The Bookends of Faith (Part 3)

December 29, 2010 at 10:11 am | Posted in The Bookends of Faith | 5 Comments
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The Bookends of Faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ: The first and last of the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John

Last time, we looked at what our response should be to Jesus’s proclamation that, “I AM the Bread of Life.” That was His first “I AM” statement in the Book of John. Now we move on to His last.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

John 15:1

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

John 15:4

The True Vine provides life to the branches, and, because the branches are “in” the vine, they are secure. Only God can give and preserve life. The two words that John 6:35 and John 15:1 have in common are “I AM.”

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13-14

God told Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.” God is unexplainable. God is unending (eternal and infinite – “unending” and “unbeginning”). He was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 1:4; 1:8; 4:8) I once heard a catchy song on the radio with the lyric:
He’s not the God who one time did,
He’s the God Who does.
That’s why they call Him the Great I AM,
And not the great I was.

When I say that God is “uncommon,” I mean that He is truly unique.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

John 15:1

This is an illustration – the vine and the branches – which is not as familiar to us as it was to those who first heard it. Vineyards were almost as common to Jesus’s audience as gas stations are to us in the 21st Century. (Hey, maybe there’s a lesson there: He is the Gas Pump – we are the car – we won’t work unless He fills us up!)

If you have actually been in a vineyard or around grapevines, you may have a mental picture of the vines and branches being thin and easily broken, but those in Israel back in Jesus’s day were thick and strong. The image of the vineyard or the grapevine is common in Scripture. God had provided for and chastened Judah and Jerusalem throughout the Old Testament. If there ever should have been a vineyard to the glory of God, it should have been that nation. However:

What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

Isaiah 5:4

The Jewish people were God’s vineyard, but there is also a worldly vineyard in Scripture.

And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

Revelation 14:18-20

The grapes in this worldly vineyard are ripening for God’s judgment. Those are two of the vines found in Scripture. Then there is Jesus – the True Vine. Whenever there are “types” of Christ in the Bible, Christ fulfills those types, and is a “better than” those types. He is the Vine from which all other vines are copies or imitations.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

John 15:1-2

He is the Vine. We are the branches. God is the husbandman (vine-dresser). Branches can be strong when they are fed from the vine, but if something closes off the flow of sap from the vine, the branches become brittle and weak – and fruitless. Can these fruitless branches be used for some other purpose, such as for building? They can’t be used for building when they are strong because they are connected to the vine. They can’t be used for building when broken off because then they are weak. Abiding – connected – branches are good for one thing: bearing fruit. Broken – disconnected – branches are also good for one thing: burning. (Actually two things if you count hiding places for serpents.)

The branches of the “copy” – of an actual grapevine – have little choice but to abide. They they have no consciousness or responsibility. But believers on the True Vine must abide in order to bear fruit. There is responsibility involved. “Abide” means to take up residence – to “remain.” Abiding is not intending to make a temporary home. People don’t normally go to a hotel or make an encampment with the intention of “abiding.”

Next time, we will try to learn how to be good abiders.

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Failure to Yield

December 27, 2010 at 10:36 am | Posted in Romans | 14 Comments
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Sin as a “power” was defeated by the power of the Resurrection. Therefore, Christians are free from sin (Romans 6:7) – not free to sin. Now, let’s look at the practical application of that in our lives. How do we practically “get the victory” over submitting to our old master?

First of all, we need to believe the facts. Freed slaves have to believe they are free in order to get the benefits of freedom.

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:11

Second, after we “reckon” we are to yield.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

Romans 6:12

Note the relationship of “reign” and “obedience.” We do not yield to our old ruler. We yield to our New Ruler.

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

Romans 6:13

My members are “instruments” or “weapons,” and they are not to be used for my own cause. They were formerly used to fight against God, but now they are to be used to fight for God.

As a Christian I recognize that I do not really own “my” house. My car is not really “mine.” “My wife” does not really belong to me in an ownership sense. “My” kids are really God’s kids.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

I Corinthians 6:19

“My” members are not really mine. They are a gift from God, but they come with the responsibility to use them for God. Many of the sins which afflict the body of Christ today stem largely from a failure to yield, and the failure to yield stems from a failure of truly believing to Whom we belong.

I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

Romans 6:19

We need to yield our members to righteousness even more enthusiastically than we formerly yielded them to sin.

Here are some motivations for yielding:

1. As a response to God’s grace. We should love God because He has been gracious toward us, and the result of love toward God is obedience to God.

2. Because of our freedom. Freedom brings about responsibilities. The easiest way to lose our freedom is not to exercise it in doing good.

For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

Romans 6:20

3. To bear good fruit.

What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

Romans 6:21

Justification is by grace through faith. Being justified, we encounter the problem of how practically to stop sinning. First we reckon, then we yield.

That’s Good. No, that’s Bad.

December 22, 2010 at 10:47 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Genesis | 12 Comments
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Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.

Genesis 45:1

Opinions are a lot like armpits. Everybody has them, and most of them smell pretty bad. Scripture, however, is where we find God’s opinion. I like to hear the opinions of people who have the same opinion as God. God is always right. If I want to be right I must agree with God. God’s opinion of reading and studying my Bible? It’s the right thing to do. God’s opinion on shoplifting? It’s wrong. God’s opinion on praying? It’s right. God’s opinion on fornicating? It’s wrong. God’s opinion on worshiping God every day and giving Him praise? It’s right.

I used to have a children’s book that I can’t remember the name of, but its premise was, “that’s good – no, that’s bad.” It went something like this: “My mom got me some ice cream.”

“That’s good.”

“No, that’s bad… because it melted on my favorite shirt.”

“That’s bad.”

“No, that’s good, because I got a brand new shirt…” And so on.

This can help us review the life of Joseph.

As a teenaged child Joseph’s father, Jacob, gives him a beautiful coat – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because it makes his brothers insanely jealous, and they start to plot against him – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because his brother Reuben intervenes, and talks the other brothers out of killing him – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because they sell him into slavery instead – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because he winds up in Egypt, where he gets put in charge of Potiphar’s household – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because Potiphar’s wife starts lusting after him, and tries to seduce him – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because Joseph doesn’t give in to temptation, and he resists her advances – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because she gets mad and falsely accuses him of trying to rape her, and gets him thrown into prison – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because Joseph is still faithful in jail, and winds up with Pharaoh’s personal assistant owing him a big favor – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because the king’s cupbearer completely forgets about Joseph when he is vindicated – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because Joseph gets a chance to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because the dreams forecast a great famine coming to Egypt – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because God has given Joseph the solution of being a good steward of the harvests, and Pharaoh trusts him with the job.

Therefore, Joseph is in a position to save not only his family, but also his entire race.

Since we’ve been studying Joseph as an Old Testament type of Jesus, when we get to Genesis 45 we can also see Joseph’s brethren as type of New Testament Christians.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Romans 8:14-17

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24

If you are a Christian, the Lord Jesus is not only your Savior, Redeemer, Master, and Friend. He is also your Brother.

Let’s look at how Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. He cried, “Cause every man to go out from me.”

Has there been a time when Jesus wanted to talk to you alone? I hope there has. I hope you pray every day. We should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but don’t let church time be the only time you pray. Praying in public is good and right, but public prayer should by no means be our main time of prayer.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Matthew 6:5-6

Human beings develop friendships by talking – by communicating with each other. When the communication stops, the relationship suffers. How much more should we communicate every day with our Best Friend, Jesus Christ!

“And there stood no man with him.” No man stood with Jesus on the cross, no man came and took His part, no man argued for Him to be released. There will be times when you stand with Jesus – when you stand up for Jesus – that no man will stand with you. But you are not alone.

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Hebrews 13:5-6

“Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.”

In Scripture the “brethren” are born-again believers in the family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. Hasn’t Jesus already made Himself “known” to us? He has, but we need to spend time with Him and get to know Him better. We have a tendency to act like who we hang around. If I spend time with Jesus, I’ll start to act like Him. Reading my Bible, praying, and ministering to others in His Name are all ways to get to know Him better.

Jospeh’s brethren, like Jesus’s brethren, had an emotional encounter when he made himself known to them.

First, there was weeping (Genesis 45:2). When we begin to inquire of the Lord, and He makes known to us how we have treated Him, will we find Him weeping? The Bible says that we can grieve the Spirit of God.

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

That should motivate us to spend time with the Lord every day – and to obey His Spirit – not to grieve Him.

Joseph’s brothers were troubled at his presence (Genesis 45:3). Why were they troubled? Were they ashamed? Afraid? Probably both. Are you troubled at the presence of your Brother, the Lord Jesus?

Discipleship Lesson 4: The Bible

December 20, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Discipleship Lessons | 93 Comments
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We have the revealed WORD OF GOD. Therefore, as Christians, we must let its principles guide our lives.

I. What does the Bible do for a lost person?

It is active in his salvation.

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

I Peter 1:23

The Word of God is active in bringing about the new birth.

For by grace are ye saved through faith…

Ephesians 2:8

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17

Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

James 1:21

There is an emphasis on the Word of God in the Gospel:

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, emphasis added

Believing what the Bible says about the Gospel is necessary for salvation.

II. What does the Bible do for a saved person?

A. It is the Owner’s manual. If we don’t follow the Owner’s and the Manufacturer’s plans, we won’t “work” – we won’t be successful Christians.

NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

B. It equips us for service.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

II Timothy 3:16-17

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

Ephesians 6:17

C. It sustains us.

Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

Job 23:12

Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

Jeremiah 15:16

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

I Peter 2:2

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 16:24

Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.

Proverbs 7:2

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Proverbs 25:11

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Luke 4:4

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Hebrews 5:12-14

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

I Corinthians 3:2

D. It cleans us.

That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

Ephesians 5:26

BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:9-11

Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

John 15:3

E. It makes us pleasing to God.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Psalm 119:165

III. Is the Bible ever wrong?

No, it is a “more sure word,” even than the audible voice of God.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

II Peter 1:16-21

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Hebrews 11:3

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

Psalm 138:2

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Psalm 12:6-7

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

Psalm 33:6

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Genesis 1:3

IV. What is the best way to study the Bible?

Compare Scripture with Scripture – not our own intellect or experiences.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 14:26

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.

John 16:13-15

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

I Corinthians 2:9-16

V. Questions

A. Was the Bible created by men or by God?

It was created by God. It contains 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New Testament. God used over 40 human instruments in writing it, but it fits together perfectly because the Holy Spirit is the real Author. It was written over a time span of 2000 years. It is totally accurate in history, prophecy, and life application. It contains no contradictions.

B. Is the Bible too hard for a Christian to understand?

No, it is not. However, there are difficult passages, and one of the key things for a Christian to remember is to live what you do understand, and God will reveal to you in His time what you do not yet understand.

C. Is there any value in memorizing Scriptures?

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:11

VI. Memory Verses

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

II Peter 1:21

BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

Psalm 119:9

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

II Timothy 3:16

The Bold Pair in the Enemy’s Lair (Part 1)

December 15, 2010 at 9:53 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical Violence | 14 Comments
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Lord, grab us, arrest our hearts, and get our attention. Make us tremble before Your Word.

I Samuel 14 contains the account of Jonathan and his armor-bearer taking on the Philistines. Saul was the king of Israel. This was the first time God’s people had a king over them. The people wanted a king. They wanted what everybody else had. God wanted them to be different. Why would they want a king when they already had the King? God faces the same competition today in our own hearts. The Jewish people wanted what the Amalekites had and what the Egyptians had. We want all the things the world offers, but we think, “It’s okay – I’ll still ‘call’ God my King.” If God is your King, you don’t need what everybody else has.

In Chapter 13 of I Samuel, the Bible tells us that the Israelites depended upon the Philistines to sharpen iron.

Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears: But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.

I Samuel 13:19-20

They did not have their own smith, and in fact there were only two swords among all the Israelites. You can probably guess who had these two swords. Saul, the king, had one, but he was not using it, because he was resting under a pomegranate tree when he should have been in the battle. Jonathan, Saul’s son, had the other sword.

It is a great testimony to the grace of God that Saul could have a son like Jonathan. Jonathan was the kind of son any father would want to have.

Jonathan had a sword and a spear, and it’s a good thing he did, because he also had…

I. A Foe to Fight

Now it came to pass upon a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said unto the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison, that is on the other side. But he told not his father.

I Samuel 14:1

The Philistines were reprobate enemies of God and His people, and God wanted them wiped out. Christians today have a foe, an enemy, an adversary: Satan. God has plans for your life and Satan has plans for your life. These plans are far different. Satan has been watching you. He knows your weaknesses. He knows what you like to watch. He knows what you like to hear. He knows where you like to go. He has traps set, and he a three-fold mission. He’s on a mission to kill, steal, and destroy. He wants to steal your blessings. He wants to take your life. He wants to destroy your testimony. He has designs on your children and your grandchildren. Every day he is tirelessly at work doing everything he can to wreck our lives. He hates God. He knows all about what happened on the Cross. He understands the authority and the power of Christ better than you do. And he will do anything possible to rob God of His glory.

Like Jonathan, you have a foe to fight. Are you in the battle? Do you believe that the battle is worth fighting? Getting your blessing stolen is bad. Getting killed is worse. Having your testimony destroyed is the worst, because it robs God of His glory.

And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.

I Samuel 14:6

Jonathan not only had a foe to fight. He also had…

II. Some Facts to Face

These Philistines were in a garrison: a heavily fortified military camp. They had soldiers and spoilers. They despised the Hebrews. They were mocking God and God’s people. They were encamped between two sharp rocks. The Hebrew army was on the run – afraid, disorganized, under poor leadership from Saul, hiding in caves. But Jonathan was a soldier. A soldier’s job is to fight.

Here are some things I want you to see about soldiers:

A. Soldiers are supposed to live a simplistic life.

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

II Timothy 2:3

“Hardness” is being able to get through life – and through life’s battles – without a lot of the comforts that civilians enjoy. The Christian life is a battle, and soldiers do not go carelessly or casually into a battle. Soldiers on a battlefield are not concerned about frivolous entertainment or the latest fads.

No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

II Timothy 2:4

Today, as Christians, I am afraid that:
-We know more about the stores at the shopping mall, than we know about Nehemiah and the temple wall.
-We know more about our MP3 player, than we know about the High Priestly Prayer.
-We know more about LSU, than we know about Elihu.

We know more about what’s happening on the red carpet than we know about what happened on the Cross of Christ! May God help us. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” Don’t get so tangled up in worldly amusements and affairs that when the Commander tells you to get in the battle, you can’t get yourself untangled.

Next time: Two more facts about soldiers

Testing Your Testimony

December 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Posted in Acts, Bible Studies | 8 Comments
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When Christians speak of “giving their testimony” they are usually referring to telling the story of their conversion experience. There are qualifications for giving a testimony. The most obvious is: In order to give a testimony, you must be born again (John 3:7).

Can you describe when and where your conversion experience happened? I don’t mean the time you were delivered from some addiction or besetting sin. I don’t mean the time you had a breakthrough and resolved a big conflict in one of your personal relationships. I mean the time you realized that you were a lost sinner and you called upon Jesus Christ to save you.

Ideally, you should know your own salvation testimony backward and forward, and you should be able to – in a very encapsulated and brief way – state it clearly.

personal testimony too long

The Apostle Paul’s personal testimony is given three times in Scripture: Acts 9, 22, 26. In Chapters 22 and 26 he gave his testimony when he had been taken prisoner and was about to be killed.

At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

Acts 26:13-15

Another requirement for giving your testimony should be that you are motivated by the right motivation.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

I Corinthians 13:1-3

“Charity” in these verses is Christian love. It’s what makes your testimony “real.” Otherwise, your testimony can become a “lure,” whereby you try to sell Christianity to people based only on what happened to you.

Let’s look at the first account of the Apostle Paul’s salvation experience.

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

Acts 9:1-2

Scripture reveals what he was before he was saved, but that is not the main point of the account.

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

Acts 9:3

Your testimony should include a description of when you came under conviction for your sins.

And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Acts 9:4-5

Your testimony should include your realization of Who Jesus is, and your realization of your need for Him.

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Acts 9:6

It should include your account of surrendering to Him, depending on Him, and trusting Him completely for salvation.

And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

Acts 9:7-8

And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

Acts 9:20

Your testimony should include the immediate change that happened when you were converted.

But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

Acts 9:21-22

You need to say something about the after-effects of salvation – how the Lord has blessed your life.

Your testimony can be an effective tool in your efforts at personal evangelism.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

Proverbs 11:30

Is it Animal, Mineral, or Tomato?

December 10, 2010 at 10:54 am | Posted in Galatians, Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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There is an ongoing debate at my house about whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. I always maintain that it is a vegetable. My proof? A fruit is something that can be enjoyed by itself and in a dessert. I enjoy peaches, blackberries, and pineapples by themselves. But I would not touch tomato ice cream, tomato cobbler, or tomato upside down cake. I just wouldn’t.

tomato-upside-down-cake

This does not persuade my wife and kids, however. They argue that a “fruit” is anything that has seeds in it. To be fair, I think they have the majority of scientific opinion on their side – including their elementary school teachers. But we’ll see who has the last laugh, when I run off to enjoy a strawberry sundae, while they’re nibbling listlessly on their tomato popsicles.

http://motherhoodisanart.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/p91100051.jpg

The Bible lists the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians:

…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

And, regardless of what we think of tomatoes, anyone can see that these Spiritual fruits are marked by the fact that they do contain “seeds.”

The Christian who sows love, joy, and peace in his own life will spread the same characteristics to others with whom he comes into contact. If you have ever been around someone who is genuinely longsuffering, gentle, and good, you know it is hard not to respond to that person in like manner. The Christian attributes of faith, meekness, and temperance can produce an orchard of blessings which glorify God. The real test of fruit is that it brings forth life when it is planted, and joy when it is shared.

The Bookends of Faith (Part 2)

December 8, 2010 at 11:07 am | Posted in The Bookends of Faith | 7 Comments
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The Bookends of Faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ: The first and last of the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John

Last time, we looked at the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus in the Book of John. We saw the comparisons between the manna which came down from Heaven in the Old Testament and Jesus, the Bread of Life which came down from Heaven, in the New Testament.

Here is one of the most amazing truths in all of Scripture:

Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.

John 6:49-50

Moses and all the manna-eaters eventually died and are still dead. Those who partake of the Bread of Life will live forever, reign forever, and enjoy unspeakable beauty and joy of fellowship with Christ for all eternity. What is your response to the proclamation that Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life? Would you deny what it proves? That’s what the Jewish religious leaders did. Do you believe that the Bread of Life is good and nourishing and sustaining, but not life-giving? Do you deny that Jesus was and is God? Do you deny that He has not and will not and can not lie? I hope you don’t deny what the “I AM” proved.

However, we still need to ask ourselves, are we grateful only for what it provided?

Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

John 6:34

Are you grateful for what Jesus can do for you – more so than you are grateful for Who He is? Is this your prayer: “Jesus, make my life easier, make me well-favored with men, bless me coming in, going out, use me to make me something that will be impressive to other people?” Have you watched too much religious television, or attended too many “revival” services? Have you read too many best-selling “Christian” books? If Christ Jesus has saved your soul, must He now balance your checkbook? Heal every ache and pain in your body? Restore every broken relationship between you and your neighbors and your friends and your family? We are often guilty of thinking of Jesus as our genie in a bottle – we whip Him out whenever we have a problem. Too many professing Christians consider Christ only to be their “ticket to Heaven.” I don’t like that analogy because you don’t do much with a ticket. You keep it tucked away somewhere unseen until it’s time to enter the show, then it’s turned in and discarded.

In John Chapter 6 people were asking Jesus, “What can You do for me?” What they should have been asking – and what we should be asking – is, “What would You have me to do for You?”

Next time, we will examine Jesus’s proclamation that, “I AM the True Vine.”

Free FROM Sin, Not Free TO Sin

December 3, 2010 at 10:40 am | Posted in Romans | 16 Comments
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In Romans Chapter 6 the Holy Spirit is using the Apostle Paul to overcome objections. Christians are called to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. We are called to preach the Gospel. We are called to proclaim the Gospel. We are not salesmen, and the proclamation of the Gospel should not be a “sales pitch.” However, one of the valuable things I learned when I used to sell health club memberships is that it is good to be prepared to overcome objections when you are trying to convince someone to believe something. When we think about proclaiming the Gospel we need to be prepared to anticipate and overcome objections before they’re raised. When we do this, we’re not doing the work of the Holy Spirit, but we are preparing ourselves so we can be used by Him.

The Holy Spirit knew that some people would have an objection to the idea that grace does “much more abound,” and that many people would not really like that idea. This can be a little tricky. Why would anyone not want grace to abound? Grace is a free gift. Why wouldn’t someone want a free gift?

The answer is because those being addressed in Romans 6 had too much invested in the Law. Imagine if you spent 19 years of your life obtaining the education needed to be a criminal defense lawyer, and upon receiving your certificate to practice, all the criminal laws were repealed and all the criminals were reprieved! So these objectors said, “Well, if grace abounds much more than sin, then every time we sin, we get much more grace, so let’s get to sinning so that we can experience more grace.”

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

Romans 6:1-3

When we are saved we are “baptized into” Christ. So, like Jesus, we are dead “unto” sin, not just dead “because of” sins. Christ didn’t just die “for” sins – He died “unto” sin.

For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

Romans 6:10

Sin as a “power” was defeated by the power of the Resurrection.

Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

Romans 6:8-9

That explains the doctrine and the truth of freedom from sin – “free from sin” (Romans 6:7), not “free to sin.” But what is the practical application in our lives? How do we practically “get the victory” over submitting to our old master?

We have been set free from a very cruel master: Satan. We don’t have to serve him any more. Therefore, we need to believe the facts. It doesn’t do a slave much good to be free if he doesn’t know he is free!

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:11

Reckon” in this verse does not mean “to guess.” It is used here in the sense that it is used in the term “dead reckoning,” which is a nautical term. Dead reckoning is a procedure of observing landmarks in relation to time of departure, or it can be done by dropping an object in the water alongside a ship and watching it float by. “Dead reckoning” is short for “deduced reckoning” or what we might call “deduced reasoning.” Sailors use it when they can’t depend, for some reason, on a compass or the stars. Spiritually, we left our lost condition and became adopted into the family of God when we believed the Gospel, trusted Christ, and received Christ. Therefore, it does not matter what the compass or the charts or the stars of popular philosophy say. We may not know exactly where we are, but we’re not “lost” any more. We know where we were before the trip started and we know when we left. Our experience of salvation is not a slowly absorbed, amorphous feeling. It happens at a time and at a place.


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