Christianity 201

August 23, 2017

Unsettling Times

Today I picked up a Christian periodical and discovered that Arnold Reimer, a retired pastor from a church I frequently attended — Bayview Glen Alliance Church in Toronto — had a blog titled Finishing Well. I read several articles, but this one from June jumped out at me as still being quite timely. Click the title to read it at source.

Unshaken?

It is hard to remember a time in world affairs more unsettling than this present one.  When the greatest economic and military power seethes with division, indecision, hateful accusations, political stagnation, worrisome threats, and moral decay,  then international angst soars.  It is possible that some foolish enemy might take advantage of the situation , when respect and confidence in authority are so confused, and leadership is so consistently distracted and defensive.

We are living in times Scripture describes as follows: See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking.  For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, (Noah, Moses, the prophets) much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.  And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’  And this expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (God’s truth and righteousness)   Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”

I repeat what I have often said… the Church, its leadership and followers, must speak, live and demonstrate with awe and reverence, not just the love of a gracious God, but the wrath of a holy God, who is a consuming fire.  Yes, the Lord our God, Sovereign Ruler of the universe, Creator, Saviour, Healer, Sanctifier and coming King, is patient, loving, gracious and forgiving.  But, He hates sin and judges it.  Eventually, He withholds blessing from the disobedient and indifferent. That great and awesome God insists that we proclaim both His cursing and His blessing, whether they listen or not.

If the proverbial house on fire requires a daring saviour to disregard self in order to rescue the perishing, why, in heaven’s name, are we pampering the saints, watering
down prophetic truth, and coddling sin and sinners?  Do we not understand our times?  Do we not realize that the popular parading of evil, running rampant in our day, and generally approved, left unmentioned, unchallenged and un-rebuked will hasten the exercise of God’s wrath?   Is sin so obscure in Scripture that we can be ambivalent about it from our pulpits?  Are we not to hold governments, educational and religious institutions and the general population accountable for degenerate behaviour?  Is the applause and approval of men so important, or the fear of their response so great, we dare to please men rather than God?

These are sobering, heart-searching thoughts for which we who own His name shall stand accountable.   Surely, for those who know God and His Word, finishing well demands a bold, fearless acknowledgement and response to these things.  Those of us who are older have been given the perspective of time, duty and experience to see a bigger picture.   We know the value of love, prayer, lifestyle and sensitivity necessary to an acceptable presentation of truth and warning.   We also know what evil can do!   In a shaken world an unshakeable faith in a gracious, forgiving God will enable us to speak lovingly, wisely and clearly.

Rev. Arnold Reimer


You may also enjoy: Righteousness

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 24, 2017

Examine Yourself

Last year at this time I introduced you to a new online resource, Start2Finish.org which includes various blogs, podcasts and Bible study materials materials available on everything from a phone app to print. This weekend we’re going to share two other authors from the site. Click the title below to read today’s article at its source, and then use the navigation bar to check out the rest of the website.

The Man in the Mirror

by Billy Alexander

Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord (Lamentations 3:40).”

Bucknell University did something interesting recently. They covered all of the mirrors in the residence hall with construction paper to block reflections in what they called, “No Mirror Monday,” as part of a program to promote “body positivity” and “self-love.” (1)

At a surface level, the idea is to ignore the body shaming of the world and to promote positive self-esteem among the student body. However, in essence it is an effort to cover up the truth and confronting the truth of the image we are presenting to the world. In a spiritual sense this is a daily practice of many in the world. They do not merely go out unaware of their physical appearance but they ignore that their character is spotted by many stains (Psalm 73:6, Romans 1:28-32).

Men are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) but because of sin and “self-love” that image has been marred and disfigured grossly. To be certain, we must all have a proper love of self (Matthew 22:39) but to promote this without looking in the metaphorical mirror is dangerous. The Scribes and Pharisees dressed themselves up in false humility and appeared to be the most religious and righteous men on earth. But Jesus rebuked them for not examining their inner flaws, saying that they “cleanse the outside of the cup and dish but inside were full of extortion and self-indulgence (Matthew 23:25-28).” Jesus told them that they were blind to truth or their actual appearance before God. The Lord cautioned that on Judgement Day “many” will be shocked to find that they will be cast away from Him forever (Matthew 7:21-23). How else could they be unaware of their unsightly appearance to the righteous Judge unless they ignored their visible spots and blemishes?

Jesus continued on to tell us that the wise are those who “Hear and Do” what He instructs (Matthew 7:24). James expands on this notion by saying, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was (James 1:23-24).” This is the state of those who hear the Bible and do not put the precepts into practice. What of those who fail to hear what the Bible says (John 12:48)? They have covered up the mirror of the soul (Hebrews 4:12) and go about blind to their true condition. We must all seek to see ourselves as God sees us.

Imagine failing to look in the mirror and going in for a job interview with a stained and untucked shirt, disheveled hair, and spinach in your teeth. Would you really ever dare such thing before a person who could determine whether or not you gain a job? Yet so many are heading into a much more fateful appointment (Hebrews 9:27) without ever laundering their garments and preparing properly (2 Corinthians 13:5).

If we allow Him to do so, God seeks to restore all of us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). “The Bible itself functions as spiritual direction, for as we read it prayerfully we are being formed more and more into the image of Christ. (2) Jesus is Himself the image of God (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3) and has made God visible to us all (John 1:18). As we examine His character and model and follow Him we become partakers of the divine nature forsaking the habits of the self-seeking world (2 Peter 1:4). Look deeply into the perfect law of liberty Christian. Day by day the wrinkles, stains, and scars are fading and the high definition image of God is being perfected in you. As we look into that mirror and see His image there is no shame in that.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV).”


  1. http://libertyunyielding.com/2017/02/27/bucknell-u-promotes-positive-self-image-covering-mirrors/
  2. Richard J. Foster, A Celebration of Discipline, HarperCollins, 1978, p.187

March 21, 2017

The One Where God Halts the Self-Defense Plea of Sinners

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

Today we are paying a return visit to John Myer at the blog Barenuckle Bible. His pieces are much longer than we normally use here, so you’re seeing about the first 60%, but need to click through to reach the conclusion. (And see the verse I chose — and John chose — for today’s header.) Click the title below or the link at the end to begin. Also, be aware this is part of a much longer arc of articles working through the book of Romans. Consider using the link below to navigate to commentary on other sections.

Every Mouth Stopped

Judgment is certain.  God’s warning to mankind:  Don’t show up to the trial of your life armed with nothing but a folder of good deeds.   

Twinkies in the Courtroom

In 1979 an ex-San Francisco police officer assassinated the San Francisco mayor. Attorneys for the defense argued that around the time of the murder, their client had begun consuming large amounts of sugary food and drink.  This, they said, had triggered deep mood swings in the defendant which in turn substantially contributed to the homicide.  It was the first ever courtroom defense based on junk food abuse, and it worked.  The jury reduced the charge from murder to voluntary manslaughter.  Following those days, the term “Twinkie Defense” became part of the unofficial legal lexicon, describing any improbable defense strategy.

The Bible assures us there will be a Day of Judgment, when God will directly judge every individual.  Most people have no plan for that Day.  Those who do are piecing together a “Twinkie Defense.”  They intend to tell God that although they’ve done many evil things, they’re not completely to blame because forces beyond their control compelled them to sin.

They hope to redirect God’s attention to a portfolio of their nicer, more decent deeds, ranging from Goodwill donations to handing change to the homeless man standing at the highway exit ramp.

Aside from the New Testament faith, every world religion trains, encourages, and indoctrinates its followers to prepare a “Twinkie Defense” for the great day of reckoning—to amplify good works so they can hopefully outweigh the bad.    Human beings have an almost unprecedented trust in this strategy.  We believe God will credit our works of shaky goodness to the highest possible extent, not only meriting a reduced sentence, but full acquittal.

We are actually hoping God will be more gullible than that San Francisco jury.

As dubious as this plan sounds, it is pervasive.  Ask anyone.  Begin with grandparents, especially those who are not committed Christians.  Say to them, “Statistically speaking, you’re going to meet God before I do.   For my peace of mind, please tell me, what is your plan?”

Ask friends and other relatives, too.  Listen closely to identify a Twinkie Defense strategy commonly emerging.  Most importantly, check with yourself to see whether you are unconsciously trusting in that same plan.

A Dose of Reality

The cold hard reality of Scripture warns us no human being stands a chance of acquittal before God based on his or her personal righteousness.  We must look for righteousness outside of ourselves.

The previous sections of Romans have led up to this closing thought, this slam dunk, in 3:9-20.  At this point, if any reader still trusts in his native righteousness, Paul will seek to overwhelm that trust before he moves forward into the rest of the gospel.

He begins by pointing out that every human is a sinner, virtually from head to toe.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? 

Paul leads with this question, because lurking in the subconscious of his Jewish countrymen is still the supposition that a particular group of people is nobler born than the rest of mankind.

No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;

An Apostolic Insult?

“None” is a scandalous assertion, and one that always elicits protest.  For that reason, Paul once again unfurls the rap sheet of typical sinners, so that we can come face to face with our own character and symptoms.

11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.

The apostle begins with the braincase, pointing out that sin is firstly evidenced in the  muddled understanding of the mind.  Sinners not only find the knowledge of God impenetrable, but they are in a maze of confusion about the obligations of morality, the meaning of life, and the importance of eternity.  Their thought processes as to profound matters have been warped to the point of non-understanding.

Nor are they interested in seeking answers.  Sinners find the exercise of pursuing God an insufferable bore, especially when compared to other, far more stimulating pastimes.  The philosopher Blaise Pascal once wrote, “Man’s sensitivity to trivia, and his insensitivity to matters of major importance, reveal he has a strange disorder.”  Strange indeed, that we can name five brands of beer, but not five commandments.  We can cite detailed stats from players on our favorite athletic teams, but can’t find the book of Colossians.

Paul goes to write,

12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good,
    not even one.”

Whether we turn aside because we’re distracted by the tinsel of the world, or drunk on its intoxication, our inability to walk a straight line says something about our sinful condition.  As God estimates the global value of this scene, with the entire history of our race, His “math” sums us all up a flat, worthless zero.  In the sight of God, every work and deed and accomplishment piled up, resembles a landfill.  These calculations are fair, for when no one does good—zero—then the grand total of all such individuals must also be zero.

Moving Right On Down…

But Paul isn’t done with the sinner’s profile.  He moves from the brain to the mouth:

13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

Human beings sin not just in deed, but in verbal communication.  Here the Scriptures resort to thick metaphor in order to portray the garish variety of evil we transmit with our words.    “An open grave” refers to a place of exposed death, depicting the way a sinner’s words spread spiritual uncleanness.  “The venom of asps” corresponds to the poison of a snake, and well describes sinful words as being analogous to snakebite.

The sinner’s mouth is also full of curses, that is, expressions of ill-will, and bitterness, anger that has been allowed to simmer, sometimes for years. Simply stand next to a sinful human being and it will not be long before all of this—death, lies, poison, mean talk, and anger—creep out.

Your Worst Life Now

Following this sketch, Paul then illustrates in brief, the way, the habit of life, exemplified by a sinful person:

15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Humanity is swift to violence, as any study of history will show (or any local police blotter), but even when violence is not present, the path of a sinner is one of ruination.  Wherever he goes, ruin occurs, whether it is to himself and his health, or his marriage, or employment.   In addition, humans continually taunt themselves into misery, always fancying if they could only get this or that, life would be better.  But when they finally obtain the thing long pursued, their pleasure only lasts fleeting moments before misery begins to reemerge.

Paul adds that they do not know peace, which explains why, wherever sinners go, drama breaks out.  If none is present, they seek it, or deliberately stir it.  Peace to them is unfulfilling.  As a final observation, and probably worst of all, their way of life does not incorporate any true fear of God.  The sinner feels emboldened to develop ever darker, more destructive strains of sin.  In that fearless vacuum, any imaginable evil could occur…

you’re more than half-way done, continue reading at source

 

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

February 23, 2017

Little Power and Great Affirmation in Philadephia: Revelation 3

by Clarke Dixon

You feel powerless. Something is broken and you don’t think you can fix it. There is a problem and you don’t think you can find a solution. The complexities of life are like a maze and you don’t think you can find your way. What are we to do when we feel powerless?

Our friends may respond with a big dose of positive thinking; you are powerful, you can do anything, you are amazing! And sometimes, when we are thinking of ourselves more lowly than we ought, we need affirmation. But sometimes affirmation falls short. It feels hollow somehow. It is not just that we think we can’t fix it, or find the solution, or find our way. It is that we can not fix it, find the solution, or find our way. Sometimes we don’t just feel powerless, we are powerless.

In Revelation chapter three we have a letter to a small community of Christians who are of “little power.” (Revelation 3:8) This small community of Christians in Philadelphia could easily feel overwhelmed by those loyal to Roman ways of thinking and acting. They could also feel overwhelmed by those who strictly observe the Hebrew Bible but who don’t share their excitement over Jesus as the fulfillment of those scriptures. These two communities were much larger than the Christian community, and persecution was known to happen. So what does Jesus have to say to these powerless Christians?

Here is what Jesus says:

“These are the words of the holy one . . .” (Revelation 3:7)

Jesus is in effect saying, “I am the Holy One, and so the only One who has the power of God.” We read in Mark chapter 1 of a demon saying “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” (Mark 1:24). The demon knew Jesus had the power to destroy because the demon knew Jesus was God’s Holy One. 

“. . . the true one, . . .” (Revelation 3:7)

The word “true” here means “authentic, genuine.” Jesus is the “real deal.” No one but Jesus can promise relationship with God, life, or eternal life, and deliver on the promise.

“. . . who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” (Revelation 3:7)

Jesus holds the key of of the Kingdom, and makes decisions on the door of the Kingdom. Persecutors may make decisions about a person’s death, but Jesus is the one who makes decisions on every person’s life & eternal life.

“I know your works.” (Revelation 3:8)

Jesus knows stuff! Nothing escapes his notice, neither the patient suffering of the persecuted, nor the evil deeds of those who persecute.

“Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” (Revelation 3:8)

Jesus creates opportunities. It may feel like opportunity belongs to the strong and powerful. However, Jesus can create opportunities for those with little to no power.

“I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet,” (Revelation 3:9)

In other words “I will make justice happen.” There is a turning of the tables here, from the Philadelphian Christians being kicked out of the synagogue to those of the synagogue gathering around them.

“ . . . and they will learn that I have loved you.” (Revelation 3:9)

Jesus will clear up misunderstandings. Those who hate people because they think God hates them will someday find out whom God loves and how foolish it was to hate.

“I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)

Here Jesus promises to hold the Christians through a time of trial. There are differing interpretations on the “what” and “when” of this “hour of trial.” The important thing is the promise of Jesus to keep his people through it.

“I am coming soon;” (Revelation 3:11)

Jesus will return and those persecutors who say that he is of no consequence, will see him and come to a new appreciation of just Who He is.

“If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it.” (Revelation 3:12)

Jesus will ensure the believer’s presence with God. They may have been cast out of the synagogue, and disowned by the city, but Jesus will give them a secure standing in his temple, the Bible’s great symbol for the presence of God.

“I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” (Revelation 3:12)

This is a promise of inclusion in God’s people, as well as a promise of reflection of God’s character, a “family resemblance” if you will.

The Christians in Philadelphia have little power. Does Jesus respond with affirmation, telling them that they have much more power than they think? There is affirmation, but most of the affirmations are about Jesus Himself! Let us look at the full letter to Philadelphia and notice the affirmations that pertain to Jesus:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens8 “I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. 11 I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Revelation 3:7-13 (emphasis mine)

Jesus does not affirm the power of his followers. He affirms His own power! In other words Jesus is telling the Christians in Philadelphia that they do not need to be God. He is! They do not need to be powerful. He is, and He loves them. Their part is to keep doing what they have been doing;

“I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. . . . Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, . . .” (Revelation 3:8,10).

Do you feel powerless? Something is broken and you don’t think you can fix it? There is a problem and you don’t think you can find a solution? The complexities of life are like a maze and you don’t think you can find your way? Perhaps you are correct. But you are not God. You don’t have to be. Look instead to the One Who Is.

There is one matter in life where we are completely and utterly powerless. We have absolutely no power to reconcile ourselves to God. But God does. And He has made it happen through Jesus at the cross. Let us not look to ourselves with false affirmations, but look to our Lord and Saviour with honest affirmations of His power and love.

 All Scripture references are from the NRSV

 Original Source: Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

June 4, 2016

More on the Sin/Repentance Cycle

Today we continue our two-day visit to Steve Fuller’s Living by Faith blog. There is a link to part one in his text below if you missed it yesterday. Or, you can also check out the 14-min video post on The Danger of Continuing in Known Sin. To read this one at the blog, see comments others have posted, or link to the blog’s forums, click the title below.

Can I Deliberately Keep Sinning and Still Be Forgiven? (Part Two)

Lavish Grace

In my last post I described the lavish grace that’s ours in Christ — grace which forgives, justifies, frees, adopts, and keeps us persevering in faith until the end.

But then I raised the question — does this grace mean someone can deliberately keep sinning and be forgiven?

And I showed how Hebrews 10:26 answers that question —

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

Two Crucial Phrases

Don’t miss those words “go on” and “deliberate.”  The author is not saying that if you entertained a lustful thought yesterday, then you cannot be forgiven.  Not at all.

If you respond to that lust by turning to Christ, confessing your sin, and trusting Him to forgive you, help you, and satisfy you — then you are not “going on sinning deliberately.”  And you can be assured that you are forgiven.

But if you respond to that lust by anticipating the next lust, planning the next lust — then unless something changes you are “going on sinning deliberately.”

And — unless something changes — you will not be forgiven and you will face God’s judgment.

So — Is This You?

People are different.  Some have tender consciences, and can think every sin means God won’t forgive them.

Others have hard consciences, and are certain God will forgive them even if they go on sinning deliberately.

This passage is directed towards those with hard consciences.  So is this you?

Is there some clear biblical command which you are knowingly and willfully disobeying?  Consider — are you going on deliberately in —

  • Sexual sin?
  • Lying to someone?
  • Not forgiving someone?
  • Loving money more than Jesus?
  • Racism?

Remember — we are talking about “going on” in sin “deliberately.”  So are you going on in some sin without confession, without repentance, without crying out to Jesus for help?

If so — then unless something changes “there no longer remains a sacrifice” for your sins  (Heb 10:26).

Tenderizing Tough Consciences

God had the author of Hebrews write this warning because He loves you.  He wants you to pay heed to this warning so you will not face His judgment.

And to tenderize your tough conscience, God gives three pictures of what you are doing when you go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth.

These three pictures are given in v.29 —

How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

First Picture

… the one who has spurned [literally: trampled upon, stomped on] the Son of God …

God the Son is the radiance of the Father’s glory, and the exact representation of His nature.  The Father loves His Son passionately, exuberantly, joyfully.

But — to save us from our sin, God the Father nailed His own Son to the Cross, had Him suffer on the Cross, punished Him on the Cross.  The only reason we can be forgiven is because God the Father was willing to punish His own Son for our sins.  Oh, we should thank the Father, and honor the Son!

But if we respond to this by going on sinning deliberately, then we are spurning — trampling upon, stomping upon — the Son of God.  Imaging pulling the Son of God down from the Cross, throwing Him on the ground, and stomping on Him.

You don’t want to do that.

Second Picture

… and has profaned the blood of the covenant…

As the Son of God died, He shed His own blood for us.  His blood is the blood of the covenant, which frees us from sin’s power progressively now — and completely in heaven.

There’s nothing as ugly as sin, as hateful as sin, as dangerous as sin.  And it’s glorious news that the blood of the covenant frees us from sin.  Oh, we should love the blood of the covenant!

But if we respond to this by going on deliberately in sin, continuing knowingly in sin, then we are profaning the blood of the covenant — spitting on it, desecrating it, mocking it.

You don’t want to do that.

Third Picture

and has outraged the Spirit of grace …

Because of the blood of the covenant, the Father gives us the Spirit of grace — the precious Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit loves the Son who has died on the Cross and poured out the blood of the covenant.  And the Spirit’s passion is to glorify Jesus, honor Jesus, magnify Jesus.

He does this by revealing to us the glory of Jesus, pouring into our hearts the love of Jesus, and strengthening our faith in Jesus.  Oh, we should love the Spirit of grace!

But if we go on sinning willfully — trampling underfoot the Son of God and profaning the blood of the covenant — then we outrage the Spirit of grace.  The Holy Spirit becomes furious — angry — outraged.

You don’t want to do that.

Take This Seriously

So if you are going on sinning deliberately, please take those pictures seriously.  You have been —

  • trampling underfoot the Son of God
  • profaning the blood of the covenant
  • outraging the Spirit of grace

And that’s why — if nothing changes — you will face God’s judgment forever.

But It Doesn’t Have To End There

Let’s say you have been going on sinning deliberately.  You’ve trampled underfoot the Son of God, profaned the blood of the Covenant, and outraged the Spirit of grace.

So what if right now you fall on your knees before Jesus Christ and say “I’m sorry.  Help me.  Forgive me.  Change me.”  What will happen?

The One you’ve trampled underfoot will love you — forgive you — embrace you.

The blood of the covenant you’ve profaned will wash you — change you — free you.

The Spirit you’ve outraged will comfort you — strengthen you — fill you.

So turn to Him now.

 

 

June 3, 2016

The Sin/Repentance Cycle

When paying a return visit to Steve Fuller’s Living by Faith website, I discovered a video post on The Danger of Continuing in Known Sin. It’s long, about 14 minutes, but at the bottom there were links to two articles he’s written on the topic. I thought we would look at Part One here, and then Part Two tomorrow. Click the title below to read this at source, read the comments, or connect to the forums. Either way, take a deep breath and dive in!

Can I Deliberately Keep Sinning and Still Be Forgiven?

A Waterfall Of Grace

Imagine that it’s 120 degrees outside.  Hot.

But then imagine that you are standing under a waterfall — cool, clear, and refreshing.  Aaaah.

Through trusting Jesus Christ you are standing under a waterfall of grace —

  • All your sins are forgiven — past, present, and future.
  • You are seen by God as clothed in Jesus’ perfect righteousness.
  • God is your Father — loving you, guiding you, providing for you, satisfying you in Himself.
  • God continues to forgive your sins day after day, year after year — forgiven, forgiven, forgiven, forgiven.
  • God will keep you persevering in faith so you will surely enter heaven.
  • God will supply everything you need for the rest of your life.
  • God will ordain everything in your future to bring you the greatest joy in Him.

A waterfall of grace.

But This Raises A Question

Does grace mean someone can deliberately keep sinning and still end up in heaven?

One passage that speaks directly to this question is Hebrews 10:26-31.

Verse 26 is sobering —

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

What Does That Mean?

What does it mean to go on sinning deliberately?

“Sinning” means disobeying clear commands of Scripture — which would include unforgiveness, sexual immorality, and love of money.

So — if yesterday you harbored unforgiveness against someone, does that mean you can never be forgiven?  Not at all.

Notice that the author is not just talking about “sinning.”  He’s talking about “going on sinning deliberately.”

The words “going on” and “deliberately” mean that you are continuing in this sin without confessing it, without sorrowing over it, without battling it.

So if yesterday you harbored unforgiveness against someone, but today confessed that to the Lord and by faith fought to overcome it — then you are NOT “going on sinning deliberately.”

But — if yesterday you harbored unforgiveness against someone, and today you are continuing in that unforgiveness without confessing it and without fighting by faith to forgive them — then you ARE “going on sinning deliberately.”

Which means that unless something changes, there no longer remains a sacrifice for your sins.

What Does That Mean?

The author explains in the rest of the passage.  If, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, you go on sinning deliberately, then —

  • V.27 says you would face “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire.”
  • V.29 says you would face a “worse punishment” than death.
  • V.30 says you would face God’s “vengeance,” and that He would “judge” you.
  • And v.31 says “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

I don’t see any way around it.  If, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, you go on sinning deliberately, then you will not end up in heaven.  You will face God’s judgment forever.

But Be Careful

At this point you could draw a very wrong, and very dangerous, conclusion.

Let’s say you are NOT going on sinning deliberately.  Not that you are perfect, but you are trusting Christ, which includes fighting sin by faith.  You often overcome sin.  And when you do sin, you turn back to Christ, confess your sin, and return to the fight.

So you are NOT going on sinning deliberately.  But you could let this passage make you fear that someday you might start going on sinning deliberately, which would mean facing God’s judgment forever.

But I’ve got good news for you.  If today you are trusting Christ — then YOU WILL NEVER FACE THIS JUDGMENT.

Because if today you are trusting Christ, which includes fighting sin by faith, that shows that God has saved you. And because God has saved you, He will —

  • complete the good work He started in you (Phil 1:6),
  • keep you from stumbling so far that you face eternal judgment (Jude 1:24-25),
  • not let anything (not even you) snatch you from His hand (John 10:28-29).

So no one who is saved by God will experience the judgment described in Heb 10:26-31.

But you might wonder — hadn’t the people described in Heb 10:26-31 been saved?

Hadn’t they “received the knowledge of the truth” (Heb 10:26)?  Yes, but that does not mean they were saved.  Because the parable of the four soils shows that there is a shallow way to receive the word that does not include faith in Christ (Mark 4:1-20).

And hadn’t they been “sanctified” (Heb 20:29)?  Yes, but that also does not mean they were saved.  Because the word “sanctified” can mean something less than salvation (see 1 Cor 7:14-16).

So how can anyone know for sure they have been saved?  We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone (Eph 2:8-9).  So, to be assured of salvation, turn from whatever else you have been trusting to satisfy you, and trust Jesus Christ to forgive you, strengthen your weak faith, help you battle sin, and satisfy you in Himself.

If your trust is sincere, then you will want to fight sin by faith, and you can be fully assured that God has saved you.  Which means He will keep you persevering in faith to the end.  Which means you will never face the judgment described in Heb 10:26-31Never.

But What If You Are Not?

What if you are not fighting sin by faith?  What if you are going on sinning deliberately?

Lord willing, I’ll talk about this more in my next blog post.

But for now, understand that if you are going on sinning deliberately, then unless something changes, you will face God’s judgment forever.

But — if you will turn to Jesus now and confess your sin, admit your helplessness, ask His forgiveness, and trust Him to forgive you, strengthen you, help and satisfy you — He will.

And you’ll be under the waterfall of His grace — and kept there — forever.

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)

 

August 11, 2015

The Present Grace Emphasis

 

Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…

Matt. 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

This is one of several articles I’ve encountered lately that suggest that as the pendulum swings, we are currently seeing a great deal of emphasis on the grace of God, perhaps at the expense of teaching on God’s justice or holiness or even his wrath. This writer has never been featured at C201 before; J. T. Cochran is currently studying for his doctorate in Church History at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in addition to serving in a local church in Illinois. Click the title to read at source. (Scripture verses are embedded links.)

Have We Made Too Much of Grace?

Thomas Watson writes in The Ten Commandments:

If we trust in our grace, we make a god of it. Grace is but a creature; if we trust to it we make it an idol. Grace is imperfect, and we must not trust to that which is imperfect to save us. ‘I have walked in my integrity: I have trusted also in the Lord.” Psa xxxvi I. David walked in his integrity; but did not trust in his integrity. ‘I have trusted in the Lord.’ If we trust in our graces, we make a Christ of them. They are good graces, but bad Christs. (57)

For a decade I was taught to completely write off the law of God, or at least that’s what my ears heard. Honestly, it’s what I believe is the general temperature of the evangelical pool: a lot of cool grace but none of the warm law. In the last four years my disposition to the law has altered. I’ve grown to not only have strong affections for the ten commandments, but I use them constantly in my life to war against sin. As I introspectively watch over my life, the commandments of God play a crucial role in seeing my disobedience and my need for Christ. In turn I apply the instruction of the law as I instruct my children, using resources like New City Catechism, the London Baptist Catechism, the Westminster Catechism, and the Heidelberg Catechism. Both my wife and I have been enriched by these resources.

But I imagine, a lot of people reading this, would be a bit surprised by this shift. It’s just not the view that I swam in for so long. It’s like I got into a different pool, one that’s a little bit warmer, and, well, I like it there. My whole family likes it there. Now I really want to go to the old pool and show others that maybe their water is a little too cold.

My concern is that some in their thirst and need for grace fashion an idol out of grace. Though we should make much of grace, we should not make too much of grace. Fundamentally, as Watson says above, grace makes a poor Christ. It is no Christ at all. Grace is an instrument of God. It is an abstract idea that describes a relationship. It is an attribute of God, so a facet of him for sure. But you cannot worship the part in substitute for the whole. Then you make less of who God is. Grace, I would say, is more than a thing but certainly less than a person, and it’s only a person that saves, the person, Christ (1 Th. 5:9). I am fascinated by how Watson refers to grace as a creature.

Likewise, the evangelical air is filled with a spiteful aroma towards the law and commandments of God. Where we have made too much of grace, we might have made too little of the law of God. Perhaps some have put their trust in grace, thus eliminating a need for law, rather than putting trust in Christ. But the same argument above applies to the law of God. God is just and thus a law-maker and the first law keeper. When we write off God’s law and commandments, we write off God’s equity, his justice. And then God becomes less than who he is. We fashion a false god by butchering his attributes and amputating the ones we don’t like.

We need the law, but don’t be confused. By saying we need the law, I am not arguing that the law saves. The law does not save us. The person Christ saves (1 Th. 5:9); he saves us by grace (Eph. 2:8). But, I need to remind you, that the person Christ embodied the law, kept the law, and fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17). Thus, it must be significant; it ought to be precious in our eyes — as precious as grace. But I bet that sounds discomforting to you. And that’s because I’m heating up the evangelical pool pretty quickly, and you might not find that new temperature the comfortable temperature that you are used to. But many would argue that the law schools us towards Christ (Gal. 3:24). It instructs us of our great need for him. We do not embody, keep, or fulfill the law like Christ did. Thus, we need Christ. This makes the law precious.

Because Christ in His human nature, lived righteously and justly, piously and equitably, he satisfied our need to keep the law of God. In his piety he kept the first table of the law and in his equity he kept the second table of the law. Watson says, “The first and second tables are knit together; piety to God, and equity to our neighbor” (46). Christ set the standard we could not keep and achieved what we could not achieve. He was fully pious and fully equitable. He did it for us, so that we might be counted as righteous with him (Jer. 23:6). Thus, we need the law to need Christ. And we need the law so that we see Christ. Christ is not just an incarnation of grace; he’s an incarnation of the law too because he is an incarnation of justice.

 

 

October 16, 2013

Matthew Henry on Zephaniah

Because it’s simply too convenient on Bible Gateway, I often quote excerpts from the writing of classic Bible commentator Matthew Henry. However, because Henry alludes to the King James translation, I know that a longer piece — allowing M.H. to teach us through an entire section — can be cumbersome for some readers. Today, I want to take just the first four verses from Zephaniah 3, and offer them with parallel texts, so that you can work your way back and forth between Matthew Henry, the KJV, and the more familiar NIV.

Zephaniah 3 NIV

Woe to the city of oppressors,rebellious and defiled!
She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God.
Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves,
who leave nothing for the morning.
Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.

Zephaniah 3 KJV

Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!
2 She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God.
3 Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.
4 Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.

Commentary:

One would wonder that Jerusalem, the holy city, where God was known, and his name was great, should be the city of which this black character is here given, that a place which enjoyed such abundance of the means of grace should become so very corrupt and vicious, and that God should permit it to be so; yet so it is, to show that the law made nothing perfect; but if this be the true character of Jerusalem, as no doubt it is (for God’s judgments will make none worse than they are), it is no wonder that the prophet begins with woe to her. For the holy God hates sin in those that are nearest to him, nay, in them he hates it most. A sinful state is, and will be, a woeful state.

I. Here is a very bad character given of the city in general.

How has the faithful city become a harlot!

  1. She shames herself; she is filthy and polluted (Zeph. 3:1), has made herself infamous (so some read it), the gluttonous city (so the margin), always cramming, and making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts of it. Sin is the filthiness and pollution of persons and places, and makes them odious in the sight of the holy God.
  2. She wrongs her neighbours and inhabitants; she is the oppressing city. Never any place had statutes and judgments so righteous as this city had, and yet, in the administration of the government, never was more unrighteousness.
  3. She is very provoking to her God, and in every respect walks contrary to him, Zeph. 3:2. He had given his law, and spoken to her by his servants the prophets, telling her what was the good she should do and what the evil she should avoid; but she obeyed not his voice, nor made conscience of doing as he commanded her, in any thing. He had taken her under an excellent discipline, both of the word and of the rod; but she did not receive the instruction of the one nor the correction of the other, did not submit to God’s will nor answer his end in either. He encouraged her to depend upon him, and his power and promise, for deliverance from evil and supply with good; but she trusted not in the Lord; her confidence was placed in her alliances with the nations more than in her covenant with God. He gave her tokens of his presence, and instituted ordinances of communion for her with himself; but she drew not near to her God, did not meet him where he appointed and where he promised to meet her. She stood at a distance, and said to the Almighty, Depart.

II. Here is a very bad character of the leading men in it

…those that should by their influence suppress vice and profaneness there are the great patterns and patrons of wickedness, and those that should be her physicians are really her worst disease.

  1. Her princes are ravenous and barbarous as roaring lions that make a prey of all about them, and they are universally feared and hated; they use their power for destruction, and not for edification.
  2. Her judges, who should be the protectors of injured innocence, are evening wolves, rapacious and greedy, and their cruelty and covetousness both insatiable: They gnaw not the bones till the morrow; they take so much delight and pleasure in cruelty and oppression that when they have devoured a good man they reserve the bones, as it were, for a sweet morsel, to be gnawed the next morning, Job 31:31.
  3. Her prophets, who pretend to be special messengers from heaven to them, are light and treacherous persons, fanciful, and of a vain imagination, frothy and airy, and of a loose conversation, men of no consistency with themselves, in whom one can put no confidence. They were so given to bantering that it was hard to say when they were serious. Their pretended prophecies were all a sham, and they secretly laughed at those that were deluded by them.
  4. Her priests, who are teachers by office and have the charge of the holy things, are false to their trust and betray it. They were to preserve the purity of the sanctuary, but they did themselves pollute it, and the sacred offices of it, which they were to attend upon—such priests as Hophni and Phinehas, who by their wicked lives made the sacrifices of the Lord to be abhorred. They were to expound and apply the law, and to judge according to it; but, in their explications and applications of it, they did violence to the law; they corrupted the sense of it, and perverted it to the patronising of that which was directly contrary to it. By forced constructions, they made the law to speak what they pleased, to serve a turn, and so, in effect, made void the law.

I wonder what Zephaniah would say — having given this word from the Lord — if he were to see our 21st Century churches and religious institutions, especially where corruption or moral failure have become evident?  In other words, what is God saying to us today through Zephaniah?

If you wish to go further into this chapter to see how this resolves, click here to go to Bible Gateway, then click “Show Resources,” then choose Matthew Henry for verses 1-7.

October 5, 2013

The Danger of Pride

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:19 pm
Tags: , , ,

Prov. 16:18 Pride goes before destruction,
    and haughtiness before a fall.

haughtinessIt’s interesting that even the more modern translations stay with the word haughty spirit or haughtiness.  It’s not a word we use often.  Dictionary.com offers this:

haugh·ty

[haw-tee]

adjective, haugh·ti·er, haugh·ti·est. 1. disdainfully proud; snobbish; scornfully arrogant; supercilious

Synonyms:
1. lordly, disdainful, contemptuous, proud
Antonyms :
1. humble, unpretentious, unassuming.
The recently published Common English Bible (CEB) offers something different, as does The Message:

CEB 18 Pride comes before disaster,
    and arrogance before a fall.

MSG 18 First pride, then the crash—
    the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.

The Reformation Study Bible suggests that all pride or arrogance is practiced in relationship to others.

pride . . . disgrace. Wisdom recognizes the importance of self-control. Arrogance and pride are easily recognized by others who will then withhold honor.

with the humble is wisdom. Because humility involves the realistic appraisal of one’s place in relationship to others, it promotes a wise sense of the true order of things.

That is to say, “I know that I am great because, by comparison, I am better than you.” Just as Paul said that without the law, we do not understand transgression, so without people to compare ourselves to, we don’t have the mammoth potential for pride.  The note above is referred from verse 18 to a note in Proverbs 11:2, the text of which reads:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
    but with humility comes wisdom.

But is inevitable fall or crash a consequence of arrogance, or does the Lord specifically visit disaster upon those who need a shot of humility?  The actual text where I began my personal study in this is from the first chapter of Obadiah:

The Lord Speaks to Edom

ERV* 2 “Edom, I will make you the smallest nation.
    Everyone will hate you very much.
Your pride has fooled you.
    You live in those caves high on the cliff.
    Your home is high in the hills.
So you say to yourself,
    ‘No one can bring me to the ground.’”

Edom Will Be Brought Low

This is what the Lord says:
“Even though you fly high like the eagle
    and put your nest among the stars,
    I will bring you down from there.
You really will be ruined!
    Thieves will come to you.
Robbers will come in the night,
    and they will take all they want.
When workers gather grapes in your vineyards,
    they will leave a few grapes behind.
But the enemy will search hard for Esau’s hidden treasures,
    and they will find them all.
All those who are your friends
    will force you out of the land.
Those who were at peace with you will trick you,
    and they will defeat you.
The soldiers who fought by your side
    are planning a trap for you.
They say, ‘He doesn’t expect a thing!’”

Not many worship songs from those verses, right? Now, we have two choices when we read a passage like this.

  • We can say, “This is a specific prophecy, spoken to Edom (corporately), at a particular time, and it doesn’t apply to us (individually).”  Or…
  • We can say, “This passage expresses a principle of how God deals with pride, and we need to take it as a warning both corporately (as a family, a church, or whatever tribe) and individually.”

Obviously, there is a danger in taking the former approach, in overly contextualizing the passage. Again, in Proverbs, this time in chapter six, we see the word haughty again:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
17         haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Our reading of scripture ought to be with the aim of understanding the ways of God, and God’s feelings about prideful spirits are a part of scripture


* This is the first time we’ve quoted the Easy-To-Read version (ERV), and I actually clicked on it by accident!

Related post: The Danger of Gloating

October 4, 2013

This Just In: God is Very Complex!

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Genuine Offical Deity

 Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor? (Is. 40:13, NIV)

Who can ever understand what is in the Lord’s mind?
    Who can ever give him advice? (NIrV)

Can anyone tell the Lord what to do?
    Who can teach him or give him advice? (GNT)

Who could ever have told God what to do
    or taught him his business? (Message)

Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
    or what man shows him his counsel? (ESV)

Who directed the Lord’s spirit
    and acted as God’s advisor? (CEB)

Many different takes on Isaiah 40:13 to begin with today, with emphases ranging from the idea of knowing or understanding the mind of God in the first phrase, to those which treat the whole verse in the context of the second phrase, giving the Lord advice or counsel. I would suggest that both approaches are right here, since to try to offer my opinion on what someone else should or has done is to presume to have grasped their situation fully.  (That’s why good counselors spend three quarters of an hour listening and only one quarter of an hour talking.)

Matthew Henry writes:

As none can do what God has done and does, so none can assist him in the doing of it or suggest any thing to him which he thought not of. When the Lord by his Spirit made the world (Job 26:13) there was none that directed his Spirit, or gave him any advice, either what to do or how to do it. Nor does he need any counsellor to direct him in the government of the world, nor is there any with whom he consults, as the wisest kings do with those that know law and judgment, Est. 1:13. God needs not to be told what is done, for he knows it perfectly; nor needs he be advised concerning what is to be done, for he knows both the right end and the proper means. This is much insisted upon here, because the poor captives had no politicians among them to manage their concerns at court or to put them in a way of gaining their liberty. “No matter,” says the prophet, “you have a God to act for you, who needs not the assistance of statesmen.” In the great work of our redemption by Christ matters were concerted before the world was, when there was one to teach God in the path of judgment, 1 Cor. 2:7.

I say all this to introduce two verses from the book of Nahum:

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies. (NIV, verse 2)

The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him (NIV, verse 7)

Two pictures of God, only five verses apart; and on this contrast stands a barrier to those outside of the faith, and often a conundrum to those within: How can God be a God of wrath and a God of love? How can He be full of wrath and full of compassion?

I don’t wish to start down that road here today, except to say that these are two aspects (of many aspects) of the same God. We could just as easily ask: How can a God of might and power and majesty subject Himself to the vulnerability of entering the world in the human condition through the incarnation? How can a God who seems dismissive or disdainful toward certain created beings (i.e. the way the scripture reflects on grasshoppers or dogs) be the same God who seems to care about sparrows?

Sometimes we find the contrasts juxtaposed within a single scripture portion, such as many of the Psalms, and it is the same type of contrast that evidences itself in Nahum chapter 1. This was a prophet word that Nahum delivered to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, the same city which Jonah was working so hard to avoid contact with.

(The Message)2-6 God is serious business.
    He won’t be trifled with.
He avenges his foes.
    He stands up against his enemies, fierce and raging.
But God doesn’t lose his temper.
    He’s powerful, but it’s a patient power.
Still, no one gets by with anything.
    Sooner or later, everyone pays.
Tornadoes and hurricanes
    are the wake of his passage,
Storm clouds are the dust
    he shakes off his feet.
He yells at the sea: It dries up.
    All the rivers run dry.
The Bashan and Carmel mountains shrivel,
    the Lebanon orchards shrivel.
Mountains quake in their roots,
    hills dissolve into mud flats.
Earth shakes in fear of God.
    The whole world’s in a panic.
Who can face such towering anger?
    Who can stand up to this fierce rage?
His anger spills out like a river of lava,
    his fury shatters boulders.

7-10 God is good,
    a hiding place in tough times.
He recognizes and welcomes
    anyone looking for help,
No matter how desperate the trouble.
    But cozy islands of escape
He wipes right off the map.
    No one gets away from God.
Why waste time conniving against God?
    He’s putting an end to all such scheming.
For troublemakers, no second chances.
    Like a pile of dry brush,
Soaked in oil,
    they’ll go up in flames.

Nahum doesn’t have a lot of good to say to the King of Assyria. Yes, the Lord is good, but as far as Nineveh is concerned, his judgements are good. Unlike the Psalms which often resolve the conundrum of God’s nature in the final verses, when you skip ahead to the end of chapter three you see an ending much like the point where we stopped above.

This is a side of God you don’t want to see; and thanks to grace, none of us reading this need experience.

September 12, 2013

A Time for Purging

And no, this isn’t an article about eating disorders.

Some of the items here follow an unusual route to get here. Today’s post came to our attention when WordPress automatically generated a link back to us. So we back-tracked the trackback, and discovered a brand new blog, consisting of only one post. Normally, we’d wait a while and look at the tenor and content of the blog over time, but this time we decided to encourage a new blogger at the start of his journey. (Even if he threw us for a loop by including a Bible quotation marked LAM, which we assume refers to the Lamsa Bible.) Doug Wildman’s inaugural post was titled Mind Purge. (Click through to read at source, and for illustrations.)

“The commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:15 [NIVUK]

During the conquest of Canaan, God told Joshua to leave no survivors. While this offends our modern sensibilities, it was the way God chose to create a territory that was distinct in it’s commitment to Him. God is unwilling to share devotion with any other so-called god. But before Joshua could claim the Promised Land, he had to face one last obstacle; the Jordan River. Imagine if you were one of those children born in the desert raised with the expectation that your generation would experience the fulfillment of an ancient prophesy; the claiming of a homeland. At the climax of the journey sits an immovable river blocking the path to the land flowing with milk and honey. Can you imagine the excitement mingled with fear as you witness God stopping the flow of the mighty Jordan to let you and your people to pass through. Extraordinary.

If you are a disciple of Christ, you too are called to the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is not some distant ideal, it is within you (Luke 17:21) even now, but is not of this world (John 18:36). So, even though the days of fighting physical battles has ended, we are still engaged in a spiritual battle for holiness. Our minds are the holy territory that we must defend. Our “conflict is not only with flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12 LAM), but against malevolent spiritual forces which are not happy about the way that God miraculously allowed us to enter into the Kingdom of God. As it says in Joshua 5:1, When the rulers heard about it, “their hearts sank; the courage drained out of them”. (MSG) Make no mistake about it, you have crossed over into the Kingdom if you have given Christ the authority over your life. Notice though where the battle takes place, “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.” So our spiritual Jericho is whatever appears to be an impenetrable reasoning against the will of God. Just remember what God did to Jericho. That stronghold came down not by human effort, but by the power of God himself! “Casting down imaginations, and every false thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and to capture every thought to the obedience of Christ”  (2 Corinthians 10:5 LAM). This is a scorched earth policy. Your mind belongs to the One True God.

The spiritual battle is not to establish yourself in the Kingdom of Christ. God has already allowed you to enter in. The battle is in the mind for holiness, because God’s mark is upon you. Give your full attention to God throughout the day. I like the way the Message put this, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:2) Good advice. How do we fix our attention on God? One way is to have his Word in our hearts. This is only be possible if we read God’s Word. Another thing is to practice the presence of God through an ongoing dialogue with Him. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you about the things you are experiencing. So many of us mindlessly go from one activity to another without any thought of God at all, and then we wonder why God seems so far away. We need to find ways to ensure that we don’t allow any spiritual forts to remain standing in the territory that God has claimed as His own.

February 18, 2013

End Times Prophecy in Matthew’s Gospel

Matthew 3 (NLT): 11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”

When we think prophecy, we think often of Bible books like Revelation and Daniel; but Matthew’s gospel records many of the end-times prophetic words of Jesus. The passage above contains imagery that is foreign to us, and even the NLT (above) uses terminology that is foreign to urban dwellers in the 21st century. Our featured writer today breaks this down for us with related scriptures and commentary. (You’ll see references to Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament.) He also uses the KJV as a base text, but in this case all the texts are challenging because of the agrarian imagery. You’re encouraged to click through to Don Costello’s blog, Theophobic*.  This is a great example of how to exegete a passage; how to do a thorough study on a single verse.


Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. ~ Matthew 3:12

1. “Whose fan is in his hand…”

a. The “his” of this phrase is the Holy Ghost of the previous verse, the fan is in his hand.

  • 1). Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

b. fan [4425 * ptyon][Thayer: a winnowing shovel.]

  •  1). Brethren NT Commentary: “A light, broad shovel with which grain was thrown against the wind to clear it of chaff. The breadth of the shovel had the effect of spreading the grain into the air, that the air might more thoroughly separate the chaff from the grain. This illustrates the thoroughness of the separation that God will make between the good and the bad.”
  •  2). Albert Barnes NT Commentary:  “The word used here and rendered “fan” means a winnowing shovel instead. It was used for throwing the grain, after it was threshed, into the air, so that the chaff might be driven away by the wind. This mode of separating the grain from the chaff is still practiced in the East.”
  •  3). When the Holy Ghost came into the earth he came in a mighty rushing wind. 4). In this dispensation the Holy Ghost will blow upon our lives, he will speak to us in our hearts through the Scriptures and in prayer, he will move upon us to be obedient to the word and be more conformed to the image of Christ, to get rid of the chaff in our lives.
    • a). Acts 2:2-4 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
    • b). John 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

2. “…and he will thoroughly purge his floor,

a. purge [1245 * diakatharizo][Thayer: to cleanse thoroughly.]

b. floor [257 * halon][Thayer: a ground plot or threshing floor, i.e. a place in the field made hard after the harvest by a roller, where grain was threshed out.]

c. The purging is the work of the Holy Ghost in our lives. In this dispensation the Holy Ghost will blow upon our lives, he will speak to us in our hearts through the Scriptures and in prayer, he will move upon us to be obedient to the word and be more conformed to the image of Christ, to get rid of the chaff in our lives.

3. “…and gather his wheat into the garner…”

  •  a. This is the harvesting process. What a privilege, to be harvested and gathered into his garner.

4. “…but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

a. Jesus spoke of those in his kingdom who instead of responding to the work of the Holy Ghost would continue to offend and work iniquity; he spoke of their end.

  •  1). Matthew 13:41, 42 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

b. In the book of Isaiah we get a picture of those who do not make the harvest and those who do.

  • 1). Isaiah 33:11-16 Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you. And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire. Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.

c. We need to seek his face so he can speak to our hearts and we can in the power of the Holy Ghost in the grace of God yield our lives in obedience, throwing off the chaff so we may be gathered into his garner, Heaven.


*The name “theophobic” comes from a combination of two Greek words, “phobia” which is the Greek word for fear and “theo” which is the Greek word for God. I instantly thought of the phrase “God fearers” in the book of Acts and thought of “theophobia”.

Next Page »