January 31, 2012
Who is declared righteous in God’s sight? It is the person who is “in” Christ Jesus by having been “born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) Such a person has become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) –one who lives the new life, the holy life, the life which pleases God. “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” (Rom. 2:13)
Christianity has a huge group of teachers who try to tell us that no matter how we conduct ourselves, as long as we believe in Christ and confess to God to be a sinner in need of a Savior, we are thereafter made righteous in God’s sight. They teach “hear and believe”, rather than “hear, believe, turn (repent), follow, and obey”. Of course they will say that they are teaching “hear, believe, and repent”, but what they mean by “repent” is actually a one-time repentance which supposedly solidifies their salvation forever. But this is not repentance. It is merely “confession” or “admitting” that one is a sinner in need of being saved from sin’s penalty (Hell).
True repentance involves such a deep anguish over one’s sins, and how it has grieved God and others, that it causes the repentant one to turn completely away from sin, to have an abhorrence toward it, and to flee all that would be an influence in causing one to tolerate its voice. It’s to be finished with sin. (1 John 3:9 / Rom. 6:2 / 1 Peter 2:24) It’s to say a final “No” to its rule and declare instead a new Ruler: Jesus / God / The Holy Spirit / The Word. That’s real repentance.
So who is righteous in God’s sight? It is the person who believes the true Gospel, repents, follows Christ (the Word –John 1:1,14 / Rev. 19:13), and obeys the law. –Not the written code (Rom. 7:6), but instead, the law of the Spirit. (same verse & 8:2) And what does that entail? It entails “circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit”. (2:29) This is the person God will praise by declaring righteous. (See same verse in context)
And what is this circumcision? It is a cutting away from the heart that which is corrupt, defiling, God-hating, idolatrous, sinful, and wicked. Just as a male’s foreskin is prone to harbor disease, so the sinful nature, infected with sin and susceptible to more vileness, grows in the unregenerate heart, hardening it toward God. It must be sliced off. And it is the Spirit who does this for the person who believes, repents, asks, and submits to the process by willingly crucifying the sinful nature. (Gal. 5:24) This process is rarely the time-span of a prayer, but a “birthing” (see John 3:6) done however God pleases, and of which we are not meant to know how to completely explain. (v. 8 )
But what is the outcome? It’s this: A new creation. –A person who is “dead to sin but alive to God” (Rom. 6:11), meaning one who behaves righteous, holy, and blameless by obeying the law of the Spirit. (2:13 & 8:2,9-14 / 1 Peter 1:15) For “what counts [to God] is a new creation” (Gal. 6:15), and this is what will cause us to be declared righteous in His sight.
January 30, 2012
What is the main goal of an authentic follower of Christ? Answer: To please the Lord. As 2 Cor. 5:9 says, “So we make it our goal to please Him…” And –why? Because all of us will one day have every detail of our lives judged by God (v. 10 / 1 Cor. 3:10-15 / Heb. 9:27), adding up to our acquittal and eternal reward or our condemnation and eternal punishment. (Matt. 12:36,37 & 25:21,30,34,46 / 2 Thes. 1:8,9) And… for the reason that we love Him (John 14:15) and gratefully worship and reverence Him. (Heb. 12:28)
But do most people who claim to love, worship, and follow Christ make it their goal to please Him? Do their words and actions portray this? Is their time, their energy, and their thoughts devoted to this pursuit? Or are they saying one thing, but doing (and proving) another? –Actually living out their daily lives to please themselves? –Or even another person or their boss or the world (which is actually a means to benefit oneself)?
God will not consider ignorance a legitimate excuse on Judgement Day. He has given to each man a conscience (Rom. 2:15), having written His moral law on their hearts (same verse) and displaying His divine nature through His amazing creation (1:19,20), so that men are without excuse. (v. 20) Yes, people’s minds become blinded to God and His requirements, but God is certainly not to blame. Men’s thinking become futile, darkened, and ignorant because their own lusts harden their hearts (v. 21 / Eph. 4:17-19) and push out love for God and others. (1 John 2:15,16 & 4:7)
God’s Word has warned us to “find out what pleases the Lord.” (Eph. 5:10) We do this by holding to Christ’s teachings (John 8:31) –listening and putting them to practice as did the wise man Jesus spoke of in Matt. 7:24,25– and thereby conducting ourselves carefully and wisely (Eph. 5:15) in line with Truth and righteousness (v. 9) so that we can “understand what the Lord’s will is.” (v. 17) In this way we will be “offering our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God –which is our spiritual worship.” (See Rom. 12:1) And by having “let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly” (see Col. 3:16), we will no longer conform to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:2) but will instead have transformed minds that are able to test and know God’s will (same verse / 2 Tim. 3:15-4:5 / 1 Peter 1:23) and thus achieve our main goal –which is, to please the Lord.
January 29, 2012
My husband and I spent most of yesterday sorting through our significantly large library of books, almost all of which are books on theology and Christian living, a few being on history, health, or science. We love books, accumulating many over the years which we’d like to reread. But will we? I’ve probably read only 1-2 books a year in their entirety over the last five years, devoting hours a day instead to the reading of God’s Word –on my knees, asking the Lord Himself to teach me from it. This has been so much more rewarding than being taught God’s Truths second-hand.
It doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for the Christian material I’ve had available to me. It’s just that I’ve come to realize that even the best of books are second-best for coming to know God and His Word. For now, looking through these other publications, many of them considered classics, and filling up boxes to give away, I was saddened to think of how many people search and search for Truth, for power over sin, and for God Himself in pages written by men, never really finding The Treasure in whom Truth, victory, and God are found. For these are found only in knowing the Word who is the Spirit of Christ Jesus. And to truly know Him… to walk and talk with Him… to hear His voice and have the confidence of knowing we’ve heard Him… to gain the comfort and trust in Him so that we can obey even when it seems unreasonable from the viewpoint of the world… these become our experience as we feed directly from the Word of God. Other Christian books can nourish us somewhat… God may use them to confirm His instructions to us…, but it is the Word which is our true, power-filled, and lasting nourishment and our means to abide in Christ and He in us.
How sad to see church-goers, even the teachers and preachers themselves, continuously studying books about God’s Word, going to conferences and seminars about God’s Word, attending “Bible studies”, discussing God’s Word or church history, even making efforts to evangelize, yet who lack the motivation, even ability, to actually get alone with God, study His Word by the guidance of His Spirit, memorize it, listen for the will of the Lord, put His commands to practice, and teach the Truth without the bias of false doctrines.
Let’s think of this in a personal way: What if people wrote books on you. They’d maybe met you once, some may have even worked with you, others even lived with you. Other people bought these books on you, studied about you, and taught about you –your character, expectations, and ways– even while having never met you. A few got ahold of you by phone, but they did all the talking, so much so, that when you tried to talk, they seemed deaf to you. They certainly never spent afternoons strolling with you on the beach, trying to get to truly know you as a friend. So: Would you consider any of these people to actually know you at all? The answer is obvious.
Therefore, if we want to grow in the knowledge of God through materials other than the Word of God itself, then we need to first know the Word, and the God of the Word. Then we will be able to discern which men are writing and/or speaking the Truth –and which ones are not. Furthermore, any contribution by them to our spiritual growth will be an addition, not a substitute. For God’s Word is our main staple, our real food, our life’s necessary sustenance. And it is our direct means by which to commune with the Lord, fellowship with Him in intimate closeness, and grow in the knowledge of Him, His Truth, and His will.
So, because all other materials pale as a means to this end, we found it time to greatly reduce our library. For we’ve simply come to abide in something far, far better. And finding in it our joy, wisdom, and Treasure, we doubt we’re going to make the time to ever reread all those other good books we’ve for so long hung onto to snack on.
January 28, 2012
In yesterday’s post, I wrote about how, in Romans, Paul contrasts eternal death with eternal life, and how if we are obeying sin, we are slaves to sin, and how slavery to sin leads to death while slavery to God leads to righteousness, holiness, and eternal life. I pointed out that Paul says in 6:16 that we cannot be slaves to both sin and righteousness, for either one or the other is our master.
Unfortunately, in spite of this Truth, false teachers refuse to teach that we cannot serve two masters, and instead teach that we daily vacillate between obedience to God and obedience to the sinful nature. They like to quote Rom. 7:15-23 to prove that even Paul kept sinning even though he didn’t want to. What nonsense! What blindness to the plain language of the text! Paul says in verse 14, “I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin”, and then he goes on to say that he does what he hates, for though he wants to do good, he cannot carry out God’s righteous law. However, teachers who teach that this is the apostle’s actual situation, need to consider these questions:
1. Is Paul really in such a predicament after being rescued by Christ? (v. 24,25)
2. Is Paul really unspiritual and sold as a slave to sin –even when he just finished teaching throughout chapter 6 and part of chapter 7, that by belonging to Christ we’ve “been freed from sin” (6:7) and are no longer “slaves to sin” (v. 17)?
3. Is Paul really unspiritual when in 1 Cor. 2:6-16 he says he is a spiritual man by having received the Spirit (v. 12) so that he even has the mind of Christ (v. 16)?
4. Would Paul say that Jesus rescued him from being a prisoner of the law of sin (Rom. 7:24,25a), if he was still in bondage to sin?
5. Would Paul say he still remains in the sinful nature as a slave to the law of sin (v. 25b) if in chapter 8 he teaches that those who remain controlled by the sinful nature are “hostile to God” (v. 7), live in spiritual death (v. 6), are headed for eternal death (v. 13), do not have the Spirit of Christ (v. 8 ), and do not belong to Christ? (same verse)
6. Would Paul teach in Gal. 5:24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” if he himself had not done so –even though he’d already stated in 2:20 that he had been crucified with Christ so that he no longer lived, but it was Christ who lived in him? –And even though in Rom. 6:6 he states that “our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin”?
Any honest reader can clearly see that in Rom. 7:7-25 Paul was writing in present-tense form from the viewpoint of a man who desperately needs to be rescued from his slavery to sin. Paul was presenting the need and then concluding with the solution as he says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death [–this body that serves sin that leads to death]? Thanks be to God –through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 24,25a)
Once Christ rescued him, Paul was certainly not serving both sin and Christ –for no born-anew person can serve two masters! (Luke 16:13) No, he was serving Christ only, which means he was “in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Rom. 6:19) Paul says in 6:21 that doing sinful things result in death! Then he says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (v. 22) Then the contrast again: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v. 23)
Friends, we must stop listening to all these “Christian” teachers who are twisting Romans 7 (and some other passages) to actually preach rebellion against Christ. We must read the Word for ourselves under the tutelage of the Spirit (1 John 2:26,27), not under men’s tutelage, and we will see that once we’ve been rescued from sin by Christ, it means just that: Rescued from sin. –Rescued from its domination over us, so that “the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us.” (Rom. 8:4) –In those of us “who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” (same verse), proving that we “have the Spirit of Christ” (v. 9) and are thus “sons of God.” (v. 14)
January 27, 2012
To belong to Christ, we must follow Him –which means we must listen to Him and then obey what we hear. Most people can do this for a while, but it is only if we continue to do this over time, that we show ourselves to be His true disciples. (John 8:31-35 / Luke 8:13,14 & 9:62)
How do we show this? In other words, how do we prove we are Christ’s true disciples? …proving that we belong to Him? …proving that we are citizens of His Kingdom and will inherit it forever? Answer: We bear much fruit. As Jesus says, “This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.” (John 15:8) But the fruit must be righteous fruit, fruit in keeping with repentance, fruit of the Spirit, fruit that lasts, fruit that furthers the Gospel, fruit that brings men to God, and fruit that glories God.
There is fruit that is the opposite of this. Jesus calls it “bad fruit” in Matt. 7:17 and He says it is produced by bad trees who are those who, though they may look sweet, are inwardly ferocious wolves. (v. 15) These, He says, are those who do not do God’s will and who teach falsehoods (same verse), even in the name of Jesus and while calling Him “Lord” (v. 21,22), but whose end is banishment (v. 23) to the fire. (v. 19)
There are only two kinds of trees (people) –good and bad. There are only two kinds of fruit –righteous and wicked. The bad tree is controlled by the sinful nature while the good tree is controlled by the Spirit. The first reaps destruction, the latter reaps eternal life. (Gal. 6:7-9) Those who teach differently, mock God (v. 7) and deceive themselves and others with empty words (Eph. 5:6), for God’s Word states plainly: “No immoral, impure or greedy person… has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (v. 5 & see also 1 Cor. 6:9,10 & Rev. 21:8)
The person who is expecting to inherit eternal life must be bearing much fruit to God. For if we were truly united with Christ in His death (Rom. 6:3-7), then we have “been freed from sin” (v. 7) and have been “united with Him in His resurrection.” (v. 5) For “The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God.” (v. 10) We then, as well, are to “count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God” (see v. 11) so “that we might belong to another… [Christ] in order that we might bear fruit to God.” (7:4) Therefore, if we are alive to God, we will bear fruit to God. However, if we are still following sin, we are bearing fruit for death. “For when we were controlled by the sinful nature… we bore fruit for death.” (v. 5)
The death being spoken of is eternal death, for all humans die physically, even those who belong to Christ. The contrast is eternal death versus eternal life. (Rom. 6:23) If we sin, we are slaves to sin (v. 16), and slavery to sin leads to death (same verse), while obedience leads to righteousness. (same verse) Being a slave to righteousness leads to holiness (v. 19,22) which leads to eternal life. (v. 22) However, we cannot be slaves to both sin and righteousness, for either one or the other is our master. (v. 16,20,22 & see tomorrow’s post…)
The contrast is made, as well, in Rom. 5:21, for it says, “…just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life…” This “death” means eternal death –that is, condemnation (v. 16-18), but now that we have been set free from sin’s rule (6:6,7), grace rules through righteousness –which brings us eternal life. (5:21 again)
Now, does grace have reign, rule, mastery, or control over us if we are not slaves to righteousness? No, it does not. For grace does not have reign and rule through sin! In other words: Being a slave to sin forfeits grace! (See also Heb. 10:26,27) For by being controlled by the sinful nature, a person is bearing fruit for eternal death (Rom. 7:5 again) –not eternal life!
Paul asks that if by being under grace, we can allow ourselves to sin. (6:15) His answer? “By no means!” (same verse) Then he launches into the warning of being a slave to the one we obey “–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness”. (v. 16) “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin [–used to be!–], you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.” (v. 17) Let’s note that the “form of teaching” –meaning “the correct doctrine”, is what is critical to be obeyed. A false teaching won’t save (Gal. 1:6-9), for it is only by the true Gospel that we are saved (1 Cor. 15:2), and this, only if we hold firmly to it. (same verse) “Otherwise, we have believed in vain.” (See same verse)
So, what is the proof that we belong to Christ? It is that we bear much fruit (John 15:8) –the good “fruit of righteousness” (Phil. 1:11) that we are to bear unto God (Rom. 7:4) by being “pure and blameless until the day of Christ.” (Phil. 1:10)
January 26, 2012
“The life appeared… and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” (1 John 1:2) He is the Eternal Life and “the Word of life.” (v. 1) For “the Word was God” (John 1:1) and became flesh, living for a while among us in a human body. (v. 14) “He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20), thus the only way to the Father (John 14:6) because He is also the Truth and the Life. (same verse) His name is Jesus.
He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) –“the living bread that came down from heaven.” (v. 51) “If a man eats this bread, he will live forever.” (same verse) Jesus continues, “This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (same verse) This He did when He died on the cross.
Someone may ask as did the Jews, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” (v. 52) Jesus answers that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood, and that unless we do so, we have no life in us, and thus no eternal life. (v. 53-58) Why? Because Jesus is the Life. Therefore we must have Him in us.
How do we get Jesus in us? We feed on His words, He who is “the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1 again) As Jesus says, “The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63) This is how we get His Spirit in us. –By getting His words into us. Is this done by sitting back and letting God do all the work as many teachers insist? No. Jesus commands us, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (v. 27) There we have it: Jesus gives the food to us, but we must work for it as well. Many teachers will point out that our work is to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Yes, Jesus says this in verse 29, but the proof of our belief is that we will be in the Word (Ps. 119:97-106), be obedient and holy (Heb. 3:12,18,19 & 12:14), and thus have the Spirit flowing from within us. (John 7:37,38 / Acts 5:32)
Jesus contrasts the manna God gave to the Israelites in the desert with the true bread of God –Himself. (6:32,33,49,50,58) But the comparison is also made: The bread must be eaten, fed upon –daily and in regular, adequate amounts. This is how men live. (Matt. 4:4) We cannot eat a huge amount one day and starve ourselves after that, thinking it will sustain us for the rest of our lives (or even the rest of the week). God taught this Truth way back in Ex. 16:4 when He told Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.” And, “Each one is to gather as much as he needs.” (v. 16) Let’s take note that God instructed them to 1) go out each day, and 2) gather enough for that particular day. Therefore, as everyone’s bodies are not sustained on the exact same amount, neither is everyone’s spirits sustained on the same amount. The amount is not the issue; the issue is time spent feeding on Him (the Word) –daily.
God continues in Ex. 16:4: “In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow My instructions.” This relates to His instructions that we show our fervent love for Him by meditating on the Word day and night (Dt. 6:5-7 / Josh. 1:8) so that we will not sin against Him (Ps. 119:11) and so that we will grow in holiness and the wisdom and knowledge of Him which leads to salvation. (Eph. 1:17 / Col. 3:16 / 2 Tim. 3:15 / James 1:21 / 1 Peter 1:23)
Concerning the manna gathered daily, Moses told the people, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” (Dt. 16:19) “However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.” (v. 20) Why did they keep some leftovers? Likely because they did not want to trouble themselves every morning with the gathering. But as the leftover manna spoiled and could not be relied upon to sustain a person, God is telling us that He requires us to go to Him every day that we might gather spiritual food that is new and fresh.
This is how we remain in Christ and He in us (John 15:4,5) so that we produce fruit, in ourselves and in the world, that will last. (v. 4,5,16 / Gal. 5:22,23) For as Jesus says, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him.” (John 6:56) Therefore, “the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” (v. 57) “Feeds” is a present-tense word, so it means “daily”, even “continually”.
This is believing in Christ. This is working, not for the food that spoils, but for the food that endures to eternal life. (John 6:27 again) This spiritual food is the Word –Jesus Himself.
January 25, 2012
It is detrimental to Christ’s honor and the souls of men if the church continues to preach that it is easy to enter the kingdom of God. It isn’t. For it is not about mere belief, saying a prayer of confession, going to church, giving tithes or service, but is instead about being trained in obedience through suffering. If even Jesus, while on earth, “learned obedience from what He suffered” (Heb. 5:8), so must we by way of the same. (12:7,8) And as Jesus, “once made perfect, became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him” (see 5:9), so we, disciplined into holiness (12:10), may produce a crop pleasing to the Lord. (v. 11 & Luke 8:15)
When Paul and Barnabas went about preaching the Good News, they taught, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) While teaching this, they were also “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.” (same verse) At this point we should ask the OSAS (once saved, always saved) teachers why the disciples would need such exhortation if there was no danger of not remaining true to the faith. And we should also ask the prosperity teachers how the hardships in entering God’s kingdom match their doctrines.
God’s Word does teach us that trials, hardships, and sufferings are to be expected in the life of a true follower of Christ (1 Peter 2:21), and that we should even rejoice in having been granted a participation in Christ’s sufferings. (4:13) “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4:17) It is the troubles themselves which are achieving for us eternal glory. What would be our outcome without the suffering? Very likely we would not achieve Heaven. For as James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”
So, if there is no test (no suffering), then where is the opportunity to persevere under trial and pass the test? There’s none. Which means there would be no crown of life awarded either. This is what most teachers within “Christianity” are certainly not teaching. Which means they are not teaching the Truth, the real Gospel. Instead they are trying to make quick and easy converts as they try to teach that the narrow, hard road and the wide, easy road (Matt. 7:13,14) can both lead to Heaven. Sadly, by teaching such things, many “receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” (Luke 8:13)
Therefore, let us “not make light of the Lord’s discipline” (Heb. 12:5), for the Lord disciplines everyone he accepts as a son. (v. 6) But as verse 8 informs us, “If you are not disciplined…, then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.”
“Let us, then, go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (13:13,14) This is the joy set before us (12:2), and why we endure our cross and refuse to grow weary or lose heart. (v. 3)