Monday, September 25, 2017

We Can Depend On God’s Promises

As he explained in II Peter 1:13-15, Peter had written this book to remind Christians what God has commanded.  “Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me.  Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.”  He then went on to explain how the scriptures were given and to warn about the dangers of false teachers who pervert their meanings.  In II Peter 3, he focuses on some things we need to remember if we are to maintain a proper spiritual life.

In addition to the false teachers who deliberately pervert the scriptures, we are surrounded with people who scoff at God’s authority and power, and even in many cases his very existence.  Sadly, many have simply accepted their beliefs, even within the modern churches.  II Peter 3:1-4 warns us to cling to the scriptures rather than the popular beliefs.  “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

They consider the scriptural teachings as outdated beliefs that would have already happened if they were true.  In the process, they ignore the historical evidence those beliefs are based upon.  II Peter 3:5-7 describes that basis.  “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

Geological, archaeological, and historical records from around the world all indicate a global flood which destroyed most things living on earth, and that the same power which created the earth in the beginning is preserving those things until a time of future Judgment against those who reject his authority and power.  Christians need to remember that God is real and that he will do what he has said, as II Peter 3:8-10 tells us.  “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

We need to understand that God is an eternal being, and is not bound by time like we are.  Perhaps the best way to explain this is to consider trying to explain how long something will take to a child.   To the child, five minutes seems like forever, but to the adult, several hours can seem like no more than five minutes.  Like the child, we get impatient and assume God has forgotten when to God, it has only been a few moments.  God has not and will not forget his promise, despite how we may feel.  Just as a mother would wait until the proper time to start a birthday party so the guests can arrive, God will not judge the world until the proper time so that his guests can be saved.  At the proper time it will come, without warning, and when it does, the world we know will be destroyed even more completely than it was by the flood.  This time no trace of the present world will remain, but all will be burned away.  Even elements such as silicone or tungsten will melt.

Understanding that God’s judgment is sure ought to affect how we live our lives here on earth, as II Peter 3:11-12 reminds us.  “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” If we believe that God will destroy the earth, there ought to be a concern that we will be destroyed as well. 

Fortunately, the promise includes more than just destruction, so we can make plans for the future, as II Peter 3:13-16 tells us.  “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.  Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.  And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

The waiting period give us a chance to turn to God and live as he commanded us, following the things Paul wrote in his various letters, although some of them are difficult to understand without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, with the result that some people distort what he has said and bring God’s judgment on themselves.  We need to avoid making similar mistakes.     

“Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.  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.” (II Peter 3:17-18)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Dealing With False Teachers

II Peter 2:1-3 warned that there would be false teachers among every group.  In the story of the tares among the wheat in Matthew 13, Jesus said essentially the same thing in his explanation in Matthew 13:37-39.   “He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.”  Satan deliberately introduces false teachers to distract and mislead God’s people with controversies or as Peter calls them, damnable heresies. 

In the parable, when the tares were discovered the laborers wanted to go out and pull them up.  The farmer told them not to in Matthew 13:29-30.  “But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”  Their efforts to eradicate the tares were likely to destroy the wheat as well. 

When we identify false teachers, we have a tendency to attack and discredit them, but doing so often turns away those who ae undecided or have been misled.  Paul instructs us to take the same approach the landowner used, in Titus 3:10-11.  “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”  If they refuse to listen after a couple of efforts to show them the truth, Paul; says we are to recognize they have been turned aside to follow Satan, and we should simply with draw from them, avoiding contact so that there is no question of our accepting their doctrine. 

We do not need to worry about the false prophets defeating God’s power.  In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “… upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Peter 2:9-16 explains.  “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:  Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;  But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.” 

God is far more qualified to judge the false teachers than we are.  They walk in the power of the flesh, despising anything that limits them.  They do not hesitate to slander those in authority, or who do right, having no clue about the spiritual world, but are as ignorant as a bunch of wild animals.  They take great pleasure in passing themselves off as believing the same things while they seek to turn people away from the truth in an effort to get what they want, just like Balaam did in Numbers 22-24.    

While they may fool people for a while, eventually the truth will come out, according to II Peter 2:17-22.  “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.  For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.  For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.  For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.  But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.’

They make wonderful sounding promises that appeal to people’s natural desires, even attracting some who have been saved.  Eventually people begin to see that the promises are meaningless, and that even the teachers are slaves to same sins and problems they have, because they go back and do them.  Unfortunately they may cause some who claim to have been saved to go back into their old sins, leaving them worse off than they were before, as Hebrews 6:4-6 tells us.   “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

Romans 16:17-18 instructs, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.   For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”  When we realize someone is teaching contrary to what God says, we are to stop fellowshipping with them, realizing they are no longer serving God, but realizing it is not our place to try to change them or destroy them.  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Can We Depend On Scripture?

A key ingredient for a satisfactory Christian life is obeying God, as John 14:21 tells us.  “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”  In order to do that, we will have to know what his commandments are, and our best record of his commandments and activities are found in the scriptures.    Can we trust the scriptures?

Many scholars to day believe the book of Mark is the oldest of the gospels.  It was written in a style of Greek that became common about 50 AD, and Luke is in very similar form.  Matthew and John use a newer style that became popular about 75 AD.  As a result they have concluded that Mark was the first of the Gospels, and the others are based on it.  Writing about 90 AD, Pappias wrote that the apostle John said the apostle Matthew originally wrote the book of Matthew in Hebrew shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, based on Matthew’s own experiences, before 37 AD.  John apparently wrote the book of John about the same time, also in Hebrew.  Mark was not one of the apostles, but served as a Greek translator for Peter and wrote the book of Mark specifically for the gentiles somewhat later.  Luke was a Greek, and his book is based on interviews with a number of different people. 

After the destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews, Hebrew became much less common and Matthew and John were translated into Greek about 75 AD. About 95 AD, John wrote the book of Revelation, using a cruder form of Greek typical of those for whom Greek was not their primary language.  While none of the Hebrew versions of the Gospels have been found, we have scraps of Mark dating to around 56 Ad, and of the other gospels dating to around 80 AD., indicating they were in fact written by those to whom they are attributed. 

With that in mind, we need only concern ourselves with the accuracy of what the different writers have recorded.  In I John 1:1-4, John states that they are only writing the things which had personally experienced.  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.  And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”

Peter makes a similar statement, in II Peter 1:16-18.  “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”  They had personally heard God speak from heaven saying Jesus was his own son.  As a result both Peter and John were convinced that Jesus was in fact the Messiah, the only begotten son of God, and that the things he said were to be depended upon. 

What they were writing were borne out in the writings of the prophets of the past, and Peter explains why these prophecies can be trusted in II Peter 1:19-21.  “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 

The writings of the scriptures were directed by God and would contain no contradictions.  Unfortunately, languages change over time, and copyists make mistakes.  As a result, it is necessary to compare various passages about a subject to be sure we are not misunderstanding it.    If we simply base our understanding on a modern understanding of a single passage, we will be unable to fully understand what was originally intended, resulting in widely divergent interpretations.  This will require us to diligently study the Scriptures, as II Timothy 2:15 commands.  “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

We must not simply depend on our teachers and leaders to tell us what God says.  II Peter 2:1-3 warns, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.  And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” 

There are false teachers in every group who deliberately distort the scriptures in an effort to achieve their own agenda, with no concern for the consequences of their actions.  If we go along with them we will end up facing God’s judgement right along with them because we had the word of God to teach us what was right and have no justification for not obeying.

We need to regularly review what God said, and As Peter explains in II Peter 1:13-15, that is why the scriptures were written down.  “Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me.  Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Learning To Walk Properly

Over the years, gradually developed increasing pain in my knees.  I attributed it to the years I spent as a plumber, straining to work in awkward positions in attics and under houses.  A friend gave me a book titled Walk Yourself Well, and the author, a physical therapist said many people develop an improper way of walking from watching others and as a result of injuries that causes most of the pain.  I read through it and began practicing some of the recommendations from time to time.  While they seemed to help a little, it was hard to focus on doing them every day.

A few months ago, I injured one of my knees, and could hardly climb stairs or walk a significant distance.  Determined to get where I could walk freely again, I dug out the book and began to focus on doing the exercises and practicing walking the way it recommended.  As a result, I can now walk several miles, with little pain except when I forget and fall back in to the old way of walking.  With practice, I expect to eliminate the pain entirely. 

In our Christian life, many of us have learned some bad habits that interfere with our spiritual walk, leading to sin.  While we received the Holy Spirit at salvation, we have not learned to walk in him.  consequently we struggle with fleshly attitudes and behavior.  As we’ve already seen, walking in the Spirit is simply a matter of letting him direct our attitudes.   It should come as naturally to the Christian as walking does to a mature adult.  Unfortunately, it is almost as hard to break those old spiritual habits as it has been for me to break my bad walking habits. 

Walking properly requires combining a large number of individual actions into a fluid and effective stride.  To overcome those bad habits it is necessary to focus on the individual actions, rather than trying to do everything at once.   When you first start it feels very awkward because you are not used to doing things that way and have to focus on each step.  With practice, the various actions become more natural feeling and require less effort.  Peter describes a similar process in learning to walk in the Spirit.  II Peter 1:1-4 tells us that we have been given everything that we need to have a proper spiritual life.

“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

When we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, he produces certain things in us.  Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”  Like a baby, we have everything we need to walk in the Spirit, but need to learn to use those things together to actually walk.  Just as the Baby first has to learn to stand, then to balance himself before he can walk, we have to practice the individual skills before we can become proficient at walking in the Spirit. 

II Peter 1:5-7 describes practicing each skill individually before we can put it all together.  “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”  At first it may require a conscious effort to be good, because we have practiced sin for so long.  Virtue becomes more natural, we can learn more about what God wants, and as our knowledge grows we begin to understand the importance of temperance or self-control.   Eventually we will be able to put it all together and walk in the Spirit.  Until we reach that point, we are like a child who hasn’t learned to walk.

II Peter 1:8-11 tells us, “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.  Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

If we are to become healthy, productive Christians, it is crucial that we learn to walk in the Spirit just as it is critical for a baby to learn to walk if he is to be a healthy and productive member of society.  When we skip steps or don’t learn to do them properly, we assume we know how to walk in the Spirit until we begin to have problems.  Then we have to go back and learn the proper way to correct the problems.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Suffering Persecution

There is an unscriptural attitude among Christians that if you are serving the Lord there shouldn’t be any problems.  Paul was very clear in II Timothy 3:12 when he said, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”   We should expect to have problems if we are serving God, but we should not allow it to discourage us.  In John 16:32-33, Jesus told us, “…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.”  We have been warned to expect the struggles. 

Peter 4:12-14 makes the same point.  “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.  If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.”  The fact that you are going through such struggles implies that the power of God is showing in your life, if you are living for him.

Be aware that this is only true if we are obedient to Christ.  I Peter 4:15-18 warns, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.  Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.   For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?  And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

If we are suffering for having done right, it is because of the satanic influence on our world, and we can thank God that we are protected from the world.  If we are being disobedient, however, we need to realize that because we are God’s children, he will deal with our sin first.   He will not allow us to continue to blaspheme his name by our actions, although he will not take away our salvation.  If a person who claims to be a Christian can continue in sin without concern, it indicates he really isn’t God’s child.  I John 2:3-4 tells us, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.  He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Even Christians are only saved because Jesus Christ took our place, dying on the cross to pay for our sin, cleansing us.   If it required God’s on son to set us free, what do those who insist on staying in their sin deserve.   If we have been cleansed and changed, we ought not be like the pig, going straight back to the pigpen.  Hebrews 10:28-29 asks, “He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”

If we are struggling with persecution and survival, we can depend on God to take care of us in the situation.  I Peter 4:19 advises, “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”  In I Corinthians 10:13 Paul tells us the things we struggle with are normal, and we can trust God to enable us to get through them.   “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  Don’t get discouraged and give in to sin.

Monday, September 18, 2017

When Everything Is Against You

We live in a wicked world that tends to reward evil doers and punish those who do right.  The current controversy over sanctuary cities is one obvious example.    Those who come to the United States illegally are provided an income, housing, medical care and other benefits, while those who have come legally or are American citizens go homeless, and are denied those same benefits.  Sanctuary cities go even further, protecting the illegal alien from being punished for violating other laws as well.  Even when convicted of their crimes, crooks like Bernie Madoff are not required to return all they have taken from other people, and huge corporations are allowed to keep the profits from illegal and unethical schemes by paying a comparatively small fine or bribe while companies that follow the law are forced out of business by excessive taxation and onerous regulations.  Many times, Christians are tempted to go along with the things the world does to avoid conflicts. 

I Peter 3:10-13 warns against doing so.  “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.  And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” 

If we want to experience the best life possible we must do what is right even when everything seems rigged against us.  God is observing everything that goes on, and will intercede on behalf of those who do right.   Those who do wrong will be punished.  Only wicked people and Satan punish people for doing right.   Instead of giving in, continue to do right, knowing God will reward you.   

I Peter 3:14-17 advises, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.  For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.”

We need to learn to put God first, knowing that he is the final judge.  Powerful as those wicked forces may be, their power is still limited to what God allows them to do, and he is watching out for those who do right.  We need to place our faith in him, and if questioned about our stance, be ready to tell people why we stand for the right.   If we go along with the world, our talk of trusting God means nothing to those who hear us. 

Sometimes, God allows bad things to happen to good people in order to save others.  It is far better to just accept God’s will in such things and continue to do right.  That is the example Jesus Christ set for us, as I Peter 3:18-20tells us.  “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”

Christ was willing to suffer that God’s will might be accomplished, and we need to have the same attitude, as I Petr 4:1-7 tells us.  “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.  For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.  But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” 

God may use our suffering to make them aware of their sinful attitudes and turn them to Christ.  In any case our suffering unjustly will result in our being rewarded.  We just need to remember that the end of this world is close and stay focused on his commands.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  Real faith will enable us to serve him even when we suffer for doing so.    

Friday, September 15, 2017

Checking The Fruit

Walking in the Spirit is crucial if we are to live a life that is pleasing to God.  Unfortunately most people have no idea how to tell if a person is walking in the Spirit or not.  Various teachers and groups have named different things as evidence of walking in the Spirit.  One of the most commonly cited evidences is the ability to speak in tongues.  Since speaking in tongues is a common practice in Satanism, as well as numerous pagan religions, it can hardly be seen as proof of the Holy Spirit’s power.  Other groups have cited soul-winning efforts or adherence to a moral or religious code as evidence of The Holy Spirit in one’s life.   Unfortunately, these things can be done simply as a matter of ones will-power and do not necessarily indicate anything about spirituality. 

James 3:13-18 provide some definite things to look for.  “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.  This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.  For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”

Over the centuries, many English words have changed meanings. And thhe word conversation is one of them.  Today, it refers to our talk, but originally to a person’s lifestyle.  If a person is walking in the Spirit, their lifestyle ought not be characterized by the works of the flesh described in Galatians 5:19-21.  “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

These things are a clear indication of a person who is not walking in the Spirit, even casting doubt on one’s salvation.  I Corinthians 3:1-4 makes it very clear that envy of another’s position and place or conflicts with other people demonstrate a carnal, unspiritual state.  “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.  I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.  For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 

Even engaging in most doctrinal arguments demonstrates an unspiritual state.   Titus 3:9-11 instructs, “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.  A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”  The fact that a person refuses to accept what God has commanded indicates they are allowing Satan to lead.  Instead of focusing on their sin, we need to focus on what God said, and allow God to deal with them.  We have been commanded to teach the gospel, not to change people’s minds. 

As James 3:17-18 said, a spiritual walk will produce a gentle cooperative nature that does what is right.  Galatians 5:22-23 describes the attitudes the Holy Spirit produces.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”  When these attitudes are not present, it clearly indicates the Holy Spirit is not in control, and the result will be confusion and all kinds of sinful behavior.  Matthew 7:17-20 advises, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”  While we are not to become judges, we can surely check the fruit to see whether it is apples or lemons.