Christianity 201

June 25, 2017

An Unholy Collection

by Russell Young

The Word speaks of a collection of people that is going to take place at “the end of the age.” The gathering will be done at the command of the Son and will be carried out by his angels. In explaining the parable of the weeds Jesus said, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom, everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:41 NIV) The collection will be of those who have defied his commands and have either caused sin to take place or have practiced sin. Only the holy will remain.

The Lord’s words should cause those who teach and those who claim his name and who presume eternal salvation to fully consider his revelation. That is, the gathering will not be according to a pardon for sin, but will be based upon one’s doings following the pardon…their causing sin or doing evil. This proclamation is consistent with the many teachings concerning the need for obedience. (Mt 7:21, 28:20; Jn 14:23; 1 Jn 2: 3─4, 3:7,24, 5:3─4; Rev 22:14 KJV)

Many accept that Christ’s righteousness was imputed to them and that obedience is a non-issue. They accept that he washed away all sin that they will ever commit. It is correct that he took the believer’s sin leaving him or her righteous through the imputation of his righteousness; however, this act was to bring them back to God so that they might gain the Holy Spirit. (Gal 3:14; Eph 1:4; Col 1:21─22; Rom 5:10) The imputation of his righteousness did not provide pardon for sinful acts beyond the point when the point of redemption unless the believer repents and seeks forgiveness. (1 Jn 1:9) If it did, the Lord would have to continue to bear any sins committed and he would remain separated from his Father due to his unholy state just as he was at the time of his crucifixion.

Further, the Word reveals that those who will be gathered will have been placed in Christ’s kingdom by the “enemy.” That is, some will be counterfeit “believers,” who have claimed faith but who have chosen to live on their own terms and according to their own purposes. 2 Peter 17─21 references these people as does the writer of Hebrews. “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were unable to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Heb 3:18─19 NIV) The purpose of the weeds, those who cause sin and those who do evil, is to disrupt and negatively impact those who had a legitimate place in his kingdom and were endeavouring to live in the light. Such an approach by the enemy of Christ indicates that he can and desires to destroy those who are in the kingdom. These enemies can be discerned both by their incitement to cause sin and by their practice of it.

Paul taught: “For as I have often told you before and say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” (Phil 3:18─19 NIV) They are seeking to satisfy the flesh rather than the Spirit. Even though Paul condemned the practices or doings of these people and identified their end as being destruction, many hold to the understanding that Christ expects nothing of them other that to believe-“belief” as determined by themselves; they dismiss commands to live righteously and to defeat the practice of sin because they accept that Christ has done that for them removing all concern or fear.

People will be weeded out because of their actions. Judgment will come for the things done in the body whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10) Those who have despised the life of Christ in them, rather than for them, will be among those who have been plucked from his righteous kingdom. Paul taught, “continue to work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12 NIV)

Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Lk 13:34) Entering through the narrow door requires effort and those who do not put forth the necessary effort will be part of the angel’s “unholy collection.”

March 19, 2017

The Wrath of God

by Russell Young

Even though it is not popular, consideration needs to be given to the issue of the wrath of God. The Word presents it as being a reality and the experience that some must face. The church needs to be more forthright in dealing with the consequences of disobedience and defiance, and of the rejection of God, both of which have consequences.

The redeemed belong to Christ; they are his servants and he is their sovereign. He has purchased them with his blood. Consequently, he cannot be accepted as savior without being accepted as their sovereign and lord. Believers are not permitted to live under their own rule. A condition of salvation is the declaration that Christ is Lord. (Rom 10: 9) Christ queried some of his followers, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk 6:46 NIV) Paul wrote: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom 5:9─10 NIV) Being saved from God’s wrath is a process undertaken following a person’s “reconciliation” to God and it comes through “the life” of Christ. Christ in the believer is his or her hope of glory. (Col 1:27)

Contrary to some modern theological teaching, reconciliation to God does not prevent God’s wrath. Paul wrote that the manner of a person’s living was important. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8 NIV)

Contemporary Christian music along with much teaching has emphasized and exaggerated the “freedom” and “unconditional love” that exists for the confessor. (There is a distinction between a believer and a confessor. A believer recognizes God’s sovereignty in his or her life and obediently responds to his calls.) Reconciliation to God is for gaining forgiveness for past sins, those that had separated the sinner from God and from certain death, allowing him or her the promise of the Spirit. (Gal 3:14) It is living through the Spirit that prevents the visitation of God’s wrath.

Many proclaim that the Lord in his mercy and grace has released confessors from both judgment and negative consequences. After all, they would say, all sins have been forgiven so there is nothing to be judged. Careful reading of God’s Word makes it clear that it is all sins committed while under the jurisdiction of the first or old covenant from which they have been released, not the sins that follow, unless they are confessed. “[H]e has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Heb 9:15 NIV; 2 Peter 1:9) The Lord has given all confessors everything they need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3) and it will only be through neglect or rebellion that sinning will be continued, prompting his wrath.

As servants, all of those who have pledged his lordship will one day be rewarded for their obedience or suffer wrath for their disobedience. Not only will confessors be judged by Christ, so will all of humankind. (Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Pet 4:17) Those who have honoured his calls upon their lives will be rewarded while all others will suffer destruction from his presence, either outside the walls of the New Jerusalem or in the lake of burning sulphur. Many will quote John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV) Of course, this is true but the promise belongs to those who believe (are believing).

Belief is revealed by adherence to that which a person claims to believe. In the case of eternal salvation, the avoidance of God’s wrath is revealed as coming through obedience. The writer of Hebrews stated, “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed. So you see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Heb 3:18 NIV) It is through lack of obedience that judgment will come, failure to honor Christ as lord. “He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know (understand) God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thess 1:7─8 KJV)

The church has failed to ring the alarm concerning the visitation of the Lord’s wrath through the judgment to come, and its avoidance through the practice of personal righteousness. The admonition has been given for believers to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling so that they might become blameless and pure. Fear is a great motivator, just as is love. When John wrote that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4:18 NIV), he was talking about perfect obedience since those who love God obey him. Paul cautioned the Ephesians not to be deceived by empty words for because of immorality, impurity, and greed God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. (Eph 5:6)

Despite modern theological presentations, God’s wrath will be visited upon those who have pledged Christ’s lordship and have not lived it. God’s grace is evidenced in his workmanship (Eph 2:10) as the Lord transforms the obedient into his likeness; his wrath will be based on a person’s ‘doing’ (Jn 5:28─29), on the rebellious and disobedient who resist his transforming work.


Russell Young is a Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

9781512757514

March 15, 2017

Right Results, Wrong Method

Numbers 20 (NIV):

1In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.

2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

This passage contains an interesting sequence of events:

  • The people are thirsty
  • God reveals to Moses that water can be obtained by speaking to a particular rock
  • Moses hits the rock instead (this worked before)
  • Water gushes forth

Maybe God had His instructions wrong, or maybe it applied to some other rock? After all, the water issued forth and the thirst of the people was satisfied.

Hardly. Moses was angry. “…Listen you rebels…” In anger he struck the rock.

In Moses defense, he was using a tried and true formula; see Exodus 17. And he got the desired result. No biggie, right?

The point is that Moses disobeyed; he did God’s work in a sense, but didn’t do it God’s way.

I find myself often guilty of this. I can justify something done in anger because it produced results. I’ve even said to myself, “I think sometimes you just have to get mad enough about something and then God uses that anger.”

Yes. I’ve really thought that. More than once.

And there is such a thing as righteous anger. But it is characterized by being shaped over a long-term, not a short-term; and by its righteousness more than its anger-ness.

James 1 19b & 20 (NIV)

…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Whether or not you feel like you are more a product of the information age or the industrial age, either way you are probably results oriented.

But just because it worked doesn’t mean that God was in it, or that He was pleased, or that you were obedient. Even if the “worked” in question seems to bear the mark (vs. 11) of the miraculous.

And a great danger lies in trusting in what worked before, when God wants to lead you into something new.

And like Moses (vs. 12) by doing it our way, you and I may be missing out on God’s greater blessing and the fullness of God’s highest goal for our lives.

~PW


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March 12, 2017

A Fractured Gospel

by Russell Young
Although the gospel message has been around for about two thousand years, its understanding remains muddled. The Word has presented that eternal salvation comes through a person’s “doings,” through obedience, and through belief. It seems that many have selected from these the option that appeals to them and have concluded a means of meeting God’s condition so that they might rest their hope in him. The truth is that all three are components of the same gospel truth and they need to be appreciated as such. Belief (faith) motivates obedience and obedience compels the believer to act in ways that are pleasing and acceptable to God.
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It gets tiresome to attend to debates, written or verbal, about the validity of one component while disregarding the others. The disputes are endless and where eternal salvation continues to be perceived as through a single factor the debates will continue to persist and will achieve nothing except division and lost souls. Time and energy are wasted and confusion is produced as many self-righteously defend their position. Unfortunately, after two thousand years, church practitioners have often become entrenched in reliance upon a singular aspect of the gospel and objectivity has been lost. Consequently, many who now claim to be called to present the gospel cannot even clearly define it. This ought not to be so. Too many people are being left stillborn in churches while others are dying in the deserts of their communities.
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Jesus taught: “Do not be amazed at this (the Son of Man having authority as judge), for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out-those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (JN 5:28─29 NIV; See also 1 Pet 1:17; Mt 7:2; 12:36; Jn 5:28─29; 2 Cor 5:10) A person’s doings or practices should not be confused with the issue of “works” which applies to salvation through the works of the law. The Lord taught that evidence of faith, a person’s testimony through his or her practices, matters.
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In Hebrews it is recorded: “he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) Christ also presented the need for obedience-Mt 7:21; 2 Thess 1:8─9; Rev 12:17, 14:12, Rev 22:14 (KJV), etc. The Lord is the Spirit and one purpose of his indwelling presence is to sanctify the obedient believer and to fit him or her for God’s heavenly kingdom. The believer must be made into the likeness of God’s Son (Rom 8:29) if he is to enter God’s kingdom.
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Many times the Lord has proclaimed that salvation comes through belief or faith in his person and ministry. However, belief is revealed through the practice of obedience. It is recorded: “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Heb 3:18─19 NIV) Those who do not obey Christ, the Spirit, lack saving faith and will not dwell with him.
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Faith/Belief resulting in obedience and “doing good” is what saves a person from judgment and into God’s glorious kingdom and presence. Without righteousness, which is the result of God’s “handiwork” (Eph 2:10) and is achieved through the Spirit (Gal 5:5), the confessor must remain forever separated from the Lord. (Heb 12:14)
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The truth of the gospel needs to be appreciated and clearly proclaimed if the dead are to be brought to life. Confusion is destroying the church of God and making it powerless is a depraved generation. Those who loudly proclaim a component of the gospel as being the necessary and full truth will be accountable for much one day. Those who are confident that they have brought many into the kingdom may find that they, like their sheep, will be shut out from the wedding feast and from God’s holy kingdom. Many false promises through a fractured gospel are being persuasively proclaimed to win the lost to church communities. In the end, many are presenting no gospel at all.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young is a Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514

 

February 19, 2017

Does the Lord Know You?

by Russell Young

Does the Lord know you?  This might be a strange question to ask.  It is commonly accepted that the Lord knows everything about everyone.  That is, he is omniscient.  However, Christ said that “on that day” he would plainly say to some of those who had served in the development of his kingdom, “I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers!” (Mt 7:23 NIV) This is a disturbing prophesy.  These people were expecting to be received by him; they had prophesied in his name, driven out demons in his name, and had performed many miracles (v.22); they were confident in their hope.

Many start their evangelizing with the question, “Do you know the Lord?” Perhaps, that is a good place to start, but even in this question consideration needs to be given to the word, “know.” In any event, as the confessor progresses in his or her walk, the question needs to be asked, “Does the Lord know you?” Those he does not “know” will be cast from him.  The justification that he had presented for casting away those referenced above was because they were “evil-doers.” Even though they had participated in ministry in his name, they had walked through their world in an “evil” manner, in violation of the law, or unrighteously.  At the beginning of this discourse the Lord had stated, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Mt 7:21 NIV) It is a person’s “doing” that is important to the Lord, not their profession of his lordship.

The word “knew” is translated from the Greek ginosko which means “to know absolutely, to be aware (of), feel, have know(-ledge), perceived, be resolved, can speak, be sure, understand.” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary #1097) Perhaps the “knowing” that the Lord spoke of can best be understood in relation to the Lord’s absolute knowledge of a person’s conviction; he was “unsure” of the integrity of their confession, or “didn’t understand” them. In this manner, he had chastised the church in Laodicea for being “lukewarm—neither hot nor cold” (Rev 3:16 NIV) and said that he was about to “spit them out of [his] mouth.” A person’s testimony through his or her life practices is the manner in which the Lord comes to know him or her.  He has stated that his saints overcame Satan, by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Rev 12:11 NIV) He is not saying that ‘the testimony of their word’ overcame Satan but that “the word of their testimony’ or the speaking of their actions as they revealed Christ through righteous living and obedient practices. It should be appreciated that both the blood of the Lamb and a person’s own testimony through righteous living are needed to dwell in the kingdom of heaven.

To the Thessalonians Paul wrote: “He will punish those who do not know (appreciate) God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” (2 Thess 1:8─9 NIV) As is recorded above, Christ said that, “only he who does the will of my Father in heaven” will enter his eternal kingdom. It is through obedience to him that God gets to “know” or to become sure of a person’s commitment.  This thought should not be taken lightly. Does the Lord “know” you? Do you obey Christ as he leads you by his Spirit?  Those who do will present a righteous testimony and will be participants in building his kingdom, and they will be part of it. The only way that a person’s state of faith can be known by God is through their degree of submission to him as they obediently comply with his requirements in their lives. Obedience is faith in practice. “[Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV)

The Lord gets to know a person as he or she seeks him for righteous living.  The reason that Christ claimed not to know or to be sure of them was because their practices did not show evidence of his life having been lived through them.  They had not humbled themselves to his sovereignty.  They had lived apart from him.  Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” (Jn 14:6 NIV) and they had not recognized his life even though they had called him “Lord.” They had continued in their evil practices; they had lived life on their terms.

This passage should instruct everyone who desires to dwell in the Lord’s eternal presence to recognize his lordship, his indwelling ministry, and the need for righteous living. Misleading representations concerning God’s grace should not prevent the life of Christ from being lived, as he would, through the believer. Christ admonished, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk 6:46 NIV) How well does the Lord “know” you?

February 12, 2017

“God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life”

by Russell Young

Consider the cliché: “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”  This pronouncement is often given by those trying to evangelize.   This cliché is easy to accept at first glance.  It is encouraging to the one going through one of life’s struggles; it offers promise.  Those who accept that there is a god would esteem him to know all things and to be all powerful. They also accept that he is all loving.  Consequently, the message is given and taken as if the person being addressed would only confess faith, his or her life would be wonderful, richly blessed and filled with joy. Although these descriptors are true, they are not true according to the world’s understanding.

What was “God’s wonderful plan” as experienced by the apostles? They all, but one, experienced horrible deaths. Think of God’s wonderful plan” as experienced by the many faithful today who are being martyred for their faith in Christ. What are people to think when they suffer through disease and poverty? How are they to interpret God’s “wonderful plan”?

God does have a plan for our lives. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ may be for the praise of his glory.” (Eph 1: 11─12 NIV)

The plan is not “for us” directed; it is “for the praise of [God’s] glory.” Later in that book Paul wrote, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10 NIV) This is also the declaration of a plan.

God’s plan is “wonderful” but will not necessarily bring the worldly blessings that many infer. Paul wrote: “The Lord will reward everyone for the good he does whether slave or free.” (Eph 6:8 NIV) The rewards of God are not trivial nor are they necessarily temporal and their accomplishment requires suffering.  “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim 3:12 NIV) Despite the trials, persecution, pain, and poverty that true believers endure in this world, they will reap a harvest of blessings and eternal life, if they remain faithful to the end. (Mt 10:22)

The walk of truth and obedience brings glory to God and eternal rewards.  This is his wonderful plan.  It does not include ease, riches, and the pleasures of this world, and those who present clichés need to take care concerning the impressions that they leave others.  They can mislead and be destructive to furthering the gospel. Weak faith based on misrepresented truths can give way to disillusionment and destruction and the spreading of a false gospel. Should the one being evangelized know the truth about what is before him or her?  Absolutely!  They must count the cost if they are to become strong and useful. Perseverance to the end is the only way that God’s plan can become wonderful. True believers know this and have committed themselves to victory over all sorts of trials through the presence and power of Christ. It is for the fulfilment of God’s plan in one’s life that his people have been called for the praise of his glory and it is in that fulfilment that they bring him glory. His plan is to conform the faithful to the likeness of his Son and to assist in the building of his kingdom.

It should never be accepted that God has ordained a moment by moment strategy for the way a believer is to live, that his moments have been pre-destined and firmly established.  The manner in which believers are led will depend upon how well they listen and how closely they follow.  Paul wrote, “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Rom 8:27 NIV) It is God who searches our hearts and from his search determines a strategy to affect the Spirit’s purpose.  Sometimes God will discipline, and at other times he will punish.  “Do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Heb 12:5─6 NIV) God’s plan is wonderful because he has a personal interest in accomplishing those things in our lives that will give opportunity for transformation of heart and practice so that a person might become acceptable to him. (Rom 15:16)  It is wonderful because it leads to eternal life, but most of the ‘wonderfulness’ will come in glory, not as we walk this earth.


Russell Young has been a regular Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 for the past year and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

February 5, 2017

The Book of the Law Was Lost

by Russell Young

During the time of the kings of Judah, the Book of the Law became lost.  This is a curious thing.  By King Josiah’s time the temple had fallen into a state of disrepair and with its neglect, any regard for the law as given to Moses from God. The Book had been in the temple all along but had not been seen; its value had become unrecognized. However, the kings had been practicing a form of religion.  They had been honoring Baal, the sun, moon and constellations, Molech, Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Milcom.  The hearts of the people had been corrupted by the worship the gods that had been introduced by Solomon for his many wives.

When King Josiah heard that the Book of the Law had been found, he ordered that it be read to all the people from the least to the greatest and he “renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD—“to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant.” (2 Kings 23:3 NIV) This was the everlasting covenant; it will never be aborted.

The LORD prophesied through Isaiah that he will bring the earth to destruction because it “has been defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5 NIV) This condemnation rests on those of the church age since it refers to the end times or the time of the destruction of the earth.

By that time, the Book will have been lost again—at least in the hearts, minds, and practices of the world’s people. Paul has prophesied that in the last days they will “[have] a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:5 NIV) Paul was speaking to those who were practicing a form of religion, but their religion lacked any power—much like the people of King Josiah’s time. It might be wise not to think of Paul’s statement as referring to strange gods, but to dishonouring practice concerning the requirements of the living God.  Peter wrote that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (1 Pet 1:3 NIV) That is, the Holy Spirit has been given us so that everything we need for life and godliness is available. Paul cautioned Timothy to stay away from those who neglect the power of God. (2 Tim 3:5)

Is the church of today practicing a form of godliness that lacks the power of the Spirit? Has the Book been lost again even in the understanding of people of people that have many copies of the Bible within their own homes?

Those of the church should not be confused; they do not have to live under the requirements of the Old Covenant.  They have been freed from it, but they are still required to love the lord their God with all their mind, soul, and heart. (Mt 22:37) and loving him requires obedience to him. (Jn 14: 23, 24) Those in the church are assured that the requirements of the everlasting covenant, the law and the statutes, will be fulfilled within the framework of the New Covenant. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (the Old Covenant)” (Gal 5:18 NIV) Paul has written, “And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8: 3─4 NIV)

Paul’s teaching to Timothy was that many will have a form of godliness but that form would lack the power of the Spirit. That is, in the end people will have accepted release from the bondage of the Old Covenant, but will not have committed themselves to the law of the Spirit (Rom 8:2) or to the sovereignty of God through the New Covenant.  This is serious neglect. Such practices that neglect the sovereignty of God in their lives will transpire because the “priests” of the New Covenant will have allowed it to exist, just as the priests of kings of Judah had allowed the teaching of the Book of the Law to be abandoned. For the everlasting covenant to be fulfilled, the Book will have to be found again and according to Isaiah’s prophecy, it is evident that the truths of the Book will be permanently lost resulting in the earth’s destruction.

The Lord will be satisfied with nothing less than one’s love for him with all the heart, soul, and mind.  Those who are “lukewarm” he will spit out of his mouth. (Rev 3:19) It is only through the power of the Spirit that righteousness leading to holiness can be achieved and without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Heb 12:14) Believers need to search their houses and find the Book again if it has been neglected or lost.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young is a weekly contributor to Christianity 201 and the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

October 30, 2016

Living in the Desert

spiritual-desertby Russell Young

The desert is a dry lifeless place.  It is uncomfortable and fails to yield fruit. Not many would choose to live there and yet the LORD led the Israelites through the wilderness for forty years to humble and to test them concerning obedience to his commands. (Deut 8:2).  They had proclaimed their right to his blessings when they applied the blood of the Passover lamb to the lintel of their doorposts in Egypt.  They had made the proclamation that they belonged to Israel and that Yahweh was their God.  Of the 600,000 men who had left Egypt all except for two were to die in the desert. Because of their disobedience and rebellion God had said, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” (Num 14:20─23 NIV)

The Israelites began the journey with the intent of finding God’s “rest” but were unable to find the land of plenty. Those who call themselves “believers” should recognize that they, too, are on a very similar journey.   They have left Egypt—this world—and have begun the journey to find rest from their labors.  God’s rest can be entered today, (Heb 4:7), although few would acknowledge that they are living in a state of rest; their situation might more fully be depicted as a desert.

Many struggle with their faith. They know deep down in their hearts that God is there.  They have heard many promises from his Word, yet the life promised them has escaped their experience.  Disillusionment creeps in, followed by doubt.  Is God real? Is the Bible truth? Does God care for me? Why am I not enjoying him? Yet they clutch to the assurance of their “saving faith” and dare not let go. Life continues to be a struggle.  The realities of providing food, shelter, and clothing for family, and the pressure to meet wants causes stress, frustration, and conflict. Pressure is increased by requests to contribute in some way to the church.  Their life has become busier and even less fulfilling.  Not only is peace lacking but guilt has become their constant companion. They dutifully journey to church each week and seek some confidence in their belonging by taking on responsibilities as time and opportunity permit. The source of power and freedom, however, has yet to be learned and that power and freedom has yet to be appropriated. Their experience does not measure up to the “truths” promoted by those more informed in God’s Word.

On the outside, all looks in order, but on the inside they feel empty. Many “believers” live this life of dissatisfaction. Although they would dearly like it otherwise, they know the futility of their efforts and may even feel that they have been abandoned by God, the one they desire to please above all else. They know that God has promised peace and rest for the faithful. Why has such a life evaded them?  They are living in the desert!

Like the Israelites, believers today are on the great journey to Canaan.  The journey, if they are trusting and obedient, will take them from where they are to where God wants them to be. It demands the faith and trust of a child, faith that is beyond a person’s common understanding of faith.  It demands faith that has been learned by experience to trust that God knows what is good for them.  It demands contentment with provision that is often less than that which is the common experience in today’s affluent western culture.  God was not happy about the complaints that the Israelites had made concerning lack of water and food and he is not happy about our complaints, voiced or otherwise, concerning lack of the things we feel are deserved or needed.

Completing the journey demands recognition that those who claim the name of Christ do not reside in this world and its interests have not hold on them. They do not have time for them or need of them.  They are merely passing through this world as aliens. (1 Pet 2:11) The journey demands the willingness and trust to allow God to be on the throne of their lives to find enjoyment in him.

Those who are caught up in the desert will live a dry fruitless life.  Like the Israelites they will yearn for the vegetables of Egypt and for what they see as their food–the wants of everyday life—being met through slavery to the world.

Faith demands that, for the most part, we depart from the known and the demands of the flesh, and live by promise in the unknown. It demands that the priorities of our lives change, and it sees wealth as being eternal rather than temporal.  It requires a transformation of focus to obedience and contentment in the blessings granted through righteous living and an understanding and a recognition of the sovereignty of God. Decisions are no longer the believers to make; their path is no longer theirs to direct.

The Israelites grumbled and complained.  Their minds went back to Egypt and all that was available in that evil country and they died with corrupted hearts and in discontentment.  Believers today have been commanded to learn a lesson from them.  There is only one way to escape the desert and that is to prove the faithfulness of Christ in their lives so that they might follow him and be lead to the place of rest. “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (Hen 5:11 NIV)

The desert cannot be left without a heart that is obedient to Christ and is content with his determination of its needs, the situations which would shape and form the believer’s heart and soul for eternity. “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jn 2:15 NIV)

The desert is a place of testing. Those who left Egypt except for two failed the test.  Their hearts were fixed on that place of slavery.  Like them, many of this generation will never leave it but will find their end in that dry, fruitless place, discontented and disillusioned.


Further reading: Today’s graphic image comes from an article What To Do When I Am Spiritually Dry? at the blog, The Reluctant Skeptic.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young’s book is in stores and available now in print and eBook.  The title is Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? It is available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

October 17, 2016

Warning Whispers

Job 23:10  But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

I Kings 19:12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.

Today’s thoughts are from Knowing-Jesus.com. Click the title below to read at source, and then click the tabs on the right margin to source other resources.

Every Yearning Satisfied

Simple Reflection

I was reflecting on the many earthquakes that have recently been rocking the world..quakes and distresses have been striking the globe with increased intensity and frequency, and earthquakes are just one pointer to the soon return of the Lord in power and great glory.

Still Small Voice

But my thoughts transferred to a different earthquake – one the prophet Elijah saw. My mind sped to his shattering experience with his violent earthquake. He stood in the presence of the Lord and experienced a devastating wind – a fierce and mighty wind. And after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice… 1Kings 19:12. And through the gentle whisper of God’s voice, Elijah knew his God in a new and powerful way.

Mind the Checks

I want to share a special reflection from, ‘Way of Faith,‘. – about that quiet, gentle stillness:- A soul who made rapid progress in her understanding of the Lord was asked once the secret of her easy advancement. She briefly replied, “Mind the checks ! Mind the checks !”

Warning Whispers

Perhaps the reason that many of us do not know and better understand Him.. is that we do not give heed to His gentle checks.. His warning whispers – His balanced counsel. His quiet restraints and gentle constraints are often passed unheeded, in the clamour of life.

Gentle Pressure

The Lord still whispers in His small and gentle voice… a still voice can hardly be heard; a still voice must be almost felt; a still voice is like a steady, gentle pressure upon the heart and mind – a still voice is like the touch of a morning zephyr on your face. A still voice is a small voice, quietly, almost timidly spoken in your heart. A voice that if heeded, will grow noiselessly clearer to your inner ear.

Ear of Love

His voice is spoken into the ear of love, for love is intent on hearing even the faintest whispers from the Beloved. But there does comes a time also, when love ceases to be heard.. if love is not responded to – if love is not believed in.

Take Heed

He is Love, and if you would know Him and His hear His voice.. take heed and give constant ear to His gentle touches and His hushed breath. Take heed in conversation, when about to utter some word. Give heed to that gentle voice, “mind the checks,”  – and refrain from speech.

Wait on God

Take heed when you are about to pursue some course in life, that seems clear and right.. until there comes a Heart to heart suggestion that almost has in it the force of conviction – give heed and “mind the checks!”. Learn to be still and wait on God, to be hushed in His presence and listen. Learn to wait upon Him for the unfolding of His will, for He knows the way you should take. Job 23:10

Perfect Direction

Let God form your plans about everything in your mind and your heart, and then let Him execute those plans through you – but in His way. Do not possess any wisdom of your own, but rely on His perfect direction. Many times His execution will seem contradictory to the plans He seemed to give. If it appears that He to work against Him or counter to your thoughts.. listen and “mind the checks.” Simply listen, obey and trust the Lord, even when it seems high folly to do so.

Losing Game

He will in the end cause “all things work together,” Romans 8:28, though many times initially the outworking of His plan appears contradictory. In His wider knowledge He is content to play a ‘losing’ game!!

Quiet Obedience

So if you want to know His voice, never consider results or possible effects. Obey the quiet voice, even when He asks you to move in the dark or the opposite way. He Himself will be glorious light in you, as He leads you down the path you are to take.

Secure in Him

You will discover an acquaintance and a fellowship with God holding you.. holding you and Him together, even in the severest testings – holding Him and you together.. even under the most terrible pressure.

Anchored to Christ

In this time of earthquakes and many other terrors that are coming on the world, men’s hearts will fail unless their heart is anchored to His voice of love. Listen for that still small voice of the Lord that whispers deep within the heart – and mind the checks !

August 25, 2016

Do You Have a Heart for God?

1 Samuel 13:1–14 NLT

Continued War with Philistia

Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years.

Saul selected 3,000 special troops from the army of Israel and sent the rest of the men home. He took 2,000 of the chosen men with him to Micmash and the hill country of Bethel. The other 1,000 went with Saul’s son Jonathan to Gibeah in the land of Benjamin.

 Soon after this, Jonathan attacked and defeated the garrison of Philistines at Geba. The news spread quickly among the Philistines. So Saul blew the ram’s horn throughout the land, saying, “Hebrews, hear this! Rise up in revolt!”  All Israel heard the news that Saul had destroyed the Philistine garrison at Geba and that the Philistines now hated the Israelites more than ever. So the entire Israelite army was summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.

The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000* chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore! They camped at Micmash east of Beth-aven.   The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns.  Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead.

Saul’s Disobedience and Samuel’s Rebuke

Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear.   Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away.  So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him,   but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle.   So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.   But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

This is an article from earlier in the year by Chuck Swindoll which came recommended. We’ve included the full text of the scripture because the reading itself is shorter. If you have a devotional you want to recommend be sure to contact us. Click the title below to read at source.

Chuck SwindollHow’s Your Heart?

When God scans the earth for potential leaders, He is not on a search for angels in the flesh. He is certainly not looking for perfect people, since there are none. He is searching for men and women like you and me, mere people made up of flesh, bone, and blood. But He is also looking for certain qualities in those people, like the qualities He found in David.

The first quality God saw in David was a heart for God. “The Lord has sought out . . . a man after His own heart.” What does it mean to be a person after God’s own heart? Seems to me, it means that you are a person whose life is in harmony with the Lord. What is important to Him is important to you. What burdens Him burdens you. When He says, “Go to the right,” you go to the right. When He says, “Stop that in your life,” you stop it. When He says, “This is something I want you to change,” you come to terms with it because you have a heart for God. That’s bottom-line biblical Christianity.

When you are deeply spiritual, you have a heart that is sensitive to the things of God. A parallel verse in 2 Chronicles confirms this: “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9, emphasis added).

What is God looking for? He is looking for men and women whose hearts are completely His—completely. That means there are no locked closets. Nothing’s been swept under the rugs. That means that when you do wrong, you admit it and immediately come to terms with it. You’re grieved over wrong. You’re concerned about those things that displease your heavenly Father. You long to please Him in your actions. You care about the motives behind your actions. That’s having a heart for God, and that’s the first quality David had. Do you have a heart for God?

God is looking for men and women whose hearts are completely His—completely.

— Charles R. Swindoll

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005).

If you would like a shorter devotion, perhaps to start the day or end the day, consider signing up for Chuck Swindoll at Insight for Living. They are currently in the book of Esther. To learn more, click this link.

 

August 22, 2016

Freedom and the Ministry of the Spirit

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post

by Russell Young

There is another aspect concerning freedom in Christ that needs to be considered and is expressed in the manner in which the Spirit ministers in the believer’s heart.  Sin is lawlessness; for the believer it is failure to obey the law or the rule of the Spirit.  “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins.” (Jas 4:17, NIV) There are several important revelations in this passage.  The believer must know or must have been informed concerning that which the Spirit expects of him and for sin to have occurred he or she must have rejected the command of the Spirit.  Further, the command or knowledge is specific and personal to him or her.

The Spirit does not convict of all sin at one time.  If he did, the believer would be overwhelmed.  Christ is for us, not against us. He said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30, NIV) and John wrote: “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” (1 Jn 5:3) Like anyone undertaking a cleaning project, one part is tackled at a time and the Lord will persist in his heart and mind-cleaning endeavours within the believer until he has accomplished his goal or until rebellion takes place to the point that the Spirit’s call and ministry is quenched.  The Lord will even discipline and punish those who are rejecting his cleansing ministry. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Heb 12:5-6, NIV)

It is important to appreciate that the believer is no longer subject to completing the law as given to Moses; however, he or she is required to complete the law as given to them by the Spirit who will fully satisfy the same righteous requirements of Moses’ law, if he is obeyed.  Therefore, it is the commands of Christ though his Spirit that are law for the believer. As stated, the commands are specific and distinct for each person as the Spirit ministers to accomplish the personal transformation of each believer.  The commands of Christ are made known through the Spirit to each who would have ears to hear.  That which is a command for one person may not be for another at that point in his or her transformation.  In this way Christ can work gently and efficiently in each believer’s life.

All sin is offensive to God however, even those not revealed by the Spirit.  There are sins about which the believer is aware and which he knowingly commits or has been informed by the Spirit that he has committed (known sins) and those about which he has been left uninformed. “Known sin” is to be confessed and forgiveness sought. (1 Jn 1:9) Unknown sins are also offensive to God, and Christ as high priest will mediate these.  A mediating ministry of the high priest is to offer a sacrifice for sins committed in ignorance. (Heb 9:7) Consequently, revealed sin is to be confessed and stopped; unknown sin will be mediated by Christ as high priest. Accordingly, the burden placed upon the believer is light.  When he is convicted of sin, he is to repent and confess so that he might gain forgiveness.

The issue of judging other believers can be clarified at this point.  One believer is not to judge another-to do so leveling judgment at Christ.  His Spirit is working in each believer individually for that one’s cleansing and transformation; he or she is Christ’s “workmanship” (Eph 2:10), not another’s. Therefore, while the Spirit may have revealed sin in one person’s life, he may not yet have revealed that same sin in another’s. A brother or sister in the Lord needs to be encouraged but they do not need to be burdened by the convictions of another. “For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?” (1 Cor 10:29, NIV)

The freedom that comes to those in Christ is great.  The one who confesses faith in him and who has pledged his lordship has been relieved of the burdens of his or her past sins and of the Old Covenant laws and he or she has been given the Spirit of righteousness and is to be led by him, confessing sin when it occurs and avoiding it when alerted. He is not freed from obedience to Christ, however. It is through obedience that eternal salvation is gained. “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” (1 Pet 2:16)

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.

June 22, 2016

Following the Directions

Today we pay a return visit to Jen Rodewald at the blog The Free Slave’s Devotional; an article from her archives. This is also a return visit to Joshua, who we looked at yesterday.

directionsHe Gives Me Directions

“And Joshua fell on his face…and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?’” ~Joshua 5:14, NASB

We discussed the felling of Jericho yesterday, and with it, the purpose for the nation of Israel. They were a people of God’s choosing, a people set apart for His purpose. His glory. His revelation.

They were to show who the true God is to the world. And God worked in and through them to reveal himself. Pretty well, too, despite the Israelites many, many flaws. Consider Rahab, her response to the Hebrew spies…

“…our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:11)

She had heard about the Red Sea. About the wilderness, and the mighty kings the nomadic wanderers had taken out. No doubt she’d heard about the crossing of the flooded Jordan river…and now these people, whose God was clearly THE God, were coming.

Notice what she didn’t hear about…How amazing the leadership was among Israel. The awe-inspiring orator who captivated his audience. The unbelievably gifted song leader who could raise a frenzy of praise with his charismatic performances…

She heard about God. HIS power. HIS doing. HIS redemption of his people. Were there amazing leaders, great writers/speakers, gifted musicians? Yep. Among many other extraordinary people, there were such in Israel. Gifted and called by God himself. But Rahab’s faith didn’t sprout from them. She planted herself into the conviction that God was sovereign over all–people, nature, nations. All.

So, what does that have to do with the felling of Jericho? Well, we know Rahab was saved from that destruction. We also know that her legacy wasn’t restricted to her soiled past. Boaz, her son, was quite a good man, you know. And God saw fit to include Rahab in Jesus’s genealogy.

Anything else?

Well, we circled around to this question: “How do we, like the Israelites, show who God is to a godless or idolatress world?”

Perhaps the answer is found in this part of the story.

“I have given Jericho into your hand…. You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days…then on the seventh day march seven times, and the priest shall blow the trumpets…and all the people shall shout…”

What? Not only is that a very strange string of directions, it’s actually quite terrifying. March around the fortified city walls? That is a completely vulnerable position. And seven times? Not only is it vulnerable, it has now become predictable. A recipe for slaughter.

Here, maybe, is the key. Obedience. God said march. Just walk. No shooting. No secret attack. Nothing fancy, cunning, or brilliant. A simple walk around the wall–easy directions that are leg-shakingly difficult to complete. But the obedience is visible, so when Rahab and her family ask “why did you do that?” the people would say, “because God said to.” So when the nations around heard about the walls coming down, the only bit of strategy that they could gain from studying that victory is, “they obeyed God.”

Sometimes showing who God is to the world around me is as simple as walking. Am I willing to obey?

 

June 21, 2016

Characterized by Courage, or Characterized by Fear?

Did your high school ever do a production of The Wizard of Oz? This one is from the UK.

Did your high school ever do a production of The Wizard of Oz? The one pictured here is from the UK.

Today, one of our past writers recommended a site, Love Everlasting Ministries, which in turn led us to the blog of Sarah Callen, Work in Progress, where we found today’s article.  Click the title below to read at source.

Courage, My Heart

The Wizard of Oz is a classic movie full of wonderful and memorable characters, one of my favorites is the Cowardly Lion. I love the irony of his character: a huge, ferocious looking lion who is scared of everything and severely lacking in courage. This lovable character spends his time with Dorothy in search of courage, understanding that his lack of courage is unbefitting.

I wonder how many of us are like the Cowardly Lion: we know we are to be courageous, but find ourselves crippled by fear. 

Lately, in my own quiet time with the Lord and in conversations with others, the word “courage” has consistently come up. Our lives, especially as Christians, require a great deal of courage. Trusting God, trusting that we’re hearing his voice, following God’s instructions, and living “on mission” all require courage. It takes courage to forgive, it takes courage to be kind, it takes courage to depend on God, it takes courage to love others. The life of a Christ follower requires courage at every turn. Following God is not for the faint of heart.

Courage n. mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

One of my favorite Bible characters is Joshua. He was a man who had faith in God, learned to submit to his leaders and then led his people into the territory God had given them. His story is one full of faith and courage and he lived in a way that can inspire us today. In the book of Deuteronomy we learn that Joshua was the apprentice of Moses, he followed him around wherever he went and learned as much as he could from the leader of Israel. The next book, the book of Joshua, begins with the death of Moses and Joshua being appointed as the leader of the nation. Talk about pressure! I can only imagine the insecurity and fear that Joshua faced. The people rebelled and argued with Moses, a man who heard and spoke directly with God, if I were Joshua I would be completely doubting my ability to lead this unruly group. But God knew exactly what Joshua needed to hear to lead His people into the land that had been promised to them. Joshua 1:5-9 begins with God’s instructions to Joshua:

“…No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

In the span of four verses God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous three times… I think he may have been trying to make a point. Courage was necessary for Joshua and the people Israel, they could do nothing without courage. But I find the flow of this passage to be very interesting.

It takes courage to lead. 

The first “be strong and courageous” is directed specifically to Joshua, as Joshua would be unable to enter the promised land without it. During his time as the leader of the nation, Joshua showed immense faith and courage, resulting in the miraculous acts of God on behalf of his people. Joshua had the courage to listen to God, take him at his word and not budge, knowing that whatever God said would indeed come to pass. It takes immense courage to see the vision of God and not be dissuaded by circumstance or naysayers.

It takes courage to obey. 

Has God ever instructed you to do something that just scared you? Have you ever read a verse and thought to yourself, “I just don’t know if I can do that…”? I know I have. Obedience to God takes a great deal of courage. Read through the book of Joshua and witness the seemingly crazy instructions that God gave Joshua who in turn had to tell the people. It took courage to march around the city of Jericho for seven days instead of coming up with a plan of attack. It took courage to devote the entire city to God instead of keeping everything for themselves. It took courage to go up against giants and armies when Israel was vastly outnumbered. But every act of courageous obedience resulted in overwhelming blessing.

It takes courage to go. 

“Go” is the most expensive word in the Bible. It can be easy sometimes to focus on the cost, instead of summoning the courage to “go”. Courage is required to spread the love of Jesus, whether that means going to your neighbor or another country. But, when we summon the courage to go, knowing that God is with us the entire time, I believe great things can happen. When fear-conquering courage fuels faith-filled actions this can lead to changed lives and communities.

In what areas of your life do you need an infusion of courage? How can that spark of courage in your life lead to the benefit of others? It’s my hope and prayer that we will all be strong and courageous as Joshua was so that we can lead, obey, and go as the Lord instructs.


To read another article by Sarah which was our introduction to her writing, scroll to her June 14th article at Love Everlasting Ministries.

 

June 12, 2016

The Conscience: God’s Operative Tool

•••by Russell Young

The Word of God often speaks of the need to be led by the Spirit in order for a person to be eternally saved.  How does the Spirit lead?  The answer is that God uses a person’s conscience to guide him or her.  The conscience is really God consciousness within the believer.  Where the conscious is strong, that person has a strong awareness of the presence of God.  Where it is weak, the bearer has only a weak or limited knowledge of God’s presence.

Following the believer’s confession of faith and of Christ’s lordship, the new believer is given the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead in obedience to the Word and will of God.  Regarding the Spirit Christ said, “But I tell you the truth:  It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you.  When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (Jn 16:7-8, NIV) Conviction takes place through a person’s conscience, and the conviction of the world of sin applies to all sinful activity-its practice in the lost and its practice in God’s children.

Christian conscienceA person’s conscience is his moral consciousness. And the writer of Hebrews has recorded that it is the Spirit that cleanses our conscience or moral consciousness from interest in performing those acts which lead to death. (Heb 9:14)  The result should be that a person’s awareness or consciousness of those immoral acts which might tempt him or her should alert them concerning the danger before them.  The Old Covenant Israelites did not enjoy the privilege of the Counselor to guide them but had to rely upon the law and their own sinful nature in order to live righteously.  They could not do it.  The conscience not only alerts the believer of dangerous temptations but also disturbs him or her when sin has occurred so that the sinner, including the believer, might repent and seek forgiveness for cleansing by the blood of Christ. (1 Jn 1:9)

The Holy Spirit uses the conscience to reveal dissonance between God’s Word and will and the believer’s heart and practices.  Paul was able to boast that he kept his conscience clear. “Now this is our boast:  Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in holiness and sincerity that are from God.  We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.” (2 Cor 1:12, NIV) John stated, “If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God…because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” (1 Jn 3:21-22, NIV)

The Holy Spirit is active in the lives of believers.  He enlightens them to sin and alarms them when it occurs.  Without his ministry in this regard, transformation into a holy mind and the development of righteous practices could not occur.  When the conscience is troubled a person can know that he or she is acting outside, or about to act outside, the will of God.  The conscience is the warning bell.

The Spirit, or warning bell, can be quenched, however. (1 Thess 5:19) That is, by consciously and repeatedly ignoring the Spirit’s alerts the heart will become hardened to the issue involved and the alert will no longer be heard.  The development of a sensitive Spirit or strong God consciousness is the most important tool the believer has to aid in living a righteous life.

Repeated quenching of the Spirit can lead to the conscience becoming seared; that is, a person’s conscience will no longer work to reveal sin and he or she will a become hypocritical liar.  “The Spirit clearly says that in the later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  Such teaching comes through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as by a hot iron.” (1 Tim 4:1-2, NIV) A seared conscience leads to powerlessness, and to an unholy walk and possibly to the abandonment of faith. Special care should be taken not to sear the conscience concerning “pet” sins. The sins that a person has a tendency to rationalize or excuse.  The believer is to be careful to follow the Spirit’s leading if he or she is to remain faithful and develop the holiness that leads to eternal salvation. (Heb. 12:14)

In respect to the Spirit’s leading, it must be remembered that each person is God’s masterpiece or workmanship. (Eph 2:10) He is working to make them a sacrifice acceptable for God’s kingdom. (Rom 15:16) Christ said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.” (Jn 10:27, NIV) The Lord’s sheep or children will listen to and follow him, and when they do they will be conformed to the likeness of his Son. (Rom 8:29)

The Spirit uses the Word of God to enlighten the believer in regard to sin and righteous living and the Spirit instructs the conscience.  Those who neglect to bathe themselves in God’s Word will be unable to effectively fight the battle against sin and to achieve his or her necessary transformation.  In his study the believer has a responsibility and the privilege of knowing the heart of God on all manner of issues.  The conscience is God’s operative tool consequently, the believer should develop and protect it.

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