Big Words of the Christian Life: Illumination (Part 1)

June 20, 2019 at 9:32 am | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 4 Comments
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Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

Psalm 119:18

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 (emphasis added)

Every person comes into this world (which is a dark world, spiritually speaking) in a state of spiritual darkness himself. God’s truth is present in the world and it is the only source of light. Jesus is the Light of the World, but the existence of light – alone – does not bring about spiritual vision or the comprehension of truth. In order for light to be effective, there has to be the ability to see. Blind eyes have to be healed and spiritual blindfolds have to be removed. This can not be done by physical force, nor by debate, nor by fleshly enticement. It is part of the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration when it happens – when an unbeliever becomes a believer. When a lost person gets saved – when someone who has been born only once (physically) gets born again (spiritually) – the Holy Spirit opens His eyes to the Truth.

That part of illumination is purely a gift of the Spirit. We do not cooperate with it, any more than a thief who is sneaking around a dark house hiding from the cops cooperates with being exposed once they shine a spotlight right in his face, but there is an aspect of the doctrine of illumination which does involve our cooperation – after we are saved.

Illumination is the Holy Spirit’s work in giving spiritual sight to unbelievers, and thereafter teaching believers the Scriptures, helping us to understand them, and empowering us to apply them to our lives.

I. Illumination Indicts Iniquity

It exposes, and makes us aware of, our own sin.

Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

Psalm 90:8

We often have trouble seeing our own sin, or understanding the pervasiveness of it. We are like fish who do not understand they are wet because “wetness” is all they have ever known. We are very accustomed to darkness – until we become of aware of how God sees our sin. Nothing is done in secret from His point of view. Once His spirit illuminates our self-awareness, we recognize our guilt and our terrifying position before a righteous Judge.

For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:

Proverbs 6:23

God’s Word shows us our true condition, and the condition of the world around us. We should be convicted when we read the Bible, but not merely convicted. We should also find hope: reproofs and instruction.

Light helps us see what’s around us, but it also shows us safe paths to take and ways of escape from trouble.

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

We need the Holy Spirit’s help to come to the light. It hurts our eyes. It shocks us. It throws us into a state of shame or embarrassment. BUT… if we will come to it instead of running away from it, then illumination will expose, and make us aware of, our own sin. It will give us insight into our spiritual nature. It will allow us to discern the sins of others and sin in the world.

II. Illumination Initiates Interest

Evil needs a covering, or an excuse, or a rationalization. People don’t want their deeds exposed along with their motives.

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

John 3:21

Those who have been illuminated by God, and who come to the light, want their deeds to be manifested – to be made known – but isn’t this a form of pride, of bragging, of showing off? No, it’s a way of glorifying God – because only His light has made it possible to do these types of deeds and it is obvious they are wrought in God. They are His good works, really, merely done THROUGH us. We are not light sources; we are light reflectors. We’re not the electricity running through the wires; we’re the bulbs: the diffusers of God’s glorious light.

To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Luke 1:79

God’s light gets us moving – it “motivates” us to make peace, to try to help reconcile people to God. Most people, whether they admit it or not, have a nagging sense that they live under the shadow of death – the awareness that life will end relatively soon and judgment awaits. God’s light puts death in the shadow of God’s glory instead of vice versa.

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

II Corinthians 4:4

A physical blindfold can be removed by force, but mental and spiritual blindness, like physical blindness, requires supernatural intervention.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 4:5-6

God, in Christ, has illuminated our hearts and minds, but not just for our “enlightenment.” (I prefer the term “illumination” over “enlightenment” because of the baggage and selfishness associated with Eastern mysticism, and to avoid connecting it to the historical period known as the “Age of Enlightenment.”) He has given us His light and placed it in our formerly darkened hearts so that we can shine it into other blind hearts and minds.

Illumination creates in us a desire to read and study God’s Word. Illumination attracts us to God’s Truth.

III. Illumination Implements Instruction

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination does not stop when a believer receives the gift of salvation.

Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.

Psalm 112:4

Those who are “upright” – who stand before God in Jesus’s imputed righteousness – are given light to know God more and more, in ever-increasing measures. I mentioned earlier that believers participate in it, but it is still a gift of God’s grace and compassion, and it is for the purpose of directing us toward righteousness.

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

Isaiah 8:20

Illumination is about understanding and applying the Word of God. It is not about feelings, fantasies, or fables. It is not about private personal promptings. The Holy Spirit inspired the same Scripture for everybody to read, and He illuminates it for each person to study on his/her own with a goal of reaching a common, mutual, and CORRECT comprehension of it. The Holy Spirit gives greater understanding to those who obey what they have already been shown.

Next time we will see that illumination imparts insight.

Glad Tidings

July 23, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Luke | 3 Comments
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And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,

Luke 8:1

The word translated as “shewing the glad tidings” is euaggelizo, the same word that can be translated as “preach the Gospel.” Jesus and His Disciples were not preaching about how to get nicer material possessions, or how to have a happier marriage, or how to be a better parent, or how to be healed from physical illness, or how to have “your best life now,” or how to “make every day a Friday.” No, they were preaching the Gospel!

Was this an isolated occurrence of evangelism for Jesus during His earthly ministry? Of course not.

And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.

Luke 1:19

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Luke 2:10

The birth of Jesus was not separate from the Gospel. It was PART of the Gospel. The “peace on earth” that Jesus came to bring was not the kind of peace where people start being more polite to their neighbors. No, it was peace between God and man: God and SINNERS reconciled. Reconciliation is not made between friends or people who are already on the same team. Reconciliation is made between enemies. I’m sorry that your favorite department store or retailer suddenly wants to take “Christ” out of “Christmas,” but I’m a lot more concerned that some churches wants to take the GOSPEL out of Christmas!

The angels preached the Gospel, and John the Baptist preached it:

And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.

Luke 3:18

Jesus preached it:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

Luke 4:18

And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.

Luke 4:43

Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.

Luke 7:22

In the books of the Bible which the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write (Luke and Acts), he makes a point of highlighting the ministry of women, and here we learn that the Gospel ministry had been supported by financial giving from the beginning.

And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

Luke 8:2-3

Big Words of the Christian Life: Omnipotence (Part 1)

March 16, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 7 Comments
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If you’ve ever seriously studied your way through Jesus’s model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), by the time you finished the part about being delivered from evil you may have felt a little overwhelmed. To say that there is “a lot to” this short prayer is a massive understatement. However, hopefully you didn’t stop until you reached the very end. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever” is a statement, in and of itself, that contains a wealth of information about God. Recently, as I prayed my way through it, I was struck by the placement of the word “power” in between God’s kingdom and God’s glory. If we think about the awesome power of God, we are reminded of the attribute of God that we call “omnipotence,” and if we study the implications of this attribute we can see that:

1. God’s power is limitless.

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

Genesis 18:14

Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:

Jeremiah 32:17

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Matthew 19:26

And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

Mark 10:27

For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Luke 1:37

“Omnipotence” comes from two words: omni, meaning “all,” and potent, meaning “power.” The omni applies to other attributes of God too: “omnipresence,” meaning that God is everywhere all the time at once; “omnscience,” meaning that God knows everything; and “omnibenevolence” meaning that God (and what He does) is always good. We use the idea of “potency” when we think of someone with great authority, and, hence, the power to carry out his will: a “potentate.” We think of it antonymously when we talk about someone who lacks the power to do something: “impotent.” And we even use it to describe health supplements when we somewhat hyperbolically refer to “high-potency” vitamins. To say that God is omnipotent is to say that He’s all-powerful. And He is!

There is nothing that goes beyond His ability. He has the ability to bring forth everything from nothing. He has the ability to carry out His will in the minutest details. He has the freedom – the truest freedom – to choose what He will do, apart from any intrusive or coercive influences, and to do it either by Himself as the primary cause, or through His agency in utilizing as many secondary or intervening causes as He wishes.

It is one thing for even the most powerful human being to come up with an idea for a project, plan the project, labor intensively on the project, and see it through to a hopefully successful, possibly even “perfect,” conclusion. But it is a whole other matter and realm of power to simply speak the words, “Let there be light,” and see a whole universe of matter spring into existence. We can talk about God’s omnipotence, and attempt to define it, and perhaps understand a small measure of it, but to truly comprehend a being with truly UNLIMITED power is beyond our grasp.

That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

I Timothy 6:14-16

Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.

Revelation 11:17

To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.

Isaiah 40:25-26

2. God’s power is logical.

It is important to remember that, when we make a statement like, “God can do anything,” that we are prepared for skeptics to try to use basic logic to create nonsensical contradictions. “Can God make an object so immovable that He Himself cannot move it?” “Can God make a square circle?” “Can God make Himself cease to exist?” “Can God Himself commit the sins which His Word says He cannot do?”

It is tempting, when addressing these types of challenges (which are essentially just word-plays rather than legitimate questions), to respond with the argument that “logic” itself is a thing outside of God, and that even God can’t perform a true logical contradiction, nor can His power be exercised in logically “impossible” ways. That might be a valid response, but I think it overlooks the bigger picture that, to the extent logic can be considered a “thing,” it is something that arises from the nature of God Himself, as the Creator of all principles, rules, and precepts that exist, “natural” or otherwise, and that, while it might be possible in some way that we do not understand for God to overcome a logical contradiction, He does not in fact do so.

Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

Hebrews 6:17-18

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

II Timothy 2:13

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

James 1:3

Next time we will see that God’s power is also laudable and looming.

The Virgin Birth

December 19, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Posted in Incarnation, Luke | 6 Comments
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In the ongoing series of theological concepts to discuss with our kids during the holidays, we have mentioned:

1. Incarnation
2. Advent
3. The Condescension
Now we come to:
4. The Virgin Birth

This can be a tricky one with kids, and – especially when it comes to really young kids – you may want to leave the subject of virginity alone, or at least use a tremendous amount of tact and delicacy. Use your own judgment. You will know what your own kids can and can’t handle and understand. However, the miracle of Mary’s pregnancy, despite having no husband and having never “known” a man (Luke 1:34), is a crucial doctrine of the Christian faith.

First, it shows the miraculous power of God, because babies just aren’t conceived this way apart from His supernatural action. Second, Jesus Christ, although conceived in the womb of a sinner, was not “conceived in sin” the way every other human being (sons and daughters of Adam) has been. Jesus was not only holy, sinless, and righteous in all His earthly deeds, thoughts, intentions, and words, but was sinless in His essence and “person.”

Perhaps you could explain to your children that the appearance of a newborn baby requires a mommy and daddy, except for this one time – which we celebrate at Christmas – when a baby was born whose Father was God.

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Luke 1:26-37

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

We will continue the series by looking at the humanity of Jesus next time.

Incarnation

December 13, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Posted in Incarnation, John | 7 Comments
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December is a great time for Christian parents to talk with our children about some of the great theological concepts associated with Christ’s incarnation.

Jesus’s conception in Mary’s womb was the first and only time that God has taken on human flesh and entered our world as a man. He never stopped being God, nor did He even temporarily set aside His Deity, but He did veil His glory in becoming fully human while remaining fully God. He did this for many reasons, chiefly so that He could accomplish our redemption through His sinless life and sacrificial death, but also in order to identify with all our human frailties as our Great High Priest. Obviously, you will want to use simpler terminology, but even very small children can understand the basic concept of God becoming a man.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

I John 4:2

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Luke 1:35

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Matthew 1:22-23

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

Galatians 4:4

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

Romans 8:3

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:14-15

Next time I will discuss Christ’s Advent.

Luke’s Gospel

September 19, 2017 at 11:56 am | Posted in Luke | 8 Comments
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The Book of Luke is one of the four “Gospels.” The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are accounts of Jesus’s earthly ministry, and, to some extent, of His earthly life. The term “Gospel,” of course, also refers to the Good News of Jesus’s incarnation, sinless life, sacrificial death, victorious Resurrection, and saving power, although, in common vernacular, “gospel” has come to mean “anything that’s true.”

The word “Gospel” is from the old English word for “good news.” In ancient Greek it would be called the Evangelion, combining eu (with the “v” now replaced by “u”) meaning “good,” as in “euphemism” (a “good” way to say a “bad” thing) or eulogy (a “good word” about a deceased person), with the word angel, meaning “message” (easy to remember because the “angels” are God’s messengers).

The Holy Spirit authored the Gospel of Luke through (obviously) a man named Luke, whose primary occupation had been as a physician. The Holy Spirit appears to have used Luke’s medical training and experience in order to cause Luke’s account of Jesus’s life and ministry to have an orderly composition, often with an emphasis on “medical” events, such as illnesses and healings, and to stress Jesus’s compassion on those who were hurting. It is not known if Luke had the typical doctor’s bad handwriting, but we can be sure that what he recorded was the accurate and infallible Word of God.

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

Luke 1:1

At the time that Luke wrote down his Gospel, there were other scrolls circulating about, purporting to be accounts of the life of Jesus. The things most surely believed among “us” likely means that Luke knew he was recording true Christian doctrine and the real facts about Jesus, and that what he was reporting was for public dissemination, but mainly with fellow Christians in mind as his primary audience.

Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

Luke 1:2

Luke was part of Paul’s missionary team, and his personal physician, but he had not walked with Jesus personally while Jesus was on earth as a man.

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Luke 1:3-4

Luke’s statement about “having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first” also seems to indicate that he was aware of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Theophilus was probably a gentile who had been saved and converted to Christianity (known in Bible times as a “lover of God” or a “friend of God”). It is also likely that he held some official public position because of the formal nature of Luke’s address to him. Once again, Luke referred to “the certainty” of what he was writing, giving even more credence to the idea that he was aware of the Holy inspiration under which he was operating.

Next came the account of the announcement and birth of John the Baptist. He was the last Old Testament prophet, even though he’s found in the New Testament.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Malachi 4:5-6

The Holy Ghost closed the Old Testament with a reference to Elijah and the pronouncement of a CURSE, after which there was about 400 years of prophetic silence, during which God gave no (that we know of) verbal or written revelation, until John the Baptist came on the scene. He was the prophet who fulfilled – in a sense – the prophecy of Malachi 4:5. He was the prophet who himself fulfilled a prophecy.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Luke 1:5-6

Zacharias and Elizabeth were considered righteous and blameless, although they were not sinless.

And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

Luke 1:7-10

This burning of incense was a major event in the life of the religious Jewish people each year.

And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

Luke 1:11-13

One can only imagine the fear that overcame Zacharias! Elisabeth would be related to Jesus through Mary. The couple’s first-born son would be named John, not Zacharias Jr.

And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

Luke 1:14-15

John would be under a Nazarite vow, as an angel had also informed Samson’s father Manoah, and his wife, and like Elkanah’s and Hannah’s son, Samuel. Elijah was yet another Old Testament example of someone under a life-long Nazarite vow – meaning he was not to touch grapes or dead things, and not to cut his hair. Another similarity between John the Baptist and Elijah is that much of their lives would be spent as outcasts from society, living in the wilderness. John the Baptist had the amazing distinction of being filled by the Holy Spirit while he was still in his mother’s womb.

And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Luke 1:16-17

John would be instrumental in turning the hearts of children back to their fathers – and to their HEAVENLY FATHER. He would have a spirit like Elijah’s and be endued with the power of Elijah, but he would not be Elijah reincarnated. This announcement was so astonishing to Zacharias that he disbelieved the Word of God, and thereby lost his voice until it was time for Elisabeth to have the baby.

More Testing for Puffiness in Your Marriage

July 11, 2012 at 9:57 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
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Last time we looked at some tests to see if you are vaunting yourself or puffing yourself up in your marriage.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Corinthians 13:4 (emphasis added)

Here is the second half of the ten tests:

Test Six: Do you insist on your spouse taking your side in every outside conflict?

Sometimes even the most prideful people will self-deprecatingly point out that they are not always right. But this is aiming too low. Being the “least sinful” person among a race of sinful people is like being the valedictorian of summer school.

dunce

 

When I admit that I am “not always right,” but I still insist that my wife side with me unquestioningly in every conflict, I am guilty of using God’s daughter to help “puff myself up.”

Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?

II Samuel 7:18

When I believe that I have reached some exalted state because I somehow deserve it or because I have somehow earned it or because I have somehow been rewarded for being good, I am probably thinking like a vaunting puffer.

Tests Seven and Eight show some of the underlying thought patterns which cause problems in this area of marriage.

Test Seven: Do you need your spouse to acknowledge what you do – or else?

Test Eight: Do you think you shouldn’t have to wait your turn?

Few spouses want to admit to these types of attitudes, but some deeper probing may be in order:

a. Some spouses solve the abhorrence-of-waiting-their-turn problem by implementing a turn-taking system, but then they “over-enforce” the turn-taking.
b. Actions often speak louder than words. Some spouses say they don’t expect to be praised or acknowledged for every little thing they do for their spouses, or for every little sacrifice they make, but one spouse’s actions can show that he or she subconsciously thinks that he/she is the more important one.

Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.

Psalm 115:1

Marriage is not about getting recognition for ourselves or gratifying our desire for receiving the appreciation of another person. It’s more about glorifying God’s name, and reflecting the truth of Christ’s relationship to and with His Church.

Test Nine: Do you always have to win?

Most of us, if honest, would have to own up to a desire to be the winner in any type of contentious encounter. Some of us would possibly, at times, even acknowledge a temptation to act unfairly (to “cheat”) if it means the difference between being perceived as the “winner” instead of the “loser,” or being the one who is “right” instead of “wrong” in an argument.

It’s easier, in the cold analytical light of this test, to say, “Cheating or playing unfairly is wrong.” But in the heat of a disagreement, we need to be constantly reminding ourselves of Whose glory is at stake in this marriage. Who deserves the credit when I have a chance to succeed? Cheating may give me a victory, but (because it dishonors the name of God) cheating puts me in the horrifying position of appearing to get the “victory” over God.

And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.

Jeremiah 45:5

Test Ten: Are you ever dishonest with your spouse?

Real Christian love is always concerned with the Truth. Lack of truthfulness reveals pride when telling my spouse the truth would mean revealing something unfavorable about me. Dishonesty is a key symptom of vaunting ourselves and puffing ourselves up.

How did you do on the ten tests? Were you able to identify any “puffiness” in your marriage? God does not help the puffed up. You do not have to be a Bible scholar or read very far in the pages of Scripture at all to learn this very basic and fundamental fact: The loud and the boastful excite God’s wrath. The “deflated” (no longer vaunting or puffed up) are more empty of self and ready to be filled by God.

He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

Luke 1:53

If your marriage is empty of pride and vanity, God will fill it with good things. If your marriage is puffy, He might have to deflate it.

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

James 4:10

If you will “unvaunt” yourself in your marriage, God will lift it up. Then He will vaunt Himself through it, which is right and good.

Hijacked Hearts

September 29, 2009 at 9:14 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting | 4 Comments
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It sounds like a crazy notion, but we might wonder if Satan has been reading his Bible. If he has seen Malachi Chapter 4, Verse 6, then he would know that God’s desire is to see the hearts of children turned toward, not away from, their parents. “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” And that would motivate the devil to work very hard to do just the opposite of what God wants. Does this explain the state of most of the parent-child relationships we see in the world today?

Malachi 4:6 is actually the very last verse in the entire Old Testament. Malachi is prophesying in part about the ministry of John the Baptist.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

Malachi 4:5

John the Baptist was not Elijah reincarnated, but he did minister in the spirit of Elijah.

Between the end of Malachi and the beginning of the New Testament there is about 400 years of silence, as far as recorded Scripture. Then, in Luke 1:17, the angel of the Lord tells Zacharias, concerning John the Baptist: “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

The devil has turned the hearts of many of our children. He has turned them to drugs, immorality, worldly entertainment, popular culture, their own vanity, and even to their peers. Dads, moms: no modern-day John the Baptist is going to catch your children at the shopping mall, rock concert, or make-out party, and convince them to repent. However, we have One greater than John the Baptist. If we can get them to Jesus, He will turn their hearts to Himself, and back to us. It’s a great thing to pray for your kids. God can protect them in ways we can’t. However, He has ordained us, parents, in a very real, personal, and hands-on way, to take the steering wheel of their hearts, and guide them in the right direction.

Character and Integrity Part 3

August 28, 2009 at 10:31 am | Posted in character and integrity, Luke | 12 Comments
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Who are your three main enemies? They are the devil, the “world,” and your flesh. The devil wants to lie to you, and deceive you. Your flesh wants you to please you, and not to please God. The world wants you to be fake – something you’re not – so that it can somehow make money at your expense.

It is important to be what God wants you to be. When you are fake, God knows it, and that is damaging to your integrity. When you are fake, other people know it, and that’s damaging to your character. Let’s look at the example of Mary in the Bible, and see what we can learn about her character and integrity.

Mary lived in Nazareth, a disreputable place.

Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

John 1:45-46

There are places today with a reputation similar to Nazareth. I grew up in a small town that is kind of the “Nazareth” of North Louisiana. Nazareth in Mary’s time would have been the kind of place where a teenaged girl could have easily been bored, seeing the merchants and traders going to and from Jerusalem. That boredom could have led to temptation and promiscuity and immorality for many of the teenaged girls who lived there.

However, Mary was engaged to be married, and she was a virgin. The angel Gabriel came to visit her. He told her that she would conceive and bear a Son, and that she was to name Him Jesus, and that this Jesus was the Son of God. Mary was probably around 13-15 years old at this time.

Contrary to Roman Catholic dogma, Mary was not sinless. She, like all of us, was a descendant of Adam. Of all the people ever to walk the face of the Earth, only Jesus was without sin.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Romans 5:12

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

Romans 3:23

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

Mary called called God her Savior (Luke 1:47). She knew she was a sinner, and she knew she needed a Savior.

Even though she was a sinner, Mary is a good Bible example of someone with integrity. She kept her virginity. She was saved.

Let’s look at her character. In a previous lesson we learned about the things which spoke well of David’s character.

Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

I Samuel 16:28

We can compare this description of David to Mary.

And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Luke 1:28

People who knew Mary might have wondered about her character. God knew she was a virgin, but what do you think people said when they found out she was pregnant before she got married?

They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

John 8:39-41

People who knew about Jesus’s birth and childhood accused Him of being born out of wedlock. That was a reflection of their opinion of Mary, too. However, Mary surrendered her character to the Lord.

Character has to do with your name – what other people think of you – but we can’t always control that. What happens when you have integrity, but other people are wrongly smearing your character? I have three school-age daughters, and I can tell you from what I know of their experiences that all children can be mean, but girls can be meaner than boys – especially when it comes to gossip.

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

Even though Mary could predict how her miraculous pregnancy would affect her character, she said, “That’s fine with me, Lord.” Mary considered herself a handmaiden, and, in Mary’s day, handmaidens had to serve – and they had to serve joyfully.

Can you say with Mary, “Be it unto me according to Thy Word?” Before you begin to hope that God would never do something to you that would embarrass you the way Mary’s pregnancy embarrassed her, remember: He already has. His Word tells you to do all sorts of things that are going to make people think you’re weird. And some of those things are going to affect your character – in the short term.

Are we willing to look in the Book and see it what it says? Are we dressing immodestly? Do we tell lies? Do we put ourselves in places of sexual temptation? Are we actively hoping for some strong temptation to come along, so that when we fall, we can blame the temptation, and not ourselves?

Many Christians say, “I’m saved – but I’m going to mess up once in while.” If we call ourselves Christians, then we had better stand for the Name of Christ. When I fill in the blank on a form that asks what religion I am, and I say, “Christian,” I don’t want to be responsible for someone else saying no to Jesus, based on my character.

Mary not only surrendered to the Lord, she was happy about it. As soon as she heard about God’s plan, she went to see her cousin, and she sang a song of praise about it. Her song is found in Luke 1:46-55. It is often called the “Magnificat.”

The word “Magnificat,” comes from the same root which gives us our word, “magnify.” To “magnify” something means to “make something bigger” or “to give someone glory.” Mary’s song magnified the Lord. She was interested in making herself seem smaller, and the Lord seem bigger. Mary would not have been happy with the way this part of the Bible is often used today. The Roman Catholic Church has a well-known prayer referred to as the “Hail Mary.” It comes from a combination of Luke 1:28 and 42. The Catholic prayer says, “Hail Mary, full of grace…” But Luke 1:28 tells us that the “hail” with which the angel greeted Mary, was just that: a greeting – not a description of sinlessness. Mary was not “full of grace.” She was a sinner, saved by God’s grace, through faith. When the Bible calls her “highly favored” it means that Mary was the recipient of grace given to her by God.

Note that Luke 1:32 does not say, “You will be great…” It says, “He shall be great..,” referring to Jesus. And Verse 42, which says, “blessed art thou among women,” has Elisabeth, Mary’s cousin – not the angel – speaking.

So, what was Mary’s secret? How could she be so happy, so excited, so obedient… knowing that her character was going to be questioned? For one thing, Mary loved the Word of God – she knew the Scriptures.

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

Psalm 119:165

Remember, Mary did not have a Bible. She would have gone to the synagogue to hear the Word of God in the Old Testament being read aloud. Mary hid the Word in her heart – she memorized it. In her song, she quotes from the Law, the prophets, and the Psalms. Luke 1:50 has part of Exodus 20:6 in it. Luke 1:51 has part of Isaiah 40:10 in it. Luke 1:53 has part of Psalm 107:9 in it. If Mary could memorize Bible verses without even owning a Bible, how much more should we be able to do it when we can have access to a Bible any time we want!

It grieves me to see people – especially teenaged children – get up after a Sunday School class, and leave their Bibles laying on the floor. We have to wonder if Mary would have gone out of the synagogue and left her written copy of God’s Word, if she had had one, laying on the floor.

So we see, Mary could face the possibility of having people say bad things about her – to fail to see her true character – because she was not being fake. She was being real. She understood that her life needed to be given to obeying the Lord joyfully. The secret of having that joy was (1) surrendering to God’s Word and His way; (2) magnifying the Lord; and (3) knowing the Bible and memorizing it.

Unlike David, other people didn’t always say, “The Lord is with him/her…” However, when it comes to Mary’s character, think about the people who whispered about Mary, and said bad things about her behind her back. And then ask yourself, “Who do we recognize as the earthly mother of our Savior?” Bible students for centuries have honored the name of Mary for her Godly character, but we do not know the name of a single one of her critics. I’d say that’s pretty good character.


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