June 30, 2013
Love is a really good thing. In fact, it’s the best. Because true love, God’s love, is actually the summation of Truth, Wisdom, Purity, and all else that can be considered the personification of God. To walk the Path of love is the fulfillment of God’s moral law (Rom. 13:8-10), for love is God’s character and essence. (1 John 4:16) Therefore if we are in union with God through Christ, we will live in Love. (v. 8,16) As we live through Him (v. 9), His own love will live out through us. (v. 11,12) We will not only love God, but we will also love our Christian brethren (v. 21), our neighbors (Gal. 5:14), and our fellowman (Rom. 13:8), all as we would love ourselves. (v. 9,10) We will fervently, and sacrificially, love God and others (Mark 12:29-31 // 1 John 3:16), not with hollow words, but with actions (1 John 3:18), and always in truth. (same verse)
Anyone who claims to know God, claims to follow Christ, claims to believe God’s Word, claims to walk in the Light, claims to be in the Truth, and/or claims to have been reconciled with God through Christ so that he is on the Path of Eternal Life, must have a life that proves this by loving others as Christ would. If a man does not love this way, his claims mean nothing and he amounts to nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2) No matter what other accomplishments he is recognized for, he actually has gained nothing. (v. 3) He still walks in the darkness, the realm of hate (1 John 2:9), the realm of fear, darkness, evil, and eternal death. (3:12-15) This man fears and hates “because his own actions are evil and his brother’s are righteous.” (See v. 12)
When a person fears, he is fearing punishment (1 John 4:18), and this feeling, which produces anger and guilt, suffocates love. Therefore he spirals down into deeper and deeper hate. This is exhibited as he lives a lifestyle of sin, including one that vacillates between aggression, timidity, anger, hostility, arrogance, a sense of entitlement, inferiority, fear, shame, despair, and a loathing for both himself and others. He lives like this because he walks in the darkness, the darkness has blinded him, and so he continues to stumble. (2:9-11) He cannot see, understand, or choose what is right, righteous, or fair. He cannot abide by even the simplest rules of common etiquette, he cannot comprehend how reprobate he appears to God and decent people, and he cannot see the horrible end he careens toward.
However, the wonderful thing about love, perfect love, God’s love, is that it “drives out fear” (1 John 4:18), and thus all else that is of the evil realm. “There is no fear in love.” (Same verse) The man who loves, who lives in love, who has been “made perfect in love” (same verse), is surrounded with the Light who is God (1:5) “and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” (2:10) This man lives in God, and God in him, and therefore has nothing to fear. He does not fear God’s day of judgement (4:17), nor does he fear his deeds being exposed to the Light (John 3:20), nor does he fear death, the evil realm, men, or God’s evaluation of him. (2 Tim. 1:7 // Heb. 2:14,15 & 11:27 // 1 John 2:28 & 5:4,18) He is alert to danger and temptation, knowing he could fall prey if he does not “keep his life hidden in Christ” (John 15:1-10 // Col. 3:3), but as long as he knows he is solidly there in God, this man’s Love has driven out all his fear. In fact, it is his Love that compels him to stand up for truth, to work to expose lies, to resist oppressors, to combat the spread of corruption, and to keep proclaiming the Way of Escape, even to his persecutors.
God’s Word is repeatedly telling us not to fear, and when we learn to walk in love, as Scripture also repeatedly admonishes us to do, our perfected love will drive out fear. It is attainable or God would not command it of us. We learn to love through Him, by nourishing ourselves daily with His Spirit and His Word, and by putting His commands into practice. Then we will walk in love, the Path of love, and we will learn how to love –to love with perfect love, His love. This will drive out fear. Then all else that is of the dark realm, including blindness, foolishness, and hatred, will also be driven out.
Love is definitely a good thing. The most excellent way. (1 Cor. 12:31b) The only way. (John 14:6)
June 29, 2013
Pr. 3:3 admonishes us, “Do not let loyal covenant love and faithfulness leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” In other words, we are not only to conduct ourselves according to God’s laws, performing the duties He gives us, but we are to have God’s teachings so engraved upon our hearts and minds that they are our very nature. God’s nature becomes our nature (1 John 3:9) and we therefore walk in conformity to Christ. (Rom. 8:29) We have Christ’s Spirit in us and so we not only live just as Jesus did (1 John 2:6), but it is Him living His life through us. (Gal. 2:20) “Then” as Pr. 3:4 promises, “you will attain favor and an honorable reputation in the sight of God and man.”
Many people are striving to be favored and honored by men. Others seek God’s favor, but they do so through the ways their “Christian” culture advises so that soon they, as well, are really just seeking men’s approval. What happens, though, when men seek to be esteemed by men is that corruption oozes into the heart. And once that happens, there is little the corrupted man won’t stoop to do. Intoxicated by the feeling of acclaim and admiration he gets, he comes to need recognition and honor more and more so that he tries to orchestrate events, and control others, as ways to satisfy his insatiable appetite.
We are never to seek men’s approval. We are to seek God’s. Then we will be approved and honored by those people who want God’s ways upheld. Those who work evil will often just hate us. But this should not be of concern to us, for God Himself will deal with them.
What is it that brings favor and an honorable reputation before God and man? It is to hold dear God’s ways. His ways are faithful, loyal, loving, and pure. He commands that we live by the same –by this covenant love. Therefore we are to bind it around our neck so that we belong to it, so that we remain bound to it, and so that wandering off in unfaithfulness is not an option. Furthermore, if we write God’s covenant laws upon the tablet of our heart, then we’ve written them in that place of love and we will love them.
Pr. 3:1 admonishes about this very thing: “My son, do not forget My teaching, but let your heart keep My commandments.” If the heart is in covenant love with God, the heart itself will obey God’s commands, and the person’s lifestyle will follow accordingly. This will bring prosperity and a long life. (v. 2) Chapter two exhorts along the same lines, beginning with, “My son, if you accept My words, and store up My commands within you…” (2:1) and then goes on to promise wisdom, discretion, and protection. Ps. 119:11-16 can be seen as the grateful response, beginning with, “In my heart I store up Your words, so that I might not sin against You. Praise be to You, O LORD…”
If a man does sin against God, he has not been faithful and loyal to his covenant love with God. He has been unfaithful, meaning he has acted treacherously. He has broken his word and his pledge, he has acted deceitfully, and he has violated others’ rights by violating the covenant of love and loyalty. Such a man will have no end of disaster and distress (Pr. 1:10-33), if not outwardly, certainly within his own soul, and in the end, he will “be filled with the fruit of his schemes.” (See v. 31) “For the waywardness of the simpletons will kill them, and the smug self-sufficiency of fools will destroy them.” (v. 32)
But, whoever applies his heart to Wisdom will come to understand God. And by holding tightly to Him and His Instructions, that man will inherit the favor an honorable name brings, both in the eyes of God and in the eyes of men.
June 28, 2013
A man went to a doctor because he was having some bothersome symptoms. After some discussion and running a few simple tests, the doctor told his patient that he did definitely have a disease and must immediately quit his unhealthy diet and lifestyle. The doctor also gave him specific instructions about how to reduce the pain, problems, and risk of early death, and on how to actually cure the disease.
How did the patient react to this information? How did he respond? Was he agreeable? Was he grateful to the doctor for telling him the truth? Did the patient follow through on the advice, or did he say he would, yet apathetically did not? Did he get angry and try to retaliate against the doctor any way he could? Did he disbelieve the information, ignore the remedy, and even laugh about it with his friends? Was he skeptical and so moved on to trying to find another doctor, and another and another, who would tell him “pleasant things” (Isa. 30:10) instead? Or, did the patient believe the doctor’s words, promise to take his advice, do so, and get cured?
The answers to these questions hinges on one main thing: The patient’s wisdom. How wise the patient is determines how that patient will respond to the serious information about his health and well-being, and his wisdom will determine whether or not he is healed.
The same holds true about a person’s spiritual health, his earthly well-being, and his eternal fate. If he accepts the Truth about the disease he has, believes in the Cure and acts accordingly, he is wise. But if he mocks the Cure, either through his words or through his negligence in heeding it, then God’s Word deems that man a fool. In fact, that man, through his anger at hearing rebuke, will often try to insult and persecute those who have stated with honesty the truth of his situation.
Pr. 9:7-9 says, “Whoever corrects a mocker brings on insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.”
Wisdom is revealed in the diseased man by his response to Truth, to exhortation, to rebuke. Indeed, Scripture tells God’s ambassadors to correct and rebuke (2 Tim. 4:2 // Titus 2:15) –gently (2 Tim. 2:25), and in love (Eph. 4:15), but if necessary, then sharply. (Titus 1:13) A wise man will listen, open his eyes, and repent, and he will appreciate, even love, the person who has helped him wake up to his plight. But a wicked man will do the opposite: He will strive, with great hostility, to make the Truth-teller his enemy.
Therefore, we, along with Paul, ask, “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16)
The wise man will answer, “Certainly not. Please help me. And please instruct me some more.”
June 27, 2013
God’s Word repeatedly exhorts us to turn from idols to the true and living God. For as Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) The heart, which glances at, or hears of, a particular treasure, and then lets itself become enticed by it, follows that treasure, even like one “being led to the slaughter.” (Pr. 7:22) For if not quickly recognized and repented of, the treasure becomes an idol, powerful and cruel, and the heart has become entombed.
If a person hears about the Gospel, yet hardens his heart to it and does not repent, that person has chosen to remain imprisoned in the evil realm, and his leader and father remains the devil. (John 8:44 // 1 John 3:8 & 5:19) Why would anyone want this? Why would anyone not want to be saved from such a loathsome and cruel king? Our loving Creator, through Christ Jesus, has given the world His Spirit –He who brings conviction of guilt to the world’s inhabitants in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement. (John 16:8) The Beautiful News proclaims that “because the prince of this world now stands condemned” (v. 11), anyone who believes is set free. (Rom. 7:23-25 // Gal. 5:1 // Col. 1:13,14) Why would anyone not want to be set free? For in this freedom, we are released from all sin, all idols, and all that is evil.
But, sadly, many do not want to be set free. Not from sin, idols, or evil. Instead they love to wallow in these things, and actually have an insatiable craving to carry out the devil’s desires. (John 8:44) Surely “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers.” (2 Cor. 4:4) Indeed they have lost their good sense (1 Cor. 15:34 // 2 Tim. 2:26a) and are prisoners of sin (Gal. 3:22) and “of the devil who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:26b) For “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) and there is no other salvation except in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12) and in entering into union with Him through faith and the pledge of holiness. (John 3:3-8 // 1 Peter 3:21)
What happens to people when they refuse to heed the Truth and turn from wickedness? They begin to lose their discernment. (Eph. 4:17,18) Thus they continue their slide away from God (v. 18), becoming more undiscerning so that, as punishment to them, God Himself brings them a powerful delusion so that they will become entrenched in the devil’s Lie. (2 Thes. 2:10-12) Because they suppress the Truth by their wickedness (Rom. 1:18), God pours out His wrath on them and banishes them to eternal punishment. (same verse // Matt. 25:46 // Col. 3:5,6)
But it’s so unnecessary. For there is the Glorious Freedom which has been made available to everyone. And because God is compassionate and doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), He remains patient (same verse), sending to sinners His ambassadors, filled with His own Spirit, who will proclaim the Truth to them again, and who will plead with Him to intervene with His mercy and keep them from perishing in their rebellion. (Pr. 24:11,12 // Isa. 49:8,9 // 2 Cor. 5:18-20)
However, if they refuse to repent, they will not be forced to reconcile with God. He will go to great lengths to persuade them, but the choice remains theirs.
June 26, 2013
Our food, our spiritual food, is not only Christ Himself, but it is to do the will of the Lord. It is to be (to live / to abide) in the will of the Lord. It is to be accomplishing the work God has given us to do and to remain faithful in it. Whatever assignments our Owner has given us, we are to do them in perfect obedience, even to the smallest detail, and we are to continue in these assignments until they are finished. This is our food, just as it was for Jesus when He walked this earth bodily.
In John 4:34 we read, “‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.'” Since we are to conduct ourselves just as Jesus did (1 John 2:6), our food is the same thing. It is to do the will of Christ –who sends us just as the Father sent Him (John 20:21)– and to finish His work.
Most “Christians” do not believe that it is necessary that we do, and walk in, the Lord’s will for us. Oh, it might be nice, they think, and it may bring blessings or greater Heavenly reward, but it is not a necessity, they say, for inheriting eternal life. However, the Word of God says that it is a necessity –such as in Matt. 7:21, Mark 3:35, Luke 6:46-49, and 1 John 2:17.
We are told to examine and test ourselves to see if we are in the faith. (2 Cor. 13:5) To “stand the test” (2:9) is to “be obedient in everything.” (same verse) To be obedient in everything means to meditate on God’s Word under the Spirit’s tutelage (John 6:63), and to put the Word into practice (1 Tim. 4:11-16), doing so by a continual submission to the Spirit’s control. (Rom. 8:9,14) Then, no matter what we do, say, or think, it will be in the name of the Lord, meaning in the will and authority of Christ. (Col. 3:16,17) This is our food. This is our life source. And it comes from abiding –pulling nutrients out so as to produce fruit– just as a branch does from the Vine. (John 15:1-8) And it is a necessity. (v. 6)
June 25, 2013
I happened to call the blueberry farm yesterday morning to inquire about their crop, for we enjoy picking blueberries there every summer. I was shocked and greatly saddened to hear that one of the workers who I asked about had died of a sudden heart attack. After getting off the phone, I wept and wept, actually surprising myself at my great grief.
About five summers ago, and visiting the farm about three times that year, I witnessed quite a bit to this particular worker. He was kind of a jokester, but he did listen and he did tell me that he believed the Bible, though it was obvious his was one of those flippant and half-hearted beliefs. The following two summers when we went there I encouraged him again to be reading the Word and to be seeking God, but he seemed a bit less interested than that first year I’d met him, so I tried not to come on too strong.
Last summer I brought up the Lord again, and after his response I remember thinking something like, “Rachel, he’s not interested, so just drop it and be friendly with some other conversation.” But I also had had the thought, “If he dies in this attitude he has, he is not going to be going to Heaven.” However, since I thought I’d have more time to pray for his soul (which I did quite a bit), as well as time to witness to him again, I didn’t say much more about the Lord then. So, I guess in my weeping yesterday, it wasn’t as much the sadness that this guy had died, but that I was feeling grief over his soul, as well as that I had not tried harder to turn him to the Lord (though my exhortations to him, I remember, had almost been pleas).
Was there anything more I could’ve done with someone who wouldn’t take my admonishments seriously and kept making jokes instead? There really wasn’t, at least not without being rude, except I certainly could’ve prayed more, and I so much wish I had.
Where is this acquaintance of mine now? Where is his soul? His soul is in eternity, that dimension that is outside of the time dimension. His soul is where there is no longer time to “repent, reconcile with God [by way of Christ Jesus], and prove one’s repentance by one’s deeds.” (See Acts 26:20) For “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the Judgement.” (Heb. 9:27)
May we all witness to everyone as boldly as we can. And when that is no longer possible, may we pray fervently on behalf of unsaved souls, and even fast and weep before the Lord for them. And may we do so before their fate is sealed in eternity.
June 24, 2013
In Mal. 3:17 we read, “‘They will be Mine,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘My treasured possession, in the day when I act.”
For those whom the Lord calls His treasured possession –what a privileged position! To be called such affectionate names / titles by the Most High is glory for sure. And certainly comfort, security, happiness, and joy. It would seem that all of us would strive to achieve this status. It would seem that all of us would spend our days seeking to learn how best to attain such esteem.
Yet how many people do actually live their daily lives with this honor as their goal? How many people place importance on having God call them His? –His treasured possession? How many people, after years of having claimed to be “be saved”, can reflect back on their lives and know that God has been pleased with them, has delighted in them, and has been in intimate, unhindered relationship with them? And how many people can feel confident that God treasures them, and know, from His Word, why He does?
It would be wise for those who consider themselves belonging to God to consider whether or not they are, at present, a real treasure to God. Because if not, the status of being called “My treasured possession” could hardly be the Lord’s description of them, which would have to mean that truly belonging to God would also have to be seriously questioned.
Most in Christendom would have no fears about claiming that they were secure in the knowledge of being God’s treasured possession. If we ask them why they feel this way, they would answer something about having “accepted Jesus” as their Savior. And they may reason on about how much God loves people.
Let’s look, though, at the immediate context surrounding Mal. 3:17, for what it reveals is what all of God’s Word reveals: That God esteems as His own treasured possession those who…. –who what? The answer is –those who serve Him, obey Him, and revere His name. (3:13-4:4) And that these are they who have been washed, refined, and purified, and who bring Him offerings in righteousness. (3:3,4) We know that under the New Covenant these offerings are those of praise and worship, and Christ-like acts done in obedience, love, and holiness. (John 14:15 // Rom. 6:18,22 & 12:1,2 // Heb. 12:14 & 13:15,16 // 1 Peter 2:9 // Rev. 1:5,6)
God continues in Mal. 3:17: “I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.” Spared from what? Spared from the fire reserved for every evildoer. (4:1) There it is, as always: “Doer.” Scripture is continually making a distinction about deeds: Deeds done that are evil and disobedient to God, and deeds done that are righteous and obedient to God. Jesus confirms this very clearly in John 5:29 when He says, “Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” Or when Eph. 5:3-6 and Col. 3:5-10 both inform us that not even a hint of impurity, or sin of any kind, is tolerated by God.
The Lord continues in Mal. 3:18: “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” The word “serve” means: to attend to, to obey, to assist, to work for, to be employed by, to help… Do we understand the comparison then? It should be obvious: The righteous are those who are God’s obedient employees (slaves, actually –Rom. 6:22), while the wicked are those who do not work for Him.
It is about being employed –which means work– and engaging in it according to the standards set. Righteousness is about conduct. Wickedness also is about conduct. Therefore, being saved from the fire of God’s wrath is not about claiming to believe and to follow Christ. It is, instead, about what we do. It is about what works, actions, and attitudes a person does, has, and exhibits. It is about lives and lifestyles that comply with the requirements of the King. It is about having pure consciences and holy behavior just as God’s moral laws have always demanded.
That is the Gospel. And we are able to rise to the Lord’s instructions daily by the power of the Spirit in us. But rising to it IS most definitely required, and walking in it is the only path of salvation. (Rom. 8:13,14 // 1 John 2:6) As Jesus says, “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” (Matt. 19:17)
Sadly, most of Christendom insists that to “serve in the new way of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6) does not include the necessity for obedience and the necessity for conducting oneself in purity and holiness. No matter how many verses we point out.
So, in the day when God acts, who, really, will be given the title by God, “Mine. My treasured possession.” –?