Know Your Rights

June 20, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 1 Comment
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I. The Right to Establish a Legacy

Am I am not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

I Corinthians 9:1

This is part of Paul’s extended argument for why we should be willing and motivated to forego the exercise of our Christian liberties for the sake of our love for other, weaker believers, and for the sake of Christ’s love for them. Before he went into into his own willingness to do this, he asked his audience to concede the obvious fact of his own Apostleship. You and I are not capital-A Apostles, obviously (despite what you see in the Charismatic movement these days), but are we not, in some sense, little-a apostles? Are we not “sent ones,ambassadors for Christ in the world? Are we not free? Paul was a Roman citizen, in bondage to Christ, but still free from the curse of the Law. Are not we free from the penalty and power of sin? We have not seen Jesus personally with our physical eyes, but I pray that you have seen Him with eyes of faith, and are fully convinced that He is real and that you know Him personally.

The fact of the Corinthians’ conversion and changed lives were evidence of Paul’s Apostolic authority, but do you have people whose lives you have influenced? People who could today testify of the genuineness of your profession? If so, you have a “right” to point to these people as supporting witnesses (although not conclusive proof) of the authenticity of your walk with the Lord. You may not be the founder of a church like Paul was, but surely there are a group of people who see you as a spiritual mentor or at least a Godly influence in their lives. If not, this is a goal to strive for: make a legacy of faithfulness and influence.

If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

I Corinthians 9:2

Yet there were some who challenged Paul’s credentials:

Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,

I Corinthians 9:3

II. The right to Earn a Living

Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

I Corinthians 9:5

The idea of “leading about” our wives, who are also our sisters in Christ, is awkwardly worded to us, as if a husband had a rope through his wife’s nose, or as if she was unable to see and needed to be led through life like a blind person. What it really refers to, though, is the type of servant-leadership and leading-in-love that the Bible gives to husbands as a fearful and Christ-honoring responsibility. Paul was not married, as far as we can tell, but there was nothing about his full-time service as an Apostle that prohibited him from being married. (I Corinthians 9:3 also refutes the Roman Catholic policy of unmarried priests – especially since it uses Peter as the specific example of a married Apostle.)

Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

I Corinthians 9:6

It is not wrong for full-time ministers to be supported financially by the Church, and through charitable and required giving.

Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

I Corinthians 9:7

Just like in the secular world, people expect to be paid for serving others, and people who are in the business of caring for livestock and crops also draw their own livelihood from some of the very supply they produce for others.

Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?

I Corinthians 9:8

The Bible is very specific in giving authority to working people to eat from the fruits of their own labor.

III. The Right to Eat Leftovers

Have we not power to eat and to drink?

I Corinthians 9:4

The word for “power” here means authority.

For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

I Corinthians 9:9-11

The principle of reaping and sowing is both material and spiritual. If we accept the spiritual side of it, the material side really ought to be a no-brainer. Ministers have the right to eat the leftovers from what is given into their hands as part of their service to the Lord.

Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?

I Corinthians 9:13

However, it is important to remember that the having of a right does not dictate the necessity of exercising that right.

IV. The Right to Eschew Liberty

But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

I Corinthians 9:15

So, the Apostle Paul, while in Corinth, did not get paid for ministry; he would have rather die than be accused of greed or scamming.

For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

I Corinthians 9:16-18

In fact, he was called to preach the Gospel whether or not he was paid, and he considered the privilege of preaching it to be its own reward. I hope you and I would have this attitude in ministry, because it is often a thankless task, and a motivation of “giving to get” will all too often result in discouragement and even bitterness.

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

I Corinthians 9:19-22

Please understand the context of the foregoing verses, because an out-of-context reading of the statement, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” was the “seeker movement’s” life verse during the heyday of Rick Warren’s purpose-driven campaign to see Christian churches run like service-industry corporations. It was a verse twisted to justify all manner of pragmatic shenanigans that ultimately destroyed many formerly-sound local churches, and – according to many reports – led to vast numbers of false converts. What the verse is really about is the adoption of non-sinful but foreign cultural norms, for the sake of the Gospel. He did not mean for “all means” to include sinful means, nor a “bait and switch” ministry method. And, while it is true that Paul’s evangelistic methods were pragmatic in a sense, what he practiced was a holy and honest pragmatism with all cards on the table, not so that he might spring the truth like a trap once he had gained people’s trust, but so that he could honestly portray the ethic of Christian love in building genuine – GENUINE – relationships and share the Gospel with “all men.”

Paul was willing to forfeit certain rights and privileges, and was unwilling to flaunt his liberty to encourage comfort with sin, or to stunt the strengthening of conscience.

V. The Right to Exercise Laboriously

This is the one part of I Corinthians Chapter Chapter 9 – an otherwise very clear chapter – which is somewhat difficult to grasp. There is not a whole lot of agreement among commentators about the precise details of what is being conveyed.

It helps to understand the Isthmian Games, a popular sporting event in Paul’s day, that would have been known to all Corinthians. It also seems likely from the biographical information we can glean about Paul from the Bible that he may have actually competed in these games (possibly in racing events and/or fighting matches featuring a combination of wrestling and striking similar to what is known as “MMA” today), which were a smaller version of the Olympic games.

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

I Corinthians 9:24

The main idea in this passage of Scripture is that an athlete who really wants to win, not only takes the event itself seriously, but the training leading up to the event.

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

I Corinthians 9:25

However, the “competition” (which is a competition within ourselves and against spiritual enemies, not against each other) is far more important than any earthly sporting event.

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

I Corinthians 9:26

This probably refers to strategic blows – not flailing wildly hoping to hit the opponent by chance.

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

I Corinthians 9:27

When we, as Christians, set aside our rights and freedoms in favor of temperance for the sake of weaker believers, we not only help them, but we help ourselves by working hard toward the right goal, which is mortifying: (1) our flesh; (2) our desires; and (3) any part of our makeup that has a bent toward anything sinful.

A Body of Idolatry

June 16, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Romans 12:1 commands us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. If we take this literally, and I think we should, then it will remind us that all our limbs and sensory organs are to be dedicated to serving and glorifying God. If we ignore this command we run the risk of living like idolaters.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.

Psalm 115:4-7

A material idol, designed to act as, or represent, a false god, has a mouth that can’t talk, eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t hear, a nose that can’t smell, hands that can’t pick up anything, feet that can’t walk, and a throat with no sound. And then comes the kicker:

They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

Psalm 115:8

These idols are made by the very people who are worshiping them! How can they be so self-deluded?! Imagine praying for deliverance to a little figure that needed you to even carve it into existence. Can people really believe that a god would be dependent upon its own “creator?”

It’s not as far-fetched as it seems. Logic, apart from the wisdom that comes only from the True and Living God, is not our strong suit. In fact, if we do not keep our hearts diligently focused on God, we will quickly fail into delusion and all sorts of idolatry.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Then, pretty soon, we will usurp the use of the mouths that God has given us, and start speaking disrespectfully, rebelliously, and deceitfully.

Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.

Proverbs 4:24

Next we’ll stop looking for God’s beauty in His creation, and we’ll studiously avoid looking for people who are genuinely needy or who make us feel uncomfortable, and we’ll instead use God’s gift of vision for peeking at forbidden and ugly-but-seductive things.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.

Proverbs 4:25

Before we know it, our idolatrous feet will follow our idolatrous eyes and hearts right off of God’s safe path and into the world’s bramble of unfulfillment, heartache, addiction, danger, and desolation.

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:26-27

We are poor identifiers of our own idolatry. Most of us think that our common sense would kick in somewhere around the time we started placing offerings into the hands (hands that we ourselves had fashioned!) of idols that could not hold the very things we were trying to give them. But, no, here we are, hopefully knowing somewhere deep down that we – and all of the complex creation around us – were made by Someone infinitely greater than us, yet still trying to give our time, talents, and treasure to man-made idols, such as political parties, houses, cars, electronic devices, investment portfolios, clothes, and entertainment. What a contradictory race of creatures we are, to desire to be “blessed,” but to want to dictate, design, and direct our own trivial blessings, while our Supreme Maker and true source of all true blessings, is relegated to the sidelines of our lives and largely ignored.

Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield. The Lord hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great. The Lord shall increase you more and more, you and your children. Ye are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.

Psalm 115:11-16

Who Is Leviathan and What Is He Twisting?

June 8, 2017 at 10:31 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: Is there an evil spirit named Leviathan who “twists” communications between Christians in order to cause division and trouble in the Church?

Answer: Leviathan, in the Bible, was some sort of giant sea serpent. Some commentators believe it may have been a reference to huge crocodiles which grew to greater sizes in the ancient world than they do today. It is used as an example of God’s awesome creation and His power over it. However, a few years ago a preacher named Ron Phillips published a book on “spiritual warfare” in which he attempted to give names to some of the demons (formerly angels which fell from Heaven when Lucifer rebelled against God). He decided to call one of them “Leviathan” even though “Leviathan” is never used in the Bible as the name of a demon or a demonic spirit. This sort of teaching is fanciful at best and outright heretical at worst, but it became extremely popular among many Charismatic and Pentecostal preachers. The idea, I suppose, is that, since “Leviathan” is like a serpent or a crocodile which “twists” its prey in a death roll after it strikes, then the “Leviathan spirit” must be a demon which “twists” the communications of human beings to cause conflict and disunity and miscommunication. Certainly, we can not put it past Satan to attempt to cause trouble in the lives of believers in whatever ways he can, but we need to stick to what the Bible actually says, rather than naming and blaming supernatural beings when we ourselves fail to heed the Word of God.

Matt Smethurst: S.W.I.M. Down Deep

June 6, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Quotes | 1 Comment
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If exploring sin brings you to the deep end of the pool, exploring mercy will take you to the Mariana Trench. And awaiting you at the bottom of the dive is not a black hole but a solid rock.

Matt Smethurst

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

Matthew 5:4

A Second Pair of Paradoxes

June 5, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Posted in Mark | 4 Comments
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Last time I looked at two paradoxes found in Mark Chapter 10:
1. Two shall be one.
2. Adults shall be as little children.

The third paradox is found in the story that is sometimes called “The Great Refusal” (after an episode in Dante’s Inferno) or the story of “The Rich Young Ruler,” and the parable that goes with it, found in Mark 10:17-31.

Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

Mark 10:28-31

“The first shall be last” is certainly not a worldly concept. The world’s system is that the first get the right to stay first, but in God’s system (where the first shall be last and vice-versa) the unknown sufferers will receive glory. Of course, this concept of “first” is understood in a relative sense; obviously, in the eternal realm of Heaven, the Lamb of God will actually be the “First.” Peter, still very much in an “earthly” frame of mind, was focused on his position in the “here and now,” and his temporal point of view has sadly become a staple of the “prosperity preaching” that is so prevalent today. Too much emphasis is placed on the idea that Christians should work for personal rewards, and not for God’s glory.

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

Mark 10:35-40

We don’t presume to “know” what is in our “heavenly treasure chest,” and, while we don’t ignore the motivation of rewards for serving Christ, as we grow in Christ and in sanctification, we ought to be maturing past the idea of “giving to get.” In fact, that must not be our only, or our highest, motivation.

The fourth paradox in Mark Chapter 10 is that, if you want to be a servant, you are really a ruler – and if you want to be a ruler, you will wind up a servant.

And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Mark 10:41-45

I believe that this passage of Scripture, dealing with the perfect and divine and amazingly gracious servanthood of Jesus Christ, is a key to understanding of one the main themes in Mark’s entire Gospel.

What the Knows Ought to Know about Conscience

June 2, 2017 at 10:53 am | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
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This may sound obvious, but it bears mentioning: As Knows (Christians), we ought to know that we don’t know everything.

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

I Corinthians 8:1

Clearly the Corinthian Christians were forbidden from practicing idolatry, but it was difficult, in those days and in that place, to purchase from a market, or to consume, meat that had not been offered to a false idol. Usually, in ancient times, sacrifices were divided – with some being burned, some being eaten at a temple, and some going to the priest. The priests sold their leftovers to markets. The Knows at Corinth “knew” this – and they “knew” about avoiding idolatrous worship practices – but knowledge by itself tends to swell a person with pride. We expect humility to be the great deflater, but here the Bible teaches us that love (“charity”) fills people up (“edifies”) in a good way – not with puffy vanity, but with wholesome nourishment that builds us up.

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

I Corinthians 8:2

Humility is self-defeating when we are proud of being humble, so knowledge apart from love, while puffing us up, makes us ignorant.

But if any man love God, the same is known of him.

I Corinthians 8:3

We might ask, “Known of him by whom?” Known by others? Known by himself? Or known by God? All three would apply. Our testimony of love for God should be evident. Because it is a “given” knowledge, it humbles us, but it is still knowledge – awareness of the truth – so that we can KNOW we belong to God. And certainly God knows those Who belong to Him. False professors will hear Jesus say, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

A willingness to examine our practices in light of Scripture, even when it come to things as mundane as eating, and a willingness to examination our consciences, can be a convincing sign to others and to ourselves that we have a real relationship with God – that He inhabits every area of our lives as He should – and that we understand our moment-by-moment existence as “coram Deo” – before the face of God.

The Knows also ought to know that not everyone knows the same things.

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

I Corinthians 8:4

The Corinthian Christians knew that idols – as the representatives of false gods, and as supposedly talismanic objects in and of themselves – had no real power because the list of real Gods stops at one.

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)

I Corinthians 8:5

This is a reference to spiritual beings which are sometimes called gods – and do in fact have supernatural powers.

But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

I Corinthians 8:6

We know that these beings are created, and, even though they may have power, their existence and whatever power they possess, is totally dependent upon God the Father and Christ the Son.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

I Corinthians 8:7

However, even some of the Knows at Corinth were a little shaky on this understanding. For them to eat food which had been sacrificed to an idol would defile their weak (not properly informed) consciences. “Unto this hour” implied that they were truly Knows, but that some of the superstition of their previous “Know-Notism” (paganism) had not yet been fully sanctified out of them.

But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.

I Corinthians 8:8

It’s not what goes into the body that makes us more or less holy in terms of our standing before God (although mind-altering substances would be a different matter). So, when is it okay and not okay for Knows with stronger consciences to exercise their liberty and eat a t-bone steak left over from an Apollonian feast? The answer to this has to do with Christians understanding and prioritizing the greater good.

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

I Corinthians 8:9

Remember how love deflates proud knowledge. It also reminds us – in our humility – to serve someone besides ourselves.

For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;

I Corinthians 8:10

Be careful about where you exercise your liberty. Someone watching you might misunderstand and think it is okay to do what they thought was wrong – for the wrong reasons. Christian liberty is properly developed from a sharper – not a duller – conscience. Iron sharpens iron: Christians are supposed to sharpen each other, not make each other dull.

And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

I Corinthians 8:11-12

If your love for your fellow brother or sister is not strong enough to keep you from callously exercising your liberty, your love for Christ certainly ought to be.

Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

I Corinthians 8:13

The good of fellow Christians is the overriding factor when it comes to nonessential liberties.

Do Some Christians Irritate You or Make You Feel Uncomfortable?

May 31, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 1 Comment
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If you are truly a Christian, and if you, by God’s grace and with His help, try to live in accordance with what the Bible says, there is a high probability that you will be getting (at some time, for some reason) on someone’s nerves. That’s just the way it is in a fallen world. People who are immersed in the system of this world, because of its love of sin and its opposition to Christ Himself, and because of the influence of our arch-nemesis Satan, will not be comfortable in the presence of those who try to live righteously.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

John 3:19-20

Christians should expect this type of annoyance from pagans and heathens and professing atheists. But what about those who claim to be Christians, but don’t do the things you would expect to see Christians doing on a regular basis? Do you know some “Christians” who don’t attend church? Who don’t read the Bible? Who don’t participate in public prayer? Who think that adultery and fornication and divorce are just fine? Who support gay mirage and abortion and cross-dressing and transexual “rights?” Who love to hear and tell crude sexual jokes and like to lace their language with profanity? What do these “Christians” have against those of us who recognize the sinfulness of those things, and who are at least trying to stop doing them, and who have the gall to state in public that Christians OUGHT NOT to be doing them?

It’s hard to know for sure, but the one common theme I’ve heard in response to this inquiry is, “I don’t like feeling judged.” As you read this, does that statement describe you? Does the person minding his own business reading his Bible in public bother you just a little? Are you irked when someone suggests giving thanks for the meal just as you’re digging in with an eager fork? Are you SO “put off” by people who post Bible verses and links to “preachy” articles on their social media? When that one co-worker or family member who doesn’t curse enters the room, does it put a slight damper on the conversation for you? Or that family whose kids attend Christian school, even though they’ve never criticized you for sending your kids to public school – do they just sort of make you sick with their holier-than-thou attitude? Would you just rather not be around people who insist on talking about how Jesus died for our sins?

If you are one of those who just don’t care all that much for religious people or for people who put their Chrsitian beliefs out there for everyone to see, let me politely encourage you to reconsider what it is that might be bothering you. It could very well be the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or it might be your not-quite-completely-calloused conscience. In other words, your attitude about Christians who live consistently with what they claim they believe might say more about you than it does about them.

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

John 15:18-19

An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked.

Proverbs 29:27

After all, if your eternal destination hinges on actually and truly believing that the Son of God came down from Heaven to be tortured and crucified so that you could be set free from sin, then where will you be going when you die, knowing that you didn’t even have enough gratitude to change the way you lived for Him?

For those of us who sometimes feel left out because we are not invited to the party where the drinks will be flowing freely, or because our families will get together for weddings, funerals, anniversaries, reunions, and birthday parties, but not for worship services, let’s not be discouraged, and, at the same time, let’s not be offended by those who are (even subtly) offended by us.

That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Philippians 2:15

Let not then your good be evil spoken of:

Romans 14:16

Let’s watch our attitudes, words, and actions in such a way that, at least, they will not be able to call us hypocrites. The Lord may be using us to bring the Truth to those who are nominal, but not actual, “Christians.” As Matthew Henry wrote, “… take heed of doing any thing which may give occasion to others to speak evil, either of the Christian religion in general, or of your Christian liberty in particular. The Gospel is your good; the liberties and franchises, the privileges and immunities, granted by it, are your good; your knowledge and strength of grace to discern and use your liberty in things disputed are your good, a good which the weak brother hath not. Now let not this be evil spoken of. It is true we cannot hinder loose and ungoverned tongues from speaking evil of us, and of the best things we have; but we must not (if we can help it) give them any occasion to do it.”

Take the Good with the Bad

May 23, 2017 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Common Expressions | Leave a comment
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It is commonly said that we often have to “take the good with the bad,” meaning that some things are so enjoyable, that, while they are not perfect or ideal, they are still worth the trouble that comes with them.

facts of life

Most people certainly do NOT enjoy being painfully injected with a vaccine, but they are willing to put up with it in exchange for crossing some deadly disease off their list of concerns. I abhor waiting a long time outside a restaurant for a table to become available, but I am willing to endure it if the food is delicious enough when it is finally served to me.

Biblically speaking, we find this principle having various applications, one of which is:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

II Corinthians 10:5 (emphasis added)

This is what some theologians have called “The Great Assize,” more commonly referred to as “The Final Judgment.” One day (and it could be today!), after Christ has returned to this world to claim His rightful ownership of it, and to assert His absolute authority over it, all the people who have ever lived will stand before Him in some sort of judgment. For Christians, whose sins have been forgiven, the judgment seat of Christ will be a place where our works, words, thoughts, and motives are judged. There will be rewards and there will be loss of rewards. For non-Christians, there will be a Great White Throne Judgment. There, sins WILL be judged. The Book of Life will be opened, and those who have not trusted Christ unto salvation will find that their names are not therein written, and they will be cast into the lake of fire forever.

So, while different judgments will occur for the two most important categories of people – saved vs. lost; born again vs. born once; saints vs. sinners; children of God vs. enemies of God; Christians vs. non-Christians; true believers vs. unbelievers; sheep vs. goats; wheat vs. tares; justified vs. unjustified – it is still true that everyone will be judged in some sense according to the things he or she has done during his or her earthly life.

This should be a powerfully bracing reminder to us that what we do each and every moment of our lives MATTERS. God is watching. He is keeping records. He sees our most secret deeds, hears all our words, and even knows our deepest, darkest, and dearest thoughts. We will truly, one day (much, much sooner than we think), take the good with the bad, and, let’s face it, as good as we think our good might be, our bad would far outweigh it on the scales of God’s perfect divine justice.

This is why it is vitally important to have an “alien” good (meaning a “goodness” or “righteousness” that comes from somewhere outside of ourselves) imputed to our account, and just as vitally important that our “bad” gets fully removed by someone who could pay the price for it in our stead. That’s where our Heavenly Advocate comes in. Only Christ can accomplish both of these gargantuan and eternal tasks for us.

When we have to cushion the blow of some disturbing information, we sometimes ask the recipient of the information, “I have bad news and I have good news: Which do you want to hear first?” You’ve already heard the bad news: We all stand condemned before God Almighty, the Judge of all the earth. Now, please, hear the Good News: Christ will remove your condemnation, pardon your crimes, justify you before the Judge, and give you eternal life, if you will believe, repent, turn to Him in faith, and ask Him to rescue you.

How Do We Get the Answers to Our Prayers?

May 18, 2017 at 9:24 am | Posted in Q&A, Where There's a Way There's a Will | Leave a comment
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Question: When you’re praying for a specific thing, how do you know what the answer is? Is it like a sign, a gut feeling, an unexpected blessing? How do you really get or “see” the answer to your prayers?

Answer: That’s a good question, and one that is often asked. When we ask God for a specific thing, He may or may not give it to us or show us the answer in a specific way. Our task as Christians is to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6), with the idea that God’s will would be done (Matthew 6:9-10), asking Him for wisdom to help us see the answer or know what He would have us to do (James 1:5). Do not seek a sign (Matthew 12:39); do not trust gut feelings (Jeremiah 17:9); and attribute all blessings – expected and unexpected alike – to God (James 1:17). Our task is to pray about it, determine whether what we are asking for is permitted or forbidden by the Scriptures, and trust that God will work out the “answer” for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

God knows everything, but Ephesians 5:10 indicates that we are supposed to discern the will of God not by expecting mystical clues, but by going to the Bible, and asking ourselves, “Is what I’m asking for, or what I’m thinking about doing, in line with what the Bible says I should be getting or doing?” If you have a Bible reason for doing something, do it. If not, don’t. Our job is not to “get answers.” Our job is to “prove God’s will” (Romans 12:2).

A Pair of Paradoxes

May 16, 2017 at 10:24 am | Posted in Mark | 3 Comments
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Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. The Pharisees were getting desperate. They had questioned His miracles. They had questioned His background. They couldn’t really question His teaching, but they had tried to refute it with tradition. Now they decided to try to trap Him with controversial questions.

One of the classic ways to make a Bible teacher squirm is to ask him about divorce. No matter what he says, somebody is not going to like it. There is often a temptation for the teacher to think, “I have to be careful with what I say. I don’t want to sound too harsh and alienate the students who have been divorced.” However, the faithful Bible teacher will say, “Jesus talked about divorce, and I should, too.”

And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.

Mark 10:2

The Pharisees probably also reasoned that John the Baptist had been killed for talking about marriage. However, Jesus knew just what to do when faced with a controversial question: He used the Bible.

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Mark 10:6-9

This is the first paradox in Mark Chapter 10: Two shall be one. A paradox is something that seems contradictory, but is actually logically consistent in reality. Divorce is man tearing apart what God has – in His perfect will and in His supernatural power – joined together.

Examples of other paradoxical teachings in the Bible are:

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

II Corinthians 2:10

As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

II Corinthians 10:6

The second paradox in Mark 10 has to do with adults becoming little children.

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

Mark 10:13-16

Our modern society devalues children, as shown by the prevalence of abortion, abuse, neglect, divorce, lack of spiritual instruction, and lack of proper education. Let the LITTLE children come unto Me, said Jesus. He did not appoint the Disciples to go get some crayons and puppets and put on some entertaining children’s activities. Little children tend to respond to the offer of a warm invitation with cheerful acceptance. Unless, they have been seriously hurt in some way by someone they trusted, they do not respond with suspicion, reluctance, or a dread of the responsibility that the invitation might entail. Jesus reached out directly into the lives of others, including children. As His followers, will we get involved with people who are not as equipped to face their circumstances as we are?

Next time, we will see the second “pair” of paradoxes in Mark Chapter 10.

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