Caught Up to Heaven [TWO-PART SERIES]

PART TWO – LEADING UP TO OUR FINAL DESTINATION

PAUL’S BURDEN OF PROOF – 2 Corinthians 12:1-6

Paul speaks from experience that there are events that follow our physical death.  The burden is to prepare us, not for DEATH, but for the events that occur between your dying and your final destination.

WHAT DOES THE WORD OF GOD SAY ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF DEATH AND WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (NIV)

[2] I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.  Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know–God knows.

[3] And I know that this man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows– [4] was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

At death, we sometimes expect great pain, but Jesus says there is none.

When we die we suddenly find ourselves somewhere else (2 Corinthians 12:4).

One of God’s best spokesmen said, knowing that the home we live in on earth is like a “tent” and is destroyed or dissolved at death, and we have a building, a house, that God is building, an eternal house not made with hands. [2 Corinthians 5:1]

So you won’t stay around and “haunt” anything after death!

We are conscious after death (2 Corinthians 12:2 (b). ).

Although Paul’s related experience isn’t from his DEATH, most probably from a near-death experience fourteen years earlier.  In Acts 7:55-56, we read of Stephen’s reaction to his soon to be death from stoning:

[55] But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. [56] “Look.” he said, “I see haven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  [NIV]

I want you to know that not only are we conscious after we die, but we are even more conscious!

Here are some arguments from Paul as to why we are more conscious than before.

  1. He saw, heard and experienced amazing things.
  2. His mental ability was so acute that he was able to compare this new life with what he just left.
  3. His new consciousness knew things from his former one that he couldn’t communicate.

Something in this place of existence in the third heaven forbade him to tell what he saw.

We stand before God and face judgment

Hebrews 9:27 says we are ALL “appointed once to die and after that the [certain] judgment (AMP),

There are several judgments mentioned in the Bible and I don’t want to take a detour here, so I’ll leave it at that.  When you die, you are judged,  The names of all the judgments I’ll leave for another blog study.

When you die your eternal fate is forever sealed (Luke 16:19-31). 

 

In this parable told by Jesus, two men died and already at their eternal destinations.  One was in a bad place and one in a good place.  The one in the bad place prayed and asked God to let him leave from the bad place and go to the good one.  God informed him that it was impossible for a great wall had been fixed.

Those who have placed their FAITH & TRUST in Jesus will never be away from His presence.

Romans 8:38, 39 (NIV) – “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

UNIQUELY TOUCHED

Paul has told us this incident he describes in 2 Corinthians 12, shows that he had been uniquely touched by God.  Through his vision, we learned that PARADISE isn’t a shadowy waiting-room, but the euphoric place of unspeakable glory!  Its GLORY is that of the ultimate heavenly glory, which is the glory of the Presence of the Son of God (Rev. 1:9 ff, 22:1 ff).  

Therein PARADISE, the Third Heaven, the souls of the saints (Christians) are home with Christ, the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), where they’re beyond the reach of sin.  Without fear of being driven out as happened in the first Paradise.  There they await the crowning consummation of their redemption, the union of souls and their resurrection body when the New Heaven and the New Earth will be introduced and all of God’s purposes in creation complete and eternally fulfilled.

In this TWO PART SERIES, there’s something I want to leave with my readers:

The LAST ENEMY to be destroyed is DEATH (1 Corinthians 15:26).

The 23rd Psalm

THE LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.  [2] He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters. [Rev. 7:17.]  [3] He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness  [uprightness and right standing with Him–not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.  [4] Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me;  Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide],  they comfort me.  [5] You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over.  [6] Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days, the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place. [AMP]

There’s also something I want you to do:

Never again FEAR DEATH if you’re a committed Christ follower.  If you are not yet a follower make it ASAP.

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CREDITS:

PHOTO/IMAGES:  Google Image Search.

Bible Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary by W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), Amplified Bible (AMP), Contemporary English Version (CEV), New King James Version (NKJV).

 

Eternal Security GUARANTEED!

At the core of every human being is the desire to be APPROVED–to be liked.  Our self-esteem is often set by the opinions of others around us.  And from those opinions, so many of us feel bad about ourselves.  That deep down inside our soul we have a sense of failure–failed either to please those around us, ourselves or our heavenly Father.

The Apostle Paul seems to reinforce our own notions of failure in the first seven chapters of the Book of Romans in the Bible.

In my flesh, that is my old nature, Paul tells us,  “dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:5).

Paul sums it up at the end of the chapter by saying, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24)  Then he answers his own question without taking a breath:  “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25).

So it’s not through our own efforts, through our family line, through our associations or deeds that we receive acceptance–but it’s through the efforts of Jesus Christ on our behalf that we are rescued, cleansed and loved and then empowered and changed by that relationship.

Acceptance Brings Security Forever!

“I DON’T WANT TO GO!  DON’T MAKE ME LEAVE!”

One of the saddest stories I’ve read was about the biological mother of this young boy who had won a bitter legal battle to reclaim her son from his adoptive family.  When she arrived with her lawyer to take him from the only home he had ever known, the terrified 4-year-old little boy pleaded with those he knew as Mommy and Daddy not to give him up to this complete stranger.

“Don’t make me go,” he begged.  “Please, please don’t send me away!”

Without an understanding of the courts, lawyers and legal codes, the boy was removed and left to wonder what he had done to be banished from those who had always said they loved him.

Some Christians live with the terrifying insecurity that in God’s mind lurks a willingness to send them away if they fail or disappoint Him.  Despite their love of God, they fear that God will withdraw His love from them and remove them from His heavenly home forever.

In the Bible, however, God promises His children that once He sets His love on them, we can be secure in that love forever!

The place to begin to understand a believer’s security with God is with God,–for a believer’s security is not rooted in the believer, but in the believer’s God.

The Believer’s Relationship with the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:1 (GNT)

“There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.”

This one verse should be tattooed on everyone’s hand–printed on paper and posted on your fridge, and memorized by every believer.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, how you’ve acted, who you are–how much you think you’ve failed–if you are truly in Christ, you are NOT condemned anymore.  Think about that, let it settle in.

God isn’t sitting in heaven with a big hammer in His hand, waiting for you to mess up so He can whap you on the head.  That’s hard for us to accept–quick to judge ourselves–so Paul goes on to tell us why this is a reality.

Romans 8:2-4 (AMP)

[2]  For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and death.

[3]  For God has done what the law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh [the entire nature of man without the Holy Slirit].  Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice].  [Lev. 7:37]

[4]  So that the righteous and just requirement of the Law might be fully met in us who live and move not in the ways of the flesh but in the ways of the Spirit [our lives governed not by the standards and according to the dictates of the flesh, but controlled by the Holy Spirit].

We are under a new authority–jurisdiction now–it’s like when you leave your residing country, you are no longer under your country’s laws, but the law of whatever country you go to.

By believing in Jesus Christ, you left the country called “the world” and have joined God’s kingdom–and are now under a new law–a law called “the law of the Spirit of life.”

So, in Christ, we are not condemned because we’ve been set free–[in verses 1-4]. 

Set free from what?

Romans 8:5-8

So set your mind on the Spirit–

That’s easier said than done–but it’s important to see the distinction.  I think one of Paul’s points is that we have been empowered and set free–the chains have been broken–so we can now choose which mind will control us.

Before I was a Christian my sinful nature controlled my mind.  There was a little tract being passed around at the time by the Billy Graham organization during his Crusades around the country called “Have you heard of the Spirit-filled life?”  Inside it showed the life of a person who doesn’t have Jesus–priorities, hope. actions–all out of whack with no order or purpose.  We are controlled–either by the sin nature or by the spirit nature–the Spirit of God.

A life controlled by Jesus has order and purpose.

The order becomes more evident the more time you spend in the relationship in Christ.  There’s a wonderful promise here in that even though we continue to live in bodies we live with a nature that’s opposed to God–one day our perishable bodies will put on an imperishable nature.  Like Jesus, we will have a perfect, indestructible body without a flesh nature–won’t that be wonderful?

So where then does our loyalty lie?

Romans 8:12-13 (NIV)

[12]  Therefore, brother and sisters, we have an obligation–but it is not to the flesh to live according to it.  [13]  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

We have an obligation Paul says–it’s the idea of owing a debt to someone–like a mortgage to a bank.  God gave us life through the Spirit, so we are in debt to Him, He owns us–it’s a spiritual reality we need to make in an outward reality in our lives.  We are no longer indebted to our sinful nature–in fact, we need to put to death the flesh.  [vs. 12-13]

In our Godly relationship, closeness to God means we lose control but given a new nature (verses 14-17).

There is so much here in the above verses and the main point is this: the fleshly nature leads to death and fear–fear of punishment and condemnation.

But when we come to Christ Jesus, we don’t get condemned and we are welcomed into a special, close relationship.

“Abba” was the cry of a child to its daddy.

Not only that but we are now heirs to God’s riches–and boy does He have riches–not the kind you spend in a store, but the kind you live off of for the rest of eternity!

Also, looking at the end, there’s something to sharing in Christ’s sufferings that’s part of the process of becoming a child of God.  [vs. 17-b]

Look at what Paul says about it:

Having this new relationship with Christ Jesus means we will be changed.  Right now, creation itself has been waiting since the fall of mankind for the day when we receive new bodies.  It hasn’t happened yet–but it’s coming.

In the meantime, “eagerly wait for it with perseverance”, Paul says.

How–when we seem to be in constant battle with the flesh and spirit? 

Keep reading on:

There’s a lot of theology in these verses–“predestination and foreknowledge”–commentary, books, etc..

It’s at the bottom of an argument between Calvinism and Arminianism:

Calvinist believe God chose who He was going to save and we had little to do with it.  Armenians believe that we chose God and God had little to do with it,  My position, like a few others, is in the middle–I believe God knew beforehand those that would choose Him and so predestined them–that there is a balance between actions of God and actions on man when it comes to salvation.  What I want to focus on here is in verse 28.

Do people really believe this?  A more literal way to translate this would be:

“to them that love God, all things work together for good according to His [not our] purpose.”

In that case, this Scripture is true:

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness.  Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Once that repentance happens, ALL THINGS work together for good.

The word, “work together” is a good one–it’s where we get the word synergy.  

Synergy is where more than one thing works together well–“the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  [Dictionary.com]

An isolated event in ones’ life might seem bad at the time–like my visit to the hospital for four days last January from an acute respiratory infection.  But because my illness brought me to a hospital bed, I was able to share and comfort the hospital chaplain intern who came to tears sitting in a chair next to my bed over a rebellious daughter who was living in sin.  Through my sickness, God gave me the wisdom and confidence to be of some comfort.  It “worked together for good”

The word “good” means:  “BENEFIT”.  It’s not “good” like “virtue.”  

God isn’t saying “well you’re going to suffer but it’s a good thing to suffer.”  “No pain, no gain!”

There’s an actual benefit that God works through circumstances–yes there will be pain and suffering at times, but know that part of this relationship we have with Jesus means in the end, God will work even the bad to our benefit.

Now we might not see that benefit till we get to heaven–and that leads to Paul’s final major point in this chapter:

Belonging to God’s family means facing death, but receiving a rich inheritance.

God is on our side and we need fear no enemy–losing our job or sickness, or hardship or even death and taxes.

What a wonderful picture God is building–accepted into a new family (the family of God).  For ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD,  and God, who was our enemy, is now on our side–but it gets better!

Romans 8:37 (NIV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

So we can CONQUER in God.

The base word for “conquer” means “a means of success.”  Not only that but it’s a “super success.”  An individual, a group of people, can’t be a “conqueror” and be a failure at the same time.

Sin no longer has mastery, trials no longer hold terror, life is no longer something to be dreaded…BECAUSE we ARE conquerors.

Now that doesn’t mean we are free from suffering and pain, BUT we are always connected to the One who works for our benefit–NO MATTER WHAT!

Paul puts the cap on this wonderful chapter of promises with this:

What more could we ask for that “nothing can separate us from God’s love” (vs. 38-39).

God so wants to convince His children that His eternality of His love for them that He devotes an entire chapter in His Word (Psalm 136) in which every one of the 26 verses repeats the PROMISE:

“His steadfast love endures forever.”

And so, if He ever stopped loving a believer in Christ Jesus, He would be lying about His LOVE of being “steadfast” and “forever.”  If God ever allowed anything to separate one believer from His love, He would be a liar.

What great confidence we have then,  There’s no one, nothing, no event, and at no time that you can be torn from God’s loves in Jesus.  There’s no reason to say, “Oh, God can’t love me anymore after what I’ve done.”

Oh yes, He can and does!    Far from separating from you, He wants to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).

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~ CREDITS ~

Commentary:  Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc., “Secure Forever” by Donald S. Whitney.

Bible Translations:  Good News Translation (GNT); New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV). Amplified Bible (AMP).

Images:  Google Image search.

JUDGMENT Is Good! (Part Two in Series)

In this continued study, we’ll look at Micah’s second message as presented in Micah 3:1-5:15

JUDGMENT HAPPENS BEFORE REVIVAL

Just a brief review of Micah, the man.

  • His name means, “Who is like Jehovah?”
  • He was from Moresheth-Gath, 20-25 miles SW of Jerusalem.
  • He was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah.

MICAH the book…

  • The prophecies that occurred in the book were around 735-700 B.C.
  •  The Prophecies were directed both to Israel and Judah.
  •  The general theme appears to be “present judgment, with the blessing that follows.
  •  The JUDGMENT pronounced by God through the Prophet upon Israel and Judah found in Micah 1:2-16; 2:1-13.

In Part Two of this series, we’ll look at Micah’s second message as presented in Micah 3:1-5:15.  This second message has much more to say about the future hope, especially regarding the Messiah–Jesus Christ.

But it begins with God’s condemnation of Israel’s leaders (Micah 3:1-3)

The INDICTMENT of Civil Leaders:

  • They HATE good and LOVE evil.
  •  They consume the people (i.e., ‘oppress them’).

The JUDGMENT to befall them in Micah 3:4:

[4]  Then they will cry out to the LORD, but He will not answer them.  At that time He will hide His face from them because of the evil they have done  (NIV).

This was one example of God’s judgment against corrupt leaders.  When they cried out for God’s help, the LORD would remain silent.  One aspect of The Blessing (different from ‘a blessing’) promised by the priests of Israel was asked the LORD to make His face shine upon you (Numbers 6:25).  Here, Micah promised the opposite of this Blessing–that God would even hide His face from them.

Israel’s Religious Leaders aren’t ignored either!

The judgment to come upon the false prophets (Micah 3:5-7) was to come because they lead God’s people off course and away from God’s Word.  With no vision, they shall be made ashamed!

This action by our religious leaders of today; from the pulpits across the land spewing false doctrine will receive judgment as well.

Micah’s Own Ministry contrasted to that of the False Prophets of his day (Micah 3:8).

Micah finds himself full of the power of the Spirit, justice, and might and declaring the transgressions and sin of Israel.  Without the empowerment, he just becomes another critical church member.

Micah gets specific in his indictment of Israel’s leaders and addresses once more the rulers of Israel, their sins being categorized (Micah 3:9-11).

  • They abhor justice and pervert equity (fairness).
  • They build up Jerusalem with bloodshed and iniquity.

Whether judges, priests, or prophets, they do what they do only for the money, ignoring their claim to trust in the LORD.

And because of their misguidance, judgment comes upon Israel because of them (Micah 3:12).

“Therefore shall Zion on your account be plowed like a field.  Jerusalem shall become heaps [of ruins], and the mountain of the house [of the Lord] like a densely wooded height.”  (AMP)

[This prophecy of Micah was fulfilled when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (c.f., 2 Chronicles 36:17-21).  But his message isn’t finished; as ominous as it was in proclaiming the coming judgment, Micah now continues with a glimpse into the future]

The Future of Zion and the Messianic Hope!

A GLIMPSE AT WHAT WILL HAPPEN “IN THE LAST DAYS”

  • The “mountain of the Lord’s temple” is established and many people will want to be there.  (Mic. 4:1-2)
  • The people will want to learn God’s ways, the word of the Lord will go forth from Jerusalem.  (Mic. 4:2)
  • The LORD will judge nations and there will be peace.  (Mic 4:3)
  • Everyone will be content, walking in the name of the LORD forever!  (Mic. 4:4-5)

Isaiah had a similar prophecy – (Isa. 2:1-4).

FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY –

Prophecy is much like peeling an onion; it comes with many layers.  In Micah’s prophecy, the fulfillment is layered.

Some believe it is all yet to come (e.g., premillennialists).

Some believe it is all past (e.g., some amillennialists).

Me personally?  I believe there is past, present, and future elements.

It began in Jerusalem preaching the gospel on Pentecost.  For Peter identifies the events of that day as beginning the fulfillment of what would occur in the “last days”  [cf. Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-17].

For Jesus said the gospel would go forth from Jerusalem as prophesied [Lk. 24:46-47; cf. Mic. 4:2; Isa. 2:3].

The “judging among many people” may be both in the present and in the future.

The book of Revelation reveals the Lord as judging the present and in the future – [cf. Re. 1:5; 2:26-27; 17:14; 20:11-15].

Peter viewed some of Isaiah’s prophecies as yet to be fulfilled – [ 2 Pe. 3:13; cf. Isa. 64:17-19; 66:22].

Therefore Micah 4:3-5 may find some of its fulfillment in the eternal destiny of the redeemed, part of the “New Jerusalem” of the “new heaven and new earth” as described in Revelation 21-22.

As Micah continues, he describes what will occur “in that day” – Mic. 4:6-8

The Lord will assemble a remnant of those He afflicted.

Romans 11:5 (AMP) – “So too at the present time there is a remnant (a small believing minority), selected (chosen) by grace (by God’s unmerited favor and graciousness).”

He will reign over them forever – [cf. Lk. 1:30-33].

The fulfillment of this prophecy, I understand, began with the first coming of Christ and that the church is a spiritual kingdom in which the “former dominion” of Israel has been restored and given to Jesus who reigns in heaven.  [Cf. Mt. 28:18; Ac. 1:6-8; 2:30-36; Re. 1:5; 2:26-27; 3:21].

The Coming Messiah

In Micah 5:2 we find the prophecy of the Messiah’s birthplace [cf. Mt. 2:1-6] some 700 years before the birth of Jesus in a small village called Bethlehem.

The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrata–He would become the ruler of Israel [Cf. Isa. 9:6-7; Lk. 1:30-33].

His “goings forth have been from old, from everlasting” [Cf. John 1:1-3].

The Messiah will lead His people in peace [Micah 5:3-5 a.].

Though first, they (Israel) must be given up for a short time (Babylonian captivity).  Then a remnant shall return when the Ruler shall feed them in the strength of the Lord.

Further Judgment On Israel and Her Enemies

Some take this section to be Messianic.  I tend to take it as pertaining to Micah’s day and those who followed shortly after…

The Assyrian threat is proved to be no real threat for Judah – [Mic 5:5 b. -6; cf. Isa. 36-37].

When the remnant is scattered (as a result of Babylonian captivity), they shall be a lion among the flocks of sheep – [Mic. 5:7-9; (e.g., Daniel, Esther?).].

God would cut off her false strengths (such as horses and chariots), [Cf. Isa. 31:1]  and her idolatry – Mic. 5:10-15.

Future Blessings

With the recurrent theme of his messages (judgment now/future blessings), Micah’s purpose appears to be two-fold…to warn the people that they may repent as necessary…and to encourage the people that their HOPE for the future might help them to endure in the hard times to come.

A similar two-fold message is found in the New Testament as well…warnings to persevere lest we fall away – [Hebrews 4:1, 11].  Promises to encourage us for whatever lies ahead – [e.g., 2 Peter 3:13-14].

In Today’s World…

Today, we have an advantage over the Israelites of Micah’s day…we’ve already seen much of his prophecy fulfilled in the first coming of the Messiah.

As Peter wrote, “We also have the prophetic word made more sure”  (2 Peter 1:9).  Made surer by virtue of its fulfillment, it can serve to comfort us and strengthen our hope regarding any future promises of God – Cf. Rom. 15:4.

If God kept His promise concerning the first coming of His Son, we can have confidence He will keep His promise concerning His return!

By careful study and consideration of the prophets, both Old Testament and New Testament, our hope for the future is strengthened.

Revelation 22:20 (Contemporary English Version)

The one who has spoken these things says, “I am coming soon!”  So, Lord Jesus, please come soon!

AMEN!

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CREDITS

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP), or as noted in the text.

Photo/Images:  Google Image search–Settings, advanced search.

The Bible Almanac by J.J. Packer, – Merrill C. Tenney – William White Jr. [Thomas Nelson Publishers]

Finding Purpose In Our Lives


How many of us really know who we are and why we are here on earth?  In other words, knowing our purpose in life.

Of course, we all have names and our own personal histories.  We have goals, dreams, and characteristics which we feel gives us our own identity, and these things are certainly to be valued.

But when we think about our reason for being, our personal identity and the meaning of life, do we do so with God and His word in mind?

The letter to Titus lays that challenge before us as we investigate–search and try to understand with help from the Holy Spirit the teaching in this letter.


TITUS 1:1-4 (English Standard Version – ESV)

GREETING

[1]  Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness,  [2]in hope of eternal life, which God who never lies, promised before the ages began  [3]and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

[4] To Titus, my true child in a common faith,

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

AN APOSTLE OF CHRIST –

The word “apostle” is derived from the Greek, stello, “to send” and apo, “from away.”

It became an official term when one was sent off under a commission designating him as one’s personal representatives.  It was used for one who was an envoy or ambassador (a messenger sent on a special mission).

The official title indicates that this pastoral epistle was an official public letter and not simply a private letter  Today it might have been posted in the church program handed at the door before Sunday’s services or put on the church bulletin board in a hallway for everyone to see.

THE SPIRITUAL GIFTING –

Sometimes confused with the Office of Apostle, the office of Apostle was held by a limited number of men chosen by Jesus including the twelve disciples (Mark 3:13-19) and Paul (Romans 11).  The requirements included being a faithful eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry and His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Corinthians 9:1) and being called by Jesus (Galatians 1:1).

The Apostles were given authority by Jesus to do many different things to establish the church, including writing Scripture along with personal miracles (John 14:26; 2 Peter 3:15-16; 2 Corinthians 12:12).

There are no more who hold the specific office of Apostle today, but the GIFT of apostleship continues in a different sense.

Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors), and teachers at His ascension (Ephesians 4:7-12) and these represent a distinct category of apostles.

THE LETTER BEGINS with the author describing himself:

“Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ…”

Besides designating himself as an apostle, Paul begins the epistle by referring to himself as a “slave”.

“SLAVE” [“bondservant”] of God (doulos – Grk.).

Paul here is merely using the basic word for a person who is owned by another person.  He is someone whose will is controlled by the will of another.  He’s one who serves another to the disregard of his/her own interest.

So Paul knows who he is in Christ!  Metaphorically… “one gives himself wholly to another’s will!”

PAUL’S PURPOSE ( 1:1b).

Paul certainly knows who he is in Christ, so he next states the PURPOSE of his servanthood.

Amplified Bible:  “…to stimulate and promote the faith of God’s chosen ones…lead them on to accurate discernment and acquaintance with the Truth which belongs to and harmonizes with and tends to godliness.”

According to the FAITH God’s called out ones [“chosen ones”] is a concept of corresponding to the FAITH that is given to him to be an apostle [God’s choice, not his].  [“chosen”: Mt. 24:22, 24, 31; Mk. 13:20, 22, 27; Lk. 18:7; 2 Tim. 2:10; 1 Pet. 1:1-2, 2:9]

GOD’S CHILDREN HAVE BEEN “CHOSEN” IN CHRIST JESUS!

Called out…chosen before the foundation of the world.

  • to adoption (Eph. 1:4-5)
  • to good works (Eph. 2:10)
  • to conformity to Christ (Rom. 8:29)
  • to eternal glory (Rom. 9:13)
  • to salvation from the delusion of the Anti-Christ (2 Thess. 2:13)

Paul clearly stated the PURPOSE of his apostleship to further the FAITH & KNOWLEDGE of Christ Jesus.

His Spiritual GIFT of APOSTLESHIP was for the FAITH of the chosen; to provide full-knowledge of the Truth that comes from and leads to godliness.

GODLINESS consists of expressions that represent the character of God in everyday living.  Godliness is the natural flow of a life in close relationship with Jesus.

Knowing the TRUTH changes lives from ungodliness to holy lives and God was using Paul to call out a people for Himself (1 Thess. 1:2-10) and to teach them the truth that leads to godly living (1 Tim. 6:3).

The PURPOSE of Paul’s ministry was aimed at both salvation and sanctification [“set apart”, “declare holy”, “purified from sin”.] of God’s people.

God’s PROMISE Revealed!

Verse 2 extends this FAITH & KNOWLEDGE into a PROMISE that brings HOPE of eternal life which God, who doesn’t lie, promised before the beginning of time!

THIS “HOPE” —

This HOPE is an earnest yearning, a confident expectation, and patient waiting, all with an outstretched neck with anticipation of life everlasting!

We have the HOPE in salvation BECAUSE…because God can’t lie!  (1 Sam. 15:29; Heb. 6:18).  He “promised” it before the ages began.  (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:4).

Apparently, LYING was pretty typical of the citizens found on the Island of Crete (Titus 1:12).  Paul made it clear at the start that God doesn’t lie!

The foundation of our FAITH is to trust in God’s character.  And because God is TRUTH, He is the source of truth, He cannot lie.  So the eternal life that God has promised will be ours because He keeps His promises.

PREACHING. TEACHING OF CHRIST BRINGS LIGHT (Verse 3)

The word “manifested” or “brought his word to light” (NASV, NIV) means to make visible that which has been hidden.

The Word of eternal life, how SALVATION OF GRACE had promised before eternity has now come about by Jesus Christ–made flesh (incarnate)–living a perfect life for us, dying for our sins, and being raised from the dead with us.

SALVATION IS NO LONGER HIDDEN!

God reveals His WORD through the proclamation or preaching and this is not the responsibility of just Paul two millennia ago or your pastor/preacher today.  In obedience to God’s commandment, it should be our purpose in life as well.

The content of the gospel message reveals what’s hidden from the natural man.

This LIVING WORD of the Gospel was entrusted to Paul and he committed it to Titus.

Paul knew his purpose in life and the gospel message has been passed down through the ages through believers like you and me.

Are we shinning the Light on the World…sharing the Gospel message of Faith and Godliness to others?

If not, there’s no HOPE of eternal life for those in a despairing dark world.

Paul’s Disciple, Titus (Verse 4) –

[4] To Titus, my true child according to a common (general) faith;  Grace (favor and spiritual blessing) and [heart] peace from God the Father and the Lord Christ Jesus our Savior.  [AMP]

VERSE 4 introduces and blesses Titus, a true child of the faith [AMP].

Paul had shared Christ by his own personal testimony with Titus and by his sharing, Titus accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

The word “TRUE” means legitimately born.  Paul knew Titus was genuinely born again.  [The term may also denote a mentor or a protegé relationship].

The word “COMMON” means “to have in common.”  This FAITH is the possession of all of God’s people and not just a selected few individuals.

Christians in different denominational groups may all wear different labels, but all TRUE BELIEVERS, those who possess the saving faith, all share the same saving faith!  (Jude 3)

There was a definite body of TRUTH depicted in the church (Jude 3)

“…the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints [the faith which is that sum of Christian belief which was delivered verbally to the holy people of God.]”  (AMP)

Any departure from this “common faith” is false teaching and must not be tolerated in the church.

Paul’s blessing upon Titus was “…grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”

GRACE is love in action and springs from the undeserved favor of God upon those who seek Jesus.  It brings salvation then sanctification for those who walk in the Spirit.  [Sanctification is “the state of proper functioning”–to set apart someone or something apart for the use intended by its designer.  To make one holy fro the Greek word hagiasmos.]

GRACE RECEIVED…

GRACE received results in a sense of harmony and well-being, the SHALOM of God.

PEACE binds together whats been separated or broken.  When things are disjointed, separated, no tranquility at work, at home and seemingly, all around us.

GRACE & PEACE together have their source in both the Father and the Son. Titus is thus BLESSED with unmerited favor with unshakable PEACE!  This BLESSING is for Titus AND…those who serve God in sharing His Truth with the gospel message.

We are given God’s PROMISE of divine provision and inner stability of our external circumstances.

The Letter to Titus, in closing, lays before us the challenge of our purpose for being, our personal identity and the meaning of life.

Much of Paul’s letter encourages ordinary believers, who occupy ALL walks of life, to consider every nook and cranny of their lives so that it may become an expression of the will of God.

God’s eternal purpose will move an ordinary life into the spiritual excellence we are all seeking but never seem to find. 

No matter what path God has given us to walk, we are intended to be a vital piece in God’s missionary plan to reach the world for Christ Jesus.  Each “piece” has meaning, has PURPOSE!

But to realize this, we may need to make adjustments in the way we view life.

____________________________________________

CREDITS:

BibleStudyTools.com – Sanctification

Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words by Stephen D. Renn

Bible Translations:  NASV, NIV, AMP, ESV.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search – advance settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Great Expectations” of Discipleship

After reading my Bible this morning and given inspiration by the Holy Spirit for my next blog, I decided to borrow the title from a 13th century novel by Charles Dickens.  The book depicts the personal growth and personal development of an orphan nicknamed Pip and I thought there must be some parallels between Christ’s followers and Dickens’ character published in 1861.  I don’t think Mr. Dickens will mind too much.

TEXT:  Matthew 10:32-39

In this passage, Jesus tells us what He expects of His DISCIPLES.

The Dictionary defines a “disciple” as “one who accepts and follows a teacher or a doctrine.”  

We could use that definition to define what a DISCIPLE of Christ is:  A person who follows Jesus Christ and His teaching.

Every Christian is a DISCIPLE.

We read in Acts 11:26 that “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”  Frankly, I don’t see a distinction between a Christian and a disciple.  Every Christian is a DISCIPLE; every Christian is a follower of Christ.

The Big Idea:  Christ EXPECTS complete commitment from His followers.

In this passage of God’s Word, Jesus tells us what complete commitment looks like in the lives of His followers’

Matthew 10:32-33 (AMP)

[32]  Therefore, everyone who acknowledges Me before men and confesses Me [out of a state of oneness with Me]. I will also acknowledge him before My Father Who is in heaven and confess [that I am abiding in] him.

[33]  But whoever denies and disowns Me before men, I also will deny and disown him before My Father Who is in heaven.

#1.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM BEFORE OTHERS.

The phrase “whoever denies or disowns me” (v. 33) doesn’t refer to a moment of DENIAL of Jesus.  Peter denied Christ three times one night, but he never denied Him again.  That’s a comfort to me.  As a follower of Christ since 1972, I’ve had moments of denial, but I’ve repented my sin and proudly announce today that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour.

A DISCIPLE of Jesus is NOT ASHAMED of the One he or she follows.

#2.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS TO LOVE HIM MORE THAN ANYTHING OR ANYONE ELSE.

A college student once walked into a photo studio with a framed picture held closely against his chest.  It was a picture of his girlfriend and he wanted it duplicated which involved removing it from the frame.  In doing this, the owner of the studio noticed the inscription on the back of the picture which said, “Dear Tom, I love you with all my heart.  I love you more and more each day.  I will love you forever and ever.  I am yours for all eternity!”  It was signed “Mary,” and it contained a P.S.:  “If we ever break up, I want this picture back.”

There can be no P.S. in a life given to Christ.  We can never break up with Him.  His amazing LOVE for jus demands that we LOVE Him more than others.

CHOICES will have to be made –

SOMETIMES when a person becomes a Christian and his enthusiasm overflows from his/her decision, his or her family turns against them.

Therefore, a CHOICE must be made between Christ and family.  Family ties cannot be allowed to pull a DISCIPLE from complete allegiance to his LORD.

#3.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS TO GIVE UP EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW HIM.

IN THE 1ST CENTURY, if anyone was seen carrying his CROSS, it was clear that he was on his way to die.

Jesus uses this word picture to describe dying in our own personal pursuits and follow Him completely.  Don’t get me wrong here.  It’s a good thing to have personal pursuits–goals for yourself and family.  But when they take precedence over following Jesus completely…

In Luke’s account, we are told that before Jesus spoke these words, “Large crowds were following Him” (Luke 14:25).

BUT the crowds gradually disappeared.

And we know the reason why.

It was because Jesus DEMANDED TOTAL COMMITMENT from His followers.  He made sure that people knew the cost of DISCIPLESHIP was high.

Luke 14:27-33

Christ has already counted the cost of DISCIPLESHIP for us.  The COST is…EVERYTHING we have!

Jesus once declared, “The kingdom of heaven is like something precious buried in a field, which a man found and hid again; then in his joy, he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.”  (AMP)

What the man received was so much more valuable than what he gave up–though it was everything he had.

The cost of DISCIPLESHIP is high; but compared to what we receive from Christ Jesus, the price is a bargain!

“MANY DISCIPLES TURNED BACK AND NO LONGER FOLLOWED HIM”  (John 6:66-68)

The TWELVE DISCIPLES had given up everything to follow Jesus, BUT, with the exception of Judas, they never regretted it because, as Peter declared, Christ has “the word of eternal life.”

The apostle Paul wrote,

He said, “Know this: DISCIPLESHIP is going to cost you whatever you have.  Don’t expect comfort and ease.”

Let’s READ what Jesus said to His DISCIPLES in Mark 8:34-35:

Mark 8:36 (AMP) Continues…

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life [in the eternal kingdom of God]?”

The WHOLE WORLD refers to all the things that could possibly be achieved or acquired in this lifetime.

GAINING the WHOLE WORLD looks more appealing than losing everything for Christ.

BUT… the REWARD for following Christ is ETERNAL LIFE, while the RESULT of gaining the whole world is the loss of one’s soul.

Under Obedience As True Followers Of Christ Jesus –

A. W. Tozer said, [Years ago] no one would ever dare to rise in a church meeting and say, “I am a Christian” if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and taken Jesus Christ as his Lord as well as his Saviour, and had brought himself under obedience to the will of the Lord.  It was only then that he could say, “I am saved!”

Today, we let them say they are “SAVED” no matter how imperfect and incomplete the action, with the stipulation that the deeper Christian life can be ‘tacked on’ at any time in the future.

Do we really think we don’t owe Jesus Christ our OBEDIENCE?

We have owed Him our OBEDIENCE ever since the second we cried out to Him for our SALVATION, and if we didn’t give Him that OBEDIENCE, I reason to wonder if we are really converted!

I see and hear of things that Christian people are doing, and as I watch and listen to the profession of Christianity, I do raise the question whether they have been truly SAVED.  I believe it is the result of faulty teaching, to begin with.  They act as though the Lord is a hospital and Jesus is the chief of staff to fix up poor sinners that have got into trouble!

“Fix me up, Lord, so I can go my own way!”

The person who says, “Save me, Jesus, but stay out of my life!” is NOT a Christian.

To that person, Christ says,

“Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you?  These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living.  They are foundation words, words to build a life on”  (Luke 6:46-47, The MESSAGE Bible).

If your commitment to Christ has faltered you can RENEW your commitment to Christ in 2018.

THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP IS HIGH–

Complete Commitment–but it’s benefits are eternal!

BELIEVE that Jesus Christ died for your sin and rose from the grave.

COMMIT YOUR LIFE TO HIM!

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CREDITS –

Dictionaries:  Merriam-Webster.

Great Expectations – Wikipedia.com

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  NIV and Amplified Bibles, except where noted.

 

 

Do Sheep and Goats Make the Same Noise?

If the person listening had never heard a goat or a sheep before, they probably wouldn’t know the difference.  Also, different BREEDS of goat can sound very different.  Saanen (white dairy goat breed) goats sound similar to sheep except their voice is higher pitched–but Nubian goats sound very much like a crying human baby.  [See FOOTNOTE [i] ]

 This brings us to a passage in Matthew where the Shepherd (Jesus Christ) knows the difference between “sheep” and “goat” – Matthew 25:32 (AMP)

[32]  All nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them [the people] from one another as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats;  [See Ezek. 34:17]

Now before you start thinking to yourself of separating the goats from the sheep at your church on Sunday or in your neighborhood, this passage in Matthew has brought a debate to when all this takes place in time.  Some say it is at the beginning of the millennial reign while others say it’s at the end of the Millennium.  However, I believe the more important concept for us to grasp here, that there will come a time when King Jesus will separate people into two classes – SHEEP & GOATS.

OUR STUDY IN MATTHEW 25:31-46 is a conclusion to what is called the Olivet Discourse–where Jesus reveals the TRUTH of His second coming and the gathering of BELIEVERS and the JUDGMENT of the wicked and the LOST–non-believers.

Now for some reading this, the problem will be the SEPARATION–the righteous (those in Christ) and the judgment of the wicked (those who have rejected Christ).

THE REWARD for the SHEEP and the JUDGMENT for the GOATS –

To one group – JESUS says to enter in and enjoy your inheritance.

To the other group – Depart from me.

One is offered ETERNAL LIFE with God…

One group suffers ETERNAL LIFE without God.

The central truth to keep in mind is that when Christ returns (and He will return) to His glorious throne, there will be JUDGMENT based upon people’s response to Jesus.

THERE ARE SHEEP AND THERE ARE GOATS –

All of us came into the world as GOATS, born into SIN and far from God.  Some will allow God to TRANSFORM them and some will not because they like the way they are and by CHOICE stay far from God.

We read in Scripture that the Lord Jesus is JUDGE and SAVIOR.  He will allow each one of us to enjoy or endure the path we have FREELY chosen.  Now that’s worth reading again!

IMAGINE  the world where a GOAT, presented with an opportunity to be transformed miraculously into a SHEEP, could do so by grabbing the offer extended by the one making the offer.  SUPERNATURALLY the GOAT became instantaneously a baby SHEEP and cared for by the transformer (Jesus Christ, Savior, and King).  That happens by God’s GRACE and MERCY to all those that want and will let God TRANSFORM their lives.

That’s a God thing!

You cannot earn it.

You cannot buy it.

It is a FREE GIFT received only by acceptance!

When Jesus Returns with Angels All Around Him…SEPARATION BEGINS!

The SHEEP, those on His right, hold a position of honor.  Jesus says, starting with verse 34,  “The the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world…

BY CHOICE they have decided to follow Jesus.

BY CHOICE they have participated in kingdom work.

We cannot earn SALVATION, but it’s very clear here that the RIGHTEOUS (God’s SHEEP) took an interest in people they were around.

The early church in the Acts of the Apostles exploded because they were willing to open their hearts and lives to others.

I remember years ago while in attendance at a Church Growth Seminar in San Diego, one pastor said this about the growth: “Quality first, then quantity.”

JESUS made it very clear!

“their inheritance was there since the creation of the world” – verse 34 (b).

That would have been long before they could have established any good works.

GOOD WORKS is not the cause of SALVATION, but the Effect of Salvation.

As Christians, our responsibility, and yes, as believers we have responsibilities…is to be more like JESUS.

GOOD WORKS is the direct overflow of God active in our lives.  I love being in the “overflow” [John 10:10 Amplified Bible].

GOOD WORKS are only acceptable to God because of our RELATIONSHIP with Christ–NOT in place of Christ Jesus.

RELATIONSHIP is an interesting word to grab hold of.  One Greek word, pros ko Liao,  describes “to CLEAVE (join with) someone in a personal (“interfacing”) relationship. – “to glue in” (for extending towards).  [Bible Hub – Relationship].  

Reminds me of a song made popular by Sugar Land, “Stuck Like Glue” –

Now GOATS can indeed perform acts of kindness,

BUT…their HEARTS are far from God and not right with God.  Their ACTIONS do not honor Him.

BELIEVERS, after always keeping our RELATIONSHIP with Christ FIRST…we are called to be a part of KINGDOM WORK–we are “glued in”.

#1 – Seek and save the lost.

#2 – Build each other up.

#3 – Minister to one another.

We cannot do that in isolation.

EVERYTHING WE SAY AND DO MATTERS TO GOD!

  • Kind words to others matter to God.
  • Small tasks of kindness to others matter to God.

In our ‘doing’, we may not be acknowledged by the one we are showing kindness to, but to God, kindness matters and done often enough becomes a LIFESTYLE instead of occasional work.

Matthew 25:37:  “When did we see You hungry and gave You food, or thirsty and gave You something to drink?”

Jesus replies,

Verse 40:  “Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me.”

Our response to others is an indication of where our RELATIONSHIP is with the LORD.  For some, there will be a great REWARD waiting and we won’t even realize it because it has become a HABIT and we can’t remember each act of kindness we do.

We will be asking Jesus, when did you see us do these things.  And He will remind us of each act of kindness to others.

What About The Other Group of People, THE GOATS?

THE GREAT SEPARATION –

The DAY OF JUDGMENT will come; the LORD will separate and say…

Matthew 25:41-44 (Message Bible)

41-43  “Then he will turn to the ‘goats’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats!  You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell.  And why?  Because–

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,

I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

I was homeless and you gave me no bed,

I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,

Sick and in  prison, and you never visited.’

44  “Then the ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about?  When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?

Those that had no time for God.

Those that have spent their whole life centered on themselves.

One day they’ll find themselves out of TIME–out of EXCUSES of why they have not responded to the things of God.

Many people today want to SERVE God in their own way. without restrictions, without discipline, without having any commitments. 

They want EXTERNAL REWARDS now, and INTERNAL REWARDS later and to base their rewards on good intentions and a RELATIONSHIP that’s almost non-existent.

Kingdom Rewards in Heaven is given to those who SERVE without thought of REWARD.  

God GIVES out of His GRACE!

OUR INHERITANCE…

Our INHERITANCE has been laid out since the creation of the world, based upon a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ, Lord, and Savior of our souls.

ETERNAL FIRE was prepared for the devil himself and the rebellious angels that followed him,  and also for those that REJECT the FREE GRACE of God, that REJECT what Jesus did on the Cross, and say no to Christ.

The RELIGIOUS LEADERS of the day knew 1000’s of Jewish pilgrims would come for PASSOVER and FEASTS.

They knew that many will admire Jesus from a distance, BUT… few will follow Him.

Those who REJECT Jesus will not follow Jesus.

Those who have no time for Jesus will not have time for God’s people.

“Depart from me”  (v. 41 – NIV Bible)

These will be terrible words to hear from Jesus.  You have no time for me and you show no compassion for those put in your path.

It’s like an employee who puts on a good show when their boss is present and slacks off the times he/she thinks they can get away with it.

GOD SEES ALL…

GOD KNOWS ALL.

It is while we have time that we must decide to be identified with the SHEEP.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like being called a SHEEP or a GOAT!

But I’d rather be a SHEEP and a follower of Jesus, than a stubborn GOAT that rebels at all authority and does things his own way.

Something I particularly noticed in this study is JESUS’ words:  Notice the SINS pointed out were not the things they DID, but rather the things they DIDN’T do (vs. 42-43).

He focuses on their SINS OF OMISSION; failing to act out of LOVE and COMPASSION for those in need.  And although GOATS may at certain times sound like SHEEP, even have certain characteristics of SHEEP, just like the sheep, the GOATS didn’t understand just like the SHEEP.  The GOATS are clueless to what King Jesus is talking about.

THE GOATS respond similarly as the way the SHEEP have.

Jesus responds in the same way as He did with the SHEEP–EXCEPT…the GOATS have not acted on behalf of “the least”  (v. 45).

This past week, I read about an instant CAKE MIX that was a big flop {brand in the photo is for reference only].  The instructions said all you have to do is add water and bake and you’ll have a cake.  The company couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell until their research discovered the buying public felt uneasy about a mix that only required water.  Apparently, people thought it was way TOO EASY.  So the company altered the formula, changed the directions to call for adding an egg to the mix in addition to the water.  

Google Image Search Advanced Settings

The idea worked!

You know where I’m going here–some think the plan of SALVATION is too simple.  

Some people think that they have forever.

Some people think that God has no rules and anything flies.

“By Grace, you have been SAVED through FAITH, it is the GIFT of God, not of works”

And that is FACT!  You cannot add anything to the mix–that’s God’s recipe.

THE GOOD NEWS we proclaim is FREE from works, BUT WORKS will follow those that truly are FOLLOWING Jesus.  It has to do with our RELATIONSHIP–“Stuck Like Glue”–with Him.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i]:  Do Sheep and Goats Make the Same Noise?  Ask For Answers @ yahoo.com

Photos:   Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP). Message Bible (MESS).

 

 

A GUIDE For Witnessing In A Christ-like Manner

you will be my witnessesIn my reading of Scripture every morning, my set-aside devotional time, there’s one book in the New Testament that refreshes my spirit over and over again.  It was the first book of the Bible I read through after I was “born again” in 1972.  The book, The Gospel Of John.  

Many truths set forth in John’s gospel have made a great impact on my Christian life.  First and foremost, there is no greater honor than to be a part of God’s work of telling others about Jesus.  So this is where I want to begin; sharing from my own experiences and giving a beginning guide to today’s oft forgotten term… Witnessing to others about Jesus Christ.

We hear from pastor’s sermons at least once a year from a familiar passage in Acts 1:8  “and you shall be My witnesses…”  Now if we take that verse to heart, seriously, maybe we need to reevaluate our preparedness to obey Christ’s command.

WHAT IS A WITNESS?

WITNESS Definitions:  Merriam Webster;  [2] One that gives evidence;  [5] public affirmation by word or example.

The word WITNESS we are most familiar with comes to us from the legal sphere, derived from the root meaning “to bear in mind,” “to be careful.”  Thus a witness in the field of law is one who has the knowledge of something by recollection and experience and who can tell about it accurately.

Biblically speaking, A WITNESS is born when one is born again, that is, when you experience the POWER of God in your own personal death, burial and resurrection. In that sense, Christian Witnessing is not optional, nor is it mandatory.  It is inevitable.

When I first had knowledge of what a witness was, and internalizing Jesus’ message in Acts 1:8 of being “witnesses” in the community, this next little tidbit was added to my spirit: 

The word MARTYR: “comes from the Greek word for “witness”.  Early Christians were often put to death for the “witness” of Christ Jesus.

Boy, after having that scary thought placed in my mind, I needed some real motivation if… I was going to be a witness for Jesus.  But where was that motivation going to come from?

A GUIDE to Being A WITNESS:

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In John chapter four, JESUS is passing through Samaria.  He comes to Jacob’s well, tired from His journey and He sits down (John 4:6).

Now the disciples have gone into a nearby town Sychar, to buy food (John 4:5, 8).  The Bible says it was about the sixth hour which most likely be around noon.

LUNCH TIME!

In my last job before retiring, I was required to be at my desk by 6 AM.  So by the time lunch time rolled around, I needed to get away from the office, where I could sit down, get a bite to eat, and relax.  Many times, several of my co-workers would show up at the same place.  I didn’t invite them to come.  They just showed up!

In this portion of Scripture, we see Jesus’ human side and see that He is tired and evidently hungry, just like when we get tired and hungry.

Notice how Jesus uses a common physical thirst to cause the lady at the well to ask questions about deeper eternal matters.

I was intrigued once more to focus on their discussion.  Remember, they are total strangers to one another–not co-workers, not BFF’s, but strangers.

STEP #1.  Jesus arouses the woman’s curiosity with a promise; the quenching a natural spiritual thirst common to all mankind.  That spiritual thirst which people try to satisfy through giving into the flesh, drinking in the world’s views and Satan’s lies.  Sadly, only a few drink of the Living Water offered by the Lord.

John 4:13-14:

[13] Jesus answer her, “All who drink of this water will be thirsty again.  

THE PROMISE…

[14] But whoever takes a drink of the water that I will give him shall never, no never, be thirsty any more.  But the water that I will give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling)  [continually]  within him unto (into, for) eternal life.”

By Divine Appointment – A Personal Story

Working for a large company for over fifteen years, starting as a truck driver and working myself up through the ranks to Branch Manager, in February, 1985, the company was sold, and my services were no longer needed.  I was to be replaced by new management.  Although I was given a decent severance pay package, my self-worth was definitely damaged in the process.

Two weeks later, I received a phone call from an old business associate, who had heard through the grapevine reasons for my termination.  He asked the question–“Would I be interested in taking a job out-of-state?”  “That depends,” I answered.  “Where is ‘out-of-state’?”  HAWAII.  So, two days later, I found myself sitting in front of the president of large Hawaiian Wholesale Plumbing Company on the island of Oahu.

The next several months was a time in my life I have reflected on in detail for years. For my stay was for a brief time.  At the time, A Divine Appointment wasn’t even a thought. But God had set His plan in motion long before I had a clue.

After accepting the new job, part of my negotiated package was housing and a company vehicle to use until my family and automobile arrived from the mainland.  Since the president’s daughter and son-in-law lived nearby and also worked at the same office, I carpooled with the young man…for over two months.  Our conversation varied during the heavy commute, from family to music choices (the car radio was always active), to Hawaiian lifestyle compared to mainland lifestyle.  Then one day he asked, “I’ve noticed you go to church every Sunday.  What church do you attend?”  The opportunity at the well was there and I took it!

I answered his question with a question; asking him his religious background and did he have a personal relationship with JESUS; a few weeks later led him to Christ.

Hawaii wasn’t the place for my family and I to live, and I returned to the mainland; unemployed to employment…and back to unemployment… all with three month’s time.

WHY?  God had a DIVINE APPOINTMENT in mind and I had the privilege to be a part of.  It wasn’t until I returned to my original starting point did I fully understand the details in my going.

Divine Providence brings always amazing things and Jesus doesn’t want you to miss the opportunities He gives you.

Three simple truths we can hold on to here as laid down by Jesus to help all Christians in their daily witness.  For after all, when we leave our front door in the morning, we don’t go out witnessing; we witness as we go.  It may be today, next week, next month or off and on through out the calendar year.  But know this: God wants to use you.

So how can we follow the simple example of Christ with confidence that Jesus is going to use us?

The FIRST THING I noticed that Jesus did was to make a connection.

The woman who lived a sinful life came out to get water and He makes the connection with her.

You have family members, friends and co-workers just like this lady and you need to be making connections.  Jesus made the connection in being obedient to His Father who was sending Him to Galilee.

All Divine Appointments that are set up for you come about as you are obedient to the Lord’s call on your life.  

Divine Providence brings all glorious things into existence.  Jesus doesn’t want you to miss the opportunities He gives you.

Is there someone in your workplace that you want to reach for Christ?  Is there a neighbor, a family member you’ve been praying for?  Ask the Lord for a connection.

Jesus had a need for water and the lady had a way of getting water from a well that was very deep.  The depth is around 70 feet to the water line with a depth of about 105 feet (Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Jacob’s Well).

The point being Jesus, being a man, had a NEED that could not be met without her help.

We all have some needs that we cannot meet and there is someone who is bound by sin who can help you meet that need.

This is a wonderful opportunity to make a connection. It may be an answer to a question about work, home repairs, a physical task you cannot do on your own.

Make a connection with someone who would be shocked that you even noticed them let alone asked them for help.

The lady at the well asks,  “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”  (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans) – (John 4:9)

A Little History About Samaritans –

Samaria is right about center of Israel.  When Israel fell to the Assyrians, Samaria was theacts_1_8_1 place where the poorest were left behind.  They intermarried with other races and brought in a false priest.  Add to that, they began false worship and twisted Scripture while rejecting everything in the Old Testament except the first five books of the Bible (2 Kings 17).

There are many PREJUDICES that keep people from hearing the gospel message of Jesus.

PREJUDICES of the people who are living in sin.  They convince themselves that obedient Christians don’t want to associate with them or care about their needs, problems or concerns.

Jesus’ lifestyle was to be out among sinners, ministering to the sick, the needy, meeting practical and spiritual needs to all who would accept what God was doing through Him.

“Must needs”  (John 4:4)

After looking at different bible translations, I like the KJV version the best:  “And he must needs pass through Samaria.”

Interesting TRUTH can be found here that the Holy Spirit wants us to grasp in our efforts to fulfill our part in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

“Must needs” in application means it was a necessity, a compulsion and Jesus’ destiny to go through Samaria for the sake of His mission.

There are THREE ROUTES Jesus could have taken.  But Jesus had to go through Samaria to lay down a foundational work of the gospel, because it was His Father’s will for Him (John 4:34).

THE SECOND TRUTH the Holy Spirit wants us to get hold of:  Jesus drew attention for temporary satisfaction to eternal fulfillment.

The core of Jesus’ mission at the well as defined in John 4:10 and 13 is to move the lady from what she does know to what she does not know.  He does this in stimulating her curiosity resulting in her asking a question about Him (John 4:12).  She wants to know who this man at the well is:

“Are You greater than and superior to our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well and who used to drink from it himself, and his sons and his cattle also?”

Through Jesus’ example, our goal is to get people from thinking and talking about what they know and talking about and asking they about what they don’t know.

How can we guide the conversation in our connections to talk about what they don’t know?  

One example, when people begin to talk about the problems their family is having, move them to ask about a Christian family that had the same problem, maybe your own family, but do not have them now.  

Point how Jesus did a work in their lives.  Remember the goal here is to be walking in obedience to the Lord.  The focus is to be speaking to people you connect with.  

Let the Lord lead you to the Divine Appointment; to a heart that is prepared to receive what the Lord has for them at that time on their life.

An important note to remember in witnessing to others: Jesus pointed the women’s attention to what matters in eternity.  There is a contrast to what will satisfy PHYSICAL Thirst (water drawn from a well by labor) and to SPIRITUAL Water that will bubble from the inside given by Jesus.

In this incident at Jacob’s Well, the Samaritan lady makes a request, “…Sir, give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water!” (John 4:15).

This lady typifies many of the people we come across daily in our witnessing.  Because they are bound by SIN, they are so slow to respond to the things of God.

Like the lady at the well, many HEAR the gospel message, yet still want the things of God for all the wrong reasons.  In other words, she and those like her, still need a purifying of the heart.

People who are carnal in their thinking and not yet surrendered to the Lord (Matthew Henry Commentary).

In John chapter four, we see that Jesus had to break the barrier that kept her from understanding.

The TRUTH that must be presented to all, including Christianity is FIRST,  the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that He is.

The SECOND is the revelation on oneself.

It begins with the realization that LIFE lived without Him being Savior and Lord will not do; that one must be enlightened by the Holy Spirit that he is in great need of GRACE & MERCY of God.  Use your own testimony of how God’s Grace & Mercy made things new in your life.

The THIRD TRUTH I discovered is that the Lord wants us to grab hold of and pass on to others the importance:  What is a TRUE WORSHIPER?

Jesus said,  “You [Samaritans] do not know what you are worshiping [you worship what you do not comprehend]. We do know what we are worshiping [we worship what we have knowledge of and understand], for [after all] salvation comes from [among] the Jews.  A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers.  God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth (reality).”  (John 4:22-24 AMP).

Most of the people we come in contact with are like the Samaritans in a sense who have chosen a partial knowledge of God’s Word.  They, like the Samaritans, have selective worship.  They choose which portion of Scripture they like and disregard the rest.

No one can worship in spirit and truth without an honest heart, seeking God’s will through the whole council of the written Word.

That doesn’t mean that a worshiper has to know ALL of God’s Word, but they must have a heart desire in seeking the Lord’s will and a willingness to live out what has already been revealed to them.

Those who want to WITNESS as Jesus did must point out the Lord is looking for the worshipers who approach God through his spirit, to attain a closeness and intimacy with God–a new relationship.

TRUE WORSHIP is when the spirit, the immortal and invisible part of oneself, speaks to and meets God, who is immortal and invisible (William Barclay).

This study in John chapter four is but a GUIDE towards your making connections in your community.  Simply use what you have already been given and He will make the way for you to WITNESS for Jesus.

God has a DIVINE APPOINTMENT for you to keep–be ready and willing to keep it!!

 


CREDITS:

Photos & Map – Google image search.

The New Testament Meaning of “Witness” [Founders – by Ernest Reisinger]

Bible translations as noted in the text.

 

 

 

The Mystery “Streaker” in the Garden

Clothing Can Send A Message

When my family was young, dressing for church on Resurrection Sunday (Easter) was a day for spring dresses, suits and ties.  I remember trying to scrape some money together in the early 70’s, just so daddy’s little girls could venture out to the shopping malls and pick out that special dress.

We may not dress for Easter in the way we used to…but, we do send out signals with our clothing.  We do communicate what we feel about ourselves and, we send signals regarding our self-image.

Uniforms Can Identify Authority–

We wear clothes to tell others who we are and what we are about.

My dad was a San Diego Fire Department Captain.  When he wore his firefighter slicks, get out of his way so he could do what he must.

If I were to stand in the middle of a busy street today, holding my hand up to stop traffic, chances are…I would be hit and killed by an auto.  But put on a police uniform and do the same hand motion…traffic would come to a halt because they would recognize the authority of the uniform.

Some people communicate with their clothes of not just who they are but who they hope to become.

“Dress for Success” Idea

There are groups available to serve jobless people, offering not just counseling, but also business suits and tailored dresses.  My folks always told me, “If you are going out on an interview…look the part.”

So, what does our clothing have to do with this week’s Scripture message?

AN INTRIGUING LITTLE FOOTNOTE IN MARK’S GOSPEL –

This footnote comes during that stormy scene in the 14th Chapter, when in dark Gethsemane:  JESUS prayed alone because His closest friends for the past three years would not stay alert–the betrayer’s kiss, the arrest, a brief scuffle, and–what distressing words!

“Then [His disciples], forsaking Him,

fled, all [of them]”  (Mark 14:50 AMP).

BUT NOW COMES THE INTRIGUING FOOTNOTE – Mark 14:51-52 English Standard Version (ESV):

MARK 14:50-51
MARK 14:50-51 [Bible Iliad The Naked Young Man @ Alpha]

51  And a young man followed him (Jesus), with nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  And they seized him,  52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

After the descriptive narrative, the story continues:  trials and denials, prisoner releases and floggings, mocking and parading, and, in the end, CRUCIFIXION.  DEATH.  Dramatic death,  DARKNESS and death.

[More reporting, more investigation is needed.]

THE MYSTERY IS REVEALED –

Here’s the MYSTERY that grabbed my attention.  Why did Mark waste his ink on this certain young man, wearing nothing but linen?  Why tell us about a person who was almost snatched by some soldiers but who pulled out and ran away…NAKED?

But was this really a waste of ink?  Scripture points out:  “Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience…”  (2 Timothy 3:16).

That said, then who was this young man…what does this mean?  Does his dropped linen cloth send a MESSAGE?

Just as clothing can send messages, and what we wear may send signals, so also what we leave behind marks out a new identity.  What we drop off permits us to become something new.

Who then, was the “STREAKER” skittering through the grove of olive trees?

In study, I found several possibilities, each represents a different way of understanding the “dropped cloth.”  Each of these dropped cloths may fit some of us.

The Possibilities–

Some think that the young man may not be anyone we can name; that he may have come from an affluent family.  LINEN was expensive, and so if he was wearing linen out there in the garden at night, when you might have expected informal clothing, it might suggest he had wealth and wanted to show off.

If this theory is correct, this young man came close to JESUS, almost got caught up with Him, but he ran because he couldn’t risk losing his financial status in the community.  So he dropped his cloth, his fine linen cloth, and ran away…NAKED!

Wow!  I thought there may be a METAPHOR for some of us here.

We’ve watched JESUS from a distance.  We have listened to Him, but with skepticism, because He teaches things that are hard to swallow.

We’ve trusted in our success in business and in our profession, but JESUS speaks about losing our lives in order to find them.

JESUS tells us that if we want ETERNAL LIFE, sell all that we have and give it to the poor.

Getting Close to JESUS!

We can’t get too close to this JESUS, not as prosperous as we are  He demands too much!

If this is correct, that this young man is a man of means, clad in fine linen…Symbolically then, as he came close to JESUS that night, he had to drop that cloth.

I HEAR A HARD LESSON–that the meaning of LIFE doesn’t consist in the abundance of the things which we possess; that our dollars and our acquired acclamations do not earn us anything really.  In the sight of God, as the Bible teaches it,  “All our righteousness is as filthy rags”  (Isaiah 64:6).

All the STUFF we have will deteriorate and all the achievements we have piled up…will fade.

It’s a hard thing to hear for the “whoever’s”…

The “whoever’s” In our prosperous achievement-oriented society,

“Whoever will save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for My sake, and the gospel’s will gain it”  (Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Matthew 16:25).

That means we have to DROP the cloth of prosperity and no more pretension.

Behind our pretty clothes, our varnished veneers, and our well-manicured lawns, lies nothing but the NAKED TRUTH–we are desperately needy.  Only Christ Jesus can satisfy our need.  We must drop the cloth of PRETENSION.

But What If…

What if the anonymous STREAKER found in the garden of Gethsemane was NOT a young man of wealth?  Maybe it was someone we can actually name, identify that young man losing his cover in the garden.

All for good reasons, some Bible students think this certain young man was LAZARUS. The man who JESUS raised from death a little while before.  Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, were good friends with Jesus.

JESUS arrived at their home in Bethany after Lazarus had been dead for four days, shrouded and buried.

But JESUS stood at his grave and commanded, “Lazarus, come forth!”  And indeed he did.

The Bible story reports that they had to release the grave-clothes in letting him go.

What if…the young man mentioned in these verses… is LAZARUS?  And more than that, 9306807480_694ec4546esuppose that this LINEN CLOTH is his buried garment.

True, it no longer has the same purpose of binding his arms and legs, but is free to move about.

But is he still wearing that shroud?  Is he still running about town in the same cloth used to wrap his dead body?  How weird would that be?

But even if that sounds bizarre, it’s not unusual.  Though peculiar, but not uncommon.

The Truth is…many of us continue to wear our grave-clothes.

Many of us exhibit the relics of a DEATH from which we’ve been freed at SALVATION.

Many of us act as though we were trapped in THE PAST instead of THE FUTURE.

Like LAZARUS, we have been offered new life by JESUS; but, again, like Lazarus, we do not shake off the things that bind us that hold us back.

PAST BAD HABITS CONTINUED…

Some of us our BOUND in old habits that make us appear as “dead men walking,” even though we have been shown the right path to take.

We hold on to old prejudices (“I’m guilty”).  And yet, who of us does not know that in JESUS CHRIST there is a way, a TRUTH, and a life–a life that brings freedom?

Why would we choose death over life?  But we do.  We do.

Dropping the “Shrouds of Death” –

LAZARUS, raised from death, not yet thought life unleashed his freedom.  And so here he is, on the night of trial, lingering on the edge of the garden, yet not ready to go and die with JESUS.

Why should LAZARUS even fear death?

He has already been given life, and should understand that the One who gave him life once…could do it again!

BUT LAZARUS is living in a SHROUD and had to drop that cloth exposing his frail limbs.

SAD FOR LAZARUS!  AND SAD FOR US…

…If God, who has begun a work of SALVATION in us will not bring it to completion.

SAD FOR US if once we said “YES” to Jesus and His offer of a NEW LIFE, but done nothing with it for years and years.  It means we are still wearing GRAVE CLOTHES!!

We must drop the “shroud” that BINDS us to the past.

There is a THIRD THEORY in this story…

During my investigation, I uncovered a THIRD possibility of who the anonymous young streaker might be.

It might have been a nameless rich and accomplished young man, who could afford a LINEN CLOTH, or, it might have been LAZARUS, still wearing his burial shroud, or it might have been MARK himself, the author of this gospel.

It may have been a very young MARK writing this account, not wanting to name himself as the “streaker,” but telling us that he was there all the time.  He was a WITNESS–but in his nightshirt.  Night clothes, pajamas, sometimes were made of LINEN.

Uncovering the Evidence in the Garden – 

There are many reasons why it could be MARK, too many to list in this blog.  But it definitely could be John Mark.  It is consistent with what we know of Mark in other places of the Bible.

Here in this seemingly insignificant little story of a young man who came out to the garden one night, awakened from his sleep, got close to the action, but who hesitated at the key moment.

Here is a young man who had followed JESUS, maybe even closely, but who went back home to sleep when things got tough.  He pulled back to SAFETY–an insulated life, and came out to watch, but at a distance.

And if it’s true that MARK is the mystery “streaker” in the garden, just as he did later on, according to the Book of Acts…he RAN.  He bolted.

When the going got tough, he got going, but not because he was tough, far from it.

He got going because he was afraid.

He got moving because he was immature and not ready for what was coming next.

He got to his feet and ran because he had not yet awakened to all that JESUS had in store for him.

He ran and exposed his maturity.  As we often do.  As we run.

We too go to sleep by cutting short what we could very well experience.

We too start to be a follower of Christ, but find Him too complex, too much.  So we slip into unconsciousness–we go to sleep, we run from Him.

Hazy and Lazy About the Christian Faith…

Some of us don’t get it what it means to be a Christian.  Our PRAYER lives have not advanced beyond,  “Now I lay me down to sleep.”

Our GIVING lives have not passed beyond tossing a coin or two to a beggar on the street corner, or sending a minimal check to a charity or church.

WE ARE ASLEEP!  We could be so much more as Christians, but we just haven’t grown up.

So like MARK, we go about in our sleepy-time night-clothes, not aware that we are called to be children of the Light.

We need to LET GO of the life of near-nothingness and to commit to grow in JESUS. Otherwise, we will find it mighty cold out there, exposed in the night with nothing to protect us.

THERE IS STILL ANOTHER LINEN CLOTH THAT WAS DROPPED –

Dropped Cloths…

The rich man, or Lazarus, or Mark.  Take your pick.  Each one of them exposes us; dropped cloths that will strip away all the ways we hide ourselves.

For you see, in an EMPTY TOMB, there was another LINEN CLOTH (Mark 16:6-7):

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for JESUS of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised, he is not here.  Look, there is the place where they laid Him…Go, tell his disciples…”

HE LIVES!
HE LIVES!

And they did GO TELL!

They told those who had depended on wealth and status, they could drop that pretension, for Christ is alive and gives freely, without price or payment to ALL who will TRUST Him.

He dropped His cloth and He lives!

They told those who were living in the past, that they could drop that habit, for JESUS is alive and gives NEW LIFE freely.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old thing are passed away and all things become new”  (2 Corinthians 5:17).

He dropped His cloth and He lives!

And they told us who are so immature, so far short of what we could be, we can drop our masks, we can forget our veils.

JESUS DROPPED HIS CLOTH;  He sends a message.  He lives!

And because He lives, we too can live, and live more abundantly–

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whosoever believes on Him has everlasting life. And whosoever includes even such a child as I.”

He dropped His cloth…

He sends a message…

He lives!

Drop that cloth.  Right now, drop that cloth of yours, and truly live!


 Credits and Commentaries:

Commentary:  The powerful transformation of the young man – Mark 14:51-52 & 16:5 by AOSIS Publishing.

PHOTO’S not marked:  Google Images, Photo Pin.

Bible Translations:  English Standard Version (ESV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV); New King James Version (NKJV).

 

Plugging Into the “ETERNAL”!

389560975_c6038eeb9a
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).

Wishin’ and Hopin’ in the New Year!

“Wishing” We Didn’t Have to Say “Goodnight”–

In 1964, my lovely bride and I were married!  On our romantic dates, leading up to September 26, 1964, I would drop her off at her house, walk her to the front door where we would often stand on the porch (depending on the time on the clock), singing the songs that were currently popular and playing on the radio.

“Hoping” to Meet Curfew!

Although Dianne was 20 years old at the time, a 2-AM Curfew was to be strictly enforced or…TROUBLE!  Dianne’s mother would often raise her voice from behind the closed front door,  “Dianne, be quiet. Your dad is asleep!”  That was my future mother-in-law’s way of telling us…it’s late and there will be no ‘hanky-panky’ out there.  What will all the neighbors think while peeking out between their curtains?  One neighbor came out one night to water her garden–at 1:30 AM!

It was a small neighborhood and everyone knew everyone’s business.  I wished we could have stayed outside singing until the sun would rise–but hoping– ‘restriction in dating’ wouldn’t be necessary– as long as…we were obedient to her mom and dad’s rules.

One of my favorite singers back in the olden’ days was Dusty Springfield.  There was one particular song she recorded in 1964, “Wishin’ and Hopin’ “.  For you older readers, do you remember some of the words?

Just wishing and hoping and thinking and praying

planning and dreaming…

The song by the way, wasn’t a ‘religious’ number emphasizing the practice of how to pray in life.  It was a secular song about finding LOVE in your life from someone else.  And if you are wondering where I’m taking all this, let me direct you to grab your Bible and turn with me to the Book of  1 John 2:28-3:1-3 AMP:

What Does HOPE Have to Do With It?

THE BLESSED HOPE REVEALED!
THE BLESSED HOPE REVEALED!

1 John, Chapter 2:

[28]  And now, little children, abide (live, remain permanently) in Him, so that when He is made visible, we may have and enjoy perfect confidence (boldness, assurance) and not be ashamed and shrink from Him at His coming.  [29]  If you know (perceive and are sure) that He [Christ] is absolutely righteous (conforming to the Father’s will in purpose, thought and action), you may also know (be sure) that every one who does righteously [and is therefore in like manner conformed to the divine will] is born (begotten) of Him [God]. 

1 John, Chapter 3:

[1]  SEE WHAT [an incredible] quality of love the Father has given (shown, bestowed on) us, that we should [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God!  And so we are!  The reason that the world does not know (recognize, acknowledge) Him.  [2]  Beloved, we are [even here and] now God’s children, it is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be [hereafter], but we know that when He comes and is manifested we shall [as God’s children] resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He [really] is.  [3]  And every one who has this hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure–chaste, undefiled, guiltless.”

“HOPE” and “WISHES”–the Differences:

I read an article by Tonya Sheridan in preparation for our study that mentioned the differences between “hoping and wishing”:

A WISH is something that you desire to come true but no basis in reality.  It’s passive, can lead to frustration, even depression.  HOPING is having a DESIRE with REAL EXPECTATION.  To HOPE is believing the things you hope for can happen because you’ve invested time, energy, and passion toward making them happen.

An example of WISHING might sound something like this:  Lord, I’ve been unemployed now for too long!  I WISH you would give me a new job. 

The the Lord would answer by responding to your WISH:  I wish you had a job too! 

HOPING for a job would be praying that God would open the doors of opportunity today, and in HOPING…you actually start looking in confidence.  HOPE is a DESIRE coupled with DISCIPLINE.  God will do His part–you need to do your part.  You have to walk through the open door of opportunity.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary says, HOPE in the New Testament is a ‘favorable and confident expectation’–I like to add a few words to the definition:  With an outstretched neck!

Scripture Examples of “HOPE”:

Ephesians 4:4 – “[THERE IS] one body and one Spirit–just as there is also ONE HOPE [that belongs] to the calling you received–“

The “HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE”:  Titus 1:2, and 3:7

Titus 1:2:  “[Resting] in the hope of eternal life, [life] which the ever truthful God Who cannot deceive promised before the world or the ages of time began.”

Titus 3:7:  “…and that we might become heirs of eternal life according to [our] hope.”

(i.e., “the full manifestation and realization of that life which is already in the believer’s possession.)

The Subject of HOPE–

One of the great themes in the Bible is based on HOPE.  The word occurs over 50 times in the New Testament.

To a BELIEVER:  HOPE is our strength to live healthy, godly, productive lives.  We depend greatly on this element of HOPE that was placed in hearts at accepting Jesus Christ as savior.

Without HOPE, for the unbeliever and the Believer, there is really no reason to expand effort; a state of hopelessness is closely related to a state of death.  HOPE is essential to the human soul, as water or food is to our physical bodies.  And a life without hope is a ‘living hell’.  In fact, it’s one thing that will make hell unbearable!–the absolute absence of HOPE!

GUESS WHO’S HAVING A YARD SALE?

Devil's Yard Sale
Devil’s Yard Sale

The Devil was having a yard sale and all of his tools were marked the name and price.  They were tools like hatred, lust, jealousy, deceit, lying, and pride.  All were carrying a HIGH PRICE TAG!

The Oldest Tool!
A Well-Worn Tool

But set to one side, there was a tool more worn than any other tool.  It was the most costly of the tool inventory.  The tool was labeled, DISCOURAGEMENT.

When asked why this tool was priced so high, the Devil answered,  “It’s more useful to me than any other tool.  When I can’t bring my victims down with any of these other tools, I use DISCOURAGEMENT–sweep them away!  That’s because most of them don’t even realize it belongs to me.”  Have you ever had that tool used on you?  Have you ever lost your JOY because you lost your HOPE?

The apostle Paul wrote to the ROMAN Christians, “May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing  (bubbling over) with hope”  (Romans 15:13 AMP).

Have you ever been around a person overflowing in hope?  When I’ve been around a person like that, I want to get all the overflow of hope I can!

A Person Who Is Overflowing With HOPE–

Paul says that person–has the POWER of the Holy Spirit who is also full of joy and peace.  Those are the things that accompany HOPE.  It is amazing what a person full of HOPE can accomplish.

But the Devil also knows that godly hope is a powerful thing.  He will do everything he can to rob you of your confident expectation in God.

THE ISSUE OF FAITH AND HOPE–CAN’T HAVE ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER!

If I were to ask you a question right now:  “What are you looking forward to in the New Year?”  How would you answer?  Then, if I were to strengthen that question, asking, “What are you living for?”  I would be touching on the issue of HOPE.

“For in [this] HOPE we were saved.  But HOPE [the object of] which is seen is not HOPE.  For how can one HOPE for what he already sees?  But if we HOPE for what is still unseen by us, we wait for it with patience and composure”  (Romans 8:24-25).

Having HOPE and having FAITH are two of God’s gifts–

1.  HOPE provides purpose and well-being in our belief.

2.  FAITH gives us the strength to keep hoping which in turn, makes us optimistic and loving.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is the one in Hebrews 11–the FAITH Chapter:

“NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title-deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality  [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]”  (Hebrews 11:1 AMP).

FAITH is enduring–

Isaiah 7 verse 9 says, “If your faith is not enduring, you will not endure.”  God’s promise to us if we continue to endure, continue to carry on–God will provide for ALL of our needs.

God asks simply for HOPE and FAITH–

Bringing your umbrella when you are faithful–it will rain.

Bring your Bible when you are faithful–you want to share the Word.

Bring your heart when you faithfully want to love someone.

Be HOPEFUL and Be FAITHFUL and God will show you what goodness can come by simply having HOPE and FAITH!

What I Uncovered This Detective Investigation of 1 John 3:1-3:

1 John 3:1:  WHAT WE ARE.

1 John 3:2:  WHAT WE SHALL BE.

1 John 3:3:  WHAT WE SHOULD BE.

First John 3:1:  TELL US what we are and First John 3:2:  TELLS US what we shall be.  The reference here, of course is to the time of Jesus’ coming back for His Bride, the Church.  And although today’s conservative churches confess they believe it, ESCHATOLOGY has become a dormant message from pulpit these last days.  Although, this message of Christ’s return was mentioned in 1 John 2:28 as an incentive of holy living, now it’s repeated once more in the Third Chapter of First John, verse 2.

God’s Love For Us–

God’s LOVE doesn’t stop at the new birth, it continues throughout our lives and takes us right up to the return of Jesus Christ.  When the Lord appears, all true believers will see Him and will become like Him (Phil. 3:20, 21).

This means, of course, we will have new, glorified bodies, suited for heaven [NOT Asbestos, fire-proofed clothing].  But the apostle doesn’t stop here!

He has told us what we are and what we shall be.  Now in 1 John 3:3, he tells us what we should be.

In the HOPE of Christ’s return, we are to keep our lives CLEAN (purified)–

God works through our circumstances:

“Such HOPE never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s LOVE has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy spirit Who has been given to us”  (Romans 5:5 AMP).

That’s why John says…all those who have this kind of hope–this certainty–and understands this process, PURIFIES THEMSELVES, even as Christ is PURE!  (1 John 3:3).

But you say,  “Purify myself?  That is the one thing I can’t do.”  And that IS true.  God knows that.  So what does God mean when He says, purify yourself?

You purify yourself when you use the means He’s provided.  You mothers know how this works.

Your little boy has been playing outside and comes to the supper table–covered in dirt.  You send him to the bathroom to purify himself.  And like ALL boys, he turns on the water, runs his hands through it–turns the water off, wipes his hands on the towel, then comes back to the family table.  I know this from personal experience (I was a young boy and I had a son).

And as my mom said to me as she looked me over,  “But you’re not clean.”

Mel:  “Well, I washed myself.”

Mel’s Mom:  “But look at the dirt on your hands and arms, on your face, behind your ears.  You’re not all clean.”

Then every wise mother (my mom was very wise) asks, “Did you use soap?”  Of course he hasn’t, so she sends him back TO USE SOAP.

What is SOAP?

— It is a purifying agent, a cleansing agent.

It will do the job if it is employed.

So when he comes back the second time, he has washed with SOAP;  the SOAP has cleansed him, purified him.  Now he says,

“Look Mom, I’ve cleaned myself up!”  It is true that he did it, but he did it by using his mother’s provision.

THE “PROVISION” FOR OUR CLEANSING:

1.  The WORD of God.

2.  The Spirit of God.

1 John 1:7:  “But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].”

1 John 1:9:  “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness…”.

This is significant for Believers, and we must begin to take seriously the break in fellowship with Christ Jesus; because of an impatient spirit, an ugly word, a lustful idea, or a thought we have dwelt on, for oh to long.

The stain of it–

It doesn’t disappear with passage of time.  It interferes with our fellowship with the Son of God–we must do something about it.  We can’t simply forget it.

We must PURIFY OURSELVES by using His provision so we might become clean!  That is our desire, our HOPE within us.

I HOPE now, you’ve made a distinction for the upcoming New Year–Wishin’ for things to come won’t bring the desired result.  Only your heartfelt expectation with an “outstretched neck”, will you see the desired results.