Christianity 201

January 22, 2018

And They’ll Know We Are Christians…Or Will They?

Many times here we’ve included the work of J. Lee Grady at Charisma Blogs; this time we want to introduce you to Bert M. Farias, revivalist and founder of Holy Fire Ministries, author of several books with an emphasis on helping to restore the true spirit of Christianity in the Church today. Click the title below to read this at source.

Why Is It Difficult to Tell the Difference Between a Christian and Non-Christian?

This is God’s heart for His people:

“O that there were such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deut. 5:29).

“He shall be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is His treasure” (Isa. 33:6).

A heart to truly obey Him is what the Lord has always looked for in His people. This heart is cultivated through our love for the Lord and holy fear. This fear is birthed in God’s people primarily through a knowledge of His judgments. Notice in the early days of the church, the effect the judgment that fell on Ananias and Sapphira had on the people.

“In hearing these words, Ananias fell down and died. And great fear came on all those who heard these things” (Acts 5:5).

“At once she fell down at his feet and died. Upon entering, the young men found her dead and carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear came on the entire church and on all those who heard these things. Many signs and wonders were performed among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Porch. No one else dared join them, but the people respected them. Believers were increasingly added to the Lord, crowds of both men and women” (Acts 5:10-14).

We often forget these portions of Scripture and how this component of the fear of the Lord greatly impacted and contributed to the glory, power and growth of the early church: “NO one else dared join them (the disciples), but the people respected them” (Acts 5:13).

The Message Bible says it this way: “But even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the Master were added right and left, men and women both.”

Polarization: One Effect of God’s Judgments and the Fear of the Lord 

The judgment that fell on Ananias and Sapphira caused sinners to be leery of joining themselves to the apostles and the church while at the same time gaining public respect and influence. This divided or polarized those who were not interested in genuine repentance and living whole-heartedly for the Lord from the multitudes that were being genuinely converted and being added to the church. The dividing line was very distinct. In many places today, it is difficult to tell the difference between the Christian and non-Christian, but not in the early church. God wants to restore this polarization in the church today.

The great fear that came on the entire church and those who heard of these events is a necessary component for the overall health of the church, and it is also a precursor to actual revival and spiritual awakening in the nations. What many Christians don’t understand is that these kinds of judgments in the church are a manifestation of God’s mercy to the masses, because when the church is judged and cleansed that is when we have the greatest impact on the world. Conversely, when there is lack of judgment in the church, it means a widespread judgment to the masses and mercy reserved for only a small righteous remnant.

Imagine the impact of this judgment, not only upon that present early apostolic generation but upon their children and grandchildren and the ensuing generations who witnessed these things and/or heard them. When Ananias’ and Sapphira’s dead bodies were carried out by the young men, it was a dreadful object lesson of the fear of the Lord to future generations. I’m sure this event was voiced abroad for years to come. This was, in fact, a judgment against counterfeit Christianity that greatly impacted the church and the world. As I said, it was an act of mercy to the world in preserving the mighty influence, glory and power of the church from moral compromise and tainted motives enveloped in personal selfish ambition through Ananias and Sapphira. It was important to preserve the purity of the church in the early days of its conception since it was located only in Jerusalem at that time.

Notice the ultimate result that the fear of the Lord had on the early church. The church had rest and peace, was strengthened and encouraged, and also grew numerically.

“Then the churches throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and were built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:31, MEV).

Can you see how as the polarization in the early church increased, so did the power and impact increase simultaneously? One of the definitions of polarization is a division into two opposites. Polarization happens when people are divided into contesting groups. Polarization is a concept that comes from science, and it involves light, radiation or magnetism moving in specific directions. Outside of this scientific concept, polarization usually refers to how people think, especially when two views emerge that drive people apart, kind of like two opposing magnets. As an example, when Democrats and Republicans fight, it can cause polarization. A Civil War is also a serious form of polarization. Polarization involves people moving in two directions—becoming almost as separate as the North and South Pole.

In this postmodern day of church growth, which tends to focus more on peripheral and demographic elements, these verses show us the importance of the inward character and holiness of believers and how it relates to both spiritual and numerical growth.

When we fail to include the judgments of God and the fear of the Lord in our doctrine, lifestyle and teaching, we are building with flimsy materials of wood, hay and stubble that will not stand up under the trials, pressures and hardships of life (1 Cor. 3:12-15). The fear of the Lord, which is nurtured through the eternal judgments of God, is a great contributor and foundational to a healthy growing church.

January 17, 2018

Prayer for World Leaders

Today, I want to do something completely different. I want to share something that Jill, a friend of ours posted on Facebook, and help her take it to a wider audience.


Praying these scriptures, and sounding a warning for all leaders of all God’s nations to follow, praying that they will speak with Godly wisdom, discernment, respect, may they humble themselves, live a life of compassion and love for all the people they rule over and for each other’s countries.

Psalms 2:10-11 – Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.

Proverbs 11:14 – For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.

Proverbs 21:1 – The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

Job 12:23-25 – He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them.

Proverbs 2:1-8 – My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2) turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— 3) indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4) and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5) then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 6) For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7) He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8) for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

• Dear LORD God,
This day and always may we be reminded of:

1 Timothy 2:1-6:

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all , supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified 
in due time.

Dear faithful Holy LORD God Almighty we give you thanks that you are in control and that: Jesus Christ is the Ruler of all the Kings and leaders on earth.

May you alone, LORD God receive all the glory and honor, may we humble ourselves, and come before you in prayer, in continued praise and adoration. may we walk in your paths of righteousness and may we live a life mirroring Jesus and do what he continues to tell us to do:

” You have heard people say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.” But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends.” (Matthew 5:43-46)

Father God, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, may we seek to always be in the center of your perfect will.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

January 13, 2017

The Origin of Our Capacity for Fear

Today’s study is the product of Martin and the team at Flagrant Regard. Click the title below to read this at their site.

Do You Struggle With The Concept Of Having To Fear The Lord? We Have A Patch For That!

Our fall Bible study has been centered on the Book of Proverbs and, a few weeks ago, the term ‘fear of the Lord’ came up for discussion. We examined the mystery of ‘fearing God’ as it often elicits thoughts of, or concerns about, a God who supposedly requires that we be frightened of Him. Our pastor, and facilitator of the study, wanted us to delve into what it means to ‘fear the Lord’ as it seems to stand in direct opposition to our being told that God is love. Is there a paradox here for the way we are to live – either ‘in fear mixed with love’ or ‘in love mixed with fear’ and do such dispositions affect how we feel about God?

As part of a New Year’s commitment, I hope to read more of the Bible and spend less time Internet-ing. Just yesterday, I came upon an interesting passage in Jeremiah that got me thinking about the topic at hand. I hope my personal discovery regarding this proves to be valuable to anyone who has struggled with the whole ‘fear of the Lord’ issue or teachings surrounding it.

fear-flagrant-regardBefore I present the Bible passage, I’d like you to consider something rather interesting. Every good attribute of God that we as humans share – love, gentleness, kindness, self-restraint, etc. – is considered the ‘fruit’ of a spiritual life. But where does fear fit into all of this? Fear is not considered to be a fruit of the Spirit, so what is it to the believer and why do we need it? 1

Fear is interesting in that: a) God does not manifest or experience it; and b) it is a reactive response to an outside stimulus, something we share with the animal world, even.

If God doesn’t possess fear as a characteristic, then why does He regard it as a good thing for us (as per the writers of Scripture) and why would it make us more Godly?

Well let’s think about another good thing God doesn’t need. Repentance. God has no need to apologize for anything (although some prominent atheists would disagree). But without repentance (a change of mind especially concerning the will of God) we are clearly told that no human being can access God. And so, if repentance (like fear) isn’t an attribute of God, then what is it?

Fear and repentance both seem to be presented to us in the Bible as a reflexive action, harmonized with our response to God’s promptings or influence.

In the physical world, reflexes and responses can be honed and sharpened. Watch any budding martial artist working hard at their craft and you’ll see that come into play in a matter of time. Is it the same for those of us whose lives are focused on spiritual development? Can responding to everything life throws at us with a reflexive ‘Godly fear’ be of any benefit to His children? Will it have us thinking better of God’s character or disposition toward us in the long run?

And now onto the passage that shows us why fear of the Lord is not only important, but essential for living well.

(36) … this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: (37) I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. (38) They will be my people, and I will be their God. (39) I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. (40) I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. (41) I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.
Jeremiah 32: 36-41 (NIV translation)

According to the above Scripture, it is only after God gives us a ‘singleness of heart and action’ that Godly fear can even enter into our lives. Further, the fruit or benefit resulting from this particular fear is, “that all will go well for us and our children”. Fear is, if we interpret this text correctly, a reactive or reflexive response to God that not only gives his people peace of mind but extends this promise to those we treasure dearly!

God then compounds the importance of fear in verse 40 by showing us that after something incredible (i.e., salvation) has been gifted to us, as well as promising to continually do good things for us, He will ‘inspire us’ to fear Him.

Why?

So that we will never turn away from Him.

This healthy Godly fear is like His word: ‘God-inspired’. It is furthermore something you cannot actively develop or appreciate in your own strength. This fear is more like a gift (once again similar to repentance) that is infused into our souls to keep us on the straight-and-narrow where, to put it simply, it is a safer and better place to be. Is it so wrong for Godly fear to hold prominence in our thoughts and actions so that all will go well for us and so that we may continually recognize, as the Psalmist said, “It is good to be near God.”? 2

I think it’s important, at this point, to distinguish between Godly fear and worldly fear.

Worldly fear is primal and can result in one’s being frozen like a deer in the headlights or in the fight-or-flight response. It can prompt chivalry in some and cowardice in others and is rarely viewed as a desirable thing.

But Godly fear is fruit-of-the-Spirit producing. The more of it we have, the better (and more immediate) our response is to the moral quandaries presented to us by the world we live in and the better our ability to see our way through the many challenges we will face in our lifetime. In conjunction with holy fear, we are given oceans of hope that are fed by the springs of God’s many great promises – promises we’d be fools to forget or ignore lest we lose out on all the benefits God has already showered on us, His children.

Preacher George MacDonald once said, “A perfect faith would lift us absolutely above fear.” That’s very true, but our faith is not yet perfect. We are ‘in process’. We live in the ‘now and not yet’ because of our frail humanity. Fear of the Lord then, in its purest form, can do nothing but evoke our deep love and utmost respect for the God who rescues us from darkness every day we find ourselves still breathing.

Truly, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.3

© 2017 Flagrant Regard


1 See Book of Jude, Chap. 1, vrs. 23, Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians Chap. 5, vrs. 11
2 Book of Psalms Chap. 73, vrs. 28
3 Book of Proverbs Chap. 9, vrs. 10

October 29, 2015

What Would You Put on the Bonfire?

Acts 19:19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.

Full context: Verses 13-21

This article by Dr. David Murray appeared at the blog The Christward Collective.

11 Verbs of Repentance

The Heidelberg Catechism’s answer to question 94, “What does God enjoin in the first commandment?” contains eleven verbs, eleven “doing” words.

“A. That I, as sincerely as I desire the salvation of my own soul, avoid and flee from all idolatry, sorcery, soothsaying, superstition, invocation of saints, or any other creatures; and learn rightly to know the only true God; trust in him alone, with humility and patience submit to him; expect all good things from him only; love, fear, and glorify him with my whole heart; so that I renounce and forsake all creatures, rather than commit even the least thing contrary to his will.”

These verbs can be divided into two categories that apply to all kinds of sins:

Sin-ward actions: Avoid, flee, renounce, forsake.

God-ward actions: Learn, trust, submit, expect, love, fear, glorify.

The God-ward actions cannot happen without the sin-ward actions, and the sin-ward actions cannot happen without the God-ward actions. They are two sides of the one experience of repentance.

AN ILLUSTRATION OF REPENTANCE

We can see an illustration of most of these verbs in action in Acts 19 v13-21 where the idolatrous magicians and occultists of Ephesus were powerfully impacted by the Gospel of Christ:

·       They feared (v. 17)

·       They glorified the Lord Jesus (v. 17)

·       They believed (v. 18)

·       They came out into the open (v. 18)

·       They confessed (v. 18)

·       They showed their deeds (v. 18)

·       They burned their spell-books (v. 19)

·       They turned to God’s book (v. 20)

I would have loved to see that bonfire of repentance. Some estimates put the value of books burned at several million dollars of today’s money. In burning their spell-books, they were saying three things:

I detest my past: I hate what I was and did.

I want to make sure I do not return: I want to make it as difficult as possible for me to take up these practices again.

I want to make sure others will not be led astray: They could have sold their books to others for large sums of money they didn’t want their financial gain to result in spiritual loss for others.

AN APPLICATION OF REPENTANCE

But let’s not just go back a couple of thousand years to Ephesus, or a few hundred years to Heidelberg. Let’s bring this right up to date and apply it to our own lives with this one question: What should you put on the bonfire? Of course, it need not be a literal bonfire. But if not a literal bonfire, then use these repentance verbs to have a spiritual bonfire.

If the Holy Spirit fell in reviving power among us today, I don’t think Harry Potter conferences and books would be first to go up in flames. But I do believe there would be a huge conflagration of one of the greatest idols of our own time – digital technology. Don’t think you’ve turned your phone, your computer, or social media into an idol? Test yourself with these questions:

1. Does technology serve me or am I its slave? Do I use it to serve God or is the Devil using it to enslave me?

2. Am I seeking significance and self-worth in the number of Twitter followers, blog subscribers, and Facebook friends I have?

3. Am I addicted to information?

4. Are my digital communications serving as a substitute for face-to-face relationships, or even spiritual communication with God?

5. Am I open and honest in my accountability?

6. Am I afraid of anyone picking up my phone and looking through it?

7. Is my online persona real or partly an act?

8. Are my best and most valued relationships online or face-to-face?

9. Is my local church community more important to me than any online community I’m part of?

10. When I wake up, do I read my Bible and pray before any electronic communication? (54% reach for phone within minutes of waking. 74% check phone before spiritual disciplines.)

11. Am I taking regular digital sabbaths? (tech-free periods of time each day and one screen-free day each week)

12. How long a period of time can I go without connecting with the digital world? Am I seeking to extend and stretch such periods?

13. Am I promoting myself or my Lord?

14. Am I daily seeking and depending upon the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit to help me use digital technology for God’s glory?

15. Do you try to fill every spare moment and every quiet moment with media.

16. Would Jesus look at your phone use or social media profile and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

17. Do you get anxious when separated from your phone?

18. Do you have any boundaries as to place or time?

19. How many times do you check your phone each day? (teens check at least 100 times a day, sometimes 200).

20. Do you rush to buy the latest technology?

Are you looking for the matches yet?

August 31, 2015

Offering Unauthorized Fire

Leviticus 10:1 (NIV) Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:

“‘Among those who approach me
I will be proved holy;
in the sight of all the people
I will be honored.’”

Aaron remained silent.

4 Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary.” 5 So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.

6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the Lord will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the Israelites, may mourn for those the Lord has destroyed by fire. 7 Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting or you will die, because the Lord’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.

8 Then the Lord said to Aaron, 9 “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, 10 so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, 11 and so you can teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.”

These are two excerpts from the book What Would Jesus Read by Joe Amaral; two readings related to Leviticus.  In the last year, Joe turned his attention from First Century studies to the heavens. Check out our review of The Story In The Stars.For more of Joe here at C201, click this link.

Leviticus 10:1
They offered unauthorized fire

Aaron’s sons offered unauthorized fire to God. God struck them dead as a result of their sin. Seems a little strong, yet that is what the Scripture records. God is love and God is fair, but God is also just. We like to forget that sometimes.

Many Christians are taught that the God of the New Testament is not the God of the Old Testament – that the God of the New Testament is filled with love and compassion, and the God of the Old Testament is a violent, cruel, and angry God. That is simply not the case. The Bible says in Malachi 3:6, “I the LORD do not change.”

We need to understand the holiness and justness of God. He is slow to anger and he is willing to bless and love for a thousand generations. But we have to live in the reality that there are consequences to sin.

A police officer may forgive us for running a red light, but we still have to pay the fine. We must learn to live in reverent fear before the Lord and to walk in His ways. He is a loving God who guides our steps, even when we sometimes veer off the path.


Leviticus 10:7
So they did as Moses said

Have you ever used the term “scared to death”? That would apply to today’s passage. The entire camp was literally scared to death. Aaron’s two sons had just been killed for offering unauthorized fire.

God spoke through Moses, and the people did as Moses said. You can be sure that no one was considering disobeying Moses after what had just happened. This wasn’t the first time the people suffered death because of disobedience. Remember at Mount Sinai when they worshiped the golden calf? Three thousand were put to death that day.

People always judge the people of Israel for not “getting it.” They always seemed to stray away from God, get punished, get forgiven, and then stray away again. Let’s take a good long look in the mirror: are we any different today? How many times have you been forgiven for the same sin? We have all fought the same fight with our sins.

Let the fear of the Lord guide you as you strive to live for Him. He has given us His Word to be a light.

~Joe Amaral in What Would Jesus Read? (FaithWords, 2012)

 

July 30, 2015

The Key to the Treasure

Our devotional today is from our friends Stephen & Brooksyne at DailyEncouragement.net. I really respect this couple; they not only write great Bible study material, but they live out the scriptural truth in their daily lives.

This post has a longer introduction so click the title below to read it in its entirety.

The Key

“He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure” (Isaiah 33:6).

…Today let us consider a lesson we all need to learn. Some learned it as a child, others have as they have aged. Sadly though, many have still not learned it. It’s in our daily text and is described as “the key to this treasure”. This treasure is the blessed assurance of a “sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.”

The world offers plenty of keys that people use seeking to meet their deepest needs for love, joy and peace, but all in futility, for they go through life using the wrong key.

The verse is a real gem. It’s one of those great treasures found deep in the Old Testament. The “He” in the verse is speaking of the Lord, who is exalted and dwells on high (33:5). Today, some 2,700 years after Isaiah wrote this, our God is still exalted and dwelling on high!  He ever remains, “the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.”

O, how we long to be settled on a firm foundation in these tumultuous times where we can draw from a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. This is an expression of our deepest need.

The Fear Of The Lord The last clause is vital, but so lost by the majority in this world, and I earnestly feel many in the church as well. “The fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.” The notion of “fearing the Lord” seems archaic to many in our generation.
Jerry Bridges wrote, “There was a time when committed Christians were known as God-fearing people. This was a badge of honor. But somewhere along the way we lost it. Now the idea of fearing God, if thought of at all, seems like a relic from the past.”

It is my observation that the fear of the Lord is under-emphasized and in some settings never mentioned.  It seems there is always a struggle for balance in Christian theology. As I study sermons of the past it seems as if the “fear of the Lord” was sometimes preached to the extreme. Hellfire and brimstone sermons seemed to be the recurring theme and at times presented an unhealthy fear of a loving God which brought little peace or needed security to the believer.

However in recent decades the love and grace of God has been the chief theme to the point of completely de-emphasizing the proper understanding of the fear of the Lord. But both themes are essential and part of Biblical revelation.

A Study Bible gives this helpful insight to the meaning of the fear of the Lord. “A reverent awe of God’s power, majesty and holiness produces in us a holy fear of transgressing His revealed will; such reverence is essential to gaining a heart of wisdom.  The New Testament indicates that the sincere fear of the Lord in our hearts will be accompanied by the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”

Many years ago I developed a sermon on the need to have a healthy, holy fear of God and I earnestly believe this healthy, holy fear is vitally needed for our generation.  Today let us walk in His love with fear and reverence toward Him for the Bible says, “Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in His ways” (Psalm 128:1). The fear of the Lord is indeed a vital key to understanding life.

Daily prayer: Father, our generation seeks more and more knowledge all the while exercising less and less restraint toward that which grieves Your heart. In our information age knowledge is promoted as the key to success, fulfillment, happiness and financial security and yet we see so many educated people lacking in these areas. While higher education is important, godly wisdom and biblical understanding are the foundational tools by which we accept or reject current philosophies, basic principles, human traditions, and the practices of our day. Your Word helps us to interpret knowledge that is ever changing so that we are careful to build our foundation upon You, the unchanging Solid Rock. Any other foundation will sink when the rain falls, the streams rise, and the assaulting winds blow and beat against that which we have worked so hard to build. We choose to love You and have a healthy, holy fear of going against Your prescribed will for our lives. Amen.

May 2, 2014

With What Type of Fear Do You Fear God?

James 2 19

According to a … survey by the Barna Group, 78% of Christians believe there is an almighty, sovereign, supreme God. That seems to be a really large number of people and it makes our hearts glad to know that all these people believe in our God. The sad part is, many of these do not believe that God cares about and desires a personal relationship with all His children. Even more tragic is that many of those who believe in God think this is all that is necessary to live eternally with Him. The Word of God tells us that Satan, himself, believes in God. He knows God exists and has defeated him already through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. That’s why Satan and his demons shudder at knowing God exists. The Word of God says that we must believe that He exists and believe He will reward us if we earnestly seek Him. We must be born again by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  (see note at bottom for citation)

After a 15 month term as missionaries in Argentina, Robert and his wife returned to the U.S. to raise funds to return to the mission field. As always you’re encouraged to read the articles we discover here at their source, this one was titled Fearing the Lord (click title to link).

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!  ~ James 2:19

Explanation of the Text: It is not simply a belief that God exists that saves a person. James sarcastically responds saying that if a person believes in the one God, they do well. The verse is a reference to the Jewish Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, in which the Jewish believers to whom Jesus is writing to would have a clear understanding of. It calls belief to the only one God in verse 4 and then calls for obedience to God in verse 5. The same point James has been trying to make throughout the epistle. He takes it further though and compares that type of ‘faith’ to that of the demons, drawing the connection that without the obedience of Deuteronomy 6:5, the point of 6:4 is not worthwhile and is actually the same type of belief that the demons possess.[1]

Indeed, even the demons believe in the existence of Jesus Christ, yet it can be certain that they will not find themselves spending eternity in heaven. These demons have belief in God, in His son, and an understanding of eschatology, and yet they still willingly choose to oppose God (Mathew 8:29-31; Mark 5:7; Luke 4:41; Acts 19:15). In fact, they even have enough sense to shudder!

φρίσσω (phríssō) which is the word found in the Greek text, literally means to tremble in fear.[2] Even the demons have a fear of God, so much so, it causes them to shake or tremble. Obviously this fear is different than the that commanded in Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:13; Psalm 2:11) which refers to having a reverence for God. However, to have the fear that the demons have still requires an acceptance and understanding that He is indeed God, who will judge the world and carry out His will, and thus they will receive God’s judgment. John MacArthur rightly brings this point into perspective when he says, “In that regard, they are much more realistic and sensible than those with false faith who think they will escape God’s judgment by their shallow and superficial faith.”[3]

Examination & Application of the Text: Examine your faith today. Do you have a fear of the Lord? Is it a fear like the demons do, or is it a reverent fear that is found in Proverbs and Psalms. As one who follows Jesus Christ, it is not simply a belief that He exists that saves you, bur a healthy, reverent fear that says, “I worship you Lord. You are my God.” As you seek Him more today, trust in Him, examine yourself and ask, “Do I reverently fear the Lord?”


[1] John F. MacArthur Jr., James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 131.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), Entry #5425

[3] John F. MacArthur Jr., James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 132.

 

The introduction and graphics concept to today’s post was from the blog Daily Grace, which also had this prayer:

Heavenly Father, we humbly pray that You will prepare our hearts to earnestly seek You and hunger for Your Word. Help us to not just believe You exist, but to know that You are a God who loves us, who provided a way for our sins to be forgiven by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, and who has prepared a place for us to be with Him for eternity. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

September 29, 2012

Unauthorized Fire

Leviticus 10:1 (NIV) Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:

“‘Among those who approach me
    I will be proved holy;
in the sight of all the people
    I will be honored.’”

Aaron remained silent.

Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary.” So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.

Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the Lord will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the Israelites, may mourn for those the Lord has destroyed by fire. Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting or you will die, because the Lord’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.

Then the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, 10 so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, 11 and so you can teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.”

Today we jump back to the book What Would Jesus Read by Joe Amaral and consider two more readings related to Leviticus.

Leviticus 10:1
They offered unauthorized fire

Aaron’s sons offered unauthorized fire to God.  God struck them dead as a result of their sin.  Seems a little strong, yet that is what the Scripture records.  God is love and God is fair, but God is also just.  We like to forget that sometimes.

Many Christians are taught that the God of the New Testament is not the God of the Old Testament – that the God of the New Testament is filled with love and compassion, and the God of the Old Testament is a violent, cruel, and angry God.  That is simply not the case.  The Bible says in Malachi 3:6, “I the LORD do not change.”

We need to understand the holiness and justness of God.  He is slow to anger and he is willing to bless and love for a thousand generations.  But we have to live in the reality that there are consequences to sin.

A police officer may forgive us for running a red light, but we still have to pay the fine.  We must learn to live in reverent fear before the Lord and to walk in His ways.  He is a loving God who guides our steps, even when we sometimes veer off the path.


Leviticus 10:7
So they did as Moses said

Have you ever used the term “scared to death”?  That would apply to today’s passage.  The entire camp was literally scared to death.  Aaron’s two sons had just been killed for offering unauthorized fire.

God spoke through Moses, and the people did as Moses said.  You can be sure that no one was considering disobeying Moses after what had just happened.  This wasn’t the first time the people suffered death because of disobedience.  Remember at Mount Sinai when they worshiped the golden calf?  Three thousand were put to death that day.

People always judge the people of Israel for not “getting it.”  They always seemed to stray away from God, get punished, get forgiven, and then stray away again.  Let’s take a good long look in the mirror: are we any different today?  How many times have you been forgiven for the same sin?  We have all fought the same fight with our sins.

Let the fear of the Lord guide you as you strive to live for Him.  He has given us His Word to be a light.

~Joe Amaral in What Would Jesus Read? (FaithWords, 2012)

 

September 17, 2012

Working Out Your Salvation With Fear and Trembling

Two days ago we looked at the operation of grace, so this may seem a little bit of a contradiction but we are now looking at our response to God in light of the grace we have received.  This is also from the book 101 Most Puzzling Bible Verses (Harvest House)

Keep on Keeping On

NIV Phil 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling

When Paul told the Philippians to work out their salvation, he did not mean they were to work for it or acquire it through their own efforts. In fact, they were already secure in their belief and salvation. (Phil 1:1) No one, ourselves included, can work for salvation because it is a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9). Salvation involves deliverance from the penalty and eternal consequences of sin, but every Christian is responsible for his or her own spiritual development and struggles with the daily consequences of the sin nature. While the Holy Spirit actively works in our lives, success or failure is up to us (Rom. 8:9,14,16).

Paul command the Philippians to put into practice through the aid of the Holy Spirit the results of the salvation they received from God. God would enable them to do it, (Phil 2:13) but they needed to actively pursue the ramifications of having eternal life and the benefits of living Godly lives. Spiritual progress is a cooperative effort between the Christian and the Holy Spirit. It is an outworking of a person’s rebirth as a Christian.

Paul was certain that just as God worked in his life and through him, so too would God work in the Philippians’ lives (Phil 1:6; 4:9). Because of this they were to be joyful in daily life (as should be all Christians), but they were also to understand the enormous responsibility and obligation of serving Jesus Christ. They were (and we are) to serve with “fear and trembling.” Being joyful and being fearful might seem to be contradictions, but they are not.

Paul uses the phrase “fear and trembling” several times to indicate a positive emotional response to understanding God’s desires for those He loves (I Cor 2:3; II Cor 7:15; Eph. 6:5). It is an attitude of obedience and awe rather than freight. To experience God’s best in our lives, we must have complete trust in Him and in the unique plan he has for each of us. As we journey with God, we work out our salvation, fully realizing the magnitude of the gift He has given us. In much the same way that the gift of luxury automobile is fully understood  and appreciated only as the new owner drives it, so too is salvation more fully comprehended as a person daily lives according to God’s plan and God’s word. Fine automobiles are not meant to stay in the garage, and salvation is not meant to be dormant or static.

~ Tim Demy in 101 Most Puzzling Bible Verses, chapter 77

emphasis added

October 5, 2011

Who is Obedient, Faithful, Fearing the Lord?

From Menno Simons after whom the denomination Mennonites is named:

“Who then is the man who fears the Lord?  He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.”

Sovereign Lord, Your way is the way of peace, and blessed is the person who walks there.  For mercy , love , justice, humility, patience and obedience are found along this way.  Such a person clothes the naked, feeds the hungry, satisfies the thirsty, comforts the needy, and reproves, warns, consoles and admonishes.  Such a person is sober, honest, modest upright and just.  Such a person gives no reason for offence and walks towards eternal life.

But there are very few who find this way.  I fear, beloved Lord, that hardly ten in a thousand find this way, and of those, hardly five really walk it.

So it has been from the beginning.

  • For when there were only four people on earth, the scripture says that three were disobedient and the fourth was killed by his brother. 
  • There were only eight righteous ones who were saved from the flood, and one of those was disrespectful to his father.
  • In Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding area, there were only four righteous ones, and one of those turned back to look and was turned into a pillar of salt.
  • More than 600,000 fightin men came out of Egypt, among whom only two were able to enter the promised land.  Not, beloved Lord that all who died along the way were damned.  But it was due to their unbelief that their way into the promised land of Canaan was delayed.

~Menno Simons, A Meditation on the Twenty-fifth Psalm (1537) in Early Anabaptist Spirituality, translated and edited by Daniel Lieschty (Paulist Press, 1994) pp 257-258

paragraphing, bullet points added