Christianity 201

October 19, 2022

Pharaoh’s Heart, and Yours (and Mine)

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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This is our second visit with Jason Smith who lives in Oregon, and writes at Lamp and Light. After looking at three most recent articles — they’re all good! — this one was chosen to share with you today. Click the title which follows to read this where it first appeared.

The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart

God clearly cares about our hearts. Throughout the Bible, we read about the significance of the heart. The heart is the seat of all human thought, emotion, and activity (Proverbs 4:23). God knows us so well, because His gaze pierces all the way through to our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). The heart is often portrayed as the secret inner storehouse or the deep well of a person’s soul (Proverbs 20:5; Matthew 12:35; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Hebrews 4:12).

The words on our lips are usually good indicators of what’s brewing within. Jesus wisely said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

King Solomon urges us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, ESV).

A heart that is right with God is a heart that gladly leans on Him as a child leans on her father’s chest. It is not too proud to trust in His grace.

Pharaoh’s Hard Heart

The Bible records God telling Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go” (Exodus 4:22, ESV).

This is the first time Pharaoh’s hard heart is mentioned. The Hebrew word chazaq literally means “to strengthen,” as in God strengthened Pharaoh’s heart in his rebellion. In 11 cases, chazaq is used to speak of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart (4:21; 9:2; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8) or more generally that Pharaoh’s heart “was hardened” (7:13, 22; 8:19; 9:35).

However, another word is also used to speak of Pharaoh’s hard heart – the Hebrew word kabad’, which literally means “to make heavy.” Three times, this word is used to speak of Pharaoh hardening his own heart (8:15, 32; 9:34), once with the general phrase “was hardened” (9:7), and twice to speak of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart (10:1; 14:4). It is a similar word to chazaq, but it has a special nuance worth noting.

Ancient Egyptians believed that in the afterlife a special ceremony took place called The Weighing of the Heart (pictured above). In this ceremony, overseen by the god Anubis, the heart of the deceased was placed on one side of a great scale and was weighed against the feather of truth. If someone had committed many sins, their heart would be weighed down, and they would be condemned to eternal restlessness. However, if they’d lived a virtuous life, one’s heart would be lighter than the feather. In this case, they would be granted safe passage to the Egyptian paradise, the fields of Aaru.

Because of this belief about one’s heart determining one’s eternal destiny, Egyptians would remove all the organs except the heart when burying their dead. Moses may be alluding to this ancient belief when he writes that Pharaoh’s heart was “made heavy” (Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:7, 34; 10:1; 14:4).

This is a reminder that in nearly every age and culture, people have been religious. God has given humanity a universal sense of right and wrong, and because of this, we all know we are supposed to be good. And we all sense the scales of justice by which our lives will be weighed.

Our Hard Hearts

It is interesting how often Scripture connects salvation to the state of one’s heart. The Bible says that we need to be saved from sin, and Jesus said that all sin ultimately springs from a defiled heart (Matthew 15:18-20). When He saw the prideful religiosity of the Pharisees, Jesus asked them, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” (9:4). Mark tells us He was “grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 5:3). Sometimes, even His disciples didn’t understand because “their hearts were hardened” (6:52).

But Jesus also said the greatest commandment was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

It’s popular today for people to say, “Just follow your heart.” It’s cliché and catchy. But in the Bible, that sounds like generally bad advice, like something the devil would urge you to do. Instead, we are warned about the inherent dangers of following one’s heart, which is so prone to self-deception. A heart that is not directed toward God is foolish and darkened (Genesis 3:1-6; Ephesians 4:22; Romans 1:21). The prophet Jeremiah quoted God on the matter:

“The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?
I the Lord search the heart
    and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
    according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10, NIV)

It’s good to know that God is just and will reward people according to what they deserve, but what hope of reward do we have? The Bible also says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11, NIV). This sounds pretty bleak. Thankfully, this isn’t Scripture’s last word on the matter.

The New Heart We All Need

The prophet Ezekiel records a divine promise about those who would receive a new heart:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness.” (Ezekiel 36:26-29, NIV)

This means there is hope for those who have hard hearts like Pharaoh. But it’s not a matter of having a new commitment to live a good life; it’s a matter of becoming a new creation in Christ. This can only happen through faith in His finished work on the cross and subsequent resurrection. Speaking of that time when Jesus was on the cross, the prophet Isaiah says, “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV).

Jesus took all that defiles our hearts onto Himself so that we could be redeemed from the sin that had enslaved us. Salvation is about God cleansing our hearts by grace through faith (see Acts 15:9; Hebrews 10:22; 13:9). A new heart is a forgiven heart, a liberated heart.

Through faith in Christ, the burden of guilt is lifted, and our hearts become lighter than a feather. Jesus comforted His disciples when He was about to die for them, saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1). A heart cleansed by the shed blood of Jesus is a heart reconciled to God. “For with the heart one believes and is justified” (Romans 10:10, ESV).

A new heart is soft and fleshy (Ezekiel 36:26). It wants more of God, not less. It desires His name to be famous, not our own. It craves to be filled with His love and His Spirit, not the fleeting pleasures of sin. It seeks His leading and direction, rather than wanting its own way. Though the battle of opposing desires still rages today (Romans 7:15-25), only the fruit produced in the new heart will last into eternity (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

And finally, Paul’s prayers for the church were continually about the state of their hearts, showing that the heart is a subject we should not neglect.

“May the Lord direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5, HCSB)

That is my prayer for you as well.

Father of mercies, my heart is so prone to wander after worthless pursuits that seem so urgent or attractive today. Give me fresh desires from Your heart of love, that I might live the life You’ve called me to. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

January 25, 2022

To Make Up His Jewels

When I was a kid in Sunday School, we sang a little chorus, complete with King James era lyrics:

When He cometh, when He cometh
To make up His jewels,
All His jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own:

Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

I had forgotten all about this song until I found the devotional which appears below. It’s based on older versions (KJV and NKJV) of Malachi 3:17a. Here’s the NASB:

“‘And they will be Mine,’ says the LORD of armies, ‘on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will have compassion for them just as a man has compassion for his own son who serves him.'”

I went to BibleRef.com for some commentary, but was especially struck by this summary statement of chapters 3 and 4:

The final message, completed in chapter 4, is an appeal for God’s chosen people to return. God would prefer to see them redeemed, than to be destroyed, when the end finally comes. (emphasis added)

Remember that, as I believe verse 17 is a microcosm of both chapters, as fleshed out in today’s devotional.

We periodically pay a visit to the devotional page at the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s website. Click the title below to read at source. The author of this piece is Martin Wiles.

Junking For Jewels

Romans 8:29For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (NLT)

Jewels can sometimes be found among the junk.

My wife calls it “junking”, and she does it quite often. When possible, I usually tag along. We don’t actually visit junkyards or stores, but we call what we do junking because we do it among a lot of discarded stuff — stuff that many term junk. However, we adhere to the old cliché, “One’s man trash is another man’s treasure.”

Our junking takes place occasionally at yard sales, but more often in thrift stores. Any time when we go to a conference or on vacation, she searches for thrift stores, maps them out, and visits each one. Once our jewels are discovered, we take them home and make them look more like the treasures they once were. We place them in the dishwasher or washing machine, splatter them with lemon oil, or tighten their loose joints with a screwdriver or hammer.

Once our jewels are cleaned and repaired, we decide. Some we choose to keep in our home. Most we resell, sometimes for a handsome profit. One person’s junk has helped us to make ends meet.

When God gazes down from heaven, He sees discarded people littering the shelves of the earth — people whom others have rejected, abused, and scorned. These are people whom He created and loves, but many of them have rejected Him. Sin has duped them, causing them to think that they no longer need God in their lives. Sin has led them in directions that are slowly killing them emotionally, spiritually, and physically. But God keeps junking.

Those who allow God to purchase them through repentance, forgiveness, and salvation, He cleans up. The blood of Christ washes them, the grace of God changes their perceived purpose, and the strength of God allows them to enjoy life once again. As God molds them into the likeness of His Son, they are transformed from junk into jewels.

Malachi 3:17a“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels.” (NKJV)

God is in the business of making jewels of what many consider junk. Are you one of the ones whom He’s cleaning up and restoring?

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your amazing grace that makes us more than we could ever be in and of ourselves. Amen.


Here’s the second of the three verses of When He Cometh at Hymnary.org.

He will gather, He will gather
The gems for His kingdom;
All the pure ones, all the bright ones,
His loved and His own.

Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

January 15, 2022

Once We Were Dead, Then God Granted Us a Reset

This is our sixth time highlighting the writing of Art Toombs of Art Toombs Ministries. Art has served in vocational ministry since 1997 as a minister, church pastor, chaplain, and internet minister. As usual, clicking the header which follows sends traffic to their website and that is one way we can be encouraging their ministry.

Changing Our Values

Ephesians 2: 1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (NKJV)

The book of Ephesians is part of what is known as the Prison Epistles. The writings, themselves, affirm that the epistles were written by the Apostle Paul from prison.

There are differing opinions as to during which of Paul’s prison confinements the epistles were written. There are many sources that discuss this subject fully. For our purposes, we will go along with the thought of most scholars that Paul wrote the prison epistles during his house arrest in Rome from AD 60-62.

The book of Ephesians can be divided into two halves. The first half, the first three chapters, is concerned with the positional; doctrine outlining our position in Christ. The second half, the last three chapters, is concerned with the practical; how we work out our position in the practical living of our Christian life. This is similar to the breakdown of the book of Romans.

The epistle was written about AD 61 to the house churches in Ephesus, Asia. The idea was that this authoritative letter would be passed along to other churches in Asia Minor.

In this passage, Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus of their personal spiritual journeys, which is the same journey all Christians make. Paul begins by writing “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (v. 1).

Paul describes becoming a Christian as being “made alive” in Christ. Prior to that we “were dead in trespasses and sins”.

Paul calls these people “dead”, meaning spiritually dead. They will not go to Heaven, unless they change.

All Christians “once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” (v. 2a). This behavior is a result of original sin, the fact that we are all born as sinners.

Many believe that we were all born pure and can stay that way by being a good person. They think that this is the way we were meant to live, that this is just human nature.

The Bible tells us that this is false thinking. Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden and because of that we are all born sinners, in need of a Savior.

Unfortunately, left to our own devices, the way of the world is all we know. This is all we know if we are not introduced to Christianity.

People who grow up not knowing better are not bad people. They are just not educated in spiritual matters.

As adults though, we bear responsibility in that we all are born with a conscience which causes us to know good, and to seek out the source. It is a curiosity in children that should be welcomed by their parents and cultivated in their children.

Even those who never become Christians know good and do good things, as defined by the world. They may be very good people in the eyes of the world, of whom they serve.

But when we follow the ways of this world, we are following Satan, the ruler of the kingdom of the air. Satan is described as “the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (v. 2b). Satan is now at work in those who are disobedient to the Word of God, the Bible.

Satan’s values are the ways “of this world”. As Christians, we make the journey from following Satan, with his set of values, to following Christ, with an opposite set of values.

Before becoming Christians, we “conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (v. 3a). We were captives to the desires of our flesh and our minds, to our own selfish desires.

We “were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (v. 3b). We were “by nature” (our human nature) deserving of “wrath”, the wrath of God. We were enemies of God.

Paul writes “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us” (v. 4). God, because of His mercy and great love for us, intervened in our lives.

Paul then describes this intervention by God. He writes “even when we were dead in trespasses, (He) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” (v. 5). We were dead in our sins, but, when we became Christians, we were “made alive together with Christ”, through the grace of God.

In conclusion, the journey for those who become Christians continues on. The journey, for those who don’t, never progresses beyond the ways of this world. Their values never change.

When we become Christians, our values change. We see things through God’s eyes and not the eyes of the world.

When we are saved, by the grace of God and because of His great love for us, our desire is to please God and not the world. We cannot do both because the values are opposites. Satan’s values are the opposite of those of God.

Where Christians get hung up is that they want to please everyone. They want to be liked by everyone. The result is that they often displease God.

As much as we would like to have it both ways, we can’t. If we try, we wind up serving two totally opposite masters. One will always be displeased.

We must change our values to those of God. As Christians, we no longer belong to the world and its values. We belong to God.

September 23, 2011

Our Image Determines Our Destiny

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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It’s really unfortunate that there are not modern language editions of the classic works of Andrew Murray.   Last night I was reading the “eighteenth lesson” of With Christ in the School of Prayer and was amazed again at the depth of his writing.

He begins with Jesus interacting with the Pharisees over the paying of the tribute tax, and Jesus’ question, “Whose image is on this coin?” (Matt 22:29) But then he quickly moves to Genesis 1, and talks about the fact that we were created in God’s image and that even post-fall, we still bear that image.

Our destiny was to fill, to subdue and to have dominion over the earth.  As God’s representatives, we were to rule here on earth.  The idea was that we were God’s representatives here on earth, and that there was a certain power that went with that responsibility.

Then, Andrew Murray points out that God’s relationship with man, and man’s relationship with creation underwent a great change when sin was introduced; but with redemption, we have “the beginning of a glorious restoration.”  This is also seen as God introduces what we could call ‘the road back’ through Abraham.

This road extends to us, where we have the opportunity to be new creations in Christ, and be brought back to our original destiny as God’s image is restored, and with it, the power to have dominion.  He then states that this will allow us to be bold in prayer.

There is much more in this lesson, but Murray concludes with the reminder that we, the church, have no idea of the high calling we have been given as we begin to understand, and move in, our original destiny.

…There’s no way I’ve done this justice in a few short words;  as good as paraphrasing Andrew Murray would be, trying to summarize him robs the text of its original depth and richness.  I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of With Christ in the School of Prayer and dedicate yourself to taking very small sections at a time, i.e. a chapter a day and slowing your reading speed to half its normal pace so you can absorb all that this great writer is saying.

 

 

October 15, 2010

Justification, Regeneration, Divine Nature, Witness of the Spirit

Blogger Rick Roehm brings clarity to some basic doctrines from the blog Christian Blessings. “The intent … is to first bring clarity to the Biblical terms Justification, Regeneration, and Witness of the Spirit unused in everyday language and second, to confirm an actual Christian experience and its relation to the scriptural reference given…”

Biblical Justification is a pardon granted by God upon the soul of man who trusts in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. After repentance and trusting in the death of Christ alone, God’s justice declares a sinner innocent from all sins committed in the past. Justification by Grace removes the guilt of sin from the human conscience. In a judicial sense a believer is declared righteous by the Justification of God through faith alone in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. God’s Justification deals with the acts of sin and not the inherited sinful nature.

• Acts 13:38-39…Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

• Rom 3:24-25…being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past

Regeneration is the Spirit’s restoration of the human soul that saves a believer from eternal death and separation from the mercy of God. A justified man right in the presence of God is passed to life through regeneration. Life in the New Testament is two fold: First, a present life consisting of holiness of heart and obedience to God: Second, to an inherited eternal life which follows death to the physical body beyond the grave. Washing of regeneration, an inward work of the Holy Ghost is granted to a believer by the Mercy and Grace of God through Justification.

• Titus 3:5…Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

• Titus 3:6-7…Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

When a penitent sinner is cleansed from all sin the moral make-up is also restored in Christ. The Holy Spirit re-creates the inner being of a believer through the new birth. This re-creation includes a Divine nature. The mind, conduct, and desires of one born of God are conscious to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. This person knows God from the heart because of communion in the Spirit. Unlike the sinner, a regenerate man has strength to stop sinning and quit doing wrong as consciousness to the presence of the Holy Spirit takes away sinful desire. The divine nature produces a new desire to live holy and without sin as a child of God should.

• 1 John 3:9…Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin.

• 1 John 4:4… because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Through God’s regenerative work the Holy Spirit bears witness with the spirit of man. This union confirms in the heart of a believer that he’s a child of God and his sins are forgiven.

The witness of the Holy Spirit testifies Christ inwardly to a believer and brings to knowledge a life of holiness and obedience to God. Every believer has this witness in himself.

• Rom 8:16…The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God

• 1 John 5:10…He that believes on the Son of God hath the witness in himself:

April 7, 2010

I’m Not The Same Person That I Used To Be

There’s a song we sang at camp a lot of years ago:

Little by little, every day
Little by little in every way
My Jesus is changing me

Since I made a turnabout face
I’ve been growing in His grace
My Jesus is changing me

He’s changing me, my precious Jesus
I’m not the same person that I used to be

Sometimes it’s slow going
But there’s a knowing
That someday, perfect I will be

If you walk up to someone and they say, “Hey, you haven’t changed a bit;” and you’re a Christian and they’re not talking about physical appearance like your hair color or your weight; then something is seriously wrong.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (New Living Translation):
17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Breaking it down by subjects, as on a child’s report card, it might look like this, with two subjects:

2 Peter 3:18 (New Living Translation):
18 Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I gotta be honest; some days I do well in the knowledge department and not so well in the grace department. But there are days where the reverse is true as well.

Need a more complex report card with more than just two subjects? Here’s the Christianity 201 version:

Colossians 1:9-12 (New Living Translation)
9 … We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.  11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father…

Here’s to change; personal change that you know inwardly and others see outwardly.

Thanks for inspiration for this, Rick Apperson. Click over to Rick’s blog to continue this theme…