Over a Barrel

July 18, 2011 at 9:26 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 7 Comments
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The common expression “over a barrel” means that someone is in a compromising position. The phrase comes from a time when the method for rescuing a person who had almost drowned was to pull him from the water and start rolling him back and forth over a barrel. Sometimes this treatment did more harm than good!

over a barrel

The Bible application for the expression “over a barrel” comes from I Kings 17. The widow at Zarephath wasn’t drowning, though. She was starving. She only had enough meal and oil for her and her son to have one last little cake, after which she was planning on dying. Then, on top of that, the prophet Elijah, the man of God, stopped by and told her to get him some water – and to bring him a little cake while she was at it!

The lady could have become exasperated and angry, but instead she exercised her faith. She went and did according to the saying of Elijah. She heard the Word and heeded the Word.

As you read this, you are probably not starving to death, but does someone have you “over a barrel?” Financially, your creditors may have you over a barrel. Time-wise, your employer may have you over a barrel. When it comes to being starved for affection, your spouse, your family, or your friends may have you over a barrel.

The Word of God to the widow lady of Zarephath was, “Take what little you have, and by faith give it to Me.” We might say she was “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” but, sometimes, we have to get to that point in order to realize that we need God. Her barrel, which held the “meal” needed to make bread, was empty, but she herself was not empty of faith. As Christians, even when our material barrel is empty, we can still be filled with the Spirit of God, so we have no reason to complain. (Warren Wiersbe likes to say that empty barrels make the most noise.)

Elijah told the lady that the Lord had fixed it so that her meal and oil would not be completely exhausted. From that day on she never had more than one handful, nor less than one handful.

Certainly God was capable of filling her barrel of meal to the top and overflowing her cruse of oil, but, in a time of famine, word might have gotten out, and she might have been robbed. God is often gracious not to overburden us with superfluous blessings. We are in a battle and we need to travel light when we fight Satan. The armor of God has a sword for our hand, but there are no pockets or pouches in the armor for holding supplies.

Had God suddenly given the lady too much meal, it might have spoiled and become infested with worms. We face the same danger when we have a “surplus” of blessings, but the worm that infests us is called pride. When you find yourself “over a barrel,” by faith reach into the barrel of your eternal spiritual blessings in Christ. Many people are confused – they think the purpose of the Christian life is to get abundant material blessings. Jesus did not teach His disciples to pray, “Give us this day enough bread to last for a year, and a big mansion to keep it in, and a fancy car to drive it around in.” No, He told them to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread.”

The Real “First Thanksgiving:” The Pilgrims Meet the Egyptians

May 6, 2011 at 10:27 am | Posted in Genesis | 16 Comments
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It’s fairly easy to pick up on the soteriological symbolism behind the true historical events of God calling His people out of the land of Egypt and into the promised land of Canaan, as they are recorded in the Bible. In the book of Exodus God uses Moses to get his people out of Egypt. Egypt is a picture of the “world.” During the first “Passover,” the people – by the application of blood – are set free from the bondage of the world, and come out of it. This is a picture of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Then, God’s people pass through the Red Sea. This is a picture of baptism, God’s first step of obedience for every believer. Then comes the book of Leviticus, which is full of rules for helping God’s people stay clean in their freedom. In Exodus, God gets His people out of Egypt. In Leviticus, God gets Egypt out of His people.

As we approach the end of a series of posts on Genesis, it is interesting to see how God’s people – the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – end up in Egypt in the first place. The answer lies in the adventures of Jacob’s son, Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery, and he wound up a ruler in Egypt. Through God’s providence, he was able to relocate his family there in a time of famine, so that they would survive.

There are many metaphors for life: a contest; a war; a game; a race; a battle; a trap; a puzzle. You were probably taught in school that the first Thanksgiving occurred when the Pilgrims met the Indians. But when Joseph brought his father, Jacob, to meet the Pharaoh of Egypt, Jacob explained that he saw life as a pilgrimage.

And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.

Genesis 47:9

Christians truly are pilgrims in this life, for our ultimate home is not in this world. We are just passing through it on our way to our real home in Heaven. Vagabonds have no home. Fugitives are running away from home. Strangers are visiting someone else’s home. Pilgrims are on their way home. Are you living the pilgrim life today?

Big Words of the Christian Life: Justification (Part 2)

January 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 8 Comments
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Last time, we looked at God’s Motive in justification:
1. There was no other way for sinners to be made righteous, unless God Himself did it.
2. He did it for His Own glory.

We also examined the Meaning for justification: It is the act of God, Who, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ to be righteous.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:21

That’s an even more Biblical definition of Justification. God made Jesus to be sin for you and me, even though Jesus Himself never sinned, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Jesus.

Here is an illustration I am borrowing from Roy Gustafson and Warren Wiersbe: Let’s say you decide to buy a Rolls Royce. You think to yourself, “Well, I spent a fortune, but I don’t care, because everyone knows that Rolls Royces don’t ever break down. Therefore, I won’t ever have to see a repair shop again.” However, sure enough, you do start to have car trouble one day. So, you call the dealership and immediately a mechanic arrives and fixes the car. Days and then weeks go by, and after a while you get worried about the cost of the repair, and, tiring of the dread, you are anxious for them to send you the bill. You call Rolls Royce, Inc., but they tell you, “We have no record anywhere in our files that anything ever went wrong with a Rolls Royce.” We might say that, when God justifies a lost sinner, there’s no longer an “official record” of that sinner ever having sinned.

Curtis Hutson illustrates this another way, by comparing God’s imputation of righteousness and willful “forgetting” of sins to the “clear” button on a microwave oven that lets you start over if you programmed in 30 minutes, when you only meant to program in 30 seconds. He says that God has a divine “forgetter.”

Having said all that, however, I do want to address a couple of misconceptions about justification. The purpose of this lesson is to try to make Justification very simple to understand, but remember, the deeper into theology we go, the more practical it gets.

It is important to know if you’ve been justified, and it is important to know what it means to have been justified, and it is important to live like you’ve been justified. Justification does not really mean that it is “just as if” you never sinned. Justification declares you righteous before God – it takes away the record of your sins. But remember, it is a legal, forensic term. When my wife and I got married, we were legally declared married when somebody said, “I now pronounce you man and wife.” But nothing physically changed about us at that instant. Justification is an event – it happens in an instant. There are other “big words” in the Christian life which are part of a process – such as “sanctification” – but the record of your sin, at the moment of true salvation, is really and truly covered with the blood of Jesus under the doctrine of Justification. Your slate is then “clean,” but your slate is not then “blank.” God is not, from that time on, watching and waiting, without knowing, to see whether you will ever sin again. No, He already knows you will sin after being justified. Therefore, we need to remember that Justification declares you to be, not only redeemed from the price of sin, but actually righteous before God. That is even better than “just as if” you never sinned.

Let’s review:
1. The Motive for Justification: We were meritless sinners with no hope for righteousness outside of God’s Own righteousness somehow being imputed to us.
2. The Meaning of Justification: It is the act of God whereby He, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ to be righteous.

Now, let’s examine at the Method of Justification, meaning how it’s done – how God ordained it to be. We want to know why there is justification, what is justification, and how justification works. These inquiries mirror three of life’s biggest questions for every one of us: Why am I here? Who put me here? How did He do it?

I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?

Job 9:2

Supposedly, the ancient philosopher Socrates, after much deep consideration, once said to his protege’ Plato: “It may be that God can forgive sin, but I don’t see how…” He was describing a real problem. God is just. We have sinned. God forgives sinners. But where did His justice go? Or: God is love. God gives us justice. But where did His love go?

Justification is God’s glorious solution to this problem. It cancels our sin debt, but not by having God overlook it.

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 3:24

God’s justification and our redemption are by grace, not by merit. God did not see something in us worthy of justification. He justifies because He is the God of grace. He is not lonely. He is not frustrated. He is not lacking in worshipers. He needs nothing outside of His Triune Self to be complete and satisfied. The word translated “freely” in Romans 3:24 means “without a cause.” It describes the same idea behind the way the Jewish and Roman authorities tried, convicted, and killed Jesus: “without a cause.” There was no cause in Him for Him to be punished. There is no cause in us for us to be pardoned or saved – much less justified and given God’s righteousness and the standing we are given.

I want you to cancel the idea that you are basically a good person, or that God saw something in you that could really be useful, or that He finally got you to start acting the way you ought to act so that He could save you. NO! Salvation – redemption – regeneration – justification – is of the LORD!

So, Justification is by grace, and now we will see the other part of the Method of justification: it is through faith. And if it is through faith, it can not be of works.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:20

Oh, how the carnal man hates to hear this! He says, “But it MUST depend in some way on what I can do. I will accept God’s grace, but can’t I add some of my works to it? Surely I can’t admit that I am totally incapable of helping myself in any way.”

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Romans 3:27-28

Now we see that Justification is all God – His grace, received by faith – nothing good inherently in us – nothing good we were able to do. But what about God’s holiness and justice? The Bible says that sin charges a debt, and that debt must be paid. The answer to this dilemma is that Justification is the act of God’s grace, appropriated by faith ALONE – in the blood of His OWN SON.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Romans 5:8-9

God poured out His wrath for my sins, but His Son took it in my place. The debt that was owed for my sins was paid – but Jesus Christ the Righteous is the One Who paid – and He paid it in full! “It is finished,” He said, and, because He was telling the Truth, I live! I have eternal Life. I am justified before God!

I not only can try to tell you what Justification means – I have had it happen to me personally. The devil accuses me of sin – I accuse myself of sin – you can accuse me of sin if you want. But when God hears the accusation and looks in His divine account books for the record of my sin, He does not see it there. The record He sees is the record of His Own dear Son coming up out of that empty tomb, with nail prints in His wrists, saying, “Paid in Full.
God says, “I have no legal record of the sins of the accused. He’s My child, My son. He’s RIGHT with Me – JUSTIFIED.

If that is your testimony, too, you need to stop listening to whomever or whatever is telling you that you are still guilty. If your testimony is that, “I really didn’t realize that justification is the gracious of act of God. I’ve been trusting in myself or my deeds or works,” then forsake that right now. Believe that Jesus Christ paid for your sins in full, and call upon Him to save you. You, too, can be Justified.

Next time, we will look at the marks of justification.

Even Warren Wiersbe Likes to “S.W.I.M.”

February 18, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Posted in John, Quotes | 4 Comments
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There is not space in these studies to plumb the depths, but I have tried to present the basic teachings of this marvelous book. The Gospel of John is simple enough for a child to wade in, but deep enough for the scholar and the most seasoned saint to swim in.

Warren W. Wiersbe


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