Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Believing God - Chapter One

I was not disappointed. Chapter one is all about Scripture and thus it is well stocked with Scripture. To the point, it's all about the fact that we really don't believe Scripture. We say we do. We're utterly convinced. Sproul points out a few key reasons that hit right home why we really don't believe.

First and foremost is sin. Our problem is local, right in our very own hearts. Sin is not bounded by time, culture, or environment. It started very nearly in the beginning and has been on the loose ever since. Sin takes its natural course of decay and has no respect for the occasional upticks in this world. Neither the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, or the Reformation will ever make sin or its consequences go away. I hope all readers of the book get this point and go no further until they do. We must become completely convinced of the futility of education and effort to help us become better people or better students of God's Word.

In fact, there is one element of our culture brought on by the rebellion in the Garden and lately fueled by Darwinism. Sadly, even Christians adopt this myth as firm belief and call it sancification. The evolutionists call it survival of the fittest. In the world of business it is called continuous improvement. In the Garden, the devil called it "you shall be as gods."

We really do believe that we are getting better. We really do believe that if we could just get back to the good old days prior to the 60's, or during the height of the Reformation, or some other imagined glorious day, that things would be better. And so we strive to get there by any means and we justify it by saying it is God's will. But God says we are not to wrestle against flesh and blood. God says that the wages of sin is death. Period. We will get no better in this life. Our bodies will die. Our old man of sin and death will be just as wicked and deceitful and stinking rotten until the day we die. There is not one bit of us that will improve or get better.

We are only as good as the One Who indwells us. And that work is finished. I won't go into what sanctification really is here. It is not self-improvement however. We don't get more spiritual and less sinful as we go on with Jesus. Do we learn more? Yes. Do we get to know Him better? Yes. Do we sin less and less? Hopefully. As students of the Word, we do increase in something. Sproul calls it "competence" or "completeness" according to II Timothy 3:16. Completeness for the purpose of doing the good works that God calls us to do.

We simply make the mistake of thinking that these works are on an inclining set of stairs. Each level marks a higher plane of maturity, spirituality, or again, sanctification. Yet the honest Christian you can imagine at the highest elevation will fall just as hard as the newborn Christian with the onset of just one sin. It is sin that makes us all equal. Likewise, it is Jesus who makes us all equal as well. Among and within are selves, there is to be no comparison (see II Corinthians 10:12).

Sproul does a great job of pointing out this reality in many other different ways in this chapter. I added my two cents. Readers would do well to allow the Holy Spirit to plumb their depths to shed light on what things hinder them in this area. Be prepared to experience some pain. But allow God to incise these bits of deceit and then forsake them all for the excellency of knowing Jesus.

At this point, we should take the advice of another godly man, Oswald Chambers. Here are his words in today's meditation from My Utmost for His Highest, "Are you prepared to let God take you into union with Himself, and pay no more attention to what you call the great things? Are you prepared to abandon entirely and let go? The test of abandonment is in refusing to say - "Well, what about this?" Beware of suppositions. Immediately you allow - What about this? - it means you have not abandoned, you do not really trust God. Immediately you do abandon, you think no more about what God is going to do. Abandon means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions. If you abandon entirely to God, He says at once, "Thy life will I give thee for a prey." The reason people are tired of life is because God has not given them anything, they have not got their life as a prey. The way to get out of that state is to abandon to God. When you do get through to abandonment to God, you will be the most surprised and delighted creature on earth; God has got you absolutely and has given you your life. If you are not there, it is either because of disobedience or a refusal to be simple enough."

And that is R. C. Sproul, Jrs. point. We must be simple. So simple that we believe the simple truth of God's Word. But we will never get that way until we obey and allow His Holy Spirit to shed the myths, unbeliefs, assumptions, and suppositions from our minds and hearts. Sometimes we're just too smart for our own good because we think we're getting better at this Christian life. But Jesus simply said, "Abide in me."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Believing God

I have entered into an agreement with the publishers at Reformation Trust. My part of the agreement states that I will publish on my blog an review of one of their current book listings. In this case, I chose R. C. Sproul, Jr's. latest, Believing God. There are twelve chapters along with a Foreword and Preface. Here then is a review of that first portion, with twelve posts remaining.

Both the Foreword and Preface were written from personal experience. Ray Comfort shared the former and R. C. Jr. the latter. I sense that these two experiences in and of themselves are not the key to the real depth of this book. R. C. states, "I knew I needed to learn better to believe God, not because my life was moving from comfort to ease, but because God—for His own good purposes, and for my good as well—was putting me through a time of significant challenge. In other words, I do not find it easy to believe God’s promises because He’s given me an easy life. Instead, I know I need to believe God’s promises because He has, wisely, sent me some hard providences."

On the contrary, I have heard many times over the years that a Christian with a life of ease sometimes has a harder time believing God. I think both positions are valid as Agur said in Proverbs 30:7-9, "Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain."

However, experience is not the key to belief regardless of the difficulty or ease thereof. God is sovereign and He will use whatever means He desires to conform us to His image. That's the point R. C. makes as he ties his life experience to the discussion surrounding one of his former books, Almighty Over All.

That point may be difficult to capture even with R. C.'s explanation of the term "Bulverism". That little clue leads me to believe that Jr. writes in the same vein as Sr.. Readers are likely to encounter a lot of big terms and fortunately they come with explanations. Gentlemen, the laity thanks you.

Despite the big words and the experiential ticklers, I know I will enjoy this book. Sproul is a student of the Word and my little peek forward shows me I will not be disappointed with the Word in abundance to encourage me to believe God with my whole heart.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Private Interpretation

Last week I commented on one of R. C. Sproul's postings on www.christianity.com. His was the first of its kind I have seen on the web. You can see his original post at . There is always a battle going on in the kingdom of God regarding who has the right and authority to teach God's Word. On the one side are folks who say that only those with appropriate educational and ministry background may teach. For instance, a seminary degree plus X-number of years in the field. Without such credentials, one should not be permitted to teach, to minister, to pastor, to write or comment in on-line forums, much less to blog.

The other side are folks who say that such background is not necessary. All that's needed is the filling of the Holy Spirit according to I John 2:27, "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."

Furthermore, God says in II Peter 1:20 - 2:1a, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you...."

Hopefully the common link between both parties is the fact that they are indeed saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. Without this, no man can indeed learn or understand the Scriptures. They will be foolishness to him and his teaching will likewise therefore be foolish, just as God says in I Corinthians 2:14, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

So we see in these verses a few credentials necessary for the understanding and teaching of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit must be involved. Discernment must be exercised. Finally, the focus must be on the Scriptures themselves.

Here is the first stopping point for discussion. I find fairly consistently that those who opt on the side of education/ministry for qualification spend far more time quoting and discussing other learned men than they do the Bible. While I have no problem studying the writings of these men (Calvin, Sproul, Luther, Spurgeon, Chambers, Pink, MacArthur, etc.) I rely on none of them for authority regarding the interpretation and teaching of Scripture.

Likewise, I do not consider myself to be any authority. You readers will know when I have to change a position on Scripture. I will tell you plainly. Such things do happen to men because we are still fallible, still susceptible to the old man and the flesh, still liable for a deceitful heart. That is why we must give such great care to teaching. It is no small matter to present God's Word to the Kingdom. And it must be God's Word, not what we or any other man says about God's Word.

The authority to teach and understand God's Word was one of the premier points of the Reformation. After posting his 95 Theses and appearing before the church council, Luther escaped to Wartburg to translate the Bible from Latin to German. In so doing he freed the Scriptures from the shackles of private interpretation and teaching of Rome and put it in the hands of the common man.

But man is not so common when he is filled with the Holy Ghost and walking in a perfect One relationship with God. Consider that the prophets of old who wrote the Scriptures under the illumination and direction of God. Did they do it in any other way than this? Could they have accomplished this while walking in some deliberate disobedience, some willful sin? Lesser so, could they have done it when in a state of known unconfessed sin, when their state with God was not perfect? Would God take the chance that a wicked heart, a lustful flesh, a mere sinner possibly overrule His sovereign work of scribing His most holy Word?

No. God made no such mistake. But in these last days, He has left us in a slightly different state whereby there is no new Scripture, no new prophecy. The canon is complete. So we are somewhat left to ourselves if you will, without the original inspiration of God.

God says in II Timothy 3:16-17, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

Again, that work of giving Scripture to man is complete. We do not receive the inspiration of God in order to learn, understand, and teach His Word. At least not in the same way as the authors received it. Today we have the Word in order that we may be "perfect, thoroughly furnished...." The good works are those of reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.

This was not written to some particular group of people, the educated and experienced. It was written to the "man of God". That includes you and me. But as Paul asked rhetorically in I Corinthians 12:29, "Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?" No, not all are teachers. They are a select group, chosen and gifted by God through the Holy Spirit. But teaching is not the exclusive purpose of having God's Word.

You and I have it in order that we may be "perfect, thoroughly furnished" Christians. We have it so we may encourage others to be this same way, in a perfect, One relationship with the Father. That is why He saved us. He saved us from our sins so that we would be One with Him again as we were in the beginning (Adam).

When we are not perfect because of sin, the flesh, or the deceitful heart, likewise the Word of God is not perfect within us. Some reproof, some correction is required. God uses many avenues to accomplish this. That's why we have so many teachers, preachers, and prophets. That's why we have these discussions. But in every avenue, God always uses His Holy Spirit to bring a child back to Himself. God says so in John 16:7-11, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged."

So you see the endless quotation of men can be a problem without the primary delivery of the infallible Word of God. A proper study cannot be without the consideration of both sides of the discussion, each with equal weighting in regards to Scriptural support, the integrity of the teacher, and other such academic prequisites to presenting an acceptable thesis.

From this you can accept the fact that I support the teaching of men and the open discussion of Biblical interpretation. It is with the following requirements that I do so however:

1. The man must be saved
2. The man must acknowledge his state with God at the time of his study and documentation. (As I have told you before, I find it utterly impossible to write this blog when I know there is sin in my life. I have tried. Once or twice I have removed a blog because I should have known better. This blog and my books are written when I am:

a. Dead indeed to sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:11)
b. Fully armored (Ephesians 6:10-20)
c. Given a message to write about (Romans 11:36-12:2)

Finally, there is one last thing that I expect and discern from other writers, teachers, pastors, and prophets. The apostle Paul provided a good example in Galatians 1:11-12, "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Jesus personally taught Paul in the desert of Arabia for seventeen years. You can add this up in Galatians 1:18 and 2:1. Have you been taught in this way? This example is exactly what God is talking about in the verse I began this blog with in I John 2:27. How much time do you spend alone with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father, allowing them to personally teach you? No radios, TVs, books, blogs, Internet forums, nothing but the Father, Son, and Spirit and you with them as One at the Throne.

If you are not there, then you are still feeding on the milk and delivering the same to others. There's nothing wrong with that necessarily, particularly if you are just a newborn Christian. (see I Peter 2:2 - "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:") But if you consider yourself a more mature Christian yet have not convened with the Lord in this way, then you may be as God described in Hebrews 5:13-14, "For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Likewise we are reproved in I Corinthians 3:2-3, "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" Sadly, this is where most of the man-centered discussions are. Good teaching and writing must abound rather with the Word of God, for of Him and through Him and to Him are all things to the glory of God, Amen.

Monday, April 13, 2009

He Had This Testimony...

Perhaps you recognize this piece of Hebrews 11:5, "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." Another man, perhaps not quite as well-known depending upon your age, with this testimony was Eric Liddell. Eric ran the 400m for Scotland in the 1924 Paris Olympics. His fame at the time was worldwide for many reasons. First, he was a great runner and won the gold. Second, he refused to run on Sunday during the qualifying heats because he did not want to disobey God's commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. Third, the year after the Olympics, Liddell went to China and served his remaining 20 years of life on this earth there as a missionary in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps Eric's most enduring quote was this, "When I run, I feel His pleasure." All that Eric did, he did to the glory of God.

What can we as Christians, the Body of Jesus Christ, do to please God in these last days?

The answers of course are in the Bible, right down to the "how-to". Let's start there.

God says in I Thessalonians 4:1, "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more." The apostles thoroughly wrote a set of holy letters for us so that we could know with certainty how to live a holy life pleasing to God. The list is expansive and worth your time as you read the Epistles.

We also know that there are certain prerequisites to this life. God says in Hebrews 11:6, "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." Here it is good to know, just as Eric Liddell recognized, that pleasing God is not without reward or emotional response. God lets us know when He is pleased.

One of the key ways to ensure this state is to of course be One with Jesus. Because He is also One with the Father, we know we can likewise please the Father as Jesus did. He said so in John 8:29, "And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him."

This fact is reiterated in Luke 3:22 and Matthew 17:5, "And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased." "While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him."

What sorts of things can we do that please God that are of a more spiritual nature? God shows us a few examples in Hebrews 13:15-16 and Psalm 51:16-19.

"By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."

"For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar."

This subject is of course not without warning. There are things we are to avoid, that we may please God. Just as we are to be One with the Father and Son, so must we be entirely void of the flesh. God says so in II Timothy 2:4, "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." He strongly reiterates this in Romans 8:8, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."

Now as for the specific things in your life that please God, those are between the two of you. How do you find out? Go to the throne. Go there with Jesus as One. Then ask as it is written in Romans 11:36-12:2, "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

If you know His will and do it, surely that is pleasing to Him and you as well. This is a daily thing, sometimes a thing for the moment. It depends upon what God tells you to do. But if He tells you in Jesus' name and you are One with Him, be sure to do it. These verses should not be treated, as Christians so often do, as the answer to the question, "What is God's will for my life?"

Just imagine of the apostle Paul treated it that way. He'd be stuck not knowing what to do or where to go. But notice instead his sensitivity to the Spirit of God in these verses:

Galatians 5:25 - "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."

Acts 20:22 - "And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:"

Of Apollos it was written in Acts 18:24-25, "And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John."

Acts 18:5 - "And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ."

George Mueller purposed to start each day of his life in the joy of the Lord. No matter the circumstance, he would do nothing until he was certain of this. That's a good path to follow.

Friday, April 10, 2009

It is Me Indeed!

I nearly jumped through the roof of my car this morning. Dr. Adrian Rogers was preaching on I Corinthians 15:12-19 regarding the resurrection of Jesus. It was when he read verse 17, "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" that I resisted the urge to leap for joy. Why?

Because just the opposite is true. Christ is raised; my faith is not vain, and; I am not in my sins!

Christian friends, when you are awake, you are dead indeed to sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ.

This word "indeed" is a powerful Biblical word and I want to share some of its fruits with you today. Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament the word carries the element of absolute certainty. It's associated subject is without a doubt. For instance, in Genesis 17:19 God told Abraham that his wife Sarah "shall bear thee a son indeed...." You know the story. Sarah was way beyond her childbearing years. She and Abraham believed God only upon the certainty of His Word and character. On these same things can we base our certainty today regarding the things He says of us. Here are some examples that should bring you to your feet (unless you are driving - do be careful!).

Exodus 19:5-6, "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." (Notice this verse is repeated in Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 applied now to the Church as well.)

I Chronicles 4:10, "And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested." (Remember that wonderful little book, "The Prayer of Jabez"?)

Matthew 20:23a, "And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with...."

Luke 24:34, "Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon."

John 4:42, "And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." (Unless you hear Jesus personally, your faith and salvation are in vain. He alone is the Savior, not the pastor, not your friend, or any other person who ever witnessed to you. They did their job in righteousness, but unless you heard Jesus, you are still in your sins.)

John 8:31, "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed."

John 8:36, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."

Romans 6:11, "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Romans 8:7, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."

As you can see by this short post, there are things God says with certainty about His children. Some are positive, some negative. Surely we want all the positive ones to apply. But we must be circumspect to ensure the negative ones are in their proper place (e.g. - Be not carnal in your minds, but spiritual that you may indeed serve the law of God according to Romans 7:25b, "So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.")

Rejoice that He is risen indeed. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life."

Monday, April 6, 2009

It is No Longer I

The story goes that Augustine (St.) was walking down the street when he saw a familiar woman walking towards him. He bowed his head and walked to the other side. She called out to him, "Augustine! Augustine!" He did not look up or answer. She called all the more urgently and other passers-by began to notice. "Augustine! Don't you remember me? Don't you remember those nights together? Augustine! It is I!" Finally he looked up and replied, "Yes, but it is no longer I."

As long as we walk freely in the fullness of the resurrection life of Jesus Christ, we too can claim, "It is no longer I." The truth of this is in Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

But when we choose to allow the lust of the old man to conceive and bring forth sin, we then walk in this truth of Romans 7:17, "Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me."

In both accounts as a new creature, the "I" is subjugate to either the life of Jesus or the death of sin. There are no other options. One of these two always applies to me, neither at the same time, not part of one and part of the other. It is always all or nothing.

I read Proverbs 14:2 the other day and my immediate conclusion was, "This can't mean me!"

"He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him." Surely when I sin it does not mean that I despise the Lord. Surely not I!

But the Holy Spirit would not let me go. It was like hearing Him say, "What part of your flesh is good enough to say this does not apply? What part of you apart from Me is upright and not perverse?" And He began to reveal just a bit of how perverse my old man of sin really is. He did it by taking me to Hebrews 10:28-31, "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

There was that word again, "despite".

And so I ventured into a study to understand this horrible state, and to affix into my mind Scripture so certain, so solid, that it would act as a rampart to stifling any further such activity on my part. The very thought that I could despise the Lord is itself despicable and abhorrant. It is a powerful deterrent to sin. I hope that it shall be to you as well.

I shall leave this as a simple word study and let the Spirit of God do His holy work in you and me.

Proverbs 13:13, "Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded."

Proverbs 15:32, "He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding."

Proverbs 19:16, "He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die."

Proverbs 5:12-14, "And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly." (Indeed you can be right in the midst of church and worship and this can be you!)

II Chronicles 36:16, "But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy." (Yes, there comes a point when God will say, "Enough," and grace and mercy run out.)

Isaiah 53:3, "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Notice the present tense of the first part of this verse.)

Jesus said in Luke 10:16, "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me."

He says in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

Read Leviticus 26. These are God's conditions. Jesus reiterates them when He says in Proverbs 4:4, "He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live." And finally He says in John 14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments," and in John 15:10, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Where do You Fit in the Biblical Organization?

Imagine an organization chart as it might look from a Biblical perspective. In God's kingdom today, He simply puts us into one of two categories: wheat or tare. For the sake of word/meaning clarity, I will use two other Biblical terms here: sinner or saint.

If definitions are required, then a sinner is one who is unsaved while a saint is one who is saved. Quite simple.

Yet the saint category may be further broken down into two sub-categories. There are saints who are asleep and those who are awake. Again these are both Biblical terms but I will clarify them with some other Biblical terms to keep them consistent with the sinner/saint theme.

A sleeping saint is one who is walking, to some degree, in unconfessed sin. They are not right with God. An awake saint is one who is walking in the Spirit without any sin and they are right with God.

I shall not delve into the arguments that this may bring on regarding the Biblical existence of these states. That is not the purpose of this particular posting. I have posted on them prolificly in the past. The purpose of this post is to present these four simple states (and I can find no others) and ask a question.

To which category do you belong?

When you read your Bible, do you really believe what you read? Or do you read a passage like Psalm 51 and say, "That can't possibly mean me!" Some Christians do say that perhaps for one of two reasons:

1) they claim to be under grace and therefore any sin is already dealt with, requiring no further action on their part

2) they claim that the Old Testament has no binding authority upon them as New Testament saints

If either of these are true, then ask yourself, what category do you fit into in the Biblical organization described above?

Let's take a look at these two reasons above and examine them in light of Hebrews 10:26-31.

"For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

To whom is this written? God wrote it to the saints who are without sin. It is a warning to them. This is a New Testament angry God. This is a saint with the potential for sin. What are they to do with it?

God answers that in I John 1:8-10, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."

Note some very important things here. God's condition states, "If we say we have no SIN (emphasis mine)...." He does not say, "If we say we are not a SINNER...." He does not say that because He knows it is no longer true. Do you?

What does God mean then? What is the difference between a sinner and a Christian with sin?

God answers that through Paul in Romans 7:17, "Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." There is no clearer delineation in all the Bible than this. Paul clearly shows the difference between himself (a saint, not a sinner) and sin (the nature within). Otherwise Paul would have to say something like, "I do it because I am a sinner." A sinner cannot help but sin. It is their very nature.

Is this nature still in the saint? Yes. But it is overcome by the blood of Jesus. It is overcome by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is overcome by the will of the saint to reckon him/herself dead to that sin and its very nature by the resurrection power of Jesus. That is the whole point of Romans 6.

(Okay, so I went ahead and covered the old ground anyway. It was necessary to make the point rather than have you skip around looking for old posts.)

If at this point you are still not convinced, then there are perhaps only two possible explanations. One, you are a sinner and simply cannot understand, or: two, you are a sleeping saint. There is no other room in the Bible to squeeze in, hide in, shed light on, or otherwise fit in categorically. In other words, no one can say, "This part of the Bible does not apply to me." Or, "Surely this part of the Bible cannot mean me!"

We cannot remain woefully or willfully ignorant of the Truth of the Bible in hopes that it will just go away. The Bible is still the Truth even if you don't believe it or don't want to believe it.

You see Christian, I focus of those of you who are truly the Church, the saved Body of Christ. Specifically I focus on those of you who are asleep. I am called of God to help wake you up. We have much to do in this kingdom before it ends. We have no other job. Perhaps soon I will write a post on what these things are. But for now, we focus on waking up. The number one reason to do so is for the glory of God. Sleep is caused exclusively by sin. I don't know your particular sins but they are the ones that have put you to sleep and that is a disgrace and dishonor to God. The consequences of falling into the hands of an angry God are incalculable.

God says in I Corinthians 15:34, "Awake to righteousness, and sin not...." What to do when you're awake? Like I said, that's for another day. Your work right now is to wake up. God will not do it for you. But His Holy Spirit is willing for a time to continue prompting you to do so. Take a look at Isaiah 51 and 52. Three times God uses the expression, "Awake, awake." (51:9, 51:17, 52:1)

Further He says in Romans 13:11-14, "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof."

And in I Corinthians 11:28-30, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep."

Christian, have you ever tried to worship with sin in your life? Tried to pray? Tried to offer sacrifices of praise, joy, or thanksgiving? God looks at it this way, "The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?" (Proverbs 21:27)

But this passage cannot possibly mean me! Sin? Abomination? Wicked? Me???

If these Words of God do not apply to you, then whom?

If we say these things apply only to sinners then answer this question:

What is the difference between the sin of a saint and the sin of a sinner? From God's perspective there is no difference. He treats it all the same. He judges it all the same with only one exception: The saint will not lose their salvation. They still get heaven as their reward (though their rewards/crowns in heaven I fear will be severely diminished). The sinner is still dead in trespasses and sins, condemned to hell and separation from God for eternity.

So the difference in the penalties of sin is only in the beyond of this present life. But in this present life, there is no difference whatsoever. But the severity of judgment upon the saint is much greater for they should know better. They know the truth. On the other hand, the sinner does not know better. They do not know the truth. In fact, their conscience is so seared with sin that they do not even feel the negative effects of it. They are numb to it for they are completely used to it. They have never known any other way.

But God admonishes the saints in I Corinthians 6:9-11, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

You see dear friends, we cannot readily accept just the good verses like these, the goodness of God, without also accepting the bad verses (about us) and the judgment of God. These parts of the Bible DO mean us. There is no escape as He says in Hebrews 2:1-4, "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?"