Tags: Amazing Grace, Biblical light, Jesus the Way, John 14, John 8, light, Light of the World, Psalm 119, rearranging furniture
NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Imagine coming home from work late one night after the rest of your family has gone to bed. Unbeknownst to you, earlier in the day your spouse had decided to rearrange all the furniture. Not wanting to wake anyone in the house, you decide to trod the well-known path to your own bedroom without turning on any lights. You can probably predict the painful and possibly expensive results – and if you can’t, your shins and that shattered table lamp surely can.
Or imagine trying to find your way through a dense forest in the middle of a moonless night without a flashlight. The point is, in the dark, it is easy to wander off the right path, and get lost. A light or lantern will make it easy to follow the path.
The Bible helps us find the right way in a dark world. God’s Word not only alerts us to dangers coming at us, but it helps us to see the things around us more clearly. Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is also the Way to Heaven. If we stay close to Jesus, trust His Word, and illuminate the darkness around us, we will avoid many dangers, toils, and snares.
Tags: 1 Timothy 6, 2 Corinthians 4, accountability for teachers, Bible teachers, Matthew 13, scribes, Sunday School teachers, Sunday School teaching seminar, tips for teachers, treasure
As we learned previously, Bible teachers have a responsibility to teach the Truth and to make a “type.”
Treasure: Bible teachers must realize that the Gospel is a valuable treasure which we hold in “trust.”
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:
I Timothy 6:20 (emphasis added)
The Word of God is a treasure because of its value. In fact, it’s so valuable that I am not completely sure why God has entrusted it to us. From what I can tell, it somehow serves His glory to see that if He placed it in a weak vessel, the power of the Gospel itself would be seen to come completely from Him, and not the vessel itself.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
II Corinthians 4:7
God could have sent angels to deliver His Word. He could have written it in the sky. But He has given it to us in trust. Something given in trust must be protected, but it also must be put to work so that it “grows,” bears an “increase,” or bears “fruit.” So, as we teach, we must guard the Word of God. We must keep it from being stolen or contaminated. We do this by teaching it to our students as though it were a thing of great value. When you teach, be serious about the Word of God. Show your students how to treat their Bibles, how to read Bible verses, how to memorize Bible verses.
We treat the Word of God as a valuable thing held in trust by guarding it, but also by putting it to work. We will give an account for what we have done with our Master’s treasure. He will not be happy if we just dig it up, dust it off, and say, “Here, I’ve protected it. I didn’t lose it and I didn’t let anyone steal it.” He will say, “But did you invest it? Did you sew it? Did you plant it in hearts? Did you spread it around like seed? Has it earned interest? I trusted you to know that I was the kind of Owner Who let you use My treasure in such a way that it would multiply in spiritual fruit.”
Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.
When the Disciples answered affirmatively to Jesus’s question that they understood all those principles that Jesus taught them about the Kingdom of Heaven, do you think they really did?
Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.
A scribe is similar to a teacher. Bible teachers must teach the basic things and new things (things that we find on our own in the Bible – things that are dear to us and are shown to us by God). These “new things” are not “fresh” Words in the sense of being private revelation. They are “fresh” in the sense of being “living” Words, and they are just as applicable today as they were when they were written, but they are new to your students – and maybe even to you.
Bible teachers are to teach Truth. We are to deliver a type of teaching. And we are responsible for a treasure.
Tags: 1 Timothy 2, Biblical repentance, faith, Jesus the Mediator, John 14, Mark 1, order of salvation, ordo salutis, repent and believe, repentance and faith
There was a period of time, between the imprisonment of John the Baptist, and the calling of the disciples, that Jesus preached by Himself in Galilee. Mark 1:15 tells us the thrust of His message: “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
There are some Bible teachers who see significance in the order of Christ’s command. Repentance from sin must come first, they say, and then the belief in the Gospel. But this is difficult to sustain. If we take the word “repent” to mean “a turning away from sin,” we meet an impasse, for we know that sinful men – and all men are sinful in their nature, and sinful to the core – are incapable of turning away from sin.
Furthermore, a call to “repent” necessarily involves a “belief,” for toward Whom could a turning away from sin be, except toward a higher Being? Thus, we see that Jesus is calling men to turn away from their unbelief, and toward belief in Him, as the Son of God, and as the one true Mediator between God and man. (I Timothy 2:5)
A well-known preacher relates the story of attending a prayer meeting. A man was called upon to pray, and, in a case of the unusual, this man did not close his prayer by asking the Lord to cause men to place their faith in Jesus. Rather, he prayed that men would transfer their faith from whatever it was currently in, to the Person of Christ Jesus. Everyone has faith in something. The transference of that faith into Him Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), is the greatest need of every person.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 1, 1 Corinthians 4, 2 Corinthians 1, 2 Corinthians 11, 2 Thessalonians 1, Acts 16, Balaam's ass, Isaiah 54, jawbone of an ass, Judges 15, Judges 16, Numbers 22, Proverbs 15, Psalm 119, Samson
The jawbone of the donkey that Samson used to slay 1000 Philistines was not only a strange weapon – as we saw in the last lesson:
1. It was a singular weapon.
2. It was a surprising weapon.
Now we will see that:
3. It was a simple weapon.
In other words, it was an unsophisticated weapon. I for one am glad that the weapons of our spiritual warfare in New Testament Christianity are not overly complex or difficult to use. In fact, God sometimes blesses the crudest means when there is both faith and zeal in the one who wields the weapon. Samson had many faults and flaws, but he had two big advantages when it came to fighting: faith and zeal. The jawbone that he picked up must have looked pretty weak to the Philistines who were ready to attack him, and to the men of Judah who were standing by watching. But in our moments of simplicity and seeming-weakness God often shows Himself strong.
For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
II Corinthians 1:12 (emphasis added)
Samson’s “conversation” on that day was very simple. In fact, he didn’t have to say a word. He let his weapon “speak” for him, and his weapon said, “This is not of the world – this is of God and by His Spirit.”
I find it humorous and fitting that God arranged it so that Samson used the jawbone of an ass. The jawbone is an instrument of speaking, and previously in the Bible (in the case of Balaam), God had spoken through a living donkey. Here, he “speaks” through a dead donkey! God is certainly not limited in His ability to use the simple to confound the wise.
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
II Corinthians 11:3 (emphasis added)
There are times in spiritual warfare when the simplest weapon is the best. What could be simpler than a soft word to turn away wrath? What could be simpler than asking a hard-hearted lost person, “What are you going to do about your sin?”
In spiritual warfare some of our weapons are strong in the sense that they are built to last. But sometimes God wants us to use a weak weapon because we are more inclined to use it trustfully and obediently. Many of our specific, situational weapons just are what they are. They don’t need to be adorned to be effective. Your physical appearance is a gift from God to be used in spiritual warfare. He designed you to look the way you look partly in order to help you connect with and influence others. Don’t be too quick to change your appearance in order to make yourself more “attractive” according to worldly standards. God has blessed each of us with certain natural talents. Some are better at teaching publicly; some are better at ministering privately. Some have a great memory. Some have the gift of not being easily offended. Natural talents are some of the simplest, and yet most potent, weapons that God has given us.
4. It was both a silly and a serious weapon.
When I say silly, I mean downright absurd when you think about it! Killing 1000 men with a donkey’s jawbone??? Samson must have looked at least a little ridiculous using the mandible of an ass as though it were a sword or a club! He didn’t look silly for long, though – at least not to the Philistines. What seems silly to us was deadly serious to them.
In spiritual warfare our “silliest” weapon may also be our most serious.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
I Corinthians 1:18 (emphasis added)
The Gospel message is life and death to those of us who have been regenerated and are willing to wield it for the glory of Christ. But it is foolishness to those who are unregenerate, and who will not receive it – all the way up to the point where they will be slain by their rejection of it. I wonder if our enemy, the devil, can even comprehend how he is defeated over and over again by the simple preaching of the Truth.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
I Corinthians 1:27 (emphasis added)
When the Apostles were thrown into prison for preaching the Gospel, did it seem foolish that they would sing songs of praise in their cells? Do your lost friends think it’s idiotic that memorizing verses from an ancient Book could drive away something as mighty as a massive wave of depression? Don’t be afraid of looking silly for the cause of Christ. Humility itself can be a weapon in spiritual warfare. Humility is revealed in circumstances. An embarrassed person is not necessarily a humble person. We can be in a humbling situation, but still think about ourselves. Humility is not deciding to think too little about yourself in contrast to thinking too much about yourself. True humility is not thinking about yourself at all.
5. It was a successful weapon.
Samson’s victory with the jawbone was not his last exploit, nor his greatest. In fact, he wound up killing more Philistines in his death than he did in his life. When Christians today talk about “flowing in the Spirit” it conjures up images of a sort of effeminate passivity where church people are just “letting go and letting God,” focusing on their personal worship experiences and hoping that the Holy Spirit will supernaturally bless them without any effort of their own. We would do well to take a lesson from Samson. He certainly isn’t the ideal Old Testament saint to emulate when it comes to victorious Christ-like living, but you have to give him one thing: In the days in which he judged Israel, nobody flowed in the Spirit like Samson! Samson’s problem wasn’t the ability to receive God’s Spirit. His problem was that he could not be consistent – he could not get his life organized. He could not get himself organized and he had little interest in getting the people he was supposed to be leading organized. The jawbone that he wielded so effectively was what the British call a “one-off.” It is a picture of the type of unpredictable, unexpected, spur-of-the-moment weapon we encounter in our spiritual warfare all the time. We pick them up, and we throw them away, forgetting that they were successful weapons. If you have been a Christian for several years, take a moment to look back over your life at some of your spiritual victories. Was there some type of strange weapon that worked then which might work again now? Occasional, circumstances-specific weapons may seem strange and impractical, but it is God’s power, not the weapon itself, which makes a weapon successful. One time a great preacher told me that when you talk to children, you should get down on one knee and look them in the eye instead of towering over them: that has turned out to be a great spiritual weapon for me over the years. A note or a greeting card sent to someone who is hurting or discouraged can be a weapon. A bouquet of flowers delivered to a hospital room can be a weapon. One of the deadliest weapons in my wife’s arsenal is her smile. Many a time I have seen her turn a friendly smile and an unexpectedly kind word on the scowlingest, most negative person you would ever want to meet, and just absolutely route whatever demon was making that person so mean! A telephone can be a weapon when it is used to call up someone and invite him to Sunday School, or to tell someone you are praying for her.
After Samson killed all those Philistines he made up a song about piling their bodies in heaps upon heaps. When you get discouraged in spiritual warfare, and you think God is not coming through for you, take heart! Are there not heaps and heaps of slain sins in your past? Are there not heaps and heaps of slain temptations? Heaps and heaps of slain doubts? Heaps and heaps of slain fears? Sure, we’ve lost our share of battles, but the battleground is strewn with our enemies and we’re still standing. If no weapon formed against us can prosper, then it stands to reason that any weapon formed for us – to God’s glory – must prosper against our enemies.
Samson ultimately surrendered to the Philistines, and God made him the victor only in his death. God is not asking us to surrender to our enemies – He’s asking us to surrender to our King and Father. One day Jesus is coming back to vanquish all His enemies once and for all. Have you made sure you that you will be on the right side when Jesus starts conquering HIS enemies?
Tags: 1 Kings 17, common expressions, common expressions from the Bible, Elijah, Ephesians 6, Matthew 6, miracles of Elijah, over a barrel, Warren Wiersbe
The common expression “over a barrel” means that someone is in a compromising position. The phrase comes from a time when the method for rescuing a person who had almost drowned was to pull him from the water and start rolling him back and forth over a barrel. Sometimes this treatment did more harm than good!
The Bible application for the expression “over a barrel” comes from I Kings 17. The widow at Zarephath wasn’t drowning, though. She was starving. She only had enough meal and oil for her and her son to have one last little cake, after which she was planning on dying. Then, on top of that, the prophet Elijah, the man of God, stopped by and told her to get him some water – and to bring him a little cake while she was at it!
The lady could have become exasperated and angry, but instead she exercised her faith. She went and did according to the saying of Elijah. She heard the Word and heeded the Word.
As you read this, you are probably not starving to death, but does someone have you “over a barrel?” Financially, your creditors may have you over a barrel. Time-wise, your employer may have you over a barrel. When it comes to being starved for affection, your spouse, your family, or your friends may have you over a barrel.
The Word of God to the widow lady of Zarephath was, “Take what little you have, and by faith give it to Me.” We might say she was “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” but, sometimes, we have to get to that point in order to realize that we need God. Her barrel, which held the “meal” needed to make bread, was empty, but she herself was not empty of faith. As Christians, even when our material barrel is empty, we can still be filled with the Spirit of God, so we have no reason to complain. (Warren Wiersbe likes to say that empty barrels make the most noise.)
Elijah told the lady that the Lord had fixed it so that her meal and oil would not be completely exhausted. From that day on she never had more than one handful, nor less than one handful.
Certainly God was capable of filling her barrel of meal to the top and overflowing her cruse of oil, but, in a time of famine, word might have gotten out, and she might have been robbed. God is often gracious not to overburden us with superfluous blessings. We are in a battle and we need to travel light when we fight Satan. The armor of God has a sword for our hand, but there are no pockets or pouches in the armor for holding supplies.
Had God suddenly given the lady too much meal, it might have spoiled and become infested with worms. We face the same danger when we have a “surplus” of blessings, but the worm that infests us is called pride. When you find yourself “over a barrel,” by faith reach into the barrel of your eternal spiritual blessings in Christ. Many people are confused – they think the purpose of the Christian life is to get abundant material blessings. Jesus did not teach His disciples to pray, “Give us this day enough bread to last for a year, and a big mansion to keep it in, and a fancy car to drive it around in.” No, He told them to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread.”
Tags: 1 Peter 1, authentic love, commentary on Romans, Leviticus 11, Proverbs 8, renewing your mind, Romans 12, Romans commentary, Sunday School lessons on Romans, transformed in Christ
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
“Beseeching” is a passionate appeal. “Brethren” are other believers. “Presenting” is a daily process. Christians are supposed to be “living” sacrifices. We are supposed to be “holy.”
Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
I Peter 1:16
For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
Being living sacrifices who are holy and acceptable to God is our “reasonable” service. All Christians have the capability of doing it and doing it cheerfully.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
The world wants you to be “conformed.” It wants you to be molded in the shape of everyone else who does not obey Christ. The world will put the squeeze on you and change your shape, but it does not have the power to make you grow. “Transforming” is from within. The Word of God has the power to renew us and make us grow. We must read it and heed it each day. Christians have the exciting opportunity to “prove” God’s good and perfect will. If you are truly a Christian nothing should stop you from being right in the center of God’s will.
We need to think of our bodies as living sacrifices before we begin each day. Consider your feet, legs, stomach, heart, arms, hands, neck, mouth, tongue – your whole physical body – to be surrendered to the service of Christ.
As an example, our natural tendency is to wake up in the morning and start thinking about what we will eat that day – what we’re going to put into our mouths. What we probably need to think about instead is what is going to come out of our mouths that day.
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.
Have you surrendered your ears and eyes to the Lord today – to hear what He wants you to hear, and to see what He wants you to see? The surrender of my body and the renewal of my mind are daily requirements.
The same principle applies to the “Body” of Christ as a whole.
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Our love for one another needs to be open, authentic, submissive, and renewed daily.
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
Tags: Acts 27, Biblical battles, Christ's Kingdom, Christian warfare, Colossians 2, jawbone of an ass, John 18, Judges 15, Samson, spiritual warfare, Strange Weapons, weapons of spiritual warfare
More Strange Weapons: A Stone and a Bone
The Bone (Judges 15:15-16)
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Christ’s Kingdom is “of the world” in the sense that He owns everything, but it is “not of this world” in the sense that His followers don’t use the same weapons that warriors involved in worldly warfare use. As followers of Christ, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (fleshly) or physical, but they are mighty to the pulling down of (spiritual) strongholds. Christ does not say that His followers do not fight, but that we do not fight in a worldly way, and that we do not use worldly weapons. We are not out to conquer by force. We want to conquer by love. Our goal is not to create a worldly government or to some day elect government officials who are Christians. Our goal is to establish the kingdom and government of God in the hearts of men and women and boys and girls. We are engaged in a strange war and we use strange weapons.
Previously we have looked at some the strange weapons in the Book of Judges – cattle prods, tent pegs, water pitchers, millstones – and we have compared them to spiritual weapons. These spiritual weapons may also seem strange, but they seem less and less strange the more you learn about spiritual warfare. Most Christians are aware of the role of the Bible in spiritual warfare, and of prayer, but we are learning to think of other things – such as love, the role of the Holy Spirit, our own bodies, and even God’s sovereign will – in connection with spiritual warfare.
This lesson will focus on some unpredictable weapons which are dependent upon specific circumstances and occasions.
In Judges 15 we find Samson – bound and betrayed by his own countrymen – depressed and discouraged – when the Spirit of the Lord suddenly comes upon him again:
And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.
The jawbone which Samson found was a “new” jawbone – a “fresh” jawbone. It probably still had some flesh or skin on it – maybe some teeth in it. With it he killed 1000 men by himself.
The jawbone of a donkey was perhaps the strangest of all the strange weapons we have considered from the Book of Judges, and it teaches us about the unexpected and unpredictable nature of some of the spiritual weapons in our daily warfare as Christians.
1. The jawbone was a singular weapon.
As spiritual warriors, God has given us freedom to think creatively within the boundaries of His Word and His will. I am glad that we have a number of Christian organizations. In fact, the Body of Christ, which is more of an organism than an organization, must still be organized, since an unorganized organism will not function properly. We must be organized, but we must have a healthy suspicion of routines.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Rudiments are things ordered by the wisdom of man as opposed to God. Traditions are not bad (although traditionalism is), and traditions and discipline are useful in Christian warfare. They are more in the category of training than in weapons. Samson needed a weapon, and God provided a jawbone. It was a singular, unexpected weapon. You may encounter a circumstance where you find yourself having to apply your spiritual disciplines – love, prayer, Bible study – in a way you never have before. So remember, discipline is the way to experience the Person of God, not a means in and of itself. Weapons are gifts from God, and must be seen that way. The jawbone “just happened” to be there when Samson needed it, and he used it effectively even though it was a “singular” weapon.
2. The jawbone was a surprising weapon.
In an intense battle, if we wait around for the perfect weapon to be forged, the battle may be lost. My wife used to like to say, “Some is better than none.” There are times when sudden action is required and we need to use whatever God has placed near at hand. Satan loves sneak attacks and God often calls us when we least expect it. In Acts 27 the Apostle Paul found himself in the middle of a shipwreck and still managed to use it as a ministry opportunity. In the course of Christian ministry you may suddenly find yourself somewhere you never thought you would be invited to go. When this happens, do not keep silent. Pick up whatever “jawbone” or spiritual weapon that God has provided, and by faith start swinging: slaying doubts and fears and demons. We must not think that God is limited in what He gives us as weapons. In the Kingdom of Christ nothing is supposed to be secular – it’s all supposed to be sacred.
The next post in the series will focus on the simplicity of the jawbone.