Flipping the Script on the Passover

September 11, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured [it] on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

Mark 14:3-5

We know from John 12 that Judas Iscariot was the main instigator of this criticism against Mary because of her supposed wastefulness. It is ironic that Judas (fittingly named “the son of perdition“) criticized Mary for wastefulness, since he is the one who wasted his life following Jesus, but probably never truly believing unto salvation.

There is much scholarly debate and theological dispute about the precise Biblical event which should count as the “birth of the Church,” but here in Mark 14 Jesus institutes the New Covenant.

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.

Mark 14:22

Jesus was following the traditional passover pattern as He blessed and broke the bread, but then He flipped the script drastically by revealing that this was to be a representation of His own broken body.

And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

Mark 14:23-24

Jesus, despite Roman Catholic dogma, did not literally transform the bread and the wine into His body and blood.

Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

Mark 14:25-26

It seems odd to me that the pattern for almost all modern Christian church services is to sing first, and then to proceed with the rest of the service (preaching, etc.), when, IF this really was the first true meeting of the “Church,” they sang last. In any event, the ordinance of communion is for the purposes of memory and fellowship. Its observance holds no saving merit whatsoever, and it does not infuse any grace ex opere operato.

And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;

Mark 14:32-33

The experiences of Peter, James, and John mirror what would later be expressed by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul.

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Philippians 3:9-10

They would see Christ’s deity on the Mount of Transfiguation (“that I may know Him;” they would see “the power of His Resurrection” at the home of Jairus; and they would witness “the fellowship of His sufferings” at the Garden of Gethsemane.

And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

Mark 14:34-35

Jesus, even in His humanity, said, “Abba, Father.” We who are truly Christians have this privilege also, but we can only call God “Abba” IN CHRIST. As a general rule I don’t like to criticize the way people pray out loud in public or in church meetings. I’m certainly awkward at it myself. But I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of closing public prayers with a mumbled “in Your name we pray.” It is such an awesome privilege to be able to intimately call upon the Father in prayer, and such an enormously high price was paid to purchase this privilege for us, that we ought to be extremely clear about in Whom we dare to approach the Most High with our requests, intercessions, praises, and thanksgivings.

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Beware of Dog

August 3, 2011 at 10:49 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 1 Comment
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I happen to like dogs in general. I wouldn’t want one living in my house, and it’s frustrating to have to take care of the one that was supposed to be my kids’ dog now that they don’t want to feed him or play with him any more, or give him his flea medicine, but dogs, in my opinion, are still the best kind of pet to have.

It is tough, however, to find anything good about dogs in the Bible. There are dogs eating the dead flesh of evil people (I Kings 14:11, I Kings 16:4), dogs lapping up blood (I Kings 21:19-24, I Kings 22:38, Psalm 68:23) and licking sores (Luke 16:21), dogs that will get you if you mess with their ears (Proverbs 26:17), dogs stirring up trouble in the flock of sheep (Job 30:1), dumb dogs (Isaiah 56:10), greedy dogs (Isaiah 56:11), and dogs eating their own vomit (Proverbs 26:11, II Peter 2:22). There is a popular cartoon movie called “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” but apparently not! (I like to think that my two favorite dogs, Trigger and Clarence, are going to be there, but I can’t guarantee it from Scripture.)

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision

Philippians 3:2

Dogs in Bible times, in the ancient Middle East, were scavengers, and were considered unclean by the Jewish people. They weren’t pets like they are today. They were thought of the way we think of rats today. Because they were not pets, they were semi-wild animals, and they did not have owners or “masters.” Like people, a dog who has himself for a master is a very sad dog.

Philippians 3:2 is a warning against false teachers and church infiltrators who taught salvation by works or by grace plus works. These “dogs” were disturbing the flock, and, like mean little yapping dogs, they were following the Apostle Paul around and snapping at his heels wherever he went. The “evil workers” were not just workers who happened to be evil. They were evil because they told people that their salvation was based on “works.”

The use of the word “concision” was a pointed insult at the false Jewish teachers who were teaching that Gentiles must be circumcised to be saved. “Concise” means to make shorter. If “circumcision” means to “cut around,” then “concision” means to “cut short.” Those who were being circumcised based on the belief that this act played a part in their salvation were really just mutilating themselves. So this Verse was a stinging jab at those who were encouraging people to “cut themselves short.”

If I see a sign on a fence that says “Beware of Dog,” my tendency is to want to stay far away. If you have ever been near a pond wearing nice clothes when a swimming dog decides to emerge onto the bank near you, you know it behooves you to back away as far as you can, because you are about to get wet when he starts shaking out his fur. If professing Christian believers with an agenda of works righteousness insist on skulking in among a church fellowship like dogs, and then shaking off their dirty beliefs all over everyone, the Bible says to “beware” of them. Stay as far away from them as possible, until the Shepherd can come over and crack them on the head with His staff.

Marrying and Burying

August 1, 2011 at 9:20 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 10 Comments
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Husbands are one day going to give an account to God for how they have loved their wives. This is a frightening proposition for all husbands, and especially for those whose wives are Christians. If an earthly father demands that his daughter be treated with respect by her husband, how much more will the holy God be angered by a husband who has treated His (God’s) daughter cruelly and unlovingly? Keeping this in mind, a wife who knows the Lord will want to make it as easy as possible for her husband to treat her right, even if he does not know the Lord. She will want to forgo revenge and spite, knowing that her husband is already in enough trouble with God, without her setting him up for more judgment.

In marriage we are to:

1. Forswear: Honor the oath of our wedding vow by taking the idea of divorce off the table

2. Forbear: Put up with injustice for the sake of grace and love

Some people have what is called a “compost” area on their property. This a place where biodegradable items of garbage (banana peels; stale bread, egg shells, unused parts of store-bought chicken, etc.) are taken and buried or left to decompose in order to fertilize a small garden or flower-bed. In our marriages, we are going to have to take our spouses’ faults and our own past hurts and areas of contention, and put them in a spiritual “compost heap.” We don’t pretend they don’t exist, but we don’t leave them lying around in our visible presence to be re-dealt with every day. These things stink, and because we cannot pretend they don’t exist, we do get a whiff of them once in a while, but no one who has a pile of rotting fruits, vegetables, and other perishables at the edge of his property chooses to go hang out by it. The compost heap can be tended once in a while, but the faults that make up its contents are not to be constantly dug up. Concerning the offenses of your spouse, you may not always be able to stop yourself from getting hysterical, but you should be able to keep yourself from getting historical.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

Philippians 3:13

Jesus not only broke the power of sin, and He not only arranged a prospective forgiveness of sins, but He actually erased – cancelled out, removed, obliterated – the sin debt for all who would believe on Him. Would God’s forgiveness of our sins really be the same without God’s intentional forgetfulness of our sins? God does not want to remind us of our past sins. Satan is the one who wants us to remember.

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Colossians 3:13

Here are four things that help me to remember to forB.E.A.R. the faults of my spouse:

B.ehind: Things that are past are past and can’t be undone.
E.rase: When I forgive, I need to completely wipe the slate clean.
A.ttend: If a past fault must dealt with, deal with it intentionally and straightforwardly and then leave it alone; do not “hang out” by the “compost heap.”
R.eap: Remember that my forgiveness of my spouse is producing a spiritual harvest which may take a while to come in, but will one day bear fruit.

Discipleship Lesson 8: The World

April 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Posted in Discipleship Lessons | 39 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

300

May 25, 2010 at 9:35 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Celebrating the 300th post on this site with a blast from the past:

Getting Ready To Swim

We live in a day and age when the fountain of God’s Word seems to be flowing in pitifully small, and rapidly drying, streams. By and large, the practice of the world is to stomp right past the cleansing fountain of the wisdom contained in the Bible, and to wallow instead in the muddy imaginations of man. (II Corinthians 10:5). However, there is coming a day when “… the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) In that day, experienced “swimmers” will have an advantage. Having spent much time learning to maneuver in the cleansing water of the Word, some will not be shocked or afraid as the tidal knowledge of the Lord’s glory rises, and covers the whole earth.

Over the past few weeks, our S.W.I.M. lessons have looked at the competitive strokes of literal swimming, and applied them to spiritual truths found in Scripture. This week’s lesson will serve as a brief review:

  1. The Backstroke: True disciples of Christ will encounter opposition that will at times push them backward into troubled waters. The Bible’s solution to this situation is to look up to the Lord, and keep moving ahead. (Acts 27:41-44)
  2. The Breaststroke: God’s hands go forth from God’s heart, and the love of God will cause His hands to reach out and push away the encompassing enemies of His people as they humbly call upon Him. (Isaiah 25:11)
  3. The Butterfly: Some swimmers follow strict rules of form to appear graceful, when in fact they are thrashing violently beneath the surface. God is not impressed by a false show of outward beauty or self-righteousness. ( Matthew 23:27-28 )
  4. The Crawl: Creeping and crawling is sometimes seen as a reason for scorn among the skeptical, but God has appointed to all things a time and an order. Just as there are nocturnal animals which creep forth at night because of the design of God, so also new believers in Christ Jesus must go through a period of spiritual crawling, before growing into walking and running. (Psalm 104:19-20)
  5. Freestyle: Competitive swimmers with the freedom to choose the stroke they want, will choose a style which allows them to swim most efficiently. Christians, striving for the prize of the high calling, see their freedom in Christ as an opportunity to do those things which are most profitable for the cause of Christ and the glory of God. (Galatians 5:1-7)
  6. The Dog Paddle: When new Christians begin to navigate the waters of spiritual maturity, they must be careful not to imitate, or pick up the bad habits of, those who would promote a “watered-down,” or ritual-based gospel. (Philippians 3:2)

Those who have believed on Christ Jesus in their heart, and who have called upon the name of the Lord, must dive into God’s Word and learn to “see what it means” (S.W.I.M.). In His Word you will find reasons to be grateful, and promises and comfort for the coming storms.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

“Count Your Blessings,” Johnson Oatman Jr.

The Solemn Ascension

May 18, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Posted in Bible Studies | 10 Comments
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Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Psalm 24:3-5

This is a good text to use if you ever have a “solemn assembly” service at your church. It is okay to be solemn in church, and solemnity is very much lacking in the demeanor of many modern Christians. Titus Chapter 2 says for the elder men to exhort the young men to be sober, and for the older women to exhort the younger women to be sober. Sober means solemn, serious, alert, vigilant – serious about getting sin out of your life. We all need to be serious about getting the sin cleaned out of our life. Even the Apostle Paul said he did not speak as one who had already attained or who was perfect (Philippians 3:12).

If you read the Bible long enough, you will meet yourself – your true self – and you will not like what you will see. You will hunger and thirst for righteousness – and a knowledge of God – and you will be blessed. But we must do more than just agree that the Bible is the Word of God. We must resolve that, if the Word says we are in sin, we will get out of sin – that’s repentance.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?

Psalm 24:3

Who can ascend? Who can climb the hill of the Lord? The strong? The swift? The worldly wise? We must throw out our worldly ideas of what it means to “ascend” – to go up. Can the prestigious ascend? The famous? The wealthy? The influential? Since this hill is the Lord’s hill, and since He recognizes no strength in men because He created all men from dirt, who will ascend?

Will the ones who ascend be the weary ones? “No,” says the world, “you have to have your own energy to ascend.”

Will the ones who ascend be the contrite ones? “No,” says the world, “it takes boldness to climb a mountain.”

Will the ones who ascend be the broken ones? “No,” says the world, “there are no handicapped mountain-climbers.”

But what does God say?

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

James 4:10

God says no one will ascend His hill under his or her own power. The only ones who will ascend are the ones who get weary, but do not depend on their own strength.

The only ones who will ascend are the ones who have a Guide who will lead them over or around the streams and boulders of temptation.

The only ones who will ascend are those who have the right foot-gear – their feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.

The only ones who will ascend are the ones who the Lord Himself will lift up.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?

Psalm 24:3

And who will stand? Who will remain in the holy place? Who will draw near and stay near? Billy Sunday said, “Revivals may not last. Neither do baths, but it’s good to have one occasionally.” However, we want to ascend and stand – to stay there – to get right and stay right.

He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

Psalm 24:4

We will stand and remain by having clean hands and pure hearts. This means more than following a set of rules and regulations. Jesus was hardest on the Pharisees because they claimed to love the Law – but wanted nothing to do with the Lawgiver.

For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

Hebrews 7:19

We are going to have to, by faith, follow after the Lord. We must realize that our hands are dirty, and we must trust Christ to clean them. The hands of sinners are stained and bloody. They are filthy and vile. But:

… while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

What makes our hands so unclean?

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

I Timothy 2:8

Wrath makes our hands unclean – so does doubting. When we have an unpleasant ministry job to do, we say we’re “getting our hands dirty” – but spiritually we are not defiled by unpleasant tasks of love. Jesus was not afraid to touch the unclean. In our flesh, we are quick to touch the attractive. Who doesn’t like to hold a cute baby? Or hug an attractive person? We are not so quick, however, to lift our hands when it’s time to take out the trash. Water can wash away physical uncleanness, but what can wash away sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

“Clean hands and pure hearts,” Psalm 24:4 says. But what washes the heart to make it pure? The Word of God. Christ gave Himself for the Church,

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

Ephesians 5:26

The heart that truly wants to know God will not lift itself up to vanity. Ultimately, vanity is idolatry. If vanity is anything that is spiritually empty, then 99.9% of what the average person does is lifting up his soul to vanity. What should we be doing with vanity? With emptiness? With anything that is what the Bible calls “imaginations” – anything without eternal worth?

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

II Corinthians 10:5

We should be casting it down, not lifting ourselves up to it. Casting down means destroying. In the Old Testament, God wanted the Canaanites destroyed – even the women, children, livestock, altars, statues of false gods – everything. Why? Because they were like thorns or weeds or cancer. If they were only trimmed down, they would spread and grow back stronger. If we are going to have repentance – and revival – we are going to have to cast down imaginations, not just what the imaginations produce. We must seek the cause of our sinful behavior, and get the root out. We must cast out imaginations and worldly thinking. There is no revival without repentance. If you’ve ever been closer to God than you are right now, then you are backslidden. Here is the result of getting right with God:

He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Psalm 24:5

Who “KEEPS” Me Saved?

November 4, 2009 at 10:18 am | Posted in Eternity | 5 Comments
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Some people have heard that they have to be righteous to go to Heaven. Therefore, they try hard to do “good deeds,” and to say “good words,” and to think “good thoughts,” and to be “good people.” When the idea that people can achieve “self-righteousness” is exposed to Scripture, however, only the most stubborn still hold onto the false belief that they can “save” themselves.

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

Romans 3:10

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Isaiah 64:6

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Titus 3:5

Hopefully, upon learning of the futility of attempted self-righteous salvation, the unbeliever will repent and call upon Christ the Savior. There is rejoicing even in the presence of the angels in Heaven when this happens (Luke 15:10)! However, there is a strange thought circulating about, by which it is sometimes said that the salvation of the Lord, which comes by His grace through faith, can be lost, stolen, or rejected. In response to this strange thought, there is probably a nicer word than “heresy,” but I can’t think of it.

Let those of us who are born again, the elect of God according to His grace and mercy, remember that we did not save ourselves, and we are utterly incapable of “keeping ourselves saved.” Many modern translations of the Bible get a key phrase in Philippians 3:9 wrong. They say that righteousness is “through faith ‘in’ Christ.” The King James (not the New King James) Version hits the nail right on the head when it says that, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Emphasis added.)

Today, as I type this, I am found in Jesus Christ. I am righteous in the sight of God only because the righteousness of His dear Son has been imputed to me. The eternal continuance of this gift of righteousness is not because of my great faith. It is because of the wondrous, magnificent, awe-inspiring, unchanging, never-ending faithfulness of Christ Himself.

Character and Integrity Part 4

September 15, 2009 at 10:49 am | Posted in character and integrity, Daniel | 11 Comments
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Let’s review some of the physical, material things we have examined to learn something about character and integrity. We said that an official NFL football has more integrity than a Nerf football, because water will easily seep into a Nerf, but a real football has a quality of soundness and impenetrability. We said that, for storing sandwiches, zip-lock bags have more integrity than birdcages, because they make an airtight seal. In addition, they are known for having a better character for this purpose, even though birdcages may look more ornate or beautiful.

Today, we look at another facet of integrity and character in the comparison between a steel ball and a ball of Play-Doh. Neither of these is especially permeable. Therefore, we might conclude that they both have integrity. However, the steel ball actually has the greater integrity and character, because, in addition to being impervious to water, it resists being molded into a different shape by outside forces.

One of your three main enemies – “the world” – wants to attack your character and integrity primarily because of greed – the love of money.

Think about the people in films and magazines and on the internet who pose naked. They are appealing to the sin of lust. There is a market for it. People are lustful – they want to see that kind of thing. But people aren’t naturally inclined to go around naked. The world entices them into doing it to make money. Then a cult develops – you are “told” that attractive people get famous by doing it, so, if you are attractive, people will really like you if you do it, too, or, if that’s too much for you, then the world tells you that it is alright to at least act promiscuously for the same purpose.

The world is in the business of getting you to buy things. Most of the things the world wants you to buy are not practical or even comfortable. If you don’t believe me, go to a high school football game this Friday night, and watch the boys and girls spending inordinate amounts of energy hitching up their pants or brushing their hair out of their eyes.

The antidote to the greed promoted by the world is found in the Bible. Let’s look at the example of Daniel in the Bible. The events in the Book of Daniel take place in 605 B.C., after Jerusalem is taken by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel would have been approximately 15 years old when this occurred.

Daniel was a real historical person. He actually existed. He is referred to in Ezekiel Chapter 14, along with Noah and Job for their righteousness. He is also mentioned as a real person by the Lord Jesus in Mark 13:14 and in Matthew 24:15.

Daniel and his friends were the “best and brightest” of the young men of Jerusalem. And they were royalty (Daniel 1:3-4). The Babylonians changed their names. “Daniel” meant “God is my judge.” “Belteshazzar” meant “Bel protect his life.” “Hananiah” meant “the Lord shows grace.” “Shadrach meant “command of Aku (the moon-god).” “Mishael” meant “who is like God?” “Meshach” meant “who like Aku?” “Azariah” meant “the Lord is my help.” “Abednego” meant “servant of Nego.”

As Jews, living under the Old Testament Covenant, they were not supposed to eat defiled food. When pressured, they chose the Word of God over the king’s food. When disobeying ungodly authority, they were gracious toward that authority.

They were trained for three years in Babylonian beliefs and science and languages. They were examined and scored higher than anyone else (Daniel 1:18-20).

These Jewish young men were taken captive to Babylon, and they were treated well in many ways, but, in Scripture, Babylon represents our enemy, the world.

Geographically, today’s Iraq is the old Babylon. Saddam Hussein wanted to be the new Nebuchadnezzar.

The original Nebuchadnezzar wanted Daniel and his friends to serve in the royal palace, and he wanted young men with his idea of integrity. The problem was that he wanted them to conform. So, as a representative of the world, he began to put pressure on them – the same kind of pressure that the world puts on Christians today.

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

“Conforming” is caused by pressure from without. “Transforming” is caused by change and growth from within. Remember our illustration? Play-Doh can be conformed by pressure from outside, but the pressure won’t make it grow.

Concerning Daniel and his friends, the Babylonians changed their home, their ideas, their language, their diet – even their names. This is what we would call a form of brainwashing. Most people today were brainwashed as children to believe in a type of evolution which contradicts the Bible. They have been brainwashed to believe that the Earth is “billions and billions” of years old, when, according to the Bible, it’s only around 6000 years old.

Daniel resisted being conformed to the world of Babylon by purposing in his heart to obey God. He remembered that he was in a foreign country. Christians today are in a foreign land. If you are a Christian, the place of your physical address is not your real home.

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

Philippians 3:20

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Colossians 3:2

And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 8:23

When the world puts pressure on you to conform, follow the example of Daniel. Strengthen your integrity and your character. Do what it says in Romans 12:1-2. Start off each day by surrendering your body to the Lord (present your bodies a living sacrifice). Renew your mind in the Word of God every day. Pray. Daniel was automatic. He prayed three times every day, no matter what. Then “prove” God’s will – put it in action. Prove God’s will, not your own will.

Daniel and his friends proved they could be faithful in little things, so God gave them the chance to be faithful in great things (Luke 16:10), like the fiery furnace and the lion’s den.

Daniel made a “stand” (Daniel 1:4; 1:5; 1:19; 2:2; 2:31). “Standing” carries the connotation of “standing for something.” You know the old expression, but it’s still true: If we don’t stand for something, we’re going to fall for anything. Daniel and his friends were thrown into the fiery furnace for standing up when everyone else fell down and bowed down.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Ephesians 6:13

Christians are not called to be undercover agents – going along to get along with the world. God is looking for someone who won’t CONFORM. He is looking for someone who is TRANSFORMED.

God has some great plans for you. Don’t settle for just being popular or having a great career or falling in lust. Those things are going to pass away. Things done for God’s glory will last forever.

Quarterback Commandment No. 9

June 11, 2009 at 11:30 am | Posted in I Corinthians, Quarterback Commandments | 5 Comments
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Bill Parcells, like him or not, has a passion for one thing above all else: Winning. Ultimately, in terms of their career, that is how football coaches are judged. In our ongoing series of Quarterback Commandments, which Parcells (then Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys) gave to Tony Romo, the same criteria applies to quarterbacks.

Quarterback Commandment No. 9: Get your team in the end zone. Passing stats and TD passes are not how you’re going to be judged. Your job is to get your team in the end zone and that is how you will be judged.

Spiritual Application: A Christian minister will be judged, not for how popular he is, and not for the number of followers, converts, or students he claims, but for his obedience to the Lord, and for how well he managed the resources God gave him.

Since the Super Bowl era began in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys have had many quarterbacks, but only four really elite ones: Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Danny White, and Tony Romo. All four can boast impressive statistics: quarterback rating; completion percentage, yards passing, touchdown passes, etc. However, to date, only two of those four are considered to be truly “great:” Staubach and Aikman. And that is not because they had the most impressive statistics. It is because they consistently got their team in the end zone, and won games. They are the only two on the list with Super Bowl victories – 2 for Staubach and 3 for Aikman.

Bottom line: Quarterback is a glamorous position. Quarterbacks are lauded for performing well. But statistics don’t mean much if your team doesn’t win the game.

Christian ministers are not playing a game. We will ultimately be “winners,” but even that victory will not be credited to us – it will be because of, and redound to the glory of, our great Lord.

However, Christian ministers, like NFL quarterbacks, will be judged. Romans 14:10 tells us that “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” Unbelievers will stand before God’s Great White Throne in judgment, and then be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

II Corinthians 5:10

I don’t understand everything there is to know about the judgment seat of Christ, but it does seem to me that we who are counted righteous, and whose sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus, will be judged based on our works. After this judgment, which is for true Christians only, we will go into the presence of the Lord with fullness of joy, and live with Him forevermore.

As Christian quarterbacks, I am afraid that, on that day, some of our passing statistics will be burned and counted as loss.

Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

I Corinthians 3:13-15

Here are examples of some Biblical “quarterbacks” who would have never been in the top echelon of “success” by worldly standards, but who definitely knew how to find the “end zone” of obedience:

Noah – the Old Testament preacher of righteousness, preached, and built the ark, for 120 years while the fools around him scoffed, laughed, enjoyed their lives, and ignored his call for repentance. When God poured water from the sky, and brought it forth from beneath the earth, the “crazy man” who was building a boat in the desert suddenly didn’t seem so crazy after all. Noah’s stats were awful: 120 years of preaching, with no converts except his own family – yet judged by God as a smashing success!

Jeremiah – the “weeping prophet,” despised and rejected throughout his ministry. He was beaten, imprisoned, put into stocks, and reviled. It appears that, during his ministry, no one was converted through his prophecies or preaching. However, he was vindicated by God, who fulfilled each and every one of Jeremiah’s prophecies to the letter. Jeremiah reached the end zone of obedience and faithfulness when everyone around him threw in the towel, phoned it in, or pandered to the crowd.

Paul the Apostle – Here’s what Paul thought of his “statistics:”

Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

Philippians 3:4-8

It was as if Paul told the Judaizers, “If you want to talk stats, I have thrown more completions, had fewer interceptions, had a higher passer rating, and more yards per attempt than all of you! And I consider all that to be excrement, compared to being called a ‘winner’ by Jesus!”

How will you be judged at the end of your life on earth? Were you popular? Wealthy? Influential? Attractive? God will not be impressed. Or will you be able to say that you obeyed the Lord with all your heart, working hard to score touchdowns for His team – and His team only – with every ounce of energy and every material resource He graciously entrusted to you?

Quarterback Commandment No. 3

April 1, 2009 at 8:53 am | Posted in Quarterback Commandments | 10 Comments
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Today, we see Commandment No. 3 in the list of Bill Parcells’s “Quarterback Commandments” given to Tony Romo.

Quarterback Commandment No. 3: Fat Quarterbacks can’t avoid the rush. A quarterback throws with his legs more than his arm. Squat and run.

Okay, I am aware that not everyone who reads this is going to understand even basic football lingo. So let me help you out a little with some definitions. “The rush” refers to the defensive players who try to tackle the quarterback while he is trying to find time to throw the ball. And “squat and run” is not the punchline to a bad joke about the restrooms in Tijuana. “Squats” are exercises used to strengthen the legs. “Run” refers to the way athletes run as part of their training to build up stamina, so they don’t tire out during the games.

So, what Parcells is saying, in effect, is that, to be a good quarterback you have to strive to be in top physical condition. You have to train hard in the offseason.

The obvious spiritual application to this one would have to do with avoiding the sin of gluttony. (Proverbs 23:21) Christians are stewards of the temples of their bodies, and “fat” Christian ministers, like “fat” quarterbacks are going to have trouble with the “rush” of all the daily problems we face (unless it’s the “rush” to be first in the buffet line) if we are hospitalized for some type of obesity-related illness.

Having said that, however, I must admit that I myself could use a gentle reminder once in a while to push away from the table after my fourth or fifth helping. (If you are saying “Amen!” to that, though, it’s only because you have never tasted my wife’s fried chicken or homemade pizza.)

No, the real Spiritual Application I want to draw from QB Commandment No. 3 is this: Just as a quarterback must stay in shape physically in order to perform well, Christian ministers must always be striving to condition ourselves spiritually.

I am reminded of II Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” Christian ministers must constantly be prepared, through much hard work in studying the Word of God, to proclaim Biblical truth.

Whether it’s “game time” or the “offseason,” we must be ready always to give an answer for the hope that is within us. (I Peter 3:15)

There is no room for laziness in the life of a Christian minister.

As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.

Proverbs 10:26

Remember Daniel. When he was taken captive to Babylon, he began to rise to a position of prominence. He was in the good graces of the Babylonian leaders. (Daniel 2:48) How easy it would have been to consider this his “offseason,” and to lazily forget His spiritual responsibilities toward God. But Daniel was a good Christian quarterback. He consistently prayed to the One True God three times everyday. (Daniel 6:10) Regardless of whether you think Daniel was charismatic, you have to admit he was automatic! And we should be the same way.

Christian quarterbacks can not afford to be too slow to escape Satan’s “rush.” We may not be commanded to “squat and run,” but we are required and expected to kneel (pray) and run (Hebrews 12:1).

Christian quarterbacks who get “fat” are not only hindering the game plan of the Lord, they are potentially waiting to get “sacked,” and knocked out of the game completely.

Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

Philippians 3:19

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