, distorted thoughts, or inadequacy in some way. There are many individuals who are suffering from one or more of these common ailments not based upon reality as viewed through the “holy lenses” of Christ. These fearfully based mindsets are based upon experiences but not necessarily spiritual truth. Feelings and emotions will mislead you into believing something that you feel but is not necessarily true. Often the “enemy” inside a person comes from within. The solution requires taking responsibility for their actions and attitude. The solution begins with repairing a “spiritually shattered” heart condition.
Many today are caught up in the dependency syndrome; dependent on cigarettes, liquor, caffeine, highly caffeinated drinks, drugs, prescription medications, and leaning on anything that will “prop” them up. The prOBlem is all these crutches will fall because they are temporary fixes in nature; often leaving the individual in worse condition than before the dependency began.
A reality check for this world: many churches are ill-equipped to handle mentally challenged or ill persons. Many, often even pastors, do not understand biblical precepts concerning mental health. The influence of man’s concept of dealing with and treating mental illness has crept within the church house and perverted the truths of scripture. Few understand how to apply scriptural truth and prayer to situations involving mentally ill individuals.
The bottom line is that each man has been made in the image of God and each woman in the image of man . God does not make junk. God was very meticulous and creative in making each individual.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
(Genesis 1:27-28 KJV)
God gave each us life, precious life in the blood. He gave us the breath of life, the word nepesh, into our lungs. Without the blood and breath of fresh air we would not survive on earth. He also gave us responsibilities, commandments, precepts, and work. Yes work. He gave us all these things; but gave us all we need to successfully live life for Him. If there is something wrong in your life it is with YOU not His creation, not with the people who are around you, not the preacher, not your family, not your jOB, not your financial situation. This list can go on and on with excuse after excuse, however no devastating circumstances or people surrounding you are solely responsible for where you have found yourself in life. Certain situations such as abuse, ill physical health, death of a close relative or friends can temporarily cause a situation that is not productive and beneficial to one’s life, however, like JOB, Joseph, and David looming situations can prove you, try you, instead of knocking you to your knees and being found “down for the count.”
“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
(JOB 23:10 KJV)
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
(2 Corinthians 4:17 KJV)
For the believer, spiritual absence from the Lord leads to depression as the joy of the Lord is our strength. This absence leaves a huge gaping hole between us and God, and a great leaking of spiritual power and spiritual soundness of mind. God can choose to turn His ear away from hearing prayers of His children who are disOBedient and living spiritually apart from His commandments and precepts of life. We choose to turn away from God and walk away; He never chooses to move away from us.
For those individuals who are not saved and are living in spiritual darkness according to their sin nature; He views their life through His “holy lenses,” as well as those persons who are saved. He hears their cries and prayers, and patiently waits, for a time, for whosoever is spiritually lost to call out to Him in faith.
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
(Romans 10:13 KJV)
However, God also says He can and will turn people over to their sinful nature and reprOBate mind if they persist in their sinful lifestyle and continually, reject by their choice, the holiness and truths of God. God can and will turn people over the Gadarenes. He will allow them to live in this world with a spiritually unfit mind.
"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprOBate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;"
(Romans 1:28 KJV)
Noah is a prime example. God spoke to Noah and he heard and took heed to God’s divine instructions. Noah was faithful OBedient to God, building the ark according to God’s “holy blueprints.” Those living in sin scoffed and ridiculed Noah’s OBedience to building the ark and his belief in a holy God.
Often people living in spiritual darkness today live according to their sin nature choose to scoff and ridicule today as well. Noah was OBedient, and as the rain began to fall and erupt forth from the earth, he was invited to come inside the ark for divine protection and comfort as the rains and flood came.
God invites all persons to come through the door of His ark and take refuge as well today. Those who refuse today find themselves afloat in the torrential rain and flood of the world and the door to His “spiritual ark” closed. Just like in the days of Noah and just like the spiritual darkness of the man living in the Gadarene’s.
There are many who are operating in wicked darkness and outside the parameter of a spiritual relationship with God today.
God has turned some individuals over to living with a reprOBate mind and spiritual darkness. They are fumbling, bumbling, and crawling along the wide path which leads to eternal spiritual destruction and living with spiritual and mental unsoundness being tossed to and fro by the waves of life.
For Further Contemplation:
God promises spiritual soundness of the mind and heart within the parameters and precepts He set forth for us to follow in OBedience to Him in a spiritual relationship with Him now and for eternity.
All of us have a sentence of death and a promise of a spiritual presence; now and forever in eternity.
A spiritual presence alive in Christ and in Heaven for eternity, or amid spiritual chaos and utter destruction while living in spiritual separation from God in this world and in Hell for eternity.
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A sure key to successful Christian life lay here in these 7 verses. I had a man once tell me, “Those books are for Pastors” I think over the years as many try to systematically teach doctrine they have inadvertently caused a separation of Church leadership and layperson, something the Bible was truly never meant to do. In every instance of Christ's teaching he tried to show the leaders were no better than the followers, as a matter of fact Paul taught that they were of a higher accountability because they were teaching the word.
So I am going to give you a little hint here. These books are written to INDIVIDUALS and each person of the body of Christ is an individual and yet we are all one in Christ. These books are books for individuals and as such we should pay closer attention to them. Not just for leadership but personal spiritual growth. Remember that each person in Christ teaches with their words, actions and life style. The first step we see here in these verses is we are to be strong in the Grace.
1) You Must Be strong in the Grace
Vv 1 ¶ Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
A major prOBlem in the church today is a misconception of what grace is. Grace is not freedom to sin without any repercussions. That was a prOBlem in the early church as well when Paul wrote, Romans 6:1, 2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? While Paul taught by his very life style how to live in this grace, many Christians today have not been taught by the example of others or their leaders how to be strong in the Grace. And like all of our life it is by faith.
So many have taken on a “oh Well I am a sinner saved by grace” instead of “I am strong in the Grace that is in Christ Jesus.” While that first statement is true it is of our past condition but in our present condition we are no longer alive to sin but alive to righteousness. This is where the true understanding of Grace lay.
Grace is the Power no longer to sin. Before I was saved I could do nothing but sin and even my good deeds were sinful. But once I was saved by grace through faith I was empowered by the Holy Ghost no longer to sin.
2) You Must Commit This Grace to Others
Vs 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
This is not about teaching doctrines or denominational creeds this is about committing the teachings of a Life Style to others that they may do the same. This is where the weakness in the church lay as the wrong idea of grace is taught and no one living it out for others to see and learn from as living ensamples.
3) You Must Endure Hardness by Grace
Vs 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
A Christian must learn to endure hardness. I know it is real easy for me to go to the Greek and try and change the English word to another to make it understandable. But if I can’t understand this word in English how will I ever know it in the dead language of Koine Greek? While hardness could imply hardship it would have broader meaning when we learn it as hardness.
Hardness is a unique word used only 7 times in the Bible and this reference being the 7th. To establish the meaning we must look at all the verse especially the first one and in all the other 6 uses it has to do with mans heart and I see no reason for that meaning to change here.
In the past soldiers were the local police. There is one thing I have OBserved in police and that is that the people they are employed to protect often are very hard toward their actions and duties. When the police or military are called forth to take action during a disaster, the police and soldiers have to put up with a lot of opposition and hardness from the people.
Understanding that men hearts are hard against those in leadership over them or in authority it is in like manner today many men of God when trying to minister the gospel of Grace find themselves in a world that in opposition or hardness of heart to the message of the Gospel. This we, both the layperson and the leader, must endure this hardness toward the gospel and the teaching of Grace, keep at our walk and the message until we have finished our own course and calling in Christ. We must learn to endure this hardness just as soldier/police has been trained to endure hardness.
4) Vs You Must have singleness of Heart of Grace
Vs 4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
Another truth we see in these verse is if you are serving Christ with a double minded heart you can’t fully serve him. I have a friend who has been saying for years he wants to serve the Lord in the mission field but yet he always has one more thing he must do before he can go. And as of yet he still is not in the mission field. No, if God calls you to go, you go. If he calls you to do a work, you do that work, but don’t serve God with a double minded heart, serve him with singleness so you can please him who called you.
5) You Must Strive to Master Yourself in the Grace
Vs 5And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
Sin comes easy in our life and if we truly want to live in the grace of God we must reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to righteousness. You must strive or work hard at your sanctification. That is to separate yourself from the sin that so easily besets us. As you do this you are working out your own salvation just as Paul encouraged us in Php 2:12 ¶ Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always OBeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. When striving correctly with The holy Ghost and the word of God as our guide we will be working out our salvation.
6) You Must be First Partaker of the Fruits of Grace.
2Ti 2:6 The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.
A Husbandman is what we call a farmer or one that grows plants. Whether flowering or fruiting plants grow in a certain way and must be cared for in order to bring forth abundant fruit. But if a husband has no fruit to partake of then he also has no fruit to share with others.
Your Christian walk/life is like a plant and you are to care for your walk as you would a plant in order to bring forth fruit. Now you can let it grow wild and un-manicured and the result will be less fruit. But if you manicure or prune it properly then you will cause it to produce more fruit. Jesus taught this in John 15:1-8 ¶ I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. Through the strength of the Grace that is in Christ Jesus we should all be bearing more and more fruit.
So if you are a branch and you have had fruit in your life, God will allow you to be purged meaning he will remove parts of the branch in order that more fruit will come. We call this pruning. Notice that the branch first brought forth fruit to begin with. A branch first has to show it is capable of bearing fruit. Once it does then it is pruned so the branch will thicken and this will allow it to be able to handle the weight of more fruit. Example that pulls all these points together.
7) You Must understand It is the Grace of God
Vs 7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
This Grace is of God and he first gives it in Salvation which only comes through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Then you must continue to grow in that grace through faith as well. Col 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Peter also teaches 2Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
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(13 references in the Bible)
Gen 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
Gen 14:19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
Gen 14:20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
I suppose, when it comes to discussing the tithe, that we must start at the beginning. In Gen 14, we see two things that should be of interest to us:
1. That Melchizedek initiated the “bread and wine” of communion in honor of Abraham.
2. That Abraham gave a tithe of all that he had taken, lest some claim to have favored Abraham, and made him rich through the tithe.
The “tithe” in Gen. 14 was given in response to the communion of victory that Melchizedek initiated. It was also in response to the blessing that Melchizedek bestowed upon him. The picture here is that the Lord blesses us, and we give to him that which we know He has given to us! It seems, to the human mind, a bit redundant to give from what He gives us, but the beauty of the whole scene is the communion that we have with Christ. The Lord shows, in many ways, that a little bit can do a lot when it is given with a pure heart. So, here one might see the establishment of the tithe, and the “why” behind it. Everything the Lord does has reason, and that includes the tithe.
Sometimes the reason is for teaching; sometimes it is for celebration (as here); and sometimes it for reasons perhaps unknown to us, but not without merit. The tithe was for Israel, God’s chosen people. It was an important part of their worship, showing that God is greater than man, and is worthy of all our attentions. This is the first reference to the tithe in the Bible. It foreshadowed things to come in the structure of the church.
The next reference is in Leviticus 27:30:
Lev 27:30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD.
Here we find that God has sanctified the tithe, and “It is holy”. Abraham seems to have impressed God greatly with the tithe, and the Lord adapted it into His law; it remains a tribute to the righteousness of God, and the subjection of man to His will. Verse 32 carries it a little further:
Lev 27:32 And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.
The tithe covered everything that is important to man, the fruit of the land, and the wealth of the livestock. It becomes a sacrifice.
Mans sustenance, all that he has, (Gen. 14:20) was what the Lord has allowed him, and the tithe the Lord kept for Himself. Some refute the tithe because our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He has no need of a tithe, but in so doing, they question the veracity of the Lord, and His Word, and dishonor Him by holding back that which is holy unto Him. Though they tithed of crops and livestock, our culture today tithes of monetary gain, as well as the proper stewardship of all we have.
In Numbers 18:26 we have another reference to the tithe:
“Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.”
First, we have here an explanation of what the tithe was for. God had given it to the Levites instead of an inheritance in Israel. He demanded a tithe from the people, and passed it on to the Levites, much of what we do today in the church. Remember the Old Testament was a shadow of things to come, it was a picture of God dealing with His people, and today, if we are born from above, we are His people. In Numbers 18:23, we have the duty of the Levites, and the expression that they shall have no inheritance among the children of Israel. Several verses in that text reiterate the purpose of the tithe.
Here is a reference that deserves consideration in Deut. 12:11 :
Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD:
Doesn’t this sound as if it could also refer to the church? Is not the church a “place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there”? He is providing a place for us today also called “the church“ and is specific in what we are to bring there. Now that is not “smoking gun” proof, I realize, but let us continue our study:
“And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.”
An interesting verse indeed; here, the Lord is again very specific as to what the tithe is, and more so He offers the real and best reason behind the tithe--“That thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always” (Note the word “always”) The tithe is to glorify the Lord always.
“Always” means forever, every generation, till the end of time; it was given to the Jew, because the Gentiles were heathen and had no part in the things of God, but it was for all of God’s children everywhere, and in every age. If this were not true, we make God a liar in saying that it is “forever”, do we not? We must all ask ourselves why we don’t want to tithe, or rather why we don’t believe the tithe is God’s forever. Giving back 10% is not easy for any of us, but the investment is well worth the sacrifice. In the text of Deut. 14, we see more about the blessing of the tithe (v. 29), and verse 28 speaks of a special tithe of the land to be brought every third year. If the tithe is too much to be easily transported, the Levites were to exchange it for money, but money was only conditional concerning the tithe. Most of the “average” people were poor, and lived off the land and the livestock that the Lord had supplied them, so money was not as prominent in their societies as it is in our culture today, but a tithe is still a tithe.
In 2 Chronicles 31:5 we read as follows:
“And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.”
The command here spoken of referred to the portion of the tithe that was to be given to the priests and Levites. The abundance of the peoples first-fruits was given insomuch as they had far more than was needed. God had blessed them abundantly, and they in turn were to be a blessing to the priests and Levites so that they might be encouraged in the law of the Lord. “Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the LORD” (v. 4). So, the tithe was also given for encouraging the full time workers of the Lord.
Nehemiah dealt with the tithe also:
Neh 10:35 And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD:
Neh 10:36 Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God:
Neh 10:37 And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.
Neh 10:38 And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house.
The Levites were not exempt from tithing, they were to tithe from the tithe they received from the people of God. The church follows this same pattern today, that the tithe would not be ignored, but remain in perpetuity as the Lord commanded Israel. The dispensationalists of today have a prOBlem with this, and separate the nation of Israel from the children of God today, but we are all spiritual Jews in the eyes of the Lord (read Galatians 3). The Levites did not tithe to themselves, but to the Lord that His work might continue without interruption.
New Testament Tithing
As already mentioned several times, the tithe was perpetual, an everlasting honor, if you will, to the Lord as well as a token of thanksgiving and an encouragement to those who live off the tithes and offerings of the congregations. They continue to supply the needs that otherwise would overwhelm the church, and the gates of hell then could prevail against it. Thirteen times in the Old Testament we have seen the tithe mentioned, and only two mentions in the Gospels, but they are not without significance until you throw out the instruction and principle of the Old Testament, which is what the dispensationalist seems to want to do.
In Matt. 23:23 we have one of two references to tithing in the New Testament.
Here and Luke 11:42 say virtually the same thing:
Mat 23:23 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
Luk 11:42 “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
The last line says it all, “…And not left the other undone.” Our Lord is admonishing them to keep on tithing of the things mentioned, and not to leave them undone. The Pharisee’s still paid tithes, and they were not rebuked for doing so, the fact is, they were encouraged to keep doing it! I know that to some, the New Testament grace has not yet been ushered in, but again, the dispensationalist must interpret this in a way to make it fit because many do not want to tithe!
The lack of any mention other than this is not a valid argument. Since the church is different than the tabernacle, and functions differently in some areas, the lack of the word “tithe” becomes questionable to many. In 1 Cor. 8 we find some interesting evidences of giving by percentage.
2Co 8:13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
2Co 8:14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:
So that one brother is not overburdened, the Lord does not ask them to give excessively, but equally. The only way they can give equally is to give a percentage. Ten percent is ten percent for everyone, and is no more of a burden for a rich man than for a poorer man. Verse 15, the next verse, shows us that the Old testament principles are applicable in the New Testament too. Here is what v. 15 says:
2Co 8:15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
You may recall that this statement was made concerning the Israelites and the gathering of manna, as the Lord provided. (Exodus 16, read entire text) Note that the last verse qualifies the matter with “an omer is the tenth part of an ephah” (That which they used to dole it out). The tenth part, this is the meaning of “tithe” it means “tenth”. They measured out a tenth of an ephah for each man, and double on the day before the Sabbath. If any of us would have applied this verse the way that Paul did, we would hear from a dozen people that we took it out of context! Again, let me say, the Old testament supports the New.
Though the eighth chapter of 2 Corinthians is speaking of charitable giving and not tithing specifically, we can glean some information from these instances. They gave out of love; love should be the reason we give also. They gave in faith; faith must apply to tithing as well. If we cannot trust God to keep His promises to us, we are of all men most miserable. We should see the need of the church, and understand that it takes money to make things happen as they should, and out of love for the work, we ought to tithe. I believe that those who do not tithe are too self-centered to exercise faith in giving, and do not fully trust their Lord as they might think they do.
Most of us know that you will not find a “chapter and verse” for New Testament tithing, but there are very strong implications, for instance:
Paul said he could take pay as a full time worker, but chose not to (1 Cor. 9:6). How could he have been paid if the church did not tithe?
1Co 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
I find it strange that Paul would apply this Old testament verse to New Testament support, don’t you?
We finish this passage with the following:
1Co 9:10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
1Co 9:11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
1Co 9:12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
1Co 9:13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
1Co 9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
1Co 9:15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.
If the church was not expected to tithe, Paul’s words would be meaningless. This idea of giving according to your own whim would not work because most of us do not easily part with our “hard earned” money. Most non-tithers do not give enough to support the ministry in any fashion. His heart is not on tithing:
Psa. 23:7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
The non-tither is doing things his way, and not God’s way:
Pro 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Though the verses immediately above have little, or nothing to do with tithing, they do show human nature, which often dictates what we want, and not necessarily what we should do. I think you get my point.
Take a look at this verse:
2Co 8:12 For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
Our giving is not according to whether we have the money or not, but to equal giving, which, as stated before, demands a percentage giving. Ten percent it what the Lord has commanded in the past, and it is carried over into the church age, or present. (reference given earlier)
The command and promise of Luke 6:38 still applies today:
Luk 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
What would a discourse on tithing be without quoting that time-tested verse, MalachI 3:10?
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
The promise is for tithers, and is just as valid as any promise that the Lord gives unto man. Many refute this verse, and say it does not apply to the church, but as we have seen, the church is the “storehouse” where the tithe is brought and distributed from, it is the direct image of things to come. Prove God, and see if it isn’t so. He has opened the windows of heaven, and poured out many blessings in my life, and I am convinced that He will do the same in yours.
The New Testament reference in 2 Corinthians 9, though it has more to do with charitable giving, proves the accuracy of this verse.
2Co 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
2Co 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
2Co 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
Some take issue with the phrase “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart. So let him give”, they allow this to be the standard for giving of tithes, and any other means of giving. Don’t we know that the “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9) and none can really know how much? The purpose if their heart in this verse means having the right attitude for giving, as the last part of the verse clarifies. We are to give out of a good motive, a motive of love, and not necessarily out of command or any other rule or emotion. It does not mean let him give whatever he wants to give for that week or month, else he would always find excuse not to tithe. We need to quit looking for “loopholes” in the law, and in the commands of God; a loophole is merely unbelief in disguise, and affords many excuses to go contrary to the Lord’s will and the Word of God. Finally, cultures change; methods change, but Principle does not change, it stands firm, as the rock of Gibraltar, because it is founded on The Rock, Christ. Though our culture is different, and our tithe different, the principle remains the same; ten percent (at least) belongs to God, and we ought to be glad that we have it to give.
I want us to study the whole prophecy of Habakkuk to understand his message to the people of his time, AND to see how his message speaks to us in our day.
We will also look at how Paul took up Hab's message of living by faith in his letter to the Galatians.
In order to understand the prophetic books we must first consider the context – the time when they were written, & the condition of the people of Israel & Judah that the prophet is addressing.
H prophesied around 620-600 BC, in the years before the destruction of Jerusalem & the temple by the Babylonians. He prophesied at about the same time that Jeremiah began his ministry. Josiah had been a godly king who tried to bring the people back to God. It was too little, too late. The priests & people continued in their wicked ways.
H doesn’t seem to have been given a message to the people of Israel, instead we read of his private prayer arguments with God about the state of the land of Judah.
Zephaniah prophesied at the same time as Hab – it's the next book after Hab. He warned the people of Judah:
1:4 "I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all who live in Jerusalem... to v.14
That is very similar to Stephen's defence in Acts 7, when he was accused by the elders of Israel.
Now we will stay in Habakkuk.
1:2-4 is his prayer that God will look at the wickedness of the people and do something about it – to correct & save them.
2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save? 3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. 4 Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.
God’s reply is that he has had enough of the people who have constantly rejected him & his laws. He has protected & blessed them for 700 years. Now the nation has become utterly corrupt. Judgement has to come.
It will come through an invasion by the Babylonians (or Chaldeans). Jerusalem will be captured & the temple destroyed, & many of its treasures were taken to Babylon.
That reply horrifies Habakkuk. He argues with God. The Jews were Abraham’s descendants. They had the promises of God. The temple was the evidence of God’s blessing. How could God act against his own people? How could God break his own faithful promises & organise the destruction of the people he has promised to bless?
It is as if we prayed: “Britain has been blessed as a Christian country for hundreds of years. We have sent the Bible & the Gospel around the world. Now wickedness is increasing & churches are closing. Our Parliament is passing laws that violate the commandments of God. Please take action & bless us again, Lord.”
And God replied: “Britain has rejected the Gospel, so I am bringing in people of other religions to take over. They will take over your empty churches; they will influence the laws your Parliament enacts; they will get rich from the taxes you pay. You believers will suffer with the ungodly when I bring judgment on the whole land.
50 years ago, the Christian West Indians were shocked that England was not the Christian country they expected.
In Southall, 40 years ago, we hoped & prayed that the non-Christians coming into England would hear the Gospel, & take the Christian faith back to their own lands. But no – when we look around, we see they bring their pagan religions & gods, & build their own temples & mosques.
We live in a country that has rejected it's Christian heritage. We see the rise of godlessness all around us – TV, newspapers, magazines & the internet show the wickedness of our nation. We read the newspapers, & the angry reports about people breaking the law, but do they, do we actually honour & OBey God’s holy laws?
As a nation we are OBsessed with sport. The London Olympics were a great success for the nation. We wear the clothing; we wave the flags; but we do not play the sport. We sit back & watch on TV while others run about. Our national Christianity is like that. We claim to be Christians, but we do not live as Christians.
Hab prays about the national situation. He hears God’s answer & prays again. He knows he is living in a dangerous situation, where he now expects God’s judgement on the nation, not a revival & blessings. He still argues that God should be more concerned with the wickedness of the Babylonians than of Israel.
2:1 I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
He watches & waits for God’s answer. As a prophet, he is God’s watchman for the nation of Israel. We as believers should pray for our nation. We are our nation's watchmen. If we want peace, we should pray for our national leaders.
What was Jesus’ command to his disciples about watching?
Luke 21:36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.
Habakkuk gets his answer:2:2 Then the LORD replied: "Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will notprove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will notdelay. 4 "See, he is puffed up; his desires are notupright-- but the righteous will live by his faith--
God is working to a plan – he knows the end & how he will achieve his purposes. The trouble coming on the nation through the Babylonian invasion is discipline for a few years, & that discipline will pass. God has a greater plan in view. Hebrews quotes v. 4 in a way that shows Christ is the one who is coming!Heb. 10:37 For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will notdelay.38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will notbe pleased with him.
Heb. 11 gives a great list of OT believers who lived by faith.
God in Hab. 2 declares a great promise that will be realised by the coming of Jesus Christ & his saving work; his cross & resurrection: 2:14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
He goes on to ridicule the worship of idols, & declare his sovereign greatness:
2:20 But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.
The OT has many prophecies of the coming Messiah.
H sees trouble – the Jews he lives with, & the coming destruction.
God tells him, “your hope must be in the coming Messiah – I will keep my promises to Abraham. You can trust me.”
I want to look closely at 2:4 — but the righteous will live by his faith—
The last part of this verse is of tremendous importance. Paul builds his teaching on “justification by faith” on that Scripture in Romans & Galatians.
How do we live by faith? What does it mean?
There are two aspects to living by faith:
(i) Justification by faith, wherby we come as sinners to Jesus, & seek forgiveness because of his saving work on the cross. That faith saves.(ii) A life of faith, trusting God day by day.
Through the 70 years of exile, God's care & protection of his people would continue. His saving purposes could not be frustrated. That message of living by faith was believed by Daniel & his friends in Babylonia, and by Esther & Mordecai & others in exile.
God further revealed to Daniel that Messiah would complete his saving work in in 70x7 years. After the exile those who returned rebuilt the temple & re-established worship. We read their stories in Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah & Haggai,
Nehemiah serving the king in the palace, prayed for the city, pleading in prayer for many months, and was given the privilege of rebuilding the city walls & establishing law & order again.
These men of God lived by faith in very troubled times.
We have better promises – we know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Messiah, and we have promises of a glorious new heaven & new earth, not of an earthly heritage.
We too, in our troubled times, need to learn the same lessons.
In the course of Hab's prophecy, there is the assurance that God is working to his plan for blessing mankind. Note 2:14
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
That is a wonderful Gospel promise for all nations in all the world, fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ by the Gospel.
What was the first promise to Abraham? Gen. 12:3 “... all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
What is the “great commission?” Mat. 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to OBey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
We are living in the Gospel age and we have the message for all nations.
H has been complaining to God & arguing with him. God's last verse of Hab 2 ends his complaints & inspires a song of confident prayer.
20 But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him. Our opening hymn took up that great statement.
Habakkuk shows us how to pray & how to live in that situation. God is still God. We must trust him. We must live in our troubled land by faith in our Saviour God.
Ch 3 The prophecy concludes with a song of praise & faith.
3:2 H remembers past blessings, & prays that God will renew them is his day. He prays that God will revive his work.
The prayer continues with the remembrance of the great works of God in the past. It is very poetic, but alludes to God bringing his people into the promised land.
16-19 H concludes with an expression of praise – he knows his God, & he will rejoice in him, even though he faces a time of suffering.
We will sing a version of that song when we conclude the service.
We need to look closely at that tremendous statement of faith in 2:4, which Paul develops in Galatians 3:1-14.
Paul builds a tremendous building on those 6 words of Habakkuk: The righteous will live by faith.
He shows that Christ must be the OBject of our faith, and that faith is by the Holy Spirit of God living & working within us. This is no vague belief that gives salvation without changing our life.
The Jews of Hab's time believed they were God's people, & that the temple protected them against the enemy. Within 20 years, the temple was destroyed, & the people taken captive to Babylon. 600 years later, the Jewish leaders of Jesus' time believed the same & rejected their Messiah. Within 40 years, the Romans destroyed the temple & Jerusalem. If you go to Jerusalem today, the stones still cry out in witness of that destruction.
I believe that if we are truly saved, we cannot lose our salvation. After all, Jesus saves completely those who come to God through him. But, I believe also that if we are saved, we will not continue in sin. We will live by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews gives very solemn warnings against those who turn away from Jesus – they live under the condemnation & wrath of a holy God.
Only in Christ are we righteous. His righteousness is imputed - credited to us when we trust in Jesus for salvation. I preached on that in my last sermon.
The prOBlem with the Galatians was that teachers had come among them who taught that they had to become Jews & keep all aspects of the Law, including circumcision to be saved.
That was no Gospel at all. If we have to keep all the Law, we are hopelessly lost. We are under the curse of God if we fail to keep the Law in every detail.
Under the Law we have the hopeless task of perfect OBedience. The Jewish teachers were still in the Old Cov, still clinging to Moses & his Laws, & all the rituals that no longer had any value now Jesus had finished his saving work.
Come to Jesus as repentant sinners; your Christian life begins as you put your faith in him; then live faithfully as his servants & followers whatever trouble we may face in this life. We live with the promise of glory.
I’ve written a hymn based on Hab. 3.
Blessing - 3:2 LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. -
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me." - Psalms 51:5
There has of late been some discussion as to the destination of those who die in their infancy, before they are old enough to understand Jesus. Of course, the feel-good, tree-hugging, whale-loving liberals assert that God couldn't possibly send babies to hell as this would be "unfair" or "cruel", and that by some mysterious loophole in the rules for Salvation God allows those who are too young to be "accountable" into Heaven, no questions asked.
As usual, the position of the lieberals in this debate finds no support whatsoever in the Scriptures. The Bible is clear - EVERYONE who has not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour by the time they die goes straight to the fiery bowels of hell, no exceptions and NO EXCUSES.
Relative to the argument that babies do not go to hell is the false belief that babies and infants are innocent, because they are not old enough to sin. This is utter nonsense. Central to the teachings of Christianity is the proposition that the guilt of Adam derived from the original sin is passed down through the blood through each generation (Genesis 5:3). Our ancestor was Adam - He rebelled against God. That's enough. Since the fall, we are guilty for even existing. You don't know much about Christian theology if you don't know that.
It is not a matter of choosing to rebel against God when we are old enough to drink and drive. If it was a choice entirely dependent on free will, then chances are some people would choose not to rebel. It would prOBably work out about 50/50. But the Bible says that the whole human race, every individual who has ever lived and ever will live deserves to go to hell (and that even includes you, my esteemed fellow true Christians). As the theologian John Calvin demonstrated, there is nothing whatsoever that we can do by our own free will to get saved. Nothing! The only way to get saved is to get Grace, and you can only get Grace if God decides to give it to you. The sign of having Grace is a compulsion within your heart to accept Jesus and a miraculous ability to believe in every word of the Bible (have you ever tried to FORCE yourself to believe in something? Hold a gun to someone's head and demand they believe that the earth is flat, or that unicorns exist. It is impossible - no matter how hard the person tries. Belief is NOT subject to will power).
We are ALL tainted with sin from the moment of conception (Psalms 24:4) and we need the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ to wash away our sins in the eyes of the Lord. So until the born again experience happens, Salvation is not possible. Therefore, babies and unborn babies who die go straight to hell.
You might think that this is "unfair", but it's not unfair at all. Those who do not have the opportunity to receive salvation, who never in their lifetimes hear the gospel preached (eg babies and savages living in jungles), OBviously were Predestined by God to go to hell. God makes sure that His elect are able to hear the gospel preached to them during their lifetimes, in order to give them an opportunity which He knows they will take advantage of. But with a lot of the reprOBate, He decided not to bother letting them hear the gospel because He had already decided to send them to Hell anyway. God knows everything, so if a baby dies, God OBviously allowed that baby to die because He knew that if it had lived it would have grown up to be a sinner.
A liberal so called "Christian" I once conversed with, recounted the Old Testament story of a father who was promised that he would be reunited with his dead son, who died in infancy. But the important point to remember here is that this occured in the OLD Testamant. Before Jesus, the requirements for Salvation were very different. OBviously Moses did not go to hell eventhough He never accepted Jesus as his Saviour - he could not have done, as Jesus had not been born at that stage. In Old Testament times, to belong to the Jewish race (God's chosen people) was sufficient qualification to ensure a place in Heaven, so long as you did not break the laws of the Prophets. But since the New Testament, it is imperative to believe in Jesus to get to Heaven.
Furthermore, one of my associates presented a very simple tongue-in-cheek argument that if death in infancy ensures salvation then it is a very good idea to kill babies. The vast majority of the human race at present is NOT made up of true Christians (Bible-believing fundamentalists), so for a new born, odds are that he or she will grow up to become part of the hellbound majority. Death in infancy, therefore, would guard against that risk, and would be a small price to pay to ensure eternal bliss as opposed to eternal misery and torture.
To suggest that God makes exceptions to the rule that you must believe in Jesus to get into heaven, based on age or any other reason is to make a mockery of the whole notion of Salvation. It is either necessary to believe in Jesus, or it isn't. If God is going to make exceptions then it OBviously isn't necessary. If God is going to allow unsaved babies to go to heaven by default then He is just playing games with us and Jesus isn't necessary at all. It would be better, in that case, to go and live in some remote community in some OBsure, primitive country and have a great time sinning all you like. At death, you will end up in heaven anyway if God can see that you have never been told about Jesus and the Bible.
Babies, and young children who die before they are old enough to understand the gospels and worship Jesus, unfortunately go straight to Hell. This is a Bible fact, and anybody who disagrees is guilty of heresy.
I trust that I have sucessfully refuted the heresies of the lieberal element that have been smearing the internet with their new-age, pluralist (aka satanic) lies.
On a final note, I would like to add that the thought of all those screaming infants in hell is enough to make you want to avoid the place at all costs, if you needed any more encouragement!
1. Create in me a clean heart. Our old heart is evil from our youth (Genesis 8:21) and is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:5-10), and must be purged of the sin that indwells our affections and passions. For this to happen, our heart, which is the seat of the affections and passions of a human, must be created as clean. Create is defined as, "to form or make by investing with a new character." Our heart, filled with evil, was opened by the Lord. He took hyssop and dipped it in his blood, and then not just washed, but purged our heart. That was when we were saved. But as new Christians we still have much to learn, and at times we stumble, and we sin. So we come to God with a contrite heart and ask for forgiveness (Psalm 51:17), and He takes his hyssop and washes and purges our heart once more. After it has been purged again, He is willing to create a clean heart by filling it with a new character, so that the wicked heart that was once filled with evil is replaced with a clean heart that is filled with righteousness. Not our righteousness, but God's righteousness. How is that done? by searching His Word and meditating on it. By filling our heart with His Word so that, when temptation does arrive, it is His Word that is our thought and not our own fleshly desire (Psalm 119:9-16). I'm afraid that too many times Christians seek the Lord to purge them with hyssop and make them white as snow but then don't ask for Him to create a clean heart and so the evil that was once in this white heart soon returns. Ask the Lord to not only take the hate and bitterness but to also fill you with love. To take the deceit and fill you with truth. To take the selfishness and fill you with compassion. To take the fret and fill you with peace. Ask Him to create in you a clean heart.
2. Renew a right spirit within me. This is a result of you clean heart, because your spirit is your temper and disposition of mind, whether habitual or temporary. Don't be fooled into thinking that this will be an easy task, because it is a right spirit that will help you not yield to temptation. It is one thing to think instantly of Scripture when you are tempted, but thinking on Scripture is not doing what the Scripture says. It is your right spirit that will keep your heart clean. Your disposition is what you make it and unless you make it a right spirit, you can think about all the Scripture you want to but that isn't going to keep you from yielding to the temptation. Your heart will decide how you feel but your spirit will determine how you react. It will also determine how other people look at you. A right spirit is one that is "fit, suitable, proper, becoming, or straight." How properly do we portray Christ? How straight is our life? Romans 12:11 tells us that we are to be fervent in spirit serving the Lord, and Proverbs 29:23 tells us that we are to have a humble spirit. How is your spirit? Is it haughty? The Bible says that he that hath no rule over his spirit is like a city broken down and without wall. Let the Lord renew a right spirit within you so that you can keep that clean heart you asked Him to create.
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Proverbs 1:20-33 is the first occasion in the book of the Proverbs wherein we encounter the personification of Wisdom as a virtuous woman who calls for us to come unto her and learn her ways of righteousness. (Proverbs 8:6-8) This activity of personified Wisdom is also encountered in Proverbs 8:1-36 and in Proverbs 9:1-12. Through these passages we find a progression to the call of personified Wisdom, and thereby we find five responsibilities that we are to maintain toward the wisdom of God’s Holy Word. (Contextual note: I myself believe that the personified Wisdom of Proverbs represents the wisdom of God*s Word.)
First, we must repent of (turn from) our selfish, sinful ways at the reproof of God’s Holy Word. This we must do in order that we might be able to learn the wisdom of God’s Holy Word. In Proverbs 1:22-23 the personified Wisdom of God’s Word proclaims, “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? And the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” Indeed, this is where our growth in the wisdom of God’s Word must begin – with repentance. If we will not turn at the reproof of God’s Word, then we cannot learn the spiritual wisdom of God’s Word.
Second, we must receive (hear) the truth of God’s Holy Word with all readiness of mind and all meekness of heart. This we must do in order that we might be transformed through the wisdom of God’s Holy Word. In Proverbs 8:5-6 the personified Wisdom of God’s Word proclaims, “O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.” Again in Proverbs 8:10 she proclaims, “Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.” Indeed, we should be more motivated to acquire the treasures of God’s wisdom through His Word, than to acquire the treasures of material wealth in this world. (See also Proverbs 3:13-15)
Third, we must revere (love) the truth of God’s Holy Word, seeking after its wisdom each day with great priority. This we must do in order that we might walk in the blessings of our Lord’s daily fellowship and of the abundant spiritual life. In Proverbs 8:17 the personified Wisdom of God’s Word proclaims, “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.” Again in Proverbs 8:34-35 she proclaims, “Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall OBtain favour of the LORD.” Indeed, there is no greater blessing in this life than our Lord’s fellowship and the abundant spiritual life. Yet in Proverbs 8:36 the personified Wisdom of God’s Word delivers the warning, “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.”
Fourth, we must reject (forsake) the foolish, that is – all those who rebel against the truth of God’s Holy Word. This we must do in order that we might not be influence by their close companionship to turn back from the righteous ways of God’s Holy Word. In the opening portion of Proverbs 9:6, the personified Wisdom of God’s Word proclaims, “Forsake the foolish, and live.” Indeed, we must not walk in the way with the spiritually foolish, but must turn away from their companionship, counsel, and course. (See Proverbs 1:15; 4:14-15) “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” (Proverbs 13:20)
Finally, we must respond to the instruction of God’s Holy Word with committed, consistent OBedience. This we must do in order that we might be prosperous in our spiritual growth, and might not be self-deceived in our negligence. In Proverbs 8:32-33 the personified Wisdom of God’s Word proclaims, “Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.” Again in the closing portion of Proverbs 9:6, she proclaims, “And go in the way of understanding.” Indeed, we must hearken unto, follow after, and go in the righteous ways that God’s Word instructs. We must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving [our] own selves.” (James 1:22)
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Jeremiah 2:13'For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.'
God had shown His blessings to Israel unlike any other nation at that time. He had called them out of bondage from Egypt. God had parted the Red Sea, led them across dry land, and destroyed the Egyptian army behind them. God then led them through the wilderness for forty years providing their every need as they went. At the end of the forty years God once again parted the waters, this time of the Jordan River, and led them into Canaan land. God gave them the land and drove their enemies from them as they went through the land to possess it.
While God had blessed them time and time again they had not remained faithful to God. While traveling through the wilderness they had murmured against God numerous times. They had turned from God and refused to put their trust in Him at times. Because of that, an entire generation of Israelites was forced to die in the wilderness due to the judgment of God. After God gave them the land of Canaan the children of Israel time and time again would turn from serving and worshiping God to serve and worship idols and false gods. In doing so they had despised the Word of the Lord and made themselves an abomination in the sight of God. They had traded the living waters of God for the broken cisterns of the world.
This is something which is still going on with Christians today. God has blessed us beyond measure. While we, in our sins, deserve to spend an eternity in Hell; God chose, in His great love, to provide a way of salvation for us. God did not leave us to find our own way to Him but He has given us His written Word. God has blessed us in so many ways that we could not pen all the things He has done for us.
While God has blessed His people today more ways than we can count there are still those who stray from God. There are Christians out of church and some in church who refuse to trust God, who refuse to remain faithful to Him, who refuse to follow the Word of God and the will of God. Many of these started out right, they started out on fire for God; yet, something happened along the way to cause them to stumble and stray from God. They have traded the living water of God for the broken cisterns of the world and as a result they are inviting the judgment of God upon their lives.
1. Traded the living waters of the King James Bible for the broken cisterns of modern versions.
How sad it is that people within our Independent Baptist churches are turning from the King James Bible. Many of them have sat under good preaching at some time which exposed the dangers of the modern version of the Bible. At one time they themselves stood unashamedly on the King James Bible but somewhere along the way they have let their guard down and now they embrace the modern versions and the liberal theology which accompanies it. No longer do they embrace the infallible, inerrant, preserved Word of God; but, rather, they have fallen for the same lie which the devil gave Eve in Genesis 3:1, “…Yea, hath God said.” The devil has been casting doubt on the true Word of God since the Garden of Eden. All of the modern versions (RSV, ESV, NIV, The Message, and everything else in-between) are just a continuation of the attack of the devil on God’s inspired Word. All of the modern versions are translated from corrupt manuscripts and no Christian, especially those in Independent Fundamental Baptist churches, have any business reading these false bibles.
Many times those who turn from the King James Bible to follow other version of the Bible do so because they have been listening to those who teach out of these false bibles. They have let down their guard and allowed these hirelings and false teachers to corrupt their way of thinking. They have given the devil an in-road into their life and allowed him to influence their theology. No Christian is strong enough to listen to false teaching from a false bible continually and it not affect them. These so-called preachers may preach some truth and they may have some catchy quotes but we should not be going to the dumpster just to get a couple of bites to chew on. Not when there are plenty of good preachers out there who preach from the King James Bible and are straight down the line in all their theology.
Let us get back to the living waters of the King James Bible and away from the broken cisterns of the modern versions.
2. Traded living waters of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs for the broken cisterns of contemporary Christian music.
Some people seem to think that music is neutral or a matter of preference. However, those who study music will tell you that it is not neutral. Even in the Bible we can see that music was not considered neutral. Certain types of music and certain sounds meant and represented certain things. People knew what the music meant by the notes and sounds they heard regardless of the words being said. You can take Biblical words and ideas and put them into song all you want but if you are using the devil’s beat, rhythm, and music with those words then all it does it take something holy and make it unholy. Many of these contemporary Christian musicians are so yoked up with the world that one has to wonder whether they have truly been born again. Many of them have stated publicly that the inspiration for their music comes from wicked, ungodly rock groups (Third Day, Delirious, Casting Crowns, Jars of Clay, MercyMe, P.O.D., Sanctus Real, et. al.). The Bible teaches that you cannot take something as vile and wicked as rock music, throw some watered down Christian lyrics in with it, and expect it to be glorifying to God.
When people begin to lower the standard of God’s Word, then they will also lower the standard of their music. When they begin to lower the standard of music, then their standard of dress will also be lowered. Eventually, you will reach a point where there are no real standards and everyone is simply doing that which is right in their own eyes. We have seen it happen in the world with the introduction of rock music in the 1950’s and 60’s and we’re seeing it happen more and more in our churches today with the contemporary music that is becoming so prevalent. Music should drive us to become more holy, to become more like Christ; not more and more like the world. It should cause us to become sensitive to the Spirit and not sensualized in our flesh. Sadly, many Christians would rather fulfill the lusts of their flesh then to walk in the Spirit.
We need to get back to the living waters of Christ-honoring music and away from the broken cisterns of contemporary Christian music.
Paul warned Timothy that in the last days there would be a growing apostasy and falling away from the faith. We are seeing this happen every day before our very eyes. Christians and even entire churches are trading the living waters of God for the broken cisterns of the world. They are trading the King James Bible and good, Christian music for modern versions and contemporary music. As they turn from God to the world they are throwing standards and personal holiness out the window as well. We need a group of Christians who will stay true to God and will not forsake Him. We need some Christians who will refuse to compromise in their personal walk with God and we definitely need some preachers who will refuse to compromise in their preaching and their stand for the Word of God.
Sons of God
In a depressed economy some people look for ways to turn their life around and become successful. The internet is filled with motivational stories of a path to success. In one internet search I found over 65 Million 3-step-processes for success. Most present a process for gaining a strength or ability and achieving a goal. The steps are similar (1) Believe in yourself (2) Gain ability through a process (3) Benefit from the change. Many plans are sincere but some are from crooks looking for a quick dollar. Both have you sending money to receive their book and or process materials.
However, I want to tell you about an author with a no cost plan. This plan has your best interests at heart and only desires for you to achieve permanent security.
Text John 1:12 (10-14)
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:”
1. Transaction – “received him”
Like the first step in success, believing is the key to receiving Jesus, meaning by faith. For the Christian faith is demonstrated through loving and OBeying Christ. People will receive a plan to achieve temporary financial success; however, they reject Christ and fail to achieve eternal security for their soul.BasisHebrews 11:6 “But without faith…”HowRomans 10:17 “So then faith...”WhatJohn 14:15 “If ye love me...”WhenLuke 18:30 “Who shall notreceive manifold more...”
2. Transmission – “gave he power”
Similar to the second step in success, that is, an ability through process; God gives you knowledge and ability “power” to receive his plan and purpose for you.A Gift-It’s Free!Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace…”An Ability (Power)Romans 1:16 “For I am notashamed…”
3. Transformation – “to become the sons of God”
The final step is the change brought about by following the method. Those who receive Christ through his free gift will be changed or transformed for eternity.ImmediateRomans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call...”Result1 John 3:2 “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth notyet appear…”Promise1 Thessalonians 4:17 “Then we which are alive and remain...”
The author of our salvation doesn’t want our money or need anything from us. Jesus Christ came to bring salvation to man and reconcile us to God through his sacrifice on the cross.
Salvation is free to us, if you don’t have it, receive it; if you do have it then, share it.
Most, if not all of us here, are most likely already trusting Christ for our salvation. So what do we do with this lesson of transaction, transmission, and transformation? We take it to our family, friends, and community. If you’re saved I challenge you to share the Gospel of Christ with one person this coming week.
Today I wish to talk about forgiveness. I think this is important as we approach Easter the time of which Jesus Christ died for our Sins. The subject of forgiveness is often not an easy one, there is often a cloud floating over us and it can be a very emotional time. There can be times of great sadness and anger towards others that have done wrong by you and this can often lead to a harsh judgement of them.
With that in mind, I would like to start with a verse from Romans 2:1 which says “So you have no reason, whoever you are, for judging: for in judging another you are judging yourself, for you do the same things. This certainly speaks for itself, but I do not wish to talk about judgement today it is about the forgiveness of others.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as being the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven. This can be seen as being intertwined with our own free will which again does not leave us when we are baptised. Through this we can still Sin and we can still stray from the Lord but our faith and love for him helps us stay on our path.
In talking about our own sins and moving forward towards baptism, a quote comes to mind. It comes from Colossians 3:13 and it says bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. I think that this is quite powerful because it shows that the Lord has forgiven us for our past sins and welcomed us into his Kingdom and if he can do that then how can we not forgive others?
Philippians 1:6 also portrays a powerful message through saying “and I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. It is also considered that forgiving is not an easy task for us but we must continue forgiving until the matter is settled in our heart and this is important to the Lord. This can be seen in Matthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times”
In Luke 6:37 we are given another message about forgiveness “Do not judge, and you will not be judged, Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. forgive and you shall be forgiven. This tells us that we shall continue to be forgiven for our sins as long as we are able to forgive others
The most well known prayer also shares this message of us forgiving others for ourselves to be forgiven. The Lord’s prayer says “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Now we know the law [is] holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. It can lead us in grateful OBedience showing us a picture of righteousness. Which righteousness we have been given freely by Christ's work. But the law cannot make us right with God. Because we fail even when we do our best to serve God. The Law condemns us: the law tells us (Rom 13:9)... Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if [there be] any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Digging within ourselves we find not this righteousness. We may have an outward form of each but as it says in (Jas 2:10) ..whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all. So what the prophet Isaiah rings true (Isa 64:6) we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Yet too often we looking to the law and not to Christ wallow in our own sin. Grieving over our unrighteousness we think God rejects us. We feel that we are no longer accepted. Then we think, Oh!! But! if I can just pray, repent and do good then God will accept me! As if God's favor or love was dependent upon ourselves. So we order our lives more rightly and then we look at all that we are doing and too often we think; I believe in God and the gospel. I am doing so much good! I don't wear this or that. I don't listen to this or that. I was nice to my neighbor! I OBeyed the law! (All of which may be good things!) and we say within ourselves. I am so glad I don't do those bad things! And if only this or that person would be more like me then they would be right with God too! And so we end up showing our inner Pharisee. Being ignorant of the unrighteousness in our best works we end up glorying in ourselves and not in Jesus. In all this we try to make God's grace a vending machine. Thinking that if I put this work into the slot and turn then God will be pleased with me and his love, favor and blessings will come out! In all this we turn God into a debtor! But in all this we do not please God.
(Rom 4:3-5) For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
(Ps 147:10-11) He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.
But our show of "righteousness" will not last long. We are bound to fail because sin dwells in us. Much more if we are being fueled by guilt and or fear and not by Jesus! And so with our failure the whole process repeats over and over if we look not to Jesus..!
(Rom 7:24) O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
(Gal 3:10-14) For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, [it is] evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
There is only one way to be accepted and loved by God: Jesus Christ. Though we may believe this. We too often think God's love for us relies on our own loveliness. (Rom 5:8-9) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
(Isa 53:5-6) But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Oh let everyone here now listen; if you hear nothing else hear this! Since Jesus (Who is God: The LORD himself manifest in the flesh) [was] wounded for our transgressions, so our transgressions are no longer upon us! If they are still upon us then he wasn't wounded for us! Oh doubt not he was wounded for you! It says for he was wounded for OUR transgressions! And not only so! We see that Jesus was bruised for our iniquities, so our iniquities are no longer upon us! If they are upon us he wasn't bruised for us! Doubt not that he was bruised for you! it says he was bruised for OUR iniquities! Even the chastisement of our peace [was] upon Jesus! He took upon himself the wrath we deserve for our sin; so that we have peace with God! Not by our works but by God the Father's grace through Christ! And we see that with Jesus's stripes we are healed. Because all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the God The Father hath laid on his only begotten son Jesus Christ the iniquity of us all!
We see in the gospel that Jesus purchased for us perfect righteousness which he has given to us freely through faith. So that because of Jesus's work alone we are fully accepted, perfect, and complete in Jesus! So that now matter how much the law tells us that we are failures, that everything we do is imperfect and full of sin it cannot hurt us! Looking to Jesus we can rejoice, resting in him! Now free to serve and worship God not out of fear, guilt or necessity; but just because he loves us no matter what!
But, Perhaps one here has never believed in Jesus Christ alone! Please believe the Gospel! Because by any deed or works we cannot be saved; But God the Father sent his son Jesus (who is God manifest in the flesh) to die for our sins. And he raised him again for our justification that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life! (2Cor 5:21) For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
No one is so bad a sinner that their sin cannot be covered by the perfect righteousness of Jesus! Please repent and believe the Gospel! If you have any questions or would like to know how you can be saved any one of us would be willing to help you to the best of our ability please feel free to ask!
Take the Word of God and turn with me to Philippians 4:10-13
Years ago I heard a message on sin, hell, and salvation. That Easter Sunday I realized I was a sinner bound for hell, unless I repented and started a personal relationship with God’s only begotten son Jesus Christ. When I did, I received forgiveness for my past, present, and future sins, but most importantly I would enter heaven when I died. My life has never been the same. God led me and my family to Rough River Baptist Church where we joined and started learning about the Lord. After awhile my Pastor was preaching a message on being doers not just hearers of the word and what it really meant to have a fulfilled Christian life serving the Lord. Well, something clicked that Sunday and I went to the altar and told the Lord that I was his to do with as he saw fit and would serve Him faithfully. From that moment on I made a commitment to be faithful to our church and to the Lord. My life changed from I have to go to church, giving and reading my bible, to I want to go to church, give as the Lord has given to me and having a desire to read and study my bible. 2 Timothy 2:15 says “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” God also says in Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” God’s word will help you grow, build your faith and give you strength as you study. I also had a desire to give as God commanded in his word. It was a little scary in the beginning because my faith was weak, but when I committed to tithing our 10%, by faith I knew God would provide and boy has He ever. I would never go back to using 100% of my money when we live so much better on 90%. I can’t explain it but God says He will bless you and by faith I believe it.
My church means so much to me to me and my family. As I have grown in the Lord, I have a desire to be in church. There is nothing better than getting together with all of my brothers and sisters in Christ fellowshipping, singing hymns to the Lord, and hearing our Pastor preach the word of God. As a result of this, I have seen both of my children saved at this church. What a blessing that was from God.
All of this is the very least that I could do after all, Jesus Christ gave everything for me. I thank the Lord every day for what he did on that cross. Amen!
The Lord is not done with me yet, as He continues to humble me so that I may serve Him better. He continues to surprise and bless me each and every day. I am thankful that he has given me an opportunity to serve Him as a Deacon of His church. I pray as He leads me in this next step in my Christian walk, I will be receptive to His will in my life and the needs of my Pastor and church family.
Finally, I would like to say that I, as a man, am weak and could not ever do any of these things on my own, so I like to read my life verse in Philippians to remind me of where my strength comes from. Philippians 4:13 has been my life verse for many years. (Read the verse). You see with Christ I am ready for anything. He fills us with the Holy Spirit so we can overcome the things of this world and also to do the things that God has commanded us to do, such as sharing the Gospel with everyone that we meet.
Brother Larry asked me to pick a favorite hymn (now that is pretty hard most times as I have a lot of favorites), but as I was thinking about what to say today, one of my favorites came to mind. It is “Little Is Much When God Is In It”. The song reminds me that the little bit we usually put into the things we do is so much more when we put God into it. It is such an honor to serve the Lord, and I know through my faith that He will give me the tools that I need to be a good servant for Him and His ministry here at this church. I am truly blessed to have such a great family, as well as a great church family.
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And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto
him, Art not thou also one of His disciples? He denied it and said, I
am not.(John 18:25)
For our own sakes we should mark the steps which led to Peter’s fall. One was
l. His self-confidence
When forewarned, he resented the Mater’s foretelling, and declared
that though others might deny Christ he never would. When we grow
boastful we are in great peril. Safety lies in a consciousness of our
own weakness, and in implicit trust in God.
ll. The next step toward Peter’s fall was his sleeping in the garden
when he should have been watching and praying. That hour was given for
preparation for temptation but was not improved.
lll. Another step was his rashness in drawing his sword in the garden.
This act made him liable to arrest, and this fact made him nervous and
afraid of recognition. He tried to hide his connection with Jesus,
lest he should be arrested for his assault in the garden. Rash acts
are sure to make trouble for us afterward.
lV. Another step toward denial was Peter’s following Christ afar off.
This show timidity and failing faith. His courage was leaving him.
Following Christ was leaving him. Following Christ at a distance is
always perilous. It showed a weakening attachment and trembling
loyalty. It is in itself partial denial. The only worthy and the only
safe discipleship is thorough, unwavering devotion and wholehearted
V. This apostle took another step toward his fall when he sat down
among the servants of the high priest. He went among them to hide his
relation to Jesus. The only safe thing for a Christian is
unequivocally to declare his discipleship wherever he goes.
When Peter had taken these steps he could scarcely do otherwise than
openly deny his Lord. The time for us to guard ourselves is at the
beginnings of defection.
In His Matchless grace,
Bro. Thaung and family
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If we will admit it, sometime during life, we will feel abandoned by a loved one. What I am saying to you that most people feel abandonment during their lifetime, and there are certain normal feelings that go with feeling abandoned or deserted. Those feelings are often sadness, disappointment, anger, and even rage. These feelings are all normal and human. These feelings are not necessarily rational or intelligent. Such feelings are often directed at the person who abandoned you. Sometime during life, we all feel abandoned by God. This happens in life, especially when tragedies happen to you personally. Let me give you some examples.
From the Old Testament, King David wrote the famous words in Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Words from King David. His words continue: “why are you so far from saving me Lord? Why are you so far from my groaning? Why do I cry out to you, but you do not answer?” King David had these feelings in his heart that God had forsaken him, abandoned him, and deserted him. Why? Because of the personal tragedies of his life. King David felt this way because King Saul was trying to kill him, his enemies were trying to kill him and his oldest son was trying to kill him. David was feeling down in the dumps and he wrote: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Take a look at JOB in the Old Testament. JOB experienced many personal tragedies. He lost his farms, lost the animals, lost his children, lost his wife. JOB lost everything. He also felt that God had abandoned him, deserted him, and he was angry with God and even raged at God. Those feelings were all normal.
King David and JOB felt that God had deserted them.
Knowing that people experience feelings that they are abandoned by their loved ones and that they are abandoned by God, it is with these feelings that we approach My Thoughts for today.
The setting was Golgotha, the place of execution right outside the walls of Jerusalem. It was Friday, the day after Passover. The text tells us that Jesus on the cross for three hours, from twelve noon to three o’clock. The sky turned dark and black, the darkest day of human history, and so did Jesus’ heart. It was three o’clock on that Friday afternoon and Jesus was coming closer to his death. The Bible tells us that Jesus cried out with a shrieking shout. His voice wasn’t quiet and soft like the first three words. You could barely hear him pray, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus spoke gently to the thief on the cross,” Today you will be with me in paradise”. Jesus spoke in subdued tones to his mother and his best friend beneath the cross. Then, Jesus shouted to the heavens at the top of his lungs, in almost a scream, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me, why have you deserted me, why have you forsaken me?”
What can we learn from Jesus’ cry to God? The first thing we learn is this: it is okay to have feelings and vent those feelings of abandonment, as Jesus did on the cross. To feel the pain and sadness of being abandoned by God is normal. That is the way God made us, to feel such feelings and to vent such feelings. It is okay to feel depressed and abandoned by God. King David certainly did, when people wanted to kill him. He wrote those classic words in Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? King David was a devout believer in God and clung to God and was loyal to God, but he also felt depressed and abandoned by God and he vented his feelings to God. If it was normal and acceptable for God’s King David to feel his feelings and to vent his feelings, and he was the best king in the whole Old Testament, it is certainly normal and acceptable for you and me to feel the same way.
JOB certainly did. JOB who is known for his suffering. JOB suffered more than any other person in the Old Testament, and he, too, felt abandoned by God, deserted by God, forsaken by God, and he shouted his laments and anger towards God. That was part of humanness, to feel that way, and it is part of our humanness to feel that way as well. It is OK to feel like JOB.
Jesus certainly did. Jesus was the very Son of God, the heart and mind of God in the flesh, and in the moment of the deepest darkness of the land and the deepest darkness of his heart, Jesus felt that God had abandoned him and he shouted his feelings to the heavens. This reveals that Jesus was fully human, and when we have those similar feelings and vent those feelings that reveal that we are fully human as well. It is okay to feel like Jesus.
So when you have such feelings that God has abandoned you, and you vent those feelings, remember that you are in the good company of King David, JOB, and Jesus the Son of God. When you personally lose a loved one due to death, divorce or just going through bad times and you feel sadness, anger disappointment and down in the dumps about your situation and you cry out to God with your feelings, remember that this is okay. King David did it. JOB did it. Jesus, the Son of God, did it.
We learn from Jesus’ word that even in the worst situations of life, we are to cling to God with both hands as Jesus did. With pain and abuse with darkness all around him and within him, Jesus still clung to God with both hands. In the midst of this horrific situation Jesus clung to God with all his might during the darkest hour of his life.
It is easy to believe in God when life smiles on you, but it is much more difficult to believe in God when life frowns on you. It is easy to believe in God when the path is smooth and easy; but it is much more difficult to believe in God when the path is rocky.
Sometimes, life can be incredibly hard. In the worst and darkest day of human history, Jesus still clung to God with both hands and held onto God, we to should cling to God in our darkest days.
We should do what Jesus did in that darkest hour: Jesus clung to God with both hands, crying out to the heavens, shouting his despair, “My God, My God, both hands grabbing God, where are you? Why aren’t you here to protect us?” So while being nailed on two timbers, you find Jesus clinging to God with all his power, with both hands, and at the same time, shouting his inner feelings up to God. We should with both hands and shout our inner feelings to God in the highest. By hiding our feeling within we only hurt ourselves, God already knows what’s in your heart. You can only come to understanding when you are honest with yourself. You can only go down the path after you start the journey.
We learn from Jesus’ word on the cross is that these are not his last words. The drama does not end with his depression and emotional exhaustion. “Why have you forsaken me?” These are not his last words, not his final words, not the end of the story.
King David wrote the 22nd psalm, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me.” But he also wrote, the 23rd psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” The 22nd psalm was not his last word.
JOB complained to God when he lost all his possessions, his family, everything. He railed against God in his anger, but those were not his last words. He also wrote at the end of his book, “I know that my redeemer lives.” JOB’s feelings of abandonment were not his last words. So also with Jesus. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” These were not his last words. His last words were “It is accomplished. It is finished. It is done.” He said, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
One of my friends has experienced untold heartache in their life. I can only pray that their eyes will finally have life and happiness in them again. I want nothing more in life than to see their eyes smiling again after all that they has been through. I pray that one day they come to terms with their inner feelings and find that in the years thinking God had abandoned them, that He was always there. He didn’t get abandoned them because of their feelings, He understands, He knows, He loves. I pray for my friend and to all of us to come to grips with our feelings, be not afraid of asking why, be not afraid of wondering or questioning God’s plan. He can only heal when we admit the pain, He can only make right when we are honest with ourselves and ask what is wrong.
God’s healing always triumphs over tragedy. God can and will heal you of every disaster that befalls you. It may not be in the time frame we want, may not be the winning lottery ticket we prayed for, but it will triumph.
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Christians who still hold the Jewish people accountable in the role of Jesus' death are being transparently un-Christian and I don't mean merely in the sense that Jesus taught forgiveness, or that it's not nice to promote genocide, no matter how angry you might be. The point or at least one of the main points, of our religion is that Jesus died for humanity's sins. I recognize that just because the story had a theological happy ending doesn't mean that the Crucifixion was anything other than horrific. The symbol of our religion is the cross, not a Good Samaritan icon, because the Crucifixion and subsequent resurrection were what proved his divinity and redeemed humankind. It is clear that the Crucifixion and Resurrection are central to the Christian faith. While the Crucifixion in itself wasn't a good thing, it was, according to our Christian doctrine, an entirely necessary and pre-ordained thing. Without it, Christianity as we know it wouldn't exist.
We all wear and look at Crucifixes and I think maybe we have forgot just exactly why it’s our symbol, to give you a way to look at it, just think if Jesus had been hung instead of nailed to a cross, we would then have our jewelry in the shape of a hangman’s noose, doesn’t seem the same does it? I hope that the next time you put a Crucifix on or see a cross anywhere you remember just exactly the sacrifice that God gave for us, think about what the symbol means.
So, the answer to the question "Why did the Jews kill Jesus?" should be: No, and we shouldn’t hold The Jewish people accountable. I mean you can’t say any race or group of people did something that a few did, just as Americas can’t be grouped because some serial killer was American, nor can we say all Muslin’s & German’s are bad because of Homein & Hitler’s actions. Holding a race or group of people for the actions of a few is exactly what we are taught as Christians not to do. Theologically, the question is irrelevant, which means Christians can stop blaming Jews and people of both faiths can get back to disagreeing about things like whether you get more presents at Hanukkah or Christmas.
My meaning to this discussion is that when we critize one for their beliefs to the point that it is prestigious or hurtful we are being un-Christian. Jesus’ teachings does not instruct us to hate or be hurtful to others. So why do some think it is ok to do so.. There are no commandments or teachings that say we can’t befriend someone who has other beliefs than we do; in fact we are taught to do just the opposite. Do we ask to who and what faith are they when we drop our change into one of Salvation Army buckets at Christmas? When we see someone in need should we ask what faith they are before helping? Should we turn our backs on someone who is in need because they are homeless, owe us money, have done us wrong in the past or don’t go to the same Church or have the same beliefs as ourselves? Respect and do for others as you think Jesus would, it’s a simple concept so why is it so hard for some to do?
True Christians will someday, I hope, understand that our beliefs are rooted from childhood by our parents and the people around us and just because others were brought up in a different way, with different beliefs doesn’t mean all are wrong or not going to Heaven. There are thousands of different reglions and denomations based on The Bible and the only thing that all can really agree, other than there is a creator in God, is that all of us can’t be right. There is and will always be disagreement and different interpretations of the meanings and translations of the writings of the Bible; maybe it was God’s hand in the compilation of these books and text that keeps it interesting and discussed for over a 2000yrs now. If these text were written in such a simple way that there was no way for it to be interpreted except one way, it prOBably would have been read once as a youngster and then put on the bookshelf or in the storage box in the attic along with our 1st grade Dick & Jane book. I have to think in His ultimate wisdom ,God knows that by discussion and debate over the interpretations we keep His word alive and fresh to those who wish to believe in Him. I won’t go in to discussing other books and beliefs not based on The Bible at this time, a topic for another time, but know this , I do believe we are taught to love and understand ALL, not just those of us who were raised with the teachings from The Bible.
As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ we should maybe take a look within ourselves to resurrect our faith and love every one, no matter of race or reglion. Help those who are in need help and do as if The Lord is right there with you, for He is. Some are good at showing their beliefs, faith and religion by quoting or posting Bible verses on social networking sites, others do the things that make others aware of their faith by making sure they go to church service or work at events to assure everyone knows they were there. Then they live another way, causing turmoil, hurting the ones they are supposed to love, turning their backs on those in need, judging people on their looks, what they drive or what they do for a living or being prestigious towards people of different races or beliefs. It’s like putting your clothes in the dryer before you wash them, one is no good without the other, to be the whole Christian not only do we need to show our beliefs and faith but live by them too. The things we do that don’t get the recgonigation in the paper or church bulletin are the things we may be judged on the most.
In this Easter season we will all hear “Jesus died for you”, we also need to remember why Jesus lived for us.
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A CALL TO PRAYER
Joash,Jehoiada, Revival. Jehoiada dies. Joash allows idols. War. Locust. God’s wrath. Joel the prophet calls nation torepentance. We, too, are living in anemergency hour.
I. There is a Weakening of theConsciousness of Sin
a. In our personal lives.
b. In our homes.
c. In society.
d. In business.
e. In politics.
f. In the Church
II. Many Church Members Manifest aTerrible Indifference to the Claims of Jesus Christ and His Cause
a. We take all He has to give us, butgive little or nothing in return.
b. We claim the blood regeneration andact as though we had never even heard of the blood.
III. There is a Lowering of MoralStandards
a. The Church is conforming to theworld. Lax standards of morality – ofmarriage vows. Filthy movies, music,literature, video games, etc.
b. The Ten Commandments have not beenrepealed. The Sermon on the Mount isstill the law of the King.
IV. There is a Blighting lack of Passionand Compassion for Lost Souls
a. No weeping mothers, no burdenedfathers, no praying deacons or elders, no agonizing Sunday school teachers, noanxious church members, no all night prayer meetings.
b. No intense driving, longingcompulsion to see souls saved. It is outof style to weep, and shout in the church.
V. Sinners are Coldly Indifferent toTheir Desperate Condition
a. The Gospel has become a mockery, abyword, because of us.
b. Our lack of compassion fails to warnsinners.
VI. Here is God’s Appeal to Us(Vs.15-19): A Call to Prayer
a. It is a universal call – topreachers, to deacons and elders, to men, to women, to children, to babes inarms.
b. It is a call to repentance.
c. It is a call to confession (Ps. 32:1-3).
d. It is a call to dedication: “Sanctify the congregation.”
e. It is a call to prayer.
f. It is universal.
g. Supplication and intercession areinvolved.
VII. Promised Results
a. A return of the Lord.
b. Overcoming OBstacles.
c. Showering of blessings.
d. Visitation of the Holy Spirit.
Adapted fromHyman Appleman, Preached By Pastor Jim Nicholson 1/30/2011