Monday, May 20, 2013

Memorization Monday - Hebrews 6:19

Hebrews 6:19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,

Because of the promise and oath of God that our salvation is secure, we have a confident hope. And this hope becomes personified as Jesus Christ. He is an anchor that is already firmly fixed in the heavens behind the veil. In the Old Testament, no one could go behind the veil in the tabernacle except the high priest and then only once a year. Now we have the first human being raised from the dead, Jesus Christ the God-Man, anchored there as our forerunner.  As the author describes it this anchor is both sure and steadfast.

If you would like to see the entire list of recommended verses from Hebrews to memorize in 2013, check here.

We've also produced a Bible study guide on the book of Hebrews you may be interested in. You can find it here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Biblical Battle Strategies Against Lust and Sin - 4

Strategy 2 I am renewing my mind actively and regularly by reading, memorizing and meditating on Scripture.

In each of these strategies I put the statement as an affirmative statement of fact. That helps us focus on what the goal is. It is a true or false statement. Within our own hearts we know whether the statement is true for us or not. Is this true: I am renewing my mind actively and regularly by reading, memorizing and meditating on Scripture.

Here we have another essential personal discipline that gets overlooked all too often. We are constantly looking for the secret of this or the secret of that as though there were hidden methods for being successful in the Christian life. There are no secrets. It's all right there out in the open. We just don't do it.

Romans12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

It's important to be renewing our minds. God says this is the way that transformation takes place. And the Christian method of renewing the mind is to spend time reading, memorizing and meditating on Scripture. There is no shortcut. Consider these passages:

Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. (Emphasis mine.)

Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Emphasis mine)

Psalm 119:11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.

Take some time every day to be in the Scripture. Read a portion and spend some time thinking deeply about it. Begin a Scripture memory plan. Memorize one verse a week or one every other week. Write the verse on a 3x5 card and review it every day until you have it learned and then go on to another.

If you are not doing these basic things, you cannot expect to have victory over sin and temptation you may be facing. Don't look for other solutions. Spending time in prayer and in the Word are foundational to victory.

You can find the initial post on this subject here:

For the entire chart listing all of the strategies, check here: 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Biblical Battle Strategies Against Lust and Sin - 3

Strategy 1 My prayer life is active and effective.

In each of these strategies I put the statement as an affirmative statement of fact. That helps us focus on what the goal is. It is a true or false statement. Within our own hearts we know whether the statement is true for us or not. Is this true: My prayer life is active and effective.

Every Christian man should have an active and effective prayer life. James 5:16 says: Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

At the conclusion on the passage in Ephesians where Paul discusses the Christian armor, he writes, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18

The Bible speaks over and over about the importance of prayer and yet praying is a very difficult thing for us. Our lives are busy and taking the time to pray does not seem to us to be as important as God makes it out to be. And yet it is probably the core of our relationship with Christ along with the reading of His Word.

So if we are struggling with temptation, let's not look to a lot of phony remedies and psychological tricks. Let's invest the time it takes to really get to know God by spending some quality time with Him in prayer.

You can find the initial article on this topic here:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Is Doctrine and Theology Important?

How would you answer this statement. "I don't feel the need to intensively study the Bible and learn theology. All that creates is division in the Church and we only need to follow the words of Jesus anyway."

A friend asked me this the other day and here is how I replied.

The claim that all we need to do is to follow the words of Jesus is not valid for several reasons. First, the Bible clearly teaches us that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Tim 3:16) When we limit ourselves to the words of Jesus, we lose all of the important teaching of the rest of Scripture, especially the rest of the New Testament. We would not know about justification by faith, the establishment and order in the church and many other important things. So God has graciously provided us with much more than just the teachings of Jesus.

In referring to the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” This was a prophecy about how the Holy Spirit would teach truth to the apostles in the days following Jesus' ascension into heaven. These truths which they learned from Him make the content of the rest of the New Testament. It was Jesus who told us this would happen.

Even if all we had was the words of Jesus, there would be differences of opinion about what He meant and we would need creeds and doctrinal statements to clarify what a particular church believes about what Jesus said. I have heard it said that we don't need creeds or doctrinal statements. All we need is to say that our creed is the Bible. What it says is what we believe. However, that is not enough because Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists, Presbyterians and others all say that they believe the Bible and yet it is obvious that their doctrines differ.

That brings me to the next comment about what your friend asked. The concern is that doctrine divides. That is true. It does. But don't we want to know the truth? There is truth. There is falsehood. The problem that modern people have is either that they don't believe that truth exists or they don't believe we can know what it is. The Bible says there is truth and we can know it. But doesn't everyone claim that their view is the truth? Yes. But they can't all be true because many are contradicting each other. But just because there are many who claim truth doesn't mean that truth doesn't exist. It just means we have to work hard and diligently to discern what the truth is.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:19, “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.” He is acknowledging the importance of factions because that way the truth can come out. If everyone acquiesces to some commonly held belief, the truth will be lost.

Here are some things that the Bible clearly teaches about teaching and doctrine. These are in no particular order and I'll comment after each one.

Acts 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

It's important to actively search the Scriptures during and after any teaching in order to verify whether what the teacher has taught is true. The Scripture encourages this and lifts up the person who is engaged in this endeavor. It is to be active and continuous. We are not to accept any teaching without searching the Scripture. Searching the Scripture takes work. But it is a required work.

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Diligence in the Christian life is a requirement. Part of that diligence is to rightly divide the Word. Dividing the Word means to learn to understand the different contexts in which teaching and events occurred. It means to understand what is a word picture and what is literal. An old song used to say, “All the promises in the book are mine – every chapter, every verse, every line.” But that is not true. God made promises to Abraham that He did not make to you and me. We need to know the difference.

1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing.

There is such a thing as correct teaching and “teaching otherwise”. The one who teaches otherwise is proud and knows nothing. That is what the Bible says.

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

People want to hear what they want to hear. Their ears are itching. Sound doctrine is foreign to them and they would rather not hear it.

Romans 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

There is a correct doctrine and those who teach contrary to that are to be avoided.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

Not just the teachings of Jesus but all Scripture. It is to be used for reproof and correction. If it is used for correction, that must mean some things are wrong and need to be corrected.

Titus 1:9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.

There is such a thing as sound and correct teaching. Exhortation is needed to be applied to those who contradict. In other words we can't just have the belief that whatever anyone believes is ok. Obviously he is talking about within the Christian community. The continual teaching of sound doctrine will exhort those who are wrong and bring conviction to them.

Heb 5:11-14 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

God wants every Christian to be taught well enough that they can teach others. Some things in Scripture are hard to understand, such as the teaching about Melchizidek. The author of Hebrews criticized them because they were not ready for this teaching. It was necessary to go over the basics again and this was not good. Those who were still feeding on milk were considered unskilled in the word of righteousness and he referred to them as babes. This is not a good description. God wants each believer to grow in the word and become strong in the doctrine.

The bottom line is that there is truth and there is error. God has given us the Holy Spirit in order to help us to learn from all of the Scripture. This takes work, diligence and effort. It takes digging into the truth of the whole Bible learning how to discern one kind of text from another. It is necessary to learn the important teachings about salvation, redemption, justification, sanctification, etc. because in so doing we learn to know God better and to love Him more. Then we are better prepared, especially as Christian men, to lead and teach our families so that they too become godly people who can have an impact in the world.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Memorization Monday - Hebrews 6:18

Hebrews 6:18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

Immutable means unchangeable. God purposed to accomplish salvation and He promised to complete His purposes and then He underscored it with an oath. So God's promises/purposes and His oath are unchangeable and demonstrate the certainty of His Word. This solid foundation gives us strong consolation. Why?  Because as Christians we have fled to Christ and have laid hold of His promises toward us and know that what He has promised He will ultimately perform.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hymn of the Week - My Hope is in the Lord

My hope is in the Lord
Who gave Him-self for me
And paid the price
Of all my sin at Cal-va-ry.

For me He died;
For me He lives,
And everlasting life
And light He free-ly gives.

No merit of my own
His anger to suppress
My only hope is found
In Jesus' righteousness


And now for me He stands
Before the Father's throne
He shows His wounded hands
And names me as His own


His grace has planned it all
'Tis mine but to believe
And recognize His work of love
And Christ receive

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Biblical Battle Strategies Against Lust and Sin-2

So this leads us back now to the first point in what I'm calling Battle Strategies for the war on lust and sin. The first step is to ask ourselves, “Do I really want to pursue righteousness and holiness, and count everything loss in order to know Christ and the power of His resurrection in my life.” Do I really want this? Am I willing to work hard, suffer and sweat to gain it?

This is not a trite question. You shouldn't just read it and go on. In order to help us think about this, I'd like to look at several passages of Scripture.

The Bible speaks about fleeing some things and pursuing others. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” One of the things that should be pursued is holiness. To pursue means to chase down or chase after. You've seen the police chases. Several squad cars are seen pursuing a car speeding to get away. The point is they are trying to catch the person. They are not just following along after it like they would be during non-chase normal traffic situations. So we are to chase down holiness, which the writer says we need if we want to see the Lord. Do you have the desire to chase holiness? Are you chasing it?

1 Timothy 6:11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.

There are things to flee, but in this case I'm focusing on the pursuit. Here we are told to pursue several traits. Look these over and ask yourself am I chasing these things? Look at each one of these traits one at a time. Do I have a desire chase them? Am I willing to ask God for the desire to chase them?

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Am I fleeing and do I desire to flee youthful lusts. Older people can have youthful lusts. Sex is certainly one of these, but young people also have other inordinate desires for prestige, acceptance, power, recklessness, etc. Sometimes as we get older, these lusts don't disappear. We need to run away from these lusts with as much energy as we can. And here again we are to pursue righteousness and other traits. So if you can picture this, we are to be running away from some things in hot pursuit of other things. This is not a lazy afternoon walk. This is a chase.

And from Philippians 3:8-14 we learn that, like Paul, we should count things that are normally thought of as gain, we should count them loss. The reason is because of the excellence of Christ. Paul wanted to gain Christ. He described his effort as “pressing for the mark.” He was like a runner stretching out to be the first person across the line. That is the kind of effort he was making in order to know Christ better and to be found in Him.

Before we go on to any of the strategies that I will outline for us, each one of us needs to ask ourself the question: Do I really want this? Do I want to pursue righteousness and holiness? Do I really want Christ above all things? If the answer is “no” or if the answer is “I don't think I really care.” or if the answer is a shrug of the shoulders, then there's no point in going on.

Next time we'll begin to look at some of the strategies in detail.

To help your meditation on these passages, you can find the entire list here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Biblical Battle Strategies Against Lust and Sin - 1

Every day we are confronted with temptations that attempt to distract us from our primary focus of service and obedience to Christ. These temptations often derail our attempts to live a godly life. Every day we are engaged in a battle to defeat these temptations and to stay the course. What I hope to do in this series is to review some of what the Bible teaches as to methods and strategies we can use to fight successfully. I plan to provide you with 10 or 11 specific statements that you should be able to make about yourself and about your spiritual life. These will be supported with passages of Scripture to help give you a strong foundation for those statements. If these statements are true of you, you will be in a better position for success in this battle against sin, lust and temptation. If the statements are not true of you, it should provide motivation and a goal that you can work on in order to improve areas of weakness.

The first thing we need to realize is that this battle is universal among Christians. As you read this material you are going to be tempted to think that this is a battle for someone else. Often, when we speak of lusts, as we will in the following section, people immediately focus on sexual lust and if that doesn't happen to be your problem, you might stop reading thinking that you have everything under control. That is a dangerous position to be in because if you are not aware of a battle for your heart and soul, the devil has you right where he wants you. But as soon as you realize that this applies to you just as much as anyone else and as soon as you take up arms to defeat your own lusts, you will find a battle greater than you ever imagined could exist.

The first step, then, is to ask ourselves the question: “Do I really want to pursue righteousness and holiness, and count everything loss in order to know Christ and the power of His resurrection in my life?” In order to accurately answer this question, there are some truths we need to consider.

In 1 John 2:15-17 we read: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

There is a distinction between the things of the world and the things of God. These verses very clearly teach that it is not possible to love the world and love God at the same time. This means a decision is required. Do I really want to abandon the world for Christ? This is an overarching decision, but it is also a decision that has to be made hundreds of times a day. Making the decision during a momentary temptation without having made it as a principle of your life will make the battle ultimately impossible to win. So before you go any further you need to decide – Christ or the world.

In this passage, much of the world definition involves lust. Lust is a strong desire that is excessive to the point of being sinful. In this passage we have three components given for worldliness – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. We don't have time to go into each one in detail, but if you think about it you will realize that many of the things we do and decisions we make are made based on these lusts. We covet what we see other people have. We lust for sex or excitement or other flesh-based pleasures. We desire to have people look up to us as someone important or powerful or contented. Yes, we can be proud of our contentment and wish for others to be jealous of our contented life. All of these temptations come from the world and not from God.

In James 1:14-15 we read this: But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Here's the issue then. The world and Satan provide attractions that feed the lusts that John referred to. But our temptations come from within us, from our own lusts or desires and we are drawn away by them. We are pulled in a wrong direction. The desires come from deep within us. They are part of our sin nature, our fallenness, our brokenness. As these desires are conceived and gestate within us they give birth to sin. Sin is a thought or deed that is not within the will and character of God. These sins begin to grown and then, as James writes, they bring forth death. The Bible teaches that sin has wages and those wages are death.

A Christian, having been born again and now a child of God, has a new desire in competition with the old tendency and therein lies the conflict. Paul writes it this way in Galatians 5:17 - For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

So this leads us back now to the first point in what I'm calling Battle Strategies for the war on lust and sin. The first step is to ask ourselves, “Do I really want to pursue righteousness and holiness, and count everything loss in order to know Christ and the power of His resurrection in my life.” Do I really want this? Am I willing to work hard, suffer and sweat to gain it?

We'll think more about this question next time.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

What is Our Attitude Toward Sin?

I came across Psalm 36 the other day in my reading and was struck by several things in the first few verses. I'd like to share those with you as I think through this myself. David starts the Psalm by writing, "An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked."  That caught my attention right away. What was he thinking in his own heart regarding the transgression of the wicked? Who are the wicked? In our culture we think of wicked as those who are really evil among us. We don't think of the normal hard-working person who basically does the right thing, takes care of his family and minds his own business. But I think David sees the world in a different way. He sees the world as divided into two groups. Those who believe in, trust in, and follow God and those who don't. It is those non-followers that he calls wicked.

However, as I think about these verses and the transgressions he is speaking about, I want us to realize and admit that we believers also transgress against the ways of God and during those times we are behaving wickedly, even though our sins are forgiven in Christ. So as we look at David's thoughts concerning the transgression, let's not just think about it as an interesting topic about "them". Let's think of it in terms of "us".

The first thing David says is that there is no fear of God before their eyes. I think this is the root of it all both for the person who doesn't believe in God and for us in those moments when we succumb to the everpresent temptations. At that moment, the fear of God has been removed from our eyes. We are not considering the fact that God sees, knows and condemns our sin. We do not take into account that God is greater than we are and as creator, He has the right to tell us what the rules are. We do not have the appropriate level of fear of God. As a result, we venture into areas where we should not be. We cross the line. We transgress.

The second thing he mentions is that "he flatters himself in his own eyes." When I sin,  I am saying several things about myself. I am saying that I know better than God. God has no right to dictate my behavior. I am saying that even though God has warned of danger and threatened discipline, these are empty threats and of no consequence. Nothing to worry about!  I am flattering myself.

The next thing that happens is that our words are affected. "The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit."  Isn't it true that when we sin, we often have to cover up our tracks and that takes the form of deceit. And when we think we are being caught or nearly so, we begin to lash out at those we love in order to keep them from being too close.

David then plainly states in verse 3 that when we transgress and when we are deceptive in our speech we have ceased to be wise. The problem is that when we are involved in sin, we are not usually too worried about whether we are being wise or not. But God continually calls out to us to be wise and not to play the fool. We need to ask ourselves if we really believe God is right and we are wrong. That's what confession is, isn't it?  Admitting that God is right.

In verse 4, David writes, "He devises wickedness on his bed; He sets himself in a way that is not good; He does not abhor evil."  I see several things here. First of all, when we are really set on disobedience and sin, we do think about it lying in bed. We devise ways to get even with someone, or we plan how to gain access to some sinful pleasure. But David laments that when we do this, we are setting ourselves on a way that is not good. Our real problem in the end is that we do not abhor evil. Abhor means to regard with horror and loathing; to detest. How many of us can say that we really abhor sin? 

David seems to change the subject somewhat in verse 5, but look at the encouragement we find there in light of what we have been discussion.  "Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds."

Monday, May 06, 2013

Memorization Monday - Hebrews 6:17

Hebrews 6:17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,

God has made promises that cannot change or be annulled. In order to prove this to human beings, He gave an oath to that effect. We swear oaths to prove the truthfulness of our statements and God, because He is communicating with us, used the same approach. God's promises can be trusted.

If you would like to see the entire list of recommended verses from Hebrews to memorize in 2013, check here.

We've also produced a Bible study guide on the book of Hebrews you may be interested in. You can find it here.