Do Some Christians Irritate You or Make You Feel Uncomfortable?

May 31, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 4 Comments
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If you are truly a Christian, and if you, by God’s grace and with His help, try to live in accordance with what the Bible says, there is a high probability that you will be getting (at some time, for some reason) on someone’s nerves. That’s just the way it is in a fallen world. People who are immersed in the system of this world, because of its love of sin and its opposition to Christ Himself, and because of the influence of our arch-nemesis Satan, will not be comfortable in the presence of those who try to live righteously.

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

John 3:19-20

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

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

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

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

John 15:18-19

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

Proverbs 29:27

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

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

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

Philippians 2:15

Let not then your good be evil spoken of:

Romans 14:16

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

The S.H.A.R.K. Priniciple (lesson 1)

March 31, 2014 at 10:18 am | Posted in Luke, The S.H.A.R.K. Principle | 7 Comments
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One of my greatest joys competes with one of my greatest fears. I am fascinated by, and terrified of, sharks (especially the great whites that breach up through the surface), but I love swimming in the ocean. I know it is not very likely that I will be devoured by a 2000-pound predator fifty yards from the shore, but I am still haunted by the knowledge that, while swimming, I am technically sharing the same space (the sea) where these creatures live, and there is the nagging sense of danger that comes from not being aware of what might be coming to get me.

In our spiritual lives, thankfully, we do not have to be unaware. Satan would like to destroy us, but we do not have to be ignorant of who he is or how he operates.

S.atan
H.
A.
R.
K.

Satan is a real “person” – a real being. You may have heard the theological statement that the devil is a “personal” devil. He’s not “personal” like a secret that is only between friends. He’s personal because he has a personality. He thinks thoughts. He has plans. He has feelings. He was made by God to be a creature with a will and a spirit. He’s not a fairy tale or a boogie monster, and he’s not just a symbol for evil. How do we know? Because Jesus said so.

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.

Luke 10:17

Jesus had sent out 70 disciples, and they were excited because they had seen Jesus proven right. While they were witnessing for Him, God gave them power to subdue demons.

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

Luke 10:18

Satan was originally an angel named Lucifer, but he rebelled against God, so God threw him and one-third of the angels (the ones who had taken Lucifer’s side in the rebellion) out of Heaven. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was there to see it happen.

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

Luke 10:19-20

In these lessons I will say some things about Satan that may sound complimentary, but we must be careful never to give him any praise or adoration. Nor do I advocate making jokes about “beating him up” (a staple of the “Word of Faith” televangelists) or telling him to “go sit on a tack,” as I’ve heard in some children’s songs and lessons. We praise God for His victory over Satan. Only because of Him are true Christians on the winning side.

The S in S.H.A.R.K. is for Satan, and you stand as much of a chance against him as you would against a great white shark in the middle of the ocean – on your own. Thankfully, if you have trusted Christ, you are not on your own.

S.atan
H.ates

A.
R.
K.

I said before that Satan has a personality, which includes the idea that he has feelings. One of his most prominent feelings is hatred. His most prominent is pride (which tends toward hatred of others). One of the reasons why he is so often portrayed as this red-bodied, cartoonish figure with a pointy tail and a pitchfork is because at one time people thought the best way to combat him was to injure his pride. Therefore, they tried to make him look silly. Ironically, this is the way most people (inaccurately) think of him today.

God is a loving Being. Satan is not loving. But hatred is not the opposite of love. Indifference is the opposite of love. Neither God nor Satan are indifferent. Satan’s hatred is focused on robbing God of glory and destroying the creatures God loves.

He that hateth me hateth my Father also.

John 15:23

Jesus was speaking about the Jewish leaders who rejected Him.

If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

John 15:24

Those that hate and reject Jesus hate God also. We know that Satan hates Jesus because Jesus came to save those whom God loves, and to bring God the glory that Satan would like to steal by accusing God of unjustly forgiving sinners. God was both just and loving in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, which is why Satan tried so hard to stop Jesus from going to the Cross.

But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

John 15:25

Jesus didn’t give anyone a valid reason to hate Him or to crucify Him. It was done because we are fallen sinful creatures, and we loved sin more than we loved God. In the same way, God justifies those who trust in Christ “without a cause” – in other words, without finding anything in us worthy of justification.

Sharks don’t hate people until they have some motivation – hunger, territoriality, self-defense, mistaken identity. Satan doesn’t have much reason to hate you unless you love God. If you start glorifying God, you become his target. Of course, if you are not right with God, you have a bigger problem than Satan. You are in trouble with God and need the Savior.

Next time, we will look at the A. in S.H.A.R.K.

Christian F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip (Part 2)

November 22, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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The is the second part of a lesson on Christian friendship. In Part 1 I wrote that Christian friends should be:

F.orgiving
R.esponsive
I.insighful

They should also be:

E.arnest

Being earnest means telling the truth – being honest – being real. This can be one of the hardest parts of friendship, because sometimes the truth hurts. “How do I look?” I ask my friend (with ketchup on my face, mustard on my tie, and my pants unzipped). “Oh, you look fine,” he replies (immediately calling into question whether he is really my friend after all). Friends don’t enjoy hurting each other’s feelings, but:

Faithful [are] the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy [are] deceitful.

Proverbs 27:6

A fake friend stabs you in the back; a true friend stabs you in the front. Remember the “F” of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip – forgiveness – when you are on the receiving end of “earnest” friendship.

N.ice

This is a funny verse:

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.

Proverbs 27:14

One of the easiest things to forget about friendship, especially when you have a really, really good friend – someone to whom you can say anything – someone who knows all your secrets – someone with whom you’re comfortable joking around – is to be nice. In other words, it’s easy to become presumptuous. Christian friendship is about serving, not being served. You can joke around and be relaxed, and yet still be polite. The Bible says evil communication corrupts good manners. Don’t make the mistake of being a funny friend who turns into an obnoxious friend. People act like giving compliments and building up other people with words is corny, but don’t you be deceived. People still like and respond to kindness, so be as nice (or nicer) to your friends as you are to strangers.

D.ependable

How do you gain someone’s trust? By being trustworthy. By being loyal. A good friend is there through thick and thin.

Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man [is] a friend to him that giveth gifts.

Proverbs 19:6

Plenty of people will want to be your friend when you can do things for them, or give them things.

All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursueth [them with] words, [yet] they [are] wanting [to him].

Proverbs 19:7

But fake friends hit the road when you are having a hard time.

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Adversity is when everything is going wrong – when you are not popular – when it’s not considered cool to be around you. That’s when you find out who your real friend is – the one who’s there for you at all times.

S.acrificing

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

How does iron sharpen iron? By scraping against it – by friction. It costs the iron something to sharpen another piece of iron. Sacrifice is when you give up something for your friend, when you do what is hard, or what is costly to yourself, for the sake of your friend. It’s when you give up your own comfort and go the extra mile. The things that are valuable in this world are things that are costly. If you have a friend, ask yourself, “What is this friendship costing me?” If it’s costing you nothing, it may be because you’re not being the best friend you can be.

Ultimately, Jesus is by far the best friend you will ever have.

F.orgiving: Apart from the forgiveness of your sins you could have no part with God, no place in Heaven, no pardon from hell. Jesus arranged your forgiveness on the Cross.

R.esponsive: Jesus left Heaven and came to seek and to save the lost (you and me) in response to our greatest need – salvation – and He still responds to every prayer we pray.

I.nsightful: There is nothing about you that Jesus does not know, so there is nothing about which you cannot talk to Him. And there is nothing you need to know that is not written down in His Bible.

E.arnest: Jesus cannot lie. “Verily verily” was one of His favorite expressions. He said you can believe in Heaven because if it were not so, He would have told you. He tells the truth about Himself and the truth about us.

N.ice: Can you think of anything kinder, more loving, more giving than Jesus coming to our world to lay down His life for us? People can say many things about Jesus, but no one could ever say He wasn’t nice.

D.ependable: He will never leave you nor forsake you. When young people use the expression “BFF” (best friends forever) the “forever” is a youthful exaggeration. But not with Jesus. He keeps His promises completely.

S.acrificing: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:7-8

The Trap of Loose Liaisons

July 1, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Traps of Lawless Living | Leave a comment
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In the last lesson on Samson’s pattern of lawless living, I advocated banishing the term “luck” from our vocabulary as we think about God’s sovereign and providential control of the circumstances in which we find ourselves day by day. Another example is the way in which Samson only appears to have been “unlucky in love.”

From his marriage to the girl from Timnath, who ended up with the fellow who had been the “best man” in his wedding (Judges 14:20), to the harlot from Gaza, who was nothing more than a one-night-stand (Judges 16:1-3), finally to Delilah, who had to manipulate him repeatedly to get the secret of his super strength out of him (Judges 16:15), Samson does not seem to have been the type of man who was big on emotional or spiritual intimacy. (Physical intimacy was obviously another story!)

Even in the area of non-sexual friendship, though, Samson appears to have been very aloof. Over the four chapters which recount his life, there are no close friendships, no male camaraderie, no sharing of his thoughts or feelings with any sort of trusted “confidant” (aside from Delilah). When his own countrymen came to see him, they found him sitting alone on top of a rock, and he made no special attempt to reason or fellowship with them. Rather, he sulkily told them he was a man motivated by a personal grudge, and asked them not to attack him personally as they handed him over to the Philistines (Judges 15:11-12).

One of the lessons we may learn from Samson’s life is the danger of trusting those who are not trustworthy, but another valuable lesson is the danger that lies when we fall into the trap of being a “lone ranger” in the Christian life. God does not command his people to live a life of monkish isolation. Instead, His Word often extols the benefits of healthy companionship.

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

Maybe it’s overly simplistic, but I like to wonder what would have happened if Samson had made a couple of trusted friends during his time as a Judge over Israel. Perhaps, if there was someone in which to confide, someone to give wise counsel, Samson could have rallied his kinsmen against the Philistines in a concerted God-honoring effort and ended the cycle of wrath and repentance sooner. Judges 14:20 is the only mention of Samson even having a friend, and it says that Samson only “used” him as a friend. As Christians today, we certainly need to be wary of placing our trust in those who have yet to demonstrate a Godly character, but, at the same time, God has placed us into a “family” of brothers and sisters, and Christian friendship can be a terrific asset as we invest our lives in serving our Lord and our fellow human beings.

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 15:15

The Slave (His Obligations)

December 17, 2012 at 11:26 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Outcasts of Ministry | 4 Comments
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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

Discipleship Lesson 8: The World

April 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Posted in Discipleship Lessons | 43 Comments
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I. Why does the world oppose Christians?

A. The world opposes Christians because the world opposed Christ.

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

John 15:18-19

B. The world opposes Christians because Christians are supposed to live for Christ.

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

II Timothy 3:12

C. The world opposes Christians because there are two spiritual families that are at war with each other.

But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

Galatians 4:29

D. The world opposes Christians because the world’s system is opposed to Christ.

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

James 4:4

II. How does the world oppose Christians?

A. By using those closest to Christians.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

Matthew 10:35-36

B. By cooperating with Satan in using unredeemed sinners against Christians.

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Ephesians 2:2

III. How can a Christian get the victory over the world?

A. By showing love, kindness, meekness, and gentleness to others.

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Romans 12:18

B. By pleasing the Lord.

When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Proverbs 16:7

C. By faith in God.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

I John 5:4-5

D. By returning good for evil.

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:21

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Matthew 5:44

E. By choosing our friends wisely.

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Proverbs 13:20

F. By renewing our minds every day in the Word of God.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:1-2

IV. How should the world view Christians?

A. As sincere, by our actions even more than our words.

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

I Corinthians 8:3

B. As set apart and different.

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

II Corinthians 6:14-18

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

I Peter 2:9

B. As open and honest.

Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

Romans 12:17

Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

II Corinthians 8:21

C. As people who love unbelievers, but know what we ourselves believe.

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Colossians 4:6

Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

I Timothy 3:7

V. How should Christians view the world?

A. The way a pilgrim views a strange land.

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

I Peter 2:11

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.

Hebrews 11:13

B. From the viewpoint of a citizen of Heaven.

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

Philippians 3:20

And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

Ephesians 2:6

C. As a mission field.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:19-20

VI. Questions

A. What three institutions has God ordained for man in this world?

The family, the government, the church.

B. Where is a Christian’s home?

In Heaven.

C. What is the principle of “separation” for a Christian?

To be in the world, but not of the world. Not to touch the unclean thing.

VII. Memory Verses

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

II Timothy 3:12

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

I John 2:15-16

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

I Corinthians 8:3

The Bookends of Faith (Part 4)

January 24, 2011 at 10:24 am | Posted in The Bookends of Faith | 10 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.

The Bookends of Faith (Part 3)

December 29, 2010 at 10:11 am | Posted in The Bookends of Faith | 5 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

Last time, we looked at what our response should be to Jesus’s proclamation that, “I AM the Bread of Life.” That was His first “I AM” statement in the Book of John. Now we move on to His last.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

John 15:1

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

John 15:4

The True Vine provides life to the branches, and, because the branches are “in” the vine, they are secure. Only God can give and preserve life. The two words that John 6:35 and John 15:1 have in common are “I AM.”

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13-14

God told Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.” God is unexplainable. God is unending (eternal and infinite – “unending” and “unbeginning”). He was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 1:4; 1:8; 4:8) I once heard a catchy song on the radio with the lyric:
He’s not the God who one time did,
He’s the God Who does.
That’s why they call Him the Great I AM,
And not the great I was.

When I say that God is “uncommon,” I mean that He is truly unique.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

John 15:1

This is an illustration – the vine and the branches – which is not as familiar to us as it was to those who first heard it. Vineyards were almost as common to Jesus’s audience as gas stations are to us in the 21st Century. (Hey, maybe there’s a lesson there: He is the Gas Pump – we are the car – we won’t work unless He fills us up!)

If you have actually been in a vineyard or around grapevines, you may have a mental picture of the vines and branches being thin and easily broken, but those in Israel back in Jesus’s day were thick and strong. The image of the vineyard or the grapevine is common in Scripture. God had provided for and chastened Judah and Jerusalem throughout the Old Testament. If there ever should have been a vineyard to the glory of God, it should have been that nation. However:

What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

Isaiah 5:4

The Jewish people were God’s vineyard, but there is also a worldly vineyard in Scripture.

And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

Revelation 14:18-20

The grapes in this worldly vineyard are ripening for God’s judgment. Those are two of the vines found in Scripture. Then there is Jesus – the True Vine. Whenever there are “types” of Christ in the Bible, Christ fulfills those types, and is a “better than” those types. He is the Vine from which all other vines are copies or imitations.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 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 15:1-2

He is the Vine. We are the branches. God is the husbandman (vine-dresser). Branches can be strong when they are fed from the vine, but if something closes off the flow of sap from the vine, the branches become brittle and weak – and fruitless. Can these fruitless branches be used for some other purpose, such as for building? They can’t be used for building when they are strong because they are connected to the vine. They can’t be used for building when broken off because then they are weak. Abiding – connected – branches are good for one thing: bearing fruit. Broken – disconnected – branches are also good for one thing: burning. (Actually two things if you count hiding places for serpents.)

The branches of the “copy” – of an actual grapevine – have little choice but to abide. They they have no consciousness or responsibility. But believers on the True Vine must abide in order to bear fruit. There is responsibility involved. “Abide” means to take up residence – to “remain.” Abiding is not intending to make a temporary home. People don’t normally go to a hotel or make an encampment with the intention of “abiding.”

Next time, we will try to learn how to be good abiders.

Discipleship Lesson 4: The Bible

December 20, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Discipleship Lessons | 99 Comments
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We have the revealed WORD OF GOD. Therefore, as Christians, we must let its principles guide our lives.

I. What does the Bible do for a lost person?

It is active in his salvation.

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

I Peter 1:23

The Word of God is active in bringing about the new birth.

For by grace are ye saved through faith…

Ephesians 2:8

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17

Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

James 1:21

There is an emphasis on the Word of God in the Gospel:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

I Corinthians 15:1-4, emphasis added

Believing what the Bible says about the Gospel is necessary for salvation.

II. What does the Bible do for a saved person?

A. It is the Owner’s manual. If we don’t follow the Owner’s and the Manufacturer’s plans, we won’t “work” – we won’t be successful Christians.

NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

B. It equips us for service.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

II Timothy 3:16-17

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Ephesians 6:17

C. It sustains us.

Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

Job 23:12

Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

Jeremiah 15:16

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

I Peter 2:2

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 16:24

Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.

Proverbs 7:2

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Proverbs 25:11

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

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Hebrews 5:12-14

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

I Corinthians 3:2

D. It cleans us.

That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

Ephesians 5:26

BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:9-11

Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

John 15:3

E. It makes us pleasing to God.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Psalm 119:165

III. Is the Bible ever wrong?

No, it is a “more sure word,” even than the audible voice of God.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

II Peter 1:16-21

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Hebrews 11:3

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

Psalm 138:2

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Psalm 12:6-7

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

Psalm 33:6

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Genesis 1:3

IV. What is the best way to study the Bible?

Compare Scripture with Scripture – not our own intellect or experiences.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 14:26

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.

John 16:13-15

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

I Corinthians 2:9-16

V. Questions

A. Was the Bible created by men or by God?

It was created by God. It contains 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New Testament. God used over 40 human instruments in writing it, but it fits together perfectly because the Holy Spirit is the real Author. It was written over a time span of 2000 years. It is totally accurate in history, prophecy, and life application. It contains no contradictions.

B. Is the Bible too hard for a Christian to understand?

No, it is not. However, there are difficult passages, and one of the key things for a Christian to remember is to live what you do understand, and God will reveal to you in His time what you do not yet understand.

C. Is there any value in memorizing Scriptures?

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:11

VI. Memory Verses

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

II Peter 1:21

BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

Psalm 119:9

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

II Timothy 3:16

The Bookends of Faith (Part 1)

November 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Exodus, The Bookends of Faith | 22 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

Here are the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John:

1. I AM the Bread of Life (6:35)

2. I AM the Light of the World (8:12)

3. I AM the Door (10:9)

4. I AM the Good Shepherd (10:11)

5. I AM the Resurrection, and the Life (11:25)

6. I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6)

7. I AM the True Vine (15:1)

I AM the Bread of Life and I AM the True Vine: these two principles are the “bookends of faith” in the deity of Christ.

For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

John 6:38

The Bread of Life came down from Heaven. Only God could come down from Heaven.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

John 15:4

The True Vine provides life to the branches, and, because the branches are “in” the Vine, they are secure. Only God can give and preserve life.

The two words that John 6:35 and 15:1 have in common are “I AM.”

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13-14

God told Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.” God is unexplainable. God is unending (eternal and infinite – unending and unbeginning). God is uncommon (truly unique). In John Chapter 6 Jesus had performed a miracle. He had made five loaves into enough bread to feed a whole multitude. Many were grateful for this miracle, but few were grateful because of what it taught or what it pronounced: It pronounced that Jesus was God.

Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

John 6:26

Most were grateful because of what it provided.

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

John 6:41-42

Jewish rabbis taught that the Messiah would duplicate the miracle of the manna, but Jesus didn’t call down bread from Heaven – He was the Bread from Heaven. The manna was a type and Christ was the reality, but like every “type” that Christ fulfilled, He not only fulfilled it, He also turned out to be a “better-than” the type.

Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.

John 6:49

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

John 6:51

How Jesus was like the manna:

1. The manna was a mystery. It’s name meant “what is it.”

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.

Exodus 16:15

Jesus seemed mysterious to those who saw Him.

But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

John 6:36

2. The manna came when it was dark.

And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.

Exodus 16:21

Jesus came into a (spiritually) dark world.

3. The manna was small and round.

And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.

Exodus 16:14

Jesus was not physically significant or socially “important.” Like a round object, which has no beginning and no end, Jesus, being God, is eternal.

4. The manna was white and sweet.

And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

Exodus 16:31

White represents purity and sinlessness – Jesus was pure inside and out. Although the manna was sweet, Jesus is even sweeter.

O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

Psalm 34:8

5. Manna was given to a rebellious people.

And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Exodus 16:3

Jesus came to seek and save rebellious sinners.

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.

John 6:41

6. The manna had to be either picked up (received) or trampled.

Jesus must be received or rejected (despised.) Make no mistake, when you reject Christ, you are doing far worse than stepping on Him.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:3

Jesus was treated as utterly vile and was completely forsaken by men. He experienced the kinds of feelings associated with rejection that make you physically sick.

7. Manna sustained life. Jesus gave life – eternal life.

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

John 6:35

Next time, we will ask, “Are you more grateful for what the I AM proves or for what it provides?”

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