Tempted, but not Wandering, in the Wilderness

November 22, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

Luke 4:1

At first glance it may seem very strange that Jesus would be led BY THE SPIRIT into a place of temptation rather than straight into His public ministry. Believers today receive the Holy Spirit upon salvation. One of the Old Testament pictures of our salvation was when the Israelites left Egypt and went out into the wilderness before getting to enter the promised land. That sequence may also have been arranged by God partly to foreshadow Christ’s foray into the wilderness after He received the Spirit.

In Matthew we are shown Jesus going to Egypt for safety the way that Jacob and his sons did after Joseph was taken there, but Luke did not record that event in His life.

Jesus did not go into the wilderness because He was being chastened for provoking God the way the Old Testament Israelites did. He did go into the wilderness to be tested, though.

Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.

Luke 4:2-3

Satan is always subtly playing to our pride. He knows the power of pride because it led to his own downfall. One of the reasons that the devil is often depicted today as this caricature in a red suit with a tail and a pitchfork is because there was a time when it was thought that the best way to combat him was to attack his pride by making him look silly. The Bible does not portray him as being that easily defeated. Christ defeated Satan, and withstood his temptations, by exercising humility and proclaiming the Word of God.

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Up from the Grave with the Knows!

November 20, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment
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Some of the church members in Corinth were denying the bodily resurrection of believers. This was the last major problem that Paul addressed in his letter to them, which we know as I Corinthians.

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

I Corinthians 15:12

How had this error infiltrated the church? The Greeks did not believe in resurrection, as shown in the teachings of Gnosticism. Other notable groups which rejected the idea of bodily resurrection included pagan religions, the Jewish sect known as the Sadducees, and the followers of the heretic, Marcion. The reason that the Holy Spirit had Paul begin his discussion with Jesus’s Resurrection is that the Corinthian Christians couldn’t have really become Christians without believing that Jesus Himself had risen from the grave. They would still be “Know-Nots” if they did not know this basic tenet of the Gospel message.

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

I Corinthians 15:1-4

After addressing their denial of resurrection, Paul went on to give a demonstration of the evidence for resurrection. Jesus had appeared after His death in His own body to Peter and the 12 Apostles (v. 5), and had even appeared to over 500 brethren at one time, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote this (v. 6). Jesus had appeared to James (v. 7) and even to Paul himself, and nobody had been more changed by Christ’s Resurrection than Paul.

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

I Corinthians 15:13

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:

I Corinthians 15:16

After dealing with the denial and the demonstration of resurrection, Paul addressed the drama of resurrection.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

I Corinthians 15:20

“Firstfruits” is both an agricultural reference, and a reference to the Old Testament practice of giving to God the first part of a crop as a dedicatory sacrifice. Christ came from the grave (the ground) first, and we who are in Him shall be the “crop” which God has promised to bless with growth and harvest afterwards.

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

I Corinthians 15:21-22

Here we see the principle of “federal headship.” Just as Adam was our accurate representative as a disobedient sinner, so shall Christ be the accurate representative of obedience and righteousness for all who are in Him.

But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

I Corinthians 15:23

Christ’s Resurrection was a dramatic victory over sin, death, and the grave, and it has eschatological consequences, too.

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

I Corinthians 15:26-28

This is our victory over death in Christ. Nothing shall be lost for the victorious God – even our decayed and sin-sick and death-sleeping bodies – shall be redeemed and regenerated.

In addition to the denial, demonstration, and drama of resurrection, Paul had to make sure and emphasize the demands of resurrection. First of all, the knowledge of our future resurrection should motivate us to be baptized.

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

I Corinthians 15:29

Second, the knowledge of our future resurrection should motivate us to endure persecution.

And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.

I Corinthians 15:30-32

Third, future bodily resurrection demands that we live a holy life and avoid sin.

Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

I Corinthians 15:34

Fourth, it demands that we be prepared for Christ to come back.

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

I Corinthians 15:51-52

Fifth, it forces us to remember that a life spent serving Christ is not in vain.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

I Corinthians 15:58

An Acceptable Performance

November 17, 2017 at 6:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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There came a point in the Apostle Paul’s ministry (and, who knows? it may have been there from the time he met Christ and received the forgiveness of sins) when his fear of death was overshadowed – or at least challenged and deeply ameliorated – by his longing to leave this world behind and go to be with his Lord.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

Philippians 1:22–23

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

II Corinthians 5:6-9

It would not be unreasonable to say that, even as Paul cherished his opportunities to minister in the name of Jesus in this world, his heart was still occupied with Heavenly thoughts more than earthly thoughts. In II Corinthians 5:9 he did not attempt to hide the fact that what he was doing was “labor” – the type of physical work that could be easily observed by other human beings. However, even as he labored before, and among, men, he seemed only to be conscious of the eyes of His Master upon him.

I spent my childhood in an environment where baseball was a form of religion. From the earliest levels of little league almost everyone in my hometown was cognizant of which kids performed well on the diamond, and which ones didn’t. And, while it seems likely to me all these years later that us boys had an inflated sense of the importance of winning or losing, striking out or getting a base hit, blocking a grounder with our chest (or chin!) or letting it go through our legs, I can also tell you that many a dad was evicted from the park for yelling at, or fighting with, umpires, coaches, and other dads. Plenty of boys who had escaped corporal discipline for bad grades, ditching school, stealing, and vandalizing would find themselves on the business end of a belt or an open-hand whack to the head out behind the concession stand after an 0 for 4 evening or a couple of inexcusable errors. Some of us played the game for fun, and some of us played it for survival.

not impressed by your performance

The result of this kind of pressure to perform is a laser-sharp focus. Despite whatever flaws were instilled into us concerning sportsmanship and fair play, we did learn the sort of concentration that allows you to block out everything else in your surroundings and zero in on the spin of the ball, the tendency of the runner leaning off first as if he might try for second, and where you would throw the ball if it happened to carom off a bat and head in your direction on any given pitch. The roar of the crowd after a good play – or the boos and jeers after an overthrow – became something to tune out and ignore. For several of us, the approval of the crowd did not matter one iota, but the approval of our fathers did. They were who we wanted to please, and there is no doubt we played harder because of our desire for their praise, and because of a fear of their disappointment.

The Apostle Paul did not play baseball, and his Heavenly Father was interested in far greater glories than a small-town sporting event. And, of course, God’s interest in Paul’s performance was not motivated by a petty desire to live vicariously through his exploits. However, Paul wanted very badly for his efforts to be “accepted” by the Lord, and you and I would probably do well to adopt this same motivation today.

Paul is like a musician who does not need the approval of the audience if he can catch the look of approval from his Master.

Oswald Chambers, March 17 devotion on II Corinthians 5:9 from My Utmost for His Highest

Biased Marriage Counseling

November 10, 2017 at 11:31 am | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: I have Christian friends who are thinking about ending their marriage. Someone told me to give them this advice: “Before making your decision about divorce or reconciliation, seek balanced counsel rather than biased counsel.” What do you think of that advice?

Answer: Sorry to be blunt, but that advice is garbage. I’m sure whoever came up with that had good intentions, and there is a line of thinking out there that says, talk to some people who think you should reconcile, and talk to some people who think you shouldn’t, and weigh the pros and cons. But think about it! Stop and really think. Does the Bible say anything like that about marriage? Tell your friends to talk to people who are EXTREMELY biased – biased in favor of Jesus Christ. He let vile wicked sinners nail Him to a Cross so that we would have the power and the freedom to forgive, to reconcile, to restore, to promote righteousness – not to drag through the mud a relationship that He created to glorify Himself. (See Genesis 2:21-24; Malachi 2:16; Mark 10:6-9; Ephesians 5:23-33; Hebrews 13:4.)

Introducing God

November 8, 2017 at 11:11 am | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,

Luke 3:1

The details found in the New Testament manuscripts really reinforce their historicity. Luke documented real people, who lived in a real time and real places, charged with real authority over real geographical provinces.

Luke Chapter 3 introduces us to the ministry of John the Baptist.

And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Luke 3:3-4

John was the herald who went before the King, making proclamations about His coming, and making sure the metaphorical roads were smooth for His appearing. He was baptizing people in the Jordan River. It was the custom to baptize those who had converted to Judaism. This baptism symbolized cleansing from defilement and sin, which helps to see why baptizing those who had been born Jewish would have been so scandalous to the religious leaders. Many of the people who came to John to be baptized, and who responded to his message of repentance, were harlots, publicans, open sinners – the outcasts of society. They had been told that the Kingdom of God was closed to them, so you can imagine their enthusiasm when they found out it was open to them!

John addressed the religious elite who came out to see what he was doing, and he told them that they were like snakes. His biting comment was that even snakes will crawl into the river to avoid a fire!

Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Luke 3:7-9

John did not cater to the falsely secure or the hypocritically religious, but he also wanted to make it very clear that he was not the Christ.

And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

Luke 3:15-17

The Holy Spirit is likened to the wind in Scripture. Those who trust in Christ receive the Holy Spirit, and the process of practical sanctification begins. The “chaff” – that which is useless and unprofitable for the Christian’s spiritual growth – is separated out and blown away to be burned, the way a literal wheat thresher uses a tool (“fan”) to gather only the “fruitful” and useful part of the wheat.

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

Luke 3:21-22

This is a shocking moment in the history of the world – and a fulfilling one for those who seek to know God. The “who is like God?” question from the Old Testament is finally answered, and light is shed on the mystery of the great “I AM,” as God reveals Himself to be triune – Father, Son, and Spirit – and indicates that what the Son will do in His incarnation will be our best look at the true character and nature of God.

The rest of Luke Chapter 3, beginning in Verse 23, is the genealogy of Jesus, going backwards, all the way to Adam. In Luke the humanity of Jesus is stressed, and the truth that Jesus is the Savior of gentiles as well as Jews. Matthew starts with Abraham, but Luke goes all the way back to Adam.

Practical Principles for Policing the Exercise of Spiritual Gifts in Church

November 6, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment
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In I Corinthians Chapter 14 the Holy Spirit through Paul addressed some of the confusion and even chaos caused by the misuse of spiritual gifts in the church services at Corinth. First of all, he stressed that spiritual gifts are supposed to be used for edification.

Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

I Corinthians 14:1

The gift of prophesying would be better than being able to speak supernaturally in a different language because the speaker would be understood, and people would be edified and exhorted, rather than merely amazed.

But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

I Corinthians 14:3-4

Remember, these gifts are primarily for the edification of people who are already SAVED – the “Church.”

Spiritual gifts are also supposed to be educational.

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

I Corinthians 14:6

The gift itself might sound cool when demonstrated, but unless it has some spiritual truth or value to it that can be UNDERSTOOD, who is going to learn anything from it?

And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?

I Corinthians 14:7

Musical sounds only amount to cacophony unless they have rhythmic breaks, and some pattern to the notes and sounds.

For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

I Corinthians 14:8

We recognize “tunes,” and can be educated by them, if they are organized and orderly.

So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

I Corinthians 14:9

My wife’s grandmother used to have a piano in her home, and she hated it when, at family gatherings, the little kids would sit down and begin banging away at the keys without any understanding of how to play the instrument. “That’s not music; that’s noise!” she would yell. Random sounds don’t educate anyone, but there is also an allusion in this passage of Scripture to the pagan practice of loud cacophonous music which played on the emotions, but did not appeal to the intellect. The Corinthian believers had been saved out of idolatry, so they would have been familiar with the reference.

Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

I Corinthians 14:20

Christians are to be child-like, yes, but not childISH. We must grow up into maturity in the use of our spiritual gifts. We should be “Knows” about our spiritual gifts, but be “Know-nots” about “malice” – evil, selfish intentions and motivations.

In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

I Corinthians 14:21-22

If the believers used tongues for the purpose of NOT being understood, it would be a sign of judgment against unbelievers.

If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

I Corinthians 14:23

Again, these gifts were given for the CHURCH, not unbelievers; whereas, when the Word of God is spoken for the purpose of educating, even the uneducated can be convinced that there is something worth learning here.

But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

I Corinthians 14:24-25

Babbling and gibberish would not impress a Corinthian pagan. He would think, “This is no different than the temple of Aphrodite – pass the wine and bring me a hooker.”

So, while the spiritual gifts were to be sought and used in the church, they also needed to be given the proper esteem. They were to be given the correct place in the organized church service, and practiced with decency and order.

If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

I Corinthians 14:27-28

There were rules for this sort of thing, and while the specific precepts may not be applicable to us today, certainly the principles of having orderly church services still apply.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

I Corinthians 14:33

The gift of tongues in the institution of the New Testament church was, in one sense, a reversal of the confounding of languages at the tower of Babel – for Christianity is an inclusive faith. It is for all nations, tribes, and tongues – there is diversity and unity.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

I Corinthians 14:34-35

The prohibition on women to keep “silent” was addressing a specific problem in 1st Century Corinth, and is a general prohibition against chaos and defiance of authority, but it is not a literal injunction against women uttering a word in church

Let all things be done decently and in order.

I Corinthians 12:40

“All things” include the exercise of spiritual gifts, which are for edification, edification, and are to be rightly esteemed.

The Assurance of Trouble

November 3, 2017 at 8:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Romans 8:35

Paul, although writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could speak from experience. He had experienced all these things: persecution, hunger, extreme poverty, life-threatening danger. Yet he remained convinced of the assurance of Christ’s love, not just IN SPITE of these things, but partly BECAUSE of these things.

In fact, the perseverance of his faith and the knowledge of Christ’s presence through trials, tribulations, hardship, and imminent death, utterly convinced him that nothing whatsoever in all of existence could ever separate him from the love of God in Christ.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

Sadly, we are often backward in our thinking, looking at trials and temptations and difficulties as signs that God has forgotten or neglected us. What we should do, when God graciously gives us opportunities to strengthen our faith by turning to Him in times of trouble, is to rejoice that He loves us enough to give us such experiential assurances.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

James 1:2-4

Tribulations come to us to strengthen our hope or assurance. They are not random occurrences that have somehow broken out of God’s corral, set loose to stampede and trample our lives. They are controlled tests and gifts of grace, teaching us to patiently consider our Savior and the justification He has won for us, not so that we could be left to our own devices, but so that we could be continually drawing closer to Him.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

Romans 5:1-4

Obedience Matters

November 1, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God:

I Samuel 12:14

God in His holy disposition was not disposed to give His people an earthly king. God was their true King, but they wanted a human king very badly, because the other nations had human kings. God allowed them to have their wish, although He knew that having a human king would cause many problems and much heartache and suffering, because a human king would be a sinful king.

He had his prophet Samuel appoint a man named Saul to be the first human king of Israel. I Samuel 12 is Samuel’s farewell address to the people, after he had anointed Saul as their king. What Samuel knew – and what you and I must know and believe ourselves – is that what really matters to God is not so much the strength of our earthly leaders, but our own obedience to God’s will as revealed in His Word.

Here are four brief thoughts on the matter of obedience, under the acrostic O.B.E.Y.

O.wnership

Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.

Jeremiah 10:6-7

But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

Jeremiah 10:10

We do not like to think of ourselves as property, and especially not someone else’s property. If, like me, you are an American, you probably believe that our leaders are supposed to serve us, not rule over us. We think we are free and independent. Our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution even say that we are. But we are not. We are the subjects of a sovereign and mighty King, Whose rule is everlasting. We belong to Him. He owns us, lock, stock, and barrel from the moment of our conception, and He will do with us as He pleases. And we have nothing about us that is threatening or mysterious to Him.

If we believe this – truly believe – then obedience is not an optional thing. It is a logical and rational and inescapable fact of life. To disobey our Owner and King is foolish treason without any hope of working out well for us, and it subjects us to His anger and wrath and punishment or chastisement. Only such attributes as His grace, mercy, and love make even the beginning of a way to exist in His universe, and to therein know any joy whatsoever.

O.bey
B.iblical revelation

God – our Owner and King – has not left it up to us to try to figure out on our own what we must do – or refrain from doing – in order to obey Him. He has revealed His will to us in a written Word.

But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

Romans 16:26

It is our responsibility as God’s image-bearing creatures to know what He wants us to do – and HOW He wants us to do it. This knowledge does not come to us in dreams or visions, or by feelings or hunches. We do not get it by convening a council and reaching a consensus, or through trial-and-error experimentation. We get it by studying His holy Word – studying it to show ourselves approved – workers that won’t be ashamed when we stand before Him, saying, “But I didn’t know that was wrong,” or, “I didn’t know that’s what You wanted me to be doing with my life.” As my old Sunday School teacher used to say, “If you stand before God one day embarrassed by what you’ve done, then you will be standing there embarrassed on purpose,” because He has made it abundantly plain and clear in His book!

O.wnership
B.iblical revelation
E.arnestness

By earnestness I mean that our obedience to God must not be outward obedience only. It must come from the heart – from a true desire to please Him and an inward conviction that His commands and prohibitions for us are RIGHT.

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:22

In order to obey God truly from the heart, our hearts must be cleaned and renewed. They must be “sprinkled” (splashed with the blood of Christ) and washed with the water of the Word. This is work of the Holy Spirit. We can fake obedience to certain extent, and fool other people, but God Himself is never fooled. To obey is better than outward shows of sacrifice, meaning that the inward faith of a desire to truly please God is better than external rituals. Earnestness is not really something we can achieve on our own, but it is the natural product of a true love for Christ and what He has done for us. However, and this is of tremendous importance, such earnestness WILL manifest itself in outward and visible acts of obedience.

O.wnership
B.iblical revelation
E.arnestness
Y.ield

The Holy Spirit wants you to obey God. He wants you to understand and obey His Word. He wants you to learn it and to live it. The office of the Spirit is to glorify Christ. If we will yield to the Spirit, we will honor Christ by our obedience.

If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 14:15

Obedience is not only the way to show our love for Jesus; it is the best evidence of our love for Jesus. It is not only the will of God that we obey; it is the way that we demonstrate that His will is perfect.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1

“Present” yourself to God. Yield to Him and His Spirit. This is your reasonable “service:” the way you serve your King and Owner. This will “prove” or “demonstrate” that His will is perfect.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:2

At the very end of his farewell speech, Samuel said this:

Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.

I Samuel 12:24-25

There is no question that obedience is not only the right thing to do, but the objectively best thing for us. Much disobedience in this world escapes the notice and the justice of the earthly authorities, but none of it escapes God’s notice or His justice. His justice WILL be satisfied – either on you, or in Christ.

Why Get More Involved?

October 30, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: I’m not sure if I want to get more involved with Sunday School and church because I’m not totally comfortable with it. Before I moved here, I had a church I really liked. For my sake and my wife and kids’ sakes, I’m not going to commit myself until I find a place that makes me feel the way church should make me feel.

Answer: That’s a tough one. The important thing is, if you are a Christian, you need to be serving somewhere. That’s not really an optional thing in the Christian life. See I Peter 4:8-10. Ideally, you would be able to serve at a place exactly like the place where you were the happiest, but finding two identical churches is probably not a real possibility.

Maybe you can try to think of it like this: Some days you come home from work and the house is spotless. The kids are delighted to see you. They run up laughing, and hug and kiss you. Your wife is cooking your favorite meal. Her hair is perfect and she’s wearing your favorite outfit. You are ushered to your easy chair, and handed the TV clicker and a cold drink, and told to relax. But other days, you come home and the place is a wreck. Kids are crying and fighting. Your wife has a headache and she’s surly. There’s no food in sight. And somebody forgot to buy the poster board for a big school project that’s due TOMORROW. Guess who they’re expecting to do that?

In the first example, it’s a no-brainer, right? You’re glad to be home, and all is well with the world. But the second scenario is tougher. You feel like turning around and going back to the car and leaving, right? Wrong! They’re both no-brainers. Why? Because you are a dad and a husband and you are there to love and serve your family, not to be served! That’s the Bible’s opinion, not mine (Ephesians 5:25; 6:4).

See, you go to a restaurant, you get lousy service, the food stinks, it’s too expensive, you don’t feel valued as a customer, whatever, fine, you leave and don’t go back. But your home is not a restaurant. It’s where your family is. So you sacrifice and you serve and you commit yourself to be faithful, no matter what. Same with church. That’s where your spiritual family is – the family of God in Christ. Now, if you’re not saved, then you can’t be expected to serve. But if you’re saved, you’re in the family of God, and you need to be serving, not demanding (or even expecting) to BE served.

I know that there are certain perceived “perks” (if you can call them that) to hovering around the edge of a local church family – showing up just often enough not be forgotten – but not often enough or on time enough to really be depended upon to do anything difficult or sacrificial. But those perks aren’t really benefits. They are really missed opportunities to glorify and thank the Savior who poured out His blood for your soul while they cursed and mocked Him. I would encourage you to jump in with both feet when it comes to Sunday School and church involvement. Nobody will go see Jesus at the end of this life and say, “Man, I can’t believe I spent that time serving Him!” I promise, you will want to go see the King saying, “I’m glad I did” a lot more than “I wish I had.”

Growing up Perfect

October 26, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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Even as the birth of Jesus heralded Good News for the helpless and the hopeless, Jesus Himself quickly became “the hunted,” as His earthly parents were forced to flee to Egypt for His safety. Luke did not record this event in Jesus’s life, but he did document the family’s observance of the Levitical rites of purification under the Old Testament law.

And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled. But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days. And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest: Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female. And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.

Leviticus 12:4-8

Under these laws, a woman was considered unclean for 40 days after giving birth to a boy, and for 80 days after giving birth to a girl. Her separation from the Tabernacle had hygienic reasons and spiritually symbolic reasons, but why would a sin offering have been required? Not because having a baby is a sin, but as a reminder that our sin nature is transmitted by birth.

And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Luke 2:21-24

The fact that Joseph and Mary went with the bird offering instead of a lamb shows that they were not wealthy, and that Jesus was not born with a silver spoon in His mouth, despite the claims of some of the prosperity preachers. (I don’t know if you’ve purchased a lamb lately, but they aren’t cheap!) This also shows the humanity of Jesus, and that one of His Divine missions was to fulfill all righteousness and to perfectly keep the Law of God.

Now we meet Simeon, another elderly person (like Zacharias and Anna) who had been praying and waiting for the Messiah.

And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Luke 2:26

Most people tend to think of “Christ” as Jesus’s last name, but really it is a title: the Anointed (Messiah/Christos) of God. Jesus was God incarnate, and He was also sent by God the Father, to both the Jewish people and to gentiles.

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name [was] Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

Luke 2:25 (emphasis added)

A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Luke 2:32

Here is what Simeon prophesied about the life of Mary:

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Luke 2:34-35

This remark about a sword piercing her soul referred to the ongoing conflict of loving her human Son and of knowing something of His Divine calling. Try to imagine the tension of having a Son Who was sinless and Who would have recognized the sin of His earthly parents acutely, and still having the responsibility of exercising parental authority over Him.

And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

Luke 2:39

Here, once again, the Holy Spirit had Luke emphasize Jesus’s perfection under the Law.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 2:40

This is a good picture of what parents should be nurturing in their young children. Growth is promoted by nourishment, exercise, and protection. Strength in spirit means spiritual “toughness” – learning the principles of faith and separation. Fullness of wisdom means intellectual instruction. The grace of God is given by God, obviously, but it is to be explained and illustrated to children by their parents.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?

Luke 2:41-50

Note the “must” and note the “business” to get an idea of the way we ought to view church attendance and ministry. As far I know these are the only two recorded questions asked by Jesus during the first 30 or so years of His earthly life, and they speak a world of information about our reason for living this life: carrying out our Father’s business, in community, and considering it unthinkable to do otherwise.

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