Forgiveness, Fulfillment, and Freedom

December 1, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Posted in Mark | 4 Comments
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In demonstrating His role as the greatest servant, Jesus, during His earthly ministry, brought the gifts of healing and miracles, but He also brought the gift of forgiveness.

Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.

Mark 2:9-12

Jesus healed the man, but first He forgave all his sins. Forgiving sins is the divine Servant’s greatest act of ministry. The forgiveness of sins meets the greatest need, costs the greatest price, and brings the greatest blessing. It also results in the greatest assurance. The religious leaders came to see what Jesus could do, but they came with a critical spirit, and they did not seek the forgiveness of their sins.

In addition to forgiveness, the Servant also brought fulfillment.

And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Mark 2:16-17

Sick people are patients who need the fulfillment of healing. Lonely people are guests who have not been invited to the party. Single people are people who haven’t committed to someone else. Broken people are not people who need to be patched up; they need to be made new.

The divine Servant brought forgiveness, fulfillment, and freedom.

And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.

Mark 3:12

There was a prohibition against “work” on the Jewish Sabbath, but only about six or seven specific instructions in the Old Testament Scriptures concerning what it meant not to work, so Jewish tradition had come up with 39 acts that were strictly forbidden. This was a form of bondage not intended by the Law.

And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.

Jesus withdrew from the crowds in order to teach His Disciples.

And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him.

Mark 3:13

He called together the leaders of a new “nation:” 12 Apostles representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The people who had known Jesus from His childhood – from the days before He began His outspoken public ministry – began to worry about Him, possibly questioning His sanity. As a Christian, once your unconverted family members start to think you are crazy for living in accordance with your faith in Christ, it may be a sign that you are on the right track doing God’s will.

There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.

Mark 3:31

The Trouble with Treasure

June 20, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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There is a sense in which great wealth is thought to bring a certain amount of worldly freedom. The rich man, not saddled down with the need to work, can travel. If he finds himself inconvenienced, he can purchase some modern contraption to make things easier. He may not feel the stress of wondering whether he will be able to eat or whether he will have a place to live. Or so goes the “common sense” wisdom of our age.

The Bible has a different view:

Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.

Proverbs 15:16

“Better” can be a subjective description, but, when we see it in the Bible, we understand that what is being revealed is an objective, absolute, literal “better.” A person who has a righteous and blessed fear of the Lord will find His contentment, peace, and fulfillment in the Lord Himself, and not in earthly treasure, which, although it promises freedom, can in reality only provide a “limited freedom” (an oxymoron). Since the Lord Himself is of unlimited value and worth, we might say that “a little of the Lord” is far better than the “great” trouble that can accompany great treasure.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

Dependent Freedom

August 20, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Galatians | 10 Comments
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The evidences of a flesh-driven life are works – dead things which produce nothing living.

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

Galatians 5:19

The evidence of the Spirit-led life is fruit. Fruit does not come about by “working.”

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Galatians 5:22

Fruit has life. It brings joy. It feeds others, not the plant that produces it. This is, practically, how to walk in the Spirit:

1. Admit that the flesh is stronger than your will power.
2. Go where the Spirit wants to go. The Spirit wants to go to church, to Sunday School, to the Bible, to prayer time, to go soul-winning, to visit the nursing home. The Spirit doesn’t want to go to the nightclub, the worldly party, the gossip session.
3. Don’t go easy on the flesh. Crucify it.

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Galatians 5:24

Don’t try to beat the flesh on your own. You will only strengthen it even more. Do not go where the flesh wants to go – where it gets fed. Stay with the Spirit, having a grand time of joy. Starve the flesh. Make it weak. Remember, at the moment of salvation you were “baptized into Jesus Christ.” He died for you, and you died with Him. Your flesh was crucified, buried, and you were raised with Christ – to walk in newness of life. You became something fundamentally different: a new creature. You were rescued from hell.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking grace is insufficient. We can’t add to it with our show-offy, better-than-the-next-person rule-keeping or legalism. You weren’t saved by the Law; don’t act like you were. God will never be fooled into thinking you’re more holy than anyone else. Attempting to do so is just a form of self-worship.

Don’t fall into the other trap, either, though. Don’t “presume” upon grace as an excuse to sin. Grace brings freedom from sin, not freedom to sin. The freedom to act like an idiot and destroy myself, or to bring shame to the very thing that helped me to get free, is not the kind of “freedom” that grace delivers.

Ours is a paradoxical freedom of dependence (upon God), rather than independence. He’s the Master with free servants. He’s the Father who makes His servants His children.

Beware the Freedom of the Foremost

May 27, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Posted in Jeremiah, The Fives | 3 Comments
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There is a challenge in Jeremiah Chapter 5. Jeremiah was supposed to go through the streets of Jerusalem and find someone – anyone – who had been uncorrupted by the lies and unrighteousness in which God’s people had immersed themselves. If Jeremiah could find such a person, the Lord would stay His hand of chastisement and grant a pardon. Tragically, he was unsuccessful.

O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.

Jeremiah 5:3

But Jeremiah was not finished. He had an idea that maybe the “common folk” were behaving the way they were because better could not be expected of them.

Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the Lord, nor the judgment of their God.

Jeremiah 5:4

So he decided to go look among the big shots of his society – the “great men” – thinking that, if anyone had reason to know the folly of turning from the Lord, it would be the religious leaders of what was supposed to be a religious nation.

I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the Lord, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds.

Jeremiah 5:5

Sadly, Jeremiah encountered even greater rebellion among the foremost men. They had seen themselves as rulers, but they had forgotten that they had over them an even greater Ruler. They had looked at the kind and loving and guiding hand of the Lord as a yoke of bondage, and, in foolishly trying to “break free” of His yoke, they would now learn what true bondage was like.

If you have been entrusted by God with any type of leadership responsibility – whether it be familial, ecclesiastical, or even related to your secular workplace – do not take this lightly. Remember that the “freedom” to lead is always a conditional freedom. It is conditional on remembering that earthly leaders are under a greater leader to Whom we will ultimately give an account. Obedience and submission to this Leader are not grievous because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Three Reasons for Ten Commandments (Revelatory)

April 25, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Posted in Exodus, John | 15 Comments
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Lord, I say with the psalmist, I love Your law. We should meditate upon it every day and every night. We know that it is better than our own thoughts. We know that it is absolute truth. We know that those who love Your law will have great peace. Help us to see the correct uses for Your law, and especially Your Ten Commandments. In the name of the Lord Jesus I pray. Amen.

The Ten Commandments are a part of the “Law of God” – specifically, the Old Testament Law. They are normally thought of as something that children need to learn, or that we need to teach them to help them behave better, or that need to be posted in public, so people can see what Christians think of as “right and wrong.”

Do you believe in the Commandments of God? Most Christians would say yes. Do you know the Commandments of God? Some Christians would say yes. Do you teach the Commandments of God? Most Christians would say a hearty “yes” (or at least agree that they should be taught). But this is a different question: Do you love the commandments of God?

Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.

Psalm 119:127

The Old Testament believers were supposed to love the commandments of God – to “love His law” – but in the New Testament we are “under grace” not “law.” So should we love the Commandments?

If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 14:15

God’s commandments are not cosmic laws that God discovered and decided to adopt to keep order in His universe. They are not rules He made up to keep Himself entertained as He watched over His creation. They are simply an expression of Who God is – which leads us to the first of three purposes which are revealed in Scripture to tell us some of the reasons for God giving us the Ten Commandments and His moral law. (These are not the only three reasons. There are more, but these are three big ones.)

1. The Revelatory Purpose of the Ten Commandments

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

John 14:21

“Revelatory” just means something that “reveals” something – something that lets us know what something else is like. If you love God, you must love what God loves. The Ten Commandments reveal to us what sort of being God is. We know that He is the only true God, because the 1st Commandment tells us that there are no other gods before Him. We know that He is holy and is righteously jealous, because the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Commandments tell us that we are not to make anything that is supposed to look like Him, we are not to mess with His Name, and that we are to have special days set aside just for worshiping Him. We know that He is a God that ordains authority and submission and obedience because of the 5th Commandment, and that obedience and submission are how He prefers love to be expressed. We know that He loves life, because He condemns murder. We know that He loves and promotes marriage, because he condemns adultery. We know that He loves truth, because He condemns lying and stealing. We know that He is omniscient – that He knows everything – including what’s best in every circumstance, because He condemns covetousness, which is dissatisfaction with what He’s given us.

Some people call the “revelatory” use of the law the “teaching” use, so this purpose for the Commandments is also known as the “didactic” purpose. The Holy Spirit uses the law of God to teach us how to live in a way that’s pleasing to our God after we have trusted Christ unto salvation.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

I John 5:3

Do you see again the connection between loving God and loving His commandments? The lie of Satan and the lie of this world and the lie of our flesh is that rules and laws and commandments restrict our freedom – that they are “grievous” – that they are given to be a burden to us. But God says that this philosophy has it backwards. The worst type of slavery – the worst type of imprisonment – is “freedom” from God’s commandments. The worst thing that can happen to you is that you “get free” from God. Like a stray dog – a person who is “free” from God has himself for a master – and a man with himself for a master has a terrible master. Stray dogs get run over, they get sent to the pound, they get shot, they get killed by bigger and meaner dogs, they get rabies, they die alone and scared and miserable. Dogs are meant to be dominated by a master, and you and I are meant to be dominated by our loving Heavenly Father.

When you love God’s commandments and keep God’s commandments, that’s when you find true freedom. That’s when you become what God originally intended for you and I to be: His image-bearers – His good and obedient and loved and blessed children. That’s real freedom.

Next time, we’ll take a look at a second reason for the Ten Commandments.

The Freestyle

January 21, 2009 at 10:21 am | Posted in BiblicalSwimming, Galatians | 8 Comments
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The previous S.W.I.M. lesson focused on a swimming stroke called the crawl, which, despite its name, is actually the most efficient stroke for speed. USA Swimming lists the five competitive swimming strokes as: individual medley, butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke, and freestyle. “In freestyle events, the competitor may swim any stroke. The stroke most commonly used is sometimes called the crawl…” It is hardly surprising that racing swimmers, when given the “freedom” to choose any style they wish, choose the style which allows them to swim the fastest.

Likewise, Christians (those who are truly saved by grace through faith in Christ) are given freedom to run the Christian race in a variety of “styles.”

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Galatians 5:1

The freedom we have in Christ is freedom both from the yoke of legalistic bondage, and from the slavery of sin (Lamentations 1:14). But the Christian race is not a short “swim-sprint,” where the swimmer throws himself wildly into the water and violently writhes and thrashes his way to the other end of the pool, flopping out of the water and lying, chest heaving, exhausted and spent for the rest of the day. No, the Christian’s race is more like a long-distance swim, sometimes experiencing pounding waves, sometimes calm sea. One day carried along easily on the current, other times battling his way upstream. At times making progress through a violent storm, at other times treading in place, trying to keep his head above the surface.

The Holy Spirit commended, but also admonished, the Galatian believers in Chap. 5, Verse 7: “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” If you are a Christian, you are free to swim in any style permitted by Scripture. This is the freedom granted by Christ’s shed blood on the Cross. If, when you were first saved, you made a public profession, joined a church, were Scripturally baptized – if you read your Bible, prayed regularly, told others about the Lord Jesus – then you “did” swim well. But if you have stopped swimming well, you should ask the question, “What has hindered me?” Are you sinking because you are burdened with unnecessary worldly possessions or interests that weigh you down in the water? Are you being slowed down because you haven’t spent enough time training with your Instructor or studying your “Training Manual?” Are you in danger of drowning before reaching the finish line because you lacked physical discipline and enjoyed the pleasure of a heavy meal right before jumping into the pool?

Swimmers, set free from rules which require them to swim in a certain style, use the style which allows them to swim most excellently. Christians should recognize their freedom in Christ as an opportunity to strive for excellence, not mediocrity.


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