Monday, December 10, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:30

Romans 8:30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

To get the context you have to go back at least to verse 28 and read through verse 30. The thing to notice here is the tense of the verbs. They are all in past tense and so for God, all of these are as good as done. Even though we have not reached the glorified state as yet, in God's eyes it's complete.

The other thing to notice here is the inclusiveness of the language. In other words, all those He called He has justified, etc. It's worth taking some time to meditate on the greatness of the salvation we've been given.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Hymn of the Week - Hark! the Herald Angels

1. Hark! the herald angels sing, 
 "Glory to the new born King, 
 peace on earth, and mercy mild, 
 God and sinners reconciled!" 
 Joyful, all ye nations rise, 
 join the triumph of the skies; 
 with th' angelic host proclaim, 
 "Christ is born in Bethlehem!" 
 Hark! the herald angels sing, 
 "Glory to the new born King!" 

2. Christ, by highest heaven adored; 
 Christ, the everlasting Lord; 
 late in time behold him come, 
 offspring of a virgin's womb. 
 Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; 
 hail th' incarnate Deity, 
 pleased with us in flesh to dwell, 
 Jesus, our Emmanuel. 
 Hark! the herald angels sing, 
 "Glory to the new born King!" 

3. Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! 
 Hail the Sun of Righteousness! 
 Light and life to all he brings, 
 risen with healing in his wings. 
 Mild he lays his glory by, 
 born that we no more may die, 
 born to raise us from the earth, 
 born to give us second birth. 
 Hark! the herald angels sing, 
 "Glory to the new born King!" 

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Mary's Song

Luke 1:46-55 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

Monday, December 03, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:29

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29

Monday, November 26, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:28

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Sometimes we quote only the first part of the verse, but it is important to realize that this is a promise that is contingent on two things -- we must be someone who loves God, and we must be one who is called according to His purpose. If these two conditions are valid then we know that God is working all things together for us.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Importance of Basing our Faith on Truth

Those of you who read this blog often know that I often post excerpts from Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers and devotions.  I usually post them without comment, but today I'd like to take a closer look at part of one that I read the other day.

Here's the excerpt with my comments in italics:

It is not feeling the Spirit that proves
   my saved state but the truth of what
   Christ did perfectly for me;
It's important to focus not on our feelings but on the truth God presents to us. Feelings can be deceiving and although they are God-given, they should not be depended on to know the truth.
All holiness in him by faith made mine.
   as if I had done it;
This is a crucial point in the Christian faith. The Bible teaches that the righteousness of Christ is  transferred to our account. Our own righteousness is not sufficient. We need to have God's own righteousness applied to us. 
Therefore I see the use of his righteousness,
   for satisfaction to divine justice and making
      me righteous.
It is this righteousness, the righteousness of Christ attributed to us, that satisfies a holy God. When divine justice investigates me to determine my state, God finds me perfectly righteous, not because of my own goodness, but because of Christ's righteousness given to me.
It is not inner sensation that makes Christ’s death
   for that may be delusion, being without the Word,
Again, it is not our feelings that accomplish these things, but our belief and trust in the promise of God that makes it real, no matter how we feel.
   but his death apprehended by my faith,
   and so testified by Word and Spirit.

We need to understand that truth comes first. God has acted on our behalf and He has told us about it in the Scriptures. Based on His promises we accept God's offer of forgiveness and the transfer of righteousness. Our feelings are a result of the fact that God's promises are sure and His Word reliable. The facts come first, then comes the faith in those facts and finally the feelings come line up with the facts.  That's the biblical order.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Church, the Body of Christ - Part 4

This is the fourth and last installment in this series. To get the context, it would be wise for you to go back and read the first three posts.

Ephesians 5:28-32 describe the relationship of Christ and the church as similar to marriage. The church is literally the body of Christ and we are members of his flesh and of his bones.

God is creating in Christ one new man. The church is that one new man. It is something new that didn't exist before. As God is creating this body, He is equipping individuals with various gifts of grace and is placing them in the body where He desires them to be. Because the body is many members, and not just one, each person should see himself as an important functioning part of the body. Because the body is one body, each person should see himself as interconnected with others and functioning together to accomplish one end.

In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 there is an interesting triplet of phrases. 

There are differences of gifts but the same Spirit. All of the members are indwelt by the one Spirit of God and yet that Spirit gives different gifts for the proper functioning of the body.

There are differences of ministries but the same Lord. The word ministries means service or serving. There is one Lord Jesus Christ who directs everything. We are all servants who have different areas or types of service. But it is the same Lord who oversees the whole operation.

There are differences of activities or energizings but the same God who works in each one. The word for energy is used several times in this section. As the different parts minister using their gifts, they are using energy and accomplishing work all empowered by the one God.

So you see all three members of the trinity at work here. Each one is manifested in a different way in the operation of the various parts of the body.

A key phrase is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:7 which is that all of this is for the profit of all. As each part does its share, the body grows and strengthens and becomes what God has called it to be. See Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 2:19; and Romans 12:6 and following where the main thought is that each part is like the joints and sinews of a human body. As each part works appropriately to it's created function, the body is healthy and growing. That is God's design for the body of Christ.

So you see, the church is not just an organization like the Kiwanis club. It is actually a living entity with one Spirit at its core living and acting through all of the various parts as they work together. That is the way that Jesus Christ is still present and active in this world.

If you would like to have a copy of these lessons in PDF form you can find them here. If you would like the lessons with the answers, you can find it here.

You may use these in your personal Bible study or in a group study. You don't need to ask permission. However, I would like some feedback from you or your group. What makes sense?  What doesn't make sense? I want to make improvements as I go along so your cooperation in that regard would be appreciated.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Church, the Body of Christ - Part 3

For the complete context of these lessons, you should read the two previous posts before working through this lesson.

By way of review though we have made the following statements:

Ephesians 5:28-32 describe the relationship of Christ and the church as similar to marriage. The church is literally the body of Christ and we are members of his flesh and of his bones. God is creating in Christ one new man. The church is that one new man. It is something new that didn't exist before.

1. All of this is the eternal purpose of God, hidden for ages. (Ephesians 3:9, 10)

2. His body, the church, is the fullness of God. (Ephesians 1:23)

3. In order to be a part of this we have been made a new creation, born again, given a new heart, made partakers of the divine nature, made one spirit with Christ, given the mind of Christ and placed (baptized) into the body of Christ by the Spirit.

4. The goal is to grow into the perfect (or complete or mature) man unto the stature of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13. The man referred to here is not each individual man becoming like Christ, but the one new man, the church, which God is creating.

5. We are members one of another and individually members of Christ. (Rom 12:5; I Cor 12:27)

Let's move forward now in our study.  When the Holy Spirit places a person into the body of Christ, He provides and equips each person specifically with certain things. First He gives each one grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. (Ephesians 4:7)  Then He also provides each one a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)  And finally He gives each one a manifestation of the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:7)  These are all distributed according to the will of God, not according to the desire of the person. The Spirit distributes to each one individually as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:11)

This results in three key truths. First of all the body is not one member but many. (1 Corinthians 12:14) The body of Christ is not just an eye ball. There are many members each having a particular role to play in maintaining the "health" of the body. This truth should eliminate discouragement and jealousy.

Secondly, even though there are many members, it is one body. (1 Corinthians 12:20)  This truth should eliminate arrogance and pride. All of the members, no matter how small or insignificant they seem are important. And actually the scripture says that just like in the human body we take special care of the parts that are weaker or more sensitive.

Finally, God composed the body to give greater honor to the parts that lacked. (1 Corinthians 12:24) His purpose is that there should be no schism or division in the body. This truth should produce mutual care and encouragement. When we  realize that the others in the body are all part of the same body and that their role is equally important, we will have a special care for them rather than trying to make divisions.

If you would like to have a copy of these lessons in PDF form you can find them here. If you would like the lessons with the answers, you can find it here.

You may use these in your personal Bible study or in a group study. You don't need to ask permission. However, I would like some feedback from you or your group. What makes sense?  What doesn't make sense? I want to make improvements as I go along so your cooperation in that regard would be appreciated.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Church, the Body of Christ - Part 2

To pick up on the context of today's discussion it would be a good idea to read yesterday's post first.

Ephesians 5:28-32 describe the relationship of Christ and the church as similar to marriage. The church is literally the body of Christ and we are members of his flesh and of his bones. As Eve was brought out of Adam while he slept, the church is a new creation resulting from the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

God is creating in Christ one new man. The church is that one new man. It is something new that didn't exist before.

All of this is the eternal purpose of God, hidden for ages. Ephesians 3:9, 10

This new “man” supersedes nationality, social status and even gender. Galatians 3:28

This truth is based on several truths about what God has accomplished in those He is bringing into the body of Christ. I'm just going to list them for you to consider.

A Christian --
is a new creation. -  2 Corinthians 5:17
has been born again by an incorruptible seed. - 1 Peter 1:23
has been given a new heart. -  Ezekiel 36:26
is made a partaker of the divine nature. -  2 Peter 1:4
is one Spirit with Christ. - 1 Corinthians 6:17
is given the mind of Christ. - 1 Corinthians 2:16
is baptized into the body by the Spirit. - 1 Corinthians 12:13
is individually a member of the body of Christ. - 1 Corinthians 12:27
is a members of one another. - Romans 12:5

All of these statements are true for each true believer in Christ. We need to remember these things when we are pressed down by circumstances in life. We need to call to mind the fact that we are part of Christ and share in His spirit.  

If you would like to have a copy of these lessons in PDF form you can find them here. If you would like the lessons with the answers, you can find it here.

You may use these in your personal Bible study or in a group study. You don't need to ask permission. However, I would like some feedback from you or your group. What makes sense?  What doesn't make sense? I want to make improvements as I go along so your cooperation in that regard would be appreciated.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Church, the Body of Christ - Literally (Expanded)

In September I posted a short Bible study on this topic. Since then I have finished the study and so I want to re-post an expanded version of the first two parts followed by the third and fourth in the series so that you will have them in sequential order.  You will find the entire four lessons in pdf form here.  If you want to see the same lessons with the answers filled in, you can find it here. There is some overlap because what I didn't finish in one session of the class, I carried over to the next lesson. In addition, parts that are the most important I purposely repeated for emphasis.

Ephesians 5:30-32 reads this way in the NKJV. "For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church."

Paul is writing about marriage and at the same time is discussing Christ and the church. He quotes from Genesis 2:24 just after the creation of Eve and after Adam had said that his wife was "bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh."

Paul tells us very clearly here that he is speaking of Christ and the church and he even uses the same two words that Adam used and says that we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. So I take it from this that somehow, born again Christians are literally part of the body of Christ.

Earlier in the book of Ephesians, in chapter 2 and verse 15 Paul says that God is creating one new man. The church is that new man. It is a creation of God and is an organic and living being. It is not just an organization. To me the most astounding aspect of this is that it has been God's purpose from eternity past to create this entity called the church and through it "the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ephesians 3:10, 11)

In Ephesians 1:23, Paul had said that the church is "the fullness of Him that fills all in all." Who is the "Him" he is talking about? Obviously the one who fills all in all is God. The church somehow is the fullness of God. I don't understand it and I'm afraid to put any other synonyms into the sentence in order to clarify it because it sounds almost sacrilegious.  So if you are part of the church, you are part of the fullness of God.

Now let me clarify that I'm talking about something different than just being a member of a church. A church organization can have members. Some of those members are truly born again people and some are not. Those who are born again, those who have been regenerated by the power of God have been placed into the body of Christ and are part of God's fullness.

The overall goal is stated in Ephesians 4:13 -- To become a perfect man reaching the stature of the fullness of Christ. This perfect man is not an individual man who reaches that level. The perfect man is the church, the new man mentioned in Ephesians 2:15. As the individual members of the body work together, each contributing according to the gifts God has given him, the body grows into the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:27

Romans 8:27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

The larger context of this verse tells us that we don't know how to pray as we should. It doesn't say sometimes we don't know how to pray. It says that we don't know how to pray and therefore the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. That means it is so deep inside that these prayers don't even reach the mouth. Today's verse continues that thought and lets us know that as God listens, he knows the mind of the Spirit. So even when our prayers are shallow or not on target as far as the will of God is concerned, the Spirit is praying for us according to the will of God and that is what God the Father hears.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hymn of the Week: Look Ye Saints

Look, Ye saints by Thomas Kelly

Look, ye saints! The sight is glorious;
See the Man of Sorrows now!
From the fight returned victorious,
Every knee to Him shall bow;
Crown Him! Crown Him!
Crowns become the Victor’s brow

Crown the Savior! Angels, crown Him!
Rich the trophies Jesus brings;
In the seat of pow’r enthrone Him,
While the vault of heaven rings;
Crown Him! Crown Him!
Crown the Savior King of kings.

Sinners in derision crowned Him,
Mocking thus the Savior’s claim;
Saints and angels crowd around Him,
Own His title, praise His name;
Crown Him! Crown Him!
Spread abroad the Victor’s fame!

Hark! Those bursts of acclamation!
Hark! Those loud triumphant chords!
Jesus takes the highest station
O what joy the sight affords!
Crown Him! Crown Him!
King of king and Lord of lords!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Our Triumphant Savior

Great was the joy of Israel’s sons
when Egypt died upon the shore,
Far greater the joy
when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed in the dust.
Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
and lives for ever.

He, my gracious surety,
apprehended for payment of my debt,
comes forth from the prison house of the grave
free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.
Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted,
that the claims of justice are satisfied,
that the devil’s sceptre is shivered,
that his wrongful throne is levelled.

Give me the assurance that in Christ I died, in Him I rose,
in His life I live, in His victory I triumph,
in His ascension I shall be glorified.
Adorable Redeemer,
Thou who wast lifted up upon a cross
art ascended to highest heaven.
Thou, who as man of sorrows wast crowned with thorns,
art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.

Once, no shame more deep than Thine,
no agony more bitter, no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high,
no life more glorious, no advocate more effective.
Thou art in the triumph car leading captive Thine enemies behind Thee.

What more could be done than Thou hast done!
Thy death is my life, Thy resurrection my peace,
Thy ascension my hope, Thy prayers my comfort.

From Valley of Vision, Published by  Banner of Truth Trust, Page 48.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Puritan Prayer

O God of the highest heaven,
Occupy the throne of my heart,
         take full possession and reign supreme,
   lay low every rebel lust,
   let no vile passion resist thy holy war;
   manifest thy mighty power,
     and make me thine for ever.
Thou art worthy to be
   praised with my every breath,
   loved with my every faculty of soul,
   served with my every act of life.
Thou hast loved me, espoused me, received me,
   purchased, washed, favoured, clothed,
     adorned me,
   when I was worthless, vile, soiled, polluted.
I was dead in iniquities,
   having no eyes to see thee,
   no ears to hear thee,
   no taste to relish thy joys,
   no intelligence to know thee;
But thy Spirit has quickened me,
   has brought me into a new world as a
     new creature,
   has given me spiritual perception,
   has opened to me thy Word as light, guide,
     solace, joy.
Thy presence is to me a treasure of unending peace;
No provocation can part me from thy sympathy,
   for thou hast drawn me with cords of love,
   and dost forgive me daily, hourly.
O help me then to walk worthy of thy love,
   of my hopes, and my vocation.
Keep me, for I cannot keep myself;
Protect me that no evil befall me;
Let me lay aside every sin admired of many;
Help me to walk by thy side, lean on thy arm,
   hold converse with thee,
That henceforth I may be salt of the earth
   and a blessing to all.

From The Valley of Vision, Published by the Banner of Truth Trust, page 47

Monday, November 12, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:26

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A Prayer on Election Day

Our father in heaven, You are holy and high and lifted up and separate from sinners. You are the one who inhabits eternity and sits above the circle of the earth. You are the one who sees the nations as a drop in the bucket and dust on the scales. We on the other hand are of the earth. We are like specks in that dust or molecules in that drop. In spite of that vast difference you are mindful of us and you remember that we are dust and you have asked us to come boldly before your throne to find mercy and grace to help in time of need.

It is our desire that you would reign on the earth as you do in heaven; that you would find us running to do your bidding and please you as the inhabitants of heaven do this very hour. And yet we fall far short of your glory. So I pray that your will would be done in our world and in our nation. In order for that to happen, we recognize that your reign must be evident in our churches and our homes. That in turn leads us right to ourselves for ultimately this is a dishonest world because we are dishonest individuals and this is a selfish world because we are selfish. So my prayer is that you would help me to be the kind of person you would desire for the world. Help me to love others as you have loved me. Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me.

Finally on this election day, we pray for your will to be done in our nation since you are the one who places people into authority. You have said that exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge; He puts down one, and exalts another. You have also said that there is no authority except from God and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. And so we humbly ask that through this election you appoint those authorities that will be best for our good and the glory of your name.

It is in Jesus' name that we pray. Amen.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:21

Because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  Romans 8:21

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Hymn of the Week - I Stand Redeemed

At the dawn of eternity, when the mist of time is gone,
When the choir of heaven gathers to begin redemption’s song,
I will bow before my Savior in a body new and whole;
Then I’ll rise to sing His praises while eternal ages roll.

I stand redeemed by the blood of Jesus.
The price is paid; my debt is gone.
The chains that bound me no longer hold me.
Because of Calvary, I stand redeemed.

As I gaze upon my Savior and the wounds He bore for me,
I will sing of His salvation bought with blood upon the tree.
While the host of angels listen to a song they cannot sing,
I will voice my praise to Jesus with the song of the redeemed.

I stand redeemed by the blood of Jesus.
The price is paid; my debt is gone.
The chains that bound me no longer hold me.
Because of Calvary, I stand redeemed.

©2007, Majesty Music

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reformation Day

Four hundred ninety-five years ago today, Martin Luther nailed his 95-Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. This event is looked upon by many as having been the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Basically Luther was protesting such practices as selling indulgences and granting absolution for oneself or a relative for a fee.  Many other things were involved of course, but at the heart of it all, Luther was complaining about practices that were not supported by the Word of God. He didn't want a religion that was filled with pretense and hypocrisy and that did not involve true repentance, faith and obedience.

There is the danger, in any age and in any church tradition, of beginning to rely on the habits, forms, vocabulary and rituals rather than the truth that underlies them. We begin to adopt performance or conformity of our behavior as a condition to merit salvation. If we attend the worship service. If we stand, sit and kneel at the appropriate time and speak the same religious jargon that those around us use, we consider ourselves "in". We adopt an easy-believism which claims salvation but denies God by the way we live our lives. (See Titus 1:16) These are as very real dangers today as they were in Martin Luther's day.

Our faith must be in the truths taught in Scripture and not in our particular worship tradition. Our faith must be genuine and not superficial.  With all of this in mind, I'd like to review what I believe are essential truths that the Bible teaches regarding our salvation.

Salvation is by grace through faith and it is a gift from God. It is not earned or merited in any way. (Ephesians 2:8,9)  It is based on the facts given to us in God's Word. Christ bore our sins in his own body on the cross. (1 Peter 2:24) He was buried and rose again the third day. (I Cor. 15:3-5)  We've been given he Christ's righteous record as our own. (2 Cor 5:21). There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) We are justified by grace. (Romans 3:24) We have peace with God. (Romans 5:1) We are reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18) We are redeemed from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3:13)

So we see that God has granted to us everything we need for life and godliness. All is a gift of His grace. None of it is earned or merited.

The second essential point I would like to make is that salvation includes God's changing us. 2 Corinthians 5:17.  This change may be slow, but it will be there. There is no such thing as a truly saved person who isn't being changed day by day into the likeness of Christ. It is part of the whole saving process. God promised to give His people a new heart and new motivation. (Ezekiel 36:26,26) He promised to write his law in our hearts so that there would be a natural desire to obey Him. (Jeremiah 31:33)  In the change we call salvation, we are regenerated and renewed. (Titus 3:5)  His grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly. (Titus 2:12). This teaching removes the claim of having faith in Christ but yet not having any interest in doing things God's way. We can easily deceive ourselves and that is why God tells us that we should examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. (2 Cor. 13:5)

Finally, salvation is entered by genuine repentance and faith. God commands all men everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30)  Jesus said to repent and believe the gospel. (Mark 1:15) Paul preached repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)  He also preached that people should repent, turn to God, and do works fitting for repentance. (Acts 26:20)  In fact he taught that it is godly sorrow the produces repentance that leads to salvation. (2 Cor 7:10).

No matter what religious tradition you are a part of, let me encourage you to examine yourself to make sure you are not merely going through motions. Going through your church's traditions and rituals does not save anyone. What saves is a recognition that before God we are guilty and condemned. But Jesus Christ paid our eternal debt-punishment and God is willing to credit us with Jesus' perfect righteous obedience if we are willing to turn from our current path and put our faith and trust in these offers that God has made to us through Jesus Christ. Then all of the things we have discussed above will be yours.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why are we so wedded to the world?

This is a powerful couple of paragraphs from George Whitefield's sermon, "Christ the Believer's Husband"  The full sermon text can be found here.

And why are ye so wedded to the world? Did it ever prove faithful or satisfactory to any of its votaries? Has not Solomon reckoned up the sum total of worldly happiness? And what does it amount to? "Vanity, vanity, saith the preacher, all is vanity," nay he adds, "and vexation of spirit." And has not a greater than Solomon informed us, that a man's life, the happiness of a man's life, doth not consist in the things which he possesseth? Besides, "know ye not that the friendship of this world is enmity with God; so that whosoever will be a friend to the world, (to the corrupt customs and vices of it) is an enemy of God?" And what better reasons can you give for being wedded to your lusts? Might not the poor slaves in the galleys, as reasonably be wedded to their chains? For do not your lusts fetter down your souls from God? Do they not lord it, and have they not dominion over you? Do not they say, Come, and ye come; Go, and ye go; Do this, and ye do it? And is not he or she that liveth in pleasure, dead, whilst he liveth? And above all, how can ye bear the thoughts of being wedded to the devil, as every natural man is: for thus speaks the scripture, "He now ruleth in the children of disobedience." And how can ye bear to be ruled by one, who is such a professed open enemy to the most high and holy God? Who will make a drudge of you, whilst you live, and be your companion in endless and extreme torment, after you are dead? For thus will our Lord say to those on the left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."

Thanks to Aaron Armstrong at Blogging Theologically  for pointing me to this sermon.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Lord's Prayer - Give us our daily bread

This is part 4 in a short series on the Lord's Prayer. In Matthew 6:11 Jesus says we should pray like this, "Give us this day our daily bread." As I introduced this to my Sunday School class, I asked whether this is culturally relevant to us in the U.S.  After all, my daily bread for today and the next several is in the cupboard, refrigerator, or freezer.  What attitude should we develop as we reflect on this short sentence?

The first thing I think we should gain is a focus on today. This relates not only to our food, but also to other needs and desires that we have. Certainly we need to plan for the future, but Jesus says in Matthew 6:34 that we should not worry about tomorrow. He says, "Tomorrow will worry about its own things."  We spend so much time anticipating the future -- things we are going to do, experiences we are going to have, people we are going to visit, -- that we forget to think about what we are experiencing today. There are things today that we need to be thankful for, enjoy looking at and people we can encourage and help -- today.

The second thing I think about when I read this passage is that we have a lot to learn about contentment. In 1 Timothy 6:6-8, Paul writes, "Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content."  When we pray for the needs of today, it teaches us to be content with the things we need today. Hoarding of our resources usually comes because of a fear that our needs won't be supplied in the future and that comes from a lack of contentment with the basics. What we want and what we need are usually two completely different things.

Finally, this phrase reminds us the source of everything is God. Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17 that God "gives to all life, breath and all things." James writes that every good and perfect gift is from above. (James 1:17) So when we pray this way, we are acknowledging that God is the source of our food. It develops in us a sense of gratitude and thankfulness for what we have as we receive it from him day by day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

When a Temptation Comes to its Hour

One final Puritan devotional on the subject of temptation. Thought this was especially good. If you've ever been strongly tempted or have fought to defeat sin in your life, you will relate to this.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  1 Corinthians 16:13

How can we recognize when a temptation has come to its hour?  A temptation has come to its hour when it is restless, urgent, and arguing.  It is a time of battle, and sin will give the soul no rest.  Satan sees his advantage, the convergence of his forces, and knows that he must prevail, or be hopeless forever.  Satan pushes this opportunity and time of advantage with special pleas and promises. He has taken some ground in his arguments so far, and seeks to exert his ground further.  He reminds us of a full pardon after the sin.  He realizes that if he does not win now he will lose the opportunity.  When Satan had prepared all the events against Christ, it was the hour of darkness.  When a temptation presses in upon us through our imagination and reason, and when opportunities, solicitations, and advantages press us on the outside, we may know that the hour of its power has come.  A temptation has also come to its hour when it brings both fear and allurements together to work with greater force.  These came together in King David when he planned the murder of Uriah.  There was the fear of his sin being found out, and also the continued pleasure and enjoyment with Bathsheba.  Men sometimes are carried into sin just by the love of it, but they often continue in it because of the fear of the consequences that might appear by repentance and full disclosure.  Our Saviour teaches us the ways to prevent our entering into temptation, and there are two: ‘Watch’ and ‘Pray’.  To watch means to be on guard, to take heed, and to consider the ways the enemy might seek to approach us and entangle us in his baits and methods.  The second direction is to pray.  This important duty is known to all.  These two duties are the whole expression of faith to protect us from temptation.

From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 95, published by Banner of Truth Trust

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Entering into Temptation

then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,  2 Peter 2:9

To enter into temptation there must be two things:  First, by some special advantage or occasion, Satan attacks us with greater force than his ordinary solicitations.  He takes advantage of a lust or corruption with much greater turbulence than usual.  Secondly, our heart must be entangled enough in the temptation that we are not wholly able to eject or cast out the poison that has been injected.  The soul is surprised how hard the entanglement is to resist.  The soul may cry and pray, and the entanglement continues.  Entering into temptation occurs in one of two seasons:  (1.) When God allows Satan, for ends best known to himself, to gain a peculiar advantage against the soul; as in the case of Peter, he sought to sift him like wheat, and prevailed.  (2.) When a man’s lusts and corruptions meet a particular provoking object or opportunity along life’s way, as it was with King David.  When one enters into one of these seasons, he has entered into temptation.  The hour of temptation is the hour that a temptation has arrived at its zenith, a season in which it grows to its greatest force, when it is most vigorous, active, and prevalent.  It may take a while to get to this point, but given the right circumstances, temptation arrives at this very dangerous hour.  When man has entered into it, it carries him quite away before it.  At other times it has little power over a man; he can despise it, and easily resist it.  Temptation at times is supported by other circumstances and occurrences that give it new strength and effectiveness.  The man is weakened, the hour has come, he has entered into it, and it prevails.  Blessed is he who is prepared for such a season.  There is no escape without this preparation.  If we maintain our preparation, we are safe.

From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 94, published by Banner of Truth Trust 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Today and tomorrow I am sharing a couple more puritan devotionals. These are on the topic of temptation. They are very appropriate for the day in which we live. Both are by John Owen.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
 Matthew 6:13
Entering into temptation is not merely being tempted.  We will never be free from temptation while Satan continues in his power and malice, and while the world and lust continue.  There is no need to pray for an absolute freedom from temptation, since there is no scriptural promise to claim concerning it.  It is entering into temptation that we are to pray against.  It is an entrance into a powerful or frightening allurement.  Entering into temptation does not mean that it has conquered you, or that you have committed it.  A man may ‘enter into temptation’ and yet not fall.  God can make a way of escape.  When a man has entered into temptation God can break the snare, tread down Satan, and make the soul more than a conqueror.  Christ entered into temptation, but was not the least foiled by it.  The apostle expresses it to ‘fall into temptation’ (1 Tim. 6:9), as a man falls into a pit or deep place where there are traps and snares with which he might be entangled.  The man is not presently killed and destroyed, but he is entangled and detained.  He does not know how to get free or be at liberty.  So Paul expresses it (1 Cor. 10:13):  ‘No temptation has overtaken you’, That is, to be taken by a temptation and to be tangled with it, to be held I its cords, and not finding at present a way to escape.  Peter also, says (2 Peter 2:9):  ‘The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials.’  When we allow a temptation to enter into us, then we ‘enter into temptation’.  When sin knocks at the door,  we are at liberty; but when a temptation comes in and we allow it to parley with our heart, reason with our mind, entice an allure our affections, for a long or short time, sin subtly and almost imperceptibly draws our soul to take particular notice of it, then we ‘enter into temptation’.  Lord, ‘lead us not into temptation.’

From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 93, published by Banner of Truth Trust 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:19

Romans 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.

All the creation has been cursed because of man's sin. This verse and the several that follow it are telling us that the creation is eagerly awaiting the full revelation of God's salvation toward mankind because then creation also will be freed from the bondage that it is in. What a day that will be!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hymn of the Week - We Are God's People

We are God's people, the chosen of the Lord,
Born of His Spirit, established by His Word; Our
Cornerstone is Christ alone, and strong in Him we stand: O
Let us live transparently, and walk heart to heart and hand in hand.

We are God's loved ones, the Bride of Christ our Lord,
For we have know it, the love of God out-poured; now
Let us learn how to return the gift of love once given: O
Let us share each joy and care, and live with a zeal that pleases Heaven.

We are the Body of which the Lord is Head,
Called to obey Him, now risen from the dead; He
Will us be a family, diverse yet truly one: O
Let us give our gifts to God, and so shall His work on earth be done.

We are a temple, the Spirit's dwelling place,
Formed in great weakness, a cup to hold God's grace; we
Die alone, for on its own each ember loses fire: yet
Joined in one the flame burns on to give warmth and light, and to inspire.
Words by Brian Jeffery Leech, 1976
Music by Johannes Brahms, 1877, Tune: Symphony

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Puritan Devotional by John Owen

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  James 1:2
God ever tempts man to sin, and we are exhorted to pray against it.  He does, however, test us and prove us.  We see God testing Abraham.  God tests us to show us what is in our heart.  God would have us to see either the grace or corruption that dwells there.  Grace and corruption lie deep in the heart, and man is often deceived in the evaluations of his heart.  God comes to us with a gauge that can go right to the bottom.  His instrument of trial digs deep into the depths and innermost parts of the soul.  It allows man to see clearly what is truly in him, and what type of metal he is made of.  When God tested Abraham, he did not know what power and vigour was in his faith until God drew it out by trial and testing (Gen. 22:1-2).  God tested Hezekiah to reveal his pride (2 Chron. 32:31).  Hezekiah didn’t know he was so prone to be lifted up in pride until he was tested.  The testing revealed the filth and poured it all out before him.  God allows man also to be tested to reveal himself to us.  Until we are tested, we think that we are living on our own strength.  It is God alone however who keeps us from falling by his preventing grace.  We might say, ‘All men may do this or that, but we will not.’  When the trial comes, however, we quickly see it is God’s preservation upholding us.  We do not realize the power and strength that God puts forth on our behalf, and the sufficiency of his grace are then clearly seen in or lives.  The effectiveness of an antidote is not realized until we have been exposed to the poison.  The preciousness of a medicine is revealed by the presence of the disease.  We will not know the power of grace until we feel the power of the testing.  We must be tried, to realize the glory of being preserved.

From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 91, published by Banner of Truth Trust 

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Lord's Prayer - Part 3

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In our prayers we should demonstrate a desire for God's kingdom to rule. What does this mean?

There is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return and establish his kingdom on the earth. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. That day is coming. It may be today. Every Christian's desire should be for that kingdom to come. And so we pray, "Your kingdom come."

There is also a sense in which Christ's kingdom is here now in the lives of individual Christians. We swear allegiance to God our king. We desire his will to be accomplished in our lives as we live each day for his glory. That is what we should be asking for in our prayers. Do we really want this? Do we really want God's will to be done or would we rather have our own will to be accomplished. Shouldn't our will and his will be gradually becoming one and the same? It seems so often that there is a fairly large gap between my will and his. What Jesus is telling us here is to pray that God's will be done here on earth, in our lives the same way that God's will is done in heaven.

How is God's will done in heaven? We have a glimpse of this in Psalm 103:20-21 where we read, "Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, you ministers of His who do His pleasure." In heaven, God's will is accomplished faithfully and joyfully by all of those who serve Him. There is no rebellion, there is no reluctant obedience. It should be our prayer that God's will would be done here on earth, particularly in our own lives in the same way as it is in heaven. And then it should be our desire to see God's will accomplished in our families, churches and nations.

Is this request part of our normal prayer life?  It should be.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Lord's Prayer - Part 2

Hallowed be Your name.  As we pray to our Father in heaven, we are to keep in mind that his name is hallowed. That means that he is holy and his name is holy. Holy means separate and set apart. God is distinct from us not only in his power, but he is distinct from us in his perfectness and sinlessness. We belong to the human race and as such we are a sinful people. We have sinned against God both in word and deed as well as in the things we have failed to do that we should have done.

God has not sinned and does not sin and therefore he is separate from us and cannot have fellowship with us unless our sin issue is resolved. This, of course, is what Jesus Christ came to do. As a human being he lived a perfect life which God is offering to count as our perfect life if we will accept the offer. When we trust Christ and receive him, we are declared holy by virtue of Christ's perfect righteousness. He becomes our father and allows us then to speak to him in what we call prayer.

Jesus, in teaching us how to pray, is telling us to remember that God is holy and his name is holy. By praying something like, "Hallowed be Your name," we are acknowledging God's holiness, but we are also asking that his name be hallowed. It forces us to think about who we are speaking to and how we need the righteousness of Christ in order to be in fellowship with God. It's a reminder that coming to him outside of Christ is like barging into a sterile hospital room with our filthy and muddy clothes on. It reminds us of who we are in our natural state and how thoroughly cleansed and righteous we have become because of Christ's work on our behalf.

May God's name truly be hallowed in the way we pray.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Lord's Prayer - Part 1

We're studying Jesus' teaching on prayer and I thought it might be good to write out some of the things I've been thinking about. This prayer in Matthew 6 is how we should pray according to Jesus. What does he include in this short prayer and how can this be helpful in my own praying?

Our Father in heaven.  The first thing to notice is that our praying is based on a relationship, the relationship with God as our father. Some people believe that God is the father of everyone. In one sense that is true because God created everyone. But in another way it is not true. In John 1:12 we read, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name."  It is clear that God has given the right to become children of God to some people. Who are they? Those who receive Christ; those who believe in His name. 

In 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 Paul, quoting from Isaiah 52 writes, "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you and you shall be My sns and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

What I gather from this is that since God is holy, that is separate and distinct from us as sinners, he calls us to be separate and holy as well. So when we receive Christ and believe on his name, we are stepping out from the crowd and identifying with Christ. He is Father in a particular way to such people. It is those people, his disciples that he is instructing to pray to him as Father.

When we are in this kind of relationship with God, we can rightly address him as Father. It's a term of endearment. Romans 8:15 uses the term "Abba, Father." It's like viewing God as our daddy in the sense that he loves us and cares for us and as his children we are in an intimate relationship with him.

So if we have truly come to Christ in faith, we have become God's children and have the right and privilege of coming to God in prayer as his precious child. The writer to the Hebrews tells us in 4:16 to "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." So let's do it!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Questions, Questions, Questions

After he had become king, Solomon's son, Rehoboam went to the old men to seek counsel from them. The people had come to him complaining that his father had made their yoke heavy. They requested that he change policy and lighten the load on the people. The old men advised Rehoboam this way, "If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, they they will be your servants forever." (1 Kings 12:6-8)

However, Rehoboam abandoned their counsel and wen to the young men who he had grown up with to see what they would say. The young men said, "This is what you should tell the people, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's thighs. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.'"

Rehoboam listened to the younger advisers and the people responded by abandoning Rehoboam and splitting the kingdom and appointing a king of their own choice.

All throughout the Bible, God tells his people that there is wisdom in the older people. So when you are looking for someone to advise you and give you counsel, go to those who are older and wiser than you. Listen carefully to what they have to say and weigh it heavily in your decision making process. You can get advice from younger people too, but remember that the more years of experience of life that a person has, the more likely it is that their advice will contain wisdom that only years of decision-making, successes and failures can give.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:17

Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why Did Jesus Use Parables?

As many of you know, Jesus frequently spoke in parables. On one occasion he was asked the question, "Why do you speak to them in parables?"  (Matthew 13:10)  The answer Jesus gave is not what we would expect. Here is his answer, "Because, it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to them it has not been given." Wow!  Jesus says that there are certain truths which have been given to his followers and kept from others who were listening to him teach.

To explain this further, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 6:9 where it says, "Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand." This message comes as a pronouncement as judgment against a people who have a habit of not putting into practice what God has taught them. And so this pronouncement of Jesus, rather than being a means of clarifying truth is meant to hide the truth. God does not put up with our obstinance and disobedience forever. He warns us in a parallel passage in Luke 8:18 that we should pay attention to how we hear. "For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him."

So how has your listening been? Do you really listen to God with an ear to hear and a will to obey. Or do you listen carelessly, not paying much attention. If it is the latter, Jesus himself says that you will not receive more as far as spiritual knowledge is concerned, and even what you have will betaken away. That can't be a good thing.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Questions, Questions, Questions

Today's question is one that Samuel asked Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?"

In this situation Saul had disobeyed the Lord's command about destroying all of the cattle of a conquered people. Saul was the king and Samuel was a prophet of the Lord. Saul had been told to destroy all of the herds and flocks of the Amalekites. Saul's excuse for disobeying was that he kept some alive so that he could offer them as sacrifices to the Lord.

Don't we often do similar things? We rationalize what God has commanded and try to adjust it to what we think we should do in order to side-step the direct command of God.

Samuel's answer to his own question is helpful for all of us to consider: "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry."

Rebellion is a serious thing to God and rebellion doesn't require shaking a fist in God's face. Rebellion is as simple as just not doing what God asks us to do.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Warning from God - "You are a dead man!"

I was reading yesterday about Abraham, Sarah and Abimelech in Genesis 20. God came to Abimelech and said, "Abimelech, you are a dead man." How would you like to be greeted this way by God? Abraham and Sarah were visiting the land where Abimelech was king. Sarah and Abraham had agreed that they would claim that they were brother and sister, which they were in a way. Sarah was his half sister, but more importantly, they were now husband and wife. God charged Abimelech with taking someone else's wife for himself.

Abimelech plead his innocence saying that the couple had said they were brother and sister. God's response is interesting. "Yes, I know that you did this in th integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against me, therefore I did not let you touch her."

I think we learn several things from this incident. First, God is serious about the sacredness of marriage. He doesn't take lightly the violation of marriage. Granted, today he doesn't go around threatening people in their dreams for their immorality, but his Word strongly condemns he promiscuous degradation of marriage that is so common today. All sin is serious to God and the penalty for being a sinner is death. So could could rightly come up to any of us and say, "You are a dead man."

The second thing we learn is that God intervened to actually prevent Abimelech from sinning against him. Abimelech wasn't a puppet. He didn't feel God restraining him against his will. In his own mind he was making decisions the whole time, but somehow God was at work to prevent the sin from occurring.  God's prevention of this sin was actually a loving act of grace because ultimately it saved Abimelech's life.

Doesn't it make you wonder how God is working in your life to prevent your going beyond some line God has established? And this in turn will allow you to come to know God and accept all of the grace he has for you. Jesus Christ was punished by God for all of the sins we have committed. This gives God the ability to grant us complete forgiveness for our sins. He saved Abimelech and he can save us as well.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:16

Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Hymn of the Week - Praise Him! Praise Him!

Praise Him!  Praise Him!  by Fanny Crosby
  1. Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
    Sing, O Earth, His wonderful love proclaim!
    Hail Him! Hail Him! Highest archangels in glory;
    Strength and honor give to His holy Name!
    Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children,
    In His arms He carries them all day long.
    • Refrain:
      Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent greatness;
      Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song!
  2. Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
    For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died.
    He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation,
    Hail Him! Hail Him! Jesus the Crucified.
    Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows,
    Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong.
  3. Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
    Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring!
    Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever;
    Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King!
    Christ is coming! over the world victorious,
    Pow’r and glory unto the Lord belong.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Church, the Body of Christ, Literally (Part 2)

 This is the second lesson in a short series I am presenting to our Wednesday night gathering at church. Much of it is the same as what I posted last week with some additional explanation. Recently I've been looking at the church from a different angle. What I'm trying to help us see is that the church is somehow an extension of Christ. "Extension" may not be the right word, but in this study you'll find a reference to the church as the fullness of God. We are of {Christ's} flesh and bones. As Eve was created from Adam and was of his flesh and his bones, the church has a similar connection. It is more than a community, although it is that. It is more than a family, although it also is that. We are literally members of one another and of Christ in a different way than someone is perhaps a member of Kiwanis. 

I would like us to consider the fact that this plan of God from eternity past means resurrecting spiritually dead people such as ourselves, gifting us, giving us his spirit and placing us literally into the body of Christ, sharing his mind and his spirit. 

If you would like to print a copy of this study guide in pdf form, click here.

The Church is the Body of Christ, Literally (Part 2)
Ephesians 5:28-32

Ephesians 5:28-32 describe the relationship of Christ and the church as similar to marriage. The church is literally the body of Christ and we are members of his flesh and of his bones. As Eve was brought out of Adam while he slept, the church is a new creation resulting from the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

God is creating in Christ one new man. The church is that one new man. It is something new that didn't exist before.

All of this is the eternal purpose of God, hidden for ages. Ephesians 3:9, 10

This new “man” supersedes nationality, social status and even gender. Galatians 3:28

1. His body, the church, is the ______________ of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:23
In that regard we are to be ____________ with all the ___________ of God.

2. We are:
A _____ creation 2 Corinthians 5:17
Born _________ by an incorruptible 1 Peter 1:23
Given a ______ heart Ezekiel 36:26
Made __________ of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:4
One ____________ with Christ 1 Corinthians 6:17
Given the _________ of Christ 1 Corinthians 2:16
Baptized into the body by the _________ 1 Corinthians 12:13
The body of Christ and members ____________ 1 Corinthians 12:27
Members of one _____________ Romans 12:5

3. This truth should eliminate discouragement and jealousy. 1 Corinthians 12:15-17

4. This truth should eliminate arrogance and pride. 1 Corinthians 12:20-22

5. This truth should produce mutual care and encouragement. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26

6. God placed apostles, prophets and pastors and teachers to equip for ministry. Ephesians 4:11-16

7. The goal is to grow into the ___________ (or complete or mature) man unto the _____________ of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13. The man referred to here is not each individual man becoming like Christ, but the one new man, the church, which God is creating.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

We Preach Christ Crucified - A Puritan Devotional

 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  1 Corinthians 1:23

Simple assent to the truth of the Word is but an act of the understanding.  Reprobates and devils may exercise this, but justifying faith takes its seat both in the understanding and the will.  The promises of God call for an act of the will to embrace and receive it.  Therefore, he who only notionally knows the promise, and speculatively assents to the truth of it, without clinging to it, and embracing it, does not believe to the saving of the soul.  Justifying faith rests on Christ crucified for pardon and life upon the warrant of God’s promise and terminates upon him.  It is not Christ in his personal excellencies, but as bleeding, and that to death, under the hand of divine justice to make an atonement by God’s own appointment for the sins of the world.  Faith finds that Christ has made full payment to the justice of God having poured out his blood to death upon the cross.  All of his previous acts of humiliation were but preparatory to this.  He was born to die; he was sent into the world as a lamb bound with the bonds of an irreversible decree as a sacrifice.  Without this, all he had done would have been labour undone.  There is no redemption but by his blood.  Christ did not redeem and save poor souls by sitting in majesty on his heavenly throne, but by hanging on the shameful cross, under the tormenting hand of man’s fury and God’s just wrath.  And therefore, the poor soul that would have pardon of sin, is directed to place its faith not only on Christ, but on a bleeding Christ, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood (Rom. 3:25).  Not everyone who assents to the truth of what the Scripture says about Christ truly believes. No, believing implies a union of the soul to Christ with full trust and reliance.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Questions, Questions, Questions

From time to time I like to write about questions that are asked in the Bible to see what we might be able to learn from them.

Today's question is one asked by Jesus: "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?"

Most of you are familiar with the story about the "Good Samaritan". A Jewish man is walking the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Along the way thieves rob him of his clothing and possessions and leave him wounded and half dead. Both a priest and Levite com along and move to the other side of the road without helping the man. A Samaritan comes along and helps the man with his wounds and pays for his recovery stay at an inn. What's interesting is that the Samaritans were a mixed race that was despised by the Jews and normally they had no dealings with the Jews. But this man stops to help a man who in other circumstances might not give the Samaritan the time of day.

Jesus' question is interesting. Usually when we are discussing this parable we ask people to describe who their neighbor is. The challenge is usually made to help us realize that our neighbor is not only the person that lives next to us but others as well. In this case we are asking people who should be the recipient of our neighborliness. However, that is not the way Jesus asks the question. When he asks it, he is asking us not to identify the recipient, but the giver.

Because of this difference, I take the lesson to be a challenge to be helpful, considerate and caring of others no matter who they are rather than trying to figure out who is our neighbor so we can meet their needs. We have a tendency to procrastinate on doing good because we are spending our time trying to figure out who is our neighbor. Instead, we should be the neighbor to any and all we meet.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Importance of Being in Christ - Part 7

What we have learned so far:
As Christians, we are in Christ. Being in Christ means He is our federal head; our representative. Also it means we died with him to the law and to the world – both the world religious system and the world system of lusts and temptations.

But it also means that when we died with Christ, we died to sin.
Romans 6:2 asks this question: “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” The author assumes that we would know the fact that we had died in Christ and that this would have an actual impact in our lives in the way we live. He goes on in the next verse to remind us that those who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death. That means that somehow, spiritually speaking, we were in Christ when he died and that his death counts as our death and that all of this precludes our living a life of sin.

In verse 6 Paul lets us know that our old man was crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be destroyed and in the next verse lets us know that he who has died has been set free from sin. It's obvious that are going to have to take this by faith, because it certainly doesn't feel like we have been set free from sin. Sin seems to still exert enormous pressure on us. But notice what verse 14 says. Sin shall not have dominion over us. Even though sin is still present and there are temptations all around us, it does not have authority over us. It is a toothless tiger. We are not under obligation to it as we once had been.

How to put these truths into practice in the battle:
(Note that the following principles are based on believing and acting on the truth of what God has done and is doing, not on making man-made lists of do's and don'ts.)

First, we need to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. (Romans 6:11) This means that we are to count God's statements as true. It is not mind over matter. It is believing and acting on what God has told us.

Secondly, we are not to allow sin to reign. (Romans 6:12) Since sin no longer has dominion, we are not to allow it to reign. It will try, but it does not have the right to rule and so we should not allow it.

Third, we should not present our members as weapons of unrighteousness. (Romans 6:13) By members he means the parts of our bodies like our hands, feet and eyes. Sometimes we just hand over parts of our body to unrighteousness and then they are used as weapons against us. It's as foolish as a soldier handing his enemy his personal weapon so that his enemy can kill him with it. We have a choice as to who we give the members of our body to. Verse 13 says that we should give the members to God to be used for righteousness. So, you see, we have a choice. It is a conscious choice that must be made at each encounter with a temptation to sin.

The fourth thing to remember is that if we are a true believer in Jesus Christ, there is no condemnation. (Romans 8:1). We live under that umbrella that no matter how we falter and fail, there is no condemnation coming our way. That frees us to get up and try again knowing that God is working to help us do the right thing.

The fifth thing to remember is that I have been set free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2) There is a God-established law that sin results in death. A Christian has been set free from that. That is part of the salvation that we have in Christ.

Next, we need to understand that Jesus Christ was a man like we are except without sin. He was tempted, he got tired, he was a man. Because he was able to live his life without sinning, God tells us that in doing so he condemned sin in the flesh. In other words, he showed that man does not have to respond to temptations. He can overcome because of the power of God at work in him. That is what Romans 8:3 is telling us when it says that “he condemned sin in the flesh.”

Finally we need to realize that the requirement of the law is fulfilled in us as we walk according to the Spirit. The external law was never meant to accomplish anything except to show us our guilt and inability to keep God's commands. In the New Covenant God writes his laws on our heart so that it is in our heart to do the right thing and to live obedient lives. Even though we often fail, as we yield to his Spirit, we find ourselves fulfilling his commandments naturally.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:14

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

This is a pretty clear explanation of who the sons of God are. The question we need to ask ourselves is, "Are we led by the Spirit of God?" 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hymn of the Week - Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?

Here's an old hymn that doesn't get sung much any more, but I heard the church bells in our town playing this the other day and it brought back some of the words for meditation. 

Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.

How happy are the saints above,
Who once went sorrowing here!
But now they taste unmingled love,
And joy without a tear.

The consecrated cross I’ll bear
Till death shall set me free;
And then go home my crown to wear,
For there’s a crown for me.

Upon the crystal pavement down
At Jesus’ pierc├Ęd feet,
Joyful I’ll cast my golden crown
And His dear Name repeat.

O precious cross! O glorious crown!
O resurrection day!
When Christ the Lord from Heav’n comes down
And bears my soul away.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What does God Require of Me - Part 3

In this short series, I'm looking at some of the things that God requires of us. As I've said, sometimes we make it way too complicated.

The prophet Micah gives us this summary in chapter 6 and verse 8: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?"

First, God wants us to do justly. That means to do justice, to do what is right. It means to treat people correctly and fairly. It means we shouldn't be trying to cheat others out of what they are due. It means that our lives should be righteous. We should play fair in all we do.

Second, God wants us to love mercy. That is because God is merciful. Mercy is granting people kindness when they deserve something else. It is the fulfillment of Jesus' command to love our enemies and to treat people well when they have treated us badly. This is not an easy requirement, but it is what God expects of us.

Finally, God wants us to walk humbly with him. That means to follow him and  have fellowship with him continually as we take each step through our lives. It means that we need to be humble under his mighty hand recognizing that he is God and we are not.

These three basic things are so crucial to living a life that is rewarding and satisfying. They are not easy, but it is worth our effort to take the steps necessary to make them a central part of our lives.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Church, the Body of Christ - Literally

Here's a short Bible study I used to teach on Wednesday night. If you want it in downloadable, printable pdf form, you can find it here.

The Church is the Body of Christ, Literally
Ephesians 5:28-32

1. Ephesians 5:31 is a quote from __________________

2. What had just happened prior to verse 24?

3. Adam described Eve as ________ of his _________ and _________ of his _________.

4. For this reason a man shall leave his mother and father and be joined as one flesh to his wife.

5. Ephesians 5:32 says that this is a mystery related to Christ and the _____________.

6. Ephesians 5:30 uses the same words that Adam used. We are members of his body, of his ________
and of his ___________.

7. As Eve was brought out of Adam while he slept, the church is a new creation resulting from the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

8. Ephesians 2:15 God is creating in Christ one ______ ________.

9. We are:
A _____ creation 2 Corinthians 5:17
Born _________ by an incorruptible 1 Peter 1:23
Given a ______ heart Ezekiel 36:26
Made __________ of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:4
One ____________ with Christ 1 Corinthians 6:17
Given the _________ of Christ 1 Corinthians 2:16
Baptized into the body by the _________ 1 Corinthians 12:13
The body of Christ and members ____________ 1 Corinthians 12:27
Members of one _____________ Romans 12:5

10. His body the church is the __________ of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:23

11. The goal is to grow into the ___________ (or complete or mature) man unto the _____________ of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13. The man referred to here is not each individual man becoming like Christ, but the one new man, the church, which God is creating.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Walk by the Spirit - A Puritan Devotional

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  Galatians 5:16
These words present the way of conquering sin.  It is the one great strategy against the powers of darkness if we would strangle the brats of night and hell as they seek to give birth.  It crushes the egg before it can hatch the serpent.  The best expedient in the world to avoid fulfilling the lust of the flesh is to walk in the Spirit.  To walk in the Spirit is to fulfill the counsel and advice of the Spirit.  Every renewed soul is a stage in which the Spirit and the flesh combat in hand-to-hand warfare: light against darkness, life versus death, heaven against hell, and good versus evil.  God takes your side, O Christian!  The Spirit of the Lord is with you if you do not sin and grieve him away.  Follow his leading.  Be prompt and ready to follow his promptings. Marching under this banner you shall become invincible.  Believers following the Almighty go forward conquering and to conquer.  ‘My soul clings to you’, said David; ‘your right hand upholds me’ (Ps 63:8).  As if he had said: ‘Go, lead on, my God.  I will follow as close as I can.  I will not allow any distance between us, but I will pursue your footsteps, step by step, leaning upon your everlasting arms that are underneath me, as you lead me by the hand.’  Lot almost perished in Sodom for lingering before God hastened him away (Gen 19:16).  If you resist the Holy Spirit, you grieve him, and thus are alone in the battle.  Open all your sails to every breath and gale of God’s good Spirit.  Welcome every suggestion.  Reverence every command.  Cherish every gentle persuasion of this blessed exhorter.  Let every inspiration find you as the seal does the wax, or as the spark does the tinder.  Step into the pool when you angel stirs the water.  Keep in touch with the moving of the Spirit, and all will be well.

From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 81, published by Banner of Truth Trust