The Vital Signs of Spiritual Health

The Text today is:  PSALM 26

THE NEW YEAR IS HERE!

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Have you heard the greeting, “Have a healthy and prosperous New Year!”?

Doctor’s Dilemma–

I couldn’t be a doctor today.  Besides the blood, needles and sharp scalpels…there’s all those sick people!  Sick people all day long!  How depressing!  You visit someone at a hospital…you get them well, and then they turn around and get sick all over again!  Even Jesus said in Mt. 9:12 –  “Those who are strong and well [healthy] have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick.”

DOCTORS see you at your worst and they hear all your aches, complaints, pains and physical ailments.  Just once, I would like to make a doctor’s appointment, sit down in the examining room…and, when he asks me what’s wrong, I say, “Nothing…I just wanted to stop by and cheer you up!”

MAKING AN APPOINTMENT TO SEE THE GREAT PHYSICIAN–there’s no waiting! :

This is what DAVID is doing–he’s going to the GREAT PHYSICIAN…getting a SPIRITUAL check-up…only to find out…that he’s spiritually fit!  DAVID has been taking preventative medicine for his soul.  He has found the sin remedy and applied it to his heart and life.

David was a man after God’s own heart.  He wanted to please GOD in everything that he did, just as we did when we were small and wanted to please our parents in everything we did.  Now like David, we didn’t always do it…but that’s what David always wanted to do.

Trusting God to Keep DAVID from “Back Trouble”–

How many of you reading this have had problems with your back?  The older I get, it seems, the more trouble I have.  Notice what king David said in Psalm 26:1 (b):  “…I shall not slide.”

“Backsliding” —

David knew, as long as he trusted in, leaned on, and relied on the Lord, GOD could keep him from sliding back into sin.  As soon as he started looking to his own strength…trusting in himself, he would soon have “Back Troubles”–he would start to slide backward.

“LOVING-KINDNESS” – Psalm 26:3 (a):

What did David see when he looked at GOD’s FAITHFULNESS to him?  It was evident, because he saw GOD’s LOVING-KINDNESS!

Has GOD been GOOD to you this past year?  AMEN?

You may have experienced tragedies…some hard times…some disappointments.  BUT…it could have been a whole lot worse.  If it wasn’t for GOD’s “loving-kindness”…His grace and mercy…the devil would have had a hey-day in your life.

When you’re SPIRITUALLY HEALTHY, like David, you will see the positive side of everything GOD allows in your life.

Walking in GOD’s Truth [faithfully]– 

Psalm 26:3 – “I have walked in Your truth [faithfully]” (Amplified Bible).

Compare this verse now, with Verse 1: “I have walked in MY integrity.”  As far as DAVID knew, walking the way he knew, his WALK should be equaled to his TALK.  I don’t know about you, but boy…do I need the Holy Spirit’s help in this area at times, and He certainly has conversations with me in this area.

DAVID didn’t do one thing and believe another…he practiced what he preached.  He could say with the Apostle Paul in Acts 23:1 – I have lived before GOD, doing my duty with a perfectly good conscience until this very day.”

BUT…some people can be walking in their own INTEGRITY–their character…BUT…still  not walking in GOD’s TRUTH.

Did I confuse you here?  Let me try to explain.  In their own minds, they might be doing what THEY THINK is right!  BUT…in GOD’s mind, they aren’t walking according to His TRUTH–His Word.  They might be justifying their own sins within their own conscience and mind.

In other words, they might not see that SIN as a sin.  There may be sin present in their lives without their acknowledgement.  That’s why DAVID adds in Psalm 26:3 – “I have walked in YOUR truth.”

The Importance of How GOD Sees Our Life–

It’s really not how WE see our life.  We may not see our symptoms of sin…but GOD does!  That’s why we need to go to the Doctor–he may see something we missed!

I’ve heard before, that men in particular,  refuse to go to the doctor after confessing their symptoms to their wives because…he doesn’t want to know for sure what the problem is…and his condition gets worse!

DAVID could say, “I have walked in Your truth”, NOT JUST in what I think is right…but in what GOD thinks is right.

There are many STANDARDS today for right/wrong–

PEER pressure sets one standard;

PARENTS may set certain standards;

SOCIETY may set certain standards of behavior;

RELIGION sets standards for conduct and belief.

That all said, there is only ONE STANDARD by which we will all be judged on…GOD’s STANDARD!  We need to say along with DAVID:  “I have walked in TRUTH.”

HOW TO STAY SPIRITUALLY HEALTHY – Psalm 26:4-5: 

[4]  I do not sit with false persons, nor fellowship with pretenders;  [5] I hate the company of evildoers and will not sit with the wicked.

DAVID tells us how he was able to stay in Spiritual Health–he separated himself from the ways and influences of the wicked.  Much of our sinful indulgences are determined by the company we keep–by outside influences.  That certainly doesn’t mean we should avoid all contact with non-believers.  How else can we give our testimony?  What the emphasis here is, association is different than “hanging out with” continually.

While it is true that our hearts are “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9)…it is the INFLUENCE of others that drives us to commit these sinful acts.

My mother repeated this phrase to my brother and I when we were young on several different occasions:  “SIN LOVES COMPANY”…AND…the easier it is to join in…commit to the sin…we want to justify it.

How many times have you heard, perhaps used the words yourself...”But everybody else is doing it!”  Not for DAVID!  He’s going to stay away from people who TURN THEIR HEARTS away from GOD.

Another Spiritually Healthy Key – 26:6:

“I will wash my hands in innocence, and go about Your altar, O Lord”

DAVID points out another vital sign of Spiritual Health– Hand-Washing!

David came to the HOUSE OF WORSHIP with INNOCENT HANDS!

Have you ever wondered…why do people stay away from church today?  Perhaps, it’s because of a guilty conscience.  And yet, what a better place to come, with guilty hands and receive cleansing!

A LOVE for God’s House – 26:8

Another SIGN of a Spiritually Healthy Christian is LOVE for God’s house.

Those who sincerely LOVE GOD, have a love for God’s house…and will be in Church regularly.  It’s one thing to shun evil companions (that’s “negative goodness”)…it’s another thing to shun GOD’S HOUSE.

One way to bring joy & fulfillment into your life is to do what DAVID did in 26:8:  “Lord, I love the habitation of Your house, and the place where your glory dwells.”

Why was this so important and special?

“That I may make the voice of thanksgiving hear and may tell of all your wondrous works”  (26:7).

TO DAVID, WORSHIP was a POSITIVE experience…not just NEGATIVE living (shunning the “bad and the ugly” company you keep).  He LOVED to go to GOD’S HOUSE, because there, he could proclaim in public, what GOD had done for him in PRIVATE!  Psalm 122:1 says,

I WAS glad when they said to me,

Let us go to the house of the Lord.

DAVID MAKES A REQUEST!

“Gather me not with sinners and sweep me not away [with them], nor my life with blood-thirsty men.  In whose hands is wickedness, and their right hands are full of bribes”  (26:9-10 AMP).

I like the way the Message Bible gives a mental picture:  “When it’s time for spring cleaning, don’t sweep me out with the quacks and crooks.”  

Being in sound Spiritual Health, DAVID can come to GOD with his requests.  David is saying, “When the day of harvest comes, GATHER ME in with the Godly.”

 THERE ARE 2 Types of HARVEST…WHEAT and the he TARES.

Harvest Time
Harvest Time

There are only 2 types of people – the LOST and SAVED.

Only 2 ways…GOD’S WAY and the DEVIL’S WAY.

Only 2 destinies…HEAVEN and HELL

Psalm 1:6:  “For the Lord knows and is fully acquainted with the way of the ungodly  [those living outside God’s will]  shall perish (end in ruin and come to naught)” – Amplified Bible.

DAVID KNOWS …which harvest he will be gathered into.

GOD KNOWS…who belongs to His family…He knows your name, how many hairs on your head (in my case, there’s not much there to count)…the thoughts and intents of your heart.

WE CAN’T TELL the wheat from the weeds (“tares”)…BUT GOD KNOWS!

What lies ahead for David (and us)…IF we are Spiritually Healthy Christians?

26:11 –  “But as for me”  

David isn’t going to let anyone drag him down, ruin his Spiritual Health.  He knows the wicked are infected with SIN–Society calls it a “Social Disease”–but whatever you want to call it…it’s still SIN.  And DAVID is going to stay away from them.  He knows that it is GOD’S MERCY keeping him away from SIN!

HAVING A GOOD FOOTHOLD ON THE ROCK–

The Vital Sign of having a good foothold on the Rock unfolds in 26:12 (a):  “My foot stands on an even place” ; “I am standing in a safe place”– NOT on a “slippery slope”.

DAVID KNOWS that slipping on SIN will ruin his relationship with GOD.   So, David wants to stay away from slippery places; to stand on FIRM GROUND–there, in the midst of “the congregation will I bless the Lord” (26:12 (b).

Having a Healthy & Happy New Year Ahead!

How concerned are we for our health…Spiritually speaking?  EVERYONE wants to have good health this coming year, I know I do.  AND David points us in the right direction.

OUR PHYSICAL AILMENTS –  We should follow our Doctor’s orders.  So why don’t we follow the orders of the GREAT PHYSICIAN for our SPIRITUAL AILMENTS?  Might the diagnosis be as simple as...”self-denial”?

Let’s spend the New Year, as concerned about our PHYSICAL HEALTH, as we are about our PHYSICAL HEALTH.  AND…when we do…we might find out…THAT…our PHYSICAL HEALTH will improve too!

My Name Is “Cleo” – Part Three of Three

Walking to Emmaus
Walking to Emmaus

Luke 24:13:

I decided to return to Emmaus.  Luke went with me, and as we walked, we rehearsed all the things that had happened.  As we walked, a man came up to us asking what we were talking about, and why we were so sad.  Why I did not recognize Him at first, I still don’t really know.  But we said, “Where are you from? Don’t you know all the things that have happened in Jerusalem over the past three days?”  “What things?”  He asked.  “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet might in word and in deed–who was crucified.  We were hoping all along that He was going to redeem Israel, but now…  Now today, some of our women went to the tomb and found it empty, and said they saw angels who told them He was alive again.  But when two of the men went to investigate, they found the tomb empty alright, but they didn’t see Jesus.  We frankly don’t know what has happened to Him.”

Then do you know what He said to us?  “You fools.  Have you never read your Bible!”  And within minutes, He set our hearts to pounding as He opened the Scriptures for us as we had never before seen.  We had no copies of the Scriptures with us, but this man didn’t need it–its whole significance in the saving plan of God was firmly fixed in His mind.  And that significance He explained to us in detail.  And it was not just Moses’ law only–but the whole of the Scriptures–in its larger picture and in its details–He saw it all as pointing forward and having direct bearing–indeed, final fulfillment–in Jesus.

The smoldering embers of my faith began to flicker as He took me back to the very beginning and showed us that in the very Garden of Eden, God had promised deliverance from the Tempter thru the bruising of the deliverer!  He reminded us of the Passover in Exodus–which we had just gone in Jerusalem to commemorate.  And He reminded us how God delivered our fathers from the Death Angel in Egypt through the sacrifice of a spotless lamb!

He reminded us of the Guilt Offering and Day of Atonement and the whole sacrificial system.  “What was God intending to teach us in all that?”  He asked.  What of the innocent victim, the slain lamb?  What of the transferring of guilt to its head and then its death?  What is all that designed to teach?  Was there not in all that the clear indication that it was necessary to have an innocent substitute to die for the sinner if the sinner was to go free?

And what of the priest himself–did He not work in a representative capacity, bringing the people into the presence of God through the sacrifice that he offered?

And why, he asked, did the sacrifices need to be repeated?  Why was it necessary for the priest to make atonement every year?  If the sacrifice made atonement, then why does it need to be offered again and again?  Or was it designed to point forward to a Greater Sacrifice?

And the He quoted the prophet Isaiah who said of the Messiah, Jehovah’s Servant, that “God will make Him a guilt offering for the sins of His people.  He said that God would bruise His servant and by His stripes effect the salvation of all of His people!”  There it was–I had heard it read in the Synagogue, but never really understood its significance.

But is was not just Moses and the prophets.  He took us also to the Writings–the Psalms and so on.  There He quoted the words of the Psalmist who said in prophecy, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  I had heard those words myself only 3 days ago–Jesus quoted them while He hung there dying!  He quoted parts of Psalm 16 in which David expressed such confidence that God would not allow him to rot in the grave–but he did decay in a tomb, this man reminded us.  David, being a prophet, spoke of someone else–He spoke of Messiah!

And on and on He went through the Scriptures.  In Jesus, He showed us, a whole stream of ancient anticipations found their answer and fulfillment.  Jesus was that prophet like unto Moses.  But He was also the deliverer Joshua.  And He was Aaron the priest who offered sacrifice.  Indeed, He was innocent Isaac who was offered by Father Abraham in sacrifice.  He was the sacrificial lambs, which for centuries had been offered in hopes of atonement.  He was David the King.  He was Noah by whom deliverance was brought to those who went with him in the ark.  He was Jonah who was–mark it–three days in the fish’s belly.  In Jesus a whole stream of ancient anticipations met their fulfillment.

I tell you, things were finally taking shape, and I thought my heart would pound right out of my chest with each new passage of Scripture He cited.  Jesus’ death was no accident!  God had not allowed things to get out of hand.  God had given His Son in death–a death which was in place of all of His elect people.  He–the only righteous one ever to live–died under the awful judgment of God so that sinners would go free. O, my heart did burn and began to swell and my faith began to revive.  In the death of Jesus my own salvation had been secured.

When we arrived in Emmaus, this stranger seemed intent on going further, but we weren’t about to let Him go.  And finally prevailed on Him jesus-recognized-GoodSalt-lwjas0176and convinced Him to come and eat dinner with us.  And when we sat at the table, I was the host–but He took the bread, and blessed it, and broke it and gave it to us to eat.  And then, all of a sudden, we looked at Him as if for the first time all day–it was Jesus!  He was alive!  There He was, at my table.  No wonder this stranger knew so well the whole plan of God–it was a plan of His own making and doing!

But just as soon as we recognized Him, He was gone– He just vanished out of our sight.  We looked at each other with both fear and amazement!  Our faith in Jesus was vindicated–He was alive!  I believed–but I couldn’t believe it!  We had seen Him ourselves–we talked with Him!  He was alive again!

All of a sudden we didn’t need to eat–for the 4th time that day I walked that 7-mile road between Emmaus and Jerusalem  and found the eleven and those with them–they were gathered together in a room at John Mark’s house.  We burst in to give them all the news–but before we could say a word they all shouted–“Jesus is alive! He appeared to Peter!”  As it turned out, we were not the only ones Jesus spoke with.  There were also women. Mary Magdalene.  But we told them of how He had come to us and how He had opened the Scriptures and set our hearts aflame. 

Now mind you, we were behind locked doors–we still were not sure what the authorities might do.  But as I told them of Jesus’ appearance to us and His teaching and His breaking of bread–there He was again, standing there in the room with us.  Most of us thought it was a ghost–so would you!  You must remember that the strong image of His dead and mangled body was fresh and firm in our minds.  We were terrified.  Funny, as I look back–He asked, “What are you afraid of?  Look at my hands, my feet–you can see that it is I Myself.  Touch me and see–you ever hear of a ghost with flesh and bone?”  And then He took food, and began to eat in front of us.  It became clear–it really was Jesus.

The realization of what was going on gradually settled on us, and He proceeded again to teach us from the Scriptures how it was necessary for Him–the Messiah–to die and to rise from the dead the 3rd day, and that as a result, repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

This was not the last we saw of Him.  During the following days and weeks, He showed Himself on many occasions–once to over 500 of us at once.  And yes, I was there in Bethany when He ascended into Heaven.

Well, that is my story.  What is important is not that I was Jesus’ uncle.  And no, it is not important at all that you remember me–except in that you remember me as one who can affirm first-hand that Jesus is alive.  I saw Him…I touched Him…I talked with Him and ate with Him.  He is risen–just as He said.

Listen, the faith that is proclaimed here in the Blog is a well-founded one.  The Great Object of our faith is not a good man who spoke well and did nice things–and who died.  The great Object of our faith is the Lord from Heaven who came, lived among us, died for us, and lives again as our faithful and eternal high priest and King.

If the faith you profess for salvation is founded in Jesus, you rest in good hands.

My Name Is “Cleo” – Part Two of Three

Oh, I tell you, as that message gradually began to sink into my heart I was more and more thrilled by it.  This is just what I needed–and I knew it.  I had often thought that for all my religious heritage and involvement I was still a sinner.  And how to be accepted before the Holy God I thought must be impossible.  And as to how to fix that problem I was completely in the dark–until I heard Jesus preach the acceptable year of the Lord.  I came to see that God would have me not for what I had done–for that would never be enough.  Rather, He would accept me for what Jesus would do for me.  And I learned that by simply believing in Him I could be righteous before God–however I may have violated the law at so many points.

But you must understand–what message was music to my ears was heresy to the religious establishment.  Their whole boast was in the law–because they had it, they felt they were safe.  And so as a result of what they perceived to be Jesus’ repudiation of the law of Moses, they hated Him.  So intense was their hatred that they wanted nothing more than to see Him dead.  You have to understand–they believed that they were being true to God and to His law.  But when Jesus began to show them from their own Scriptures that they had perverted its teaching, and when they could not show that He was wrong–they had only two choices:  they could agree with Him and so take Him as their Messiah, or they could silence Him.  And human pride being what it always is, the chose the latter.

Often they would carefully prepare a debate, send their chosen spokesman to corner Jesus in a clever argument, to discredit Him before the crowds.  Time and again they returned having had their own argument turned back at them and explode in their hands.  Jesus’ insight into the law was profound, and it was precise.

5602190981_a65be65fb8Meanwhile there was His growing popularity among the masses–not that they all saw clearly the spiritual nature of His mission, they didn’t–but there was growing excitement about Him all throughout Judea.  In fact, only a few days before His death, as Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a young donkey, the crowds were larger than ever, and they were beside themselves with excitement.  And they all were shouting as Jesus rode by,  “Hail, Son of David!  Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Glory in the highest!”

Here Jesus was finally being rightfully received as Messiah.  For all of us this was the greatest day of our lives–all of us, that is, except for Jesus.  He saw through it all as a selfish desire for mere political freedom, and that without any regard for deliverance from sin.

But still this was simply too much for the religious heavy-weights to tolerate.  Jesus just had to be stopped before things got any worse.  And so in the most awful miscarriage of justice in history, they bought off Judas Iscariot, one of the 12, who agreed to identify Jesus as one guilty of teaching blasphemy.  The arrest, the interrogations–from Caiaphas to Pilate to Herod and back to Pilate–in it all, His innocence was clear, but because of the great stir created by the religious leaders, Pilate–who admitted publicly that he could find nothing in Jesus worthy of punishment–ordered Him whipped.  But that was not enough.  They wanted Him dead.  And death they demanded.  “He claimed to be a king!  He is then a rival to Caesar!  And if you do not crucify Him we’ll make sure Caesar knows of your complicity with treason!”

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From The Passion of Christ

So finally, Pilate had Jesus crucified.  Crucifixion was one awful way to die and one horrendous thing to witness.  Bleeding already from the whipping he had received He was forced to carry His own cross outside the gate and up the hill called Golgotha.  Laid across the beams, His hands and feet were fixed in placed with huge spikes nailed into the rough-hewn wood.  Then He was lifted up and as the cross was dropped into the socket, Jesus’ body settled with a jolt, and all the weight fell hard on those spikes, and His back–already full of gaping wounds–scraping down along the jagged timber.

Standing close by were John, his cousin and most loved disciple; His mother, Mary; Salome, His mother’s sister / His aunt; Mary Magdalene; and my wife, who also is named Mary (we had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover).  I am embarrassed to say that the rest of us were too afraid to be seen there for fear that we might meet a similar fate.  We retreated to Zebedee”s house where John eventually returned also with Mary, Jesus’ mother.  We all were frantically wondering what we should do.  Zebedee and I, however, just had to go back & watch, but we carefully remained on the outskirts of the crowd.

You’ve read the accounts, and I’m sure you are familiar with them.  And reading them as one who has also read the following chapters it is difficult for you, I think, to sympathize with us who believed in Jesus then, and who were there to see it all come crashing down.  You have to understand that we hadn’t read those next chapters.  For us, precisely everything we believed was being made a lie.  Never mind that we had given the last several years of our lives to what seemed now, to be a lost cause; all of our hopes and assurances for eternity and fellowship with God we had pinned to Him.  We had learned to speak to Him with new confidence–because simply by our association with Jesus we had been assured of Divine favor.  But if God would, after all He had done, abandon Him like this, then it was clear that all of our hopes had been displaced.  And we were left to that dilemma of sin and guilt which we had faced before He ever came along.

Wile Jesus hung there dead, suddenly a realization came to us that His body would no doubt be taken with that of the two criminals who were crucified with Him and thrown into some Criminal’s common grave–if not perhaps into the Valley of Hinnom, the local dump.  Ironically, it was a man, who up till now was but a secret disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, who asked Pilate for the body and placed it in his own newly cut tomb which was nearby.  Along with Nicodemus, he took the body of Jesus.  My wife and Mary Magdalene followed along also and saw how the body was laid.

Actually, even the things here were not as we would have done.  It was late Friday, and with the Sabbath quickly approaching, they had to hurry the body to its burial–there was no time for the usual washing and anointing with various perfumes.  They agreed to let some new linens suffice–with which they wrapped His body and packed it with dry spices.  The women agreed to return to the tomb at first light following the Sabbath, and complete the burial rites.  Friday evening was an evening I will never forget.  It was pure misery.  We hardly slept a wink for grief.  We cried and cried, and for all our attempts, there was no comfort to be found.  The Sabbath was no better.  All day long we watched one another’s grief continue.  Everything was so wrong.  All that we believed had been dashed.  It seemed that life itself had ended and that hell had come to earth.

Saturday evening, as soon as the Sabbath was ended, I took my wife and Mary Magdalene back to Bethany.  We had family to check on, and we were beside ourselves wondering if our son James was still alive.  We found him there with eight other of the disciples–frightened and full of grief, but physically unharmed and so far unthreatened.

At first sign of light Sunday morning I returned with my wife and with Mary Magdalene to the Zebedee house.  Salome had gone to market to obtain spices, and so the three women went off to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus in burial.

"He is not here!"
“He is not here!”

I waited there with Zebedee and John and Peter for some time.  All of a sudden, we heard a woman’s frantic voice and footsteps fast approaching.  It was Mary Magdalene.  She said that when they arrived at the tomb they found that someone had come and stolen Jesus’ body.  In an instant, Peter and John ran off to see for themselves, but I remained behind.  Then not too much later the other women returned also–my wife and Salome.  They said that after Mary Magdalene left the tomb they went on in and saw empty grave-clothes.  That’s right–empty grave-clothes.  And they said the linens were exactly as they had left them on Friday–only they were empty.  There was no thief–the clothes were undisturbed.  It was as if the body had vanished!  And they said an angel appeared there to them and told them that Jesus had risen, just as He said, and that they should go and tell all the disciples!

But this kind of thing was simply impossible!  And I didn’t believe them.  I couldn’t.  But undaunted, the two went off to fulfill their commission to tell all the disciples.

My Name is “Cleo” – Part One of Three

Several years ago, I was asked to give the morning message at a local church assembly on Resurrection Sunday (“Easter”).  Although I love teaching on God’s Word–and although to teach and speak go together–on this “special day”, I just didn’t know how to present something fresh.

I wanted  something that would “stick” in people’s hearts.  But which of the events of the Resurrection would I convey.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all relay the message of the life, death, burial, and RESURRECTION of Christ Jesus, but with a different emphasis.  Was this idea the answer to my prayers concerning what I would speak about on THIS Sunday?

A BIBLICAL INTRODUCTION:

On the Road to Emmaus
On the Road to Emmaus

As I continued to READ & STUDY in God’s Word, I kept coming back to the account that Luke wrote about (Luke 24:13-32), about a disciple [follower of Jesus] by the name of Cleopas [(Ancient Greek) – KLEOPATROS; (Biblical Greek) – KLEOPAS; Pronounced in English; KLEE-a-pas].  I decided to just call him “Cleo”, for short.

An Empty Tomb Was Discovered–

The tomb was empty on the first day of the week, when early in the morning the women had gone to the tomb with spices in burial preparation as was the custom.

But when they arrived, they found the stone that was blocking the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away.  The tomb that their Master and Teacher had been placed three days ago…was now EMPTY!

And as they entered the tomb, perplexed and wondering what had happen to Jesus’ body, two men in dazzling raiment suddenly stood beside them (Luke 24:4).

The men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among those who are dead?  He [JESUS] is not here, but has risen from the dead.”

Now On That Very Day…

“Two disciples were going to a village called Emmaus [which is] seven miles from Jerusalem”  (Luke 24:13).

One of those DISCIPLES is directly known as Cleopas (Luke 24:18).

I discovered in my investigation that many Bible scholars assume that Cleopas is another spelling for Clopas.  If so, his wife was Mary (John 19:25); he was the father of James and Joses (Mark 15:40); and he was also called Alphaeus (Mark 3:10).  The other disciple walking with Cleopas isn’t named.  Some Bible Detectives wonder if it might have been Luke, since there is a tendency for the Gospel writers not to refer to themselves by name in their own account.

All that said, I decided to give a dramatic reading of An Easter Sermon by Fred G. Zaspel, dressed in a period costume.  So in keeping with Scripture and…with a modern take, the following is the presentation I entitled: “My Name is Cleo”.

I suppose I should begin by introducing myself.  My name is Cleo.  Cleo Davidson.  You have probably heard of me on occasion–Luke mentions me once in his gospel account by my proper name, Cleopas.  But I doubt that you know very much about me.  I tell you what, though, when it comes to JESUS and His Resurrection, I have more to say than most anyone else you could want to meet.

Let me tell you a little about myself.  Actually, you have read more about me than you probably know.  Luke is not the only Biblical writer to mention my name.  John also mentions me as the husband of one of the women named “Mary” standing near the cross.  My given name was Chalphai in Aramaic.  In Greek that can be translated as either Clopas or Halphaios–which in Latin is Alphaeus.  That, you may remember, is the name given as the father of James in all four of the lists of 12 disciples in the NT–“James the Less/younger,” Mark 15:40; not to be confused with the older James of Zebedee, Jesus’ cousin on His mother’s side.

But you see, if people would just learn to read more closely to the details, they would find that I am not such an insignificant nobody after all!  I am the father of one of the 12 apostles.  I am the husband of one of the women who stood near the cross–and who went early that Sunday morning in Jesus’ tomb.  My family was at the very heart of the circle of Jesus’ followers throughout his ministry and up to the very end.

In fact, you may be interested to know that my acquaintance with Jesus is much closer still.  A few of you may have read Eusebius, the fourth century church historian.  Why, neither Matthew, Mark, Luke, nor John record this, I’ll never know–but Eusebius preserves the information that I am the brother of Joseph of Nazareth–Jesus’ legal father.  Jesus, you see, was my nephew–“Uncle Cleo” He used to call me.  Mu acquaintance with Jesus goes back as far as His very birth–although then, I must admit, I had real questions as to why my brother Joseph would marry a pregnant woman–his sense of justice and all.

I grew up in Bethlehem, but for some years my wife and I had made our home in Emmaus, a quiet, little village about seven miles from Jerusalem.  As Jesus grew, we of course were very interested in His progress and development.  He was a perfect child, always so obedient to His parents.  He never did anything to show them any disrespect whatever.  Although He would puzzle them at times–like that time when He was about 12 up at the Temple in Jerusalem–telling them that He did not go along with them (his parents) because He had to be about “His father’s business.”  Those kind of things were always very puzzling.  But under Joseph’s instruction we saw Him develop His skills as a Carpenter.  He was a good one–always accurate to the mark and ever creative.  No dresser drawer of His making ever hung.  And no table ever wobbled.  And He could make yoke for oxen which fit so comfortably and so well.  In fact He became know in the area as “the carpenter.”  Joseph was proud of Him–and so were we.

From His birth onward, it became increasingly evident that Jesus was different.  Oh, I don’t mean He looked any different or that He played any different as a child or would have stood out as any different on the playground–not at all.  It was just that He was perfectly exceptional.  And when as a man He began to teach it was evident that He Himself believed that He was more than just a man among others.

To verify that very point Jesus went about working all kinds of miracles.  He healed more people than I can count–some of whom, in fact, were people whose illnesses were congenital.  He freed people who long had been possessed of demons.  He even raised the dead!  There was simply no limit to His abilities–and everyone who watched Him recognized it.

One day–it was the Sabbath–Jesus sat in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth.  By now there was considerable talk about Him all over the region.  And as He sat to teach in the Synagogue that day, He took the Isaiah scroll and rolled it until He came to what you call chapter 61.  Everyone’s eyes were fastened on Him as He read:  The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.

Then He added, “This day this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

I wasn’t there to hear Him that day myself, but everyone was talking about it–the atmosphere was absolutely electric.  Here He claimed in unequivocal terms that He was Israel’s Messiah–sent of God to bring blessing to His people.

And in His preaching He turned the accepted religious of the day on its head.  He spoke of a Pharisee & Publican, for example–a model of virtue vs. the epitome of vice.  Yet at the end of the story it was that Publican and not the Pharisee who simply casting himself on God’s mercy went to his house justified–and that without any righteousness of his own to show thru keeping the law.

He spoke of Laborers in a Vineyard who all received the same wage–a denarius–however long they had worked–whether 12 hours or one.  His point seemed to be that God’s love is not parceled out in quantities proportionate to individual merit.  There is a 12th part of denarius–a pondion we called it.  But what He emphasized is that there is no such thing as a 12th part of God’s love, and that salvation is as full as it is free.

He spoke of Two Debtors–one who owed a large sum of money and the other a relatively small amount.  But in that neither could pay their debt, the creditor frankly forgave them both.  And again we were left with the clear impression that the Salvation He had come to bring was not sufficient only for so many sins or for some kind of sins–but that by Him we could receive full pardon for all our sins, and that without cost to us!

He spoke of the Prodigal Son who defied his father and disgraced his family.  And coming home he begins that carefully prepared speech that a wandering son feels that he must make–asking if he could just become his father’s servant.  But the father would hear nothing of it.  He didn’t say, “OK, but from here on you must prove yourself by…”  Not at all–rather than putting him on probation to see how he would turn out the father went to pains to assure his returning son of his complete acceptance–that in perfect grace he could be accepted and enjoy all the benefits of family life.

And at times His teaching was more direct still.  On one occasion He simply said boldly that if there was anyone at all who was burdened with sin and chafing under its sense of guilt, if they would but come to Him He would give them rest in a peaceful assurance of Divine favor.

Throughout His entire ministry there was that theme–that announcement that God’s salvation was freely available thru Him.  That God demanded precisely nothing but that the sinner recognize his need of grace and to find it go to Jesus.  The law, He taught, while it was entirely righteous and good, could not do by itself–it merely showed what was required and wherein the sinner had failed.  It made no provision for the sinners rescue.  But over and over again, He insisted that He was the bread of life, the water of life, the light of the world, the way, the truth, the life.  That He had come to graciously provide for sinners what they could never do on their own.

And in His preaching He turned the accepted religious thinking of  the day on its head.  He spoke of a Pharisee & Publican, for example–a model of virtue vs. the epitome of vice.  Yet at the end of the story it was that Publican and not the Pharisee who simply casting Himself on God’s mercy went to his house justified–and that without any righteousness of his own to show thru keeping the law.

HEARTS OF STONE REVEALED

“Does GOD Have A Bad Memory?”

After my last Blog-post (Plugging Into the “Eternal”!),  regarding the question “Can a Christian lose their salvation?”, another question then arose:  “ISN’T THERE A BIBLE VERSE ABOUT THE “UNPARDONABLE SIN?”  So here we are once more, attempting to answer an often misunderstood and questioned verse in Scripture.

The “BUT’s” In Two Bible verses Matthew 12:31,32 AMP.

JESUS says,  [31] “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy (every evil, abusive, injurious speaking, or indignity against sacred things) can be forgiven men, BUT blasphemy against the [Holy] Spirit shall not and cannot be forgiven.

[32] And whoever speaks against the Son of Man will be forgiven,  BUT whoever speaks against the Spirit, the Holy One, will not be forgiven, either in this world and age or in the world and age to come.”

Don’t you just love it, when someone uses the word “but” in a sentence?  “I know I told you that I could do [such and such], BUT…something has come up and I can’t attend.”

The Online Dictionary defines the word But – used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned.”

I capitalized and bold typed the word “but” in Matthew 12:31, 32 for this purpose–Jesus made a declaration, then introduces something contrasting to what was said.

The Scene That Precedes These Words of Jesus: Matthew 12:22-30

A man who was both blind & mute has just been healed.  Matthew tells us that the man was also possessed by a demon and that Jesus ordered the demon out of him.  Once the demon left, the man was able to see & speak.

This should have been a time for great rejoicing, because the man could see the faces of loved ones and friends.  He could now see the sunrise and sunsets and all the beauties of nature.

BUT…it wasn’t a time of celebration for everyone for the hard-hearted Pharisees were upset by what Jesus had done.  They couldn’t deny His miracle, but they could attempt to explain it away.

So they said,  “This Man drives out demons only by and with the help of Beelzebub, the prince of demons” (Matt. 12:24).

Then JESUS responds to them by saying they should have learned by now that JESUS isn’t a good one to challenge to a debate.  He always won!

This time is no different, and JESUS makes some solid arguments in His behalf.  He says, “If Satan drives out Satan, he has become divided against himself and disunified; how then will his kingdom last or continue to stand?” (Matt. 12:26).

Then JESUS Issues A Warning!

Matthew 12:32:  Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,  but whoever speaks against the Holy One, will not be forgiven, either in this world and age or in the world and age to come.”

JESUS is saying here that the SIN against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, not because the Holy Spirit is greater than the Father…greater than the Son, but because the Holy Spirit is later than the Father and Son.

WHAT IS THE “UNPARDONABLE SIN” OF WHICH JESUS WARNS?

At the time that JESUS was speaking, the Jews had their own teaching about the Holy Spirit.  According to Jewish teaching, the Holy Spirit had two supreme functions:

#1.  Holy Spirit brought God’s truth to men and women; the Holy Spirit was God’s instrument in helping us come to know God’s will for us.

#2.  Holy spirit enabled men and women to recognize and understand God’s TRUTH when they saw it.  The Holy Spirit works upon the heart & minds of man.

So, man needs the Holy Spirit to receive and recognize God’s TRUTH.  Putting it another way, Holy Spirit is working on us to BELIEVE in Jesus Christ, to bring us to accept Him, our Savior & Lord.

An important principle we can’t forget!  “What you don’t use, you lose!”  

This is so true in almost every area of our lives.

TRUE PHYSICALLY – Failing to use and exercise certain muscles (how well I know this principle), will weaken and become unusable.

TRUE MENTALLY – What we’ve learned in school years ago is forgotten because we haven’t used them in years [ex. foreign languages, conjugating verbs, etc].  The knowledge we once had has long since gone because we did not exercise and make use of it.

The Pharisee’s Heart and Minds.

We can also lose the ability to be moved or changed by God’s goodness & truth when Holy Spirit presents it to us.  This is the STAGE to which these particular Pharisees had come.

1.  The Pharisees know the Scripture (But still lost-not saved!).

2.  The Pharisees formally prayed in public… often, because that was what man expected them to do.

3.  The Pharisees went to church every time they had the chance (still not righteous).

And yet, they had so long been blind and deaf to God’s guiding hand; insisted on their own way of doing things; they had come to a stage of their lives that they couldn’t recognize God’s truth and goodness when they saw it.  Not even in a MIRACLE!

They could look at God’s goodness and call it Satan’s evil…

They could look at JESUS, the Son of God, and call Him the devil.

Whatever the UNPARDONABLE…UNFORGIVABLE SIN is…it has to do with the idea of A SIN

A SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT–

That is what the Bible says–and the Bible clearly says “every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven” (verse 31).  

So, the “unpardonable sin”  isn’t a kind of sin.  The Bible says any SIN you can name (adultery, murder, the angry fist in god’s face, impatience, lying, cheating, stealing) will be forgiven IF…we come confessing (1 John 1:9).

There are, no “ifs”, “but’s”, or “maybe’s” attached to Jesus’ Promise–

The “unpardonable sin” must be a continual rejection of the Promptings of the Holy Spirit. 

The UNPARDONABLE SIN   is not the first step you take or the second step you take.  BUT when God calls you, and you keep going persistently AGAINST Him, it is possible for the mind to become callused and the heart becomes hardened; you no longer HEAR GOD’S VOICE.

Does all this mean that everybody that denies God’s voice and doesn’t hear His promptings has committed the “unpardonable sin”?  Not at all!

There are many people who don’t listen to God’s voice today, feel that their heart is pretty hard, but at some stage of their life some dramatic event comes into view and they turn to God.

But is it possible, according to God’s Word,  to enter into a STATE OF SIN; you keep on sinning, and sinning, and sinning–habitual sin–your heart turns into stone, not because the Holy Spirit stops calling–He keeps on calling, but you can’t hear anymore!

Something to Remember…

2856407085_ece25fe731If you keep hardening your heart, and you die suddenly [in your sleep, a car accident, etc.], if you’ve hardened your heart up to this point…you have REJECTED the Holy Spirit.

The Final and Complete Rejection–

“Blasphemy” against the Spirit is the final and complete rejection of Jesus Christ.

This SIN is a denial of the Spirit’s message and the rejection of the Lord’s deity.

JESUS made it clear from the beginning that ALL SINS can be forgiven; but God can’t forgive the REJECTION of His Son.

It is the Holy Spirit who bears witness to Christ Jesus and convicts the lost sinner.  When it all come down to it; the ONLY SIN where there is NOT FORGIVENESS, is the SIN for which no forgiveness is wanted!

The Pharisee’s Condition Presented in Matthew 12…

Over time, they hated and hardened their hearts against JESUS, for them there was no turning back.

They witnesses an Awesome Miracle…

They make a Baseless Accusation…

They heard an Undeniable Answer…

BUT, they were GUILTY of the UNFORGIVABLE SIN!

SALVATION is denied them, not because it wasn’t offered, but because they have PERMANENTLY REJECTED the message given by the Holy Spirit.

THE MESSAGE:

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life”  (John 3:16 AMP).

But there is MORE GOOD NEWS!

JESUS came to deliver forgiveness that is available to everyone!

The ever flowing waters of the Well of Life is always available to those who desire to come and quench their thirst.

I always have an old Hymn Book close to my computer to USE for reference in my Blogs.  The lyrics (and the tune) became renewed in studying for this  particular POST:

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Emanuel’s veins;

And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,

Lose all their guilty stains.

If you are reading this Blog-post and there are SINS ON YOUR HEART–if you have been considering the Gospel–then don’t put it off another minute!  Each time you hear an invitation and don’t respond, your heart grows a little harder.  As long as the Gospel of Jesus has an effect on your heart, there is still hope.

 

Plugging Into the “ETERNAL”!

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Receiving the POWER

BLOG-TEXT — John 10:27-28 AMP:

JESUS is speaking,  “The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me.   And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages.  [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.]  And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand.”

A Recent Conversation…

I often post Scripture verses on Social Media based on my daily bible reading.  A church friend responded to John 10:27-28 in this manner and with his question by stating…

If the question is, can we lose our salvation, I say yes!  It’s a point argued over the ages and good godly people come down on both sides…so, how can we truly know we are SAVED?  I want to be able to stand on the verse that I know I am saved…” ~ [December 31 and January 1st comments.]

John 1:12-13:

[12] Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–  [13] children born not of natural descent, nor human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  [NIV]

Who Are the Children of God?

Not everyone.  A child of God is one who has RECEIVED JESUS as their Savior.  One who has placed their TRUST, through FAITH in Jesus Christ.

In the Book of Acts, Chapter 16,  Paul and Silas find themselves incarcerated in prison.  We find them in the dungeon, fastened by their feet in stocks at about midnight, praying and singing hymns of praise to God when suddenly…an earthquake happened; and all at once all the doors of the prison were opened and everyone’s shackles were unfastened.

I don’t know about you, but if I had been there that night, THAT would certainly get my attention!  And it appears the same effect got the jailer’s attention who was in charge of guarding the prisoners:

“Then [the jailer] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling and terrified he fell down before Paul and Silas.  And he brought them out [of the dungeon] and said,  Men, what is it necessary for me to do that I may be saved?

And they answered,  Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ [give yourself up to Him, take yourself out of your own keeping and entrust yourself into His keeping] and you will be SAVED, [and this applies both to] you and your household as well”  (Acts 16:29-31 AMP).

When dealing with differences of opinion in the world and the church, such as a controversial subject, several questions need to be answered. Over the years of my teaching the Bible, I have found only the Word of God answers their questions with any authority and not mine.

John 1:12-13:

“But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name–[Isa. 56:5.]  Who owe their birth neither to bloods nor to the will of the flesh [that physical impulse] nor to the will of man (that natural father], but to God.  [They are born of God!].”

QUESTION:  “What is SALVATION?”

SALVATION is a spiritual experience and not a physical act of the person:

[3]  “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  [4] “How can a man be born when he is old?”  Nicodemus asked.   “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”  [5] Jesus answered,  “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  [6] Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit”  (John 3:3-6 NIV).

SALVATION Means Deliverance…

SALVATION IS Not deliverance from SIN (to keep yourself from sin requires action on your part).

SALVATION is deliverance from the penalty of sin and the judgement to come.

Who is it that SAVES?  “The saying is sure and true and worthy of full and universal acceptance, that Christ Jesus (the Messiah) came into the world to SAVE SINNERS, of whom I am foremost”  (1 Timothy 1:15 AMP).

The question is NOT  “Can one lose his/her salvation?”  But,  “Have they been saved to start with?”

A person can know…be sure of their salvation because of the reasons given about salvation found in the Bible.

SALVATION IS PERMANENT!

The words used to refer to “permanence” are…

The Word “ETERNAL” – John 3:15.

“ETERNAL” is indeterminate as to duration.

The Word “EVERLASTING” – John 3:16.

From the moment you “PLUG INTO the “eternal”!, life is “everlastingly” yours!  We LIVE in and through Jesus Christ in the “right now!”:

“And this is that testimony (that evidence):  God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son”  (1 John 5:11).

JESUS GIVES LIFE and…He maintains it and as long as He lives, we live.  When our life expires, the life in us from Jesus lives on!

JESUS’ DECLARATION–HE WILL NOT LOSE ONE!

John 10:28, 29 AMP:

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or *perish throughout the ages.  [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.]  And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand.

My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all [else]; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand.

GREEK– po/llumi – “perish” (verse 28):

To destroy utterly, to kill, to bring to naught, make void, to lose, be deprived of, to be destroyed, perish, to be put to death, to die, to be lost, to stray.

John 11:26 AMP:

And whoever continues to live and believes in (has faith in, cleaves to, and relies on) Me shall never [actually] *die at all.  Do you believe this?

GREEK — poganh – “die” : 

DEATH of final condemnation, utter separation.

GOD DOESN’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH VOCABULARY–

If language means anything at all, and if our God doesn’t have a problem with our vocabulary…you can’t walk away from our Scripture verses in John 10:27-28 without saying…“I’m not only SAVED, I’m SECURE!”

When God SAVED you, He gave you the GIFT of eternal life.  The word “give” = freely bestowed, impossible to earn.  If you have to work for something, it’s NOT a GIFT.

The English language is clear enough, but if we were Greek and spoke the language of the Bible as originally written, it would be even clearer.

In the Greek, John 10:28, 29, we see Jesus using the word “GIVE”.

In the Greek, “give” = freely bestowed, impossible to earn.  When GOD SAVED you, He gave you the GIFT of eternal life.  If you have to work for something, then it is not a GIFT.

JESUS SAYS, “SALVATION IS EVERLASTING–ETERNAL!”  

If our SALVATION is only “temporary”, doesn’t last forever, then it wasn’t “everlasting” now, was it?  And if it doesn’t last forever, then GOD is a liar, or very weak vocabulary, and no disrespect…but I could throw away these all these verses in the face of GOD, if I could lose my SALVATION.

Jesus Died For Us Once for All!

JESUS said, “IT IS FINISHED!” and that’s just what He meant.  If we are SAVED often, JESUS must be SACRIFICED often.

“And in accordance with this will [of God], we have been made holy (consecrated and sanctified) through the offering made once for all of the body of Jesus Christ (the anointed One)”  (Hebrews 10:10 AMP).

It is the Lord who keeps us, therefore there is no separation.

“…I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day”  (2 Timothy 1:12 b. NIV).

We are KEPT by the power of God.

1 Peter 1:3-5 New American Standard:

[3] “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

[4] to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

[5] who are protected by THE POWER OF GOD through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 

We are SEALED by the Holy Spirit.

“In Him you also who have heard the Word of Truth, the glad tidings (Gospel) of your salvation, and have believed in and adhered to and relied on Him, were stamped with the seal of the long-promised Holy Spirit”  (Ephesians 1:13 AMP).

ADDRESSING THE QUESTION:

The question is NOT “Can a person LOSE their salvation?” but, “Have they ever been SAVED to begin with?”

You might ask, “What happens when a child of God [“child of God” already explained] does sin?”

“You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons, For what son (child) is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline?”  (Hebrews 12:7 AMP).

Plugging Into the “Eternal'”!

I’ve tried to answer the question,  “Can we lose our salvation?”  NOT by plugging into “hybrid”…the thoughts of man or *“Hybrid Christianity”; where there is a mixture of thoughts.

The title, “Plugging Into the ‘ETERNAL! is to demonstrate our FAITH, our confidence, coming from the POWER of trusting in God’s Word about our SALVATION!

*Oak Hill’s Ministries defines “Hybrid Christianity” as “a form or type of religion that calls itself Christianity, but is NOT derived from JESUS CHRIST–which liberally uses His name, adopts or claims much of His Word -but- then mixes the traditions of man and man’s reasoning.”

The ANSWER to The Question IS: Placing Your FAITH in Christ for Your Salvation, Not Yourself–

FAITH is the practical expression of the confidence in God and His Word (Hebrews 11:1).