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Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

4 short introductory video studies First recorded in 2007, posted to GodTube in 2010  These short videos were made nearly 14 years ago. ...

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Sad State of Modern Christianity

I'm pausing briefly in our parallel series on Walking in the Spirit and Walking Worthy of our calling to comment on a sad interchange I had online. What's going on in Christendom in these last days is chronicled well by other ministries (such as HisChannel and J.D Farag), so I'll just provide a representative example of the lack of discernment prevalent in the church and what I sense (I admit this is subjective) is a desire to signal one's virtue above defending the faith (or even defending Christ).

Contemporary Christianity is rife with this sort of thing, and it is particularly prevalent in contemporary music. Readers of this blog will note that I have no problem with the music itself, but doctrine and practice are always subject to scrutiny.

In this case, we see the typical progression:

  • Declare something beautiful and comforting which denies Christ... BUT it's beautiful and comforting! Declare you don't understand it, you only know it feels good.
  • Be shown that what you are publicly endorsing, in fact, denies Christ (and condemns you)
  • Make sure everyone knows you already know, but you don't want to judge!
  • Be shown you are called to love Christ more than you are to be seen as "not judging" (note:  acknowledging clearly taught doctrines is not "judging," it is simply stating fact) 
  • Claim you know all that, but it's about beauty and comfort, not doctrine!
  • Then throw in a personal shot by indirectly accusing the informer of being "Old Testament."
  • Say this shouldn't be public... despite you going public at the start

Again, readers of this blog should find accusing me of going Old Testament hilarious!

In this case, a musician ( a tremendously talented musician in my opinion) decided to say that his Christianity had become "stagnant", but he found joy in the Catholic mass. Note his own words:

I don't understand much of what's happening during mass, b[ut] the size and scope of the church and the sound of so many voices have really drawn me to the awe of a God I don't fully understand either. And I really like it.

My initial response to his public post which states he doesn't understand the mass:

Educated in it and taught Religious Education in it. The mass is a denial of the finished work. There’s a lot more, but that should be sufficient to reject it. The catechism officially condemns me to the flame for leaving the church. Again, I’m only scratching the surface.

I resisted a long post heavy with quotes. I noted the catechism and was prepared for a reasonable request to prove what I had proposed. He didn't seem interested in my opinion, so I noted it wasn't my opinion. He said he didn't understand the mass, so I continued by giving him a brief introduction to the mass by referencing what the Catholic Church itself teaches about it. So, as he is informed that the Catholic Church forbids him from communion and that he risks "eating damnation unto himself" (their doctrines remember), he decided I was wrong for pointing out what he openly stated he "doesn't understand."

He responded in part:

I didn't walk into the church blind and ignorant.

But he started by saying he "[doesn't] understand much of what's happening during mass." And then he tried to compare the Catholic mass with his experiences as a Baptist. Why the reluctance to defend the finished work? Why not kindly say you totally reject the doctrines I referenced? That is between Heath and God, but I felt as though, in light of his refusal to defend the finished work (he allowed a Catholic to recommend a book by a Catholic apologist), I needed to educate Christians.

I don't think you're following. You have an obligation to Christ first and also to your followers. If you truly know what they teach, why seemingly endorse it? What if I found a Mormon service "beautiful" or "comforting," do I have no duty to warn of their denial of Christ?

Not wanting to appear judgmental does not outweigh our primary call to honor Christ and our obligation to contend earnestly for the faith. They deny his finished work on Calvary, we must not appear to endorse that as legitimate. You don't have to judge individuals to judge false and Christ-dishonoring and Christ-denying doctrines.

If you know they deny the finished work and they exclude and warn non-RCs of damnation... isn't that worth noting? I get it. It's the easy path. If I came on here and said my church is the only true ark of safety, outside of which there is no salvation, and if you perchance do get to heaven, it's because of my church because all grace from God flows through my church (etc.)... I don't think you or your followers would be so forgiving... for some reason the RCC gets a pass.  -Michael 

I tried to make it easy by creating a comparative stating that if I endorsed a Mormon service to a large group of my readers, don't you think I'd owe them an explanation about what Mormonism teaches? Isn't it incumbent upon us to defend sound doctrine concerning the Lord Jesus Christ's person and work? Should we not warn the faithful about wolves among the sheep? Paul spent three years in Ephesus weeping and warning them. Of course we must do this if we have influence. But apparently it's easier to accuse me of being "Old Testament" (again, this is insane in light of my beliefs).

Dude if you said you went to a mormon service and said it was beautiful or comforting, I'd assume that you found it beautiful and comforting and I'd leave the rest to you to do with it as you please. And if I was genuinely worried about what that might mean for you as a person on some deeper level...I might reach out to you privately first instead of doing it in a public venue. But we obviously have different approaches. What I'm attempting to do is tell you in the kindest way I know how that I honestly appreciate you taking the time. And you said what you said. And then I said what I said. You've stated your case. You've done your old testament due diligence of "alerting the village" and I'm thankful. If you want to continue the convo (and I truly don't) then please feel free to message me and we can do it in a way that might not look like two dudes arguing about religion. Bc that's corny and not at all how I'd like either of us to be perceived. Thank you again for sharing.

OK. I appreciate the attempt at the kind words (at least in part), but all I was doing was referencing what the Catholic Church itself teaches. How is that anything but just stating facts? It's what they publish they believe! Take it up with them, not me. How is pointing to their own doctrines being "Old Testament?"

He chides me for my "different approach." But this is not just a private opinion of his, he publicly endorsed a false, Christ-denying, Christian-damning system and ritual to his many followers. I'm not "arguing religion," I'm noting actual Catholic doctrine and exalting the finished work. I don't think that's "corny."

Imagine if I said "I am God!" and someone tried to tell me I'm not... so I accuse them of "arguing religion." If you state you believe A, quoting A is not an argument, it is stating a fact.

I can only surmise that he may be more worried about being seen as "judgmental" instead of worrying about denying the Lord who bought him. Again, I say that with some fear, but I cannot imagine not publicly rejecting something you publicly endorsed, especially after being educated and after saying you don't understand it.

If I endorse an author, then discover he teaches gross heresy on certain issues, I'd be more than glad to share that truth.

Sad to say, but it seems too many Christians are eager to signal their tolerance to find acceptance from the world than to stand for Christ. We're all guilty of this to some degree, but at a minimum we should be ashamed of it. Allowing a blasphemous book to be posted without objection while endorsing a blasphemous practice... then chiding the one who gives you facts you say you don't have?

Sure, I admit I was more than miffed as we shared, but I'd rather be accused of slight impatience than of a promoting doctrines which blaspheme the saving work of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

I've spent many hours over the last two and a half decades defending the popes and councils. Before you click away, what I mean is that I constantly quote Popes and Councils concerning what the Catholic Church teaches. Seems nobody wants to believe them! It's not my "opinion" of the Catholic Church, it's what they tell us they teach and believe.

If you don't like it, don't get angry with me. It's not "hateful" or "judgmental" to quote them. If you don't like what they have said, declared, or affirmed perhaps you should rethink your standards of truth.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Walk Worthy - Part 4 - Colossians 2 & 3

Colossians 2

  • [Let] no one deceive you by fine-sounding arguments
  • So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
  • See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
  • do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
  • Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. 
  • Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
  • set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Colossians 3

  • Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
  • Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 
  • now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander,and filthy language from your lips.
  • Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new [nature], which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
  • clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
  • Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.
  • Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
  • over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
  • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
  • be thankful.
  • Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
  • whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  • Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
  • Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
  • Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
  • Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
  • Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.
  • Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

All for Our Good and for His Glory

Remember, these are just certain instructions pulled out for quick reading. The full text is rich and contains some tremendous doctrine concerning our new life and the glory that is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord!

As we walk through the post-Acts epistles, note that we are hardly as libertarian as those who call us "antinomian" would have us believe. This is a very narrow path laid before us. The incredible thing to remember, however, is that we are always "in the beloved" by faith as a gift from God and that this pure walk is made possible by the Lord Jesus. It is the way of peace, contentment, and reward. It is hard on our flesh (the old nature) but natural to the spirit (the new nature).

Praise him for his mercy when we fail and for the strength we find in him to follow the path pf righteousness.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Walking in the Spirit - Part 5 (Condemnation)

Motivated to Service

We have noted that the greatest motivator for walking in the the new nature (the spirit) is the love of Christ our Savior. We also noted that the result of walking in and feeding the new nature is a clear conscience which leads to a vibrant prayer life and meaningful worship.

But we must not neglect other negative results of walking in the flesh. There are, of course, temporal consequences of walking in the old nature. These range from an empty life of slavery to the flesh to lack of peace to strife in our personal relationships and even to death. Beyond the temporal there are consequences in the age to come as well.

As we have laid out in previous studies, no one, no action, no sin can separate us from either the love of God or His promise of resurrection life through faith alone by grace alone through Christ alone. Nothing can rob us of the "life through his name" promised to all who place their faith in him. But we can certainly suffer loss. The Christian life is a race and we are either headed towards perfection (maturity) or perdition (loss). How we run that race will be reflected in the rewards, crowns, and the prize available to the believer at the judgment of his service.

This general truth is applicable in all ages (though the criteria may vary). A believer who chooses to live according to the old nature is like an unprofitable servant. The unprofitable servant is still a servant. He is still in the household of the master, but he may be found wanting in his service and lose reward.

Warnings for Believers

The narrow way and the broad way are choices for the believer. We would never tell someone who does not have the free gift of life that he must "do" something to "earn" it. There are so many passages of scripture which are given to believers in the context of reward which are misapplied to unbelievers in the context of resurrection life.

This is very dangerous.

Here is just one example:

We've all heard about the "weeping and gnashing of teeth"  and "the outer darkness" spoken of by the Lord Jesus Christ. We almost universally hear it applied as a warning to unbelievers. But the context is ignored! When we look at this warning (to Israel during the Lord's earthly ministry) we do see faith, but we also see works. Works are never to be seen in context of the gift of resurrection life (except as the resultant evidence of the new nature). 

I ask those who use this verse for the unbeliever, do you consider yourself a "child of the kingdom?" Can a child of the kingdom lose his gift of eternal life? Ignoring the error in claiming ourselves a heirs to Israel's earthly kingdom, surely we understand that one cannot lose a free gift. But who is the subject of the weeping and gnashing in the outer darkness?

the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. -Matt 11:12

We see this warning of "the outer darkness" in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. Do we believe the Lord entrusts his fortune with unbelievers? Is our eternal hope of resurrection dependent upon what we do? Never! The context here is Israel, but since Adam the gift of life has always been free!

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them..." -Matt 25:14
‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness.There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ vs.29-30

So let us now look back at our passage in Romans 8 and its warning.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. -Rom 8:1

The "condemnation" here is not eternal death, it is works burned and service judged. Those who seek to put Christians under bondage will use verses aimed at the Christian life as a threat against God's free gift of life by grace.

Let us quickly look at a warning to believing Israel in the Book of Hebrews:

Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him... -Heb 1:14, Heb 2:1-3

How often is this "neglect" spoken as a warning to unbelievers in this age? Believing (without faith it is impossible to please God) Israel is the heir of the New Covenant to come. They are heirs of the restored kingdom in the land promised to Abraham. But an individual Israelite can drift away and lose the reward of his place in that kingdom (see Matt 11 and Matthew 25 again) and certainly not gain the "better resurrection" in the New Jerusalem. 

Hebrews 11 must be read in this context. The great men and women of faith suffered much for the hope of a "better resurrection" and of a city "whose builder and maker is God." They did this through actions born out of true faith (here is where Romans 11 and James 2 come together). They "earned" these rewards. And just as one can earn a "better resurrection" one can lose it. We can never lose resurrection life (free gift), but we can lose reward.
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.

As I mentioned, the Book of Hebrews is the book of the life of maturity for Israel. The parallel book for our age is the Book of Philippians. We will look at this book in future studies.

Believe, Forsake, and Walk in the New Nature

Why are believers repeatedly warned not to go back, not to walk in the old nature, etc. Is it because the work of Christ is insufficient? God forbid! No, we are warned that we risk losing reward. One may even lose his temporal life. 

Countless thousands were freed from the bondage of Egypt (the world). They were ALL baptized (identified) with Moses in the Red Sea. But very few of them entered into the full promise. Some longed for the leeks and onions of Egypt (the world), others lacked faith to enter into the land when they heard of giants waiting. 

Of the 12 spies sent into the promised land, only two (Caleb and Joshua) came back with full faith and only these two of the 12 would eventually enter the land. The circumcision at Gilgal (Josh 5) was a picture of leaving the flesh behind after wandering the wilderness. 

[Joshua is the name of the Lord Jesus. One is Anglicized Hebrew (Joshua) and the other Anglicized Greek (Jesus), but both are of the same root. Jesus leads those who will fully believe and follow him into greater promises when we leave the flesh behind.]

This walking by faith in the new nature applies to many areas of our lives. Not only in exhibiting the fruits of the new nature, but also in acting on faith to truths revealed to us through a diligent study of his word. We must not let tradition or fear of men prevent us from moving us from our spiritual convictions.

The Christian has three enemies: the world system, the old nature, and principalities and powers of darkness. This last one is defended against by employing the armor of God (Eph 6) we looked at previously. The other two encompass many things, but chief among them the traditions of men (the world) and the fear of men (pride, the old nature). These two permeate Christianity and many will stand before the Lord with empty hands; "saved as if by fire," but with no reward.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Walk Worthy - Part 3 - Ephesians 6

The "Walk Worthy" posts are given to complement the series on Walking in the Spirit. The epistles for this age from Paul give us tremendous instruction into walking in the light. As we have noted, those who accuse us who rightly divide the word (stating that we are not now, nor have we ever been, "under the law") of teaching lawlessness have not read the high calling of Paul's Post-Acts epistles.

On their own, the instructions in these epistles are far more convicting than the Ten Commandments. Paul's epistles are a wonderful balance of doctrine and practice. Doctrine must lead to practice and practice has no basis if not for doctrine.

We now continue with Part three of this parallel study, Ephesians 6:

  • Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 
  • “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
  • fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
  • Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.
  • And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

  • be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
  • Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 
  • we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
  • take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
  • Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
  • having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
  • above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one
  • take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
  • praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

Part 4

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Walking in the Spirit - Part 4 (From Hate to Peace)

We Hate What He Hates, Now What?

We learned two core truths in our last study: (1) learning to hate what God hates, and (2) that just hating sin will not make the desires go away.

At this point, it is often stated by various teachers (and rightly so) that we are to "feed the new nature" and "starve the old nature." That is, of course, a wise path. But I would add that we should look to the end of the path: peace and prize.

To get to that peace, we must allow the Lord to convict and discipline us in those areas of weakness in our lives and flesh. This is why constantly being in the Word of God and praying without ceasing is essential. We have a conscience, but it cannot always be trusted. We leave judgment to Christ. Let the scriptures inform our conscience. 

God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. -Hebrews 12:10-11
I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. -1 Cor 4:3-4

Now let's get practical. I sometimes shy away from specifics as each one has his own issues before the Lord. But let's say one is prone to envy. We see someone who has come into good fortune, or we hear good news about one who may not even know the Lord. If we put into practice the biblical truths we have seen thus far:

1. Recognize the envy in your old nature and how it is a "fruit of the flesh" (Gal 5:19).
2. Remember that God hates envying (Gal 5:19-21).
3. Think about the peace that comes with allowing God to convict (Heb 12).
4. Find contentment in thoughts of your eternal, resurrection life to come.

We need to be careful to distinguish "conviction" from "shame." When we fail to walk in the new nature, we allow Satan to send us into shame. Shame drives us from God. It drives us from his word. As we seek to put these truths into practice, we must remember that we may not always be victorious. But as we experience victories, we are strengthened in the new nature. We learn to crave the peace and clear conscience that comes from obedience and living in the "resurrection power" of the new nature. We must learn to "know him and the power of his resurrection!"

The new nature is not subject to death. He is not subject to sin. The principalities and powers have no authority over him. We only experience death, sin, and authority over us when we choose to walk according to the old nature. 

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. -Phil 3:10

Now try applying this starter path to other areas. Do you have a problem with lust? Recognize it is of the old nature. Remember that God hates it. Dwell on the peace of God which will come once the temptation has passed (or the conviction in failure). Do you struggle with addiction? Greed? Gossip? Anger? Selfishness? All these fruits of the flesh can be addressed this way.

Let me again say that this is not an easy path, especially if we have fed and trained and submitted to the old nature over and over. This beast can be very strong. This is why we must accompany the plan with these things:

1. Prayer
2. Confession
3. Bible Study
4. Reckoning ourselves dead
5. Removal of Temptations (when possible)

There are two paths about which we need to be aware. If we do not confront the old nature we may sear our conscience against the voice of the Spirit of God. We may also fall into the trap of a false righteousness found in religion and the traditions of men. Outward trappings of religion have often been a disguise for great wickedness.

Wearing a suit, singing hymns or worship songs, outward emotion... can all cover the old nature. But remember where we started: We cannot fool God. We need to be especially aware of these deceptions in these last days.

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. -1 Tim 4:1-3

I must also caution us not to be someone else's Holy Spirit. If we see a brother caught in sin, we are called to handle things privately at first. The Word of God is our tool and is sufficient for teaching, correcting, and training (2 Tim 3:16). We come along side the weak brother. We are not the judge of another man's servant (Rom 14:4), the Word of God is his judge.

We remember our own weaknesses as we seek to help other's bear the burden of theirs. Even in our victories, all glory goes to God who makes such victories possible. We must always be careful to avoid pride. We may find ourselves "condemned" in our pride if we are not careful (1 Tim 3:6).

Next time we take Phil 3:10 to the next level. Let me quote it again and include the next verse:

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection [out from among] the dead. -Phil 3:10-11

One of the greatest motivating factors in our lives is something we have covered before: the judgment seat of Christ. We not only want to please and serve our loving Savior who gave up his rights as God to go to the cross on our account and reverse death in his resurrection, we also want to win the race that is set before us.

Eternal life is a free gift fully secured by the Lord and offered as a free gift to anyone who calls on his name and puts his faith in his resurrection. But there is a race to run. We can lose that race and lose rewards. We can find ourselves with nothing to present to our Savior. We can be unprofitable servants. We can find ourselves condemned in regard to our works.

As we noted, Christians can do and do do evil things. We can find our works or our pride  "condemned" if we choose to walk according to the lusts of this world. We may even find ourselves enemies of God in this life.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the spirit the things of the spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. -Rom 8:1-8

Let us start to put all these things together: Forsake the things of the world (its lusts and its traditions) and seek a sincere faith that we my walk in the newness of life!

as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. -Romans 6:4

 And, of course, it starts with the "whole armor of God" (Ephesians 6)

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints...

Part 5

Monday, January 21, 2019

Walk Worthy - Part 2 - Ephesians 5

Be Imitators of God

Ephesians 5 continues our higher calling and directly tells us how to "walk" in the new nature:

  • Therefore be imitators of God as dear children 
  • And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma
  • But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints
  • neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks
  • For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 
  • Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience
  • Therefore do not be partakers with them.
  • Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord
  • have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them
  • it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret
  • all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light

Therefore He says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

  • See then that you walk accurately (in a straight line), not as fools but as wise
  • redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
  • do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is
  • do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit
  • speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord
  • giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
  • submitting to one another in the fear of God.
  • Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord
  • let the wives be [subject] to their own husbands in everything.
  • Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her 
  • husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies
  • let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself
  • let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Part 3

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Walking in the Spirit - Part 3 (Spirit and the Flesh)

Our Old Nature Lives On

An enormous mistake Christians make in trying to live the Christian Life is a failure to understand that when we accept scripture's invitation to faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, we still carry around our old nature; the nature that  was "conceived in sin" (Ps 51:5). Paul likens it to being shackled to a corpse.

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death.
-Romans 7:24

This body, this old nature, craves the things of the world and its system. Some of these things are deemed good in the eyes of men (and too often even in the eyes of Christians). We can see the works of the flesh in things like murder or thievery or hatred or lust. But we sometimes fail to see the wickedness is things such as pride, envy, and religious fervor. Remember, Satan is in the religion business. Paul warns us in 2 Cor 11 that he presents himself as "an angel of Light" and his messengers are "ministers of righteousness." 

In our daily struggle to "walk in the spirit," we must understand that scripture points us to our new nature. Unfortunately, many translations miss the distinction between "the Spirit" (The Holy Spirit) and simply our new nature, "spirit" (the other "holy spirit"). 

Consider Galatians 5:17:

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Note, I have crossed out the definite article "the" as the idea is not mandated in the Greek. We must understand the the "spirit" [new nature] here is what is contrary to the "flesh" [old nature].  This is where we start to find victory; the recognition of this war. This is why we started this series clarifying oft-used verses in regard to the "heart of flesh" or the "new covenant" and why we need to be careful with randomly applying all scripture to ourselves. We even see this in the "dry bones" of Ezekiel being used as a metaphor for regeneration in this age. These are all errors which may seem innocuous, but they can lead to defeat and despair as we recognize that we are not "perfect." Truth be told, the more we walk in the spirit, the more we realize how wretched our old nature really is.

We do not discount the glorious ministry and help of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit of God, in recognizing our new "holy spirit" nature. We clearly recognize that all good things originate with the Godhead. Oscar Baker puts it this way:

Sealed? Yes, sealed with that holy spirit of promise, Not by, but with. So this promised holy spirit is the seal. A few other names by which it may be known are: everlasting life, the new man, nature, (in Rom. 8, spirit of life, spiritually minded, spirit of God, spirit of Christ, spirit of Him, His spirit, spirit of adoption), and the inward man. The One Who affixes this seal is the Holy Spirit Himself (Eph. 4:30). So then, the Holy Spirit seals us with the holy spirit. 
[Emphasis mine] 
-Oscar M. Baker (Excerpt - The Promise in Eph 3:6)

Step One: Learn to Hate What God Hates

Your old nature will desire the things of the world. It will gravitate towards those things it sought when you were "dead in trespasses and sins." If you lusted, it will lust. If you were lazy, it will seek comfort. If you reveled in religious ritual, it will seek ritual. Here is where we need to go before the Lord with an open heart and allow him to reveal our weaknesses. He knows our sins of the flesh. No use trying to pretend otherwise. Let us pray with the Psalmist:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.

The first step, then, is learning to hate what He hates. The new nature will naturally hate what He hates, but the old nature will lust after its own desires. We must start by truly appreciating how ugly sin and the works of the flesh really are. This is the beginning, but remember, simply hating those things will not bring victory by itself.

For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.
-Romans 7:15

Remember Our New Nature is Only Found "In Christ"

As we have noted in previous studies, our greatest enemy is "self." The idol of "self" is not only in the world, it is in the church. From the "self-esteem" movement of the 1980s and 1990s to the glorification of men and ministries in this hour.

God thoroughly hates pride. We must remember that the God of all eternity sees us "in Christ." Apart from Christ, all our works are filthy rags. Apart from Christ, we are dead in trespasses and sin. Apart from Christ, we are the enemies of God by wicked works. No amount of religious fervor or outward acts of self-denial can be presented to Him as payment for sin as all we do is tainted with sin. That is not to say volunteering at a homeless shelter is the same as murder; it only means that all works fall short of the glory of God. While "good" it is insufficient as a path to God. (We will revisit this example in another study.)

The old nature suffers from some form of self. It is more obvious in some acts than in others, but surely it is there.

Imagine the one who lives a life denying worldly greed. A life given to helping the less fortunate. Even a life of religious devotion. But this same one believes his or her life or works serve as a complement to work of the Savior in his perfect work on Calvary and his resurrection out from among all the dead. Even if they say Christ did 99% of the work, or that Christ's work was perfect, but there is still payment required after death, they are saying God is in some way their debtor. He is required, to whatever degree, to forgive sin or grant them eternal life in part because of what they have done. Grace and works do not coexist in the granting of life (cf. John 3:16; 5:24; Rom 4:5; 11:6).

That is gross wickedness and the height of pride.

Recognize Your Own Body of Death

Stop. Take a moment to meditate that you, Christian, are shackled to a body of death. You carry around a deceptive and selfish nature which wars against the new, divine nature God has granted you as a free gift because of Christ alone. In Christ, in light of what we shall one day be because of him, God sees us as beloved. In Christ, we are granted the right to become the children of God (John 1:12).

In Christ. This is where we will find victory. In feeding the new nature ["spirit"] and learning to deny the old nature ["flesh"]. Locking yourself up in monastery may help remove some immediate temptations, but you still carry the flesh into that facility; you carry around the stench of death. I don't need to physically see a woman or be around those with more earthly goods to suffer from lust or envy. My old nature is quite capable is harboring wicked thoughts even in solitude.

As we go forward, I will offer a practical example of how this knowledge may help us. And we will look at the eternal ramifications of our service and life now to further motivate us. I will say this as a starter: the greatest motivator is a love for the Savior who died for us while we still ungodly, and rose again that we might have life (now in the new nature and in resurrection perfection in the future). We also love the Father who graciously sees the Savior when he sees us.

So let love motivate us today. Remember, we cannot change yesterday, but we can confess our weaknesses and fall at the feet of a loving Great God and Savior who desire to fellowship with us. he is ever anxious to forgive and restore. For some, however, you must be sure you are in Christ. Without complete faith in his death, burial and resurrection on your behalf, all your righteous acts are as filthy rags to God.

And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness. -Romans 8:10

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Walk Worthy - Part 1 - Ephesians 4

Walk worthy of the calling to which you were called

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling to which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. - Ephesian 4:1-6
As part of our series on Walking in the Spirit, I thought I'd lay out the instructions and teachings of this age. There has been a recent dust-up in Christendom over a popular teacher stating we are no longer under the Ten Commandments. I disagree. I was NEVER under the Ten Commandments.

As we have covered many times before, the Law and the Ten Commandments, as profitable as they are, were not given to anyone but to Israel as part of her covenant (Ex 19-20). But just as murder and adultery were wrong before Moses, so they are still wrong today. But God has not left his Gentile church of this age without instruction. We will look at Philippians in our Walking in the Spirit series, but the rubber meets the road in the Post-Acts books of Ephesians and Colossians.

There are some weighty instructions for this age. It is by these commands that our service will be judged.

We start with the practical section of Ephesians (chapters 4-6) and bullet point chapter 4 here:

  • we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting
  • speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ
  • you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness
  • put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts
  • be renewed in the spirit of your mind
  • put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness
  • Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” 
  • “Be angry, and do not sin”
  • do not let the sun go down on your wrath 
  • nor give place to the devil
  • Let him who stole steal no longer
  • let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need
  • Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers
  • do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption
  • Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice
  • be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you

Pretty strong meat there, and we're just getting started.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Walking in the Spirit - Part 2 (Evil Is With Me)

We stared this journey by noting in Part 1 the misuse of the passage in Ezekiel 36 in regard to God replacing a heart of stone with a new heart of flesh. Not only is the passage (and the entire book) clearly given to Israel in its specifics (dealing with here as a nation with a promised land and kingdom), we know from experience in the Christian life that, as Paul groaned, "evil is with me."

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. -Romans 7:21-25

Paul speaks of the "war" within. This war is between the old nature and the new nature (the divine nature as Peter calls it in 2 Peter 1:4). This leads Paul to "groan" in this body as he longs for his new, resurrection body. In the passage above we see that this is the only hope for relief from this struggle. I

The body we inhabit is "subject to death." It carries with it the "sin nature" of Adam. Let us look at the verses wherein Paul references this "groaning" (agonizing over the conflict).We will see that the only final solution is found in resurrection.
we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. -Romans 8:23
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. -2 Cor 5:4
We have covered previously the ubiquitous misquoting of 2 Cor 5:8, but in looking at the context of 2 Cor 4 and the opening verses of chapter 5, we can see clearly that Paul's ultimate hope lies in resurrection. In 1 Cor 15, Paul tells us that only in resurrection will "the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality."

It is in resurrection that anyone is truly given a "new heart" as the flesh of dust (terrestrial body) is replaced with an immortal body (celestial body). If we believe the old stony heart was done away with at salvation, we my begin to doubt if we have eternal life at all. We can become trapped in misery, failure, doubt, and shame.

But what about living in the new nature in this life?

That is where we will venture in our next short study. What we have established thus far, which is central to finding victory, is that when we come to faith in Christ and find the new and the living way in Him (that moment we are given the free gift of life we will experience in resurrection)... at THAT moment, we STILL have our old nature. Therein lies the conflict.

You have come to faith in Christ and you still struggle with sin? Your experience is common to all before you (it just may take a different form). You will carry that struggle with you to the grave, but we can find victories along the way and free ourselves from the slavery of the flesh.

We will examine these ways as we press forward. And we will go humbly and with fear and trembling knowing that the way may not be smooth or comfortable. In Pilgrim's Progress, Christian and Hopeful follow Vain-Confidence down the smooth path and end up in Doubting Castle as slaves of Giant Despair. Let us not despair. We can start where we are and prayfully seek the path of righteousness, no matter how hard it may appear from our limited view.

We serve a gracious, loving, and forgiving God who wants us to succeed.

Part 3

Monday, January 14, 2019

Deconstructing Don Perkins' Introduction to "Hell" - Part 3

Unfortunately, HisChannel doesn't have an archive (that I can find) of previously aired messages and they are currently offering a more recent series from Don Perkins. So, let's take a quick look at the statement of faith at Don Perkins' ministry site and use it to practice rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15) and remember why we need to be careful with God's word and God's words.

We could use any of countless ministries here, Don Perkins is not unique, but since we started with his previous messages, I believe there are some parallels with those studies.

The full statement from his site (What We Believe) can be found HERE

We believe in the immortality of our souls and the resurrection of our bodies.

As we have seen in our studies on "immortality," the scripture is very clear. We only become immortal in resurrection. We must "put on immortality" (1 Cor 15). Before that, all men are mortal. As God stated to Adam (our representative) "you shall surely die" and in Adam "death passed on to all men." The lie of Satan is "you shall NOT surely die." God ALONE is immortal teaches Paul.

We believe in the resurrection of the Just and the Unjust.

Here is where we need to define our terms biblically and in context. This one might be news to some, but Christians can be "unjust." The "unjust" servant was still a servant. Since unbelievers have no "life" in them, they cannot be "resurrected." Resurrection life is a free gift for whosoever believes; all others "perish." (John 3:16; cf Rom 6:23)

We believe in the eternal rest of the righteous with God on the New Earth.

The question here is "which righteous?" The blessings of the One New Man in Ephesians for those who understand the dispensation of the Mystery" are "spiritual" and experienced in "the far above the heavens." The earth, the kingdom, paradise, the New Jerusalem are all promises, hopes, and rewards for other "righteous" peoples and groups. The righteous make of the "family" of God (Eph 3:15). Just from an earthly perspective (and noted in Perkins' list of beliefs), Israel is separate and has separate hopes and rewards than the Body. One day in eternity future all the families of God will come together, but we need to keep specific hopes with specific people .

We believe in the eternal punishment of the Wicked in the Lake of Fire.

If someone perishes, that punishment is eternal. What he means is "being tortured by fire by God without hope of relief." We have covered the "Lake of Fire [Gehenna]" before. It is a pagan doctrine which teaches both the immortality of souls and God as vengeful torturer. We reject this strongly on both counts.

We believe according to the Signs of the Times, that we are living in the last days.

I also hold that we are in the Last Days, facing the end of the current age. We would agree on certain aspects of the end times, but with certainly not on everything.

Walking in the Spirit - Part 1 (No More Heart of Stone?)

Ezekiel 36:26 Is Not For This Age

We've discussed the New Covenant in several previous posts. To cut to the end, it is not the gospel of grace. It is not the story of our gift of life. Here are links to two related studies if you are interested in a review (for more just search the blog for New Covenant): 

The New Covenant in Bullet Form (click on title)

The Law, the Conscience, Sin and Salvation (click on title)

But there is another passage in the Prophets which is often claimed as being part of the current age's good news, Ezekiel 36, the replacing the "heart of stone" with a "heart of flesh" (v.26). But just as with the New Covenant, and as we saw in our comments on Jeremiah 29, this verse and passage are specific to Israel. Yes, we can learn "principles" from the passage (all scripture is profitable), but if we want to rightly divide it, we must look at the specifics.

As with many prophecies, we may have a short term and a long term application (as with the prophecy of a young girl / virgin giving birth in Isaiah 7:14, for example), but both applications in Ezek 36 are specific to Israel. We read this as future as it surely has never been fully fulfilled.

The whole chapter must be read for the full context (really the whole last section of the book), but let us just look at the immediate context for this study. As with the New Covenant passages in Jer 31 and Heb 8, it is clearly given to the nation of Israel and clearly in the future.

I'm going to quote verse 22 through the end of the chapter. Over and over we see this is not a promise to anyone but to Israel and the specifics should further dissuade us from applying it to all believers or in this age:

22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.
24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. 32 I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel! 
33 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35 They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.” 36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’ 
37 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Once again I will yield to Israel’s plea and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep, 38 as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

 How can we take out that one verse and ignore the enormous amount of promises and conditions specific to Israel and the land attached to it? The next verse is often quoted with it, but do we believe this is true of Christians?

I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Let's think about this. If the "heart of stone" is gone and there is now a "new heart," who is doing all this Christian sinning? The robbing of this verse leads to the heresy of "sinless perfection" before our resurrection.

We've already noted that the entire passage (let alone the whole chapter) is filled with very specific promise and conditions which pertain only to Israel, but here in the very next verse we read:

 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

How do we possibly apply that to the present age or to a gentile church?

How about verse 33? Did this happen upon your profession of faith (how about all the promises in this passage)?

On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.

The purpose of this short study is the set the framework for "walking in the spirit [new nature]." That is, when we are regenerated by faith, we are given a new nature, but we still have an old nature. Our conflict is between walking in our new nature versus walking in the old nature (the fleshly, carnal man). It is not between a "heart of flesh" and a now absent "heart of stone." That makes no sense.

If we are to understand how to "walk in the spirit" and even to "worship in spirit" (John 4:24), we must not rest on Ezekiel 36. If we do, we may end up questioning our own salvation or questioning the reality of eternal life when we discover the "heart of stone" (as it were) is still with us. The flesh is still with us. We do not always follow the decrees of the Lord. Sometimes we do very wicked things or have very wicked, selfish thoughts.

The wicked doctrines of Replacement Theology have infected our pulpits, our hymnals, our books, and our doctrines. Let us forsake these things and claim the glorious truths of the dispensation of the Mystery! Our hope is not in the New Covenant and the restoration of a "land," our great hope (for those who will embrace it) is blessing is in the far above the heavens where Christ is seated! We look for him to revealed there, not in his coming in the clouds to his nation, Israel.

This is where we must start our study, emptying ourselves of doctrines and promises given to another people for another purpose. We must follow what God has give for us in this present age.

If you are in Christ, you have a new, eternal nature and an old, carnal nature. If you think the old nature is gone, you are headed for disaster or you are simply deluded by pride. If you know you still struggle in your flesh, then you have understood the first step and should now see that Ezekiel 36 does not apply in this age.
So that let him that thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
-1 Cor 10:12

Walking the Sprit - Part 2 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Don't Find Yourself Disapproved

I, therefore, thus run, not as uncertainly, thus I fight, as not beating air; but I chastise my body, and bring [it] into servitude, lest by any means, having preached to others -- I myself may become disapproved. -1 Cor 9:26-27 (Young's Literal)
I am working on a short study of walking in the new nature (spirit). I wanted to give a little context to help us see the importance of the warnings and  encouragements surrounding such an endeavor.

The greatest motivators should be love of the Lord and a peaceful heart and mind. The carnal Christian will experience misery in this life and loss in the next. We want to avoid both of these, and thankfully, there is a remedy. But more details about the remedy in another study.

Today, I just want to quickly look at Paul's warning and guidance in 1 Corinthians (quoted above).

The Christian life is a race.
have ye not known that those running in a race -- all indeed run, but one doth receive the prize? so run ye, that ye may obtain; and every one who is striving, is in all things temperate; these, indeed, then, that a corruptible crown they may receive, but we an incorruptible -1 Cor 9:25 (YL)
We are to run this race with all the effort we would give in striving to win a temporal race. There are rewards and crowns and prizes which await the Christian who learns to fully walk in his new nature. To be sure, the gift of resurrection (eternal) life is free. It requires faith alone (John 3:16; 5:24, Rom 6:23, etc.), but we will all still stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ.
For we must all be manifested before the judgment-seat of the Christ, that each may receive the things [done] in the body, according to those he has done, whether [it be] good or evil. -2 Cor 5:10 (Darby)
Christians can do evil things. Christian do do evil things when we walk in the flesh. We will look at walking in the new nature and not in the flesh next time, but here let us see what Paul instructs in our opening verse:

We must not "fight" the flesh with great outward swings for the world to see, We must actually "land blows" as it were. Our striving must have consequences. The old nature (carnal, fleshly) must be dealt with personally and in concrete terms.

How many of us chastise the world for its wickedness as we ignore the carnality in our own lives? The world has not the new nature. Our message to the world is John 3:16 and 2 Cor 5:19. God has already been reconciled to man. Their sins are already forgiven. Yet they do not have "life" without faith. We are the ambassadors of that message of reconciliation.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. - 2 Cor 5:18-20 (ESV)
 We do not have the ministry of condemnation. The world is condemned to death already (John 3:18). We who have found life through His name (John 20:31), have a message of reconciliation for the world, and a message of walking in the new nature for the church. Let's not confuse the two ministries. Both involve forgiveness and patience (which is hard because of our old nature).

One last thought related to hymnology. Here are just a couple of really awful hymns about the Judgement Seat of Christ. One of which is in the 1860 Hymnal "Sabbath School Bell No. 2" (lots of problems there as well). But, hey, they didn't use drums, right?

Remember the three most important things in discerning what music we should be using:

  • Doctrine
  • Doctrine
  • Doctrine

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Christian Journey - Don't Find Yourself Stuck

Having come into Christianity from a Roman Catholic background including formal Catholic education and immersion in a very conservative diocese and parish, I've learned that the learning never stops. I spent my first year as a new creature in Christ unlearning much of my former theology. I was a Religious Education teacher at the time and suddenly I found myself in disagreement with the curriculum I was using.

After confessing my faith to my Director, I was asked not to return. From there I continued my journey of learning and unlearning. Unfortunately, my mindset was a mix of trying to prove things for myself while also looking for a "system" I could join.

My first experiences as part of a Christian community was through Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship at the university where I worked. I then went through the Charismatic movement to A form of Calvinistic legalism, and on from there. At no point did I fully claim or embrace any denomination. As noted, I was in the in-between world of self-responsibility and a desire to claim a formal community.

It was not until 12 years into my journey that I discovered the words of E.W. Bullinger in the conclusion of his book "How To Enjoy the Bible":

All Bible study must in the end be individual. As with ordinary bodily food: others may prepare the food and serve it up in various forms: they may cook it in more senses than one: they may present it in "made dishes": they may carve it, and cut it up, and even put it in the mouth, as with babes; but, after all, there is no more that they can do. They cannot eat it or digest it for us; they cannot assimilate it for us; even so it is with the spiritual food of the Word of God. 
Notwithstanding all that has been said in the foregoing pages, the great necessity remains: the work of Bible study must be, to the end, intensely personal and individual.

Each one must look out the reference for himself. He must trace the words through all their occurrences where these are given; he must consider their usages; he must read the contexts; he must make his lists and tables, and do his countings for himself: for so only can he feed upon the Word and the words, and be nourished, and be strengthened himself, and grow thereby: so only will he be able to say with Jeremiah: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; And thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart."

To this day, I continue to grow and study and "mark things that differ [Phil 1:10]." As I look back over some of these posts over the last couple of years, I see studies for which I now feel as though I have greater insight. What was somewhat foggy is slightly more clear. The way I explain a passage is now more refined. Never rest. Continue to build upon a sure foundation.

Compare scripture with scripture, rightly divide the Word of Truth, and trust no man as your authority.

I will never forget the old pastor with whom I exchanged posts who told me he hadn't wrestled with any verse in scripture since leaving seminary 58 years before. Sad. He was handed an answer key (as I was when I was educated in the Roman Church) and never questioned it.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. -2 Tim 2:15
When the day comes in which we stand before the Lord, there are some who will be "ashamed." We need to work to be sure we are not counted in that number.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Most Liberating Understanding of the Completed Work

In my spiritual journey from structured, organized, denominational, system-oriented Christendom to the freedom and joy found in a personal Christianity anchored in a study of scripture as a singularly personal responsibility, there have been a number of discoveries which have liberated my mind and have opened greater understanding of the eternal plan of God.

There are a number of verses in the Bible which I assigned convenient interpretations based on conventional, traditional thinking. This dangerous and convenient way of looking at The Word of Truth has led many to either discard the faith or settle for a simplistic, pagan version of it.

I have covered a number of these doctrines in these pages. Here are just a few examples:

  • The pagan idea of a monstrous god torturing with eternal fire those who reject his love
  • The doctrine of the current age starting at Pentecost
  • The claim that the Lord Jesus' earthly ministry is for all men of all ages
  • The simplistic, pagan idea that the plan of God is a matter of heaven or hell

I often catch myself dismissing or ignoring the words of scripture, or continuing to ignore context, as old traditions exert themselves into my thinking. Such was the case of the full efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ. Recently I have allowed scripture to disavow me of another assumed truth related to his sacrifice.

As a Christian who abandoned his Catholic upbringing to embrace the completed work on Calvary, it would seem obvious that I would fully embrace the work of the Savior on Calvary. But even in my zeal to defend that completed work, I sold it short.

That is, the completed and efficacious payment for the sin of man is exactly that. Complete. If we hold that the work only applies to the believer, we have embraced a form of "limited atonement" (a monstrous doctrine).

Let me clear, the thought of "universalism" may be entering our thinking. To be sure, I reject universalism. The false charge of universalist thinking has been levied against those of us branded "hyper" or "ultra" conservatives (most famously by Harry A Ironside) for a century.

I repeat: I fully reject universalism. But that does not mean that the Lord's work was not complete. It is the very truth of its absolute perfection that demands assent for those who seek life.

Let's just take a quick look at scripture:
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. -2 Cor 5:17-20
The problem of all men is sin (singular) and its wages, death (Rom 6:23). In Adam all die (1 Cor 15). The Lord came to give life (John 10). The Book of John is God's message to the world: "that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name."

In the 2 Cor passage we see this new life (the new nature) bestowed upon those who "come to believe." How is "belief" sufficient? It is sufficient because the work is complete! That is, God has been reconciled to the world; the whole world. No man's sins are counted against him!

God has reconciled himself to the world. We need only be reconciled to God by faith.
Truly truly, I say to you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has [already] passed from death to life. -John 5:24
The one who rejects Christ is "condemned already" under the condemnation of Adam (death). In Adam all die (including Christians). The unbeliever chooses this death over the free gift of life in Christ. God does not condemn their sins as all sin was paid for at Calvary. The payment for all unbelievers is the same: eternal death (by virtue of their rejection of eternal life).

What did John the Baptist say of the Savior in the Book of John? 
The next day [John] saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
There is much more to say on this topic, but let me close with a few basic thoughts.

For the believer, we carry "the ministry of reconciliation" which we must proclaim.

For the unbeliever, the absolute work of Christ on Calvary makes John 3:16 possible: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that anyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

You will die. The gift of life awaits. God has already been reconciled to us, it is we who must choose life. If you reject this free gift, all that awaits you is death and perishing.

Next time we will look at one aspect of resurrection life often neglected: the judgment of the service.