No More Wondering, Working, and Waiting

November 21, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I. When you think of God’s holiness and your own sinfulness, do you ever wonder how God could love you?

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

Ephesians 2:4-5

It is simply in His marvelous nature to show forth His great love by His wonderful grace.

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

I John 4:8

It is understandable that you might wonder HOW God could love you, but, if you have been born again into the family of God, justified through faith alone, and adopted as His Own child, then you ought never to question IF God loves you.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

II. When you understand that God’s holiness and justice require your absolute moral perfection and obedience, do you doubt that you have you worked hard enough to earn God’s approval, favor, or blessing?

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

Romans 4:4

You can stop asking that question. There is no doubt that you can never do enough good things to make God your debtor. HOWEVER:

But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Romans 4:5

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

You could never work your way to Heaven, but if you have trusted Christ unto salvation, then your disobedience, sin, and lack of good works have been washed away by the mercy of God in the blood of Jesus.

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

III. Do you hope that one day God will forgive you, or decide to be kindly disposed toward you in spite of your rebellion and shame? Are you longing for a day when you will find yourself forgiven and accepted?

(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

II Corinthians 6:2

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, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

Luke 4:18-21

The sovereign Lord and Ruler of this universe, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the all-powerful, majestic and holy King above all kings, will answer your call this very moment.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

John 1:12

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10:13

If you have repented and believed His Gospel, He loves you with an everlasting love, and nothing in this world or beyond will ever separate you from it.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

If you have been regenerated, justified, and adopted by the Lord Jesus Christ, then you do not have to wonder at, work for, or wait upon God’s love.

Faith Illustrated

April 12, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 2 Comments
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Hebrews Chapter 11 is often called “The Faith Chapter” of the Bible, or the “Hall of Faith,” or the “Hall of Fame of Faith” because it lists several “heroes” of the Old Testament, and what they were able to accomplish through their faith in God. However, it also teaches that faith is more than just a feeling and more than mental assent to a Biblical doctrine. Nor is Biblical faith totally totally separate from empirical and rational evidence.

One of the chief reasons we use the Word of God in evangelism is that there is power in the Word. Faith actually comes FROM hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). For Christians, the idea of “having faith” should never be separated from “living by faith.” Just as love – for Christians – is more of an action than a feeling, so faith – “saving” faith – is a faith that has the power to work. As we draw near to Christ by faith, we get sent out by faith, and empowered by faith.

We increase our faith by obedience and action, and it is also helpful to spend time with faithful people – to observe and to emulate faithful people. The pages of the Bible are full of people who pleased God through faith, and people who failed God by unbelief. Hebrews Chapter 11 records the success stories.

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

Hebrews 11:4

Abel gave gifts to God by faith, and was martyred for his faith, but his actions still speak today. He was the first in a long line of God’s people who died for the faith.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

Matthew 23:29-35

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:5-6

Enoch was a man who grew closer and closer to God, until one day God drew him all the way to Himself in Heaven!

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Hebrews 11:7

Noah guided his family by faith, guided those who were faithful, and condemned the unfaithful world.

The line of faithful men continued with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, who, by faith, kept going toward a city that could only be seen by faith. The visible world they walked through each day was not – they knew – their real home.

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

Hebrews 11:24-25

Moses forsook a life of ease and pleasure, believing by faith that, no matter how scary the wilderness looked and how long it lasted (40 years), following God was safer than hiding from God.

By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

Hebrews 11:31

Rahab, a condemned heathen harlot, was grafted into the ancestral line of Christ as an illustration of faith. After reading the Old Testament, we might be surprised at some of the other “heroes of the faith:” Gideon, the frightened farmer; Samson, the macho strongman, whose greatest service to God may have been in his death; Jephthah, impatient and illegitimate, who was used by God even though he wound up sacrificing his own daughter.

There is today a false doctrine out there called the “Word Faith” movement, led by wealthy preachers who say foolish things like, “If it’s in your mouth it’s in your future” and “Don’t keep praying – it shows a lack of faith; if you must pray, just express thanks that it’s already been done, instead of repeating and making supplication.” These false teachers say that the presence of real faith excludes the possibility of suffering. It is an error easily refuted by the Bible:

And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Hebrews 11:36-38

Not only the Old Testament patriarchs, but New Testament martyrs as well, have suffered faithfully, without earthly deliverance. I hope you don’t believe that some television preacher with a Lear jet, six Rolls Royces, a tanning bed, and a beauty salon for his wife’s pet poodle has more faith than these wanderers in deserts and caves. These faithful martyrs named eternally in the everlasting page’s of God’s holy Word do not teach us that faith is “speaking forth blessings,” “pleading the blood” over our finances, or “naming and claiming it.” They teach us that faith is believing God’s Word in spite of circumstances and consequences.

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your saving grace. Thank You for making intercession for us before the Father. As You do so, let us draw ever closer and closer to You, and make us more like You today than we were yesterday. Amen.

Catechism Question 21

April 20, 2015 at 9:52 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism, Salvation | 3 Comments
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Question 21: When did God forgive you for your sins and give you eternal life?
Answer: When I believed on Jesus and called on Him to save me.
Prove it.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10:13

Eternal salvation is completely, fully, and totally the work of the Lord. Even our decision to trust Christ and receive Him as Savior does not add any merit to the finished work of Jesus. However, since this salvation is by grace through faith, God graciously allows the application of this miraculous gift to occur when a person, having recognized his or her sinful condition and believed the Gospel, personally calls upon the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, in repentance and faith.

Other verses to consider:

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

John 20:31

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

I John 5:13

The Power of Prayer

October 8, 2014 at 10:40 am | Posted in Do You Know the Way? | 4 Comments
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Do You Know the Way? (John 14)

I. The Prepared Place (John 14:1-3)
II. The Particular Path (John 14:4-11)
III. The Power of Prayer (John 14:12-14)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

John 14:12-14 (emphasis added)

The power to do the “greater works” which Jesus promised was conditional. There was a reason for it. “Because I go to My Father.” The power to do the works that Jesus did can – and must – be accessed by prayer. This great truth is conditioned on praying in His name. This means praying according to the authority of His will.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10:13

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Matthew 6:9

The name of the Lord is more than just an identifier; it is the expression of Who He is and what He has commanded. “In Jesus’s name” must be more than the tag-line or the closing salutation on our prayers. It is a way of asking Jesus to intercede for us before the throne of God, of conforming our will to God’s will. The false belief that we can coerce the Lord into doing our will should not be comforting at all. Such a thought should be horrifying. However, trusting the Lord with my heartfelt desires is extremely reassuring.

I don’t want to make it seem like I’m campaigning against the literal meaning of the text in John 14:14. Jesus is not limited in power, and we certainly can ask Him for anything that would not violate Scripture, and even have faith that it will come to pass. What I’m trying to do is guard against what is called “prosperity theology” or sometimes the “prosperity gospel.” According to this false doctrine, God must give us what we want if we name the name of Jesus in our prayers.

Why would preachers teach such a thing when it makes it seem like every cancer ward, orphanage, broken marriage, and even cemetery plot is a monument to unanswered prayer? The answer is that, it is because people don’t spend money without a guarantee. Prosperity preachers are promising material blessings in exchange for money. It’s sort of a baptized Ponzi scheme. And this is their “out” when they can’t produce the results: “You didn’t have enough faith.” So when you give Benny Hinn $1000 and your back is still killing you, it’s not his fault (and it’s obviously not God’s fault). It’s just that you didn’t “mean it” enough when you asked in Jesus’s name. You need to show you “mean it” more by giving another $1000 – or better yet $5000.

I don’t want to be standing near the proponents of this false Gospel at the Great White Throne judgment, because Jesus takes His name very seriously. The power of prayer is attached to Jesus’s name, and Jesus’s name is never disconnected from His will. He is your LORD, not your genie. That’s why John 14:16 seems so out of place if you don’t understand this context.

If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 14:16

Next time, we will see how John 14:16 leads us into the next subject: the promise of the Paraclete.

Faithful Wounds Part 2

October 6, 2014 at 11:47 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In response to my post called “Faithful Wounds,” which you can read by clicking here, I received the following comments on another forum, and gave the following responses:

Commenter: If the ignorant boy knows the man, and has an ongoing trusting relationship, it’s more likely that he will heed the warning without much incident. What I think you have argued is the fallacy of incongruent analogy.

And, would not God be the one doing the chasing, or “tackling”, anyway? If the Spirit is not working in the heart of that person, it matters not what variety of message we use. It will be to no avail. So, why not build a bridge?

Me: The boy in the analogy wasn’t just ignorant – he was dangerously ignorant. And, being completely oblivious to the danger and running out of space before he met an ugly end, there wasn’t time to build a bridge of relationship. We could argue, I suppose, that the man should have built a relationship with the boy a long time ago, but the (made-up-for analogy) “fact” that he didn’t build one before, doesn’t make the analogy incongruent.

I agree that God’s Spirit does the chasing and the tackling in one sense, but I also believe He uses loving Christians as His instruments many times. God is powerful enough to supernaturally implant the Gospel message into a person’s brain, and He is powerful enough drop a blockade from the sky that would keep everyone from racing into traffic, but the fact is, for some reason, it pleases Him to use redeemed sinners to declare His Gospel, and to form relationships, and even to, once in while, roughly shake someone we love into his senses before he hurts himself.

Commenter: You are saying that God’s Kingdom is built by hateful and rash behavior.

Me: That’s not what I said. I said the man who tackled the boy “appeared” hateful and rash, but that he actually acted out of true active love. I do not believe the Bible condones rash hatred, and did not mean to imply it.

Commenter: You are crazy. Someone needs to tackle you, mate.

Me: I’m sorry you think I’m “crazy.” Hopefully you are just joking and not being mean-spirited. Name calling is purportedly not helpful to building a bridge of relationship.

If you truly do think I’m crazy though, I guess I’ll have to live with the label. They said the same thing about Jesus (Mark 3:21) and the Apostle Paul (Acts 26:24). Anyway, “crazy” can be pretty subjective. Older Christian men will tell you that, several decades ago, it was pretty common for people to tell people right to their face that they God loved them, and that they could be saved from the consequences of their sin by trusting Jesus. They say that these people weren’t considered “crazy” at all. However, I admit that the standard has changed. These days, forcefully confronting someone with the Gospel when they don’t want to hear it is often described as “crazy,” while it is considered not only sane, but worthy of adoration, to wear a “meat dress” or to dance around in underwear on a stage while people scream out that they would die for you. “Crazy” can be sort of a relative term.

As far as someone tackling me, you’re a little too late – it’s already happened both in the literal (when I tried to stop a bigger person from beating up a smaller person, and his friends didn’t like it!) and in the figurative sense – many years ago – when a stranger who loved me enough to tell me the truth told me that, according to the Bible, I had sinned against God and needed His loving Son to save me. The Holy Spirit also “tackled” me at that point, opened my willfully blind and oblivious eyes, and showed me it was true. That Truth is something wonderful that I want everyone to know – even the ones who think they don’t want to hear it. That might appear hateful and rash, but it is not being hateful or rash.

Commenter: The primary flaw with your analogy is that anyone can by force save the boy from his path of destruction – in fact against his own will. Your analogy seems very similar to the comedian-magician Penn Gillette’s words, that “If you see someone about to get hit by a truck, there comes a point when you tackle them.” But what we are dealing with here is a soul’s choice to accept or reject the Gospel. It would be more accurate to say that one man prayed and pleaded and begged the boy to turn aside, and that the second, more forceful man, shouted and harangued and yelled at the boy to turn aside. But neither of them could do anything other than speak to the boy. The path of his own life or destruction – of any soul’s – is ultimately their own decision.

Me: You might believe that the analogy makes a point that you do not happen to like, believe, or agree with, but I respectfully submit that, in the scenario of the analogy itself, the point was not that anyone could stop the boy by force – the point was that only one person was willing to stop the boy by force. Someone had already tried more polite methods and they didn’t appear to be working.

I don’t know much about Penn Gillette, and I can’t really tell if you are agreeing with his statement or not, but on the surface (without knowing the context and without agreeing with him on other things) it appears to make sense. If I’m about to get hit by a truck, I would like someone (even someone who doesn’t particularly like me) to tackle me. As stated above, someone did that to me, spiritually speaking, several years ago, and I love him for it. Even more, I love the God Who I believe authorized and empowered him to do it. I have done it to others, and they have testified that they are grateful for it, too. I would argue that there is evidence in the Bible of evangelistic “tackling in love” and that it is portrayed in Scripture as the God-ordained thing to do in certain circumstances.

You state, “It would be more accurate to say that one man prayed and pleaded and begged the boy to turn aside, and that the second, more forceful man, shouted and harangued and yelled at the boy to turn aside. But neither of them could do anything other than speak to the boy.” Well, you are free to make up your own analogy I suppose, but to say that mine is less “accurate” kind of misses the point. The boy and his tackler landed just shy of the path of a speeding truck! Are you suggesting that the haranguing and yelling would have been worth the risk considering the magnitude of the harm averted? Everyone is free to dislike the analogy, but I would hope it wouldn’t be judged internally inconsistent, just like I would hope the tackler’s motives wouldn’t be mischaracterized as hateful and rash, when they are clearly stated to be otherwise.

You state: “The path of his own life or destruction – of any soul’s – is ultimately their own decision.” I want to give you credit (and I’m not being sarcastic) for the boldness of your convictions on this point. I would agree that each soul’s decision plays a part, but I would also argue (I think I can support it from Scripture) that other people who encounter a person also play a part in determining that person’s path, and that certainly God Himself plays a part in determining our path. To say that the person himself is the “ultimate” determiner, instead of God, is where we disagree.

Why Some People Just Don’t Get all that Jesus/Church/Religion/Christianity/Gospel Stuff

August 18, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Posted in Salvation, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 4 Comments
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albino alligator

Here in the South (U.S.A.), it can sometimes seem more likely to encounter an albino alligator than somebody who freely admits that he or she is not a Christian (although here in Louisiana many of my Roman Catholic friends say, “No, I’m a Catholic,” when someone asks them if they are Christians). Here are the most common responses I get when I ask people, “Are you a Christian?”

-“Yes, I’ve been a Christian my whole life.” (This is actually an impossibility. No one is born as a Christian, which is why the Bible says you have to be “born again.” By the way, no one will become a Christian after they die, either.)

– “Yes, I was baptized when I was ____ years old.” (This is actually irrelevant. Getting baptized does not make anyone a Christian.)

-“Yes, I go to such-and-such church.” (Again, this is irrelevant. Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than – as the common cliche’ goes – going into a garage makes you a car.)

-Yes, I pray every day. (Still irrelevant. Many people become Christians during a prayer, but praying itself does not make anyone a Christian.)

-Yes, I read my Bible every day. (Okay, I admit it. Almost no one ever says this to me any more, but if they did, they would be wrong. Reading the Bible in and of itself does not make anyone a Christian.)

-Yes, I ‘just know’ I’m a Christian. (While I don’t see how anyone could be a Christian and not know it, this response only begs the question. “Just knowing” something doesn’t make the something true. A true Christian would be able to state why, how, when, where, and upon what authority he or she became a Christian.)

Every once in a while, I run into somebody who pretends to be an atheist, but that is much more common on the internet than in real life. By far the most common type of non-Christian that I know is the person who “just doesn’t get it.” And even this category breaks down into sub-types.

There’s the “I don’t get it because it makes me uncomfortable” type. These folks were taught that it’s bad manners to talk about religion or politics because the topics are too volatile, or because it’s their own personal business, or because it makes them feel guilty or “judged.”

Then there’s the “someone religious hurt my feelings one time” group. They were mistreated at church, or somebody told them they were going to hell without first explaining why, or somebody told them something untrue about Christianity or the Bible.

Then there’s the “it’s all a hoax” crew. Their main experience of so-called Christianity has been the lying and greedy prosperity preachers on TV. They think anybody religious is secretly trying to swindle them out of their money. Somebody coerced them into coming to church on Easter Sunday one time, and, at the end of the service, the ushers passed an offering plate around, and they were highly offended that anybody would talk about Jesus and then give them the opportunity to contribute money to His Church.

There are some other categories, too, and some of these bleed into each other, and somebody is going to read this and say, “Ha! I don’t want to hear about Jesus for a whole different reason that you haven’t even thought of, you stereotyping bigot!” I know, I know, everybody has their own story and their own bruised little inner child that’s crying out for understanding, but I can make the whole thing really simple. Because, underneath it all, at the real crux of the matter, there is only one big foundational reason whey people aren’t Christians. They are rejecting the Truth.

We think sympathetically of blind people, and we should. They can’t help it. I doubt we would feel sorry, though, for people who are blind simply because they refuse to take off their blindfolds. Spiritual blindness is a whole different thing. People who “just don’t get it” when it comes to Christ and His Gospel are not people with blinded eyes. They are people with blinded minds.

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 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 4:3-4

If a person with a blindfold on his eyes says to me, “Sorry, but I just don’t get this whole ‘vision thing,'” I’ll just reach up and snatch off his blindfold. No sympathy. When a person says the same thing about Jesus’s Gospel, though, I can’t snatch it away. Only the Holy Spirit Himself can do it. The “method” that He has chosen for this procedure, though, is the proclamation of the Word of God: The Truth about our sin, God’s Son, and and His salvation.

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

Romans 10:17

The spiritually blind person is 100% at fault for his own blindness, but God still has to do something miraculous and supernatural to give him sight. That’s why real Christians keep preaching to non-Christians who don’t get it, don’t want to get it, and don’t even want to hear about it. Not because we like to annoy people. Not because we get a sick thrill out of telling people they are damned and under the wrath of God (although they are), and not because we think we’re better than them. It’s because Jesus is amazing and wonderful and absolutely deserves to have His story told. It’s because He commanded us to do it. And it’s because we love the people who “just don’t get it” enough to tell them the only Truth that can save them, even when they don’t want to hear it.

Preparing to Hear from God: Responsive

February 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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The first two principles we noted in preparing to hear from God were R.eady and R.eceptive. We also need to be:

R.esponsive

Prepare to hear from God by pre-determining you are going to do what He says. Be responsive to God in two ways:

1. Be reactive.

Obey Him.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 1:22

A response is a reaction. It’s changing your behavior to line up with what God says, or taking some new action – even if you don’t feel like you want to do it – because God said to do it.

2. Be realistic.

You can hear from God and not understand it completely the first time. What do you do when you honestly wanted to hear from God and you think He was speaking to you, but you are confused? You keep asking and listening.

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:11

Be realistic. Don’t pretend that you have understood God when you haven’t, and don’t let somebody tell you that this is what God told me to tell you without checking it out for yourself.

This is how important hearing from God is:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

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

Romans 10:17

If you say that you believe you are going to Heaven one day, could you open a Bible and show how you know that? People get saved by grace through faith – and that faith comes from hearing God’s Word.

The Lord’s Love Song

April 19, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Thank you, Lord, for loving us. For teaching us that love is more than just a feeling or an emotion. It’s an action – an opportunity to obey You and to show what we believe by how we treat each other. In Christ’s name. Amen.

The Holy Spirit used the human instrument, King Solomon, to write the book of the Bible we know as Song of Solomon. There is much debate, disagreement, and doubt about its true meaning. Some feel that it is a poem which is a metaphor for God’s love for Israel and/or Christ’s love for His church. Others believe that it is a song written by Solomon to a Shulamite woman. Perhaps it is simply an ode to the love between a husband and a wife. I will confess that I happen to think that it is all three of those and much more.

Certainly, much of its language is symbolic, but some of it is surprisingly straightforward. One funny incident that comes to mind concerning the Song of Solomon happened early in my marriage when my wife and I were students in a Sunday School class of young married couples. We were using one of our church’s classrooms for a fellowship activity on a Friday evening. Our teacher planned a game similar to Pictionary, with the husbands on one team and the wives on the other. The ladies would choose a Bible verse and give it to one of the husbands, who would have to “draw the verse” on the chalkboard without using words or numbers, while the other men had to guess the Scripture reference. At one point, the ladies chose Song of Solomon 8:8. Maybe you can imagine the hilarity that ensued as one highly embarrassed husband had to draw this verse in front of the whole group!

The romantic language of pastoral Hebrew culture in King Solomon’s day can seem humorous to us. When is the last time you compared your spouse’s teeth to sheep?

Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.

Song of Solomon 4:2

When you read Song of Solomon, it is important to remember that there are different voices or different characters speaking different parts, often within the same passages. Let’s briefly examine three main ideas from the book.

1. The importance of expressing love verbally

It is a good thing to tell your spouse, “I love you.” When I was first married, I was told by several older gentlemen that the most important phrase I would need to use in order to have a long and happy marriage was, “Yes, dear,” but I have found, “I love you,” to be more edifying, assuring, and helpful. However, even the phrase, “I love you,” tends to show a limited imagination after a while. Song of Solomon reminds us to be creative and imaginative in our verbal expression of love for our spouses.

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes.

Song of Solomon 1:15

Compliments need to be true expressions of love, not flattery. It’s one thing to say that my wife has “beautiful” eyes (she does!), but doves’ eyes are more than attractive – they promote a feeling of peace. Tell your spouse you like the way he or she looks, but also tell him or her that you appreciate the work he or she does for the Lord.

Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.

Song of Solomon 1:16

This might be referring to the place where the couple first met. It is important to “make memories” with your spouse, and then later to spend time reminiscing about those experiences.

Love is demonstrated more by action than words, but the Bible teaches us that it definitely needs to be expressed verbally as well. You’ve probably heard the old saw about the man who boasted concerning his wife, “I told her I loved her 25 year ago. If I change my mind I’ll let her know!” That won’t cut it if we’re trying to accurately represent the love of Christ. If you love the Lord in your heart, He certainly knows it. But He also wants us to verbalize it.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Romans 10:9-10 (emphasis added)

2. Physical love (sexual intimacy) is for the marriage relationship exclusively.

I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.

Song of Solomon 2:7

That verse sounds to me like a kind and loving wife’s admonition to her friends to “keep it down!” To let her hubby “sleep in.” But the majority of Bible commentators believe that the “daughters of Jerusalem” are the young women who are not yet married. The bride in the Song is telling them to wait until marriage to become sexually active. That certainly lines up with the rest of Scripture. God’s plan for physical intimacy is that it be limited to the marriage bed. God ordained from the beginning that a husband and wife would be “one flesh” – that they would be joined together by God in a marriage relationship first – and then physical intimacy would come afterward. Fornication and adultery are condemned throughout Scripture. Take some time and pray for the children and the young unmarried people that you know – that they would remain sexually pure. Sometimes we are mighty prayer warriors when it comes to their salvation, but we are guilty of a sneaking suspicion that there is no way that they will actually be able to wait until marriage in a world where virtually “everyone does it.”

Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee. My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.

Song of Solomon 6:1-3

These women of the chorus wanted to go down with the bride to spend time with her husband, but she said, “No, he is mine, and I am his.” The marriage relationship is an exclusive relationship. It is a gift from God, and it is to be guarded. If you are reading this and you are married, respect it. If you are reading this and you are not in a marriage, respect everyone else’s!

Lack of trust is generally a negative thing among spouses, but “jealousy” is not always bad. Remember, in the prophets (such as Hosea, Isaiah, and Ezekiel), those who belonged to God, and then “cheated” on Him, were called adulterers, harlots, and whores.

3. The endurance of love

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7

A “seal” in the Bible represents something that’s permanent.

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

Ephesians 4:30

Monarchs in antiquity wore “signet rings” which were supposed to make an indelible impression. I hope you see your wedding ring as symbol of permanent love and faithfulness. Aren’t you glad that God’s love isn’t as fickle as ours? God says when you commit to love someone – your wife, your husband, your friend, even your neighbor – make up your mind to show that love even when the person isn’t acting lovely, and even when you don’t feel like showing love. “Contemned” in Song of Solomon 8:7 means “held in contempt.” When you place things in a relative perspective, I hope you are placing the highest value on the people you love rather than “things.” All the wealth in the world would be despised if it was offered in exchange for your salvation. A truly saved person wouldn’t break off his relationship with God, through Christ, for any amount of money in the world, even if such a thing were possible.

Thank You, Lord, for those in our lives that we love – and those that love us. Thank You that you are a God of love – that You are love personified. Help our love to leave the stage of feeling and emotion, but to become active. Help us to be people that show love – and make us conscious of opportunities to show love to others. In the Name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.

The Castaways

May 11, 2011 at 9:27 am | Posted in Romans | 2 Comments
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God gave Israel three chances to accept salvation by grace through faith.

1. They fell.

I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

Romans 11:11 (emphasis added)

2. They were diminished.

Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

Romans 11:12 (emphasis addded)

3. They were cast away.

For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

Romans 11:15 (emphasis added)

I remember watching a television show called “Gilligan’s Island,” which was about a group of “castaways.”

Gilligan's Island

These castaways hoped to be rescued from the desert island where they had landed, but they kept trying to accomplish their rescue on their own. Did other people stop taking cruises until Gilligan and his friends could be found? No. God protected them while they were on the island, but He still blessed others while the castaways were hidden – they were kept safe, but secreted away. In a similar way, the gentiles received the opportunity for salvation partly because Israel fell, became diminished, and became castaways.

The idea from Romans 10 that the gentiles were to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy is reiterated in Romans 11:11. As a Christian, is your life provoking anyone to jealousy?

For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

Romans 11:13-14

Many mistake the teaching of the Holy Spirit through Paul to mean that saved people should sin with the sinners in order to develop a relationship with them that will open the door to present the Gospel. That is not what these Verses are teaching. The Apostle Paul “magnified his office.” He openly proclaimed to the gentiles, while he was among them, that he was an Apostle to them. But he also hoped his fellow-Jews were watching. Some of the gentile customs would have been personally offensive to Paul, but if the Jews could see the lengths he was going to in order to bring them the Gospel, they might become jealous and get interested in the message of the Cross, too.

And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:

Romans 11:9

The Jewish “table,” which should have been a place of spiritual nourishment, had become a trap or a snare. The Jewish leaders added to the rituals and the traditions, but they did not add in the nourishment of the Word of God.

Romans 11:16-24 contains the allegory of the olive tree. The gentiles have been “grafted into” God’s tree of salvation, but the gentiles have no grounds for boasting, and they must not forget the importance of Israel in God’s plans.

Bold Mouths, Beautiful Feet, and Blindfolded Eyes

April 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical Eyesight, Romans | 13 Comments
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For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Romans 10:10-11

We do not earn salvation merely by what we say. In fact, we do not earn salvation at all. It is a gift from God. But our mouths are what we are to use to confess the salvation we have received. Have you ever made a public profession of your faith?

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10:13

In Joel 2:32 the prophet Joel had prophesied about the time when “whosoever” called on God as Lord would be saved. If you have been in church long enough, you have probably heard a preacher at one time or another exhort people who have not been saved to answer this question for themselves: “Are you a ‘whosoever?'”

The Holy Spirit in Romans 10 went on to use the Scriptures of the prophet Isaiah to explain how God views those who carry the Gospel to all the “whosoevers:”

And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Romans 10:15

Beautiful feet are feet that bring the news of salvation. They are feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, but peace between whom? Peace between God and sinners. “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!” Sinners need to be reconciled to God because, before we were saved, we were at war with God.

In the Apostle Paul’s time this should not have been a new idea to the Israelites. The Holy Spirit cites Deuteronomy 32:21:

But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.

Romans 10:19

That “foolish nation” was the gentiles. One of the reasons God sent the message of salvation to the gentiles was because the Jews had rejected it, but another reason was so that gentile Christians could provoke them to jealousy.

Romans Chapter 10 ends with a quote from Isaiah 65:

I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;

Isaiah 65: 1-2

Romans Chapter 11 shows that, although the Jews are a gainsaying people, God’s patience has not run out with them. He has a future for them. His hand may have been turned against them, but His heart is not turned against them. God to the nation of Israel: I’m not finished with you yet. God could have called gentiles to be apostles, but he chose Jews. The manner in which the Apostle Paul was saved is a picture of the way that Israel will be converted to a Christian nation and a Christian people:

1. Paul saw Jesus.
2. He repented.
3. He received Him.

Romans 11 is a message to the Jewish believers that they are not alone. They may have been thinking like the prophet Elijah – he thought he was the last faithful man.

God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.

Romans 11:2-4

The Bible word for those Jews who are set aside for God – who are still faithful and who still know the truth, even when the vast majority does not – is the “remnant.” The remnant is a special group, but it is still made up of people who are saved the same way anybody is saved: by grace through faith.

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded

Romans 11:5-7

“Blinded” in Romans 11:7 is not referring to someone who will never see again. It is the term that we think of as “blindfolded” (temporarily blinded). Historically, the Jews had received great spiritual blessings, but they had often loved the blessings and forgotten the Blesser. Generally, we don’t like to work, but there is pleasure in the fruits of labor. The problem is focusing on the pleasure and thinking we are the producers of that pleasure, instead of remembering where our blessings really come from.

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