Six Thoughts which Remind Us that We Cannot Achieve Righteousness on Our Own

September 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Posted in Romans | 9 Comments
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R.espect: With God there is no respect of persons. (Romans 2:11)

O.utward appearance: We think we will be judged on our outward appearance. (Romans 2:28)

M.en: We seek the praise of men, rather than the praise of God. (Romans 2:29)

A.ccuse: We accuse each other of things we do ourselves. (Romans 2:1; 16)

N.onsense: When our actions don’t match our words, we preach and teach nonsense. (Psalm 149:1; Romans 2:21-22)

S.ecrets: We think we can keep secrets from God. (Romans 2:16)

In Romans Chapter One the Holy Spirit had Paul introduce himself to his readers, and had him show his care and concern for them. When the preaching part of the epistle begins he takes the gentiles as his subject.

Chapter 2 starts off with the verdict that someone is guilty: “thou art inexcusable, O man” (Romans 2:1). Jews and gentiles are both guilty before God, but the Jews had been very specific in knowing God’s laws and judging others for breaking them.

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

Romans 2:17

The Holy Spirit does a great job of laying out the facts, using rhetorical devices, asking questions before they are raised by His opponents, and proving His case.

The Holy Spirit proves in Romans 2 that we can not achieve righteousness on our own.

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

Romans 2:1

Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God might ask us today, “Are you your brother’s – or sister’s – accuser?” Satan is the foremost accuser of your brethren.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

Revelation 12:10

(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

Romans 2:13-15

The Jews were not more righteous than the Gentiles just because of their lineage. This would have been a shocking statement to the Jews. We won’t be judged on what our ethnicity or nationality or heritage is, and we won’t be judged on what it looked like we were doing. We need to be careful of appearing to be something we are not.

Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.

Psalm 149:1

The vocal expression of many modern church congregants during an enthusiastic time of worshiping in song might be, “I worship You with all my might. You are my everything. All I want is You…” While the reality is, “All I want is You… right after hunting and fishing and football, and making sure my yard work is done… maybe a nap, a snack, and a cold drink… then all I want is You.” The “new song” is referring to worshiping God intelligently, and it is pointing to the new person – the new man, the new woman you are – when old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

Romans 2:21-22

For the Jews circumcision was of the utmost importance, but outward appearance will not serve as righteousness.

For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

Romans 2:28

Circumcision of the heart – of the spirit – comes when we seek the praise of God (not God praising us, but seeking to cause others to give God praise.)

But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Romans 2:29

Circumcision involves a sharp cutting instrument. If we are to have our heart circumcised (spiritually), we’re going to need something sharper than a scalpel. The Word of God is sharper than any scalpel. “Circumcision” comes from two words. The second part (“cision”), obviously, means “to cut.” “Circum” means “around.” “Circumspect,” means to “look around,” to make sure everything’s okay, or nobody is looking, before we do something. We should bind the Word of God around our hearts the way that Old Testament Jewish leaders sometimes bound actual passages of Scripture around their necks.

Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.

Proverbs 6:21

We should bind Romans Chapter 2 around our hearts and remember that there we are guilty before God, and that we can’t use our heritage, our religious rituals, how we look, or anything outward, to achieve righteousness before God.

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The Down Side of being the Favorite Son

September 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Posted in Genesis | 5 Comments
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Joseph didn’t create problems in Jacob’s home. Joseph’s presence revealed problems that were already there. Unlike his brothers, Joseph couldn’t stomach disobedience to his father. When Joseph brought back to Jacob a bad report of his other sons’ dealings with the flocks, Joseph’s way of handling the matter did not so much reveal him to be a snitch as it did to reveal that he was naïve.

As a father, I can sympathize a little with Jacob. It is a challenge to train one child, and an even bigger challenge to train siblings. Part of the challenge is training them to be loyal to their friends and siblings, while still maintaining their integrity in exposing right and wrong.

Jacob repeated the sin of Isaac in having a favorite son. The problem with Joseph’s coat wasn’t the colors so much as that it looked like the coat of a ruler. Reuben and Levi had fallen out of favor with Jacob (Reuben because of his affair with Bilhah, and Levi because of the incident at Shechem), and Jacob may have seen Joseph as the firstborn of his favorite wife.

And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:

Genesis 37:5-6

We can probably sympathize with the brothers’ annoyance for one who shares his dreams.

And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

Genesis 37:10

Jacob’s reference to Joseph’s mother does not seem to make sense at this point since Rachel was dead, but Jacob is referring to Leah, even though she is not Joseph’s biological mother.

Dreams were one of the ways that God communicated with people in the Old Testament. The only recorded actual prophetic dreams in the New Testament are Joseph’s in Matthew 1 and 2, and Pilate’s wife in Matthew 27. Acts 2:17 says that in the last days “…your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” We would do well to be cautious of dreams, but probably foolish to ignore them altogether. Jeremiah 23 is a good place to find out what God has to say about people who say, “God spoke to me in dream. I have a prophecy from the Lord for you. God told me this or that. God told me to tell you this or that.”

And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.

Genesis 37:13

It did not make a lot of sense for Jacob to send Joseph, knowing how the brothers felt about him, but God’s hand was at work. Note that God calls Jacob “Israel” in this passage. Jospeh’s “here am I, send me” reminds us of Isaiah’s response to the Lord in Isaiah 6.

We are left to speculate as to what Jacob’s sons were doing near Shechem after all the trouble they had experienced there.

And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.

Genesis 37:19

This verse in Hebrew gives the connotation that when Joseph’s brothers referred to him as “this dreamer” they were sarcastically calling him “the dream expert.” And, as it turned out, Joseph’s skill as a dream expert would serve him better than any shepherd’s skill. Warren Wiersbe likes to say that an “expert” is a regular “spurt” under pressure.

When it came time to decide what to do with Joseph, Reuben did not get his way even though he was the first born. It is probable that Simeon and Levi were feared after the Shechem incident. In any case, it is clear that this was a family that walked disorderly.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

II Thessalonians 3:6

“Disorderly” means “out of rank.” It is important that we establish order in church and in our homes.

The outcome of the brothers’ discussion was Joseph being thrown into the pit, only to be raised up, sold into slavery, and ultimately to rule.

Look at how Jacob’s sons “comforted” Jacob:

And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no. And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters [*] rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.

Genesis 37:32-35

Proverbs 12:10 says the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

* The “daughters” in Genesis 37:35 are “daughters-in-law.”

The Husband of One Wife – Part 1

September 23, 2010 at 9:02 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical Marriage | 8 Comments
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Why did some of the Old Testament patriarchs have multiple wives?

I. What God Authorized

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:18-25

From what part of Adam was Eve taken? Not from his head or his foot, but from his side. This symbolizes equality, protection, and proximity to his “heart.” How many ribs did God take from Adam? Not two, not three – just one. Adam named the fish and the birds first. They could do things he couldn’t do: live underwater and fly. The land animals were doing something that Adam couldn’t do alone: mating with the females of their kind – and the fact that Adam did not have a mate was not good. God created man so that one woman is sufficient to meet all his needs. That’s God’s plan. That’s His standard. That’s what He authorized. God made it very clear: one man; one woman; two people; one made for the other; becoming one flesh.

However, note that they became one flesh – not one spirit. Marriage is a physical, earthly union, not a spiritual, eternal union. Marriage is an earthly institution ordained by God. God’s rules for it are to be obeyed. He does not want us tampering with them. When God ordains something there are blessings in doing it right. There is danger in doing it wrong. The same principle applies to baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Church.

Are there people who were married on earth who are in Heaven right now and are still in a marriage relationship?

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

Revelation 2:17

Marriage relationships in Heaven would require divided affections as spouses would still owe allegiance to each other. In Heaven all allegiance, service, and worship will be directed toward the Lord alone. My wife is God’s daughter first and foremost.

So, what about the polygamy that we see in the Old Testament? It’s always good to look in the Bible and see the “firsts.”

And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.

Genesis 4:23

The Lamech from the ungodly line of Cain was the first bigamist. (He may have also been the author of the first sinful poem or song.) The “and” in Genesis 4:23 does not denote two separate killings. It is like when I say, “I went to the store and I went with my shoes on.” That does not mean that I went to the store twice. It is parallelism for emphasis. The same kind of “and” connects Genesis 1:1 and 1:2: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Lamech not only celebrated his killing with a little ditty, but he made a mockery of God’s mercy to Cain.

If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

Genesis 4:24

Jesus made a mockery of Lamech, though, when He said that His followers were not to get revenge to a degree of seventy times seven, but are to forgive to the degree of seventy times seven.

What God authorizes (what He “wills,” in one sense) and what God allows are two different things.

II. What God Allows

Remember, God destroyed the world, saving only Noah and his family, but at the tower of Babel men turned to idolatry and paganism. God called Abraham at a time when there weren’t that many Godly women around. When we read about the patriarchs of the Old Testament we have to remember that Old Testament examples are given for good and bad examples. God did use bigamists and polygamists at times. Who is He using today? “Great men of God?” No, He is using liars, adulterers, murderers, idolators, blasphemers – broken, pitiful, sinful, wretched men of a great and merciful and loving and holy God: trophies of His grace. Therefore, we can not assume that because God used polygamists in the Old Testament to do His will that He condoned their polygamy.

If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:

Deuteronomy 21:15, emphasis added

This is a case where the first wife has died.

Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:

Deuteronomy 21:16

Now the husband is focused only on his living wife, but God is saying that he must not forget his firstborn child.

But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his. If a man have [present tense] a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them [present tense]:

Deuteronomy 21:17-18, emphasis and parentheses added

To say that polygamy is okay with God based on Deuteronomy 21:15-16 is the same as saying that having a stubborn and rebellious son is okay with God based on Deuteronomy 21:17-18.

Many times the New Testament clarifies the Old Testament.

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

Acts 17:29-30

God, in patience, longsuffering, and love, overlooked the iniquities of men. But where Christ is proclaimed, God will not wink at idol worship.

Consider the Words of Jesus:

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

Matthew 19:4-8

Some Old Testament patriarchs had multiple wives and appeared to be blessed: Jacob, David, some of the kings of Israel and Judah.

Here are some men greatly used by God that had one wife: Adam, Noah, Isaac, Moses, Job, Isaiah, Hosea, Joseph, Jesus (His “bride” being the Church).

The practice of multiplying wives grew and increased under Saul. David engaged in it. It culminated under Solomon.

We have seen:
I. What God Authorized

Next time we will finish looking at:
II. What God Allows,
and discuss:
III. What God Accepts

Healing for Truly Broken Hearts

September 20, 2010 at 9:53 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Salvation, Selected Psalms | 5 Comments
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Lord, help us today to get our eyes off of uncertainty. Help us to take our focus off of questions like, “Why now?” “Why did it happen?” Help us instead to look at something we don’t have to wonder about – something we can know for sure – Your Word. In Jesus Christ’s Name I pray. Amen.

God is the God of comfort. “Comfort” means “with strength.” God has provided for us three main things which work together to comfort us. A table with three legs has strength and stability to stand. A table with less than three legs would be very unstable. The three legs of Christian comfort, stability, and strength are: God’s Spirit; God’s Church; and God’s Word.

God’s Word is a living Word. Psalm 147 is a Psalm of comfort. Its Words were written down long ago, but they are written in present tense because God – and His Word – are still doing these things today.
“He gathereth together.”
“He lifteth up the meek.”
“He maketh peace.”
“He sendeth out His Word.”
In modern English we would say, “He is gathering; He is lifting; He is making peace; He is sending out His Word…”

Today, you may be brokenhearted. If so, no creature is able to heal a broken heart. But there is One that we see only by faith – and He can heal… even a broken heart.

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

Even now He is healing broken hearts, and He is binding up wounds. Different people have different kinds of wounds, but God knows exactly what type of binding you need.

He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.

Psalm 147:4-5

There is nothing about you that God does not know. There is nothing broken in you that God can not heal. Understanding that God knows everything about you may make you uncomfortable. We know it’s true, but it’s scary. The Lord Jesus said:

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

That used to bother me. It’s so upside down from the way we’ve been taught. The way to get comfort is to mourn? “No,” says the common wisdom of man, “the way to get over mourning is to get your mind off it, to find something fun to distract you – then you won’t mourn.”
That’s not what Christ is saying. He is saying the ones who are blessed are the ones who have come to Him mourning over their own sins.

Has there been a day when you came to Jesus mourning over your own sins? If so, then Jesus kept His Word. You were comforted. And today you are truly blessed.

But if you’ve never come to Jesus Christ mourning over your own sins, please do it – receive the blessed comfort of healing and forgiveness.

“Your” time in this world is not really “your” time. It is really God’s time. There is going to come a time in the next few minutes or hours or days when something happens to make you mourn. When you want to ask, “Why the loss?” – remember all the times when you failed to ask, “Why the blessing?”

Blessed are they who mourn. They mourn over taking God’s time and using it for themselves. They come to Jesus and they are mourning because they have sinned against Him. Then He heals their broken hearts, and binds all their wounds. Will you tell Jesus you’re sorry for your sins? Will you go to Him mourning for yourself today? Will you ask Him to heal you? Jesus wants you to. His Word CAN NOT lie.

The Danger of Presuming to Speak for God

September 15, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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Jim, somewhat of an impulse buyer, came home with a new Corvette. It was the envy of his friends for a few weeks, but then, one day, Jim had to trade it in for a less expensive, more fuel-efficient vehicle.

His wife wanted to know why. “Honey,” said Jim, “I realized that car was a gas guzzler, and we couldn’t really afford it. I guess I just came to my senses.”

Later that evening, Jim’s neighbor came over. “Hey old pal,” said the neighbor, “I’m glad to see you got rid of that Corvette. With the way you drove that souped-up sports car, I was afraid you might lose control on a curve, and make your wife a widow.”

Jim’s wife was upstairs vacuuming, so Jim said grudgingly, “It was people like you that caused me to give up on my dream car. You spoke a spirit of fear into my life, and I panicked.”

Sunday morning Jim brought the family to church in their station wagon, only to be greeted by his pastor in the parking lot. “Good morning, Brother Jim,” said the Pastor. “What happened to your Corvette?”

Jim dawdled until his family was out of earshot, then confided piously, “Oh, Pastor, the Lord spoke to my heart. He told me it was time to stop being so prideful, and to get a less-showy automobile, so I could better witness to my less-wealthy neighbors on their level.”

A once-familiar hymn proclaims, as evidence for the resurrection of Christ, the fact that He must be alive if He speaks to men today:

He lives.
He lives.
Christ Jesus lives today.
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way.

“He Lives,” Alfred H. Ackley

Certainly Christ Jesus does speak to His people today. But what does He say? The answer may be different for each and every person, but we must beware of the temptation to justify our own actions by rashly claiming out loud that the Spirit of the Lord gave us a special private instruction.

This was a big problem in the Jeremiah’s day. Jeremiah was a true prophet, and he was faithful to repeat exactly what God told him. The false prophets spoke lies and then attempted to give them credence by claiming they came from God. However, God put an end to their party when He proclaimed:

Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD. And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD. And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the LORD, I will even punish that man and his house.

Jeremiah 23:30-34

Making the Argument of Grace through Faith

September 13, 2010 at 11:47 am | Posted in Romans | 4 Comments
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Romans Chapter 2 tells us that we are guilty before God, and that we can’t use our heritage, our religious rituals, or the outward evidence of our behavior to achieve righteousness before God. Chapter 3 starts off by countering the arguments that could come up after the Holy Spirit has already proven that everyone, including the Jewish people, are guilty before God.

The first argument is, “What good is it even being Jewish, then?”

It turns out that, according to God, there are many advantages to being Jewish. God gave His Law to the Jewish people and made a Covenant with them and gave special blessings to them, not the least of which is that the Messiah would come through their heritage.

Some people were already making another argument against the doctrine that the Holy Spirit was teaching through Paul, saying, “Look, if God’s Law was given to point out that it could not be kept, then why should we even do good? Let us do more evil, to bring about more good.” But the Holy Spirit through Paul says God is righteous. He is not slack concerning His promise. He requires faithfulness, because He is faithful. He can judge our unrighteousness, because He is righteous. How do the just live? Or by what do they live? By faith!

Chapter 4 uses the specific example of Abraham, the ancestral father of the Jewish people, to show how Jewish people in the Old Testament times were justified by faith, before the Law, and before circumcision.

The Best Representative of a Generation

September 9, 2010 at 10:19 am | Posted in Genesis | 4 Comments
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The birth of Benjamin brought rejoicing and sorrow. His mother, Rachel, died right after giving birth. The incident was later invoked as a time of sorrow when Herod killed the babies in Bethlehem near Rachel’s burial place at the time of Jesus’s birth. Famous Benjaminites in the Bible include Saul, the first earthly king of Israel, and Saul of Tarsus who became the Apostle Paul after his conversion.

Back in Genesis 35, Reuben – the mandrake-gatherer – takes up with one of his father’s concubines. This was a way of challenging Jacob as head of the household.

Chapter 36 contains the genealogies of the descendants of Esau. Esau’s family was much bigger than Jacob’s family, but this is pretty much the last you hear of Esau in the Bible. There are numerous references to the Edomites and the Amalekites, but they are usually negative. Jacob is mentioned around 2500 times in the Bible. Esau is only mentioned around 150-200 times.

These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.

Genesis 37:2

This is a new “generations” (“toledoth) statement. Jacob is the head of the family and of God’s people now. But the narrative focuses on Joseph.

The story of Joseph is very detailed, and, for many people, very familiar. Joseph is a picture of Christ. Many times the New Testament clarifies the Old Testament.

But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph. The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live. In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months:

Acts 7:17-20

This is part of Stephen’s sermon, and he is highlighting the fact that God used Joseph to save His people, and that Joseph was instrumental in getting them into Egypt until the time of Moses.

By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

Hebrews 11:22

Of all the faith of Joseph, the one testimony to his faith mentioned in the New Testament is his faith in looking ahead to the Messiah.

Here are some comparisons between Jesus and Joseph:
1. Both were the beloved of their fathers.
2. Both were obedient to their fathers’ wills.
3. Both were hated and rejected by their brethren.
4. Both were betrayed into bondage.
5. Both were falsely accused
6. Both were unjustly punished.
7. Both were elevated from suffering to a throne.
8. Both saved their people.

But, in all of these, Christ was a “greater-than” Joseph.

Dr. Law and Dr. Grace

September 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical Doctoring, Romans, Salvation | 13 Comments
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Two of my favorite sermons of all time are Payday Someday by R. G. Lee and Dr. Law and Dr. Grace by Lester Roloff. Once I used Dr. Law and Dr. Grace for a Sunday School lesson, and I modified it a little. I’m going to present “my” version of it here, without any claim of originality whatsoever. For any part of it that is helpful, all the credit must go to Brother Roloff. For any part of it that is incorrect or unhelpful, all the blame must go to me.

Dr. Law and Dr. Grace is the story of two doctors. These doctors are very unusual. They are unusual for two reasons: (1) They never make a mistake when they diagnose a patient; (2) they never charge any of their patients any money. Despite these remarkable facts, however, most people still flat-out refuse to go to them for help.

Here is a prospective patient: He has read in the Bible that there is none righteousness, no not one, and none that really knowingly seeks after God. (Romans 3:10-11) But he knows something is wrong with him because of his symptoms, his condition, and his behavior.

So he goes to see Dr. Law. Dr. Law is always in his office. He is already waiting for this patient. There is no one else waiting to see him. The patient starts to tell Dr. Law about the signs and symptoms of his illness, but Dr. Law says he does not need the patient’s help to make a diagnosis. The patient is surprised that Dr. Law thinks he can make a diagnosis without any input from the patient, but Dr. Law says that he doesn’t “think” he can make a diagnosis – he already knows what the problem is: The patient has a heart problem.

The patient tries to argue: “But, Doctor,” he says, “I’m having trouble with my hands: They want to fight, and click the mouse on my computer at the wrong times, and point my fingers at other people who are having problems.”

“No,” says Dr. Law, “the problem is your heart.”

The patient objects: “It’s my eyes – they want to look at things I shouldn’t be looking at.”

“No,” says Dr. Law, “it’s your heart that has a problem.”

The patients pleads, “What about my tongue? I accidentally mashed my thumb the other day, and my tongue started cursing. My tongue always wants to be sarcastic and put folks in their place, and it is constantly trying to set forth all my own personal opinions.”

“No,” says Dr. Law, “the problem is with your heart.”

The patient says, “It’s my ears – the things they like to hear! It’s my feet – the places they want to go!”

“No, son,” says Dr. Law, “you’ve got heart trouble.”

The patient, exasperated, demands, “I need you to recommend another doctor for a second opinion.”

Dr. Law says, “There’s only one other doctor I would ever recommend for you, and since you won’t admit it’s your heart, it won’t do you any good to see him.”

So the patient sets out to find another doctor on his own, and he finds one: Dr. Vain Religion.

Dr. Vain Religion looks exactly the way a doctor is supposed to look, and a part of the patient somehow just likes him right away. The patient tells this new doctor that he has already been to see Dr. Law.

Dr. Vain Religion says, “Ah, Dr. Law’s too old. He doesn’t know the modern ways. He’s confused about the method and the message. He hasn’t attended the same doctors’ seminars that I have.”

The patient agrees. He did not like Dr. Law, either.

Dr. Vain Religion examines the patient and he says there’s nothing seriously wrong. He recommends that the patient go to church. He also recommends that the patient get baptized, join the church, get a job at the church, and start helping others.

The patient is willing to do these things, and in fact he does. However, none of this helps. The patient gets tired doing these things. He gets weary, and his symptoms keep coming back. He winds up getting extremely frustrated, and, in despair, at his wits’ end, he goes back to see Dr. Law.

Dr. Law’s diagnosis hasn’t changed, but the patient asks him what he recommends, and he says: a new heart. This is a big problem. Dr. Law recommends a new heart, which requires a surgical operation, but Dr. Law does not operate.

“Great,” says the patient, “what you’re telling me is that I require surgery but you won’t perform surgery! Doesn’t that mean I have to die?”

Dr. Law says, “As far as I’m concerned you do, but I just make the diagnosis.” Then he takes the patient by the hand and leads him through a door to another office, and introduces him to Dr. Grace.

Just like Dr. Law had been, Dr. Grace seems to be waiting for this particular patient. Just like Dr. Law, Dr. Grace does not charge any money. There is a world of difference, though, in their bedside manners. Dr. Grace is warmly welcoming. He beckons the patient to come into his office. He is extremely glad to see this patient.

Dr. Grace tells him that all his first-time patients have the same trouble: they all need new hearts.

The patient is still nervous and scared. “Is there anyone else who can assist you in helping me, Dr. Grace?” he asks. “Do you have a nurse? Can I call my wife, or my best friend?”

“No, son,” says Dr. Grace, “this is a personal matter, just between you and me. You can tell your wife and friends about it later.”

“I’m not an idiot,” says the patient to Dr. Grace. “There is no way this is going to be free.”

“I don’t want to mislead you,” says Dr. Grace. “The visit and the consultation are free, but the operation costs a great deal. However – someone else has already paid for it.”

So, by faith, the patient lies down on the table, with no anesthetic, and he submits to the operation. For the first time he sees his old heart the way it really is. It’s rotten and black. It looks terrible and smells even worse. Out it comes, and in goes the new heart!

This new heart is pure and clean, and the patient feels a new flow of life. After the surgery, Dr. Grace tells the patient that no follow-up procedure will be necessary. The operation was successful and permanent! He does however recommend some exercises: some kneeling, some lifting up of holy hands in love, some walks through the community, knocking on doors, some exercise of the vocal chords in praise.

Before leaving, the patient gets to meet the Friend Who had paid for his operation. This Friend has nail scars in His hands. He has a spear-pierced side.

The patient goes back to thank Dr. Law. After all, Dr. Law had been stern and obstinate, but he had helped to save the patient’s life. This time, Dr. Law looks different. The patient realizes that he will always love Dr. Law for leading him to Dr. Grace, and for helping him meet the Friend Who paid for his operation: the Friend Who was really responsible for giving him a new, clean, pure heart.

The Last but Not the Least – Part 3

September 2, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Salvation | 5 Comments
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Last time we saw that: Being content brings gratitude, but being covetous brings gall.

Now we will see that:

Being content brings glory to God.

Jeremiah the prophet prophesied in a time much like our own. His description of Egypt in his day was very much like America in our day.

Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north. Also her hired men are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back, and are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation.

Jeremiah 46:20-21

At the local fair, my kids like to look at the livestock in the 4-H exhibit. They enjoy seeing the plump healthy cattle, well-cared-for and sporting their blue ribbons. Little do they know that these cattle have been fattened for a slaughter. Why does the Lord let the wicked accumulate wealth? Why does He let wicked men and governments and corporations and nations oppress the weak and the poor? Could it be that they are being fattened for the slaughter? Could it be that they are being allowed to prosper and grow rich and fat – and believe themselves to be invincible – so that the Lord receives more glory when He strips them of everything they have coveted after, and casts them into the pit?

One of my favorite verses is James 4:10: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” This verse does not mean that it’s a good idea to be humble, but it’s not really mandatory to be a victorious Christian. No, let me tell you something – your humility may be delayed – but it is not optional. You will be humble before the Almighty God. But this verse says I have the option of humbling myself. If I humble myself, He will lift me up. If I don’t humble myself, then He will humble me. As my old Sunday School teacher used to say, God will get the glory from my life – one way or the other.

Being content brings glory to God, but being covetous brings grief to a generation.

God can take away what you love most if you love it more than Him. God may take away the people you love most if you worship them in place of Him. Lord, help me to get my focus off of me – and get my focus on You. Do you want your life to bring grief to your generation, or do you want it to bring glory to God? Do you want to be the best parent you can be? Then love God with all your heart. Do you want to be the best spouse you can be? Then love God with all your mind. Do you want to be the best Christian you can be? Then love God with all your strength. Do you want to be the best person you can be – to have your “best life now?” Then forget about your “best life now.” Instead of having your “best” life now, have your “blessed” life now.

Before his conversion Saul of Tarsus had his “best life now.” Read his resume’ sometime in Philippians 3. He had a great job. He loved his work. He was the best, the brightest. He had money, renown, a reputation. He was strong, swift, educated, intelligent. He was on the fast track to be the number one man in his field!

And he threw it all away – to become the scum of the earth: beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, roaming from place to place, hunted at sea, hunted on land, hunted by the Jews, hunted by the heathen, hunted in the city, hunted in the wilderness, attacked by false friends, tired, wracked with pain, hungry, thirsty, cold, and naked (II Corinthians 11)! AND HE WAS CONTENT!!!!

If you try to save up your life – to make your life about the abundance of the possessions that you control – that you think you own (Luke 12:15) – you will lose it. But if you lose your life for His sake, you shall find it.

There was once a man who was the wisest (except for Jesus) and the richest (up until that time and maybe even today) man who ever walked the face of the earth. He had everything you could ever want or even imagine. He had every trinket, every delicacy, every luxury, every entertainment, every experience that could be had. The darkest fantasy you’ve ever dreamed of in your darkest most secret moment of sin – the one you wouldn’t dare tell your closest friend in the world about – he had it. And he had it twice, just to make sure. But after all the excess – after all the experience – after all pleasures that this world had to offer – here is what he had to say: “Vanity of vanities – all is vanity!” He had it all – and he was miserable. There must be something more, he thought, there must be something different. There must be something deeper – a knowledge of something greater. There must be Someone Who can give me – Who can be for me – what I have never been able to grasp. There must be Someone who can fill the vanity – the emptiness – that I’m left with – that is inside my very soul!

If you are reading this right now, and identifying with King Solomon, I can tell you there is only One. And there is only One Way to Him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is more real than just a plan, a path, or a purpose – He is a Person. He is the Lord Jesus Christ.

What has the devil and the world talked you into believing is going to make you happy? Getting what you see and what you want? Being like the wealthy, the powerful, the famous? Jesus Christ took your sin on Himself, and He took the punishment for it in your place on the Cross. He was sinless and perfect, yet He was tortured and crucified for every sin you and I ever committed. The good news: God accepted Him as the perfect and only possible sacrifice for sin, and showed His acceptance by resurrecting Him from the dead. He lives today. You have only two choices: You must believe on Him, rejecting your own self-righteousness – or you must reject Him. You are not promised a certain number of opportunities. If you leave the room you are in right now without asking Christ to save you, you might very well leave this life without being saved. Do not tempt the Lord your God.


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