He’s No Angel

April 27, 2015 at 2:50 pm | Posted in Hebrews | Leave a comment
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For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

Hebrews 2:2-3

The Word of God, prior to its cannonization in the Bible, was confirmed by signs and wonders. Many people today neglect the wonders of God’s Word, chasing after physical manifestations – visible signs and wonders – which is dangerous. Can God do today what He did in times past? No doubt about it. One of the messages of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). However, we must beware of a tendency to ignore the lessons taught in the Bible, while speculating about some kind of modern message that is touted as more “user-friendly.” Signs and wonders confirmed the Word, but the Word is perfect today. Don’t overlook the “miracle” of the Word of God, while vainly seeking some “new” miracle today. The Bible teaches that the angels are real, and they do minister according to the will of God, but, in the ranking of Heavenly beings, there is no doubt that God – the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – holds the highest (and only truly unique) rank.

There is a warning in Hebrews 2:3 not to neglect the salvation granted to you by God.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Ephesians 6:17

Salvation is compared to a helmet, but a helmet is for wearing, not just having. The Hebrews to whom this book was originally written might have argued that Jesus had some authority, but He was human, and angels are above humans. Therefore, aren’t they above Jesus? The Bible clearly teaches that this is incorrect. Jesus, even in his humanity – incarnate – is still superior to the angels, in the following nonexclusive respects:

1. By His humanity He restored man’s dominion.

Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.

Hebrews 2:7-8

Since Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden, man no longer completely controls the the fish, the fowl, the wild beasts, or the domesticated beasts, but Christ did.

2. Even though He was God, He tasted death.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Hebrews 2:9

No angel could conquer death, because no angel could die. Similarly, no angel could restore dominion or save lost sinners. Dominion was given to man, not angels, and Jesus did not die for fallen angels. He died for sinful men and women.

3. His humanity gave Him a unique priesthood.

Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Hebrews 2:17-18

Jesus experienced the dependency of infancy. He experienced growing pains. He experienced puberty. He experienced rejection. He got tired. He got hungry. He got thirsty. He got angry. People told lies told about Him. He was falsely accused.

The word tranlated as “succour” in Hebrews 2:18 refers to what happens when a baby cries for his mother, but it also has a connotation of sympathy or empathy. Jesus – even though He was God – experienced every temptation we have, and many we haven’t, and He remained without sin. The fact that He never sinned, though, does not keep Him from identifying with my sufferings, or my feelings or sincere emotions. It is exciting to know that we have access to our High Priest at any time, and that the need for for a priestly class of human beings no longer exists.

It is good to confess our faults to one another. The Bible says to do that, but that must never take the place of a sincere time of confession with our One True High Priest.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

A Revelation of a Violation against Revilation

April 22, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.

Exodus 22:28

The second part of this verse is pretty self-explanatory. It would, for the Israelites, prohibit them from speaking disrespectfully or insultingly about Moses or any of God’s appointed representatives: priests, judges, parents, etc. The principial part of it would also apply to New Testament Christians today. We may disagree with the policies, and even the personal beliefs and opinions, of those in authority over us, but we must respect the “office” they hold. We must recognize that it is appointed by God even if those who hold it are misusing it. We should speak respectfully of them, or say nothing at all if we can’t say something good, or if we can’t call evil what it is in a Christ-honoring way. This is one reason why I don’t say much at all about politicians or judges!

The first part of Exodus 22:28, though, is more problematic. To “revile” carries the same basic meaning of “curse,” so it is possible that there is parallelism going on here. Hebrew parallelism uses repetition for emphasis and impact. But why would the true God outlaw reviling little “g” gods that aren’t even real? The word translated as “gods” is elohim, which sometimes means the capital “G” God. Other times it means rulers or those with power – even supernatural power, such as angels or demons. So, the Holy Spirit might be telling Moses to tell the people not to talk bad about authority, and then reiterating it through emphatic parallelism in the second part of the verse.

One the other hand, He might be saying, “Don’t make false gods part of your cursing (which would imply that you believe they’re real).”

A third option is that the first part of the verse might prohibit speaking presumptuously or lightly about beings more powerful than you, even if they’re wicked. Doing so would be a sign of a false prophet or a false teacher.

Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.

Jude vv. 8-9

It’s not our place to get into a cursing match or even an argument with beings that are stronger than us apart from Christ, nor with beings whose status and activity we don’t even fully understand. Humility should be our default attitude toward any type of authority – even when we oppose it.

Catechism Question 21

April 20, 2015 at 9:52 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism, Salvation | 1 Comment
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Question 21: When did God forgive you for your sins and give you eternal life?
Answer: When I believed on Jesus and called on Him to save me.
Prove it.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10:13

Eternal salvation is completely, fully, and totally the work of the Lord. Even our decision to trust Christ and receive Him as Savior does not add any merit to the finished work of Jesus. However, since this salvation is by grace through faith, God graciously allows the application of this miraculous gift to occur when a person, having recognized his or her sinful condition and believed the Gospel, personally calls upon the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, in repentance and faith.

Other verses to consider:

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

John 20:31

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

I John 5:13

Beware the Father of the Furtive

April 17, 2015 at 1:19 pm | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

I Thessalonians 5:5

In one sense, to say that Christians are “children of light” and “children of the day,” is a figure of speech. In obedience to Christ, we are to walk in the light of His truth, as He is in the light, and our righteous activities ought to be done honestly and without guile. We should also be awake and alert (I Thessalonians 5:6), on the lookout for opportunities to serve with care and compassion in a dark and deceived world, and on the lookout for the return of our Master, to Whom we will give an account.

But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

I Thessalonians 5:4

In another sense, though, we may understand that we really are children “of” the light and the day, as opposed to the children “of” the night and the darkness. We belong to the holy God, who is the Father of Lights, not to Satan, whose nickname is “The Prince of Darkness.”

Satan likes the cover of darkness. He has a way of convincing people that those things done in the absence of light are done in secret, though the Bible tells us plainly they are really not. He likes subtility, craftiness, and sleight of hand. Those of us who are in Christ do not belong to this shadowy manipulator any longer, but we need to frequent areas that are brightly lit with spiritual light, and on those occasions when we must venture into his realm to rescue a soul in the power of the Holy Spirit, we should go in with our Gospel lights blazing.

When “closing time” at the nightclub suddenly arrives, those patrons who are behaving drunkenly and lecherously are jerked into a state of shame and revulsion as the lights come on.

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A similar effect may be observed when a Spirit-filled Christian shows up in the midst of the life of a non-Christian reveling in sin. This “moment of clarity” may only last for an instant, but, when it happens to one of your friends, co-workers, acquaintances, or family members, you, as a child of the Light of the World Himself, will want to be prepared to “work while it is day.”

A Show of Power for those Who Wanted More than a Show

April 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Posted in Matthew | Leave a comment
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The Gospel of Matthew appears to be organized into sections, with a section of factual information, followed by a set of lessons, then a transitional statement, before another section of facts. If this is accurate, then the first such transitional statement in the book is probably:

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:

Matthew 7:28

Since Matthew stresses Jesus’s role as King, and if the Sermon on the Mount found in Chapters 5-7 is read as the King saying, “Here is what my Kingdom is like,” then Chapter 8 is where the King begins to put the power of His Kingdom on display.

There are multiple reasons for why Jesus performed miracles during His earthly ministry. Among them was definitely His desire to help people who were hurting. Another was to give a sign to the Jewish people (I Corinthians 1:22). Yet another was to illustrate the lessons He was teaching. He did not perform miracles merely to attract sight-seers.

And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

Matthew 8:4

In Chapter 8 the miracles He performed benefited outcasts: a leper (unclean); a gentile (the centurion); and a woman (Peter’s mother-in-law. Who could be more of an outcast than a mother-in-law? Sorry, just kidding). According to tradition, the Pharisees had a typical daily pray that said, “Thank You, God, that I am not a slave [conveniently ignoring their status as Roman subjects], not a gentile, and not a woman.” But these were exactly the types of people to whom Jesus wanted to bring the power of His Kingdom.

Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side. And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

Matthew 8:18-22

Jesus wanted loyal followers, not just “hangers-on.” He didn’t want an entourage or a “posse.”

Don’t Let Go of the Rope

April 13, 2015 at 3:38 pm | Posted in Hebrews | Leave a comment
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Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

Hebrews 2:1

My father was a great fisherman. He loved to fish, and he almost always caught a bunch (what he called “a mess”) of fish. Except when he took me along. I don’t really believe in “luck,” but, if I did, then I would say that I certainly had bad luck when it came to fishing. This may have been a contributing factor to the misery that usually accompanied these trips. On top of the lack of action, though, the real problem was the stress factor. To my dad, fishing was intense. The boat ride, the scenery, the weather, whether or not we had a snack, were completely irrelevant. A fish can’t be caught unless your hook is in the water, and there was no time to pause and reflect. Perfect casts, precise reeling speed, and impeccable hook-setting techniques were the only acceptable maneuvers, and the old man was good. He could silently drop his lure over a stump 25 feet from the boat, entice a strike, reel in a five-pound largemouth bass in ten seconds flat, remove the hook, deposit him in the ice chest, and be casting again without wiping his brow or pausing for a breath. Not me, though. Tangled lines, snagged hooks, loud-splashing, fish-spooking plops several feet from the targeted brush pile were the order of the day for me. I honestly don’t know, to this day, why he took me along. Neither of us ever had fun, and 99% of the time the trip ended in a fight.

My grandfather was a different story. When he took me fishing we always had a grand time. He liked to fish with live bait, so that even a fishing-klutz like could watch a cork sink, and pull in a decent catch. Plus, he always seemed to know where the fish were spawning or bunched together, so we wouldn’t spend half the day casting around random stumps, brush piles, and low-hanging branches. When it was time to eat, we would stop fishing and enjoy delicious sandwiches, snacks, and icy Cokes out of glass bottles. He was patient and good-natured, quick to help me with the hook, bait, and line. Even on the occasions where we didn’t catch anything, he was in a good mood and the trip was enjoyable – with two exceptions. Once was when he let me drive his new bass boat – a story I’ll save for another day. And once when, instead of going to the lake, we went to Dorcheat Bayou.

If you’re not from the South or if you’re unfamiliar with the term “bayou,” it’s just another word for a fairly narrow river, typically with a slower current, usually found in swampy areas.

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/ae/Revised_photo_of_Dorcheat_Bayou_in_Webster_Parish%2C_LA_MVI_2548.jpg/600px-Revised_photo_of_Dorcheat_Bayou_in_Webster_Parish%2C_LA_MVI_2548.jpg

I was probably about eight years old, and, on this particular day, my grandfather backed his trailer down the launch ramp, handed me the rope tied to the boat, let the boat float free from the trailer, then drove back up the ramp to find a place to park. My instructions were clear: Stand on the dock next to the ramp and HOLD. ON. TO. THE. ROPE.

The boat floated downstream and quickly used up all the slack in the rope, but the current wasn’t so swift that it was hard to hold on. In fact, it was a piece of cake. Pretty soon my grandfather would return on foot, pull the boat in close to the dock, and hold it steady so we could climb in and take off. The only problem was my level of focus. There were some loose pebbles on the dock. Could I skip one across the water? I’ll just put the rope down on the dock and hold it in place with my foot, so I can have both hands free. Is that a bird in that tree? Could I scare him off by throwing a rock at him? What about that cloud? It looks like an Indian shooting a bow-and-arrow. I’ll just wander over to the edge and look down into the water for a second… Here comes PawPaw. Why is he running and gesturing?

You guessed it. Turning around, I saw my grandfather’s (no doubt expensive) bass boat floating away in the distance. What does all this have to do with Hebrews 2:1? I had let my attention, and the tow rope, “slip.” As a child I thought the boat would be lost forever. (It wasn’t. Thankfully, another fisherman downstream saw it, and was kind enough to tow it back.) I’m old now. Both my father and grandfather have passed into eternity. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that, spiritually speaking, the salvation which God has given me in Christ can never “slip away.” It is secure, but the danger in letting sound Bible doctrine slip away is that a loose, unpiloted boat can be damaged if it runs aground or hits an obstacle, and other boats with which it might collide can be damaged, too. A Christian believer who has slipped out of his moorings is in danger. He still belongs to God, but he can be damaged, hurt, and he can crash into others, causing more damage.

We must not lose our focus and neglect our Christian responsibilities, even when they may seem at times as uneventful and routine as holding onto a rope that only gives off a light resistance. Prayer, Bible study, worship, church attendance are things which must be heeded with renewed focus every day and every week. We do not do these things to get rewards, but we understand that they are vital to our well-being, and to the well-being of others.

It All Deep Ends

April 7, 2015 at 1:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’ll be taking a short break from blogging for the next few days while I try to negotiate a deal with a major manufacturer of incontinence products who wants to use of the name of this blog for a line of new adult swim diapers called “Deep-Ends”©.

Keeping in mind the current season, I thought I would link – for those of you who subscribe and/or read regularly (thank you very much, by the way) – to some “in-case-you-missed-it” posts which mention the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

1. The Power of the Resurrection and of the Holy Ghost
2. The Stones of Confirmation
3. The Great Rescuer
4. How Many Christians Really Know This?
5. Get a Life
6. When in Rome, Preach to the Romans

A Bloody Confirmation and Covenant

April 6, 2015 at 10:45 am | Posted in Exodus | Leave a comment
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God had given His people the lex talionis and the right to execute the death penalty, but He warned them against doing this lightly, and of being swayed by deceit. Then He pronounced one of the major themes of the whole Bible.

Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.

Exodus 23:7

This theme is repeated again and again throughout Scripture.

It is the thread that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much as the scarlet thread of God’s grace and Christ’s redeeming blood that also runs throughout Scripture. The lines of God’s justice and God’s mercy/grace/forgiveness run parallel and they can never truly intersect – UNTIL the Cross of Calvary, where God does what would never have been possible with men. He bridges the divide between justice and mercy, between kindness and holiness, between forgiveness and wrath – between love and hate.

This is such an extreme theme – such a different way of thinking from any man-conceived way of thinking about death or the after-life – that in the next chapter (Exodus 24), when the Covenant is confirmed and ratified by the people, there is this stark and amazing and unforgettable ceremony. Not the mere signing of papers, not even an iron bolt through their ear lobes, but this bloody spectacle.

And Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do.

Exodus 24:3

This was a very solemn vow, and it was characteristic of a suzerainty treaty. There is no indication that this was done grudgingly on the part of the people, although certainly it was done with fear and trembling.

And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord.

Exodus 24:4-5

This was a major undertaking.

And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.

Exodus 24:6

This would have been a tremendous amount of blood. Some of it was designated as “belonging to God,” and some of it was for the people.

And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.

Exodus 24:7

The vow was repeated and reiterated.

And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.

Exodus 24:8

The blood would have remained on their clothes for days or years. Getting blood splashed all over you at a ceremony like this is something you would never forget. According the Word of the Lord, redemption (and therefore forgiveness) requires the shedding of blood. Atonement with God requires death. Here the animals were sacrificial substitutes, but to justify the wicked, the blood of a man – a perfect Man – would one day be required.

Catechism Question 20

April 1, 2015 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | Leave a comment
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Question 14: What has God done for you so you can have eternal life?
Answer: He sent his Son.
Prove it.
John 3:16

Question 15: What did Jesus do while He was here on earth?
Answer: He lived a perfect, sinless life.
Prove it.
John 8:29

Question 16: How was Jesus treated here on earth?
Answer: He was hated, rejected, and falsely accused.
Prove it.
Isaiah 53:3

Question 17: How did Jesus die?
Answer: He was crucified.
Prove it.
John 19:18

Question 18: What happened to Jesus after He died?
Answer: He was buried and then rose again on the third day.
Prove it.
Acts 10:40

Question 19: Where is Jesus now?
Answer: He is in Heaven with God the Father.
Prove it.
Hebrews 10:12

Question 20: Why did Jesus do these things?
Answer: So God can forgive me for my sins.
Prove it.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:21

The motivation for Christ’s willingness to pay the price of forgiveness for the sins of his people has been touched on previously in John 3:16, which was the proof of the answer to Question 14. A child is more likely to identify with the simple, albeit amazing, truth that God loved us enough to send His Son to die in our place, and that the Son loved us enough to do so.

However, depending upon the age and comprehension of your child, you may also want to discuss the facets of the doctrine of justification which deal with the sinless sacrifice of the second person of the Deity Himself as the only means by which God could satisfy His justice, while still showing off His miraculous love, amazing grace, unending mercy, and glorious holiness.

In another, more limited, sense, God accomplished the salvation of His people in the Cross of Christ in order to fulfill His prophecies and to show His faithfulness and sovereignty and power by keeping His Word.

Other Verses to consider:

To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

Acts 10:43

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Isaiah 1:18

Beware Forensic Filth

March 30, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Posted in The Fives | Leave a comment
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If you’ve attended an evangelical church long enough or often enough, you’ve probably heard this well-worn challenge from the pulpit: “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

The Bible teaches that true Christians are those who have been born again to new life in Christ by the grace of God through faith. This “new life” is eternal life, which means that, once a person repents, believes the Gospel, and calls upon Christ alone to save him, then his sins are completely forgiven and judicially set apart from him at a distance that is as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

So why, then, would a preacher, Bible teacher, or spiritual counselor go to the trouble of inquiring into the “evidence” of your life as part of the inquiry into whether or not you are destined for Heaven? There are multiple reasons, but one of them is that this is the same type of inquiry that the Holy Spirit commands us to consider:

For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Ephesians 5:5

Perhaps at some point in your life you were told that, in order to go to Heaven (and to escape eternal damnation) you had to call upon and/or trust Jesus with all your heart. And, perhaps, this sounded like a safe bet at worst, or an exceedingly good deal at best. After all, you couldn’t deny the guilt of your sins, could you? So you prayed a prayer. Or you made a decision. Or you got baptized. Or you joined a church – which, by the way, are all good things to do.

So, what’s the potential problem? The potential problem is that you are not saved by trusting your heart. You are saved (if you are to be saved at all) by trusting Christ Jesus Himself. And when you are truly saved by Christ Jesus Himself, there is an expectation that you will begin to love Jesus, walk with Jesus, talk to Jesus, serve Jesus, live for Jesus, trust Jesus more and more, read about Jesus in the Bible, and, perhaps slowly, perhaps fitfully, perhaps with much labor and back-and-forthing and stumbling and searching – but still nonetheless realistically – you will become more like Jesus. Jesus was sinless, both inwardly and outwardly.

Therefore, if the pattern of your life, since the time when you say you trusted Christ unto salvation is marked by the types of sexual immorality, idolatry, selfish lust, and general uncleanness that you see described in Ephesians 5:5, it is definitely worth your time (and the time of those who love you enough to tell you the truth) to inquire into exactly why or how your heart may or may not have been deceiving you when you felt like you believed the Gospel and trusted Christ. Jesus is too magnificent, His Gospel is too glorious, eternity is too long, and the stakes are too high, to simply rely upon feelings and ignore the evidence.

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