December 31, 2013
My brother’s sermon this past Sunday was really great (as his sermons always are). He spoke about how we are to live our lives for God, and challenged us to do so even better in 2014. He used Rom. ch. 12, beginning with the last verse: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (v. 21)
Steve went on to say that it is by understanding God’s mercy (from v. 1) that we are enabled to joyfully and gratefully offer our bodies to God for His service. (From same verse) He said we must say, “Lord, this body of mine is Yours, and nothing I do, say, or think will not be for You.” The way we are able to hold to this pledge is by separating ourselves from the world’s influences in our lives. (From v. 2) The world, Steve said, is what is keeping people from knowing God’s will. The world is what is drowning out God’s voice and what is taking away our time –time we should be spending with our Instructor, God, and Friend. The world is trying to get us to think like them, buy like them, dress like them, talk like them, and be like them. But we are citizens of a different Rule.
My brother reminded us that our King and Leader has given us tasks to do and that we must do them. (From v. 4-8) If we are humble (from v. 3), he said, then we can do them joyfully regardless of how others treat us. For with humble attitudes we will recognize that we are nobodies anyway. And nobodies don’t have anything to prove. They only rejoice in being able to serve their Creator who stooped to become a nobody Himself in order to make a way for objects of His wrath to be reconciled to Him and live in His presence forever. The way he told about the worms that find their way into their house (which is a converted barn) and how he would never consider becoming one of them so as to save them from destruction, was an analogy worth hearing. (See link below)
When Steve talked about hating evil and clinging to what is good (v. 9), he told about the experience he’d had when they were living in California –about the harrowing ride he took on the windshield of a murderous driver. He certainly cemented in our minds the meaning of the word “cling” with that testimony!
The whole sermon was excellent, and I’ve not even given it justice in my attempt to relate what my brother actually said. So it’d be more enjoyable, not to mention more convicting and beneficial for one’s attitude and life, to listen to the sermon itself. This can be done by clicking here:
May we all begin the new year tomorrow with a renewed pledge to live exactly in line with God’s will throughout 2014. –And forever.
December 30, 2013
Repentance is foundational to being forgiven by God. But does repentance mean a one-time prayer, a confession of sin, and a claim? Or does it mean a turn from sin? Does it mean an acknowledgement of sin or a renunciation of sin with ensuing deeds that prove that renunciation? A habitual sinner may acknowledge that he sins, but has he repented? Of course not. Even if he claims to have done so, his continuation in sin proves that he has not. This is why God’s Word repeatedly warns that such people will not stand before God on Judgement Day forgiven. (Mt. 25:31-46 // Heb. 6:4-6 & 10:26-31 // 2 Peter 2:20-22 // Rev. 20:11-15 & 21:7,8,27 // etc.) Such people did not produce the good fruit of righteousness, but instead, their lives produced thorns of evil works. (Luke 3:9 // Heb. 6:8)
Evil works, no matter what someone’s claim or belief is, will damn the doer of sin (Mt. 5:27-30 & 13:41-43,49,50 // John 5:29), even those who, while on earth, had considered of themselves any of the following:
1. Believers in Jesus’ words (John 8:31)
2. Believers who were waiting for His return (Mt. 25:1-13)
3. Servants of Christ (Mt. 7:21-23 & 24:45-51)
4. People who had fellowshipped with Him. (Luke 13:22-28)
A lot of people claim the above things. But, the deciding factor for salvation is obedience –obedience to God’s commands (Mt. 19:17), to the Gospel of Christ (2 Thes. 1:7-10), to righteousness (Rom. 6:18), to the will of God (Mt. 7:21), and to the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 8:9) If people’s deeds display obedience to these / to God’s Word, then they are walking in repentance, and thus, in justification. (Ja. 2:24) If they are not “producing fruit in accordance with repentance” (see Mt. 3:8), then they are the chaff which Christ will burn up with unquenchable fire. (v. 10,12) For without repentance / a changed life, there is no salvation. (Luke 13:3,5 // Rom. 6:16-18,22,23)
Consequently, everyone must repent of sin, as Jesus commands. (Mark 1:15) Everyone, as John the Baptist proclaimed, must submit to the immersion of full repentance in order to be forgiven of sin. (v. 4 // Luke 3:3) This certainly has to do with deeds and not with a one-day experience. The people who came out to be baptized by John knew this, for they were asking him what they had to do in order to produce the fruit necessary for salvation. (Luke 3:7-14) We see that John affirmed their concern by telling them specific actions were necessary (same verses), and we know that Jesus did the same (Luke 6:46-49 & 18:22), as did Paul (Acts 26:20), James (Ja. 2:14-26), Peter (1 Peter 4:1,2), John the Apostle (1 John 5:18), and the other writers of Scripture.
However, in order to be adequately trained in obedience, everyone must submit to being taught –that is, to being taught to obey everything Christ commanded. (Mt. 28:20) For everyone must obey the Lord’s commands in order to be in-dwelt by the Spirit. (John 14:23 // Acts 5:32 // 1 John 3:24) Thankfully, we need no man to teach us, as it is the grace of God (the grace that brings salvation in the Person of Jesus, the Word of God), as well as the anointing of His Spirit, that teaches us godliness and gives us the power to act accordingly. (Titus 2:11-14 // 2 Peter 1:3,4 // 1 John 2:27)
These are not my teachings. They are the teachings straight from Jesus’ lips (Mt. 19:17 // John 15:6,10), as well as from the entirety of God’s Word. (Gal. 6:7,8 // Eph. 5:5,6 // Col. 3:25 // 2 Tim. 2:5,19 // 1 John 2:3,4,15-17,28,29 // 3 John 1:11 // etc.)
Therefore, everyone should take warning, understand that repentance is –no, not just a mind change, but a life change, and a change that corresponds to the acknowledgement of one’s sins, a deep sorrow and contrition over those sins, and the renunciation and total rejection of sin itself.
December 29, 2013
Zion, Jerusalem, was God’s chosen dwelling. But they rebelled, they refused to follow God’s laws. When He commanded them to administer true justice, and to act with kindness and fairness toward one another (Ze. 7:9,10), they instead remained stubborn. (v. 11) They stopped their ears and hardened their hearts. (v. 11,12) The words of the Lord and those whom He sent by His Spirit went unheeded. (v. 12) Therefore “the LORD Almighty was very angry” (v. 12), and deafening His own ear to their calls (v. 13), He scattered them with a whirlwind so that their pleasant land was left desolate. (v. 14)
In God’s great mercy, God has not let Zion’s rebellion against Him be beyond recovery. (Rom. 11:11) They will repent one day, as a nation. (Ze. 12:10-13:2) They will be grafted back into God’s favor when they finally accept their Messiah. (same verses // Rom. 11:23) For the LORD has promised, “I will return to Zion and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called, ‘The City of Truth’, ‘The Mountain of the LORD who rules over all’, and ‘The Holy Mountain’.” (Ze. 8:3)
This is a wonderful redemption, recovery, and reconciliation promised. But what about the meantime? Who is God’s dwelling right now? It is the church, His bride. God allowed His former people to reject Him, for their rejection made way for the redemption of the whole world. (Rom. 11:15) Yet have we, Christ’s church, done much better than Israel? Have we, as a whole, not deadened our ears and hearts to His commands, His instructions, and the exhortations of those speaking by His Spirit? We should be being called “The City of Truth” now! Do we not have the Truth, are we not teaching the Truth, are we not walking in the Truth continuously and faithfully? It is expected of us! (3 John 1:3) Our Heavenly Father has commanded it of us! (2 John 1:4) But is the Church truly being faithful? Or does she promote falsehoods and live a lie?
What about “The Mountain Where The Lord Rules”? Does the Lord Jesus rule in our midst? Does He really rule our hearts and minds and actions, our attitudes and our words? Can the LORD Almighty call us “My Holy Mountain”? He expects us to be worthy of being called such. (Eph. 4:1 // 1 Thes. 2:12) We, His church, are now “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” (1 Peter 2:9) We are God’s temple and dwelling. (1 Cor. 3:16) That is, if we keep His place clean, undefiled, and full of praise and worship that is pure and pleasing to Him. Otherwise, we “also will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22) and destroyed with fire. (Luke 3:7-9 // John 15:2,6 // 1 Cor. 3:17 // Heb. 6:8)
Therefore, O Church, “Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.” (Rom. 11:20) “For if God did not spare His chosen people Israel from being banished from His presence, He will not spare us either if we continue along our careless path. (v. 21) They stumbled because they disobeyed the Message. (1 Peter 2:8) But has the church not disobeyed the Message as well?
She has, for the most part, disobeyed. And this is why judgement will begin with the family of God. (1 Peter 4:17)
Take warning, Church, and repent! (Rev. ch. 2 & 3)
December 28, 2013
While downtown this last time I saw two street preachers wearing signs so I went up and talked with them. I can’t say I liked their argumentative approach with the people, (many who were getting agitated and some even irate), but at least they and I agreed that God expects holy conduct from us at all times. I later visited the one guy’s website from the address he gave me, and then last night looked up another open air preacher’s site whom he had mentioned favorably. As I did that, I noticed blogs stating that that particular well-known guy is heretical, and so I read a bit of one blogger’s reasons for deeming him such. But how weary it all made me feel. And how sad. For none of the views appeared to be fully correct theology, even in important matters. Why? We all have God’s Word. Can we not interpret Scripture accurately through the same Spirit of Christ we all claim to have?
Why is the issue of holy conduct so hard to understand? Why is Scripture’s repeated command for it up for reinterpretation? The meaning of “Be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:15) can only be twisted by an obvious lie, for it cannot mean anything other than what it means, which is: “Have consistently pure and righteous conduct.” Do some who claim to follow Christ really think that that is only a suggestion and not a command?
To have holy conduct is an order found throughout God’s Word as it reveals very clearly that holiness is not only about being reconciled to God through Christ, but about behaving, speaking, and thinking righteously. Being reconciled to Christ is the invitation and the gift we take. It is the forgiveness and washing applied to everyone who believes. But remaining in this clean position is our choice (as was the initial acceptance of the paid redemption), which we must keep by our continual submission to Christ’s Lordship (Leadership). This we are fully enabled to follow through on (do) because, not only has God given us His divine instructions in the Living (Alive) Word, but He has also graciously given us His own divine power by having given us His own divine Spirit! Through these we absolutely can understand and obey. Therefore to say that real daily holiness (actual righteous living) is not possible is to blaspheme God’s power and to also blaspheme His Spirit who is there for us (available to be walked in / lived in / lived through). (Gal. 5:16) If we do not walk in the Spirit, we are rebelling. Rebellion is disobedience, which is sin, and all participants are subject to God’s wrath. (Eph. 5:6)
Yet, across the internet and in the churches we have the majority of “Christians” insisting that Spirit-indwelt people cannot help but sin, and do actually deliberately sin every day. This they maintain even though numerous passages (just three being Eph. 5:3-7 and Heb. 10:26-31 and 1 John 3:4-10) emphatically teach the opposite.
Did Jesus come to free us from our sins or not? He did. (Mt. 1:21 // Rom. 6:18 / 1 John 3:5) Then why the debate? Why are so many so-called “Christians” clinging to their sins as if they just can’t let them go? Did Jesus tell us to sever ourselves from all that makes us sin, including our own eyes and hands if necessary? He did. (Mt. 5:27-30) Then why, if Jesus, in the same verses and elsewhere, warns us about going to Hell if we keep sinning (same verses), or if we are even the cause of sin (13:41,42), do these false, sin-promoting teachers think their word is to be accepted above Christ’s words?
Does Jesus tell us to be as perfect as our Heavenly Father, or not? He does. (Mt. 5:48) Does Rom. 6:1,2 and 1 Peter 4:1,2 state that Christ-followers are done with sinning? Yes. Does Rom. 6:6,7 & 7:5,6,23-25 teach that Christ Jesus has rescued us from the power and control of the sinful nature (the law of sin) so that we are actually severed from it? Yes. Does Jesus say that being unified with Him (being in a love relationship with Him) hinges upon our obedience? Yes, He does say that. (John 14:15,23 & 15:10) Does Heb. 5:9 inform us that obedience is necessary for salvation? It does. And so does 2 Thes. 1:7-10, which also mentions the necessity of knowing God. For obedience leads to belonging to God, which leads to knowing Him, which leads to a maintenance of holy conduct, and which thus insures final salvation. (Luke 13:22-28 // Rom. 6:22,23 // 1 Peter 1:7-9 // 1 John 2:3,4 // Rev. 3:1-6,14-22)
Does 1 John 2:6 state that those united with Christ are to live like Jesus did? It does. And how did Christ live? He lived obedient to the Father in everything. (John 12:49,50 & 14:31) We are to do the same. (2 Cor. 5:15 // Gal. 2:20 // Col. 3:1-4 // 1 Peter 4:1,2) If we fail, we must repent; but God’s expectation is that we are to remain faithful to His training –daily– so that we will not fail. Then when we are fully trained, we will be like our Teacher. (Luke 6:40)
The training never ends in this life, but that gives no one any excuse to ever “take his hand off the plow” (see Luke 9:62) and turn from listening, obeying, and striving for perfection at all times. (Phil. 3:12-14) “And whatever we have already attained, we must live up to.” (See v. 16) Those who teach otherwise are carnally-minded and are not citizens of Heaven, but are enemies of Christ. (v. 17-20 // 2 Peter ch. 2 // Jude 1:4,17-19) Anyone who does not accept that true Christ-followers have had their sinful nature, with its passions and desires, circumcised off (Gal. 5:24 // Col. 2:11) the heart (Rom. 2:29) (–and circumcised off completely –of course! –good grief!), are not teaching the true Gospel.
So why are Christ-followers tolerating the false teachers who go on teaching that works are not part of saving faith? –Especially when Scripture has made the issue firm and clear? God’s Word certainly teaches that faith by itself is useless (Ja. 2:17) and that works complete faith. (v. 22) It says we are not justified by faith alone, but by what we do in alignment with our confession of faith. (v. 24 // Acts 26:20 // 2 Tim. 2:19) Jesus states that in order to enter Life, a person must follow Him, carry the cross He gives them, obey God’s commandments, and keep Self slain. (Mt. 19:17 // Luke 9:23,24 & 14:25-35) Moreover, anyone who does not behave with acts / action / works / deeds in line with the Father’s will does not belong to Christ. (Mt. 12:50) Neither does anyone belong to Christ who is not in submission to (who is not being controlled by) the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 8:9)
Well, I could go on and on, but I sure do wonder how teachers and preachers can insist that we do not have to obey God in order to be saved. And I do wonder too how they can claim that obedience and holiness is not about what we do –how we act, speak, and think.
But God’s Word holds true, and therein it states repeatedly that God will judge us not only on our belief in Christ and what we confess (claim) to believe, but also on our belief in His words, how our conduct proved that belief genuine as we applied God’s Word to our daily lives, if we walked obediently in the will of the Father, and if we walked in sin or in righteousness. (Luke 6:46-49 // John 5:29 // Rom. 8:13,14 // 2 Cor. 5:10 // Rev. 20:11-15)
Maybe people should stop reading the “godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim. 6:20) that is so prevalent on the internet and instead use their time to study diligently God’s ways, God’s doctrine, and God’s Truth which has been made available and plain to us in God’s Word. –Plain, at least, for everyone who sits under the True Teacher found within its pages.
December 27, 2013
“I’m the big cheese!” This is an expression I used to hear when I was young. Now I laugh because cheese sounds so cheesy, cheap, and silly; therefore, who would want to be “the big cheese” anyway? But big cheeses they are –those who scramble to appear important and powerful, shoving others out of their way through trickery and abuse, and revealing themselves to be the opposite of who and what they wish to be regarded as. Craving social applause they merely heap up disgust toward themselves, as well as, of course, God’s wrath.
What does a big cheese wannabe do? Well, certainly one thing he does, and this in order to rationalize his evil, is that he says to himself, “The Lord does not see or pay attention.” (See Ps. 94:7 and Ezek. 8:12) “God pays no heed to my sins, idolatries, and methods of crushing others. Besides, because I am cunning and skilled, because I have influence, wisdom, and wealth, I am like a god to many people and therefore am entitled to behave as I please.” (See Ps. 10:2-11 & 94:4-7 and Isa. 14:13,14 and Ezek. 28:1-5)
Such people are a stench in God’s nostrils (Isa. 65:2-7) and because they have rejected His ways of justice, righteousness, truth, and all goodness, these arrogant oppressors He will bring down with great tumult (Amos 2:2), destruction, and fire. (ch. 1 & 2) Yet oblivious to the Lord’s hand of judgement above them (Isa. 26:11) –oblivious because “they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin” (see Ps. 36:2), these big cheeses gleefully go on in their corrupt ways.
It reminds me of the story of “The Emperor and His New Clothes”. For big cheeses try so hard to look knowledgable, important, and powerful as they accept and incorporate into their lives worldly philosophies. But while strutting with pride, they only reveal their nakedness. Instead of their conduct bringing them honor, it really becomes their disgrace. Indeed, swaggering with their buttocks half bared, or standing at a podium lying and deceiving with eloquent oration, or using extortion to defraud those they pretended to befriend, big cheeses plunge deeper into the lake of foolishness.
Another picture of them that comes to mind is the “King of the Mountain” game we used to play at recess at the mission school at Nasuli. There were large volcanic rocks dotted all over one section of our school grounds; so we would play tag by running and jumping from rock to rock, while stepping on the ground would be cause for violation. The boys, however, thought it a test of their power to sometimes try to wrestle each other off a rock. Once successful, the conqueror would usually beat his chest or flex his (little) muscles, shouting out the declaration, “I’m the king of the mountain!” I just laugh remembering…! How childish and silly. Yet it’s a sad laugh I finish with as, shaking my head in disbelief, I do wonder how grown men I’ve encountered since can think themselves admirable as they resort to similar behavior in their pursuit of making themselves appear stronger than the others around them. But, such is the mindset and conduct of “the big cheeses”.
Is there ever an appropriate time to mock self-exalting idolators? There is. (1 Kings 18:27 // Jer. 19:8 // 1 Cor. 4:10) The Lord Himself mocks proud mockers (Pr. 3:34) and makes them a spectacle of His contempt. (Nahum 3:5-7) “The One sitting enthroned in Heaven laughs in disgust; the Lord scoffs at them. Then He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath” (Ps. 2:4,5), announcing to them who the true King and Ruler is (v. 6-9) and what they’d best do about it! (v. 10-12)
Silly corrupt oppressors. Flexing their finite muscles atop their conquered volcanic rock and singing about the speck they are king of, they display with pride what they think is their importance, which is, actually, a display of only their nakedness and shame. For even after constant and prayerful exhortations from those who have cared, these big cheeses remain bent on bringing upon themselves derision and eventually, their own complete demise.
If only all the big cheeses would grow up. If only they could comprehend what is truly important in life.
December 26, 2013
The Lord God has chosen to give us new birth through the Word of Truth. (Ja. 1:18) This new birth involves being infused with the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8) so that the person becomes a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) with a new nature –God’s own divine nature (1 John 3:9)– and enabled to remain there as he applies God’s Word (2 Peter 1:4) obediently. (Ja. 1:21,22) It entails becoming a citizen of the Kingdom of God by transferring one’s citizenship from the kingdom of darkness to Christ’s Kingdom. (Col. 1:13,14)
Coming into Christ’s Kingdom is not some quick and easy process (Acts 14:22), though most churches teach that it is. For though it is true that a genuine decision to follow Jesus may, in itself, be easy, and that God, if He sees that the person’s heart is genuine, will accept that person’s “application”, nevertheless, the person signing up must follow through on his decision! He cannot step back and say, “Okay, I did that. Now I’m in. Now I’m one with Christ. Now I’m saved. Now I can do whatever I want and God will see Christ instead of me and thus keep me in His favor forever.” No, and the multitudes of warnings to those who have pledged to follow Christ are in God’s Word for a reason! That reason is that falling away is absolutely possible (Heb. 6:4-6 // 2 Peter 1:10,11 & 3:17) –through sin, unbelief, and adhering to falsehoods (same verses // Gal. 1:6-9)– and that such a thing is equivalent to turning back to follow Satan. (1 Tim. 5:15 // 1 John 3:8)
1 Peter 1:23 reminds us that we are born again through the Word of God. This happens as a person reads it, listens to the Spirit teach him from it, and, in obeying what he hears, thereby purifies himself. (v. 22) Only the pure –those who are holy in all they do by being obedient to Christ– become unified with God (which is the new birth). (Mt. 5:8 // John 14:23 // Heb. 12:14 // 1 Peter 1:15) But how can a person receive this cleansing if he is not daily washing himself with the Word? (Eph. 5:26) He cannot. A person cannot remain clean without being washed through (with / by / in) the Word which comes by meditating on that Word diligently, prayerfully, and habitually. (John 15:1-10)
God’s Word, not men’s word, is what teaches these things. For the Scriptures make it clear: “He [our Heavenly Father] chose to give us birth through the Word of Truth” (Ja. 1:18), He who is Jesus, the Word of God. (John 1:1,14) We therefore must meditate on Him (and obey Him –1 John 2:3,4 & 3:24) to be abiding in eternal life. (John 6:53-63)
December 25, 2013
Oh come let us praise and worship the Lord, the One who came to earth to reconcile mankind to Himself. Let us kneel before the King, our Maker, the Sustainer of all things. Let us thank Him for His love, His grace, His forgiveness. Let us further His Kingdom until all hear and understand His Message of Freedom, Power, and Love.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulders. And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with righteousness and justice, from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will perform this.” (Isa. 9:6,7)
What a comfort to know that if we believe the Truths of His Kingdom, His Kingdom ruling within every born-anew person, then we can walk now in His righteousness and justice. We can know His laws because they are written across our hearts and minds, and we can intimately know Him who wrote them there. Even though many do not abide by the good and just laws of the Eternal King, we can take comfort that one day Christ’s peace and Rulership will be made complete throughout the world and that all who cling to the evil kingdom will be banished. What a relief that day will be when only good will preside, though in the meantime we continue to fervently call everyone to come out of the darkness and be saved.
May all the world join us this Christmas and exalt Him who has given the world the Means by which to live in peace –peace with God and man. His name is Jesus, and we have been invited to step into Him, follow Him, and abide in Him, now and into eternity.