Immutability for Today

June 30, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 3 Comments
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Hebrews Chapter 13 is a very practical chapter of God’s Word. It contains doctrine that can be applied to everyday life. In fact, throughout the whole Bible, duty is never divorced from doctrine.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Hebrews 13:8

This verse is often cited as a proof-text to try to convince people that God always works the same way, and that He does not operate differently in His relationship to creation during different dispensations or historical periods. That is not a correct use of the verse, but it is true that God’s character does not change. His qualities of love, mercy, grace, holiness, righteousness, and power are everlasting. He has been Father, Son, and Holy Ghost forever, and He will be forever. He cannot lie. That’s a comforting thing to know, a nice thing to know, and an important thing to know, but, in addition to providing comfort and assurance about the trustworthiness of God, it also has very practical outworkings in the daily lives of Christians.

Take, for example, the responsibility of the believer toward his or her spiritual leaders.

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

Hebrews 13:7

Though leaders change from one to another, and though they might change in the sense of moral failure or being undependable, we must remember that our ultimate responsibility is to follow and serve God, and that He is always the same when it comes to trustworthiness and dependability. We chiefly put our faith in God’s Word and His promises.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall;
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call;
Trusting in the Savior as my ALL in ALL;
Standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises that cannot fail;
When the howling storms of fear and doubt assail;
By the living Word of God I shall prevail;
Standing on the promises of God

R. Kelso Carter

The Assurance of the Blood

December 28, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Eternity, Hebrews | 6 Comments
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Perhaps over the past year you have done some good works. Perhaps you have done God’s will. Perhaps you have even – dare we say it without sounding proud? – done some things which were not only PLEASING in the sight of the Lord, but which were WELLPLEASING to Him?

If so, we have Him and Him alone to thank for these accomplishments and blessings – since these types of deeds and activities would not be possible with anything less mighty, amazing, and all-sufficient than Resurrection power, perfectly good and great shepherding, and all-powerful blood which purchased and confirmed an everlasting covenant!

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Perhaps you feared God more over the past year than you ever had before. If so, and if this fear was a holy and reverent fear given to you by God in His grace, then it is very likely that He has also caused you to grow in knowledge and wisdom. These things, too, were and are secured by His blood-bought covenant!

And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.

Jeremiah 32:40

Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Luke 22:20

Among the assurances that will keep you going as you face the trials, struggles, temptation, troubles, and battles that a new year will surely bring, I hope you will resolve to look to: (1) God’s own Word, preserved in the Holy Bible; (2) the seal of the Holy Spirit upon your soul; (3) the facts of the Crucifixion, burial, and Resurrection of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. But don’t forget this one, too: The everlasting Covenant – wholly the act of the Triune God – found in the shed blood of the Savior.

Oversight / Obedience

August 29, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Posted in I Peter, Two Sides to Every Comfort | 3 Comments
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Oversight

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

I Peter 5:1-2

What a comforting thought for us sheep. Not only is the Good and Great Shepherd watching over us, protecting us, providing for us, and leading us, but He has also assigned undershepherds – here the reference is to a pastor or an elder – to exercise oversight of us, and to help us, and to look out for our best interest. He has assigned them to feed us the Word of God, and to fight off wolves who might come in to deceive us.

The idea that Almighty God would exercise such meticulous oversight is very comforting. He wants every step you and I take to be monitored, but there is another side to the blessing of oversight, which is:

Obedience

Is obedience truly comforting? Don’t we struggle enough with being obedient to God? And now, how humbling! Willingly submitting to another human being!

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

I Peter 5:5-6

A previous lesson in this series was partly about opportunity. Here is a great opportunity – the opportunity to humble ourselves before God has to do it for us.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that [is] unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17

We make a big mistake when we think of obedience as drudgery instead of comfort. God says that obedience to His ordained authorities is profitable – that it is working itself out for our benefit.

Why Is Marriage So Honorable?

July 16, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Hebrews | 2 Comments
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Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; [and] them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Marriage [is] honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. [Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [their] conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Hebrews 13:1-8

Marriage is honorable in all, but Hebrews 13:4 seems seems like a strange place for a principle about marriage. The surrounding passage is dealing with the difference between how Christians are supposed to live, and the way the ungodly, by default, live unloving lives. The word translated as “honorable” is usually translated as “precious,” and it reminds us that our marriages are very valuable things. They are to be cherished and cared for and never taken for granted – analogous to the effort that some people put into protecting a family heirloom or some great treasure that has come into their possession.

Sadly, most married Christians know more about the gadgets on their phones than about the intricacies of how our marriages are supposed to work and look. Marriage is supposed to be reflective of the love between Jesus and His Church. Therefore, adultery and whoremongering are things that are certainly antithetical to this relationship and image.

Marriage is supposed to be conducive to contentment, which is also reflective of Jesus and the Church. Therefore, covetousness would not accurately reflect that relationship.

Marriage is supposed to remind us to rely on God, not on our own faculties.

Marriage is where we learn headship and submission, authority and obedience. In the crucible of marriage we kill our selfishness and learn the joy of serving.

Finally, marriage is a good reminder that no one makes a good Jesus except for Jesus Himself.

The Slave (His Owner and Overseer)

December 4, 2012 at 11:50 am | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 13 Comments
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This is a continuation of a series of lessons entitled Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church.

The Slave

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:17

The people of Zion were considered to be outcasts, and part of what led to them being outcasts was that they had been taken into captivity. They had been enslaved by another nation.

Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.

Jeremiah 30:10 (emphasis added)

Being called a slave has a negative connotation in society today. One sibling says to another, “Could you go to my room and bring me my shoes,” and the reply comes back: “I’m not your slave!” Therefore, it might sound strange to us when someone invites us to become God’s “slaves.” The most common word in the Bible for a slave is “servant.” Historians estimate that in New Testament times approximately one-third of all the inhabitants of Greece and Italy were slaves. There were millions of slaves in the Roman Empire. Many of the first believers in the New Testament were slaves. Slavery in the United States is illegal today (unless you count some of the housewives or church custodians I know!) But when it comes to being a slave, or a servant, there is no shame in being a servant of the Most High God.

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

I Corinthians 7:22

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

Romans 1:1 (emphasis added)

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

James 1:1 (emphasis added)

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

II Peter 1:1 (emphasis added)

Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:

Jude v. 1 (emphasis added)

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

Revelation 1:1 (emphasis added)

Even the Old Testament saints carried this designation:

And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

Revelation 15:3 (emphasis added)

I want to look specifically at the account of a man named Onesimus, who was a slave in the earthly sense and a slave in the spiritual sense. He is found in the Book of Philemon. The Book is called “Philemon” not because it was written by Philemon, but because it is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to Philemon. Philemon was a Colossian believer who owned a slave named Onesimus. Onesimus ran away. We don’t know the reason why. It may have been because he had stolen something from his master, or it may have been because Philemon, as a Christian, had become too lenient on him, and Onesimus took advantage of the situation to plan his escape. Philemon made his way to Rome, which would have been a good place to hide, but there he encountered the Apostle Paul, who led him to Christ.

Paul himself was a prisoner at Rome, but he had a certain amount of freedom to spread the Gospel, and apparently he treasured his relationship with Onesimus. The name “Onesimus” meant “useful,” and the name “Philemon” meant “one who kisses.” If you have ever been made a little uncomfortable by a fellow church member who was little too touchy-feely and huggy-kisssy in his greetings to you at church, you may be surmising that this was the real reason Onesimus ran away!

Despite bearing the name “useful,” though, as a runaway slave Onesimus turned out to be anything but useful to his master. Conversely, as a servant to God, Onesimus became extremely useful. The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to make something of a play on words about this in his letter:

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

Philemon v. 1

Onesimus escaped from his own bonds, and ended up helping Paul – and the work of the Lord – in Paul’s bonds.

Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

Philemon v. 11

Paul wrote to Philemon as if to say, “Old ‘Useful’ was useless to you, but he’s been useful to me – he’s finally living up to his name!”

Whether someone is a slave (servant) to Christ, or whether someone was an earthly slave with an earthly master – and Onesimus was both – three main things determine a slave’s “usefulness:”

1. The owner of a slave determines his usefulness.

See, before Onesimus was saved by Jesus, he wasn’t just owned by Philemon. He was in a greater bondage than the bondage of earthly slavery. Just like you and me, he was a slave to sin, and in a sense he was owned by Satan.

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

I Peter 1:18-19

If you are truly a Christian, that means you were “redeemed.” “Redemption” is the act of purchasing a slave out of slavery. There is a price that was paid for your redemption. It wasn’t a monetary price, and it certainly wasn’t your own good works. Redemption in Jesus Christ doesn’t cost us anything, but it is not free. The price of redemption for the unforgiven sinner, the slave of Satan, is the precious blood of Christ. As the once-popular hymn says, “What can wash away my sin? What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

A slave owned by the devil, bound with the cords of sin, is completely useless to the work of the Lord, but a servant of God, rightfully purchased, set free, and then lovingly owned by the One Who created him in the first place, is very useful.

2. The overseer of a slave determines his usefulness.

An overseer is under a slave-owner, but over the slave. An overseer is responsible for watching a slave work on an everyday basis. A slave knows who his owner is, but he knows his overseer personally. Before Onesimus was saved, when he was a servant in the household of Philemon, he had an earthly overseer. After he met the Apostle Paul, and became converted, Paul in a sense became his “overseer.” As servants of God – even though we serve Him directly – He has placed overseers over us.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

I Thessalonians 5:12

As an earthly slave, Onesimus betrayed his overseer by running away, and maybe worse.

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;

Philemon v. 18

But as a servant of God, Philemon was a great blessing to his overseer.

Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:

Philemon v. 13

Next time we will see that the obligations of a slave also determine his usefulness.

Sheep Need a Shepherd

May 11, 2012 at 10:31 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 14 Comments
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[A Psalm of David.] The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1

The Holy Spirit had David emphasize his conviction that the Lord is a very personal Shepherd: “The LORD is my Shepherd.” If you compare Psalm 135, you can draw a parallel to the reference to “our God” in Psalm 135:2.

“My Shepherd” in Psalm 23 is not referring to “my” in the ownership sense, for God cannot be owned by anyone. It is not primarily being used in the distinctive sense, either, as though David was saying that, “This Shepherd is my Shepherd rather than your Shepherd.” He is using “my” more in an intimate sense – the way we say “my” mother, father, wife, son, or daughter.

It is true that the Lord is “a” Shepherd, and that He is “my” Shepherd, but He is also the Great Shepherd.

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

Hebrews 13:20

Psalm 23 is often used at funerals, but it is not meant for comfort only when we are faced with death.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Psalm 23:6 (emphasis added)

David had been a shepherd in his youth, so he was familiar with the job and the surroundings, but God used him to write this Psalm later in life after he had been king.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

The shadow of death had fallen across David’s path many times in his life, but death itself had not struck him down.

The Bible pictures being a shepherd as a noble vocation. Abel was the first shepherd, and he was more righteous than his brother, Cain, who was a farmer. Moses spent 40 years caring for his father-in-law’s actual sheep and another 40 years caring for his Heavenly Father’s spiritual sheep.

In the Bible God’s people are often compared to sheep because sheep are animals which need a great deal of care. They are defenseless without their shepherd, the way that we – without God’s help – we will be overcome by the enemy. Sheep get lost easily, the way that we – without God’s help – will go astray. Sheep need constant care, and there is never a time when we don’t need God’s care. Sheep are led, not driven, and we, too, must follow our Shepherd at all times. Sheep are dependent upon a shepherd, and we are not to lean on our own understanding, but to trust in the Lord.

[A Psalm of David.] The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1 (emphasis added)

With the Lord as my Shepherd I shall not lack any good thing. He provides for my needs. Even if the fridge is empty and the cupboard is bare, even if the lights are off, I still don’t “want” or “lack,” because He knows the difference between my “needs” and my “wants” (desires).

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

Psalm 23:2 (emphasis added)

Shepherds in ancient Israel would dam up rushing streams from which sheep are afraid to drink. This would create a calm reservoir of water for the sheep. The Lord gives times of peacefulness to His children.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:3 (emphasis added)

The Lord provides times of spiritual and emotional healing. Someone with a broken body can be consoled, but how do you console someone whose spirit has been broken? Only the Lord can do that.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:3 (emphasis added)

These are well-worn paths that the Shepherd has determined will be safe for us. The Holy Spirit must order our steps if we are to walk with the Lord.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh nor a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

“Trust and Obey,” John H. Sammis

The Bookends of Faith (Part 4)

January 24, 2011 at 10:24 am | Posted in John, The Bookends of Faith | 12 Comments
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The Bookends of Faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ: The first and last of the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John

Previously, we noted that believers on the True Vine must abide in order to bear fruit – there is responsibility involved. “Abide” means “to take up residence in” – to “remain.” Abiding is something we must do intentionally.

The first step in successfully abiding is to admit that we branches can do nothing without the Vine.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

John 15:5, emphasis added

Our relationship to the True Vine is not “symbiotic.” It’s not that Jesus gets something from us and we get something from Him. He needs nothing at all from us, and we will bear no fruit on our own. We must understand our weakness and confess our need for His strength.

He is the True Vine. We are the branches. God is the Husbandman (Vinedresser.) God is the One Who prunes – or purges. All branches want to be fruitful, but few want to be pruned. Pruning involves cutting, clearing, and cleaning.

Clearing: Some branches have parts that drag them down. We have worldly concerns and interests that weigh us down.

Cleaning: Some branches have diseases or pests. We have addictions and predilections that we brought from our old life before we were saved. Even believers can get dirty in sin.

Cutting: Some branches have dead parts. These parts are sucking some of the sap away but producing very little fruit. It is is not enough just to cut away the dead part itself. Some of the living part must be cut off also. The dead part is cut away to maintain health. The living part is cut away to stimulate growth. In fact, pruning is proof of abiding.

The proofs of abiding: pruning and producing (producing fruit).

Here are some examples of producing good fruit:

1. Answered prayer

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

John 15:7

2. Deeper love for Christ

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

John 15:9

3. Deeper love for other Christians

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

John 15:12

4. Joy

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

John 15:11

Notice the progression:

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

John 15:2, emphasis added

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

John 15:5, emphasis added

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

John 15:8, emphasis added

The progression is from “no fruit” to “fruit” to “more fruit” to “much fruit.” This fruit – answered prayers and deeper love in our hearts – is fruit that we enjoy – and it is good fruit. But, remember, fruit isn’t produced so that the branches themselves can consume it. It is produced for others.

Fruit produced for others is a more mature, better kind of fruit:

1. Holiness and obedience

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Romans 6:22

2. Soulwinning

Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

Romans 1:13

3. A dedicated life

When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.

Romans 15:28

4. Christian character

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

True spiritual fruit tastes good, is good (for you), and looks good.

5. Good works

That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Colossians 1:10

6. Praise to God

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

Hebrews 13:5

Next time, we will look at yet another proof that you are abiding.

That’s Good. No, that’s Bad.

December 22, 2010 at 10:47 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Genesis | 12 Comments
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Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.

Genesis 45:1

Opinions are a lot like armpits. Everybody has them, and most of them smell pretty bad. Scripture, however, is where we find God’s opinion. I like to hear the opinions of people who have the same opinion as God. God is always right. If I want to be right I must agree with God. God’s opinion of reading and studying my Bible? It’s the right thing to do. God’s opinion on shoplifting? It’s wrong. God’s opinion on praying? It’s right. God’s opinion on fornicating? It’s wrong. God’s opinion on worshiping God every day and giving Him praise? It’s right.

I used to have a children’s book that I can’t remember the name of, but its premise was, “that’s good – no, that’s bad.” It went something like this: “My mom got me some ice cream.”

“That’s good.”

“No, that’s bad… because it melted on my favorite shirt.”

“That’s bad.”

“No, that’s good, because I got a brand new shirt…” And so on.

This can help us review the life of Joseph.

As a teenaged child Joseph’s father, Jacob, gives him a beautiful coat – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because it makes his brothers insanely jealous, and they start to plot against him – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because his brother Reuben intervenes, and talks the other brothers out of killing him – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because they sell him into slavery instead – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because he winds up in Egypt, where he gets put in charge of Potiphar’s household – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because Potiphar’s wife starts lusting after him, and tries to seduce him – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because Joseph doesn’t give in to temptation, and he resists her advances – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because she gets mad and falsely accuses him of trying to rape her, and gets him thrown into prison – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because Joseph is still faithful in jail, and winds up with Pharaoh’s personal assistant owing him a big favor – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because the king’s cupbearer completely forgets about Joseph when he is vindicated – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because Joseph gets a chance to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because the dreams forecast a great famine coming to Egypt – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because God has given Joseph the solution of being a good steward of the harvests, and Pharaoh trusts him with the job.

Therefore, Joseph is in a position to save not only his family, but also his entire race.

Since we’ve been studying Joseph as an Old Testament type of Jesus, when we get to Genesis 45 we can also see Joseph’s brethren as type of New Testament Christians.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Romans 8:14-17

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24

If you are a Christian, the Lord Jesus is not only your Savior, Redeemer, Master, and Friend. He is also your Brother.

Let’s look at how Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. He cried, “Cause every man to go out from me.”

Has there been a time when Jesus wanted to talk to you alone? I hope there has. I hope you pray every day. We should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but don’t let church time be the only time you pray. Praying in public is good and right, but public prayer should by no means be our main time of prayer.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Matthew 6:5-6

Human beings develop friendships by talking – by communicating with each other. When the communication stops, the relationship suffers. How much more should we communicate every day with our Best Friend, Jesus Christ!

“And there stood no man with him.” No man stood with Jesus on the cross, no man came and took His part, no man argued for Him to be released. There will be times when you stand with Jesus – when you stand up for Jesus – that no man will stand with you. But you are not alone.

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Hebrews 13:5-6

“Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.”

In Scripture the “brethren” are born-again believers in the family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. Hasn’t Jesus already made Himself “known” to us? He has, but we need to spend time with Him and get to know Him better. We have a tendency to act like who we hang around. If I spend time with Jesus, I’ll start to act like Him. Reading my Bible, praying, and ministering to others in His Name are all ways to get to know Him better.

Jospeh’s brethren, like Jesus’s brethren, had an emotional encounter when he made himself known to them.

First, there was weeping (Genesis 45:2). When we begin to inquire of the Lord, and He makes known to us how we have treated Him, will we find Him weeping? The Bible says that we can grieve the Spirit of God.

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

That should motivate us to spend time with the Lord every day – and to obey His Spirit – not to grieve Him.

Joseph’s brothers were troubled at his presence (Genesis 45:3). Why were they troubled? Were they ashamed? Afraid? Probably both. Are you troubled at the presence of your Brother, the Lord Jesus?

T.K.O. Your Pastor (#2)

April 15, 2010 at 10:45 am | Posted in Bible Studies | 4 Comments
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T.K.O. =

T.rust your pastor.
K.now your pastor.
O.bey your pastor.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17

Obedience is important for the health of the body, and for unity – being of one mind – in one accord. If you are a member of a local body of believers, don’t be a Willow-Creek, Purpose-Driven, transitioning “change agent.” The Bible says to “submit” to authority. Submission is not grudging obedience. It is not a false “show” of obedience until you can change the mind of the authority. The only time for disobedience to your spiritual leader is if he is acting contrary to the Word of God. Do not analyze every move the pastor makes with an eye toward picking him apart. Be forgiving of mistakes. Distinguish between mistakes and intentional harm.

When you can not submit to your pastor because he is being disobedient to the Word, tell him plainly. If he will not hear the truth, it is permissible to leave that church. But, while he is acting with integrity and obedience toward the Bible: trust, know, and obey your pastor.

T.K.O. your pastor with T.L.C.

And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

I Thessalonians 5:13

The flock will honor the pastor by being at peace.

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

James 4:1

That verse is talking about the “members” of your body, but in church we are the “members” of the body of Christ. When my members fight – when my stomach sends food up instead of taking it down – what does that do to my head? It aches.

To be at peace with each other, and to T.K.O. the pastor, we have got to practice T.L.C.:

T.rust each other.
L.ove each other.
C.are for each other.

Trust each other.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Matthew 7:20

This verse is often misused. Fruits should be open and obvious. Too many Christians are professional “fruit-checkers.” If we have a salvation testimony, and we are working together in ministry, I’m going to treat you like you are a “brother” or “sister.” That does not mean I will hesitate to give you the Gospel, but for the sake of our pastor, we need to “trust” each other – until we’ve got a legitimate reason not to trust someone.

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:12

If you want to please your pastor, show that you are using what he has given you. The sermons preached by the pastor are not toys to play with. They are not weapons to fight each other with. They are tools to build with.

T.rust each other.
L.ove each other.

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

Romans 12:10

Don’t insist on “me first” like kids fighting for the best seat in the family van. Love says, “You go first.” There’s freedom in that kind of love. The Bible has much to say about love. Two surprising groups of people are singled out for love in Scripture: your neighbors and your enemies (Matthew 5:43 – 44) – possibly because they’re often the same people!

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

Matthew 5:46

T.rust each other.
L.ove each other.
C.are for each other.

If you want to show your pastor how much he’s loved, and how much he’s appreciated, start caring for others. Who do I care for? Anybody who needs it – especially widows and orphans.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

James 1:27

Encourage single mothers. Encourage people whose spouses won’t come to church to “not be weary in well-doing” (Galatians 6:9).

Trust, know, and obey your pastor by trusting, loving, and caring for, each other.

T.K.O. Your Pastor (#1)

April 8, 2010 at 9:39 am | Posted in Bible Studies | 15 Comments
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Normally, when we hear the initials “T.K.O.” we think of a referee stopping a fight due to a “technical knockout.” If you have been a Christian for a long time you probably have known at least a couple of pastors you would like to have seen TKO’d in that sense! A pastor is almost always a preacher, too, but they are not exactly the same thing. Some churches have a good preacher who is a poor pastor, and some churches have a good pastor who is a poor preacher. I once read about a church whose pastor was such a great preacher that people thought he should never get out of the pulpit – but he was such a poor pastor, that he should never have gotten into the pulpit to begin with!

Now, however, I’m going to talk about a different kind of “T.K.O.” Applied to the pastor, T.K.O. should stand for: Trust your pastor; know your pastor; obey your pastor.

I. Trust your pastor.

If most Christians are asked whether they trust God, they will unhesitatingly say “yes.” If you trust God, you should also be able to trust your pastor. He is supposed to be appointed by God.

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

Ephesians 4:8

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Ephesians 4:11

Pastor-and-teacher are two jobs in one office. Two things that a pastor is to do are teaching and preaching – leading and caring for the flock.

Why did God appoint pastors?

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:12

I remember as a young child thinking it would be a pretty sweet deal to be a preacher: people always inviting me over to their house for fried chicken, only working one day per week. Until I read:

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17

I liked the part where it said people were supposed to obey me, and I would have the rule over them. But I was not so crazy about the giving an account part. Especially since it would be the Lord that I would be giving that account to.

Ephesians 4:11 says, “And he gave…” Pastors are ordained or appointed by God. If God trusts them, is it right for us not to, as long as they are not being unscriptural? Because they are accountable, we’re really trusting them to be right with God. Have you criticized your pastor before for less than Scriptural reasons? When we do that, Who are we really criticizing? When we don’t trust the pastor as he obeys the Word, we don’t really trust God.

I. Trust your pastor.
II. Know your pastor.

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

I Thessalonians 5:12

The Bible says to “know” your pastor. Many Christians love to hear their pastor preach – until he starts preaching against their sin! It can be a risky thing to “know” your pastor – to look behind the curtain. But you need to know if your pastor is a man of his word. You need to know if he is a man of integrity. You need to know if he practices what he preaches. You need to know if he will be loyal – if he will stand by his friends.

And you need to be loyal to him. We have to be careful about our attitude when we are approached by someone with something negative to say about the pastor. As Christians we must beware of gossip in general.

I Thessalonians 5:13 says “to esteem them very highly.” “Esteem” comes from an old French word, ais-temos, which means a “copper-cutter,” one who mints copper coins or makes copper valuable. So, esteem means “to make someone valuable.” We need to think about our pastor the way we would think about someone we really care about – the way we would think about someone who is very dear to us. When you care about someone, you get to know them, and you make sure they know you are there for them. Sometimes pastors cause church members to stumble by being aloof. They won’t let anyone but their family get close enough to really develop a caring relationship with them. Pastors who are pastoring the right way have a ton of responsibility, and sometimes a pastor needs a “pastor,” too. To whom will your pastor talk when he’s feeling down and discouraged?

We are to know the pastor, and esteem the pastor very highly. We are to show him honor in public, always making sure that God really gets the glory.

When you think about it, the pastor-as-preacher part of his job is to make the uncomfortable people comfortable – and to make the comfortable people uncomfortable. It can be tough. But who will comfort the pastor?

Next time, we’ll discuss the “O” in “TKO Your Pastor.”


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