Tuesday, January 29, 2008

God's Goal -- Victory & Peace

Last time I began a series which discusses Joshua and the Promised Land as a metaphor for victorious Christian living. I’m working through this series with my adult Sunday School class. It is based on a book called “Victorious Christian Living” by Alan Redpath.

Last time we noted that the Jordan River and the Promised Land should not be looked at so much as a picture of death and heaven but as a picture of the Christian life with all of its success and victory along with the struggles and defeats that are often present in this life.

One of the things that is important to see is that it was always God’s purpose for the Israelites to free them from bondage and to bring them in to the land of Canaan. (Exodus 3:7,8) It had been God’s promise to Abraham centuries earlier. (Genesis 13:14-17)

It was never God’s perfect will to have them wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Hebrews 3:18, 19 says, “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

God’s purpose for us today includes living a life of victory and blessing, not one of disobedience and defeat. So many times we end up wandering in the wilderness because we don’t believe God and live lives that are obedient to Him. Hebrews 4:9 tells us that “there remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.”

Monday, January 21, 2008

Joshua and the Victorious Life

The story of Joshua taking over leadership of the nation of Israel from Jordan and then leading the people across the Jordon River makes a great illustration of the victorious Christian life. Many people, including innumerable hymn writers use the picture of the crossing over Jordan into Canaan as a metaphor for death and entering into heaven. The problem with this is that in Canaan the people were yet to be confronted with numerous foes and battles to be faught.

The book of Hebrews in the New Testament refers to this incident in entirely different terms. In chapter 3 verse 17 he writes, “And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they should not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”

So it was because of unbelief that the people of Israel were not able to enter into the promised land. Chapter 4 verse 1 continues, “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.”

I’ll continue from verse 9, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest….”

We’ll follow this up in some future posts and see where this leads us. But for now, we need to realize that God is at rest. He worked six days to create the world and rested the seventh day. There is a promise available to Christians to enter into God’s rest. God is not working and fretting over the world situation today. He is at rest – at peace. That rest and peace is available to each of us Christians. Have you entered into it?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another Lesson from Hezekiah

If you’ve been following this blog for a couple of weeks, you know that I have been meditating on and writing about some of my reading in the Old Testament. Specifically I’ve been considering some of the lessons to be learned from Hezekiah’s life. According to 2 Kings 18:3 he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. In verse 5 we read that he trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. And in verse 7, the Lord was with him; he prospered wherever he went.

Given his character, it’s interesting to me that when the king of Assyria came against him, he basically tried to bribe the king not to attack. He gave him all the silver that was found in the temple including the gold off of the doors!

It didn’t do a bit of good because in verse 17 the king came back and threatened to besiege the city. To me this is a picture of our attempts to make a deal with sin. We somehow believe that if we pay Satan or sin a “small” payment, we’ll be free from further attack. But the reverse is true. Satan comes back with greater fury and takes us for everything we have.

For all of Hezekiah’s righteous living, he wasn’t able to pass on this trait to his son. Was this act of compromise one of the first steps down the wrong road? Ken comments more on this in his blog here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Satan's Counterfeits

The other day, Steve Camp wrote about pride and presumption when discussing how the contemporary church embraces worldliness. He posted a sermon by Spurgeon on cautioning the presumptuous. The first paragraph of Spurgeon’s sermon gave me something to think about that I had never considered before. It goes like this:

It is a singular fact, but nevertheless most certain, that the vices are the counterfeits of virtues. Whenever God sends from the mint of heaven a precious coin of genuine metal, Satan will imitate the impress, and utter a vile production of no value. God gives love; it is his nature and his essence. Satan also fashioneth a thing which he calls love, but it is lust. God bestows courage; and it is a good thing to be able to look one's fellow in the face, fearless of all men in doing our duty. Satan inspires fool-hardiness, styles it courage, and bids the man rush to the cannon's mouth for "bubble reputation." God creates in man holy fear. Satan gives him unbelief, and we often mistake the one for the other. So with the best of virtues, the saving grace of faith, when it comes to its perfection it ripens into confidence, and there is nothing so comfortable and so desirable to the Christian, as the full assurance of faith. Hence, we find Satan, when he sees this good coin, at once takes the metal of the bottomless pit, imitates the heavenly image and superscription of assurance, and palms upon us the vice of presumption. (See the entire article here: http://stevenjcamp.blogspot.com/2008/01/pride-and-presumption-of-men-upon-grace.html

I had been preparing a lesson on Joshua and God’s challenge to him to be courageous when I read this sermon. It’s important to realize that God gave Joshua divine courage to face the upcoming battles and not Satan’s counterfeit fool-hardiness. May we be men of true God-ordained courage as we live our lives for Christ.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Study in Joshua

Last Sunday I started a series in Sunday School based on the book of Joshua. Much of the material comes from book called, “Victorious Christian Living – Studies in the Book of Joshua” by Alan Redpath. I believe the book is out of print, but one can find used copies through Amazon here.

Each week that I teach, I add to the outline and prepare study notes to be used by the adult class. If you’re interested in this material or in following along, you can find these materials as well as mp3 files of the lessons at the Faithful Men website. I’ll be posting some of the more important insights here on this blog along with the other things that I’m thinking about in other areas.

(The Sunday School class is a ministry of Faith Baptist Church in Mattawan, Michigan)

Are We Provoking God?

My Bible reading schedule has me going through 2 Kings about the same time that I’m in Hosea. I think I mentioned this before, but I decided to slow down in the minor prophets so that I could spend more time thinking about the lessons to be learned there. Hosea evidently was written before the events of 2 Kings 17 where the fall of Israel is described. I think chapters 17 through about 19 or 20 would be worthwhile reading for us anytime.

These chapters describe the fall of Israel to the Assyrians and the reasons for it. To summarize the problem: Israel had sinned, feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations who the Lord had sent Israel to drive out. They set up for themselves places for false worship. They practiced the very abominations that were the cause of God’s judgment on the nations. God had warned Israel “by every prophet and every seer, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes.’”

But they would not listen, but were stubborn as their fathers had been. God says that they went after false idols and became false. (vs 15) In almost every line of this chapter it says that they did something which God had explicitly told them not to do.

God addresses this in the New Testament for our benefit as well. In Ephesians 5:4ff we read,, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no 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 associate with them.”

Let’s make sure we are not provoking God by doing the very things He has commanded us not to do like the people of Israel had done so long ago.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

God's Righteousness Demonstrated

I’ve just finished working my way through Hosea and I’ve decided that it’s almost like seeing into the heart of God as He pleads with Israel and Judah to return unto Him. The punishments and judgment that He brings come not because He is vengeful but because of the righteousness of His character. He demonstrates the fact that He wants to save them, but they refuse that salvation.

In 13:9 for example it reads, “O Israel, you are destroyed, but your help is from Me. I will be your King; where is any other that he may save you in all your cities? I gave you a king in My anger, and took him away in My wrath.”

In chapter 14 he pleads with them, “O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses, nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, “You are our gods.” For in you the fatherless finds mercy.’”

God is basically telling them the kind of words He wants to hear from them in true repentance. Obviously He doesn’t just want to hear those words repeated with no truth behind them, but this is the attitude He wants to hear from them. He is telling them these things at the same time that He is threatening and sending judgment upon them.

All of this reminds me of the New Testament verse that says, “God is not willing that any should perish.” (2 Peter 3:9) or the one that says, “God would have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:4) God does not delight in the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 33:11)

In spite of Israel’s sin and rebellion God shows mercy and grace. Hosea 14:4ff, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him.”

May we recognize God’s work of grace in our own lives for just as Israel sinned and rebelled, so have we. But the offer of grace and mercy is continuously there. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Keeping the Lions Away

If you didn’t read or can’t remember the previous post on 2 Kings 17, go back and read it a moment before continuing.

Another thing that strikes me about this incident is that the people who were trying to find out how to serve the Lord properly were basically just trying to get the lions to leave them alone. They were not really God’s chosen people. God had not rescued them from Egypt and guided them through the wilderness and given them the promises and commandments. He had given it to His people Israel who had just been exiled.

These people then tried to adopt enough of the right principles of worship, added to their own religious system to get them past the difficulties that the lions had brought to their villages.

Sometimes I think this is what’s happening in much evangelicalism today. People hear some watered down version of the gospel that doesn’t involve repentance or believing faith. They hear how God loves them and how He can help them have a more fulfilled life and so they pick up some of the routines and rituals of the worship of God and add this to the rest of their habits of life and think that things are going to be fine. They’re trying to keep the lions at bay.

But it doesn’t work. God will not share His glory with another. The passage in 2 Kings 36ff reads like this: “but the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice. And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observer forever; you shall not fear other gods. And the covenant that I have made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods. But the Lord your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.”

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Distinctive Living

There is an interesting story told in 2 Kings 17. The children of Israel had been forcibly removed from their country and hauled off to Assyria. The Assyrian leadership then resettled the area with their own people. But Scripture says that God sent lions among them because the people did not fear the Lord. The new settlers were wise enough to realize what was going on and so they sent back to the king to tell him what was going on. In response, the king sent one of Israel’s priests back to teach the people how to worship the Lord.

What happened next is interesting and instructive. Verse 29 says, “However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places which the Samaritans had made.” Verse 33 says, “They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.”

Are we guilty of this at all? We live as Christians within a milieu (look it up) of other religions, philosophies and cultures. In how many ways have we adopted the beliefs of the people among whom we dwell? How difficult is it for us to live distinctive lives regardless of what those around us think? How difficult is it for us to raise children who are able to stand alone like Daniel and his three friends did and say, “We will not bow to your gods. We will do what the Lord our God has told us to do?”

I think we need to give more thought to our distinctiveness and God’s requirement of obedience to and focus on Him alone.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Goals for the New Year

I trust that as you look back on the previous year you see it as a year of growth in your walk with the Lord and faithfulness to Him.

Sometimes we work too hard at trying to figure out what is involved in living the Christian life when the basic disciplines are pretty consistent from generation to generation: pray, read the Bible, memorize it, meditate on it and reach out to others in evangelism and discipleship. As we enter a new year, I think these are the things that need to be moved back to the center of our Christian life.


One of the things that many Christians think about this time of year is the opportunity to read the Bible through in the year. One of my friends mentioned the idea of having the daily Bible reading emailed to us so that we could read it that way. I’ve checked into that a little bit and have found two sites that will do that.

The first one can be found at http://www.bibleplan.org/

This plan provides several different Bible versions to choose from and also provides several different plans. This website makes the following statement: “Choose and combine plans to meet your needs and time schedule. For example, combining the OT in two years with the NT on weekdays is only 2 chapters each day, yet allows you to read the NT every year, and the OT every two years.” The thing I like about this is that the plan is flexible enough to allow one to read through the Bible in a longer period of time than a year.

The other site is http://www.bibleinayear.org/

This site also provides various translations and a method to track your progress on line. I think either plan would work for those who do most of their reading and writing on computer.


A scripture memory program that I found helpful was the topical memory system by The Navigators. I think their program has changed some and so I have provided the original topics and list of verses on the Faithful Men website here: http://www.faithful-men.org/resources/memory/memory.htm My goal this year is to review this whole set of verses. It’s been over 15 years since I actively memorized it. I have all the topics listed along with the verse references. I’ve been typing in the verses with links to them, but that part of the project isn’t finished yet.

If any of you want to comment on how you make good spiritual habits a part of your life, that would be great and helpful to all who read this blog.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

God Fights For Us

For some time now I’ve chosen a verse to focus on during each month. I do this so that I have a focus for my meditation during the month and also so that I can encourage you with something from Scripture. The verse I’ve chosen for this month is 2 Chronicles 32:7, 8 which reads:

Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.

Even though these verses have immediate historical context with the king of Assyria being the enemy, I think we can be encouraged by applying the truth of this passage in whatever enemy we face. God has committed himself to defend His people. For example, He has promised not to allow us to be tempted above what we are able to endure. The battle is completely within our Lord’s control. Hopefully that thought can be an encouragement to you today.