Christianity 201

February 10, 2019

The First Commandment is the Cornerstone for the Other Nine

Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the LORD.
 Psalm 144:15

Listen to me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart.
 Malachi 2:2

And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.
 Deuteronomy 6:5  
(all NLT)

More than anything else in the past two years, our Sunday Worship feature has resulted in us connecting with a great variety of writers in a the widest variety of places. This time around the search process took us to Pembrokeshire, Wales; and to a congregation where a large number of the leadership take turns in delivering the weekly sermon. The article was written by Gareth Edwards and appeared on the website of Penuel Baptist Chapel, Roch. The article really didn’t have a title, so we gave it one, and you can learn more by clicking on the header which follows.

No Other Gods

You shall have no other gods before me.’ Exodus 20:3

The first four commandments are about our relationship with God and lay the foundation for the remaining six, which refer to our relationship with others. To be right with God is our first priority, it gives the basis on which we can be right with others. Even within the first four commandments there is a logical progression. The first commandment acts as a cornerstone on which the rest are constructed. ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3) is the prime directive for life.

Each of the commandments is expressed as a negative, ‘You shall not.’ The purpose of the commandments being presented in negative language is to underline a positive. The first commandment tells us that we are to worship God alone. God is demanding an exclusive commitment to Him alone. All must be put aside (verse 5). The Lord speaks about Himself as being a jealous God. He will not share us with anyone or anything else. God is jealous for His people. They are His, they belong to no other. He is jealous for all His creation. Therefore, the devotion of our lives in worship belongs uniquely to God (Isaiah 42:8).

Why is this so? There are no other gods. He is the only supreme God (Isaiah 44:6). There are no other gods, but men invent them. When men refuse to worship the true God they make false ones. They have a natural desire to worship. If they refuse to worship the one true God, they will worship a lie (Romans 1). There are no gods – just the foolish rebellion of men (1 Corinthians 8:4). God expects the exclusive worship of our lives. He alone is deserving of worship.

He alone has done all. The Ten Commandments are set against the context of God saving Israel against tyranny (verse 2). They were to worship God not only because of who He is, but also because of what He has done for them. For them and for us there is nothing better than to spend our lives in the worship of the one who gave us life in the first place, and whose grace has brought us spiritual life through the death of His Son at Calvary.

It’s unjust and ungrateful that we should give away our worship to anyone but God. It is He who gives us life, He who gives us our daily blessings, He who gives us new birth and eternal life.

What are the implications of the first commandment?

  1. The Almighty is God alone, therefore we should render to Him alone the adoration and worship of our lives. This is the very purpose of our existence – to fulfill a calling to worship God and to give to Him the unadulterated commitment of all we have. The Westminster Confession begins ‘The chief end of man is the glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.’

Psalm 144:15. There’s nothing more worthwhile then the worship of the triune God in every part of our lives. It is a particular grace and blessing of God that we come together to enjoy worshipping Him. That’s the purpose of this day, a day set apart in which we come together to glorify His name and to enjoy Him. Did you come this Sunday morning to have the privilege of worshipping God and to enjoy Him, to meet with Him? The songs and sermon are the means to the end, to enjoying God.

We were made to know God. When we sacrifice our lives for His glory we experience what it means to be truly human. This commandment is for our blessing.

  1. What fools men are. They will worship everything and anything rather than the one true God. There are those who will worship idols – the gods of man’s imagination. Romans 1:21-23. God declares men either worship Him or waste their lives in the pursuit of imaginary gods. Those who reject Him come under His curse. Malachi 2:2.

Men, in their sin, reject God and are rejected by Him. Our nation is under the curse of God. The lives of our friends and family members are under the curse of God because in their sinful rebellion they do not worship Him. They have gods of their own imagination and creation. There are those who will think they are so intellectually complete that they think they are wise and can look disdainfully down on us. Were we once not with them – devoted to other gods? Did not God, in His grace and mercy, have compassion on us and open our eyes to see, open our ears to hear and open our hearts to know Christ? How gracious God has dealt with us. He has called us to Himself. Will we not pray for our friends, our family, the people of Roch, of Wales, Europe and the world, that God will have mercy upon them as He has mercy on us? Their greatest need is to know Him, to know that there is but one God and that He is to be worshipped for who He is and what He has done. Will we not tell them, preach to them, by the lives we live, declaring here is the Lord Almighty, and you must know and worship Him, have your sins forgiven? Man is a fool until God’s grace comes.

  1. You cannot worship God half-heartedly. He demands our all (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30. He’s unwilling to share this with anyone else. This doesn’t mean we can’t serve our community and others. What it means is it’s shaped by our desire to glorify God in all that we do. In our love for our family, to do a good job of work, primarily our deepest desire in doing all of these things is that He will be glorified. In all we do we are to have a single-minded dedication to the Lord which puts Him first, above all else. We must guard against doing anything in the name of the Lord which, in fact, we are doing for ourselves, for our own praise. That is a denial of the first Commandment. We cannot play games with God. This is the most serious business, the worship of the Lord Almighty. Because it is so serious we need the help of God, God the Holy Spirit, when we fail in this duty, which we so often do. We need to know the saving grace that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh gracious God, grant to me the strength, the faith, the desire to honour you in all things. You are worthy to be praised.

February 5, 2017

The Book of the Law Was Lost

by Russell Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

November 8, 2015

I Will Build Myself a Great Palace

Today it’s another visit to Zec at the blog re-Ver(sing) Verses!

haggai1-4

Haggai 1:4

“Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses,while this house remains a ruin?”

Haggai 1:4 | NIV | Other Versions | Context

Brief

The book of Haggai is short and simple, depicting the time of Haggai the prophet and his main work in delivering the message of the Lord to Zerubabel, regarding the rebuilding of the temple, 16 years after Zerubabel had laid the foundations. The message of the Lord is clear – while the house of the Lord remained incomplete, the people were not concerned and were busy perfecting their own abodes. In this study, we will examine the context of the state of the houses then, and attempt to metaphorically apply it to our lives today.

Analysis

living in your paneled houses – the original meaning of the term used here is the word used to refer to palaces – very extravagant, very luxurious. It implies that they weren’t just living in secure houses that they built for themselves in order to just have a roof over their heads. No – they even had the luxury of time, money and resources to panel their houses up with good wood or something. It was more than just secure – it was a comfortable place to stay in, luxurious for the people of that time, and luxurious for the people who were still not granted complete freedom. Jeremiah gives us an idea of what a panel house would consist of – He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.’ So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red [Jer 22:14]. This can perhaps also be taken as a metaphor for our secular, everyday lives – it gets comfortable.

while this house remains a ruin – The temple was destroyed by the Babylonians indeed, an entire superpower regime ago (at the point of Haggai, it was already King Darius’ era, deep into the Persian era). However, 16 years prior to the context, under the sanction of Cyrus the Great, Zerubabel had laid the first foundations of the temple as part of the rebuilding [Ezra 3:8-11]. 16 years had past with the foundations still there – a house that neither looks like one, nor functions as one, with nothing but its foundations. The temple was an important symbol throughout the history of Jerusalem – indeed, even till today. While the people couldn’t do much when Artaxerxes the King put a halt to the rebuilding works, he was no longer in power. Yet the people did not try to do anything regarding the temple. They have forgotten about it – Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house [Haggai 1:9]. Contrast this with the likes of King David, who fretted over the state of the house of the Lord – “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” [2 Sam 7:2] – Indeed, if not for David, there might have been no temple at all.

Metaphorically, this is the spiritual state of the people – physically and mentally, secularly in their everyday lives, they were doing well. But their spiritual health? In ruins!

is it a time for you – Time. That is the crux of the matter. There are some things, like crimes, like sins – that we obviously shouldn’t be doing at anytime, and at all times. Then there are other things, like this matter in verse 4, that is a matter of time. Is it wrong to be living in panelled houses? No – not really. It isn’t a crime, and cannot count as a sin. Is it their fault that the house of the Lord remains a ruin? No – not really. More of their ancestors’ faults, and while under captivity, there was nothing they could do about it. God knows that too. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens [Ecc 3:1|Article]. And God’s timing is divine. Under a different king they might have been unable to continue rebuilding the temple, but Darius was a king who supported and encouraged alien religions as long as they were peaceful ones.

Conclusion

The Lord is asking a rhetorical question, and the answer is a clear and resounding ‘No’. It is not the time to be enjoying the comfort of our paneled houses when the house of the Lords is in ruins. God does not ask questions like that without more assistance – he pushes and prods the people into action through his prophets, and he rose up Zerubabbel by calling him his signet ring [Haggai 2:23]. We may not have ruins of temples literally for us to build today. However, metaphorically, in each of our hearts, there is a house of the Lord – and many of us have ruined houses of the Lord. Let us not enjoy success and luxury in our secular everyday lives and yet at the same time have an unhealthy spiritual state. If anything, let our houses of the Lord be paneled like palaces, and rather we stay in tents and in ruins – secularly speaking.

April 5, 2014

When God Is First

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Regular readers here know I am always using multiple translations, and I like to introduce new wordings from newer ones. But sometimes I wonder if we lose something by changing some classics, even when our word choices are well-informed based on the original Greek or Hebrew.

For example, take

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (NIV)

The phrase in question has to do with putting God first, or giving Him first place in our lives.  Modern options include:

  • Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness… (Phillips)
  • Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. (Message)

Fortunately this isn’t true of all the recent versions:

  • Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously (NLT)
  • Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too. (The Voice; I included the full verse so you could catch the addition at the end!)

At his blog, Speaking the Truth in Love, Ken Idleman (yep…he is related*) offers the following:

Ever since I was a sophomore in college I have been giving regular financial offerings to God.  I praise Him for the older Christian Brother who took me aside and taught me this vital discipleship principle… over 4 decades ago now.  I am confident that much of the heart for The Lord and His Church that I have developed through the years has been the result of investing my ‘treasure’ in God’s kingdom as a priority [Matthew 6:21].  I was convicted then that either my kingdom or His would be my primary focus.  I decided it should be His [Matthew 6:33].  When I started taking my giving seriously, I had an income of $35/week.  I started faithfully giving $5 each Lord’s Day as an expression of worship.  Something good began to happen in my head and heart that I trace back to that Spirit-led decision/commitment.

It grieves me that most Christians do not give to God first.  It is more predictable today that a person subtracts their bills from their income to see how much is left over; then determines what can be given to the Lord’s work out of the overflow, without going into debt.  So rather than a ‘first fruits’ offering, it becomes a ‘leftover’ offering.  But, taking our offering off the top, so to speak, is evidence that we acknowledge God’s authority over us.  It is an act of gratitude to God for his goodness and it’s trusting Him to provide the best for us.  Bill Hybels wrote that most of us look at giving like paying another bill; but instead we should look at it as seed we sow.

I want to point out three things:

  1. This isn’t about “tithing” per se, since he was giving one-seventh, or 14%
  2. The principle applies to far more than financial giving, even though he doesn’t say that up front
  3. He has practiced what he’s preaching; he’s not talking beyond his personal sphere of experience.

So what are some of the ways we can put God first in our lives that aren’t related to financial giving to our church and ministry organizations?

  1. I am really trying to discipline my mind to start the day with some kind of prayer; asking God to use my day for His glory. If my thoughts are getting sidetracked, I just quickly get out of bed and do a re-start so I can try the thought focus again.
  2. I am endeavoring to make the devotional website I read each day the first internet page that is opened in my computer.
  3. I am trying to begin my day at work by asking God to use my workplace to reach my community. This isn’t easy. The first thing I have to do when I walk in is shut off the alarm system, and sometimes the message light is flashing on the phone system.
  4. I am trying to be more intentional about the emails I write and things I post on Twitter. That’s hard because I am already a bit of a Bible-nerd, so with a faith quotient that’s already high, I have to separate things that are about Church life or ‘religion’ in general from things that are about Jesus. I have a long way to go on this one.
  5. I am trying to put God’s kingdom agenda in the words I write and the words I speak so that the wisdom I offer is not earthly wisdom, but are filled with truth, hope, and encouragement.

I Chronicles 21:24

But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

II Samuel 24:24 (parallel passage)

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

 


* Kyle’s dad, Pastor of Crossroads Christian Church, Newburgh, IN

April 17, 2011

Maybe You Still Don’t Get It

Steven Furtick, author of Sun Stand Still (Waterbrook) and pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina is another one of those people qualified to wear the label, “intentional.”  On his blog, he’s been doing a series, “Signs You Still Don’t Get It;” and again, in the interests of getting material actually seen while knowing people don’t click, I’ve assembled in a single post here, Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.  [Note: You might want to click through as there are additional resources linked there.]

To read the text in a larger font, hold down Ctrl and press “+” sign.

“Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?     – Matthew 16:9

There are some things that we just have to learn the hard way. The disciples of Jesus knew this better than anyone.

Two times in the previous two chapters Jesus had provided a miraculous supply of food for a hungry crowd. Here in chapter 16 Jesus tells them to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. The disciples freak out because they didn’t bring any bread and they think Jesus is hungry and needs them to supply food.

They still don’t get it.

We could be judgmental, but the truth is that there are things that are just as elementary that you and I still don’t get. And it’s these things that keep us in a state of inertia in our walk with God and the calling He has placed on our lives.

So I thought it’d be good … to address some of the top signs that indicate that we still don’t get it. Confront the elementary things that are keeping us from launching into a whole new dimension in our relationship with God…

1. You still feel unworthy to come to God when you fail.
You sin and think there needs to be a grace period before you can pray for forgiveness. You completely blow it and think there’s no way God can use you again. Your days are done. Your destiny disqualified. Might as well sit around and sulk in your self-condemnation.

This really comes down to one thing: you still don’t understand grace.

We often think the grace of God is just a commodity to get us to the point of salvation. But we don’t understand that the same grace that brought us to the point of salvation is also with us in our daily lives. The same power that raised you from the grave of your sin is the same power that raises you from the mistakes of your everyday life.

Proverbs 24:16 says, The righteous man falls down seven times, but seven times, he rises again.”

That’s not what comes to our minds when most of us think of a righteous person. We think they’re someone who never or rarely falls. But that’s because our idea of righteousness is rooted in self-righteousness. The real righteous person is the one who has been made righteous by Jesus and then can let Jesus pick him back up when up when he falls.

There’s a big difference between falling down (Peter) and falling away (Judas). Grace means God’s got your back. Like Peter, your failure is not final.

Get back up. Go to back to God. No, you’re not worthy. But neither were you worthy when you came to God the first time. It was Jesus’ worthiness that made you worthy then.

What makes you think the terms of acceptance have changed?

2. You’re still waiting for God’s will to “fall into place.”

  • You’re still waiting for God to bring the right man or woman into your life.
  • For the perfect job to come along.
  • For…

And in the meantime you’re not doing much of anything about it.

  • You’re hanging out in your basement.
  • You’re begrudgingly going about your present job.

You’re going to be waiting for a long time. Not because God doesn’t want to bring the right person into your life. Or the job you’ve been created for. Or anything else He wants for you. But because God’s will isn’t a matter of waiting. And it rarely falls into place all at once.

When you think about the will of God for your life, think less in terms of a big bang and more in terms of small sparks that lead to a large fire. It’s a matter of doing what you should be doing and letting God continually move you forward into what He wants you to be doing.

A lot of times we spend our greatest effort trying to uncover the mysteries of the parts of God’s will that we don’t understand rather than obeying the part of God’s will that we do understand.

And that’s His Word. When all else fails, God’s Word is His will.

So from the examples above:

  • It’s always God’s will for you to become the kind of man or woman that will be the husband or wife of someone else’s dreams.
  • It’s always God’s will to do all of your work as unto the Lord.

So start doing those things. And then trust God to use your present obedience to move you closer to your future assignments.

If you’re single, stop waiting for God to bring you the right person and start running after God with everything you’ve got. When you see someone running alongside of you, you’ll know God’s will has “fallen into place.” And while you’re at it, clean yourself up, put some product in your hair, and join the greeter team at your church.

Stop waiting for the perfect job to come along and start perfecting the job that you have. That way when the perfect job “falls into place,” you’ll be ready for it.

We don’t have to waste time wondering when and how God’s will is going to fall into place. Obedience that is active is way better than passive reflection. We find direction from God while we’re on the move. We know as we go. We set out and then God shows up.

We know God’s will by doing God’s will.

3. You’re still driven by the approval and affirmation of others.

You’ve made yourself believe:

  • If I get another promotion.
  • If I buy another pair of shoes.
  • If I have sex with another person.
  • If I do another favor.
  • If I lose another size…

…They will approve of me.

Or:

  • If he would just tell me I’m beautiful.
  • If my husband would just notice me.
  • If my coworkers would just acknowledge my contribution.
  • If anyone would just affirm who I am and what I do…

…My life would be complete. My life would have meaning.

But it’s not true. The affirmation you want will always be just beyond you. The approval you crave will only last for a moment. You’ll have the thing you thought you needed, but you won’t feel the peace you thought you’d feel. And as I’ve said before, he who lives by the approval of others will die by the absence of the same.

Many people spend most of their lives trying to achieve the approval that can only be received. Stop trying to chase down from people what God has already given to you in Jesus. Instead live life with the knowledge that in Jesus, you’re already affirmed. You’re already approved of.

When you have the approval of your Father, you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone.

4. You’re still trying to put God first.
I know, it sounds weird. Shouldn’t this be the exact thing you should still be trying to do?

On the surface, of course we should. Jesus is supreme over everything. He is first in importance. And so in that sense, we should always be trying to put Him first in our lives.

But my question is, what does this actually look like when you get down to the grind of everyday life? For example, what does it even mean to put Jesus first before my family? Do I ignore my family to spend more time with Jesus? Or with my career, do I stop working to put Jesus first?

In many people’s honest attempt to put God first in their lives, they end up segregating Jesus from the different priorities of their lives. And this is the exact opposite of what Jesus wants. He doesn’t just want to be first before your priorities. He wants to be first in them. The center of them.

  • Don’t worry about putting God first, then your family. Put God first in your family.
  • Or God first, then your career. Put God first in your career.
  • Or God first, then your finances. Put God first in your finances.

If you do that, you won’t have to worry about trying to put God first in your life. He already will be. The thing that is at the center of your life is the thing that is ultimately first in your life.

~Pastor Steven Furtick