Christianity 201

July 25, 2016

The Watches of the Night

My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
 – Psalm 119:148

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
– Psalm 63:6

I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
 – Psalm 16:7

Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
– Psalm 4:4

Sunday morning at one of the two churches in which I am involved we continued in a series about the rhythms (practices) of the Christian life. The subject this week was meditation. The website AllAboutGod.com tells us that,

In the Old Testament there are two primary Hebrew words for meditation: Haga, which means to utter, groan, meditate, or ponder; and Sihach, which means to muse, rehearse in one’s mind, or contemplate. These words can also be translated as dwell, diligently consider, and heed.

I was surprised that much of the sermon looked at the opposite — if that’s the right word — of meditating on God’s Word, and that is worry and anxiety. There was an interesting quotation from Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life:

Surprisingly, if you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate on the Word of God. Worry is when you take a negative thought and you think on it over and over and over. When you take a passage of Scripture and you think on it over and over and over, that’s called meditation.  (emphasis added)

I hadn’t considered that, but it’s true. We can obsess over various family and health and economic concerns, so we already know, so to speak, how to obsess on God’s Word, God’s character, God’s creation.

Of course, some people suffer greatly from panic attacks. Sometimes anxiety issues run in families. I was glad to hear this discussed also. Too often mental health issues are not mentioned at church.

And then there were the scriptures about “the watches of the night.” It was suggested that the Psalmist had trouble sleeping. (I wondered if perhaps he simply needed to relieve himself several times in the night. Various things can wake us up. Then we have trouble getting back into sleep.) In the scriptures above, these times are used as opportunities to meditate on God’s word, and hear from Him. It may also be a time we are most receptive and free from distractions.

I’ve mentioned here that I sometimes breathe Psalm 100 and the Lord’s Prayer as a way of taking some calming, deep breaths and getting back to sleep.

Unfortunately a number of practices of the Christian Church have been co-opted by other groups. (When is the last time two people walked up your driveway and they were Baptists, not Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses?) It’s the same with the terminology around meditation. It’s seen as a New Age practice. The word is currently guilty-by-assocation. But the principle is clear in scripture.

Rick Warren continues:

No other habit can do more to transform your life and make you more like Jesus than daily reflection on Scripture…If you look up all the times God speaks about meditation in the Bible, you will amazed at the benefits He has promised to those who take the time to reflect on His Word throughout the day. (PDL p. 190)

We’ve previously written about the decline in scripture memory, and how this can be seen as a barometer of the spiritual health of the church. This is part of the challenge we currently face. You can’t meditate on what is not already in your mind and heart.

But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night.
 – Psalm 1:2*

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
 – Psalm 119:11


I know the author of “God Leads His Dear Children Along” was talking about the “night season” of life we pass through, but I couldn’t help but think about this song as I considered the watches of the night:

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.


All scriptures NIV except * NLT

July 24, 2016

Sanctification by the Blood and Sanctification by the Spirit

•••by Russell Young

A person’s understanding of sanctification and its application is significant when it comes to his or her knowing the truths of the Word of God and in understanding the doctrine of salvation.  Sanctification is revealed as coming by the Spirit, by the blood of the covenant, by the truth, and by the Word.

sanctificationThe Greek word hagiazo which has been translated as sanctification means “to sanctify, to consecrate, or devote a person or thing to a particular, especially to a sacred, use in service to God.”  The Greek hagiasmos, also translated as sanctification, is “intended to express a state or attitude of voluntary consecration to God, a continued act of consecration; or a state of choice as distinct from a mere act of choice, an abiding act or state of choice, a standing and controlling preference of mind, a continuous committal of the will to the highest well-being of God and of the universe.” (Charles Finney, Lecture LVIII) Accordingly, a person is sanctified or consecrated to God by the blood of Christ when he makes a confession of faith and proclaims the Lordship of Christ.  However, continued consecration must be realized through a person’s abiding attitude to God as revealed through his or her practices.

The believer cannot be sanctified or consecrated to God and seek his or her own interests.  Sanctification following confession of faith necessitates death to self, a voluntary state of devotion to the Lord’s purposes.  “Sanctification is nothing more nor less than entire obedience, for the time being, to the moral law.” (Finney) It is the attitude or abiding in a sanctified state of consecration to God that requires the Spirit and his ministry.  Although a person might be set aside in part for building the kingdom, he may yet not be cleansed (transformed) in heart and mind for that purpose or to dwell in the kingdom.

Paul taught that he had been chosen “to be a minister of Christ Jesus so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:16, NIV) He was not addressing sanctification by the blood of Christ, although that is essential. Accordingly, his teaching addressed the need for a person to have the attitude or the will to walk righteously so that he or she would become an offering acceptable to God “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”  To Titus and to the Thessalonians Paul revealed that salvation came through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.  “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess 2:13, NIV) To Titus he wrote: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5) The Holy Spirit provides renewal (transformation) through the indwelling presence (Col 1:27) of the Spirit of Christ as he washes away the darkness that pervades the believer’s heart and mind.

Vessels that are unclean, including people, cannot be used for noble kingdom purposes.  It is necessary for the believer to live righteously and to be transformed through the sanctifying work of the Spirit if he or she is to be used for noble purposes by God.  Paul wrote to Timothy: “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Tim 2:20-21, NIV)

Neither is sanctification a singular event as by the blood of Christ as some accept.  Its state must be maintained or kept. (1 Thess 5:23) The writer of Hebrews recorded that those who deliberately keep on sinning are treating “as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them.” (Heb 10:29, NIV) The “blood of the covenant” is the shed blood of Christ that brought the Old Covenant to a close and allowed the believer right to the New Covenant.  It purified him or her and set them aside for use in God’s service. (Eph 2:10) The blood of the covenant sanctified the believer concerning the sins committed under the first covenant. (Heb 9:15; 2 Pet 1:9) The sinner had been dead in his trespasses and sins and has been given new life for service to God. This is sanctification through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, through his willingness to take on himself all of the sins of the world.  The believer’s sins were washed away and he was left pure. Sanctification by the Spirit is to follow.

The Lord spoke to His disciples concerning the need for continued cleaning.  Before His crucifixion, He washed His disciples’ feet.  Peter had objected to act of what he perceived as being humiliating to his Lord and told Him, “You shall never wash my feet.”  The Lord responded, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  Peter then wanted to be washed all over.  The Lord again addressed him: “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.” (Jn 13:10, NIV) Although many take this as representing a person’s need to be humble in service, the issue is really one of spiritual cleansing or of sanctification.  The disciples had been sanctified or as He has stated, have had a “bath.”  However, throughout the day their feet had become dirty.  In a spiritual sense, throughout the day they had been dirtied by sin.  He needed to cleanse them of this if they were to have any part of Him.  The “bath” is “the sanctification of the blood” while the washing of the feet (one’s daily sins- sanctification by the Spirit) still needed to be done.

When the writer of Hebrews related, “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”, he is stating those who deliberately continue to sin are showing disregard for Christ and His sanctifying ministry for the believer, both on the cross and following.  The Spirit of grace is insulted when a person has failed to honor the Lord’s ministry in his or her life.

Sanctification by the Word and by the truth refer to the same issue. (Jn 17:17) God has revealed his gospel and the truths that he expects to be honored concerning his law and through his covenants.

The Spirit, if followed (“obeyed”-Heb 5:9) will accomplish the righteous requirements of God’s moral law (Rom 8:4) and leave the one who is believing sanctified, holy in his sight, and suitable for his Kingdom.

 

July 23, 2016

They Forgot

Do Not Forget The Works of the Lord5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
to teach their children,
6 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.
8 They would not be like their ancestors—
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
whose spirits were not faithful to him.

9 The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenant
and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done,
the wonders he had shown them.
12 He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and led them through;
he made the water stand up like a wall.
14 He guided them with the cloud by day
and with light from the fire all night.
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness
and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag
and made water flow down like rivers.

17 But they continued to sin against him,
rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
18 They willfully put God to the test
by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God;
they said, “Can God really
spread a table in the wilderness?
20 True, he struck the rock,
and water gushed out,
streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
Can he supply meat for his people?”

In this post at RedeemerNJ.com, Tim Bowditch looks closely at some material from Tim and Kathy Keller on Psalm 78. Click the title below to read at source.

Spiritual Forgetfulness

In their devotional book on the Psalms, The Songs of Jesus, Tim and Kathy Keller serve up a helpful and thought-provoking meditation on Psalm 78. In that psalm, one of the major issues was the forgetfulness of God’s people: “They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them” (v. 11). Failure to remember God’s activity and promises is far from an “innocent” matter in the Psalms, as shown here and in many other places.

Spiritual forgetfulness, according to the Kellers, can cause our growth to stagnate. The antidote “is to have a heart constantly vitalized by deliberate remembering of the costly sacrifice of Jesus.” And is this not a primary purpose of the regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper in our congregation? We do it in remembrance of Jesus and his sacrifice on behalf of his people (Luke 22:19). God has accommodated our forgetfulness by giving us this command.

The Kellers include a prayer at the end of their meditation on this portion of Psalm 78, and it’s this prayer that I’d like to elaborate on briefly, a phrase at a time.

Lord, I worry because I forget your wisdom. We know the verse in Philippians 4 about being anxious for nothing, but as often as we remind ourselves of that, the anxiety of life—financial concerns, health worries, family matters: the list is endless—presses in, disrupting our sleep, robbing us of peace, and generally making us miserable. How we need to remind ourselves that worry is caused by forgetting that God is infinitely wise, that he really does know best what we need and has promised to provide it. Worry is an implicit denial of our Father’s all-encompassing wisdom, and a taking on ourselves of a responsibility he never intended us to bear.

  • I resent because I forget your mercy. How does resentment show up for you? For me, it has to do with believing I haven’t gotten what I deserve. And it’s complicated by the observation that someone else has. In other words, God has been kinder to someone else than to me. Think of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20. They resented the generosity of the vineyard owner when he paid everyone the same. They forgot that if the owner hadn’t come to them offering work, at a wage they agreed was fair, they’d have had nothing. So they grumbled, and resented. The owner corrected their perspective with these words: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” You and I belong to Jesus, and he has dealt with us better than we deserve, farbetter. We need to be thankful for his mercy, rather than resenting it when others are the recipients.
  • I covet because I forget your beauty. When I first read this, it didn’t immediately connect for me. But the more I thought about it the more sense it made. Forgetting the beauty of Jesus leads to desiring something else I think will satisfy more. If Jesus is the all-satisfying, supremely beautiful Lover of my soul, how can I think that something, or someone, else will be more satisfying or fulfilling than he? I need to continually ask the Lord to give me the heart of David in Psalm 27:4: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” How do we “gaze upon the beauty of the LORD”? By immersing ourselves in his Word, which is where we see Jesus most clearly.
  • I sin because I forget your holiness. My tendency is to trivialize the holiness of the Lord, which enables me to minimize the seriousness of my sin. I understand on some level that all sin is cosmic treason, as the theologians express it, and that even our culture regards treason as a capital offense. But that isn’t an awareness I keep in the forefront of my mind constantly, as I should. I read recently about a woman who was extremely allergic to peanuts, so much so that when her boyfriend kissed her after eating peanut butter, she actually died. Apart from the death of Jesus on my behalf any sin is punishable by my death. Such is the holiness of God. May we be more continually mindful of this sobering truth.
  • I fear because I forget your sovereignty. We are all subjects of a kingdom; that’s what sovereignty implies. If there’s one who is sovereign, he rules, and that describes God. He rules us and everyone in the world. In this kingdom, the Ruler always gets his way in the end. That’s good news for those of us who are sons and daughters of the King. Nothing happens in this kingdom that’s ultimately outside the control of the King. And he intends, he relentlessly intends, to do good to those who are in his family (Ps. 84:11; cf. Jer. 32:40-41). So fear is bound up in forgetting that our heavenly Father is the sovereign ruler of everything that exists, and ordains everything that happens, and is in it all for our good.

The last line in the Kellers’ prayer is this: “You always remember me; help me to remember you. Amen.” And may all God’s people say, Amen!

July 22, 2016

The Influence of Spiritual Leaders

Today’s post is excerpts from a larger, topical article which appeared at the blog of Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Senior Pastor of Cross Church, immediate past President of the Southern Baptist Convention. For that reason, click the title below to read the entire piece at its source. We’ve excerpted the spiritual teaching from the article.

Spiritual Leaders and Their Influence in This Election Season

…In this presidential election season, some are acting like we have had pure choices before and now we do not. Let’s get real: we have never had pure choices to select from. We live in a fallen world and all of our systems are less than perfect. It was failed when some of our greatest presidents have been elected or when some of our greatest presidents have emerged through the fire of leadership. Perfection will not occur until we die and our residency changes from here into heaven, and ultimately when Jesus comes again in His coming eternal, sovereign Kingdom.

Besides this, our trust needs to be in our Sovereign God, not in people or our processes. Think on and stand with confidence upon these words:

  • Daniel 2:21, “He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings.
  • Daniel 4:26, “…Heaven rules.
  • Proverbs 21:1, “A king’s heart is like streams of water in the Lord’s hand; He directs it wherever He chooses.

Our trust is in the Lord and His word…

…I prayed, searched, and became convicted in March that there was one biblical character God wanted to use in my life who would become my mentor and model while navigating through these tumultuous waters.

daniel_prayerDaniel was a statesman and a prophet. This is what I want to be in my life and leadership. Daniel lived in Jerusalem. In 605 B.C., some say at age 15, Daniel was taken captive along with others and exported to Babylon. He lived there for at least seventy years, where three times each day, he would open his window, kneel facing Jerusalem, and pray. John MacArthur noted this about Daniel: “He quickly rose to the role of statesman by official royal appointment and served as a confidante of kings, as well as a prophet in two world empires.”[1]

Daniel was a godly, praying and fasting man whom God used powerfully. He was entrusted with favor from God and had favor with man. Daniel was entrusted with influencing the King and the future of the country, as well as given the authority to lead. Daniel 1-4 speaks of his relationship and influence with one of the most wicked leaders of all time, King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 5-10 speaks of his relationship with King Belshazzar, King Darius, and King Cyrus.

America is like a modern-day Babylon: sinful, wicked, and godless. God raised up King Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon to exercise God’s judgment upon the people of God. Daniel and the people of God being exported into this godless, wicked nation gives us a living example of where we are as Christ-followers. We need to go to school on how God used Daniel and others in this season of judgment.

Daniel determined he would honor God whatever the costs. Daniel received God’s favor and was given leadership and influence. Each spiritual leader should aspire to be like Daniel.

Throughout Scripture, we see men and women of God who had a voice with leaders of nations. Some examples of these God-called spiritual leaders speaking to a nation’s leader:

  • Moses to Pharaoh
  • Eliezer to Jehoshaphat
  • Elijah to Ahab
  • Elisha to King Ben-hadad of Aram and also to the King of Israel
  • Nathan to David
  • Esther to Ahasuerus
  • Jeremiah to Zedekiah
  • Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus
  • John the Baptist to Herod
  • Peter and John to Annas and Caiaphas
  • Paul to King Agrippa

There are others I could list. This is a biblical precedent that is undeniable.

What If

What if Daniel had refused to acknowledge King Nebuchadnezzar and acted like he was too righteous to relate to him? What if Daniel had not answered the request to come interpret his dream? When you read the book of Daniel, you find him relating to these leaders continually, oftentimes entrusted with great influence upon the nation and even property; but at other times, being put in prison or ending up in a lion’s den. Daniel was not for sale. He even told King Belshazzar, “keep your gifts.”[2] God always prevailed. Daniel was always faithful.

Why would we not want godly spiritual leaders to be influencers upon national and global leaders today? 

Spiritual Leaders Need Tact and Discretion

Daniel 2:14, “Then Daniel responded with tact and discretion to Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, who had gone to execute the wise men of Babylon.This is a pivotal verse that we need to go to school on in 2016 as spiritual leaders. In this day of social networking and endless opinions, Christian testimony is being destroyed and people are being hurt continually.

Daniel’s tone and words were flavored right, proper, and wise. Daniel’s counsel was sound, careful, and sensible.

As Christians and Christian leaders, we need to make sure our tone and words must never eliminate our ability to win someone on this earth to faith in Jesus Christ.

…Let me set the record straight today: I want Daniel, the statesman and prophet, and the life, leadership, and legacy of Billy Graham and their relationships with national and global political leaders to be my model rather than sitting on the sideline, critiquing every political candidate and anyone whom God would raise up to influence them.

Now is the Time to Lead


[1] https://www.gty.org/resources/bible-introductions/MSB27/daniel, accessed June 26, 2016
[2] Daniel 5:17

July 21, 2016

In God’s Eye, There is Only One Race

God's impartialityToday we’re paying a return visit to Biblical Proof, the blog of Alfred Shannon, Jr. In an article on racism that is both topical and Biblical he looks at a topic which is very timely right now in the United States. What we’re showing here is the second half of the article. You would want to click the title below to read the entire piece.

Racism Is A Sin Of Partiality

…There is only one race in God’s eye, that is the human race. Therefore to hate a person for the color of their skin or where they were born is to actually hate yourself. Take a look at the following Scripture passages where it is clear that God shows no man partiality. If partiality is not found in God it must then be the product of the fallen heart of man.

Deut 10:17, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.” 2 Chron 19:7, “Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.”  Gal 3:27-29. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Rom 2:11, “For there is no partiality with God.” Gal 2:6-7, “But from those who seemed to be something — whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man — for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.” Eph 6:9, “And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” Col 3:25, “But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality”.

The Scriptures are clear that God makes no distinction between the Jews or the Gentiles when it comes to the matter of salvation! Rom 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Rom 3:29-30, “Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also” Rom 10:12-13, “ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 1 Cor 12:13-14, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into* one Spirit.

Eph 3:5-7, “which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” Col 3:11. “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

With this said, the only races God ever speaks of are the Jews and Gentiles (Greek). The reason He gave special privileges to the Jewish race is so that they might be the instrument of His salvation to the whole world. But consider this idea from another angle. God only recognizes Jews and Gentiles and nothing else. That means that all the races of the world, with the exception of the Jews, are all considered the same race, the Gentiles. In other words God sees the oriental, the black, the white, Hispanic, the Asian, the Indian, etc as all being the same race, the Gentile race. That means the races of the world are all equal in God’s eyes and if they are all equal in God’s eyes, they ought to be considered all equal in the eyes of faithful Christians as well! The whites are not better than the blacks, and the blacks are not better than the whites. Every color and nationality under the sun are equal in God’s sight.

July 20, 2016

Indignation in The Disciples, Jesus and Me

Disciples rebuke Jesus

While we’ve mentioned him a lot here, it’s actually been about three years since we actually included some of author Mark Buchanan’s writing. Mark is best known for the books Spiritual Rhythms and The Rest of God. Click the title below to read this at source.

Better Living through Indignation

I’m trying to become more indignant.

And also less so.

It turns out indignation – not its presence or absence, but its cause and its object – is one of the best measures of spiritual health.

Saint Mark, almost back to back in the same chapter, tells two stories about indignation. One story is about the collective indignation of Jesus’ apostles toward two of their own, John and James, when they ask Jesus for elite status in his kingdom – one wants to sit at Jesus’ right hand, the other at his left, when Jesus comes to his throne. “When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John” (Mark 10:31).

Indignation – being ticked off, put out, riled up – is typically a sign of sheer pettiness. It’s no more than hissy fit. A melt down. A tantrum. It’s the behavior of a spoiled child. It’s what the small-minded do when they don’t get their way. It’s a symptom of an overfed ego and an undernourished heart. And usually that’s all it is – a rant over some perceived slight or inconvenience.

We see it elsewhere in the Bible: the same disciples are indignant when Mary breaks a jar of expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet, priests and lawyers are indignant when children make too much noise singing in church, synagogue rulers are indignant when Jesus heals on the Sabbath.

And we see it in ourselves: I get angry over a stranger cutting me off in traffic, feel resentment toward a colleague getting recognition I think I deserved, become irritated at a child squalling on a plane.

Sheer pettiness, all of it.

And we might leave it at that, except for the other story Mark tells:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them (10:13-16).

When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. And it happens more than once. He’s also indignant – the Bible uses a different word, but describes the same emotion – when the Teachers of the Law oppose his healing a man on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6).

The sum of it: Jesus loses his temper with people who try to keep other people from experiencing a touch of God, especially if they are people who lack influence – children, the sick, a woman with a shady past. He waxes angry with anyone who throws up obstacles to someone else’s need and hunger for God. “Do not hinder them” is his watchword.

And what, usually, hinders the child, the sick, the beggar, the woman? Ironically, tragically, it’s the false indignation of the entitled. It’s those of us who try to defend our little patch of turf.

What am I indignant about? That is a penetrating spiritual question. My indignation is too often self-regarding, connected with my lust for winning or my fear of losing. It’s a defense mechanism for my own sense of entitlement. It’s a protective gesture to any threat to my status or privilege. I get indignant over losing out.

Jesus gets indignant – grieved, burning, spoiling for a fight: all that is caught up in this one word – over someone else losing out, especially if it’s someone who has little or no voice being bullied by those who already have enough.

Oh, I long to be indignant like that.

July 19, 2016

The Besetting Sin of Worry

Don't Worry - Philippians 4 6Today a return visit to Kim Shay at Out Of The Ordinary. Click the title below to read at source.

He who sits in the heavens

Worry is one of my besetting sins. It can cover a wide range of subjects… I begin to worry because I don’t like unknowns, and I don’t like feeling out of control. To compensate, I often try to keep tabs on all the possible variables that could affect the outcome, deluding flattering myself into thinking that I can at least be mentally prepared for what could occur. But this is cold comfort. There are too many factors beyond my scope, and as I consider what is outside of my control, the needle on the worry meter goes up.

I have a less-than-robust background in the absolute sovereignty of God, so I could use that as an excuse. But even wholeheartedly embracing that doctrine, my thoughts of God are often “too human”1, as if He who sits in the heavens “laughs nervously and wrings His hands in confusion.”

If I dig deeper, there’s a showdown taking a place – a face-off between the Bible’s claims of God’s supremacy versus my fallible thoughts and feelings. Who do I listen to? My worries? Or do I take my soul by the scruff of the neck, so to speak, turn off the news or whatever is feeding my anxiety, and turn back to the Scriptures?  Feelings go up and down. Circumstances change for good or bad. But neither feelings or circumstances are the arbiter of truth. God’s Word is, and here’s what it says about His authority over all things:

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Psalm 2: 4-6

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 1 Chron. 29:11-13

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, Ephesians 1:11

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Psalm 115:1-3

The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting…Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore. Psalm 93:1-2,5

From A.W. Pink:

The absolute and universal supremacy of God is plainly and positively affirmed in many scriptures… Before Him, presidents and popes, kings and emperors, are less than grasshoppers.3

God’s supremacy over the works of His hands is vividly depicted in Scripture. Inanimate matter, irrational creatures, all perform their Master’s bidding.4

God’s supremacy is also demonstrated in His perfect rule over the wills of men… His own eternal “counsels” are accomplished to their minutest details. 5

I don’t know about you, but this gives me great comfort. This answers my fear of the unknown because there are no unknowns to an omniscient God. He does not react to future events because He has already ordained what will take place by His decrees. We have a foundation that will never shift under any circumstance because we rest on the unchanging character of God Himself.Let every man or, in this case, woman be a liar. The Lord reigns.

Here then is a resting place for the heart. Our lives are neither the product of blind fate nor the result of capricious chance, but every detail of them was ordained from all eternity and is now ordered by the living and reigning God. 6

1. The Attributes of God, Chapter 5 The Supremacy of God, A.W. Pink, Baker, 1975, pg. 28.
2. Thanks to Zack for his open theist “version” of Psalm 2:4.
3. The Attributes of God, Chapter 5 The Supremacy of God, A.W. Pink, Baker, 1975, pg. 29.
4. Ibid. pg. 30.
5. Ibid. pg. 30-31.
6. Ibid. pg. 31.

July 18, 2016

God’s Plan for My Life: What is It?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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God Has a Plan

Today we pay a return visit to Scott McCown’s site, The Morning Drive. I looked over several items there; seeing some great themes that we could consider. But I had to choose, so I picked this one from late June. Click the title below to read it on his blog. (The graphic above was not part of the original article.)

How to Know God’s Plan

  • If God leads me to it He will lead me through it.
  • If this is God’s will, then I will endure.
  • I guess this was in God’s plan for me.
  • I don’t know why God planned for me to go through this.
  • God must has more for you to do, that is why you survived.
  • They finished what God planned for them to do, so He took them home.

I hear these and similar phrases more and more each day. “How can I know what God wants me to do in my life?”

I know these are people of faith, that are sincerely wanting to do God’s will. After all Paul tells us, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17). I do not want to be foolish in God’s eyes, so I need to know his plan for me!

What is God’s plan?

I want to share a few verses and some advice that will help you determine God’s plan for you. What I will share is what you can use to determine what you should be doing and what you should do in the future.

Jesus gives the answer, “And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31).

Love God with all that you are.

Love your neighbor with the same intensity that you love yourself.

What does God have planned?

  • He did not and does not plan the day of your death – He may know when that will be, but He did not set the date.
  • God did not plan for you or your loved one to battle that disease or disaster. Those things simply are a part of a physical world. He is there to carry you through to healing, recovery, or on eternity.
  • God does not have written down what job you should have to please Him, nor did he pre-plan your soul-mate you should marry.
  • He did not make you straight or LGTB.

You and I choose our life’s direction based on both our heredity and environment and must discern our the choices we face and make the choice we find consistent with the Word of God and how we should live as God’s children.

What God wants is for us to do? “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

That is God’s plan!

July 17, 2016

Who are the children of God?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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Children of God•••by Russell Young

Many esteem themselves to be children of God.  Being such allows a person right to all of the privileges that belong to a son, including the inheritance that God has provided for his children.  Paul wrote: “You are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed (put on as sinking into a garment) yourself with Christ.” (Gal 3:26-27, NIV) This passage identifies that “marking” by the Spirit of the one who has made a confession of faith.  Since they have been baptized through confession and through water, they have been clothed with Christ through his Spirit. The redeemed person must remain clothed with Christ, however. (Jn 15:4, 5, 7, 10)

John has identified a son in a different way. “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn 3:10, NIV) John has made a distinction between those who are children of God and those who are children of the devil.  This distinction is presented as being based upon a person’s doing.  According to John the person who is a child of God must do what is right.  Many make the claim that they are a child of God because of a confession that they had once made.  The distinction between ‘doing right’ and ‘confessing faith’ needs to be made clear.

The believer becomes a child of God through faith-persuasion that God exists and is able to reward those who diligently seek him-but his faith may not last.  The Lord requires faith expressed through obedience to him (Heb 5:9) to the end (Mt 10:22), and stated that the Father would cut out those who do not bear fruit. (John 15:1) A son does the will of the Father and is obedient to Christ throughout his lifetime.

The Lord taught, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:34-35, NIV) The son does not sin.  He will honour the Father’s provision to gain victory over it through obedience to the Spirit.  In another place Paul, who had recorded that sonship was achieved by faith, stated, “For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:13-14, NIV)

The sonship achieved through the marking of the Spirit must be proven through the believer’s walk if his or her state is to become permanent and if he or she is to be adopted as his child, a position for which they are waiting (Rom 8:23).  Paul has recognized the distress that God’s children (and all of creation) feel in this world as they wait for their adoption to be realized.

A person’s walk in the Spirit identifies him or her as a child of God. They have learned to walk as Jesus did (1 Jn 2:6), and they have been conformed to his likeness (Rom 8:29).  They have the characteristics of the parent, the Father. Paul has written, “For of this you can be sure:  No immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Further, he has listed that neither fornicators, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, the covetous, etc. will inherit the kingdom. ” (1 Cor 6:9-10) Those who practice such are not sons but are slaves to sin because he has provided all that is necessary to avoid it; their place in the family will not be permanent. “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin.” (1 Jn 5:18, NIV)

In his revelation the Lord said, “He who overcomes will inherit all of this (the New Jerusalem), and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev 21:7, NIV) It is the one who prevails over sin or who gets the victory who will be a child of God.

Who are the children of God?  They are the ones who have humbled themselves before God and have accepted the lordship of Christ in their lives.  They have obeyed him and have overcome the world and the evil one, and have been conformed to the likeness of Christ.  Their practice has been to live righteously and to defeat evil through the power of the Spirit.  Their old self has had to be put to death so that Christ has become their life.

The believer is not to be cavalier about the honour of sonship offered him or her but must be prepared to work it out with fear and trembling. The plan of God is to have a royal priesthood, a holy kingdom, children who have become a fit sacrifice for his presence (Rom 15:16).    Those who have given in to the sinful nature will not be adopted as his children and will be separated from him forever. (Mt 13:41)

 

July 16, 2016

The Faith Among You

EphesusToday we pay another visit to Charlie Garret at The Superior Word blog. This time as we catch up with him, he is working his way through Ephesians; there are a large number of articles which precede this one, and no doubt several to follow in this particular series. Click the title below to read at source and then navigate the site to read more commentary. (We had a hard time choosing which one to feature today.)

Ephesians 1:15

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, Ephesians 1:15

Paul’s wording here is very close to the wording of Colossians 1:4. It is known that Paul had visited Ephesus and that he had not visited Colossae. For this reason, some look at this letter as not being written exclusively to the saints at Ephesus. However, he uses similar terminology in Philemon 1:5 also, and so the address solely to the Ephesians is not necessarily to be considered a later addition, nor is this a reason to dismiss this letter as a forgery.

“Therefore” is based on verse 13 which concerns their having “heard the word of truth” and then “having believed.” Based on this, they were “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Because of these things, he says, “I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints…” He will state in the next verse what the result of these things are. For now, it is sufficient to concentrate on the words at hand.

“After I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus” are the words scholars lean on to state that the address “to the saints who are in Ephesus” is a later addition. As Paul had been there and personally seen the faith of those in Ephesus, the logic is that there would be no point in stating this. But as was seen above, he uses the same terminology in Philemon. Instead, this is speaking of their faith which obviously continued to grow, both in number and in maturity. Paul had not been to Ephesus for some time. When hearing of their status, his words of elation make complete sense.

The words translated here as “your faith” are literally, “the faith among you.” It is the only time he uses this phase, and it therefore lends credence to the thought that this letter was actually addressed to the Ephesians. As he has been gone, and as “the faith among” them had expanded, it is natural to think that he would have heard of it after it occurred. He is pleased to have learned of the state of the Ephesian church.

The words, “in the Lord Jesus” do not give the same idea as “towards the Lord Jesus.” Faith towards Jesus is centered on Jesus; whereas, faith “in the Lord Jesus” embodies much more. It signifies a faith which acknowledges God’s work, in Christ, and thus it is a faith which includes the plan of God the Father as well as the work of the Spirit. Each of these have already been noted in his opening words (e.g. see verses 3 & 13).

Paul is especially elated to hear of both this faith as well as their “love for all the saints.” This is an evidence of their faith in Christ. It is the expression of that faith being worked out among those who are also “in Christ.” It is the mutual respect that all believers should have, but which is sorely lacking among the redeemed in today’s world. Doctrinal differences lead to immense divides in the church. Among the Ephesians, such problems may have existed, but their love remained strong towards all believers. It was, therefore, of exceptional note.

Life application: With the Bible written, we have our source of doctrine for proper Christian conduct and belief. Because of this, divisions within the faith are certainly more pronounced. When a congregation practices something which clearly violates Scripture, it is rather hard to continue to show them fraternal love. They are demonstrating disregard for the word, and thus for God who gave the word. It will be good when Christ returns and sorts out our many differences, both petty and great.

Lord God, You ask us to demonstrate love towards all, especially those who are of the household of faith. But it sure can be hard when they refuse to heed Your word. It can be even more difficult when their doctrine isn’t in accord with Your word. Such willful disobedience to the precepts You have laid down shows a lack of care for You who gave that same word. It will be marvelous when You come back for us and sort us out. May that day be soon. Until then, give us hearts to love others, knowing that we too are not perfect in our faith and practice. Amen.

 

 

July 15, 2016

The Rain of God

Holy Spirit Rain DownThis week we’ve been revisiting devotional blogs from last summer. This one is from Prayerful Pondering by Pat Luffman Rowland. Click the title below to read at source.

Thinking on the Rain

Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it” Isaiah 45:6 (NKJV).

_____

A grey cloud hovers overhead. It is the promise of drink for dry ground and the uplifted faces of blooming things; the promise of water enough for birds to bathe in a forsaken fount. The grey cloud covers the sun and provides shade and a cooler day for man and animal alike.

Thunder grumbles and the rain comes, spreading its kindness over the day’s needs. The earth smells fresh and colors deepen as flowers and grass are clad with glistening drops of rain. The world seems to slow a bit and I can’t hold back a smile, for I love a rainy day!

It occurs to me that the simplest things color my life with happiness. Watching showers march upon the ground and sidewalks, seeing a bird wash insects from his wings in a new pool of water. Pondering the buds of roses about to break forth into full bloom and how their deep drink of rain will lend a hand to the process.

I think of how rain promenades on ponds, lakes, rivers, and even the sea. The larger the body of water, the more mystical a rain appears in its stroll. What sight is grander than the downpour of heaven joining waters of the yawning deep? What vision sweeter than blooming things with lifted faces catching a morning shower? What image more right than birds making use of a shallow basin with its fill of afternoon rains?

Lord, I long to linger in the splendor of how you’ve made things, to think on the beauty of nature without man’s interference. Where could I go and pay a price for something as wondrous as this? You give so generously of all you have fashioned; let me not miss it. It is a demonstration and continuing promise of Your love. I bow to you with grateful heart.

“For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God”(Hebrews 6:7 NKJV).


We’ve covered rain before at C201, check out this 2013 excerpt from Charles Spurgeon, Parallels Between Grace and Rain.


A few days ago we ran a post from ThinkTheology.org and days later, I continued tracking with them. Here is the next post in the series on Peter’s confession: The Revelation of the Messiah (and What it Truly Means to be His Follower).


We don’t always make it back to every site visited the year before. If you have a particular verse you’d like to examine close up, consider Bible Exposition Commentary by Dr. Grant C. Richison. Choose a book of the Bible from the menu in the top right — it’s mostly NT books covered — and then it will prompt you to go to a particular voice.

July 14, 2016

Past Tense, Future Victory

We return today to a multiple-writer site we visited last July, Inspire A Fire. The writer for this one is April Dawn White. You can click the title below to read this, with pictures, at source.

Victory Perspective

The invisible battle of trust, is the biggest battle I face.

When I find myself wondering in my wandering, I return to these stories of God’s faithfulness. I can trust God has already won the battle on my behalf.

I love how God uses past tense grammar to describe a current or future victory.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Joshua and Jericho

See I have delivered Jericho into your hands.” (Joshua 6:2, NIV)

Joshua stands before a small city fortified with tall walls. Assessing the giant walls, God said, “See I have delivered Jericho into your hands.” I wish I could see the look on Joshua’s face at that moment. Queue the climatic music. Staring up at the walls, did he have a look of skepticism or determination? Before God offers an unusual battle plan, He assured Joshua, “I have delivered” this city into your hands.

Joshua entered into battle from the stance of victory.

Moses’ Commission

See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Exodus 23:20-31 (NIV)

Moses led a million march–a motley crew of former slaves, out of Egypt through the Red Sea towards freedom. God in is mighty way parted the Red Sea and the people marched right through toward freedom. Before the split, God assured Moses, “I am sending an angel ahead of you…to a place I have prepared.”

With Pharaoh and the entire Egyptian army closing in behind, Moses walked in a stance of victory on dry ground as he crossed the Red Sea.

Gideon’s Call

Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” (Judges 7:15, NIV)

A chapter before, the Lord finds Gideon hiding from the enemy. Now God has called him to fight. Before God issues an unusual battle plan (by the way, most of God’s battle strategies are unusual) He assures Gideon, “The Lord has given” the enemy into your hands.

Gideon enters into battle from a stance of victory.

We can learn from Joshua, Moses, and Gideon. These men faced insurmountable circumstances, yet they entered into battle from a stance of victory.

Before God issues an unusual battle plan, for our lives we can rest assure He has already prepared our future and delivered the victory.

What battle are you facing?  The victory is already yours. Go get it.


A song which fits this theme well is one we haven’t previously featured here. Enjoy “The Battle Belongs to The Lord” by the band Petra.

July 13, 2016

What Jesus Really Meant about the Perpetuation of the Poverty Class

Jesus on Poverty

Okay, maybe the article in its original form had a clearer title! This one came recommended to us, the author is Craig Greenfield, founder and director of Alongsiders International and author of Subversive Jesus (Zondervan). To read at source, click the title:

What did Jesus really mean when he said, “The poor you will always have with you”?

Poverty can never be overcome right? It’s a problem that simply can’t be solved.

After all, Jesus said, “The poor you will ALWAYS have with you.”

It’s right there in Scripture. John chapter 12. Verse 8.

So don’t get too worried about tackling poverty and injustice sonny-boy. It’s a losing battle. Tone down your revolutionary rhetoric and give up the fight.

Right?

Perhaps like me, you have experienced that metaphorical pat on the head. This verse is often used as an attempt to take the wind out of all the rest of Jesus’ commands to work for justice and to love mercy.

Well, bollocks.

I reckon Jesus actually meant the OPPOSITE of what we usually take him to mean here. It seems to me that Jesus was actually advocating generosity and action to eradicate poverty, rather than hands-up-in-the-air, shoulder-shrugging apathy.

Here’s my reasoning.

You know how some catch-phrases are just so well known, that everyone knows the ending – you don’t even really need to say it?

“Sticks and stones.”

Everyone already knows the ending, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Just saying Sticks and Stones is enough for you to catch my drift.

It just so happens that in saying “The poor you will always have with you,” Jesus was quoting another well-known Biblical phrase – from a well-known passage of the Jewish Torah. Everyone hearing him back then would have caught his drift. Here’s the full original quote:

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be…For the poor you will always have with you in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (Deut 15:7-11)

So, reading Jesus’ words in their original context you can see that His words were meant to spur generosity towards the poor. “Open wide your hand!” The command to be open-handed towards the poor comes directly from Yahweh himself.

Not apathy and tight-fistedness as we use these words to mean today.

The next time someone says, “The poor you will always have with you…” Be sure to complete the sentence: “Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”

The second thing to note about this story is that Jesus says these words to rebuke Judas who was scornful towards a woman for pouring out her perfume on Jesus:

He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:6)

So, when we use Jesus’ words to justify not caring about the poor, we are actually repeating the very sin of Judas himself, who was robbing the poor.

Of course, this posture of generosity and open-handedness lines up much more consistently with the rest of Jesus’ life and teachings, starting with the revolutionary song sung by Mary while Jesus was still in the womb:

“He has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:53)

You can see Jesus fulfilling this prophecy in the feeding of the 5000. The same word from Mary’s Sing, “filled”, is found in John 6:12, where we hear that that motley crowd all ate and were “filled”…

The need of 5000 hungry people was met in that place and time because one little boy was willing to be “open-handed” towards the poor and needy.

Later, after Jesus’ death, the early believers also took these teachings on open-handedness seriously:

And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were NO needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (Acts 4:34-35)

There were no needy persons among them! Poverty was eradicated in their midst. That was the natural outcome of taking Jesus’ teachings seriously.

Jesus’ upside-down Kingdom is coming. He calls us to be part of it. The poor are going to be lifted up. The hungry are going to be fed. Your call and my call is to be open-handed.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get on with it!


July 12, 2016

Jesus to the Blind Man: Did that Work?

Mark 8:22ESV And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

Despite the familiarity of the story, I’d never thought about the idea that Jesus asks the blind man if it worked. It’s almost an “Are we there yet?” type of question, especially given this is a two-step healing process. Brad Blocksom writes at Think Theology and is part of the Vineyard denomination. Click the title below to read this at source.

img 071216Blind Eyes Opened! (In More Ways than One)

They land on the Northern shore of the Galilee at Bethsaida (v. 22). Similar to the previous healing of the deaf man, Jesus takes the blind man away from the crowds (out of the village), again perhaps to establish communication with this outcast from society (but Lane is not so sure). Again similar to the deaf man, Jesus establishes contact and enters into the world of this disabled man through the seemingly (to us) application of saliva to his eyes (he couldn’t see but he could feel what Jesus was doing). Then He does something without parallel in the gospels, though popular with us folks in the Vineyard movement: He asks, ‘So, did it work? Did anything happen?’ (v. 23).

Now I want to go on record as not speaking exegetically here, but there is something freeing about asking this question after praying for a person for healing: How do you feel? Is anything different? There is also great risk involved. In my previous experience in Pentecostalism you just didn’t ask this question. For one thing that would be to doubt and doubt is bad! The fact is that if they answer, “nothing” then you have to deal with that thorny ‘what if they don’t get healed’ issue. This is where a good solid “already, but not yet” tension in our theology of the kingdom of God (applied to healing) can be so helpful. As Steve Nicholson says: ‘we need a theology of failure’ and ‘never embellish the story.’ In my mind it kinda takes the pressure off me, ’cause ultimately its God (whose reputation is no the line, not mine) who needs to come though here.

OK, sorry about that experiential excursus… and now back to our text! And so the man responds, ‘well, I can see, but not so good’ (i.e. not quite 100%). The man’s description of his partially restored condition would seem to indicate that he has had some previous experience with sight (“people… like trees, walking” – v. 24). And again Jesus does something unprecedented, He lays hands on the man again!

Again this is something we like to do in the Vineyard: if there seems to be a partial healing taking place, we keep at it (keep praying)!

The text is pretty clear that now the healing is a complete restoration of his sight (v. 25)!

The parallels with the previous healing of the deaf man are strong and both infirmities are mentioned (blindness and deafness/mute) in Is. 35:5-6. But the immediate context is Jesus declaration of the disciples’ hard hearts and ‘eyes that do not see, and ears that do not hear’ (Mk. 8:17-18).

But His blind followers are about to see! Exactly who Jesus really is, is about to be revealed (Mk. 8:27-30). And the glory of the Christ – the Son of God – will be seen (Mark 9:2-13). But the road ahead for a disciple is paved with suffering, and at the end of the road (Jerusalem) they will witness the death of their Messiah (Mark 8:31-38)!

It’s easy for us current day followers of Jesus to pass judgment on the 12 – “How can you guyz miss this!” Who hasn’t heard (or said them self): “Oh, if only I could have been there to see the miracles of Jesus, to walk with Him, to have talked with Him.” But it would seem that given human nature, once the first wave of suffering or persecution comes, our faith can begin to falter. The nation of Israel had only recently risen out of the “valley” of the Red Sea crossing when they first “grumbled against Moses” about the bitter waters at Marah (Ex. 15:22-24).

Are you ready for the journey to Jerusalem? Am I ready to see the glory of God, but uninterested in drinking the “bitter waters” of suffering as a disciple of Jesus. What has been some of your experiences of “trusting God no matter what” (i.e. through difficult circumstances). I know one of the things that I have been struggling with lately is the fact that I basically want my nice middle class life to be trouble free and filled with all the comforts of home. And yet I claim to follow a Messiah who was destined to suffer, die and rise again (v. 31). And He invites me to come after Him, take up my cross and follow Him to Jerusalem, and in so doing find life (v. 34-35)?!? Are you ready? Will you join us, join the Twelve, on our continuing journey:

“come, follow me” – Jesus (Mk. 10:21)

 

 

July 11, 2016

Saved Believers Persevere to the End

Hebrews 3 12-14

Today we’re paying a return visit to Bob Dellinger’s Bible in a Year Blog where this appeared a few months ago. As always, click the title to read at source.

Firm to the end

Just as there are two sides to every coin, so there are two sides to the doctrine of the security of the believer. On the one side we see boldly imprinted the hands of Jesus, who has promised that no one may snatch away those whom the Father has given him. But there is a flip side, and on the reverse of the coin another image stands out: the persevering believer. Both of these images are true, and both are necessary. There can be no security without Jesus, and there can be no salvation without perseverance in the faith.

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. Hebrews 3:12-14

Look at the dangers the writer of Hebrews describes. There is the unbelieving heart that causes one to fall away from the living God. There is the deceitfulness of sin that hardens some against God. There is the loss of original confidence that leads to the loss of our sharing in Christ. Are these dangers only a threat to unbelievers? The writer of Hebrews is speaking to the community of believers when he proclaims this warning, and therefore I think it is meant for the church. The exhortation is clear: persevere.

My point is not to deny the promise of Jesus that no one may snatch believers from his hand. But I want to stress the equally important flip side of that truth. Saved believers persevere to the end. If we do not finish the race, we will not gain the prize. We can argue about how we are able to persevere, and whether failure is an option, but there can be no disagreement that keeping our faith to the end is a prerequisite for salvation.

Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope, so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance. Hebrews 6:11-12

Look at the qualities that Hebrews uses to describe the life of the believer: diligence, faith, perseverance. We don’t obtain the promise by being lazy, but by the hard work of imitating those who have remained faithful to the end. Jesus assures us that our work will be successful, but it is work nonetheless. Is it only man’s work? Am I teaching a doctrine of salvation by works? No, not at all. It was God’s grace that opened the door to our salvation. It was the Holy Spirit that convicted us of sin, and the blood of Jesus that covered our sin. It was God’s mercy that kept death at bay until we confessed, and the Spirit’s power that enables us to resist sin. I cannot persevere without God’s help, but I must persevere by God’s help to the very end in order to enter the narrow door to salvation.

God has designed his church so that its members endure to the end in faith by means of giving and receiving faith-sustaining words from each other. You and I are the instruments by which God preserves the faith of his children. Perseverance is a community project. Just like God is not going to evangelize the world without human, faith-awakening voices, neither is he going to preserve his church without human faith-sustaining voices. And clearly from the words, “exhort one another” (verse 13), it means all of us, not just preachers. We depend on each other to endure in faith to the end.  ~ John Piper


Today’s graphic is from a six-minute video teaching on this passage from John Piper, who is coincidentally quoted at the end of Bob’s article. Click this link to watch. As a further bonus, you get to see the inductive study method at work, as the markings in the image indicate.

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