Christianity 201

April 22, 2021

No Other Gods

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Yesterday morning, the wife of an American journalist tweeted this scripture:

Joshua 23:16 “if you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.”

I was immediately struck by the principle — which we’ve shared here before — that while God’s dealings with people have changed between the First Covenant and the New Covenant, his essential nature; his character have not changed. He is, as scripture reminds us, the same.

While he may not drive us off our land — at least in a literal sense — he is angered; he is grieved when he are tempted and distracted by other lifestyles; other worldviews; other voices telling us how we should live. The times we wander off from his plan “A” are the times we are sinning. We’ve missed the mark; we’ve accepted less than his perfect way; we’ve trusted our own instincts or desires above his stated will for our lives.

The verse is part of the concluding two chapters of Joshua, his famous last words to the people of Israel. Chapter 23 in particular contains three exhortations. The first one:

2b [Joshua:]“I am very old. You yourselves have seen everything the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the Lord your God who fought for you. Remember how I have allotted as an inheritance for your tribes all the land of the nations that remain—the nations I conquered—between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea in the west. The Lord your God himself will push them out for your sake. He will drive them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the Lord your God promised you.

“Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.

The second follows immediately after:

“The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. 10 One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. 11 So be very careful to love the Lord your God.

12 “But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, 13 then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.

And the third and last, immediately after that:

14 “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. 15 But just as all the good things the Lord your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the Lord your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. 16 If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.”

While commentators divide these accordingly, there is a common theme throughout: Don’t chase after (follow) other Gods.

It is a reiteration of the first of a set of commandments given by God to Moses to give to the people that we call “The Ten…” though some scholars see as many as 14 instructions.

Joshua says some other final things in chapter 24, and while that chapter is beyond the scope of this devotional, I do want to remind us of a verse 15, where not one, but two well-known sections of scripture are found in a single verse:

24.15 (italics added) But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

The website Precept Austin offers an insight into our key passage today which it calls “To Chase or Be Chased.” Pause and consider that for a moment. The battle in which we find ourselves doesn’t offer moments of neutrality in the action. (For my Canadian readers, think of a hockey game as the play quickly moves from one end of the rink to another.)

The Lord has also equipped His children so we can be courageous in a hostile world. Although the foes we face may seem to be more powerful, we can resist them because of God’s special provision. This doesn’t mean He always protects His children from physical injury or even death. But when a child of God works together with God and does His will, he is unconquerable until his work on earth is done.

How do we find the protection that helps us “chase away” the enemy? By trusting and obeying God. Joshua told God’s people that if they would obey the Lord, no one could stand against them (Josh. 23:10). The same God who fought for them will also fight for us. He will strengthen us to meet any challenge when we are doing what He wants us to do in the way He wants us to do it (Phil. 4:13).

Yes, the Lord will give us courage as we draw strength from Him each day.

In a sermon on this passage, Canadian pastor Hilmer Jagersma reminds us where the courage comes from in a New Covenant sense; quoting Acts 4:13

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Returning to the covenant aspect of this passage, Hilmer adds that,

Whether you’re young or whether you’re old, God has called you has and set you apart for service, and you have promises that are extended to you and you enjoy the good things of the Lord… If you think about it… we grow up in a community that worships the Lord, and we part of a community where the word of God is preached, and many of you grew up in homes where the word of God is taught.

And that’s how God works. Through his Spirit. By his Word. God is working. We sing the promises of God. We teach the promises of God. As parents you’re trying to demonstrate and live out the promises of God.

But the warning that Joshua gives stands: Don’t take God’s grace for granted. The promises must be received in faith. And they have always needed to be received in faith.


Thursday contributor Clarke Dixon returns next week.

All scriptures today taken from the NIV.

Watch the complete sermon on Joshua 23 by Hilmer Jagersma at this link.

 

 

February 1, 2021

Moses Could Only Take the People So Far

Moses and Aaron summoned the assembly in front of the rock, and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels! Must we bring water out of this rock for you? Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff, so that abundant water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me to demonstrate my holiness in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have given them.”
– Numbers 20: 10-12 CSB

This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”
– Deuteronomy 32:51,52 NIV

After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.
– Joshua 1:1,2 NLT

Almost a year ago we introduced you to Alisa who has been writing at On the Housetops since November, 2014. As you consider the story referred to in the above scriptures, allow her thoughts to see ways in which there is application to your situation from the lives of Moses and Joshua. Click the header which follows.

Sometimes It’s Not About You

I was listening to music yesterday, and a song came on that made a reference to the fact that it was not Moses who brought Israel into the Promised Land, but Joshua.

I always felt sorry for Moses. I mean, here he put up with the Israelites for 40 years and faithfully obeyed the LORD – except for one mistake, which cost him entry into Canaan. It never did seem quite fair, and I’m pretty sure Moses felt the same way.

But all of a sudden the thought struck me out of nowhere: maybe Moses’ punishment wasn’t so much about him, as it was about a symbolic message to us!

Let me explain:

Moses is a symbol of the Old Testament Law. He was the one who received it from God on Mt. Sinai, and the one who taught it to the people.

He led Israel out of Egypt, but you could say that he couldn’t get Egypt out of the people. Even after receiving the law, they fell into idolatry and kept complaining that Egypt was better than the wilderness they were wandering in, and that its food was better than the manna God was providing.

Similarly, the Law could only bring people so far from the bondage of sin. It couldn’t change hearts.

And just as Moses’ one failure prevented him from entering the Promised Land, so one instance of breaking God’s Law is enough to prevent us from entering Heaven.

I think this is why God punished Moses in the way He did. I don’t think it was so much about Moses as it was about painting a picture for us, that the Law and works can’t lead us into Heaven.

But who did lead Israel into the Promised Land? It was Joshua who took the lead and parted the Jordan River to bring the people into Canaan. They never looked back, and I’ve heard that generation of Israelites referred to as the Greatest Generation.

And this is significant too, because it is another Joshua – or Yeshua – who opened the way for us to cross over to the other side of death to eternal life. Jesus did what the Law could not: He paved the way for us to have a new heart. And it is not our righteousness that saves us, but His.

Seeing this picture for the first time, I can understand better why God chose to be so harsh with Moses.

At the time that it was happening, I’m sure Moses had no idea what the significance of his actions and God’s response was. I know it felt unfair to him at the time.

But from our vantage point thousands of years later, we can look back and understand, and appreciate the picture.

There are things going on in my life right now that I may not understand, but Moses’ story gives me comfort. Maybe these tough times are about me, maybe not. Maybe there’s much more to the picture than what meets the eye. And maybe, like Moses, I won’t ever understand the full plan in my lifetime, but someday it will become clear. And I will know what I’m already choosing to trust: that God knows what He’s doing.


Is this part of the story of Moses unfamiliar to you? Read more at Got Questions.

January 23, 2021

Telling God We’re Serious About Him

This is our fifth visit to Truth or Tradition, sponsored by Spirit and Truth Fellowship International. We appreciate their grace in allowing us to use this material, and each of you can help us reciprocate by reading today’s article at their website. Click the header which comes next.

Obedient and Free

I was thinking to myself one evening recently, I really want a tattoo of God’s name “Yahweh” on me. It instantly reminded me of how in Isaiah, God says, “Behold! I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”. Which in turn got me thinking, “Ouch!” Imagine a tattoo on the palm of your hand!? One of the most sensitive areas of the body, containing dozens of nerves. Safe to say…it would really hurt! Something would have to hold a lot of value for you to choose that specific area. I wondered whether that was why God chose the imagery of palms—to bring home how much His people mean to Him?

Still contemplating the idea of a tattoo, I thought, it would be so great to have something so permanent of my faith. I very quickly heard God remind me, “Nothing is more permanent than your salvation.” His tender and true answer made me smile; I answered Him, “But it would be such a cool way to show my dedication to you, how else could I show that?” And I heard Him softly say, “Obey.”

So gentle and loving, yet so loud and profound to my heart. May God’s still small voice always be louder to us than anything the enemy shouts at us. Humbled by my Heavenly Father’s soft and succinct answer, I pondered – I guess we can do all sorts of things outwardly to try to prove and show we’re committed to God, but if we are not obeying, then are we really committed? Have we really dedicated our life to God, and made His Son, Jesus, Lord of our whole heart and life?

It reminded me of how in John 14:23, Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him”. The phrase “keep my word” stands out. We keep things that are important to us; that have meaning to us; that can benefit us. So how do we “keep” and obey God’s Word?

With love. We’re called to love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. Second to this, we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. If we truly love God, and our Lord Jesus, we will have a sincere and deep desire to obey them. I truly believe the instruction in John 3:18 to not just love in word, but in action and truth also, is not only direction for how we treat other people in our lives, but also how we walk with our God, and Saviour; we are not just to say we love them, but live like we do, with our actions in line with and “keeping in step with the spirit” (Gal. 5:25).

Nevertheless, we must not confuse obedience with empty works of the flesh—either acting out of fear that they won’t love us if we don’t obey, or that maintaining our salvation is determined by how “good” we are. Christ has already accomplished everything on our behalf, and the thankfulness that overflows from that should mean we can’t help but express our love through willing obedience—not obligation—and an abandonment of our own fleshly impulses and desires, replaced with an enthusiasm and determination to do the Will of God and know that God’s will is for our good and His glory.

In exchange for Christlike obedience, surprisingly, comes freedom. You wouldn’t necessarily consider that being in obedience means you are free. However, as Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Not my truth, not your truth, not your best friend’s, aunt’s, or cousin’s truth, but THE Truth—the one and only Truth that breaks strongholds and sets captives of sin free! Free from condemnation, free from the wages of sin, free from the enemy’s grasp, free from people’s opinions, free from shame or the pressure of perfectionism. Free to love without man-made conditions and rules.

For “if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but do not have love, I have become a sounding bronze, or clanging cymbal. And if I prophesy and know all the sacred secrets and all the knowledge, and if I have all trust so that I can move mountains, but I do not have love, I am nothing.” We are nothing if we are not loving, and we cannot love the way we are called to if we are not in obedience to God and His word. So much good comes from obedience to our Heavenly Father, but obedience is not always easy, and it likely at times takes sacrifice, even suffering in this life. Nevertheless, if we give it our best shot at being faithful to our God and the Lord through word and action, no doubt we will be witnesses to that good—and even moreso in the ages to come. We may not reap all the blessings this side of eternity, but we know there is a day coming where we will be rewarded if we do not give up.

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”

Luke 11:28

Just like a parent who loves their children regardless of obedience, but whose heart sings when their child heeds their words and direction, how much more must God love us regardless of our downfalls but His heart rejoices all the more when we have a willingness to obey Him and actually do.

Maybe I’ll get a tattoo, maybe I won’t, but something more important resulted from that simple musing; a sweet exchange between me and my Heavenly Father, and a renewed desire to follow Him and obey His Word whatever the cost, just as Christ exemplified so perfectly.

How can we show God we are serious about Him in our lives? We obey. And how do we do it? With love.

August 27, 2019

Ezra, Revival, and the Church

The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8

by Russell Young

We may tend to think of spiritual revivals in more recent terms, however Ezra led a revival in the Jewish nation during his day. The Jews had been released from captivity by the Babylonians and Cyrus king of Persia had been “appointed by God”, according to his testimony, to build a temple for the God of heaven in Jerusalem. The city had been deserted during the exile and most of it had been ruined. The returning Jews were ignoring the covenant law and were being assimilated into the surrounding nations through intermarriage and the assumption of their “detestable practices”. They had lost their spiritual identity.

Ezra was alarmed. The Israelites were to be a holy nation separated unto God. Their women had married foreign men and their men, including priests, had married foreign women and many had children from their unions. When Ezra realized what was taking place, he tore his cloak, pulled his hair from his head and beard and sat appalled until the evening sacrifice.

His reaction challenged my heart. I do not recall such concern and anguish over the insult being done to my holy God, the state of my nation, or the practices of my Christian brothers and sisters. Ezra’s torment had not become of such personal concern to me. His alarm was for his people and for the consequences that would befall them for rejecting the covenant law enacted by their faithful God. He felt shame and disgrace.

Unfortunately, the common assumption of God’s “free grace” blinds the eyes to sin’s practice, whether personal or in others, and certainly to any consequences for it. Do you feel God’s pain? His pain is real. Because of the hurt to his heart (Gen 6:6) Christ was charged to destroy the devil’s work (1 Jn 3:8) and to offer up a people who would be acceptable for his eternal kingdom. (Rom 15:16) Are you distraught over your own practices or the practices of others who have claimed “freedom” to live as they wish? Are you concerned about living God’s truth, about walking in the light? (1 Jn 1:7) Ezra knew that the nation of Israel would be blessed through obedience and cursed through defiance of their sovereign Lord. God has not changed, but the assumed grace of God has removed all sense of fear or alarm from many of those who have confessed belief.

A remarkable decision was made. Ezra, the Jewish leaders, and the people decided to send their foreign spouses and children away that the Jewish nation might remain pure. For three rain-filled days the people listened to Ezra and all the people responded and admitted their unfaithfulness. They abandoned their rebellious practice at great price. They had to choose to obey their God or to enjoy their ungodly relationships. This must have been a heart-wrenching time. Like the unfaithful Israelites all those who have confessed Christ as their Lord will be required to make difficult decisions to honor his sovereignty and holiness through the abandonment of unrighteous practices. Paul has written, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:13−14) Pleasure can be gained through the flesh, but life through the Spirit. (Jn 6:63) God will not be mocked!

It took the sensitive heart of Ezra to recognize the waywardness of the Jews; they were oblivious to their state. Until the hearts of God’s children become tuned to his heart and their desire becomes focused on living according to his commands, godliness will be aborted and with it life. Many church communities need an Ezra, someone to put the light on the holiness of God and the hurt brought to him through the rebellion and defiance of his law (through Christ) and his will. When the cost of their disobedience to God, self, and others is appreciated revivals will take place, judgment averted, and destruction avoided.

Ezra recognized a problem and did not fail to address it. The first step to spiritual revival comes through recognition that the church has a need. Revival means to re-vive or to bring back to life, to restore, or to renew. Where a body is functioning properly it does not need revival. Introspection and appreciation of the current state needs to be gained although it can become difficult for people to see their own faults and from that recognize their need. Ezra recognized the need, acted, and addressed the people accordingly. Many churches speak of their desire for a revival but consider it most often to be a community need not a church need. Communities need to be awakened, but churches revived. In many cases, the pervading acceptance of God’s “free grace” has eliminated the reality of any need within the body and where many bodies enjoy their supposed freedom, the nation suffers.

The LORD revealed, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land (or, church). (2 Chr 7:14) During Ezra’s time it was not just the people who had sinned, but the priests as well. Honesty, humility, and repentance are needed for a revival to take place. Has the christian community reached the state of the Lord’s complaint to Isaiah? “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Isa 29:13) Corporate worship is easy to orchestrate, but personal godly worship requires complete humility before God and the recognition and practice of his sovereignty. His will must be done starting in the lives of those who covet renewal and the blessing of God’s heart.



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His first book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link.

 

August 23, 2019

Pain is No Excuse to Sin

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Today we’re back again with Youth Pastor Joshua Nelson who writes at The Sidebar Blog.  Although he hasn’t been active online for several months, we thought this older article from April was worth sharing here.

Pain: An Excuse To Sin?

Recently I was asked a question that I suspect many people have wondered about at one time or another in one way or another.

Is my pain an excuse for me to sin?

What about if life is extra-hard?

What if I have been “dealt a really bad hand” in life?

God understands right?

Let me begin by saying that if you are experiencing some sort of pain or turmoil right now as you read this, I am right now praying for you.

I don’t know who you are other than the fact that you probably have experienced some sort of frustrating pain. So, I pray that in the midst of whatever circumstance you are going through that you would keep your eyes on Jesus. I also pray that God would draw you closer to Himself during this time.

Concerning pain, there are several different types; physical, mental, emotional, even spiritual. The Bible is clear that God cares about us humans in every aspect of who we are. Jesus, when He was on earth, healed the sick and healed people who were out of their minds (taking care of physical and mental pain.) Psalm 34:18 says that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted (addressing emotional pain.) And certainly, Jesus came to address our greatest need which is spiritual when He died on the cross. In doing so He made it possible for us to be free from the pain and ensnarement of sin.

It seems that human beings ever since The Fall have experienced pain of one sort or another in a variety of degrees.

Pain is so much a part of our existence on this earth that God has to go out of His way to declare in Revelation 21 that in the New Heaven and the New Earth there shall be no more pain of any kind! “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Additionally, Romans 8:18 gives a promise to those who have trusted in Jesus. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Wow! God has some really incredible and pain-free things in store for those who have faith in Jesus!

If you are going through some sort of pain at this moment I would encourage you to read the whole chapter of John 9, it really is an awesome and easy read! At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus and His disciples run across a man who had been born blind. When they see the man the disciples ask Jesus who had sinned, the man or his parents? Jesus’ response? Neither. The disciples couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that this poor man had been dealt such a “bad hand.” They were looking for a reason for his pain. Maybe his parent’s sin had caused him to be blind. Perhaps his own?

Instead, Jesus goes around all their expectations and says that the man was born in blindness so that God could be glorified! Jesus goes on to miraculously heal the man. At the end of the chapter, the man can now see both physically and spiritually!

So, to answer the initial question, no.

Pain is never an excuse to sin.

God wants us to have faith in Him no matter what our current situation.

He calls us to follow and obey Him no matter what the circumstance.

We may not always understand His reasons or ways, but we still ought to honor Him with our actions. Because He is good no matter what.

April 6, 2019

God Didn’t Need It, But God Used It

Today we’re back with Jim Thornber, who’s website is called Thinking Out Loud. (Weird, huh?) This is the first devotional here that begins to focus our thoughts on christ’s path to Jerusalem. Click the header below to read this article there.

The Never-Ridden Donkey

“Go into that village over there. As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.” (Luke 19:30)

I’ve been teaching through the book of Luke at my church, and this one passage about Jesus riding the young donkey has been on my mind for a couple of weeks. I like this part of the story about Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem because it reveals a number of things. It shows how often Jesus requires the use of our possessions and why it is always an honor to give back to God a portion of everything He has given us. But the takeaway part of the story for me is to realize how God can use those things little things in our life the rest of the world wouldn’t say is possible.

Matthew tells us the two disciples looked for a donkey tied with its colt beside it and brought both the donkey and the colt with them (Matt. 21:4-5, 7). Now, I’m thinking about the owners of this young donkey no one had ridden. Did they look back after they understood the significance of the event and marvel, saying, “God used us! US! All we really had were two donkeys and Jesus used the smallest one, the one no one had ridden, the one with the least experience, the one no one else would think of using, and with the least of what we had Jesus used it to accomplish His purpose on earth. Wow!” Ponder this: Can you see God using those little things in your life everyone else has dismissed as unusable?

God doesn’t need to use what I have. He could use anything He wants. The Father could have created a donkey out of mud and placed it where Jesus needed it, but He didn’t. Instead, this story tells us He wants to invite us into the events of His purposes. He invites us to trust Him with the gifts He has given us. To be honest, if I was the owner of this little colt, I’d be wondering when I’d be getting my livestock back. “When are you going to return it, Jesus?” would be my question. Or, I might go selfish and wonder how the Lord will bless my donkeys. Will He bring back four donkeys? Will my donkeys always have healthy colts? What’s in it for me? You’ve heard preachers tell you, like with Job, “God will give you double for your trouble?” That might be true, but I don’t want to go through what Job went through to find out!

Furthermore, I want to be like the owners of the animals who, when they heard, The Lord needs them,” (Luke 19:31), they immediately (Matt. 21:3) let them take his possessions. While most people would consider the miracle part of the story being Jesus sitting on a donkey who had never been ridden without being thrown off, in my life the challenging miracle of the story is the “immediately” part. To be honest, I’m still working on my “immediately” responses. In too many ways, I don’t always believe Jesus can use my unridden donkeys, those areas of my life I don’t think anyone has any use for. But this story tells me differently.

Here’s the question I’ve been pondering, so I’ll share it with you. What is your unridden donkey, and how can God use it for His purposes? Then, when you find out, work on your “immediately.” I know I will!

 

February 28, 2019

Jesus Measures Output, Not Input

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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NIV.Matthew 15.10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” …

17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” [also found in Mark 7:17-23]

Once again we’re back with Arnold Reimer, for many years the pastor of Bayview Glen Alliance Church in Toronto, and his blog titled Finishing Well. These days my oldest son attends that church, making him the third generation in our family to have some connection there. The title which I gave this piece — not the one in the link below — just came to me as a very concise way of summing up what Jesus said in the above passage. Overall, Pastor Reimer goes beyond the often heard line of ‘having a purpose in life,’ and defines what’s needed as a “holy purpose.”

Purpose

A lawyer once asked Jesus to identify the “great commandment in the Law”. Jesus responded: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The Old Testament statement, from which He was quoting, used the word “might” rather than “mind”. The point is we must love God with the totality of our being. The heart is fundamental to life itself. The soul is the fountain of emotion, passion and personality. The mind is the place of reason, understanding and will. And might combines the whole being into something active, strong and enduring.

Every faithful follower of Christ must purpose in his/her heart to love the Lord God with such determination and commitment. It is to be the very motive and focus of godly living. It is the foundation upon which life with its multiplicity of activities is to be built. Our relationships, thoughts, words, work, pleasure, learning, must all flow from, display and enhance our purpose to love God. That must be our unique and distinguishing feature.

Do not think for one minute that such a path is easy. Challenging such a holy purpose is the world, the flesh and the devil.

Never underestimate the impact and influence of the world upon us. Jesus’ great prayer for us is instructive. “But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world even as I am not of the world. I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Beware of the subtle attraction, allure and demands that draw us away from God and into the ways of this world’s systems. The hugely enhanced communication of our day tends to flood our minds and hours with images and influences that are destructive.

Even more deadly than the world is the flesh. Hear our Lord’s assessment: “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” A poet explains: “God, harden me against myself, this coward with pathetic voice, who craves for ease and rest and joys. Myself, arch-traitor to myself, my hollowest friend, my deadliest foe, my clog whichever way I go. Yet one there is can cure myself, can roll the strangling load from me, break off the yolk and set me free.” Only the liberating work of Christ and a learned obedience to the gracious voice of the Holy Spirit can save us from self!

And then there is the devil. That roaring, devouring lion, that angel of deceptive light, wants his way with us. He is a liar, an accuser, a murderer, a god of darkness, despair, doom and death. He would ensnare us were it not that Jesus has defeated him, put him to open shame by the victory of Calvary. Praise God forever that “greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.” Exult with the Apostle who said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

If you would love God with your whole being, immerse yourself in His love- letter to us, the Bible. Cultivate the beauty of His presence by prayer, hymns, obedience, thoughts, fellowship and conversation. Let His Spirit pour out His love into your heart. He will control you, speak to you and lead you into paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. What a life-changing purpose by which to order our lives!

 

 

February 24, 2019

Worship Should be the Moment-to-Moment Practice of our Life

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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We’ve introduced well over a thousand different writers here, but our Sunday Worship feature has helped me personally to keep finding so many great writers online. Michael Wilson, who writes at Mustard Seed Faith is originally from Virginia, and now lives in Changchun, China. I encourage you to click the title below and read this at source, complete with pictures. Then take some time to look around the rest of the blog.

How do You Worship God?

Is worship learned or is it something that you just do naturally? Does it require a certain feeling or emotional state? How do you worship God?

By worship, we assume you are referring to the practice of Christians singing praise music during a church service. Obviously, worship is a much broader concept than this narrow definition, but many Christians have come to see worship in this limited context.

Scripture, on the other hand, defines worship as obedience. For example, Paul defines worship this way:

Romans 12:1 (NKJV)

Living Sacrifices to God

12 I beseech (urge) you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable (rational & Spiritual) service.

Notice that Paul doesn’t define worship as having anything to do with a mood or a feeling. It certainly isn’t focused on singing or music at all. These types of “worship” are merely outward expressions of our faith and love for God, and though they may have some value, they are not the substance of true worship. True worship is obedience to God through His Spirit and His word.  How do You Worship God

Furthermore, our feelings and mood are counterproductive when trying to establish appropriate worship practices. Instead, we are called to praise and worship the Lord despite our circumstances. For example, Paul praised the Lord for hours after receiving a beating and while chained in a dark jail cell (see Acts 16). If worship were conditioned on emotion and feelings, Paul would never have found a reason to praise God. Similarly, the writer of Hebrews instructed:

Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)

15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Our understanding of praise or worship shouldn’t be merely a form of musical celebration contingent on having the right mood or emotion. The Bible says true worship and praise is rooted in a life of obedience and is a continual activity.

We can find a good example of this distinction in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. The prophet Samuel admonished King Saul with these words:

1 Samuel 15:22 (NKJV)

22 So Samuel said:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.

Worship in that day took the form of burnt offerings and sacrifices given in the temple, and Samuel asks the King is it better to perform worship (i.e., to offer the sin sacrifices in the temple) or to obey the Lord? The answer is clear: it is better to obey God than to offer Him sacrifices. God’s first and highest desire for His people is that we obey Him. If we fail to obey Him but come to “praise” Him in “worship,” we are hypocrites.

Israel was once guilty of approaching God in worship with hearts that did not obey Him, and about those people, the Lord said through Isaiah:

Isaiah 29:13-14 (NKJV)

13 Therefore the Lord said:

“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder;
For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”

God promises a great judgment against Israel for their conceit and hypocrisy.

Likewise, we today must be aware that how we spend our time singing or praising God’s name in a worship service is important only if it is preceded by a life of obedience and service to Him.

If a believer is living a holy and sanctified life in obedience to the Spirit and the word of God, then such a person is also likely to find it easy to express their love and praise for God in a worship service, just as they do on a continual basis outside the church building. Their praise will come naturally from the Spirit’s leading.

Conversely, if a Christian is not accustomed to walking with the Spirit and seeking God’s counsel in His word and if they don’t make a practice of worshipping as a daily (if not hourly) activity, then they will find any expression of worship difficult, including the kind that takes place on Sunday morning.

There is nothing magical about worship (setting aside supernatural manifestations of Spirit) because it should be the moment-to-moment practice of our life. When we attend a church service, we don’t come to “worship.” According to Scripture, we gather together for the purpose of serving and encouraging one another, learning God’s word, and lending our voices to public confession, prayer and praise of God. These activities are made meaningful to God when they are done in a true heart that desires to know and obey God through His word. Taken together, this is true worship.


“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”

 

December 21, 2018

Before the Child of Promise Comes, A Time of Unfulfilled Longing

A few years ago our pastor considered the familiar story from Luke 1 of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zachariah:

(MSG) 5-7 During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.

Our pastor mentioned that for a woman, being married to a Levite (a descendent of Aaron) was enough to elevate your status in that community. And needless to say, being a Levitical priest was the equivalent of being a doctor or lawyer or senator/congressman/member of parliament. ]

They had the pedigree.
They had the position.

So in terms of status they had it all. But on top of that,

“They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” (vs. 6 NASB)

But one thing was missing. There was one thing they lacked.

Having a child was a sign of God’s blessing. And they were childless, and they were very, very old; too old for that situation to change. A rather odd incongruity, don’t you think? People back then did. How can you be so obviously blessed in so many areas of life but have one thing lacking?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught

(AMP) Matt 5: 45b …He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers [alike].

I get two things from this story-within-a-story.

First of all, everybody you know has some thing or things in their lives that are less than perfect. Less than complete. Less than fulfilling. You may see an individual or couple or family that appears to have it all together, but in fact, there are circumstances in their lives that break their heart(s). Financial challenges. Marital frustrations. Physical health problems that you don’t see. Children (or parents) or are estranged. A demoralizing job. Depression. Past regrets. Constantly comparing their situation to other peoples’ lives. (Maybe even yours!)

Elizabeth and Zachariah had it all, except for one obvious, glaring thing; something that in their case wasn’t hidden.

Everyone has something they live with.

Secondly — and this is similar but different — living righteously and blamelessly is no guarantee that circumstances are going to change. It did for this couple, but that’s why we call it a miracle. Couples of advanced age don’t usually experience a pregnancy.

And I don’t for a minute believe that they were walking uprightly in the hope that God was going to do what He in fact did. That option had expired. They were both past their sell-by / best-before date when it came to progeny. They weren’t ‘giving to get.’

They werecareful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations(NLT) or statutes (ESV) because…

It was the right thing to do.
It was who they were.
It was their response to who God is.


Above we read these words: ‘Everyone has something they live with.’ Maybe you’re not dealing with childlessness like Zachariah and Elizabeth; maybe it’s something more superficial, but it still eats away at you… Ever wished you were taller? Or you could change the oil on your car? Or fix a plumbing problem? If you find yourself constantly reminded of your inadequacies, you might enjoy this post which I wrote back in 2012.

December 4, 2018

Repentance Must Be Proven

by Russell Young

Concerning his ministry Paul wrote: “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20) The Lord also told some Pharisees and Sadducees who had come to be baptized, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Mt 3:7─8) He further taught, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch in me that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful,” (Jn 15:1─2) and added, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, apart from me he can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5) Producing good fruit is the proof of a person’s repentance.

The need to repent of sins and to prove that repentance through deeds, is vital to understanding the fullness of the gospel. It is the part that has been excluded from modern teaching. Paul was instructive about the need for more to take place than justification through the blood of Christ. “Since we have 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 Italics added) It needs to be appreciated that reconciliation with God is not the full need of those who will dwell eternally with him. Reconciliation restores relationship with God so that he or she can get the Spirit. (Gal 3:14) In his letter to the Colossians Paul wrote, “To the [saints] he has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27) The “life” of Christ that is “the more” is Christ in the believer, the Spirit, and he is to be obeyed. (Heb 5:9)

Modern philosophical constructs have twisted the Word to offer eternal salvation as a “gift” of God. (Salvation or deliverance from past sins and from the requirements of the Old Covenant is a gift; however, eternal salvation which provides freedom from judgment is not a direct gift.) Surely, they would argue, if eternal salvation is a “gift,” there can be no “more” required. By making such an assertion, they deny the “more” and the need to prove repentance by deeds. Those who live so boldly before God by rejecting the Lord’s leadership as Spirit (Rom 8:4, 14; Gal 5:18; Jn 10:27), will have to suffer his wrath.

The gospel as taught by Paul, and the teaching of Christ, is that the saints are to prove their repentance by their deeds. Proving it requires living a life that is consistent with repentance and does not rest on an utterance once made. Paul wrote that believers are to work out (finish, complete) their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), and the Lord admonished his listeners, “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 13:24 Italics added) Although philosopher-theologians have protected believers through the cloak of Christ’s great love and mercy, neither Paul nor the Lord have allowed such freedom. Repentance must be proven. Only the holy will see the Lord. (Heb 12:14)

When have you last heard teaching on the need for obedience, or on judgment for disobedience? Have you been told that having to endure God’s wrath is still a possibility? God’s love is expansive but not unconditional; it does not cover defiance and disobedience. He is building a kingdom of love and respect for his sovereignty. God gave his Son as propitiation for the sins of humankind and he gifted the Spirit so that his righteous requirements might be met. (Rom 8:4) The Spirit was given so that those who believe the Lord’s testimony and by their will submit in obedience to him are able to prove their repentance and avoid God’s wrath. “For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor 5:10) As Malachi prophesied, “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” (Mal 3:18)

Those who fail to prove their repentance will find themselves separated from the Lord. “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) The separation will be based on their “doing” and willingness to submit to their Lord or whether or not they have truly repented for their rebellion and defiance.


Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also a feature-length article at this link.

September 25, 2018

The “Life” of Christ: The Mystery that Gives Hope for Eternal Salvation

by Russell Young

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6) This is a profound statement that presents the means to eternal salvation. The “way” and the “truth” are very straight-forward but understanding “life” has been confused and this understanding makes all the difference.

It is readily accepted by believers that Christ lived the sinless or perfect life and met God’s righteous requirements as outlined in the law. Although this is true, the Lord’s accomplishment of the law in the body of Jesus is not the fullness of “the life” that is needed to complete the believer’s eternal salvation. The Lord’s sacrificial offering is only the beginning of “the life” of Christ that saves. By faith or persuasion, believers must appropriate his life as the Holy Spirit which is Christ in them. (The category of “believer” applies to those who believe to the extent that they obey. See Heb 3: 18─19.) The nature of our service through the law has changed to service through the Spirit. “But now, by dying to what once bound us (the sinful passions aroused by the flesh), we have been released from the law and serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Rom 7:6)

The sinless life of Christ is imputed for righteousness (Rom 4: 11, 24) that the confessor might be redeemed from his or her burden of sin and its accompanying death. Those who remain in Christ (Jn 15:4, 10) will enjoy the promised hope, however to remain in him his “life” must be lived by those who call him Lord. The state gained at redemption does not meet God’s righteous requirements in full, nor does the life he lived in his flesh fully represent “the life.” The sinless life of Christ provided propitiation for sin bringing the old or first covenant to an end by meeting its requirements. It justified the believer and made provision for the New Covenant, however, Paul taught that “more” was needed to avoid God’s wrath. (Rom 5:9─10)

The life of Christ makes the believer competent to satisfy the New Covenant through his living indwelling presence. This is the life that provides “eternal” salvation. Many confessors are going to suffer judgement for failing to have grasped this truth. Paul wrote: “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27) Note that the believer’s hope is Christ’s indwelling presence. Paul also made the relationship between “the Lord” and “the Spirit” clear to the Corinthians. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (from the law). And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:1718 Italics added) The Lord is the Spirit! It is the resurrected life of Christ as Spirit that is “the life” of which he spoke, the life that provides hope and the life that fully meets God’s righteous requirements. This truth must not be confused.

Paul addressed the importance of being Spirit-led. He stated that the righteous requirements of the law are fully met, not by the life of Christ in the body of Jesus, but by those who live according to the Spirit and not according to the sinful nature. (Rom 8:4) A person who has the Spirit can either live the life of Christ in him or her through obedience to the Spirit or they can deny his life and live according to their sinful nature. To further establish the importance of this life, Paul told the Romans, “For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:1314) Hear this! The believer needs to do something to live. He or she must quench the body’s sinful practices through the Spirit of Christ. A person’s escape from the first covenant and the promise of sonship depends upon honoring the life of Christ as Spirit. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal 5:18)

The atonement that justified and redeemed the believer upon confession of faith was precisely so that past sins could be cleansed and he or she could be gifted with the Spirit to make available “the life” of Christ. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law…in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Gal 3:13…14)

Once redeemed the believer must still meet God’s righteous requirements. “The law of the Spirit of life” sets people free from “the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:2) Although the Old Covenant Law no longer applies to those living in obedience (Heb 5:9) to the law of the Spirit of life, the law of Christ still applies. Paul stated that having been freed from the law (Old Covenant) he was “not free from God’s law but [was] under Christ’s law.” (1 Cor 9:21) Christ’s law is dynamic and living and requires ears to hear the Spirit’s call. Many are unaware of God’s requirement or of their need. Those who thwart, deny, or quench the Spirit are preventing Christ’s ministry on their behalf. Through his life as indwelling Spirit he has come to enlighten, lead, and empower for victory over temptations and unrighteousness making them “an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:16). Paul admonished the Philippians to “continue to work out (katergazomai– “to work fully”, “to finish”) your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil 2:12─13)

All will be subject to judgment or reward (2 Cor 5:10) at the judgment seat of Christ for the way they have allowed his life to manifest itself in them. “[H]ow much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life.” (Rom 5:10) Eternal salvation belongs to the faithful, and obedience is the practice of faith as allowance is made for the exercise of his life in the believer.


Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here alternate Tuesdays.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

September 11, 2018

Honoring God as Holy

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Russell Young

Do you honor God as holy?

God condemned Moses and Aaron because of their attitude towards the one with whom they had enjoyed fellowship while leading Israel out of captivity. “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.” (Num 20:12) Moses and Aaron had travailed in the wilderness with a rebellious people and with God leading the way. The people had become quarrelsome because they lacked water. The LORD had told Moses that he was to take his staff and Aaron and to gather the people before a rock. He was to speak to it and water would flow from the rock. However, Moses did not call upon God before the people but struck the rock twice with his staff as he made his proclamation; consequently, the LORD uttered his indictment, “You did not trust me enough to honor me as holy.

The commands of God are important. He will do as he has promised but he is to be obeyed and honored through humble obedience; he is not to ignored. Neither is he hallowed when people assume credit for his work. Moses and Aaron left out God when they struck the rock and declared, “Must we (Moses and Aaron were before the congregation.) bring water out of the rock?” (Num 20:10) They were incapable of making the rock produce water and yet they were taking credit for the work of the LORD. They had denied the holiness of God through their disobedience. The had not hallowed him.

The modern church is presented as dwelling in an age of grace. Unfortunately, the presentation of that grace has left out the need for obedience to God. However, any rejection of the commands of God is a lack of the acceptance of his holiness and of a lack of trust. He alone knows his plan for the believer and he alone has ordained the way to his eternal promised land. Believers will hear his calls, will look neither to the right nor the left and will respond in obedience. The understanding of grace that has pervaded many of the churches allows God’s grace to excuse disobedience; however, such neglect of his holiness will bring its own reward, just as it did for Moses and Aaron. Salvation, including eternal salvation, is by God’s grace, but that grace is often revealed though the obedience necessary to trust the course that he has set. God is holy and so must be his people. “Be holy: without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14)

Some accept that the sacrificial offering of Christ has made them holy and that this will remain their state forever. The Word addresses the need to become holy or the need to be made holy. The writer of Hebrews has presented, “Because by that one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Heb 10:14) or to re-order the passage, ‘Those who are being made holy have been made perfect forever.’ Paul also addressed the issue, “I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Rom 6:19)

The Spirit, who is Christ in you (Col1:27) is the means of developing holiness. “And so [God] 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 8:34) If a person is to live according to the Spirit, he must hear the call (commands) of the Spirit, must treat the one giving the commands as being holy, and must live accordingly. Paul has also written that those who are led by the Spirit of God are not under the law (Gal 5:18), and that those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. (Rom 8:14) Christ taught that only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 7:21) and that his sheep hear his voice and follow him. (Jn 10:27)

God is holy and he must be treated with respect through the recognition of his authority and through trust in his provision, plan, and intervention in their lives. Just as Moses and Aaron disregarded God’s holiness before men and reaped loss, so will those who reject his authority and holiness and rest their hope in human philosophies and teachings that do not humbly recognize his sovereignty and glory. Those who mock God through disregard will reap destruction. “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 6:78).


Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here alternate Tuesdays.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

(All Scriptures are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.)

 

August 28, 2018

You are a Slave: Who is Your Master?

by Russell Young

How often have you heard a passage put in a context that seems to make sense without giving its meaning second thought? Romans 6:23 may be one of them. “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This passage is often used in the evangelizing process to confront people with the fate that awaits sinners and to reveal the hope provided by Christ; however, the context of this passage makes it more expansive than often appreciated. It is directed to both those who have confessed faith in Christ and to those who have not. Paul is addressing the question of whether those who claim to be believers should go on sinning “that grace may increase” (v 1) and has stated that we should “count” ourselves, or consider ourselves, to have died to the practice of sin which our baptism has pledged. He has proclaimed that sin should not be our master because we are no longer under the law. In addressing slavery to sin his words are:

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness? (Rom 6:16 Italics added)

In his encouragement, he has added, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (v 18) The freedom to which he refers is from past sin and from slavery to sin since breaking the law is sin and the law has been nailed to the cross. Paul wrote to the Colossians,

“When you were dead in your sins and in the circumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code (the law) with its regulations that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Col 2:1314)

Old Covenant law does not apply to those under the New Covenant, therefore sin cannot be acquired by breaking its prescriptions. He has commended their slavery to righteousness since they were obeying the teaching that he had given. Paul went on to explain that although they used to offer their bodies in slavery to sin, they were to “now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (v 19) Further he explained, “but now that you have been set free from sin (past Heb 9:15) and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (v 22) His position is that slavery to righteousness leads to eternal life. It is in this context that he wrote, “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Many confessors have taken the last clause, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” to over-rule the first. A “gift” is normally something given unconditionally. Paul has not promoted the idea of a “gift” anywhere in this chapter, however. In keeping with his teaching on “slavery” a more understandable and a better rendering of charisma, the Greek from which “gift” has been translated, can be gained.

The Liddle and Scott Greek Dictionary presents charisma to mean “grace, favour.” The online Ancient Greek Dictionary (to 1453), Glosbe, represents charisma to mean “personal charm or magnetism; (Christianity) an extraordinary power granted by the Holy Spirit; the ability to influence without the use of logic; a personal attractiveness or interestingness that enables you to influence others; personal magnetism or charm.” This chapter does not mention “gift,” nor hint of a gift, but of a life of slavery.

Gift” as used in Romans 6:23 is misleading. Charisma refers to the idea of the appeal or magnetism of God and implies a response by the one who has been attracted or charmed and influenced. Some confessors will not see the charisma of God and to others the influence of a holy God will not endure; they will be claimed by the world once more. It is the appeal of God’s magnetism (attractiveness) which motivates a person’s soul to pursue God and to become a slave to righteousness that provides eternal life. Christ is to be recognized as lord or master and it is through obedience to him (Heb 5:9) that he is able to accomplish the believer’s eternal salvation. Paul has presented that while slavery to sin –which is the continuation of sinning and rebellion against the Spirit—results in death the influence or appeal of Christ entices slavery to righteousness which results in eternal life.

Verse 23 is a summation of his address to the question concerning whether we should go on sinning so that God’s grace should increase. Those who don’t live in slavery to Christ as their master and lord by default become slaves to sin which will result in death. Confessors have the freedom to choose their master. However, the wages of sin is death but the charisma of God provides eternal life through Jesus our Lord, our Master. The sin issue cannot be resolved until the mastery issue is resolved.

Although the first covenant law has lost the power to enslave the confessor, a law still exists that can be broken. Paul said that he was not free from God’s law but was under “Christ’s law” (1 Cor 9:21), which he has also called “the law of the Spirit of life”. (Rom 8:2) Breaking Christ’s law brings death. John wrote, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.” (1 Jn 5:16) If life over death for a brother can be gained by forgiving a sin, neither pardon for sin nor certainty of life must have been established for the brother.

The Lord addressed the issue of slavery, as well. He stated, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:3435 Italics added) A son is one who is led by the Spirit of God (Rom 8:14), who in slavery to righteousness, through which he or she honors Christ’s law.

Confessors would be wise to consider Paul’s words in their context and to choose their master carefully.


Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

(All Scriptures are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.)

 

 

July 26, 2018

Why Obedience is Commanded

Once again today we’re back at Biblical Proof, the blog of Alfred Shannon, Jr. Click this link to visit the site. Click the title below to read this one at source.

Why Must We Obey God?

Many are constantly asking why they have to follow God’s Word. Just like little children, they are asking why, and just like your parents God is replying, “Because I told you so”! Here are some of the questions many ask God:

Why Must We Obey The Gospel?

This is the question every sinner needs to know, and always seems to ask: Why must I obey the gospel of Christ? The answer is a simple one. One must obey the gospel in order to be saved. Jesus said, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be condemned” (Mk 16:16).

You may ask, why must one believe? The Hebrew writer tells us that without faith it’s impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Jesus said, “If you believe that I am not he, you shall die in your sins” (Jn 8:24).

You may ask, why must one confess Jesus is the Christ? Jesus said, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:32-33).

You may ask, why must one repent of their sins? Luke wrote, “Except we repent we shall perish” (Lk 13:3). And again he said, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man (Jesus Christ) whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

You may ask, why must one be baptized? Paul wrote, “Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so, we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom 6:3-6).

You may ask, why must one remain faithful until death? David wrote that God tries the righteous, but will punish the wicked with fire and brimstone (Ps 11:5). Jeremiah wrote, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer 17:10). James wrote, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience” (Jam 1:3). And again he said, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (Jam 1:12). Only when we are faithful until death shall we receive our crown of life and be saved (Rev 2:10 f; Mt 24:13).

Why Must We Suffer For The Cause Of Christ?

One might logically think that if one obeyed the gospel that God would not make us suffer. Peter wrote, “The God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Pet 5:10). However, Paul wrote that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12). And remember, God is not a respecter of persons (Rom 2:11). Why suffer? Peter wrote, “For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps” (1 Pet 2:21).

Conclusion: The Bible gives us not only the commandments needed for our salvation but also answers the nagging question of why we must do what God has commanded us to do. As parents have authority over their own children, even so, God has authority over us. Paul wrote, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:3). Jesus had all power in heaven and in earth given to him by the Father (Matt 11:28). The final reason which exceeds all reasons why we must do what God has commanded us to do is: “We ought to obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). Children who obey their parents must learn this, and so must every child of God! God has the final say, and we are forbidden to go beyond His written Word. (1 Cor 4:6 ff; 1 Cor 2:13; 2 Cor 4:13).

July 17, 2018

Seeking God’s Righteousness

by Russell Young

David wrote of the agony of his soul and pleaded for the Lord’s mercy to be restored after his adultery with Bathsheba. He knew that he had transgressed God’s law. He knew that God desired righteousness. He wanted joy and gladness to be restored to him through a pure and cleansed heart. (Ps 51) His sin had brought him unrest, sleepless nights, and separation from the closeness that he had enjoyed with his God. Sin separates; it did then, and it does today.

Many suffer from the same discomfort that plagued David. Their lives have become empty and unfruitful for the kingdom. They even find it difficult to bless their families or their friends. They live in desolate circumstances. It is easy to get caught up in disillusionment and loss of hope when God seems quite distant and prayers are left unanswered.

Modern teaching would dismiss the possibility of a confessor’s spiritual separation from God. Those teaching would cover sin with God’s grace and “unconditional love.” However, the Word reveals that destruction can come from sinful practices. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God will not 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 6:78) And, “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 1:89) God expects his people to walk fearfully before him, to be righteous in his sight. The believer is to be a slave to God. (Rom 6:22) Righteousness must be lived.

James wrote, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (Jas 5:16) He did not say that the prayers of “Christians” are powerful and effective but that efficacy rests with the righteous. John taught, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6 NIV) The grace of God provides all that is needed for life and godliness and the Lord’s blessings rest on those who are seeking his kingdom and his righteousness through an obedient walk.

The Lord has promised: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33) He was referencing a person’s needs–food and clothing. These are provisions granted those seeking to live righteously and who are seeking God’s kingdom. Ignoring conviction of sin is not living righteously and quenching the Spirit keeps people from enjoying the fullness and richness of God. Believers are cautioned against loving the world and the things in it. “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) Those who are surrounded by riches feel entitled to pursue them. In God’s sight such interest is sin. He does not bless the confessor who craves the things of this world or who pursues them but honors the person whose heart is established on righteousness, on him, and on his kingdom purposes.

The Lord does not bless those who defy him. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Pet 3:12) David had felt abandoned following his act of disobedience. His bones felt dry. Although we would not like to admit it, confessors can be too ready to excuse ungodly thoughts and actions, especially considering the wickedness about them. God is not so generous, however. That lesson will be learned through his punishment and discipline either today or at his judgment seat. Distress in life is not caused by sin alone, however. The righteous can suffer in pursuit of holiness as they are refined. Those who are walking with Christ, even though enduring tribulations will never feel abandoned but will recognize his presence and peace.

David repented and found joy again. In fact, God described him as, “a man after [his] own heart.” (Acts 13:33) Believers are to be men and women after God’s own heart. They are to enjoy fellowship with him, never feeling the dryness in spiritual life that comes from separation. The point is that God does not bless wickedness regardless of the utterances of those who would profess his “unconditional love.” He demands righteous practices from his people and blesses those who forgo sin and pursue his kingdom purposes. The LORD has said, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isa 66:2)


Author Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

(All Scriptures are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.)

 

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