Beware Forensic Filth

March 30, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Salvation, The Fives | 1 Comment
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If you’ve attended an evangelical church long enough or often enough, you’ve probably heard this well-worn challenge from the pulpit: “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

forensic-evidence

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

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

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

Ephesians 5:5

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

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

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

What Exactly Did Jesus Say about Being Judgmental?

March 25, 2015 at 1:02 pm | Posted in Matthew, parables | 2 Comments
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Matthew Chapter 7 deals with judgment, beginning with the practice of judging others.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

Matthew 7:1-2

Judging others to a standard you can’t bear yourself is the essence of hypocrisy – and hypocrisy was one of the marks of the Pharisees.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:3-5

Jesus began with a humorous illustration, but the humor turned serious when He called them hypocrites. As followers of Jesus, our main focus should be on judging ourselves so that we can help others. The Pharisees judged others to make themselves look good.

In the natural realm, I have some fairly serious eye problems, and am a frequent visitor at the eye doctor’s office. One thing I’ve learned from being poked and probed and examined is that great tenderness is needed in the field of eye care. Spiritually speaking, though, the same principle applies just as much. If you ever find yourself in a position to help a brother recognize and remove a spiritual fault from his life (and that’s a big “if” – something to be considered carefully and thoroughly and prayerfully before proceeding), then you will need to proceed the way you would if you were removing a sliver from his eye: with great tenderness and care.

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Matthew 7:6

We must exercise discernment in church discipline because God has trusted us to handle the “holy things” of the Lord. In the Old Testament, the worship in the Tabernacle and the Temple had to be very orderly and precise, in order to prevent that which was considered holy and clean from becoming defiled and made unclean by that which was profane. New Testament worship is different, but the principle still applies. Just as the cups and dishes in the Temple were treated with reverence, so must our words and attitudes be handled somewhat delicately and with attentive gentleness.

Matthew Chapter 7 eventually shifts from judgment of ourselves to our judgment of others to God’s judgment of us.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Matthew 7:24-27

In this parable both houses looked sturdy. Both builders had good intentions. So what was the difference? Why was one house sturdy and one not sturdy? The difference was the foundations. Christ Jesus the Solid Rock is our foundation. That’s why we see this teaching right after the Lord’s statement about false professions. A false profession will hold up fine and look strong until the storm of judgment comes.

Your life may look sturdy. You may have your hope in a supportive family, a good job, loyal friends, good works, financial security, and your own logical belief system. But when the storm hits, only hope founded on Christ the Solid Rock will stand.

 

Don’t Let ’em Give You the Slip

March 23, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Common Expressions, Hebrews | 6 Comments
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Thank You, Lord, for helping us to see Your superiority, for helping us to see that You are supreme – better than Adam, better than Moses, wiser than Solomon, more holy than David, better than the angels. Thank You for blessing us. You have neither left us, nor forsaken us. Please help us never to leave, nor forsake, You. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

There is an admonition for us in Hebrews Chapter 2. It is really the first of five, and it’s not the sort of admonition that reads as if someone is being fussed at (the way the Holy Spirit sometimes did through Paul when writing to the Corinthians). These admonitions in Hebrews read more like warnings and encouragements, but they are still tricky things to handle. In our flesh, if a brother or sister in Christ says, “I see you’ve been getting away from the things of God…” we tend to get defensive or get our feelings hurt. We ought to pray for each other, sure, but we also, at times, have to exhort, encourage, and talk straight with each other.

My children used to listen to a cassette tape in the car by a group called the “Best Buddies.” The songs were somewhat childish, but they generally had very good reminders of Scriptural principles. One of the songs said:

Are you teachable?
Are you agreeable?
Are you being somebody nice to talk to?
Know-it-alls are often very lonely
So humble yourself and you can learn from everybody!

The Best Buddies

It’s been a good reminder for me over the years to listen more than I talk, to try to be humble, and to try not to be disagreeable, even when I do disagree.

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

Hebrews 2:1

You’ve probably heard the old Bible study adage, “What do you do when you see ‘therefore?’ You back up and see what it’s ‘there for.’”

But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

Hebrews 1:13-14

“Because you have received the Word of God directly from the Son, and because you are the heirs of salvation, let Me,” the Holy Spirit seems to be saying, “encourage you with a warning: Give heed to what you have learned, lest you let it slip.” In other words, don’t slip up in reading God’s Word, in studying God’s Word, in meditating on God’s word, in obeying God’s Word. Our attention has a tendency to “drift,” and something that’s not tied down or held in place, can “drift away,” but the Bible is telling me in Hebrews 2:1 that the onus is on me – on the one doing the holding – not to let things “slip” – to “heed,” to pay attention to what I’m supposed to be holding. If you’ve been to a marina, you’ve seen “slips” – those things to which people tie their boats so they won’t float away.

We have the same admonition concerning strong doctrine.

Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Titus 1:9

Peer Pressure and Robin Hood Theology Exposed

March 20, 2015 at 10:56 am | Posted in Exodus | 2 Comments
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In a previous lesson I mentioned that many of the laws in the Covenant Code were casuistic. However, there were also apodictic laws. For example:

Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment: Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.

Exodus 23:2-3

Apodictic laws are res ipsa laws – laws that are self-evident, that speak for themselves. They are abundantly clear about what they mean. They are not intended to be demonstrations (the way casuistic laws are) of specific instances. Apodictic laws were appropriate for God’s people because God is a God of absolutes as well as application. However, apodictic laws are far more rare in the ancient codices of pagan cultures. In an ungodly society a law that says “thou shalt not kill” is far less likely to be found because it would depend on who you killed. God is not a respecter of persons, so His laws seek to treat equally all those who are created in His image. So, we see verses in the Covenant Code like:

Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:

Exodus 23:2

This means, “Don’t go along with the crowd. Don’t cave in to the peer pressure to do evil. Don’t get caught up (or ‘caught down’) in any downward trends of violating justice because of favoritism or popularity.” This was a very wise command for the people in Moses’s day, and it is a very good reminder in our day, too. “Do the opposite of everyone else” is not a perfectly sound rule for Christians in every instance. We’re not just contrarians – just being antagonistic or different for the sake of being contrary – but observing what is popular in the world can be a pretty good indicator of what displeases God, and it is often something to take into account. Jesus is the “Way” and He is a “way,” and we know His way is narrow. It’s never the road of the majority.

Just as Exodus 23:2 warns against the danger of popularity, the next verse warns against the temptation to equate poverty as automatic evidence of righteousness.

Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.

Exodus 23:3

In other words, don’t favor the wealthy and the popular just because it might benefit you, but don’t favor the poor when they are in the wrong just because you feel sorry for them, and want to seem holy by sticking up for them. God’s command is: Just do justice – do right – regardless of your personal bias.

Catechism Question 19

March 18, 2015 at 2:33 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism, Hebrews | 3 Comments
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Question 19: Where is Jesus now?
Answer: He is in Heaven with God the Father.
Prove it.

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

Hebrews 10:12

It is important for children to believe that, after Jesus died and rose from the grave, He showed Himself alive to many witnesses, and then ascended up to Heaven – still fully God, but also still fully human, in His resurrected and glorified body.

It is also important to explain the significance of Jesus’s position at God’s right hand, equally enthroned with God the Father, having His rightful place as Judge and Ruler.

With the God-Man as our Savior, Lord, elder Brother, and Father, we have full assurance of acceptance with God, access to Him in prayer, and eternal life in His loving and benevolent presence.

Other key verses to know:

Who [is] he that condemneth? [It is] Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Romans 8:34

Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

I Peter 3:22

Winning the Argument that Christ is Better

March 16, 2015 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 6 Comments
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The Book of Hebrews was authored by the Holy Spirit, but there are vastly differing opinions over which human instrument He used to do so. Personally, I believe it was the Apostle Paul. It was written to convince the Hebrews (Jewish Christians) of the superiority of Jesus. A key phrase is “a better…” The Lord Jesus is “better” than all the attempts at righteousness in the Jewish religion.

Another one of the book’s main themes is the encouragement to draw near – draw nigh – to God.

For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

Hebrews 7:19

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

Hebrews 10:22

We don’t have to chase God all over the country. As Christians, we can draw near to Him any time we want. When Jesus spoke to His disciples about the little children, He said, “Suffer them to come unto Me.”

In Hebrews Chapter 1 we see that Christ is better than the prophets of God who came before Christ’s birth.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Hebrews 1:1-2

The prophets told people about how God created everything, but Christ was there when it was created.

Second, Christ is better than the angels.

Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

Hebrews 1:4-5

The angels are sometimes called the sons of God, but they are created beings, and the created is not to be worshiped. Only the Creator is to be worshiped.

The angels serve Jesus, and they serve Christians, too.

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

Hebrews 1:14

How does knowing that Christ is better than the prophets and better than the angels convince us to draw near to Him? It’s step one of an argument. How did the Hebrews know that they were supposed to have priests and a high priest and altars and sacrifices and a tabernacle and sin offerings and blood sacrifices? God told them (His Word). But through what medium? His prophets. They delivered the Law – including the ceremonies of their religion. But if Christ was greater than the prophets, then the people needed to learn from Him.

Christ did not really come with a revelation of following a by-the-numbers set of rules and regulations. He came with principles like Grace and Love. The angels and the prophets helped deliver the Law, which was God’s revelation of His nature to the people, but Christ is enthroned in glory. He is seated at God’s right hand.

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high: Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Hebrews 1:3-4

Christ is better than the prophets because He is God. He is better than the angels because they were created and He is the Creator.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

Hebrews 1:8

The cults don’t like this, but it is still true. “The Son” is a more excellent name. Jesus is God, and He has been forever. He was not “born” as touching His Deity. However, God the Father has especially honored Him as Son.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Hebrews 1:8-9

Beware Faithless Freezing

March 12, 2015 at 1:16 pm | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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Did you ever play the childhood game “freeze tag?” Picture a bunch of kids running around, some chasing and others being chased. When a chaser touches a “chasee,” the one who is “tagged” must “freeze” and not move from that spot until another chasee touches him, setting him free to run again.

https://i1.wp.com/www.buzzle.com/img/articleImages/608332-232321-46.jpg

It’s a fun game, but it’s also, sadly, an illustration of the spiritual life of many Christians. You know the cliched jokes about the “frozen chosen” and those who attend church only to “sit, soak, and sour.” These are believers who understand that that they have been chosen by God unto salvation in Christ Jesus, but who then wrongly believe that this calling to new life is the end of the journey rather than the beginning. All that is left to do, they mistakenly think, is to wait for Jesus to bring them home.

Why is this such a popular notion? One reason is that there is some partial truth to it. Those who are born again are waiting for the fulfillment of the glorious promise of having our faith become sight, and being brought into the presence of Christ’s eternal sanctification, to be free once and for all from the cares, trials, and sin of this world and our mortal flesh. However, this “waiting” is not a sedentary killing of time, nor an inchoate longing for better days to come. It is waiting through the Holy Spirit.

For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

Galatians 5:5

And it is a waiting that should be accompanied by a tireless pursuit to put into practice the positional righteousness we have received through faith. If the Holy Spirit chased you down and “tagged” you with the Lord’s salvation, don’t freeze in your babyish state of “just-born-again” Christianity. Instead, chase after the One Who chased after you. Follow the Spirit as He leads, reading His Word, doing what it says, magnifying your Savior, serving your neighbor, and glorifying your Father as He lovingly watches over you from your future home in Heaven.

Purity, Prayer, and Possessions

March 9, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Matthew | 2 Comments
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Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Matthew 5:17

The Pharisees had placed a crust around the seed of God’s Word. Jesus broke the crust, but He did not destroy the Law. He fulfilled the Law. A seed can stop being a seed through destruction, or through fulfilling its purpose. Remember, Jesus came onto the scene of public ministry after working for years as a carpenter, and His job has always been that of a builder.

In Christian maturity we move past rules and regulations (outward), and get directly to the attitudes of the heart (inward). Imagine if I dug a well, attached a faucet, and filthy water came out. Would I just change the faucet? No, I’d dig a new well. The hearts we were born with can produce only sin and evil. When we trust Christ, He removes the old heart, and replaces it with a new heart, from which can flow God-pleasing purity.

Matthew Chapter 6 deals with prayer, fasting, and money. Have you ever thought about why God commands us to pray when He already knows our needs? One reason is that prayer is the God-appointed way for getting those needs met. Here’s how it works. You pray to discern God’s will (“Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”). God allows needs to come into your life, and you draw close to Him in prayer (Psalm 50:15). God shows you that all you really need is Him (II Corinthians 12:7-10). You become thankful to God, even about your needs, and you stay in an attitude of prayer and ongoing communication with your God (I Thessalonians 5:17-18). Prayer prepares us for the proper use of what God already knows we need.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

Matthew 6:19

Materialism is when we stop possessing things, and things start possessing us. Idolatry of things enslaves. It enslaves the heart.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:21

It enslaves the mind.

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

Matthew 6:22-23

What you say is what’s in your heart; what you look at is what’s on your mind.

It enslaves the will.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Matthew 6:24

Imagine: Your heart, your mind, your will – all enslaved to a bass boat or a TV set or a retirement account or a Cadillac. It’s not a pretty picture. However, in Christ, we can win the victory over our idolatrous desires to be rich, to own property, to possess things. Even worry about the basic necessities of life needn’t ensnare us.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Matthew 6:25

“Things” used for God will bring glory to God, but things used for me cheapen the things, and cheapen me as well.

Won’t Hold Water

March 6, 2015 at 3:46 pm | Posted in Common Expressions | Leave a comment
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When we say that something “won’t hold water,” we mean that someone has expressed an idea or opinion, or proposed a plan of action, that, upon closer scrutiny, is faulty, and lacks the consistency or integrity to be relied upon.

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:13

In the prophet Jeremiah’s day, the Lord’s people committed two evils. First, they ignored the God Who had chosen them. They had forsaken Him Who was the Fountain of living waters. How it must grieve God to see us deliberately disobey Him! However, it’s just as bad to act like He’s not even there, as though we are participating in a sort of practical atheism.

The second evil was that they tried to try to hew out cisterns (troughs or little pools) as places to hold their blessings by their own machinations, without regard to God’s plan or purposes. These were broken cisterns. They were not going to be able to hold the living water. Our self-made or self-righteous attempts to replace our reliance on God will not hold anything worth having. They will become sad little puddles – stagnant and muddy, full of parasites – and they will make us sick.

What did Jesus say to the woman at the well? “Drink this water and you’ll just get thirsty again. But I AM the Living Water – drink of the Lord and you’ll never be thirsty again.”

More often than not, our own ideas, plans, and desires “won’t hold water.” Living water doesn’t have to be “held,” because it transforms the drinker.

A Hug from Habakkuk

March 4, 2015 at 4:24 pm | Posted in Habakkuk | Leave a comment
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The prophet Habakkuk reminds me of Jacob in a way. Not that Habakkuk was a devious schemer, but that both seemed to be willing to get very close to God, even if it meant “mixing it up” a little concerning their struggles to know Him better. Both men were spiritual “wrestlers,” in a sense. One thing about wrestling is that, when it gets intense, it involves a very personal “grabbing hold of.” This will sound weird, but, sometimes, the only difference between wrestling and hugging is the mental disposition of the participants. Habakkuk teaches us that, what may start out as a struggle to understand things about God that we can never fully fathom, may still end up as a loving embrace as we draw near to His majesty, grace, mercy, and assurance.

Here are links to the previous posts on the Book of Habakkuk:

1. God Is Steadfast
2. It’s Just Faith *
3. The Stones of Covetousness
4. The Wastefulness of Idolatry
5. Practical Sovereignty
6. Worship in Faith
7. Mysterious Worship

* most-viewed post in category

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