Christianity 201

September 22, 2018

Compromise will Destroy a Cause

Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.
 -2 John: 9 NLT

This is our fourth time at the excellent online resource, Start2Finish.org which includes various blogs, podcasts and Bible study materials materials available on everything from a phone app to print. Today’s writer is Billy Alexander. (Be sure to click the links to read the referenced scriptures in full.) Click the title below to read at source.

Misery Compromise

“For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth (2 Peter 1:12).’”

In the early years of this nation a group of Quakers formed what they called “The Society of Friends” who pledged to “disown any member who owned, bought or sold a slave.”1 But the Friends went even further and called for a boycott of any goods that had been produced by slave labor. By 1804 the society was defunct and a former member attributed their demise to allowing slaveholders to join. Their compromise killed their cause.

Such killer compromises are not uncommon to any group. Many conservative political groups cite O’Sullivan’s law which states that institution that is not explicitly right wing will become left wing in time. Many Ivy League schools, such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale began with the conviction that there is no true knowledge or wisdom apart from Jesus are now hostile to campus groups that maintain their institutions original charters. Just consider the devolution of the Boy Scouts political compromises over the last two decades to see how quickly such long standing organizations can lose their objective and be transformed by others who do not share their purposes.

Of course, such killer compromises are not unknown to God’s people. The nation of Judah was led by the godly king Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:3-4) while their northern kindred had grown apostate and were ruled by the wicked king Ahab (1 Kings 21:25). Through the marriage of their children the two kings became allies (2 Kings 8:17-18, 2 Chronicles 18:1). For this reason, Jehu the prophet of God upbraided Jehoshaphat, saying, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Therefore the wrath of the LORD is upon you (2 Chronicles 19:2).” Not only did this daughter of Ahab corrupt Jehoshaphat’s son, the entire nation suffered and she murdered all but one of Jehoshaphat’s heirs (2 Kings 11:1-2). Jehoshaphat’s agreement to serve with the idolatrous King Ahab was literally a killer compromise that nearly ruined his nation and almost eradicated his royal line.

After returning from captivity a remnant of Jews returned to Jerusalem to being to rebuild city’s walls and temple. Having been persecuted strongly in their efforts a group of Samaritans approached them and asked to assist them, asserting that they served the same God (Ezra 4:1-4). On the surface this seems like a harmless request but Zerubbabel knew that the Samaritans worship of Jehovah had been corrupted by the introduction of idols so he refused allow them to collaborate in the Jewish mission to rebuild the city and her temple. As the governor of the people he stayed on mission and rejected their offer of a killer compromise.

More than anytime, time since perhaps her infancy, the church is being pressed to compromise with this world on many fronts and some are all too eager to bend to these pressures. Whether it be in organization, worship, or doctrine Christians are being tempted to make killer compromises with the world’s ways. As Paul would ask, “What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:15)?

Unfortunately, doctrine is becoming a dirty word among some Christians but it should not be. Biblical instruction acts as an inoculation against the deadly compromises with the world (Romans 12:2). Doctrine is as much a part of church’s charter in the Great Commission as making disciples and baptizing them (Matthew 28:18-20). Christ’s teachings cannot be compromised (2 John 9). Teaching these critical truths to the church in new effective ways is not in itself compromise and it essential if we are to truly remain the “called out.”

But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).”


1Crothers, A. G. 2005. “Quaker Merchants and Slavery in Early National Alexandria, Virginia: The Ordeal of William Hartshorne.” Journal of the Early Republic 25: 47-77. http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/docview/220964217?accountid=3783.



Unrelated: Would you be able to explain to someone what the fish symbol with the Greek letters (often seen on the back of cars) actually means? A few days ago at our parent blog, Thinking Out Loud, we took a few minutes to review the meaning of the ickthus or ickthys.

August 20, 2018

“They Were Never Saved to Being With”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Again, we’re back at the website BibleKnowledge.com and a look at an interpretation of scripture which is quite common. This article has a long continuation with an examination of several other passages. I encourage you to read the first part here at least, to get you thinking, but you might want to start instead by clicking the title below and then you’ll at least have the remaining parts on your screen to, at the very least, skim over.

“Never Saved”: How Christians misuse Matthew 7:21-23

by Deidre Richardson

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you;depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Matthew 7:21-23 is a passage used by Christians to refer to those they believe “were never saved to begin with,” the phrase goes. According to the passage above, there are those who call Jesus “Lord, Lord” (v.21), “prophesied” (v.22), “cast out demons” (v.22), and “done many wonders” (v.22), but are not known by the Lord. In the end, the Lord will say “I never knew you.” The words of Matthew 7:21-23, as spoken by our Lord, seem difficult to believe. How could those the Lord “never knew” prophesy, cast out demons, and do many wonders “in His name”? According to Jesus in the verses above, these individuals believed they were saved and called Jesus “Lord,” but they did not live out their faith. Jesus would agree with James when the half-brother of Jesus says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14, 20, 26).

We can understand that it’s not enough to say “I believe in Jesus”; we must also live in accordance with what we believe. There must be a trail of good works that characterize our lives in Christ. After all, believers do have the Holy Spirit, who not only sanctifies them but enables them to bear “the fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22). And yet, it is not right that we use Matthew 7:21-23 to describe everyone who doesn’t endure until the end in faith. Jesus is talking about those He “never knew,” which means that these individuals “never” did anything to show the world they were saved. They never had any good works to speak of that pointed others to Jesus. They never lived the life they claimed they experienced. They were saved “in name only,” to use a phrase with which we’re all familiar.

And yet, there are other Christians who aren’t saved in the end for other reasons. Not every condemned person who isn’t saved is lost in the end because they called Jesus “Lord” and lived like hypocrites. Some former believers were real about their faith; when they depart from the faith, they do so for other reasons — perhaps an unanswered prayer, a sin struggle that they pray God removes, yet He doesn’t, and so on. And there are those that the Lord “knows” for a while, and then they leave due to something such as persecution they endure as a Christian. Some folks do not want the persecution that Jesus says comes with being a follower of Christ. There are other reasons for why Christians depart from the faith, but in the case of Matthew 7:21-23, those who call Jesus “Lord” are those who don’t do what God commands. Remember what Jesus says about those who follow after Him?

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26, NKJV)

Those who follow Jesus must “deny Himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Those the Lord says He “never knew,” those Jesus calls “workers of iniquity,” are those that were never saved. They never had a relationship with the Lord because they never denied themselves, never took up their cross, never followed Christ. They only claimed to know Christ. And the most interesting part of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 is that these individuals prophesied, cast out demons, and did other wonderful works in Jesus’ name. They did works consistent with someone who has the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in their lives. And yet, despite all their spiritual giftedness, and the work of the Spirit in prophecy, demon possession, and other works, these individuals were never saved.

When it comes to exegesis, one cannot just take one passage and run with a theological position; he or she must examine Scripture as a whole to determine if one verse is being placed above the rest of Scripture (if Scripture opposes the verse) or if one verse of Scripture is being sidelined because of the remainder of Scripture (is the verse a particular option or for a particular person or group?). Are there exceptional cases in Scripture that are not normative for faith and practice? Scriptural interpretation is not as easy as we often make it out to be.

When it comes to Matthew 7:21-23, the same can be said. We have taken these three verses and plastered them on every particular case where a person falls away from Jesus or departs from the faith. Not everyone who falls away was a “fake believer” who was only masquerading as a Christian.

Matthew 7:21-23 points to those who were never saved, but there are a ton of verses within Matthew’s own gospel that point to the contrary: that is, those who fall away were genuinely saved. To this end, we’ll approach the New Testament to determine what verses out there clash with Matthew 7:21-23. The purpose of this exercise is not to show that the traditional Christian interpretation of Matthew 7:21-23 is wrong per se, but to make the case that we can’t take these three verses and chalk every apostasy case up to “they were never saved to begin with.” We’ll place Matthew 7:21-23 alongside these verses to show that they are talking about different situations, not the same ones. Christians have misused Matthew 7:21-23, but we need to know how we’ve misused the passage…

…don’t stop; if you want to gain a deeper understanding on this, keep going at this link!

(passages examined in the continuation include the parables of the sower and soils, the wise and foolish virgins, the wheat and the tares, Jesus saying ‘I did not know you,” and several other selections)

February 17, 2017

Dead Churches, Like Sardis

by Clarke Dixon

Dead and dying churches. They are everywhere in our nation along with opinions as to why and what to do. A lack of vision. Failure to keep up with the times in music. Too much politicking. Boring services and coma-inducing sermons. A changing culture that could care less. These are some of the reasons people give for the death of churches, with no shortage of advice on staying alive. Perhaps now is a good time to read this letter from Jesus to a dead church:

 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:
“I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. 3 Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. 4 Yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. 6 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.  Revelation 3:1-6 (NRSV emphasis mine)

Is there anything here that can help our dying churches in Canada? Jesus gives them six imperatives:

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. Revelation 3:2-3a (emphasis mine)

Let us take a look at each.

Wake up!

To wake up is to leave dreamland and dwell again in the real world. It is to give up appearances and get back to reality. The church at Sardis appeared to be alive, but needed to grasp the reality that in God’s eyes they were quite dead. Every church needs to pinch itself from time to time to ensure it is awake and has a good grasp on reality.

The original language behind “wake up” is more literally “become watching” (Young’s Literal Translation). We are reminded of Jesus’ teaching:

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. (Lk. 12:35-36 NRS)

Churches, more than any other group of people on earth, should live in such a manner that the return of Jesus tonight would cause rejoicing and not embarrassment or regret. Sadly, many churches in our nation do not even think Jesus is returning.

Strengthen what remains and is on the point of death!

What remains, yet could disappear? A community of people gathered around a cause. Let us consider another time Jesus spoke of the potential for death:

John 15:5-6 (NRSV) I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

To strengthen what remains, the Christian community needs to gather, not just around a cause, but around a person, the Person, Jesus Christ.

Remember then what you received and heard!

What was received and heard, that is now forgotten? Consider the following example:

13 We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. (1 Thess. 2:13 emphasis mine)

The Christians in Sardis are to remember the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is the message of reconciliation with God. It is the truth that such reconciliation is made possible by the grace of God through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Is it possible for a Christian community to forget the Gospel? Here are three ways the Gospel is forgotten among the churches of our nation.

  1. The Good News is forgotten where the reality of the supernatural is denied.
  2. The Good News is forgotten where confidence wanes in what the Bible teaches about Jesus.
  3. The Good News is forgotten where sentimentality becomes an idol.

This last one perhaps needs more explanation. Suppose you had to make a choice between a) having your church just as it is, with the building and the weekly services, but no possibility of anyone coming to Jesus through its ministry, and, b) a person coming to Jesus through the ministry of your church, but you must lose your building and the way you do things. What would you choose? If you chose option a, sentimentality may have become an idol. It can and does happen that the message of the church is seen of less importance than the institution of the church. Such churches need to “remember then what you received and heard.”

Obey it!

The word “obey” has the connotation of the mere keeping of rules. However the word in Greek is much more nuanced than that. Some of the definitions include: “keep in view, watch over, guard, keep, preserve, maintain, protect, observe.” Here is encouragement to keep, guard, and maintain the Gospel teaching. This is more than just keeping the right doctrinal teaching, for the Good News of Jesus Christ is not just good news. It is life changing good News. When we grasp the Good News fully, we will find ourselves grasped fully. Yes, churches are for sinners like you and me, and should be places where we can be transparent about our struggles. Yet, the Church is the people who live by the Holy Spirit. The statistics should reflect that people are bearing the fruit of the Spirit. If things look no different between the church and society, then chances are good that the church is dead. There is a need to guard the Gospel, not just in the sense of being able to recite a catechism, but in being changed people, a people who reflect the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Repent!

To “repent” means to have a “change of mind.” The church in Sardis is told to repent, to have a change of mind about what is important. In our day, there are many voices calling for churches to change. Change the music, change the morality, change the doctrines, change the traditions, change the preaching, change the preacher. Some churches try to change nothing. Many churches try to change everything. The change that really matters is the kind of change Jesus calls a dead church to make; a call to change the mind, to repent and focus on the life changing Good News of Jesus Christ. 

There may be many reasons that churches die. But there is one reason that is inexcusable, one that Jesus speaks to; forgetting the life-changing Good News of Jesus Christ. Neglecting the Gospel is a sure-fire way to kill a church. Does your church need to pinch itself?

(All Scripture references are from the NRSV unless otherwise noted)


Clarke’s articles appear first on his blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

October 11, 2016

The Five Warnings of Hebrews

I noticed these in the NIV Study Bible on the weekend. I figured I was not the first, and found this article at the website JesusWalk.com.  The passages are given a general introduction and then there are links to five additional articles.

The Five Warning Passages of Hebrews

Some of the more difficult and troubling aspects of Hebrews are the sometimes sharply worded warnings to the readers in five separate passages.

On a plain reading they seem to imply the possibility that Christian believers can commit apostasy, that is, fall away from Christ and faith. This, however, hits squarely at one of the noisiest and sometimes bitter debates between Christian factions:

  • Calvinists deny that true Christians can commit apostasy and lose their salvation, stressing the final perseverance of the saints.
  • Arminians agree that true Christians can indeed commit apostasy and lose their salvation, stressing the free will of man.

As I. Howard Marshall suggests, advocates of one position or the other tend to base their doctrine “on philosophical and dogmatic grounds.”* The way forward for us is not to carry on the debate, but to sincerely and humbly consider the warnings in Hebrews — in the context they are given — and then try to form tentative conclusions.

We won’t all agree in our conclusions. Fair-minded, Christ-loving, Spirit-filled believers differ on these matters. Instead of trying to bash the other side, we will pursue humility towards one another, humility as we approach the Letter of Hebrews, and humility before God. In that humility and love, we will grow in our faith and exemplify the love we profess in Christ.

For your benefit, I’ll include each of the shorter passages in the NIV translation here so you can compare them. For discussion, see the appropriate lessons in which they are discussed.

1. Hebrews 2:1-4

1We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

2. Hebrews 4:12-13*

12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

3. Hebrews 6:4-8

4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

7Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.”

4. Hebrews 10:26-31

26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How 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? 30For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

5. Hebrews 12:25-29

25See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain.”

* I. Howard Marshall, Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away (Second Edition; Bethany Fellowship, 1969, 1974), p. 26.

Passage Discussed in
1. Hebrews 2:1-4 Lesson 1
2. Hebrews 4:12-13 Lesson 3
3. Hebrews 6:4-8 Lesson 5
4. Hebrews 10:26-31 Lesson 9
5. Hebrews 12:25-29 Lesson 12

The best book I’ve seen that fairly lays out the main views of these warnings and points out the strengths and weaknesses of each position is Herbert W. Bateman IV (ed.), Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews (Kregel, 2007)


In the NIV Study Bible, the second warning is a broader passage encompassing 3:7 – 4:13 of which I’ve included a few verses below:

Hebrews 3:7-8

So, as the Holy Spirit says:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
    during the time of testing in the wilderness, …”

August 9, 2016

Judah and the Modern Church

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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JudahThis is our second time sharing the writings of Pastor George Belobaba who was in full-time ministry for over sixty years.  Through almost 750 posts, Susan E. Johnson copied the pastor’s writings so they could be preserved on the internet at the blog Scripture Nuggets. Today’s post here is the first part of a two-part article. The link below is to part one, and then you’re directed to part two to read at source.

Judah: The Backslidden Nation

Hosea 14:1-7… Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto Him . . .” (v. 2, KJV).

Hosea wrote about Ephraim, who represented the nation of Israel and her spiritual downfall. He says in Hosea 4:1,6, “There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land . . . My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee” (KJV). Lack of knowledge was destroying the people of God. “Lack of knowledge” refers to forgetting the law of God in word and practice. In our terms it would be not knowing the scriptures or the power of God. God wanted to do mighty things in their midst, but they were backslidden. Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:19-21 that every Christian should have knowledge of the wide range of the love of God, and they should know that it is God who will do above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us. Hosea 4:14 says, “Therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.” This may be the reason why the power of God is absent in today’s churches. The text says, “Bring your confessions, and return to the LORD. Say to him, ‘Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises” (v. 2, NLT). I heard in my spirit the words, “My people do not know how to repent.” Think on it… many do not know how to say, “I am sorry, Lord.”

“Backsliding” means “turning from God, defection, apostasy, without adherence to God or to His word, stubborn, rebellious, bent on sinning, failure to grow in the knowledge of God.”

Hosea exposes the nation’s backsliding… These same signs are in the church today.

Hosea 4:17… Ephraim is joined to idols. In other words, divided loyalties were in his heart. There is danger in incomplete separation. Our nation is full of idolatry. People have made idols of other people, big homes, money, fancy items, big churches, big business, positions, and status, among others.

Hosea 5:3… Ephraim has defiled himself through immoral practices. Proverbs 12:28 says, “In the way of righteousness is life: and in the pathway thereof there is no death” (KJV). Sex is a big business in our nation.

Hosea 5:11… Ephraim, because of oppression, cannot make sound judgments because he willingly did wrong things. How can our leaders make sound decisions when their conscience tells them they are doing wrong? We are no different.

Hosea 5:13… Ephraim went to Assyria for help. Assyria represents taking a step in a wrong direction. The trip did nothing for Ephraim. The United Nations will never be the answer for our nation.

Hosea 7:1… Ephraim’s iniquity made an opening for the enemy to come in so that the enemy could strip him of his wealth.

Hosea 7:8… Ephraim brought mixture into his life. He was cake that was half-baked. Partial holiness is not good enough. The Bible has been compromised. The truths that the nation was founded upon have been watered down. Half-holiness will bring you death, not life.

Hosea 7:9… Ephraim was not aware that strangers were devouring his strength. So also in our nation–people who are alienated from God are bringing much damage. Spiritual deterioration comes in silently.

Hosea 7:11… Ephraim is pictured as a silly dove, i.e., senseless and confused about what direction he should take. God was silent; His counsels are refused.

Hosea 8:11… Ephraim made altars to sin. He was devoted to a false thing. Today, people love their SUVs and their big houses.

Hosea 8:14… Ephraim (Israel) had forgotten his Maker and built temples of false worship. Meanwhile, Judah multiplied its fenced cities and isolated itself behind walls. The church world divides for various reasons. A group splits, leaves a church, and starts their own church, giving it a spiritual sounding name to cover up their act. No splinter group ever calls their new work “We Split Life Center,” or “We Dislike One Man Leadership Fellowship,” or “Legalism Tabernacle.” Judah put up walls of exclusiveness around itself and acted as if they only had God in their midst…

Judah: The Backslidden Nation, Pt. 2

Hosea exposes the nation’s backsliding

Hosea 9:3… Ephraim goes back to Egypt and eats unclean things. In other words, people go back to doing the things that God has delivered them from.

Hosea 9:16… Ephraim is stricken, and not only that, his roots dry up. His fruit (children) are murdered (v. 13) and many others are aborted in the womb. Hosea may have also seen our day and our nation.

Hosea 11:7… Ephraim was bent on backsliding. The word “bent” means “determined.” He still had a love for the Most High, but refused to exalt Him. Most backsliders care about the Lord but they love their evil ways too.

Hosea 12:1… Ephraim feeds on the wind and follows the east wind. The east wind is the doctrine that came from Babylon. “Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves [fruit] of our lips (Hosea 14:2, KJV). Our nation knows that it is doing the same as ungodly societies that are all around them. Very few prophets stand before our politicians and prophesy the word of God.

Hosea 12:8… Ephraim prospers financially because he became crooked in business and said, “I did nothing wrong.” Many giant corporations have fallen because of this same attitude.

The prophets called for Ephraim and Judah to return. The countries were determined to backslide. Yet, God, in Hosea 11:8, says, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim?” (KJV. God says that He chose mercy, because He is God and not a man.

Hosea calls for the nation to return to God

Hosea 14:1… God lays it on the line. “You are fallen and a backslider because of your own iniquity. You have no excuse, you can’t blame others; you made your own decisions.” The nation needs to call sin, sin, and not bad habits or something that you will get over. Our jails are full because of sin. Our medical costs are rising because of sin. Sin without repentance can rob Christians of their power against evil.

Hosea 14:2… God shows His concern. “Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves [fruit] of our lips” (KJV). The Lord wants to help the backslider by giving him the right vocabulary. Often the sinner doesn’t know what to say. Our nation knows that it is doing wrong, and it doesn’t know what to say. Repentance has its own vocabulary. What does God want to hear from the backslider? “Take with you words.” Say to God, “Take away my sin, cleanse me, forgive me.” Hosea is saying, “Acknowledge your sin before God. Ask God to receive you again.” “Take me back, Lord.” Worship vocabulary comes after repentance. The backslider (v. 3) must recognize that the world (Assyria) can’t help him. You don’t repent by coming back on a “show horse”; i.e., making a big thing out of it. Repentance involves humility, remorse, being sorry, and often weeping. You don’t return carrying any good works that you may have done while you were backslidden. You are saved by God’s grace and by God’s mercy, not by your own works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Hosea tells what God will do for the returning nation

Hosea 14:4-9… He heals them, loves them, and removes His anger from them. He refreshes them, He causes new growth, and He strengthens the nation’s roots. God enlarges them, gives them a new fragrance, brings a reviving into their life, brings a revival in their jobs and families, and brings new joys. He removes their desire to serve sin. They receive fresh prophetic direction. They are exhorted and shown that the way of the Lord is right. “You have been restored. Now walk in God’s ways.

December 24, 2013

Joy to the Whirled

Isaiah 26:3
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

In the various themes linked to Christmas, one is “Peace on Earth.”  It originates with the announcement made to the shepherds,

Luke 2:13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

But Jesus never said, ‘I have come to bring peace on earth;’ rather he says something quite the opposite:

Matthew 10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

At the blog Possessing the Treasure, Matt Ratliff writes:

The number one accusation against those who proclaim the truth from God’s Word in the face of apostasy is that they are being divisive. I believe we should seek to have peace with all men, but we must be prepared to encounter conflict with those who refuse to submit to God’s truth. We are never called to be at peace with false teachers or false prophets or apostates. We don’t have to go to war against all of them either (Proverbs 26:4,5). From Jesus’ own teachings we learn that the cost of being His disciple is very high. Grace is free, but becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ costs us everything. We are told that no one is worthy of the Kingdom of God who is in love with this world. We cannot serve God correctly if we love our own life more than Him. We cannot love our families more than Him. We cannot love possessions more than Him. We are called to be the interim or peacemaker between those whom we love and God. We are to be the one God uses to bring them into the Kingdom. However, we are also called to not waiver and turn our backs on God and His ways because pressure is put on us to compromise our walk with God for the sake of peace.

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:49-51 ESV)

Jesus came to cast fire on the earth. This statement by our Lord is speaking of judgment. John the Baptist made the following statement about Jesus Christ.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12 ESV)

John the Baptist used three references to Baptism in this passage. The first was “water for repentance.” This is what John the Baptist’s role was. His baptism symbolized cleansing. It was for those who were being baptized to show their commitment to repentance. The second was “baptize you with the Holy Spirit…” This signified that all genuine believers in our Lord Jesus Christ are Spirit-baptized. They receive the Holy Spirit indwelling them. No one without Him is genuine. The third baptism is with “fire.” This is referring to the baptism of judgment upon all the unrepentant.

Notice also that John tells us that in this our Lord will use His winnowing fork in His hand. What does that mean? This was a tool used for tossing grain into the wind so that the chaff is separated from it and blown away. This is speaking of separating those who have been baptized with the Holy Spirit from those who are to be baptized by fire. The grain signifies genuine disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ while the chaff represents unbelievers. The grain is gathered into barns, but the chaff is burned with a fire that is never quenched.

If we look back at Luke 12:49-51, we see that Jesus deeply desired for this unquenchable fire to be already kindled. He then states that He has a baptism with which he is to be baptized. His baptism was one of suffering. This is referring to his suffering and death on the cross. When a new believer is baptized, the ceremony symbolizes identification with Him in death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus stated that he was in great distress until His baptism in this was completed.

Why was Jesus in distress about going to the cross? Was He afraid of the beatings or the nails in His flesh or death? No, He knew that while on the cross that all of God’s fury and judgment against sin would be poured out on Him. He would endure God’s wrath against our sin.

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother- in- law against her daughter- in- law and daughter- in- law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53 ESV)

Again, our Lord tells us that through His work on the cross there would be two groups of people. One group is made up of His disciples. The other group is everyone else. This “division” will run through families, cities, nations, churches, you name it. No matter where we go in this world, no matter what groups we are part of; those groups will contain some from both divisions. As a result, along with the natural conflict that goes on through the works of sinful men everywhere, there will be a supernatural division between our Lord’s flock and the rest of the world. This division will not be peaceful. It takes many forms. There is outright persecution in some situations. However, some of the worst conflict here comes when non-believers insist on being part of our Lord’s flock on their own merit.

Despite the efforts of those who try to be at peace with apostates, our Lord knows better. He knows who is bound for the fire and who is bound for the barn. However, we do not. That is why we must be very careful whom we accept as a brother in sister in Christ. We do no one any favors if we blindly accept everyone’s testimony without careful observation. If we give people false hope then we have done more harm than good.

What about families divided by the cross? I know that many reading this have loved ones that believe they are Christians because of their works, or what church they belong to, et cetera. What are we to do? We must never stop being peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9) We pray for them continually. We witness to them every chance we get. When war breaks out over the division we always seek to leave a door open in which to do our peace work.

What about apostates who demand to be seen as genuine? If you look closely at these people, you will see that they have made up their own version of Christianity that is self-focused and temporal in nature. That is rampant in our time. We must never allow anyone to proclaim a false version of the Gospel to be proclaimed as genuine. We must never allow anyone to twist our Lord’s words or the Bible’s words to make them say what they do not say. How are we to confront them? We must do so only from the basis of truth from God’s Word. That is why I do not allow debate on this blog unless all arguments are based in scripture. Personal and Straw Man attacks are not allowed. Instead, we use God’s Word to simply proclaim the truth. If any change is to be made in these people it will only come through the working of the Holy Spirit in them, not by our arguing.

November 13, 2011

A Modern 95 Theses

As of last week, this has been available online for a year.  Just as Martin Luther posted his ‘memo’ with 95 ‘bullet points’ to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg, so also did Greg Gordon offer this to the church today.  Internet etiquette requires you to click the title link below to read it on the original site, but since some won’t, it’s also appears here in full.

95 THESES TO THE MODERN EVANGELICAL CHURCH by Greg Gordon

I believe many need to hear these truths and they are shared in the humility of my weakness and lack in my own Christian Life. May all of these lead people to experience the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and to proclaim His Gospel clearly and accurately. May God in His mercy come and revive, reform and renew North American Christianity for His glory alone. “May the Lamb of God receive the reward of His sufferings in our lives today!”  – Greg Gordon (founder of SermonIndex.net / Twitter @sermonindex)

1. The “church” at large has forgotten that the chief end of man is to glorify God. (Rom 16:27; 1Cor 6:20; Mt 6:9; 1Cor 10:31)

2. Christians ignore most of the methods, practices and principles found in the book of Acts. (Acts 2:42,44; Acts 2:46; Acts 2:38)

3. Many treat “church” like any other social club or sports event that they might attend. (Acts 2:46; Heb 10:25; Acts 1:14)

4. We’ve made Christianity about the individual rather than the community of believers. (Rom 12:5; 1Cor 12:12; 2Tim 4:16)

5. In most “churches” the priesthood of all believers isn’t acknowledged and the role of pastor is abused. (1Pt 2:9; 1Cor 12:12; Eph 4:11-13)

6. The “church” as a whole has lost the concept of their being grafted into the promises given to Israel. (Rom 11:15, 17-18, 20, 25)

7. There needs to be a recovery of teaching the whole counsel of God, especially in expository form. (Acts 20:27; 1Tim 4:6, 2Tim 2:15)

8. We take it too lightly that we have the blessing and honor of having God’s Scriptures in our possession. (Ps 119:16; Acts 13:44; Neh 8:9)

9. There has never been more access to the Word of God, yet so little reading of it. (1Tim 4:13; Neh 8:1-3; Ps 119:59)

10. Some read the Scriptures to attain knowledge, but do not practice what they read. (Jam 1:22; Mt 7:21; 3Jn 4)

11. Worship has become an idol in many “churches.” The music often resembles that of the world. (Amos 5:23; Phil 4:8; 1Jn 5:21)

12. The world is shaping the views of the “church” more than the “church” shaping the world. (Rom 12:2; Mt 5:13; 1Cor 1:22-23)

13. The “church” spends more money on dog food than on missions. (2Cor 9:6; Lk 21:2; Acts 4:34-35)

14. We take lightly the cost of discipleship laid out by Jesus Christ and do not deny our lives. (Lk 14:33; Lk 14:26-27; Mt 8:19-20)

15. There is a lack of true discipleship and making others to be obedient disciples. (Mt 28:20; 2Tim 2:2; 2Tim 2:14)

16. Many subscribe to the error that parts of life are to be spiritual while others are to be secular. (1Pt 4:2; Col 3:3; 1Jn 2:6)

17. Modern Christians often find Jesus’ command to sacrifice and serve abhorrent. (Phil 2:21; Jam 3:16; Rom 12:1-2)

18. Self disciplines in the Christian life such as fasting and praying are considered legalistic. (2Tim 2:21; 2Tim 1:8; Mt 6:17)

19. Little thought and contemplation is put towards the lostness of men, the seriousness of the Gospel. (Phil 3:8; Gal 2:20; Heb 10:34)

20. We are living with an epidemic of cheap grace with flippant confession and shallow consecration. (Lk 14:28-30; Lk 14:26; Jam 4:8) (more…)

July 23, 2011

Spiritual Drought and Spiritual Famine

Earlier in the week while reading The Peoples Bible (a new edition NIV which highlights frequently searched verses at BibleGateway.com) I was again confronted with Amos 8: 11-12

11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
   “when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
   but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
12 People will stagger from sea to sea
   and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD,
   but they will not find it.

We’ve been hearing much in the last few days about drought in the United States and famine in east Africa.  Perhaps that why the topic has been on my mind.  This passage is discussing a spiritual drought and a spiritual famine.  I decided to see what was available on this passage online, and a search brought me to my own blog, Thinking out Loud, and a post that was written just a few months ago in April…

A few years back, Wood (Woodrow) Kroll wrote a book which bears the same name as the organization he heads, Back to the Bible (Multnomah Publishing). The following is taken from pages 67-68:

Two Old Testament prophets from Israel would feel very much at home at the dawn of the twenty-first century. I think they have much to say to us as the did to those who heard them in person…

Amos was a lowly shepherd from Tekoa (Amos 1:1) a village not far from Bethlehem. He made no special claims for himself, in fact, when his authority to speak for God was challenged because he was not what people expected of a prophet, Amos said, “I was no prophet nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheep breeder and a tender of sycamore fruit”(7:14). Amos was a pretty humble guy, but when God appeared to him and said, “Go prophesy to My people Israel” (7:15) he could do nothing else.

Amos prophesied during the days of King Uzziah, when Israel’s economy was flourishing. He looked at a society in which the people of God had become complacent and noticed that the Jews had no intimacy with the heavenly Father and paid no attention to those charged with teaching them the Word. When he spoke these words to his countrymen, Amos actually predicted our day: “‘Behold the days are coming,’ says the Lord God, ‘that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord'” (8:11).

That famine has arrived. In our physical and financial prosperity, the church has become spiritual anemic and biblically illiterate.

The prophet Hosea echoed the cry of Amos. He ministered to Israel during the chaotic period just before the fall of the nation in 722 B.C. In that respect he was ominously familiar with what happens to a nation who forgets God and His Word. Unlike Amos, Hosea was a member of the upper class. He was one of the most unusual prophets of the Old Testament.

Strangely, God commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2-9). His wife, Gomer, eventually returned to her life of sin, but Hosea bought her back from the slave market and restored her as his wife (3:1-5). Hosea’s unhappy family life served as an illustration of Israel’s sin. The people of God had fallen out of love with God, grown cold toward Him and no longer heeded His Word. They rejected the one true God and served pagan Gods.

In that context, Hosea prophesied with words that have a chilling ring for the church of the twenty-first century. He spoke for God when he said, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me, because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (4:6). The Israelites forgot God’s law. They failed to read his word and showed no respect for it. Therefore God promised that he would forget His people as they had forgotten His Word. That simply meant that He would withhold His blessing and all the good things that would have been theirs had they spent more time loving God by reading His Word.

~Wood Kroll