The Slave (His Obligations)

December 17, 2012 at 11:26 am | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 1 Comment
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Last time we saw that:

1. The owner of a slave determines his usefulness.
2. The overseer of a slave determines his usefulness.

Now we will see that:

3. The obligations of a slave determine his usefulness.

As a disobedient, runaway slave, Onesimus incurred a debt, or an obligation, he could not pay. But after he was saved, when he became a servant to Christ, the Apostle Paul taught him that he must live up to his obligations. Onesimus owed a debt to Philemon – either for stealing or running away in violation of his legal bondage. Paul wrote to Philemon and basically told him that he did not want to impose upon him as a brother in Christ. Paul had ministered to Philemon and they both served the same Lord, so it would not have been out of line for Paul to simply ask Philemon to forgive Onesimus for Paul’s sake, and let him stay with Paul. But that’s not what Paul did. He sent Onesimus back, and told Philemon, “He may not be able to pay what he owes you, but…”

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.

Philemon vv. 18-19

We have all been in Onesimus’s situation. We all owed a sin debt we could never repay. Isn’t that a wonderful picture of what the Lord did for us on the Cross? And the promise and security we have as believers? “Put that on my account,” says Christ to the Father. “I’ve already paid it all.”

Onesimus was useless as an earthly slave because he owed a debt he could never pay back. But as a servant of Jesus Christ, he had someone to stand in his place, in love, and say, “Charge it to my account.”

When the Lord Jesus spoke to His Disciples, He said,

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

John 15:14-15

A servant has to obey. Obedience is not really his choice. We might say that’s a big difference – a servant has to obey, but a friend doesn’t. However, it’s different when you’re a friend of the king. See, the king’s friends have a special relationship with the king. The king’s friends are his servants, but they have reached the level of friendship as well, because they have already shown they can be trusted to obey. With whom does a king share his secrets? His closest friends. When the king says, “Jump,” his servants ask, “How high?” But his friends don’t ask “how high,” because when the king says “jump,” his friends are already two feet in the air.

You can see an example of this in the case of Abraham, who the Bible calls “a friend of God.” In Genesis 18, two angels and the Lord came to visit Abraham in his tent in the heat of the day. He was nearly 100 years old, but for about 15 verses Abraham went into hyper-drive. Not only did he get busy ministering to his guests, but he encouraged everybody else to do the same. After a while, the two angels leave, and the Lord stays behind to share His secrets with Abraham – in other words, to talk with His friend.

We can also see David’s close friends (II Samuel 23:13-17) hear him sighing for a drink of water, upon which they risk their lives to go get it from a special well.

The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.

Psalm 25:14

One day in Heaven we’ll have face-to-face fellowship with the Lord, but I’m glad I don’t have to wait to have true fellowship with Him. I can be a trusted friend, and a useful servant now. But I have to remember that God is the owner of my life, not me. I need to be accountable to my overseers – to remember to be loyal to those God has placed in authority over me. Finally, I need to remember that I could never pay the debt for my sins. Christ Jesus had those charged to His account. But I do need to respond in love and live up to the obligations He has graciously entrusted to me.

A runaway slave in ancient times was an outcast. In modern society slavery is no longer legal, but a servant of God, although he might be an outcast in the world, can be a friend of God and a child of God. God the Father will in no wise cast out His children.

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

John 6:37

Home Is Where Your Lord Is

March 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Hebrews | 7 Comments
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Abraham “kept the faith” by tent-and-altar living – staying on the move and following God – not sitting still and summoning God to come to him.

Abraham also kept the faith by remembering what kind of traveler he was.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Hebrews 11:8-10

Lot was happy with the city which had foundations built by men, but Abraham believed for something better – a different kind of city. In the meantime, he was content to live in tabernacles (tents) and be a sojourner. “Sojourn” means to reside temporarily. Most of the people who check into hotels do not intend to “live” there – at least not permanently. They intend to “sojourn” there for a little while. The idea of “sojourning” also has a connotation of having needs provided on a day by day basis. Each day the sojourner receives just enough to get by on (a “per diem“). True Christian sojourners have to stay focused on the Provider. The incident with Elijah and the lady at Zarephath is a good illustration of this principle.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Hebrews 11:13-16

Abraham was a sojourner, a stranger, and a pilgrim. He was not a vagabond. A sojourner is one who has a temporary home. A stranger is one who is away from home. A vagabond is one who does not have a home. But a pilgrim is one who is on his way home.

Abraham kept the faith by remembering what kind of traveler he was, and Abraham kept the faith by remembering where his home was.

Of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Hebrews 11:38-40 (emphasis added)

As New Covenant Christians, what “better thing” has God provided for us? The privilege of living on this side of the Cross. Old Testament saints looked forward by faith to the coming of the promised Messiah and Redeemer, but we have the proof of the fulfillment!

I don’t consider “my” house to really be mine. It is actually the Lord’s house (and arguably the mortgage company’s too!) that He’s allowing me live in. And I do like living in a house. But it’s not my permanent home. My permanent home is with the Lord Jesus in Heaven. One day I’ll go there and be with Him for ever and ever. Christians ought to always be a little uncomfortable in our daily lives – like people who are ready to go home. That’s one of the reasons we should so look forward to going to church each week. We have a biological family, but we find special comfort with our “true” family – our spiritual family in the Lord. We don’t “live” at church, but, each time, before we go back out, we need to remember that we are tent-dwellers who are at the beck and call of our Lord. One day my earthly home will be tried by fire. That’s why my sojourning here ought to be in fear – not fear of the world, but fear of God.

And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

I Peter 1:17

If you are an observer of our political system, our court system, or our “pop” culture, you may wonder why the world acts so foolishly. I believe that it is partly due to a lack of fear of the Lord.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

The primary responsibility of Christians is not political activism. Politicians respond out of fear of man.

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

I Peter 2:11

When Christians stop acting like strangers in this world, and start acting like citizens of this world, we begin to pick up the customs of this world. When we forget to be pilgrims, and make ourselves at home, our flesh goes to war against the Holy Spirit.

When comedians impersonate the famous actor, John Wayne, they almost always drawl the word “pilgrim” as part of their routine. It’s my understanding that he actually only used the term in a couple of his many films, but he had a way of speaking to people as though he was superior to them. In the few western films of his I’ve seen, the characters he played were portrayed as superior – but he also seemed envious in a way of the people he was speaking down to. The one I remember best was called “The Searchers,” and in that movie all the characters either had a home or were headed home – except for Wayne’s character. He is portrayed at the beginning of the film as looking into the doorway of the home of a family he intends to help, and at the end, he looks through the doorway again, turns, and walks away into the distance.

http://theseventhart.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/the-searchers.jpg

It’s like the other characters were all going to a home he could never go to. I doubt the filmmakers were intending to convey anything spiritual, but it is a reminder to me that it is foolish to invest too much into a home in this world – where it won’t last. I’m looking for a city in Heaven, and a home where the foundation can’t be cracked, the walls can’t be shaken down, and the roof can’t be burned up. It’s easy for us to fall into the trap of placing way too much emphasis on our material comfort. We pray for material or financial blessings, and God is saying, “No way, that’ll just make you comfortable, make you lazy.” When we feel like strangers and pilgrims, we don’t get too attached to this world, and we can devote ourselves totally to going where the Lord wants us to go, and to doing what the Lord wants us to do.

If Abraham had been given some type of institutional form to fill out with a section that said “Residency:,” I don’t think he would have checked the box that said “Ur of the Chaldees.” I think he would have written in: “My home is with the Lord.”

Abraham kept the faith by:
1. Staying on the move, following God
2. Remembering what kind of a traveler he was
3. Remembering where his home was

Being At-TENT-ive to God

March 12, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Posted in Bible Studies | 4 Comments
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Lord, there is so much in the Bible that You want us to know, and there is so much we do not yet know. I pray that You would teach us something new each and every day, and that You would reinforce our faith through the revelation of Your Word. In the Name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

Genesis 12:1

So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

Genesis 12:4

Abram was 75 years old when God called him. God can call you at any age. We must never try to take our spiritual phones off the hook. There’s no retiring from the service of God. Abram responded to the call of God in faith, but how did he “keep” his faith going?

Abram was extremely wealthy. He could have lived in a great home. But by faith he chose to live in a tent.

And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

Genesis 12:8

Abram was not your average tent-dweller.

And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.

Genesis 13:5

And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.

Genesis 13:8

Living among those who did not know the One True God, he wanted to have a good testimony. He reminded Lot that they were family, and families should not fight in front of strangers. If you are part of a local church assembly, there is something more important about your church than than the impressiveness of the facilities, the variety of the ministries, the skill of the musicians or singers, even the eloquence of the preaching. Do the people who make up your church know how to love people? Do the people who visit your church see you as family? If you can’t get along with each other, nobody is going to feel welcome coming into the midst. “For we be brethren,” Abram told Lot. The neighbors are watching.

Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.

Genesis 13:18 (emphasis added)

Lot got tired of living in tents. He decided to move to the city – and it was the start of his downfall. Abram stayed ready to move at the command of God.

And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

Genesis 18:1 (emphasis added)

And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.

Genesis 18:9 (emphasis added)

Abraham kept the faith by staying on the move for God. Next time, we will see two more ideas that helped him keep the faith.

The True Jewish Justification

October 20, 2010 at 11:30 am | Posted in Romans | 3 Comments
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Some people were already arguing against the doctrine that Jesus had given to Paul. They were saying, “Look, if he’s teaching that God’s Law was given to point out that it could not be kept, then why should we even do good? Let us do more evil to bring about more good.” But the Holy Spirit through Paul says that God is righteous. He is not slack concerning His promise. He requires faithfulness, because He is faithful. He can judge our unrighteousness, because He is righteous. How do the just live? Or what do they live by? Faith.

The Holy Spirit sums up this part of the argument by declaring everyone guilty.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 3:10

He is quoting, opening, and alleging Psalm 14:1-3: “[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.] The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

They were not “seeking” God. By saying, “No God,” they were also saying no “to” God.

The way people try to justify sin would make you think sin was actually good for you.

I need to get more focused on how I feel. If I feel good doing something, then it must be right. If somebody tells me something, I hope it is “confirmed in my spirit,” so that I don’t have check the Bible – that’s too confusing, that’s too much hard work.

typical church-goer

Satan wants you to believe that the best law to follow is: “Do what feels right – that’s the best thing for you.” But even if we did have some excuse to sin, the sin still wouldn’t be good for us.

Destruction and misery are in their ways:

Romans 3:16

That’s not only the misery and destruction of the people I sin against, the people I hurt with my sin. No, that’s my own misery and destruction, too. By way of illustration, every time a doctor tells a smoker that he’s dying of lung cancer, he must be secretly thinking, “Does that surprise you?” People who smoke cigarettes may honestly enjoy it, but they can’t honestly say that they thought it was going to be good for their health. If I know the first thing about the Bible, why would I be surprised when sin causes me to get hurt, to get sick, to cause division among my friends and neighbors?

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23

These are easy-to-understand verses that can be used to show an unbeliever the way to salvation.

Romans Chapters 3-6 are also key to understanding the doctrine of justification.

When you read the Bible, pray for the Holy Spirit’s help in understanding the Scriptures. If I had a book about electrical wiring, and I wanted to know what something in the book meant, I would like to be able to call and ask the electrician/author what he meant. The Holy Ghost is the Author of the Bible. He explains how we can be “justified” before God – how we can be counted as “righteous” before God, beginning in Romans 3:23 and on into Romans Chapter 4.

What does “righteousness” mean? It means being “right” with God.

To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Romans 3:26

Because everyone has sinned, no one can be right with God because of what he or she does. How, then, can we be right with God? We can be right with God if He forgives us. The Bible says He forgives us if we believe and trust in Jesus. Then He views us as being right with Him.

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 3:24

Then, what does God expect from us when He sees us as justified or “right” with Him? He expects us to do good things.

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

Romans 3:31

Romans Chapter 4 addresses the misconception the Jews had about their ancestral father, Abraham.

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Romans 4:1-3

Abraham was “counted as righteous.” We might say he was “saved” by his “belief” – by “faith.” Not only Abraham in Genesis, but David, in the Psalms, knew that their works couldn’t outweigh their sin.

Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

Romans 4:6-7

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

Psalms 32:1-2

It is not the man who hasn’t transgressed or the man who hasn’t sinned who is right with God. It is the man to whom the Lord has not imputed iniquity. David understood that the truly blessed man of God had his sins covered, and his transgressions forgiven, and his iniquity was not imputed to him or counted against him.

Will the flood waters call us to repentance, to seek forgiveness? For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.

Psalm 32:6

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.

Psalm 32:11

The Holy Spirit knew that the Jews would point to Abraham’s circumcision and say, “Wait a minute, Paul, you told us that outward circumcision didn’t count as righteousness. Abraham is the one who received the sign of circumcision.”

So the Holy Spirit has Paul say, “Yes, but look at when he was circumcised.”

Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

Romans 4:9-12

Abraham was counted as righteous first because of faith, then the circumcision was received as a sign and an outward seal. That’s how the ordinance of baptism is supposed to work for New Testament Christians. It does not save us, but it is a sign that marks us as believers.

What is the specific example of Abraham’s faith? When did he believe God, and not hold to belief in the natural?

And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Romans 4:19-22

We have a common expression whereby we say someone is “as good as dead.” That’s how Abraham was when Sara got pregnant.

Who are you going to believe? The television anchorman on the evening news or God? The “scientist” who tells you the earth is billions of years old or God? We all have faith in something. And we really don’t struggle with faith in the natural. Most people will plop down in a chair they’ve never sat in before without a second thought.

Romans 4:21 says Abraham was fully persuaded. Are you fully persuaded? Or are you like King Agrippa: “almost persuaded?” 90% persuaded is not really persuaded at all.

Making the Argument of Grace through Faith

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Lessons Found in Historical Accounts

April 28, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Posted in Genesis | 6 Comments
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Genesis is a book of “firsts.” Genesis 23 contains the first mention of tears in the Bible.

And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.

Genesis 23:2

Abraham had grown greatly in faith. His internal faith had been there already, but by this time it had also transformed him on the outside.

I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.

Genesis 23:4

Abraham was a pilgrim. He did not take Sarah’s body back to Ur of the Chaldees because by faith he knew that the land of Canaan was to be the inheritance of his descendants.

That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.

Genesis 23:9

He didn’t haggle over the exorbitant price, or give offense, or try a scheme.

Genesis 24 gives us the account of the mission to find a bride for Isaac.

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Romans 15:4

The New Testament clarifies that the accounts of the Old Testament patriarchs are given to us for good and bad examples. But even in the bad examples we see the difference between believers and unbelievers – saved and lost. Abraham and Isaac both had an Abimelech to deal with – and they both tried to deceive him by pretending their wives were their sisters. (Genesis 20 and 26) Abimelech showed integrity; Abraham and Isaac didn’t. The Bible does not hide the faults of its heroes. However, Abimelech was lost and Abraham and Isaac were saved. We should remember this when we start reading about Isaac and Jacob and some of their shenanigans, so that we are not tempted to try to find an excuse for everything they did.

Tested Faith Is Strong Faith

April 9, 2010 at 9:45 am | Posted in Genesis | 3 Comments
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Thank You, Lord, for the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Please help me to be more than just a listener. Help me not to have itching ears. Help me to want more than a scratch on the neck or a pat on the head. Help me want to not just be entertained. Help me to be more of a learner than a listener. Let me be empty of pride, flesh, and self. Let me be filled with the Holy Spirit as I wield the Sword of the Spirit. Break up the hard soil of calloused hearts, so that the seed of Your Word will go down deep and plant roots, so that when It is exposed to the light of Your Truth, It will grow and not wither, and so that It will produce good fruit in lives – to Your glory. I pray in the Name that is above all names – the only Name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved – the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

In Genesis 22 we can learn something about the growth process of faith. Faith must be tried, stretched, challenged, tested, if it is to grow.

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

Genesis 22:1

Dear Christian: Expect to be tested, but when the test comes, focus on the promise, not the reason for the test.

And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

Genesis 22:5

Focus on the promise, and trust God to provide the “how.”

And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

Genesis 22:7-8

Trust God to provide the “how,” and think about how this is going to bring glory to Christ.

And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.

Genesis 22:12-14

J. Hudson Taylor used to say that Christians live between Ebenezer and Jehovah Jireh. Ebenezer: So far the Lord has provided. Jehovah Jireh: The Lord will see to it. When your faith is tested, think about glorifying Christ, and get ready to be blessed to be a blessing.

And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

Genesis 22:15-17

Aren’t you glad that God calls Christians to be living sacrifices? Some false religions try to earn their gods’ approval by telling their adherents to be dead sacrifices. One day we might be called upon to die for Christ, but it is a blessing to know that God has called us to be living sacrifices. We need to remember, though, that the trouble with a living sacrifice is that it doesn’t want to stay on the altar.

As Good as Dead

March 31, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Common Expressions, Genesis | 8 Comments
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In Genesis 20 Abraham’s fault is not so much a failure of faith as it is the sin of a believer. Believers do still sin.

And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.

Genesis 20:1

Abraham didn’t go all the way back down into Egypt, but he did go into enemy territory.

And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.

Genesis 20:2

Why didn’t he tell the whole truth? (Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister). The answer is because:

And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.

Genesis 20:11

He was more afraid of men than he was of God. He lost his testimony before an unbeliever. The lost Abimelech acted with more integrity than the saved Abraham. As Christians, unbelievers are going to call us hypocrites anyway, just because they are looking for an excuse. We must not give them good reason to do it.

Look at Abraham’s age when Isaac was born:

And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.

Genesis 21:5

You may have heard the common expression, “as good as dead.” God was waiting for Abraham and Sarah to be as “good as dead,” because when the flesh is dead the Spirit gives new birth.

And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.

Genesis 21:8-9

Ishmael was probably about 17 – why was a 17 year old mocking a 3 year old? Ishmael is a picture of the first birth – born of flesh. Hagar is a picture of the Law. Sarah is a picture of grace. Abraham is a picture of faith. The flesh (disciplined and corrected by the Law) hates the Spirit-nature (born by grace through faith) because it is free.

And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

Genesis 21:14

Grace came first; then the Law came. The Law can only give birth to slaves. Slaves to the Law can never be free. Grace makes slaves to Christ truly free.

And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.

Genesis 21:8

Even the Spirit-man must be weaned, and must grow up. Babies hate their mothers as they are being weaned, but weaning is for their good – they must grow.

The Top Story in Sodom

March 23, 2010 at 11:53 am | Posted in Genesis | 10 Comments
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And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.

Genesis 17:9-12

The covenant concerns Abraham’s seed. God was the Initiator of this covenant, and He also changed the names of Abram and Sarai, by adding “H’s” to their names. I’m no expert in Hebrew, but my understanding is that the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is “H,” and that this letter represents grace.

Circumcision (“cutting around” the seed-multiplying instrument) was the outward show of God’s covenant people. Cutting off from – and setting aside unto – is a physical picture of a spiritual reality. True believers today are to be circumcised in their hearts.

In Genesis 18 the Lord comes to visit Abraham in disguise.

And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

Genesis 18:1

Keep in mind Abraham was 99 years old when this happened. For him, the “heat of the day” probably was especially uncomfortable.

And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,

Genesis 18:2

Abraham was known for tents and altars. He knew that this world was not his home, and he was devoted to God.

And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

Genesis 18:3-8, emphasis added

Note the haste and desire to serve and wait upon the Lord that Abraham displays. He truly was the friend of God. The Lord had come to destroy Sodom. But first He stopped to talk with Abraham, His friend, about it. At least three times in Scripture Abraham is called the “friend of God” (II Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23).

Abraham was the friend of God and Lot was a friend of the world. Newspaper journalists have a technique they use to get a lot of information into the first paragraph of a news story. They focus on the “who, what, when, where, and why.”

“Police report that John Doe was shot last night in Metropolis while trying to rob a bank.”
The who: John Doe
The what: He was shot.
The when: last night
The where: Metropolis
The why: because he tried to rob a bank

I want to use this technique to compare the differences between the friend of God and the friend of the world.

The WHO for Abraham: Abraham talked with the Lord Himself.

And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

Genesis 18:16-19

The Lord knew that Abraham would command his household – that he would be a spiritual leader, a spiritual husband, father, and grandfather.

And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.

Genesis 18:20-22

The WHO for Lot: The angels went on to Sodom to see Lot, but the Lord didn’t go in to fellowship with Lot in his sin – in his worldliness.

And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;

Genesis 19:1

The WHAT for Abraham: The friend of God received the promise of the blessings.

Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

Genesis 18:14

The WHAT for Lot: Lot, the friend of the world, received the warning of condemnation with the world.

For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.

Genesis 19:13

The WHERE: Abraham was in a tent. Lot was in a city.

The WHEN: Abraham was visited in the day. Lot was visited at night.

And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;

Genesis 19:1, emphasis added

Abraham, the friend of God, walked in light; Lot, the friend of the world, walked in darkness.

This may surprise you: Lot was a saved man.

And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)

II Peter 2:6-8

The Bible tells us this plainly, because we might have trouble believing it otherwise – especially considering what happened next with Lot:

But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.

Genesis 19:4-8

This is often explained away as the extreme “hospitality” required in ancient Eastern nomadic culture when Bible commentators try to help us understand, but we need to take a hard honest look and ask ourselves, “How did Lot get to such a state? How could he offer his own daughters to satisfy the lusts of the world?” And before we get too excited and critical, we must ask ourselves, “Are we offering our daughters to the world?”

I doubt that you would throw your daughter to a mob of Sodomites… but what happens when you send your daughter out into the world unprotected? Many fathers let total strangers come to their home and pick up their daughters. (Maybe a real “strict” father will insist on meeting a young man for five minutes.) Has God commanded you to protect your daughter and defend her honor? Do you trust the world to protect her and protect her honor? How many fathers just “go along” with what everyone else is doing?

Ephesians 6 tells us that when the devil attacks we need to stand. James 4:7 tells us to resist the devil.

When the devil attacks we are to fight. Is there a scarier enemy than the devil? Yet when it comes to a choice between standing and fighting versus running away, the Bible to tells me to stand and fight the devil, not to flee from him. What the Bible tells me to flee from is fornication (I Corinthians 6:18) and youthful lusts (II Timothy 2:22).

I would not let my daughters play with a hand grenade. If I did, somebody should call child protective services on me. But letting my daughters go off with strangers unchaperoned is more dangerous than playing with a hand grenade. I know many Christian parents who pray that God will protect their daughter while she’s out on a date with their approval, and I’m all for praying. But would you pray for me if I asked you to pray that I would be filled with the Holy Spirit so I would have the ability to knock over a liquor store? That would be foolish! You don’t send someone off with an encouragement to sin while telling them that you will pray for them to get away with it!

I know that we don’t live in the culture of the ancient East, and that our society is different. But I’m not answerable to society! I’m a Christian – I’m answerable to God.

The WHY: Abraham chose to be a “Hebrew” – a stranger – a pilgrim passing through this world. Lot and the people of Sodom considered this world to be the end-all – their final home. And they denied the power of God to destroy with fire.

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy to turn away from those that have “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:” (II Timothy 3:5). The next Sodom will be worldwide. I don’t want my family to see that day. I want my family looking forward to Heaven – not looking back to the world like Lot’s wife.

In the Bible narrative, Lot passes off the scene. Abraham – and as far as we know, the Lord – never got “a Lot out of the world.” Lot argued all the way from Sodom. He had to be literally taken by the hand and dragged out by God’s grace. He wound up getting drunk in a cave and committing incest with his daughters. Only the grace of God can save us from this present world.

The Internal War

March 15, 2010 at 9:20 am | Posted in Genesis | 8 Comments
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Abraham was 85 years old. He had been walking with the Lord for 10 years. Abraham had not been perfect. He was still learning about faith, but he was in an unbreakable covenant with God.

God’s promise that Abraham and Sarah would have a child began to seem too long in its fulfillment. So, they did the opposite of exercising faith: they schemed. (Genesis 16:1-4) This scheme involved Abraham conceiving a child with Sarah’s slave, Hagar, and it was a sinful scheme. Why was it sinful? Because whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)

The child which Hagar conceived was named Ishmael. He was Abraham’s only child for 13 years, until God fulfilled His covenant promise with Abraham, and gave him a child by Sarah. This child was named Isaac. (Genesis 21:1-3) Ishmael and Isaac could never co-exist peacefully, for God pre-ordained them to be forerunners of the two types of men who can never get along, and are always at war with each other, even unto this day. Ishmael represents the man of flesh, born of faithlessness and sin, who can never change. Isaac represents the second birth – the spiritual “rebirth,” which is born of faith. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6; Galatians 4:29)

These two “men,” or “natures,” are at war with each other within each and every man, woman, and child who has trusted Jesus Christ as his/her Savior. The descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac are at war with each other in the Middle East today, and they will continue until Christ Himself puts a stop to it. In the mortal bodies of Christians, the flesh-man and the Spirit-man war, as well. The flesh may be, to some extent, disciplined, controlled, and even mortified (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5), but it will never be changed. If you are a Christian, which man will win the war in your body – the flesh-man or the Spirit-man? The obvious answer is: whichever is stronger. But, which is the stronger? The answer to that is: the one which you feed the most. Make sure you are feasting daily on the spirit-strengthening, life-giving bread of the Word of God.

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

Luke 4:4

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