Tags: commentary on Galatians, freedom, Galatians 5, grace, independence, Spirit-led, Sunday School lessons on Galatians, the flesh, the Spirit
The evidences of a flesh-driven life are works – dead things which produce nothing living.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
The evidence of the Spirit-led life is fruit. Fruit does not come about by “working.”
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
1. Admit that the flesh is stronger than your will power.
2. Go where the Spirit wants to go. The Spirit wants to go to church, to Sunday School, to the Bible, to prayer time, to go soul-winning, to visit the nursing home. The Spirit doesn’t want to go to the nightclub, the worldly party, the gossip session.
3. Don’t go easy on the flesh. Crucify it.
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Don’t try to beat the flesh on your own. You will only strengthen it even more. Do not go where the flesh wants to go – where it gets fed. Stay with the Spirit, having a grand time of joy. Starve the flesh. Make it weak. Remember, at the moment of salvation you were “baptized into Jesus Christ.” He died for you, and you died with Him. Your flesh was crucified, buried, and you were raised with Christ – to walk in newness of life. You became something fundamentally different: a new creature. You were rescued from hell.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking grace is insufficient. We can’t add to it with our show-offy, better-than-the-next-person rule-keeping or legalism. You weren’t saved by the Law; don’t act like you were. God will never be fooled into thinking you’re more holy than anyone else. Attempting to do so is just a form of self-worship.
Don’t fall into the other trap, either, though. Don’t “presume” upon grace as an excuse to sin. Grace brings freedom from sin, not freedom to sin. The freedom to act like an idiot and destroy myself, or to bring shame to the very thing that helped me to get free, is not the kind of “freedom” that grace delivers.
Tags: commentary on Exodus, complaining, Exodus 15, Exodus 16, faith, God's goodness, Jesus Christ, murmuring, obstacles, Sunday School lessons on Exodus
So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.
Three days is a long time to go without water for a large group of families and their herds of animals. It is possible that they had gulped down the last of their supply, thinking for sure there would be water at the place up ahead which would come to be known as Marah.
And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.
That’s what Marah means – bitter.
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
The word “murmur” sounds like two repetitious baby sounds put together, and in Scripture it indicates childish or immature complaining, whining, and grumbling. Why did the omniscient God lead them to a place where He obviously knew the water would be undrinkable? Moses did what everyone else should have been doing instead of complaining. He prayed and he believed – logically and faithfully – that the God Who had delivered them out of Egypt would provide water for them.
And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,
The tree may or may not be a picture of the Cross, but I do believe it points to Christ. Just as Adam and Eve brought bitterness into the world by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, so too is there a Tree of Life. This tree was glorious (like Christ), and it was cut down (also like Christ.) It was lowered into the bitter water (just as Christ condescended into the middle of our bitterly fallen and sinful world). The tree took the bitterness away and provided life-giving water. Most Bible scholars are reluctant to read this into it, because there are no specific references to it in the New Testament, but I think it’s appropriate.
Verse 25 says that “there He proved them.” They failed the test, but Moses didn’t. They would fail this test again and again. Despite the assurance that their God (unlike the false Egyptian gods) was Jehovah Rophi – the God that Heals.
They now had plenty of sweet water, but they would be tested again concerning food, and this time there is a clear New Testament revelation concerning the incident.
And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.
Elim was a place with plenty of water and 70 palm trees. It is tempting to read the coincidental name of the wilderness of “Sin” as an allusion our English word “sin,” and to build a lesson around the idea that they were wandering into “sin against God,” but the context does not seem to support a strained connection.
And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:
The murmuring was against God, as well as His spokesman, Moses.
And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.
The people looked back to bondage, slavery, abuse, and the murder of their children as the “good old days” simply because they were faced with an obstacle. They should have looked at this obstacle as an opportunity to demonstrate faith in the God Who had rescued them.
Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.
Despite their grumbling, cowardice, and lack of faith, God’s goodness and kindness and faithfulness were not thwarted by their sin.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 1, called by God, Catholic mass, division in the Body of Christ, Eucharist, factions, God's will, Jesus Christ, Roman Catholic communion, unity
Last time we saw that, as Christians:
I. We are called to Pure Upgrade.
II. We are called to Proper Unity.
The fellowship with Christ to which we are called to is a good segue into another fellowship to which we are called: the fellowship with each other.
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
I Corinthians 1:10
“All speak the same thing” = “all be on the same page.” This is not what was going on in Corinth:
For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
I Corinthians 1:11
According to Proverbs 13:10 contentions only come by pride. They often lead to factions – choosing up sides – and that’s what happened here.
Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
I Corinthians 1:12
Paul’s response to this was his usual response, in a way. He pointed to Christ.
Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
I Corinthians 1:13
Christ is not divided, and He never has been – neither bodily (one of many reasons why the Roman Catholic practice of the “eucharist” is heretical), nor doctrinally. Only Christ died for us, and we are to be baptized in His name, not in the name of the preacher who does the dunking.
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
I Corinthians 1:17
He preached a message that has always sounded foolish to unbelievers.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
I Corinthians 1:18
But it is a message that is incredibly exciting and transformative for new believers. Why such a simple message? Why a crucifixion? So God would get all the glory and credit, not His messengers.
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
I Corinthians 1:23
The Jews tripped and fell over the idea that their King would be crucified. The Greeks could never be impressed by a message which said that the Savior of the world was a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. But we need to see ourselves as having a third specific calling, which we will look at next time.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 1, called by God, direct revelation, God's will, Jesus Calling, Jesus Christ, sanctification, voice of God
Have you ever heard someone say that he was “called to preach?” Or “called to teach?” Or “called to join the choir?” How does this work? Is it like when someone says, “God laid this on my heart?” “God told me to go back to that person and ask her if she’s okay?” Have you ever felt left out and lonely because it seems like everyone but you is getting private messages from the Lord telling them what to do? Did it make you feel like the sterotypical broken-hearted lover staring at the phone – just trying to will it to ring?
Christian publishers and booksellers have capitalized on this idea with books and devotionals like Jesus Calling, in which a young lady claims to have written down what Jesus told her privately, so she can pass it on to the readers.
I will confess that I am not sure what to do with all this. I have never to my knowledge heard the audible voice of God. There have been a few times when I have felt like He wanted me to do something, and I am often convicted about my sin – in my heart – but I never know for sure how to discern whether I’m hearing directly from God, or if it’s just something that occurred to me.
I don’t know what God might be calling you to do, but I do know that there are some things that He calls all Christians to do in the Bible. I like these much better than ambiguous feelings and nudgings which are open to my own private interpretation. Some of them are pleasant, some are not. “Die to self daily.” That’s a calling, but it’s not always easy to do. “Give your spouse a lot of hugs.” That’s easy (for me, anyway. My wife may see it differently!) In this short series I want to point out three things that you have been called to – in the Bible. They are specifically for Christians (and even more specifically for church members), and they are found in I Corinthians Chapter 1.
I Corinthians is a letter that the Holy Spirit used the Apostle Paul to write to the church at Corinth. Paul had been there for about 18 months before moving on, and now he was writing to address the problems they were having.
I. We are Called to Pure Upgrade
Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
I Corinthians 1:1
Now, Paul was directly called by God. He didn’t become an Apostle by finding a Bible verse that told him to do it, but the age of the capital A Apostles is over, so that call – in the truest sense – is not for us. It is the next verse that lists a calling which every Christian has received, and which every Christian needs to answer.
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
I Corinthians 1:2
Notice that the Holy Spirit is addressing the church of God which is at Corinth. This was a local church body – an organized local fellowship of believers meeting together. You don’t have to go to a local church to be a Christian. You also don’t have to go home to be married, but I would be a terrible husband if I never went home, and I would be a poor Christian if I didn’t go to church frequently and regularly.
Notice also the two types of sanctification in Verse 2: positional (“are sanctified”), which means that Christians are set apart in Christ Jesus, marked by God as belonging to Him; and progressive, which deals with our participation (“called to be saints”). God has called us to be special – sacred – set apart – set apart from the world – and set apart unto Him.
Our sanctification classification comes with gifts, too. The Corinthian church members were wealthy in gifts.
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
I Corinthians 1:4-5
They were especially wealthy in revelatory gifts. Our spiritual gifts are given to us by God so that we can use them not as trophies to brag about, or toys to play with, or weapons to fight each other with, but as tools with which to build Christ’s Church.
So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
I Corinthians 1:7
We are building a building of fleshy stones – believers brought into the Kingdom and placed in the body of Christ to serve and glorify Him.
This is one of the clearest callings for Christians: the call to pure upgrade. When we get saved, the blame for our sins is taken away, but we are still blameworthy on a daily basis. Our sanctification is about going from being blameworthy to blameless.
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 1:8
Blameless is not sinless, but it does have to do with the purification of our motives.
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
I Corinthians 1:9
God is faithful to get us to a state of blameless sanctification. We could not do it on our own, but we are “called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ,” and that fellowship is promoted and enriched by our sanctification, just as it is hindered and strained when we move backward from blamelessness.
Next time, we will see another clear call for Christians: the call to proper unity.
Tags: bearing burdens, Biblical comfort, burdens, clumsiness, commentary on Galatians, Galatians 6, God of all comfort, law of Christ, Sunday School lessons on Galatians
Aren’t you glad to be part of a church fellowship? I hope you are. There may come a time when you need the help of a brother and sister in Christ. God made us for community – and not just in the good times, but also in the bad. That’s one reason fellowship is so comforting.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
The law of Christ is loving God with all your heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself. It can be extremely comforting to have someone to help you bear your burden, or to bear it for you. But, there is a flip side to the comfort of fellowship, which is:
Faults are not precisely the same thing as sins – although the faults certainly can be sins. Take someone who talks too much, for example. That’s not necessarily a sin, but it is a fault. Or someone who gets sick every time it’s her turn to work in the nursery – or his turn to help count the offering. Those are not sins, but they can be faults. Some people are really clumsy. It’s not sinful to be clumsy, but being clumsy and volunteering to carry a crystal tray of punch across the foyer carpet is a fault.
Faults are comforting because they help to integrate us into Christian fellowship, and because they remind us that: (1) we’re part of a Christian fellowship; (2) as fellow Christians, we’re all in this together; and (3) we need each other.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
The comfort of fellowship is like a body. All the parts are important and all are supposed to work together. But when one part’s not working right the other parts pick up the slack. They bear burdens in fellowship and bring comfort in faults.
Tags: Belshazzar, Cinco de Mayo Bible lessons, Cinco de Mayo devotions, commentary on Daniel, Daniel, Daniel 5, fingers, handwriting on the wall, Sunday School lessons on Daniel
Belshazzar, grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, was having a quite a party. He and his lords and his concubines were getting so drunk that they started using vessels made by the hands of men to toast gods invented in the minds of men. What they failed to realize is that there is a real God Who is free to intervene in the pompous and silly affairs of this world whenever He wants, and is more than capable of reminding everyone just how serious a business it is to ignore His existence or to blaspheme His name.
In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.
The fingers that “came forth” (not “fourth”) were five fingers. These five fingers (I’m counting the thumb as a finger) would write a message of judgment and doom, but even before they started writing, they revealed a terrifying five-fold message.
Little Finger: “In the same hour” means that this happened at the height of the partying and sacrilege. It is clear from the Bible that God is indeed offended by sin, but He is never too offended to show up and set things right. Those who believe that they have sinned God out of their consciences and their lives would do well to remember this principle and repent before He decides, in His wrath, to show up at a crucial moment and put an end to the party. The Lord of glory is not a dainty tea-sipper with His pinky finger held askew while He peers down His nose from a distance at the things He finds unpleasant in His creation.
Index Finger: What appeared out of thin air were the fingers of “a man’s hand.” Let’s be clear. When you and I start looking for the cause of our problems, it would benefit us greatly to bypass the ideas of chance, fortune, luck, our past, our upbringing, our circumstances, our DNA, and our cultural influences. More often than not, when God shows up to deal with us in our sin, we can simply look down at our own hands to find the cause of all our sin-related troubles. Before we use our pointer finger to shift the blame, we need to open the mirror of God’s word and point accusingly at the culprit of evil: ourselves.
Ring Finger: The hand that appeared at Belshazzar’s wanton shindig chose the best place to start writing its message: “over against the candlestick.” When we want to have what this evil world thinks of as a “good time” we like to turn the lights down low. Things that would be shameful in the light tend to take on a false sense of security and secrecy in the dark. Belshazzar and his cronies probably had enough light to ogle the concubines, but not enough to highlight the lecherous leers on their own faces. God wanted his truth to be seen clearly, though. We need to remember that He sees everything, regardless of the brightness of the environment, and that He has a way of seeing to it that the embarrassing things we think we are getting away with in the dark get brought out into the open when we least expect it. The finger that is famous for holding the wedding ring needs to be a reminder to us of who we are, to Whom we belong, and what it means to be faithful.
Middle Finger: God could have made the words themselves, in addition to the hand doing the writing, appear to float in thin air. However, He chose instead to write them “on the wall of the king’s palace.” Belshazzar put great trust in the walls of his earthly kingdom, believing them to be impenetrable against enemy attacks. This was obviously erroneous since the Medes and the Persians managed to get inside the city and conquer his kingdom that very night. We tend to place a great deal of trust in the supposed strength of our earthly institutions, whether it be our careers, our homes, our own abilities, or even our government, but this is a mistake. The Lord God alone is worthy of trust, and we would do well to keep Him (just as the middle finger is the strongest and central part of our hands) positioned in the center of our lives.
Thumb: In the midst of a crowded party, you would think that anyone might have been startled to see a hand suddenly appear out of nowhere, but actually it was the king himself who “saw the part of the hand that wrote.” Belshazzar alone had the right to give the thumbs-up to this party, and he was accustomed to giving the thumbs-down to anybody who might rain on his parade. But this was a different scenario. A quote attributed to D.L. Moody says that, “God has two thrones – one in the highest heavens, the other in the lowliest heart.” We need to be very careful not to try to weasel our way onto the throne of our own hearts. That is a seat reserved for the sovereign God of this universe alone.
Tags: Biblical dancing, Biblical songs, commentary on Exodus, Exodus 14, Exodus 15, gods of Egypt, holiness of God, Miriam, praising God, Sunday School lessons on Exodus
And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
Neither Moses’s hand, nor the staff it held, had any intrinsic power. They were visible symbols of the power of God. The word translated as “sea” is used to describe a vast body of water, such as an ocean, not a marshy swamp or a shallow pool.
And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
The word translated as “wall” is the same word normally used in the Bible to describe city walls, which were typically about 20 feet high.
For centuries God’s people had heard all about all sorts of gods in Egypt who were supposedly powerful and mighty, but none of those so-called gods had ever done anything like this!
Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
This was rhetorical question – which in Hebrew (especially Hebrew poetry) – was used for emphasis. It was a way of extolling the true “holiness” of God. The answer was and is, “No one – and no thing – is like unto God in the slightest.” It is a rhetorical question which inspired the names “Micah” and “Michael.” The little g “gods” were a reference to the figuratively just-defeated Egyptian gods. They were nothing compared to the real God, Who is glorious in holiness. Possibly the greatest foundation of God’s glory is His holiness. It is so great that it forces all who consider Him to fear Him. Even His praises are fearful! The real God is not your buddy, your pal, your “co-pilot,” or “the man upstairs,” and what He does is “wonders.”
And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.
Miriam, Moses’s sister, is revealed here to be a prophetess – meaning she spoke for God or revealed God’s truth or at least proclaimed God’s truth. She is referred to as the sister of Aaron rather than the sister of Moses in this context possibly because of Moses’s humility, or possibly in deference to Aaron as the older brother. It could also be because, as a singer, she is involved in a type of worship which later be part of Temple worship, which was to be the province of Aaron the high priest.
The timbrels were similar to what we would call tambourines, and there was definitely dancing involved, as uncomfortable as that may make some of us. The word translated as “dances” could include choreographed moves, rhythmic moves, or even spastic moves. (We can safely assume it was not “twerking,” however!) This was a celebration, but it was also meant to be “didactic” – teaching something about God – as well as glorifying Him for His character – Who He is and what He had done.