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They consider the scriptural teachings as outdated beliefs that would have already happened if they were true.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.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hearing Is Not Enough

God directed Saul to go and punish the Amalekites for their unprovoked attack on Israel when the came out of Egypt.  I Samuel 15:1-3 describes the command.  “Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.  Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.  Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”  They were to go and destroy every living thing among the Amalekites. 

I Samule 15:7-9 describes His attack on the Amalekites.  “And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.  And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.  But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.” 

When Samuel came to confront Saul, he bragged about obeying God, as I Samuel 15:13-15 describes.  “And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.

And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?

And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” 

It was obvious they had not obeyed the Lord, yet Saul insisted they had.  Unfortunately, many Christians do the same kind of thing.  They know what God said, but don’t take it seriously.  James addressed this problem in James 1:22-25.  “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” 

Like Saul, we hear what God said, and act on the parts that we feelo are most important, while ignoring other things he said.  As James describes it, we are like a person who looks into a mirror, but doesn’t take time to comb his hair or wash his face.  Within a few minutes he forgets that he needs to do so and goes his way forgetting what God said needed done. 

For example, Many Christians focus on not using certain curse words.  While their speech is may be somewhat more pleasant to listen to, all that really changed is their selection of words.  They just curse people using more polite language.  The wicked underlying attitude has not changed.  When we get serious about obeying what God says, we will seek to change the attitude by allowing the Holy spirit to have control.

Unfortunately, many times, like Saul, we convince ourselves we are pleasing God when in fact, our disobedience and hypocrisy is obvious to those who really knows us.    Like Saul in I Samuel 15:20-21, we will not acknowledge we have done wrong.  “And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.”  Even after the sin was pointed out, Saul refused to take responsibility blaming the people and attempting to justify it.   Because he would not obey, God took away the blessings, in I Samuel 15:23.   “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

If we are to receive God’s blessings, we are going to have to follow through on his commands, not just know what he said.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Controlling The Tongue

As we saw in the previous post, the tongue is the cause of a great many problems, and it is inspired by our heart attitude.  Despite our best efforts, we will never be able to completely control it by ourselves.  James 3:7-12 describes the problem.  “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.  Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?  Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” 

We can be talking about how wonderful God is one moment moment and a moment later be emotionally destroying our mate or one of our children, even though God gave them to us.  Our tongue is the only part of our body that can even come close to keeping up with our emotional and mood changes, often responding even before we think, especially when we train it to do so.  As we saw earlier, it is controlled by our underlying attitude, with the result that it can switch from good to evil without warning, making it more harmful than many other things.  It is not surprising that our tongue so easily says wicked things since our heart is naturally sinful.  In Matthew 12:34-35, Jesus said, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.  A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” 

Natural humans are like a poisonous snake, ready to lash out and poison anyone who is perceived as a victim or threat.  It is impossible for us to completely overcome that natural instinct unless the nature is changed.  Fortunately, when we accept Christ, we receive a new nature, as II Corinthians 5:17-19 tells us.  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”

The old nature was against God and the things that are good.  Unfortunately, we spent years exercising and practicing the attitude that old nature produced.  When we become a Christian, it easy to lapse back into those old habits we have practiced so long.  To prevent that, we have to learn to allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our attitude.   This is known as walking in the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit gave us Life, but we can keep on living in the old fleshly attitudes.  Galatians 5:25 commands, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”    Galatians 5:16-17 promises, “… Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”    Our actions will be controlled by which ever nature we allow to take over.  If we allow the old attitudes and habits to guide us, we will continue to do the things that defile and make a person unfit for heaven, as 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.”  

If we allow the Holy Spirit to produce a spiritual attitude in us. These things will no longer be a problem.  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.” When the Holy Spirit is in control, the tongue will come under control just like the other aspects of one’s life.  Because the tongue is so difficult to control, it a very good indicator of our spiritual state.  As Matthew  12:35 said, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” 

James 3:2 says, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” A man who is able to control his tongue must be allowing the Holy Spirit to control his life and can control his other sinful desires and lusts.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Our Words Reflect Our Spiritual State

In American society, many people take great pride in their ability to put others down, or shut them up.  Others speak with no concern for the impact of their words.  As we saw in the previous post, that ought not be the Christian’s attitude.  Remember, in Matthew 12:36-37, Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”  The way we talk is far more important than most people think.  James 3:1-2 makes a special point of the importance of what we say.  “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.  For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”

Because people’s feelings are so easily hurt, it is impossible to avoid offending them sometimes, as Luke 17:1-2 tells us.  “Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!  It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”  It is far harder to blow off the words of a person in a position of leadership than those of some unknown, so the leader’s words are especially important.  Because they will be judged for how they have offended people, only those who can control their tongue should seek positions of leadership.   As James says, if a man can control his tongue, he will be able to control himself in every other area. 

While the tongue is a little thing and it is easy to ignore the impact of our words, James 3:3-6 makes it clear the impact can be very serious.  “Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.  Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.  Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” 

Imagine a child swinging a bat.  While he has no intention of hurting anyone, unless he consciously controls it, he is likely to injure others with his careless swing.  Since he already has the bat in his hands, he may be tempted to hit something with it. especially if he is upset.  Because we use words constantly to communicate, our tongue is constantly available just like the bat in the child’s hands.  we often become like the person swinging a bat. While it is easy to unintentionally hurt someone, it is also easy to take a swing at them without thinking about what will happen if we hit them, especially when we are angry or upset. 

People’s words result in wars, fights, lawsuits, divorces, murders, adultery, and many other evil things.  While other sins take a conscious effort, our words spring forth without much thought, but the show the heart attitude.   In Matthew 15:18-20, Jesus said that the attitudes are what make a person good or bad.  “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.”  Quite simply, if the heart attitude is not right, it really doesn’t matter whether one keeps the Old Testament Law or not.    The words one speaks in an unguarded moment are often the most obvious indicator of one’s spiritual state.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

For The Best life Possible

As we have already seen from Romans 7:5, living a life that is satisfactory to God is not about keeping as set rules, but about an attitude or spirit of doing what is right.  But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.“  It is the difference between doing things because we have to, and doing them because we want to show our love.  Unfortunately, some have concluded that because we don’t have to do those things in order to be saved, or to keep our salvation, we don’t need to bother with them, because those standards are no longer applicable. 

Such a belief is contradicted by Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:18-19.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.  Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  In essence, Jesus says that the man teaches others to ignore God’s standards will lose his heavenly rewards, even though not his salvation.  In I Corinthians 3: 13-15, Paul said the same thing in a different way.  “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.  If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

In I Timothy 4:7-8, Paul instructed Timothy to practice living a godly life because it would make his life better now, as well as producing rewards in the future.  “But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.  For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”  The benefits will far outweigh those of any physical fitness program. 

In I Peter 3:8-12, Peter describes the attitude and resulting behavior that will result in a good life here.  “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

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.” 

God is observing everything we do, keeping a record of those things.  As Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”  With this in mind, we need to learn to be concerned about other people, avoiding hurting them, demonstrating our love as brothers and sisters, showing them the respect and good manners even when they don’t deserve it, and helping them.  We need to avoid chewing them out or telling them off, or trying to get even, even when they have treated us badly.  Instead we are to bless them, because that is what God has called us to do.    

If we are to experience a good life here, as well as rewards in eternity, we are going to have to learn to bring our mouth under control so that we don’t hurt others with our words, or deceive them.  We are going to have to learn to hate evil and do what is right.  We are going to have to learn to consider other people’s positions, instead of demanding our own way.   We may have to give up even some things we view as our rights in order to make peace.  Matthew 12:37 warns, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”   Jesus had just told the Jews, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.  A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things,” In Matthew 12:34-35.   Our mouth tends to give away our real attitude, despite our best efforts to control it. 

If the Lord permits, we will look at what is required to bring the mouth under control in the next few days.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Free From The Law

Romans 7:6 tells us, “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.“  As we’ve already seen, our salvation is not based on our being good enough or following God’s law perfectly, but on God’s love and Christ’s having paid the penalty for our sin, as Titus 3:5-7 states.   “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;  Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” 

Unfortunately, many Christians Have gotten the idea that they have to earn their salvation, or that they have to be good enough to keep it.  This often results in kind of pride that we are better than other people, because we are better at following God’s commands than someone else.  II Corinthians 3:5-6 addresses this situation.  “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” 

There is nothing we can do to either earn or keep our salvation.  It is totally dependent on God’s provision.   In Christ, God has given us the ability to serve him completely through the power of the Holy Spirit.  That sense of having to keep the law, or some other set of rules to keep our salvation or standing with God will destroy our spiritual life. 

In marriage, the sexual relationship is crucial.  While sex cannot make a marriage work, its absence can destroy one.  It is a glue that binds the marriage together, and in I Corinthians 7:3-5, husbands and wives are warned that failure to share freely is cheating one’s mate.    As a result, some people begin to focus on sex as an obligation and become resentful of having to constantly submit to their mates desires.   For them sex becomes an unpleasant chore they try to avoid.   Sex was intended to be a mutual demonstration of our love for each other, and when shared freely, is something to be eagerly anticipated.  The greatest pleasure in the sexual relationship comes from knowing your mate is aware of your love for them.  If either one holds back, they deprive both of that sense of being loved.  The difference between a healthy sexual relationship and an unsatisfactory one is entirely dependent on the attitudes of the husband and wife. 

In the same way, a healthy spiritual relationship with God is entirely dependent on our attitude.  If we are doing the things he commands out of a sense of obligation, we will never develop a strong spiritual relationship, because we will be focused on the activity.  Sooner or later we will become resentful of the things we have to do, and begin to look for shortcuts and ways to get around them.  If we are filled with love for him, we will focus on doing things in a way that pleases him.  As a result we will experience the best possible spiritual relationship, as described in John 14:21.  “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.” 

When we just mechanically keep God’s commands out of a sense of duty, we deprive both him and ourselves of the awareness of love that comes from submitting freely to him.  He cannot manifest his love as he would like.  Much of the pleasure of being a Christian is lost, and the relationship deteriorates and eventually dies, although we do not lose our salvation.  

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Daily Temptations and Struggles

Before we received Christ, all the law accomplished was to make us aware of our sins, and thus of our deserving of death.  It did nothing to take care of past sins, or to prevent future sin, as Romans 7:5 explains.  “For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.” 

When we receive Christ, we are effectively crucified with him and thus dead to that old life, so that sin no longer has power over us, as Romans 6 explained.   We become a new person, as II Corinthians 5:17 explains.  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  While we still have the same old body, we receive a new spirit, resulting in a whole new attitude, as I Corinthians 2:12 tells us.  “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”  With that new attitude or focus changes from just avoiding punishment to actively pleasing God, as Romans 7:6 tells us.  “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”

Though the law set a standard that would be required to get into heaven, it was only the minimum, and provided not resolution for mistakes or failures.  The sacrifices only deferred the judgment. when one messed up it constantly reminded one that they were not good enough, as Romans 7:7-16 describes.  “What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.  But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.  For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.  And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.  For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.  Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.  Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.”

While the law was intended to show what was required to please God, the realization that one wasn’t good enough tended to result in depression, and people often gave up and went even further into sin, convinced they had no hope anyway.  The problem is not God’s law, it is our rebellious and wicked human nature.  Each time we violate the law, we demonstrate the need for such a standard, as Romans 7:14-16.  “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.  For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.”

When we received Christ, we became a new person, but we still have the same old body.  It is kind of like putting a new engine and drive train in an old car.  While it is practically a new car, as far as how long it should last, the body still has all the old worn out parts that don’t work properly.   They do not keep the car from working, but they can sure be annoying.  Similarly, our old natural body can sure be an aggravation when we try to serve the Lord, as Romans 7:17-23.  “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”   

The new drive train in the used car may cause some of the old parts to malfunction or break, and sometimes our very efforts to serve God will cause our old habits and practices to break down and cause trouble at inopportune times.  It can be very frustrating.  Paul addresses this in Romans 7:24-25.  “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”

Instead of becoming frustrated when we mess up, we need to realize our failures are minor and Christ has already forgiven us.  We are kept by the power of God, as I Peter 1:5 tells us, and will not lose our salvation.  “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  As a result, we can continue to focus on serving God even though our flesh may fail from time to time.  While our sin can be a real nuisance, we don’t have to throw everything away and start over every time we mess up.   We just need to deal with the current problem and continue to serve God.  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Our Advocate

The U.S. Constitution provides for American citizens to receive the services of an attorney to see that they have not been falsely accused and that their freedom and property are not taken away at the whim of rich or powerful people.  In the modern American legal system, most people think the defense attorney’s job is to try to get the defendant off for his crimes.  Trials have become a debating contest between the prosecutor and the defense attorney, rather than an effort to learn the truth, with both sides seeking to get probative information excluded that counters their position.  If convicted, defendants often file appeals claiming the lawyer didn’t do his job properly. 

Because of the way the legal system is perceived, many people are not concerned with what is right, but only with what their lawyer can get them off for.  Many, corporations, criminal organizations, and unscrupulous individuals retain lawyers to advise them as to what they can get by with.  It is their lawyer’s job to get them out of jail.  Unfortunately many so-called “Christians” view Christ the same way.  Paul dealt with this attitude in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”   Like the criminal with a lawyer on retainer, they don’t worry about sin because after all, that’s what they get paid for. 

I John 2:1-2 paints a different picture of what Christ does for us as our advocate.  “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”   As Christians, we ought to be concerned about doing what is right, rather than what we can get by with.  An ethical lawyer would not knowingly try to help a client get by with their crimes, and Jesus does not try to help us get by with sin.  Instead, he makes sure the penalties for sin have been paid.  He is our propitiation, our payment in full.  When we unintentionally sin, he can step forward and say the penalty has already been paid. 

When we deliberately sin, Hebrews 10:26-27 warns. “…if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”  He is not going to bat for people who have deliberately and intentionally done what they know to be wrong.  We must not believe that just because we are Christians we can do whatever we want and Christ is obligated to get us off. 

I John 2:3-6 declares, “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.  But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.  He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”  If a person really knows Christ as his savior, he will understand that deliberate sin will not be excused.  He will make an effort to fulfill God’s commands.  People who assume Christ will simply allow them to do whatever they want are like people who consulted a lawyer but didn’t sign a contract.  They can talk about how they went to him all they want, he is not legally their lawyer.  If they truly loved him and wanted his representation, they would try to meet his requirements. 

The fact that they have learned about what Christ wants and rejected it leaves them in a serious position.  II Peter 2:21-22 warns, “…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.”  Their nature has not changed, they just got cleaned up on the outside.  If they were truly Christians, their nature would have changed, according to II 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.”  They would no longer be dogs turning back to their vomit or pigs going back to the mud hole.  The fact that they deliberately do so indicates they are not truly saved. 

This does not mean that a person will never do something wrong, but that he does not intentionally do them.  God permitting, we will look more closely at what the scriptures say about that., understanding that if we do sin, Christ will be there as our advocate.   

Friday, September 1, 2017

Saving Faith Produces Action

Several years ago, an evangelist flew into Albuquerque to hold a revival in one of the churches.  The pastor was a few minutes late arriving at the airport to pick him up, and on the way to the church he told the pastor, he was glad for the delay because it had given him the opportunity to win three people to Christ.  The pastor waqs amazed that anyone could win that many souls in such a short time and decided to go soul winning with him the next morning to learn how.  As they went down the street, the evangelist asked each person they met if they believed in Jesus.  If they said they did, he announced that they were saved.   When the pastor asked how he could say that, the evangelist quoted John3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” 

Unfortunately, a lot of people have made the same mistake the Evangelist was making.   James 2:19 tells us, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”  It is great to believe that Jesus exists and that he died on the cross, but even the devils believe that, and they clearly are not saved.  Simply believing in his existence, or even that he died for our sins is not enough to save us.  Romans 10:9-13 tells us, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 

In order to be saved, it necessary to believe not only that Jesus exists but that he was raised from the dead.  Implicit in that belief is the understanding that, as Romans 3:23 states,”… all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” and that “…the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.according to Romans 6:23.  Believing that jesus was raised from the dead is critical because as Acts 17:31 tells us, “…he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”  As I Corinthians 15:17 warns, “…if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.”    This is not merely mental acceptance of the statement, but a conviction that he died and was raised again for your sins, according to Romans 10:10a.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness…”

To receive that salvation, one must act on that belief in the resurrection, confessing that belief to God.  James 2:17 warns that faith must produce action to accomplish anything.  “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. “  Romans 10:10b states “…with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. “  Inherent in that confession is the acknowledgment that we are sinners who deserve death, but that Jesus has taken our place, paying our penalty for us.   I John 1:8-10 tells us, “f we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.   If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

There is no indication whether any of the people who the evangelist talked to were saved or not, because we have no idea whether they believed in Christ’s resurrection, or whether they had confessed that belief to God.  They may just believe that there was a historical person called Jesus who taught the people.   

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Letting The Spirit Guide

As we have looked at the various kings over the past few weeks, one mistake has come out repeatedly, and it is the same problem we saw with the college students in the previous post.   They became proud of what they could do and acted without consideration of the overall plan, resulting in problems later.  We need to find out exactly what the plan is so that we do not cause trouble in the future.    

In working construction, it is essential to study the blueprints and specifications carefully.  Unfortunately, even the best plans and blueprints cannot explain every detail, with the result that we need to coordinate certain details with the general contractor to find out what is the best approach.  The better relationship one has with the general contractor, the easier such problems are to resolve. 

In our Christian life, it is necessary to study the scriptures just as a builder studies the blueprints and specifications.  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.”  This is critical, because as II Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”  By taking the time to study the scriptures, we can learn what we need to do to fulfill God’s plan for our lives. 

In working as a plumber, I learned that some plumbers focus strictly on mechanically following the blueprint exactly as drawn.  Unfortunately blueprints do not always show possible problems, so if anything gets in the way they simply chop it out and leave it for someone else to fix, costing the contractor both time and money and creating bad feelings between the plumber and other workers.   In many cases the entire problem could have been avoided by consulting with the builder to see how he would prefer things to be done.  If one has established a good relationship with the builder, he may suggest minor changes that eliminate the problem, such as offsetting a pipe or moving a fixture a couple of inches to eliminate the problem.

 Some Christians take the same approach of doing everything exactly as they interpret the scriptures, making no allowance for the fact that human words do not always convey the spiritual meaning.  As a result, they simply plow ahead with no thought of what the impact of their actions.  Christians who really want to please God take the trouble to find out how he wants them to handle these situations.  This requires developing a proper relationship with Him, and that starts again with a study of the scriptures, as John 5:39 states.  “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”

Because human logic and human language are limited in their ability to convey spiritual truths, we cannot fully understand God and his plans without help.  Fortunately, God had addressed that problem by giving us the Holy Spirit to enable us to remember and understand spiritual things, as John 14:26 explains.  “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”   John 16:13-15 makes it clear he will go beyond just the words of the scriptures, guiding us into all truth.  “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.  He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.  All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.” 

Any changes to the original plumbing blueprint still have to meet the building code and the owner’s approval.  Similarly, any changes the Holy Spirit directs will remain in compliance with the word of God and his plan.   He will not authorize us to go against what God has commanded.   Any contradiction of the scriptures clearly cannot be the result of the Holy Spirit’s leadership, and is unacceptable.  I Corinthians 14:36-8 makes the clear point that we should not think we have some special authority beyond what his word says.  “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?   If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.  But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”  If a person is truly spiritual, they will understand that God’s rules are always true.  A person who doesn’t recognize that is ignorant of spiritual matters.  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Putting God First

Before Dad went into the ministry, we had a small farm near Campo, Colorado.  In order to make enough to support the family, it was also necessary for him to do various other things on the side, including remodeling homes and doing electrical work.  One of my biggest pleasures as a child was to get to go to work with him.  Sometimes he would let me help him hold aboard while he sawed it or nail sheetrock to the studs as high as I could reach.  When he was doing electrical work, I could keep the Romex wires from tangling, or measure out the water for mixing concrete.   While it made me feel really important, the best part was just being there with my dad.  Years later, I began to realize that Dad didn’t really need my help.  A lot of times, it probably would have been easier to have done the Job without me in the way, but he took me along because he loved me.   

God is our heavenly father.  He created the entire universe by himself, and he doesn’t need any help from us to accomplish his plan.    Acts 17:24 tells us, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.”  Like my dad, because he loves us, God allows us to “help” him so he can spend time with us, even though it would be easier without us in the way. 

When I was eleven, Dad was in charge of a group of volunteers building a church in Willard, Missouri.   He made some patterns and built a jig, assigning a group of college students to assemble the roof trusses, while he and some more experienced carpenters laid out and framed the walls.  One of the college students convinced the others that it would be easier if they did things a little differently than Dad had instructed.   When I tried to tell them that Dad said it had to be the way he said, they laughed at me and went ahead doing it the way they decided.  After all, they were much older and smarter than a little eleven year old.

When Dad came over and saw how they were building the trusses, he had to make them take them apart, and redo them the proper way.  Only part of the material was able to be reused.   It took several days to disassemble what they had built, obtain additional materials, and build new trussed because they had decided to do things their own way. 

Because I had developed a close relationship with my dad, I understood that for everything to work properly, things had to be done the way Dad told us to do them.   The college students had been more interested in doing things the easiest way possible, rather than in in doing them the proper way, and what they produced was unacceptable, simply because they didn’t bother to follow instructions. 

Today, many Christians are like those college students, too busy trying to get the Lord’s work done as fast and easily as possible to take the time to find out how God wants things done.  They are not willing to take the time to develop a proper relationship or understand why he wants things a certain way.  Their efforts actually hinder rather than help God’s work.   When we develop a proper relationship with God, we will be more concerned with what he wants than with what we are doing.  As a result, our efforts will not be hindering his plans. 

When we get caught up in what we are doing, we may neglect the Lord and become like a wife who is so busy keeping the house perfect that her husband feels unwelcome in his own home.   A farmer’s wife was so caught up in keeping her home clean that when he was injured in and accident she wouldn’t even allow them to bring him in the house while they waited for an ambulance to arrive because e they might make a mess.  Though she was supposedly doing it “for him,” apparently a clean floor was more important than his life was.     Christians can get so caught up in “the Lord’s work” that God himself doesn’t matter. 

For either a marriage, or a Christian life to be satisfactory, the relationship must take priority over activities.  Just as Dad was able to do the job without my help, or a husband can clean and cook for himself, God is able to do what needs done without our help.   We are his children, not his slaves, and he wants to spend the time with us, not to see how much work he can get out of us.  We need to put him ahead of our “ministry.”  Far too often people make the ministry their god.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What is needed for Salvation?

In Mark 10:17-22 we have the story of a man who came to Jesus seeking eternal life.  Jesus’ response teaches some very important things about salvation.   “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.  Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.  And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.”

The man came clearly seeking salvation.   Jesus immediately made the point that if he was to be saved, the man needed to acknowledge that Jesus is God.  In John 14: 9, Jseus said,”…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father…”  John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 

The second thing Jesus made a point of is that Holiness is essential.  Hebrews 12:14 advises, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”  Unfortunately, the man made the mistake many others make, as Paul describes in Romans 10:2-4.  “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”   The man was counting on his own goodness, rather than on God’s forgiveness and justification.  After all, he had kept all those things his entire life. 

He didn’t understand that his works could not save him.  Ephesians 2: 9 tells us salvation is “Not of works, lest any man should boast.”   Galatians 2:16 is equally clear.  “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” 

Jesus recognized that while the man wanted salvation, he wanted it on his terms, as a result of his efforts.  Jesus told him that he still couldn’t be saved until he put Christ ahead of everything else.  As long as he was clinging yo his personal belongings, he would never be saved.  The man was unwilling to put God ahead of his possessions and plans, so he walked away unsaved.  In Mark 10:23-25, Jesus explained that our focus on things of the world makes salvation nearly impossible.  “And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!  And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus saic essentially the same thing to his disciples.   “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”  Just as a marriage demands a commitment to one’s mate to the exclusion of other things, being saved demands a commitment to Christ. 

Just as some people today have a hard time understanding how one can commit to a lifelong marriage to one mate, the disciples had a hard time understanding how one could commit to the Lord and turn their back on the things the world offers.  Jesus explained that human efforts could never accomplish this, in Mark 10:26-27.  “And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?  And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” 

No amount of psychology or self-motivation or self-sacrifice will ever enable us to completely give up the things of the world.  John 6:44 tells us, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”  As Ephesians 2:8 said, even the faith to believe is from God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”   Only God the Holy Spirit can produce such a commitment in a person.