“Ah Yes, I REMEMBER It Well” – Do You?

~ Fourth and Final Commentary In The Series On The Book Of Malachi

MALACHI 4:4-6 (NLT)

[4]  “Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant-all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.

[5]  “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. 

[6]  His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.  Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

With only three verses to look at, I thought this particular word investigation would be fairly short.  Well, it didn’t turn out that way and there are many reasons why this final chapter commentary is longer than I expected. 

The Book Of Malachi certainly serves as a bridge from the past to the future for the Israelites during Malachi’s day.  And for him and for us, as the last book of the Old Testament, it also serves as a bridge to the New Testament.

So let’s use the theme ‘s statement as an outline which we can examine this passage of Scripture:  WE NEED TO LEARN FROM THE PAST – “Remember it well!”

In verse 4, God commands the people to remember the law of His servant, Moses.  The entire book of Malachi has shown us a covenant-keeping God who still loves and pursues His people even though they haven’t remained faithful to Him.  It’s not surprising that the final command of the book is to remember the Law of Moses which the people who had come to pay little attention to.

But the word “remember” conveys much more than just mental recognition:  “remember” (Heb. “zokar”) means “to bring to mind and act accordingly.”  So when God commands His people to remember the law, He’s calling them to once again become a covenant-keeping people who not only know the Law but also puts it into practice.

The idea of remembering is a common theme in the book of Deuteronomy.  The command or admonition to REMEMBER is found 14 times in that book alone and the majority of those verses are connected with the need to obey or keep God’s command.

The Book Of Deuteronomy also uses some form of the same phrases that I’ve found here in Malachi – “the statutes and rules” – 17 times in the book of Deuteronomy including this very relevant passage:  (Deut. 6:1-3)

There’s no mistaking here that the purpose of knowing and remembering the law so that the people can put it into practice.  That principle is certainly just as applicable today to New Testament Christians as it was to the Israelites of Malachi’s day.

As we know, keeping God’s law isn’t a requirement for SALVATION – which can’t be earned but completely an act of God’s grace – but it should be a result of that salvation.

LEARNING FROM THE PAST –

While reading the Scripture, we’re not only exposed to God’s LAW so we can know and understand what that law is, but we also read the historical accounts and demonstrate the blessings of obedience and the curse of disobedience.  So we look back to learn from the past as we remember God.  And once we do that, we can move onto the next step – WE NEED TO LIVE IN THE PRESENT – “TURN”

I spent a lot of time contemplating the first part of verse 6, where Malachi describes that Elijah will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.  And frankly, I’m still somewhat up in the air – confused!  But with the help of a couple other passages that shed some light on that verse, I think I can at least develop some useful applications we can use in our lives.

There seem to be two major camps when it comes to VERSE 6 –

In reading several commentaries I found some hold that the fathers here are the fathers of FAITH, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses.  Certainly the idea of the Israelites turning back to the faith of their spiritual ancestors would be consistent with the idea of REMEMBERING the commands given to Moses.  But the problem with that position is it really doesn’t explain how the hearts of the fathers are turned to the children.

The other major position if this verse deals with God restoring relationships of the family – particularly the relationships between fathers and children.  But to me, the weakness of that viewpoint is that it doesn’t fit into the ending of Malachi’s prophecy that deals with the much larger issue of the whole nation’s rebellion against God and His law.  Obviously, that impacts relationships within the family, but it doesn’t seem to be the main point of the prophecy.

Since I adhere to the idea that Scripture is always the best commentary on Scripture, we need to look together at a couple of other passages in the Bible that gives additional insight, a practice we should stay with when looking for answers in the Bible.

I have already looked up one of those passages –  Deuteronomy 6, lets notice and underline verse 2 – the purpose of observing the statutes and rules is to “FEAR GOD” – and we have seen that idea frequently if you’ve been following along in the series on Malachi [See previous Word Detective posts, 1, 2, and 3.].  And you’ll also notice here that “you and your sons and your son’s son” keep the law.  So the idea planted here is that successive generations of Israelites are to keep the Law as the law is constantly passed down from father to son.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how that’s done, the next part of Deuteronomy 6 goes on to give some wonderful guidelines on how fathers are supposed to do that.

In the Hebrew language, Malachi 4:6 seemed to be confusing at first reading.  Most of the English translations tend to translate the verse, “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers..” (NIV).

But it’s also possible to translate that phrase like this:  “And He will turn the hearts of the fathers together with those of the children [to Me], and the hearts of the children with those of their fathers [to Me].”  That seems to be consistent with Deuteronomy 6 and consistent with what is seen earlier in the Book of Malachi 3:7…

The word “RETURN” in the above verse is the same word that is translated “turn” in Malachi 4:6, another connection that seems to support the alternate translation which focuses on ALL the people turning their hearts toward God rather than toward each other.

Back to my last blog-post, the third in the series, Malachi 3:1, that prophecy is multi-layered.  The “messenger” was fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus by John the Baptist, and Jesus confirmed the prophecy with these words:

“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.”  (Matthew 11:13-14)

Jesus is clearly connecting John to both Malachi’s and Isaiah’s prophecies about the forerunner to be like Elijah. (See Isaiah 40:3-4). 

During his day as a prophet, Elijah had turned the Israelites back to God at the time of their worst apostasy when Ahab and Jezabel made Baal worship part of Israel’s worship.  John had a similar ministry.

But notice that Jesus indicates here in Matthew that since Israel wasn’t willing to accept Him as Messiah, and also refused to accept that John was the forerunner who had been prophesied in the Old Testament, so because of that, there will be a second Elijah who will precede the second coming of Jesus and he is the one who will bring to its final fulfillment of this prophecy of hearts being turned.

The angel who comes to Zechariah informing him of the coming birth of his son John, almost certainly had Malachi’s prophecy in mind when he spoke these words about John:

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Although the angel mentions the turning of the hearts of the father to the children, the main idea here is that John’s role is to turn ALL hearts – fathers and children – to the Lord their God.

So even if Malachi is focusing on the relationship of fathers and children, the way reconciliation occurs in the family when ALL the hearts are turned back to God.  Our horizontal relationships with other people should never surpass our vertical relationship with our Heavenly Father.

So regardless of our views of Malachi 4:6, the bottom line is that it all comes down to our hearts being turned to God.

THE KEY to living in the present then, according to the passage of scripture in Malachi, is to “turn our hearts.”

I’ve already pointed out the underlying Hebrew word “to turn”, but it also can be translated “return.”  That same Hebrew word in the OT is frequently translated “repent”, which isn’t surprising and given that repentance is the idea of turning our hearts from sin and turning then back to God.

Repentance, or turning back to God, isn’t just something that we do once in our lifetime and then forget it.  It’s something that we must do every minute of every day.  The people of Malachi’s day had forgotten that and look where they ended up.

It’s easy to criticize the Israelites who had descended into lukewarm worship by merely giving God the leftovers. But the fact is, we are in danger of ending up there ourselves if we don’t guard our hearts and consistently turn them from evil and turn back to God.

LIVING IN THE PRESENT –

We learn from the past as we remember God’s law – We live in the present by turning our hearts to God.

Finally…We need to look to the future – “behold”

The word “behold” is used in the prophets to grab our attention.  It’s like God shouting to the people here to take notice of what He’s about to say.  And what follows is a message of God’s grace and mercy.

Yes, the great and awesome day of the Lord Jesus is coming!  And as we’ve seen it’s not going to be a pleasant time for those who’ve rebelled against God and refused to turn back to Him.

Before He does that, he’s going to send his messenger, either Elijah himself or someone else like John the Baptist, to minister like Elijah in giving people one last chance to turn to Him.

Although there’s certainly not enough biblical evidence to definitely identify this forerunner with one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, that’s certainly one possibility.  There in Revelation, those two witnesses preach God’s Word for 3 1/2 years prior to the second coming of Jesus.  But regardless of the identity, God’s purpose is made clear.  His aim is to spare people from being cursed – separated from God’s glory; His person and the coming wrath.

So before Jesus returns to the earth one more time to carry out swift justice to those who have rejected Him, He’s going to give people one last chance to return to Him.  And the good news is…at least some people are going to have their hearts turned toward God as the result of his ministry.

What Malachi makes clear here is how we view the future is dependent on how well we’ve remembered the past and turned in the present.

If you remember God’s law (His Word in the Bible) by seeking to understand it and do it, and if your heart is turned toward God, then you can look to the future with great hope and anticipation, knowing God’s faithful remnant who will be spared from God’s wrath will spend eternity in God’s presence.

But if you fail to remember God’s law – if you fail in repentance in turning your heart to God, then if you’re not fearful of the future, you certainly should be!  Because God is holy and just, He must judge those who have chosen to rebel against Him and that judgment is going to be swift, horrible and everlasting.  It truly will be the utter destruction that Malachi writes about at the end of his prophecy.

Several people in the past have asked me, “Teacher, how about giving us some practical applications from the Word Study?”  So I’m going to list three:

#1.  We must turn our hearts to God through faith in Christ Jesus.

God’s desire for us is to turn our hearts–body, mind, and soul–to Him.  But that’s not something that we can do on our own.  Trust me, for you will find yourself in frustration when you try to accomplish this on your own terms.  Although the word Messiah or the name of Jesus is never mentioned in the Book of Malachi, is the idea of a Messiah that comes first to save God’s people and then returns a second time to judge those who refuse to turn their hearts to Him is a central theme.  Because God is holy and we are not, then the only way we can truly turn our hearts toward Him is by placing our trust in that Messiah, Jesus.  By taking our sins upon Himself and dying on the cross to pay the penalty for those sins, He’s made it possible for us to have a relationship with God in which we are able to turn our hearts to Him.

#2.  We must consistently spend time in God’s Word.

The only way we can live in obedience is to know what God’s Word says!  That means that we have to be spending consistent time in God’s Word, reading, and praying over it on a consistent basis.  A half-hour once a week on Sunday morning will never be adequate to really know and understand the Bible.  And what I’ve been personally missing lately, and I’m not alone, and is necessary and valuable for all of us, is spending time with other believers each week, where digging into the Bible is benefitting from one another’s insights in the Scriptures.

#3.  We must be intentional, living, vocal witnesses for Jesus.

In light of the possible two destinies faced by every human being – eternal life for those who have placed their faith in Jesus and eternal punishment for those who have not, our witness for Jesus Christ is essential.

Our effectiveness in our witness –

It’s likely that God has brought some people into your life that has no one else in their lives that’s going to tell them about Jesus’ love for them.  For our witness to be effective, I want to throw out three adjectives to describe what that WITNESS is to be like.

First, our witness must be intentional.  

We must strategically pray for the people that God brings into our lives and then, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, prepare, as Peter urges in 1 Peter 3:15…

That means being able to share my own testimony of my relationship with Jesus and able to use the Bible to explain how the other person can have the same type of relationship with Him.

Second, our witness has to be lived out.  Some call it Lifestyle Evangelism.

There’s nothing that will turn a person off when it comes to their relationship with God than someone whose life isn’t consistent with their words.  But at the same time, it’s not enough to just live for Jesus with the hope someone else is going to figure out your life is different than theirs.  That’s a great start, but at some point, we’re going to have to open our mouths.

In concluding this study on Malachi, the most important thing we should take away is to understand just how much God loves us.

He’s a covenant-keeping God, a promise-keeper, a God who loves us so much that He continues to pursue us even when we fail Him.  And if we’ll take and apply the principles He has given us in His Word, we’ll be in a much better position to pursue Him.

And in that same way remembering that God desires for me (and you) to pursue Him in the same way He pursued us!

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search; YouTube Music Video – I Remember It Well from the movie, Gigi.

Bible Translations Used:  New Living Translation (NLT); New International Version (NIV); English Standard Version (ESV); 

Word Sources:  Bible Hub:  NASB Hebrew Lexicon.

Commentary:  HEBREW WORD STUDY – FORETELLER OR PROPHET, by Chaim & Laura – Sept. 13, 2014 Devotionals; Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible – Malachi 4 – StudyLight.org.

Can’t God Just Wrap Us All Up In “Bubble Wrap”?

Scripture:  2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

When was the last time someone prayed a prayer over you? What kind of things do you like to hear prayed for you? Blessing? Prosperity? Good health?

Sometimes I find myself praying for my kids and grandkids and asking God to keep them safe and healthy and happy in the Lord. I definitely want those things for them, but they aren’t the greatest needs in their lives. Some needs can only be met by going through those “hard times.” It’s through struggles in life we learn to TRUST God and develop the unshakable faith that the Bible speaks about.

You Can’t Go Through Life in “Bubble Wrap”!

 

So, instead of praying that God would just wrap us all up in bubble wrap so that we never feel any pain or have any problems, it might help for us to look at the PRAYERS that are prayed in the Bible. When I’ve been asked to pray for certain people and don’t specifically know how to pray for them, I often open my Bible and pray Scripture that pertains to their needs and requests. After all, it’s God’s WILL, His words that I’m praying for and not my own.

 

So as we look together at these 2 verses, 11-12, Paul writes, “With this in mind…”

 

What is Keeping this in “MIND”, mean? (Vv. 1-10)

 

The fact that your faith is growing, your love is increasing, you are hanging in there during the hard times, justice and judgment is coming to those who reject God and abuse and mistreat you, and final and ultimate salvation is coming for those of you who trust in Jesus!

 

“With this in mind,” Paul says, “WE ARE CONSTANTLY PRAYING FOR YOU”

What does Paul pray, and what can we learn from it?

“That God would consider you WORTHY of His calling.” 

What does that mean?  How can we be considered WORTHY of God’s calling?  Is this then like being a paying customer, not just taking up space and using up oxygen in the room?  Does it mean to make yourself useful?

“GOD’S CALLING” –

Here, it’s likely a reference to the ultimate and final salvation of God’s people.

In another of Paul’s letters to the churches (Philippians), he talks about the upward call of God.  To be considered WORTHY of His call and to be with Him forever means they will keep trusting God to the very end. 

His CALLING ISN’T TO JUDGMENT, but to life and joy with Him forever!

There are some requirements needed, according to Paul in his letter:

In the context of both letters to the church in Thessalonia, and in this chapter, ENDURANCE and KEEPING THE FAITH are necessary for one to be considered WORTHY of God’s calling into His awesome presence, especially in the face of persecution.

WORTHY doesn’t mean that we can earn our way into heaven.  Eternal life with God is the FREE GIFT of God.  We can’t earn it or do we deserve it!

That God would fulfill every good purpose (“all the good things”) of yours (by His POWER).

God does have a PURPOSE for our lives!

There may be a number of purposes for your life; God’s, Satan’s, yours, and other people’s.  This is all about bringing your purposes or intentions, your views, into alignment with God’s!  It has to do with moral conduct.

I know, good moral conduct can’t SAVE us and make us right with God, BUT…it’s part of God’s purpose for us!

“For this is the WILL of God, your sanctification (separated and set apart for pure and holy living)” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:3 AMP.

So the Thessalonian believers had shown perseverance (a never give up mentality) in the face of their persecution for their faith having demonstrated their faith, love and Godly living in the midst of it.  What Paul seems to be praying here is that God would help them followthrough with these things of being faithful to Him to that very day! 

WHAT “DAY”?

2 Thessalonians 2:3  “…for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first”

NOTE: Apostasy comes from the Greek word, Apostasia – The falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come.

That God would fulfill every faith-prompted act (by His POWER).

“…and [His] every gracious purpose of goodness, and with power may complete in [your] every particular work of faith (a faith which is that leaning of the whole human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness).”  (Amplified Bible)

I really like this phrase.  You’ve no doubt heard of acts of random kindness.  Well, these Christians had begun doing continual acts of faith!

Faith-prompted actions are things we do because of our trust in God. 

We learn to be generous with those in need because God is like that, and we want to be like Him!

Acts of obedience are considered faith-prompted acts.  We obey God because we love, honor, and trust Him in His promises! 

But it wasn’t enough!

These Christ-followers didn’t simply begin these faith acts and then let them taper off.  No.  Paul knew they would need God’s help to keep them obeying Him, in loving others, being generous, and serving those around them.

QUESTION:  HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR LOVE AND FAITH HAVE COOLED OFF?

When it becomes more about you and less about those around you.  We need God’s help in carrying out our good intentions and obey and please Him fully.

So Paul’s words here in his letter required them to realize that they aren’t alone!  God is at work in their lives, and when He works in us, it’s powerful!

That the NAME OF JESUS Be Glorified In You – (2 Thessalonians 1:12)

The RESULT of following through with our good intentions to remain FAITHFUL to God–even in the midst of persecution–is that people will see Jesus in us!  Instead of doing good things so we can receive attention and praise from others, we must live so that others will notice Jesus at work in us!

People need to see Jesus being GLORIFIED or spotlighted in your life–in your words, and your actions.

Matthew 5:16 (AMP)

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.”

That you would be glorified in Christ Jesus.

Finally, Paul shows that Jesus also helps accomplish OUR GLORIFICATION (present/future).  It all begins when we call on the Lord and the Holy Spirit that it all begins to work in our lives.

2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us,

 

Our glorification comes to fruition when Jesus comes back for us, as He promised!

He will give us new bodies, transforming us into His likeness!

 

God has called us to a higher place.  Are you trusting and growing in Him?  Is Jesus being glorified in your intentions and your actions?

PRAY FOR YOUR CHURCH AS PAUL PRAYED FOR THE CHURCHES.

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CREDITS:

Images/Photos:  Google image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New Living Testament (NLT); Interlinear Bible.

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.

Becoming A Loser!!

Scripture 2 Peter 2:7-8

Seriously, I pondered giving this blog its title.  You might think it’s little unkind in thought.  However, my point in the title wasn’t unkindness, but to simply summarize the overall outcome of Lot’s life.

Lot lost everything of any value in his life.  To put it short, it’s the result of Lot putting his WANTS ahead of God’s WILL.

Lot is an example of a Christian who tried to live as close to the world as they could with the mistaken idea it wouldn’t affect him.

Many Christians today are doing much the same as Lot.  Trying to live as close to the world as possible without being affected by it.

It’s living a tightrope existence.

It is attempting to live with one foot in the WORLD and one foot in God’s KINGDOM.  But this way of living can’t be done.  Inevitably, it will lead to a fall!  Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:62)

He also said, “No one can serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:24 a.)

The point is that you can’t live for self and the world while at the same time being committed and pleasing to your heavenly Father.  It’s a spiritual impossibility.

Trying to walk with the world and with the Lord at the same time simply can’t be done.  Those two ways of life cancel out each other!

You might ask at this point, how is trying to walk with the world makes Lot a “spiritual loser”?

Lot became a spiritual loser because of:  [1]  HIS WEAK DEVOTION TOWARD GOD.

He had great assets and wealth  (Genesis 13:5-6)

NOTE:  The Bible doesn’t condemn anyone for having riches.  Scripture does say however, there’s condemnation for our trusting in riches  (1 Timothy 6:17).

[17]  Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  (NIV)

Lot’s problem wasn’t his riches, but his ‘worldly’ attitude.

Like the world, Lot had the idea that the value of his life was dependant upon what he possessed.  He had relegated first place in his life to what he had accumulated.

Great Assets Won’t Make Up For Weak Devotion to God.

Riches in and of themselves will not make one happy, as this true story illustrates [*See Footnote [i] ]:

Many people think money is security, but 1 Timothy 6:9 warns that it can be just the opposite.  A few years ago, columnist Jim Bishop reported what happened to people who won the state lottery:

Rosa Grayson, of Washington, won $400 a week for life.  She hides in her apartment.  For the first time in her life, she has “nerves.”  Everyone tries to put the touch on her.  “People are so mean.  I hope you win the lottery and see what happens to you.”

All the “WINNERS” hoped and prayed for sudden wealth.

All had their prayers answered.

All were wrecked on a dollar sign

“If the child of God is to be successful by God’s standard, the love of their life must be Jesus.  That’s true whether you are a pauper or a millionaire.  Most of us are richer than we know”

[By Chuck Rasmussen.]

Lot Had No Altar Of Worship

Genesis 12:7-8 (AMP)

[7] Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said,  “I will give this land to your posterity.”  So Abram built an altar there to the Lord, Who had appeared to him.

[8] From there he pulled up ][his tent pegs] and departed to the mountain on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.

Even when Abram (Abraham) strayed, he always came back to the ALTAR  (Genesis 13:1, 3-4).

So let’s look at this whole account a little closer:

[1]  Abraham journeyed down to Egypt (a type of the world in scripture), to escape the famine in the land of Canaan.  And because he had disobeyed God in this, he had nothing but trouble from the time he arrived there.  But the first thing Abraham did after coming out of Egypt was to return to the ALTAR art Bethel (which means “the house of God’).

A Good Trip to the Altar is the First Step in Shedding the Influence of the World Upon One’s Life.

In total contrast to Abraham, Lot’s main concern was his assets, not the ALTAR.

I couldn’t find from Scripture the slightest hint that Lot was really committed to God, although he was a believer.

He was extremely weak in devotion to God.  It was this flaw in Lot’s life that resulted in his eventual ruin.

A Christian who is weak in their devotion to God is an easy target for Satan.  Many Christians today have great assets, even many spiritual activities,  BUT NO ALTAR!  Everything else in life is rather meaningless without fellowship with the LIVING GOD!!

His Worldly Departure From God.

It all began with division (Genesis 13:7)

It revealed Abram’s dignity – Genesis 13:8 (NIV)

[8] So Abram said to Lot,  “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.”

Notice the submissive spirit that’s demonstrated by Abraham.   It’s a characteristic of one who is walking with God in a cooperative attitude.  I don’t mean cooperation at all costs; but in general with the desire to help and minister to others, rather than demanding for one’s own way.

According to the custom of that day, Abraham had the right of FIRST CHOICE for he was the eldest of the two men.  But it’s precisely here that the maturity and dignity of Abraham that shinned.  He permitted his nephew, LOt, to have the right of FIRST CHOICE.

It Revealed Lot’s Worldly Desires – Genesis 13:10

[10] Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar.  (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah).

I can just imagine at this point that Lot, in thinking to himself, “Uncle Abram is a fool to give me the right of first choice.  But that’s his mistake.  I’m going to get the best I can, while I can!”  However, this brings out the trusts of the two men.  Abraham trusted the God of the Altar, while Lot trusted the greatness of his assets.

It Resulted In Lot’s Wrong Decision (Genesis 13:11 – Amplified Bible)

[11] Then Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley and [he] traveled east.  So they separated.

Sin and worldliness are always a CHOICE on the part of the Christian.  The Bible bears this out in Paul’s writings, when he says,   “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires”;  “For sin shall not be your master…”  (Romans 6:12, 14a)

Let’s look at the progression of Lot’s worldliness:

  1. He LOOKED toward Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 13:10).
  2. He CHOSE the plain of Jordan, where Sodom and Gomorrah were located (Gen. 13:11a).
  3. He JOURNEYED toward Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 13:11b).
  4. He then PITCHED his tent toward Sodom (Gen. 12:12).

Have you ever ‘flirted’ with sin?  To trifle or toy, as with an idea you knew was a sin?

Holy Spirit made a point in mentioning that Abraham “lived in the land of Canaan” (v. 12a), the land of promise, while Lot CHOSE to pitch his tent “…toward Sodom” (v. 12b), a city where its reputation was well-known for lustful pleasures.

His Wicked Dwelling Place Among the Godless.

Lot chose to live among a promiscuous, unprincipled in sexual matters, society.  Notice God’s description of the men of Sodom (Genesis 13:13):

Now “the men” weren’t merely your so-called “good ole boys” having fun on Saturday night.  They were sexually depraved, bad to the bone, criminal types (Genesis 19:2)

This city was wholly given over to deviant sex (Genesis 19:4-5)

[4] But before they lay down, the men of the city of Sodom, both young and old, ALL THE MEN from every quarter, surrounded the house.

[5] And they called to Lot and said,  “Where are the men who came to you tonight?  Bring them out to us, that we may know (be intimate with) them.”

Later in the story, Lot offered his two virgin daughters to this depraved mob, who ignored his offer altogether (Genesis 19:8).

It just blows my mind to think that Lot would have stooped so low to make such an offer.  But this just reveals how badly Sodom had influenced Lot’s heart and mind.  Rubbing elbows with SIN produces a calloused heart.

Can you imagine a BELIEVER living in a place like this and being comfortable with it?  Don’t forget–it happened gradually.

He Lingered Though Judgment Loomed.

Genesis 19:14-16 (NIV)

[14] So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters.  He said, “Hurry and get out of this place because the LORD is about to destroy the city!”  But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

[15] With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry!  Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

[16] When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them.

There’s A Sad Truth Here:

Whether or not people will listen to your message depends on how you have lived before men.

Just because you’re telling the TRUTH, it doesn’t earn you the right to be heard.

Lot’s own family thought he was crazy when he started to talk to them about God and Judgment, because he had lived without regard for God for so long, and everything he said seemed like a joke.  His walk didn’t back up his words.

He Lost All That Was Dear To Life.

#1.  Lot lost his wife. (Genesis 19:26)

#2.  Lot lost his relatives in the destruction of Sodom.

Genesis 19:14  (His sons-in-law wouldn’t listen to him.)

#3.  Lot lost his integrity as a child of God.

Genesis 19:30-38  (Lot’s two remaining daughters got him drunk and committed incest.)

All of this now brings us back to my title:  BECOMING A LOSER

Lot became a spiritual loser because of:

  • HIS WEAK DEVOTION TOWARD GOD.
  • HIS WORLDLY DEPARTURE FROM GOD.
  • HIS WICKED DWELLING AMONG THE GODLESS.

Maybe it’s time for you to come back to the ALTAR!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Footnote [i]:  “Won The Lottery” by Bible.or.

Music Video:  “O Come To The Altar” – Live Elevation Worship – Youtube.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); AMPLIFIED Bible (AMP), or other translations where noted.

Credit Commentary:  Lot: From Sodom To Salt Sermon by Carl Allen – 2 Peter 2:4-10.

 

 

 

“Hey Jude? What is SIN, really?”

THE DOCTRINE OF SIN:

THE PURPOSE of Jude is a call for all Christians to DEFEND the Faith.

Jude is a tough, sobering, book in the Bible to read.  So get ready!

WHO WAS JUDE?

Jude 1

“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James…”

He was the brother of James, who presided at the Jerusalem Council and wrote the epistle of James, and was the half-brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3).

The Perversion within the Church

[Verse 4 ]  For certain men have crept in stealthily [gaining entrance secretly by a side door].  Their doom was predicted long ago, ungodly (impious, profane) persons who pervert the grace (the spiritual blessing and favor) of our God into lawlessness and wantonness and immorality and disown and deny our sole Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).  [AMP]

Jude talks about APOSTASY, basically a turning away from the Faith.  We learn that they are sneaky, ungodly and pervert the Grace of Jesus.  They deny that Jesus is Master and Lord.

And they stand condemned!

The media today is influencing the church.

The politically correct police are on high alert!  You can mention God as long as you don’t mention His absolute truth.  You can mention Jesus as long as He was just a good teacher.  Pastors are required to be politically correct rather than biblically correct to be accepted.  The trend in churches today is to be welcoming, but primarily affirming.  Sermons are designed to tickle the ear and not convict the heart.

God help us!

It’s sobering and it makes me sad to think of those I know who could very well fall into this category of being apostate.  Understand the APOSTASY is false teaching, its false living.  It is the Christian form of hypocrisy.  It’s saying you are a Christian but in truth, you are not.  Your action, your attitude, bear the lies that come out of your mouth.

So Jude gives a WARNING to the apostates, the enemy of the TRUE CHURCH.

He begins by giving us some examples of people who are exposed to the truth, to the grace, and totally reject it and face eternal punishment.  It truly squeezed my heart when rereading this passage of scripture because there are many I know today that could very well experience this punishment.

The LORD delivers people from bondage, but sometimes people fall back.

One Example:  God’s chosen nation (vs. 5)

[5] “Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the LORD at one time delivered His people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.” [NIV]

Jude says here that Jesus (more accurately translated LORD) saved a people in the land of Egypt.  That is the Hebrew people, the future nation of Israel.

Later, He destroyed those who rebelled and didn’t believe.

The word DESTROY literally means to abolish; to destroy completely.  [See footnote [i]]

Understand that God didn’t DESTROY the nation, but He did destroy many within the nation all because of their unbelief and disobedience.

It was continued unbelief and disobedience. 

This was an outward circumcision but not an inward circumcision of the heart.

A person can go through all the outward hoops and identifying with Jesus, but the only thing that really matters is your heart.

Does your heart belong to Him?

Are you TRUSTING Him alone to forgive you of your sin?

Are you TRUSTING Him for your SALVATION?

Are you TRUSTING Him in your life?

Are you denying Him, Master and Lord?

If your answer is “NO” to any of these questions, you fall under the same destruction.

BE WARNED!

God’s Chosen Servants–Messengers–Who were they? (vs. 6)

Judgment is coming. Hebrews 9: Jude 1:6. Acts 17: Timothy 4:8. John 12:48. Jude 1:6.

We see here that even ANGELS, heavenly beings, are subject to the great day of JUDGMENT.

Many commentators take this verse and its parallel in 2 Peter 2:4 to be a reference to the primordial fall in the bible of wicked angels under the leadership of Lucifer.  This creates somewhat of a dilemma.  Clearly, not all the dethroned angels are “cast into hell and committed to pits of DARKNESS”, reserved for judgment as Peter writes.  This same Peter says that Satan is still somewhat loose, and prowls around like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8).  

The simplest way to resolve this questioning is to take the “angels” in this passage of Jude is referenced to the Godly line of Seth in the Bible; the “sons of God.”

The Background of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6.

The angels portrayed here forsook what God ordained them to do.  They chose their own thing!  [i.e.  They became their own god.]

Numerous interpretations I have read suggested that the “sons of God” were fallen, angels who married earthly women and produced children…Giants in the land, although how “angels” could intermarry has never been explained.  Jesus clearly states that angels don’t marry (Matthew 22:30), and there’s no evidence that angels have gender or genitalia.   A few have suggested that “demon-possed men.” as an alternative theory, but this is still rather unsatisfactory, and neither of these interpretations offers anything of relevance to the historical evidence of Genesis 6.  [See footnote [ii] ].

The result was eternal punishment. 

They forsook being in God’s presence to follow their own path.

Bringing this all back to Jude, those who are APOSTATE are the ones who choose to be their own God.

I believe that the biggest ACT OF APOSTASY in our day is….you are a Christian, continuing to live like the world, or even worse than the world!  This type of SIN denies Lordship over one’s life.  It cheapens the GRACE that believers are supposed to live under.

If my understanding of the passage of Scripture is right, then that type of living is APOSTASY; to be judged by God just like the Hebrew people in the wilderness, just like the angels who denied their rightful place, just like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The LORD delivers people from bondage today as He did when the Hebrews were delivered out of Egypt from bondage.  But sometimes people fall back into bondage. We’ve all probably done this, but Jude lists some who didn’t and was punished.

  • Angels who left home.
  • People who left morality behind.

Whatever it is, God can deliver us!

BUT…but we must not turn back.

No Turning Back into our old ways will get us into trouble every time.  And for some people, it could mean eternal trouble.

GOD SAVE US!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i]:   The word, DESTROY – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words

Footnote [ii]:  “Who Were the Angels of Jude 6?” by Biblical Horizons (Copywrite).

Photo Images:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations used:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or as noted.

Commentary:  Restoration, Sermon by Jeff Strite, Jude 1:1-7, Sermon Central.

 

Having A DEAF, DUMB, and BLIND FAITH

“Not another message about faith?”  YES!  And during the Christmas season, especially.

FAITH definition:  “Faith is not believing that God can; it’s knowing that He will.”

Application:  Walking by faith is being prepared to trust where we are not permitted to see.  FAITH allows God to do for us and with us what we could never do alone.

This Bible study in Luke, chapter 7,  begins with a Roman soldier’s faith and takes us inside TRUE FAITH showing how and what faith does in lives.

FAITH is deaf to doubt, dumb to discouragements, blind to impossibilities and knows nothing but success in God.

Scripture study:  Luke 7:1-10

At Christmas time, especially, faith is the highpoint from the event that happened so long ago in the small town of Bethlehem.  In this story, we find a Roman centurion who, though he was a Gentile, understood who Christ was and is.  And although this story of a “Centurion” is ancient history to us today, it would have been of special interest to Theophilus, a Gentile to whom this account is addressed (Luke 1:3).

The story is a significant one being this was a Gentile who exercised this faith that even Jesus would remark that this man’s FAITH was amazing.

Only twice in all of Scripture Jesus said to “marvel” or be amazed.  The other time was when He began His public ministry in His hometown of Nazareth and He was rejected by His fellow Jews–(Mark 6:6; Luke 4:14-30)  “He marveled (“was amazed’) by their lack of faith.”

The Centurion had a FAITH that was more knowing and sensitive than anything Jesus had witnessed in Israel.

What could be more horrible than to amaze the Son of God by one’s lack of faith?  What could be more thrilling than to amaze Him by one’s faith?  This centurion had amazing faith!

“Why was Jesus so amazed?”  A question I had to investigate.

WHAT ARE CHARACTERISTIC MAKES THIS MAN’S FAITH SO AMAZING?

Luke 7:1-2 (AMP)

[1]  AFTER JESUS had finished all that He had to say in the hearing of the people [on the mountain], He entered Capernaum.  [2]  Now a centurion had a bondservant who was held in honor and highly valued by him, who was sick at the point of death.

This man had an amazing faith that caused him to love across all barriers.

Jesus had just completed the teaching known to us as “The Sermon on the Mount.”  He now enters Capernaum, a city on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.

While Jesus is in Capernaum, He is approached by representatives of the Roman Centurion.  Centurions were commonplace during the Roman Empire and equivalent in rank to a modern-day army captain, normally in command of 1000 soldiers.

This particular centurion had a servant who was ill.  Matthew (8:6),  in his account of this incident, says, “a servant boy.”   Whoever this young man was, Luke, who was a doctor, said he “was sick and ready to die.”

If you’ve ever clung to a loved one at death’s door and felt they were slowly losing the battle, you must know this centurion’s awful sense of helplessness.

We are told that this man loved Israel, though it was not the land of his birth.

It’s also obvious in reading that this man cared deeply about his young servant which is very out of the ordinary socially and the crossing of racial and ethnic barriers when as a Gentile, he appealed to a Jew for help.

This man loved people not just like himself.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel particularly effective in loving folks who live outside the social barriers around me (eg. “skid row”, the homeless in tents on the city sidewalks…).

The second characteristic I noted of an Amazing Faith was that it caused this man to be excited and active in the work of God around him.  (vv. 3-4)

 

We need to understand that the Jewish elders had little love for the Romans in general and Roman soldiers in particular.  This Roman officer must have been a very unique individual for the elders to be willing to approach Jesus on his behalf.

The elders not only bring the man’s request but they vouch for their Gentile friend.  They argue that he’s a man of integrity he’s well-liked by the Jews, and worthy of Jesus’ help.

Verse 3 says,  “The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to Him, asking Him to come and heal his servant.  [4] When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with Him, This man deserves to have you do this [5] because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”

This man had given substantially to the building of a house of worship.  Gentile worshipers were barred from the Temple in Jerusalem but not so much with synagogues in the outlying areas.  The synagogue was a place that even Gentiles could come and listen to the word of God being taught.

So in that time and place, this centurion lived the major way that God was using to spread His light within the synagogue system, using his money, his reputation, and influence to build the synagogue.  The centurion consciously chose to participate enthusiastically by involving himself in what was most apparent in what God was doing.

In stark contrast, according to George Barna, a church statistician, adults who regularly attend church, 37% didn’t give a dime to a church in the last year [George Barna, How to Increase Giving in Your Church (Regal Books) p.20].

In this man’s marvelous faith, it caused him to approach Christ in great HUMILITY (vv. 6-7).

This passage reveals two essential components of the Christian FAITH–an understanding of who Christ is and an understanding of who we are in Christ Jesus.

Not only did this man display great love, but also his great humility.

In verse six we find,  “So Jesus went with him to his house.  He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  [7] That s why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you…”

Before Jesus could reach his house, the Centurion sent a second representative to Jesus, to tell Him that it wasn’t necessary for Him to come to his house.  All because he was familiar with Jewish religious customs, he didn’t wish to put Jesus in a position of having to enter the home of a Gentile.

This Roman soldier, a man of considerable influence and power, was also uniquely HUMBLE and regarded himself as undeserving of having Jesus come under his roof, even felt unworthy of meeting Jesus in the street.

This soldier, unlike the Pharisees, doesn’t ask Jesus for a sign that he was who He said, he was.  This man doesn’t even ask to meet Him.

The third characteristic of this man’s remarkable faith might be summed up in this song–his willingness to trust Christ alone even before the Cross.

How much more do we have today but to TRUST in Christ alone?

Verses 7b-8 (NIV) –  [7b]  “But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  [8] For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.  I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 

The centurion apparently realized the One who had the power of life and death; that could heal with a word, must be God incarnate.  And if Christ is divine, then he, as a Gentile sinner, must be unworthy to even meet Him.

All Jesus must do is say the word, and he believes that it is as good as done!

There’s no evidence that I could find in Scripture that this man ever personally heard Jesus preach, and yet he believed.  He made his request known based on what he heard of Jesus.

In verse 8, the word “myself,”–“also,” in other translations–we see that the officer saw a parallel between the way he commanded his soldiers with the way Jesus commanded diseases.

If this Roman, with very little spiritual instruction, had that kind of FAITH in God’s word, how much greater our FAITH should be!

In VERSE 9, we see the reaction of Jesus:

[9]  Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and He turned and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I tell you, not even in [all] Israel have I found such great faith [as this].”  (AMP)

This man’s remarks amaze Jesus, so much so, that they came from a Gentile.  He marveled at a Roman centurion, whose background and circumstances ought to have made it difficult for him to have faith, a man whose occupation prized being big, bad and tough, a man steeped in paganism, a man hated by the Jews because he was Roman.

Yet in spite of all the circumstances that went against him, here stood a man who was a perfect example of FAITH.

Almost as an afterthought, Luke adds verse ten,  “And when the messengers who had been sent returned to the house, they found the bondservant who had been ill quite well again.”  (AMP)

So how often have you displayed such faith?

We will never be perfect in our faith but we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to enables us to incorporate the elements into our lives.

Back to the question:  HOW OFTEN HAVE YOU DISPLAYED SUCH FAITH?  If you’re like me, not very often.  And that’s a sin.  Because it’s God’s will that we all have amazing faith.  But all too often in our ‘business,’ we get so wrapped up in ourselves, we don’t show true care and concern for others.  Remember, true faith is “active”–not sitting around the fireplace talking about the unfortunate.  What startled and impressed Jesus were the characteristics that anyone like you and me can have in our lives.  Some think that “amazing faith,” is the ability to do the miraculous.  But miracles are something that Jesus can do anytime.

This Bible study in Luke should bring the understanding there are today those whose lives that would impress Jesus, because of their faithful godly lives.

The characteristics of a marvelous, amazing, faith!

  1. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO LOVE ACROSS BARRIERS.
  2. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO BE EXCITED AND ACTIVE IN THE WORK OF GOD.
  3. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO APPROACH CHRIST IN GREAT HUMILITY.
  4. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO BE WILLING TO TRUST IN CHRIST ALONE.

Through the POWER of God’s Word, and through our Savior Jesus, we can be people of amazing faith–someone whose FAITH is unselfish, unassuming, and unwavering, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves.  AMEN.

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CREDITS

Music Video:  YouTube video, In Christ Alone – Brian Littrell

Photo Images:  Google Image search

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

Various Commentary on Luke 7:1-10:  Sermon Central

And the Church Prayed

I think we sometimes appear to others around us as people of prayer.  After all, we attend church on a regular basis and that’s what “religious people” do.  But we’re not really.

A Sunday School teacher was struggling to open a combination lock to a supply cabinet.  She had been told the combination but couldn’t remember it.  Totally frustrated, she went to the pastor’s study and asked for help.  The pastor came into the room and began to turn the dial.  After the first two numbers, he paused and stared blankly for a moment.  Finally, he said, “You know, I can’t remember the combination either.”  Then he folded his hands and looked heavenward and his lips moved silently.  Then he looked back at the lock, quickly turned to the final number and opened the lock.  The teacher was amazed.  “Pastor, I can’t believe you prayed and God gave you the combination,” she said.  “It’s really nothing,” he answered.  “The combination is written on a piece of paper taped to the ceiling.”

As a church, we don’t know quite what to do about prayer, or how to go about prayer, or even whether we should have any expectation of prayer working in our lives.

Prayer is a major element in the Bible.

This is a strange text from the Book of Acts,  chapter 12.  It begins like a Shakespearian Tragedy.

The church is being persecuted.

King Herod puts a Christin leader, John’s brother James to death.  Herod finds that the masses like this and it helps increase his popularity, so he has Peter arrested and scheduled for execution.

Then the tragedy turns very dramatically as an angel appears by waking him from his sleep leading him out of the prison.  It’s a real mystery event as even Peter doesn’t know if it’s real, or a vision, or just a dream.

The angel and Peter walk up to the gates of the prison and the iron gates open by themselves.

But then the event turns and begins to feel like a comedy.

The whole church is praying for Peter’s release, and the church’s response when they see Peter is to think, “That can’t be Peter–he’s in jail!  We’re here praying for his freedom so he can’t be free!”

Sometimes our prayers seem to go unanswered so often, we find ourselves expecting God to do nothing when we pray.  Sometimes we don’t know what to pray for in a given situation, or how to pray. 

So looking at the Book of Acts, in particular, Chapter 12, it’s study can teach us all some important lessons about prayer.

The first lesson is, the Church should pray!

That’s simple and very logical.   Of course; you say the church should pray.  But I have to say that I wonder if we pray enough in our churches or in our own lives.  Paul says in his New Testament book, First Thessalonians,  “Pray without ceasing.”  Many of us will reverently bow our heads for a few moments and then stop.

Paul didn’t mean that we should be on our knees all the time or living like Monks in a monastery.  He meant that we should be in an attitude of prayer, so even while we’re talking with others around us, part of our mind is in communion with God.  And when we’re driving down the road, part of our mind should be in a quiet relationship with God.

But for many of us, prayer is a rare action.  It’s something we do much too infrequently.

“You are in my prayers”

We find ourselves in a conversation with others who tell us about how they are in the middle of problemed teenager situation, or they are waiting to hear back from doctors and the news might not be good, or they’re struggling to find a job and we give them what we think is comforting–but they aren’t in our prayers.  We say we’ll pray for them but we won’t.  I often will ask them right where they are if I can pray for them at the point of the request.  It helps them know they have my attention and it’s a good reminder for me to keep praying!

One of the things we see in this passage of Acts is that the Church prayed!

Praying is the most powerful thing that we can do as a church.  We need to pray as a community.

Prayer for me is often a private thing.  In the mornings when I’m reading my Bible, it becomes my prayer time as well in which I’m alone with my heavenly Father.  I like to call it ‘Father/son time’.

Hopefully, personal and private time prayer is something we all do, but we also need to pray in community.  It doesn’t have to be the entire church–it could be your small group or your Sunday School Class, or a few church members you contact via email.

The church finds strength as a praying community for one another.

Peter finds the church gathered together in prayer for him.

The strange thing is that even though the church is gathered specifically in prayer for him, a comic moment transpires as the church is caught off guard with the fact that God has heard and answered their prayers.  This brings us to another important lesson about prayer in the Book of Acts:

When we pray, we should expect God to respond!

Looking at the Bible you’ll find many times when prayers were answered.  Abraham’s servant prayed for God’s direction in finding a wife for Isaac, and God led him to Rebekah (Genesis 24:12-15).  

David prayed for strength and was able to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17).  

We tend to forget however, there are many times in the Bible that prayer seems to be left unanswered.

Paul prayed three times for the removal of that “thorn in the flesh.”  

Even Jesus prayed a prayer that was left unanswered.  Jesus cried out in the garden, “take the cup of suffering from me.”  He prayed that He wouldn’t have to suffer on the cross.  Instead, He had to suffer the pain of it.

Our own lives are full of unanswered prayers.  So much so, that we begin to live in expectation of our prayers being left unanswered.

And like Rhoda and the church in Acts 12, we reach a point where we are shocked and unbelieving when God answers prayer.  The thought process of why some prayers seem to go unanswered is a complex question.  It’s not a one size fits all sort of question to answer.

There are different reasons for different situations.

Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because our hearts aren’t right with God:  “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

In Proverbs 15:29, we read “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Sometimes, the problem with unanswered prayer is our time isn’t God’s time.

And what we often interpret as “unanswered prayer” is simply a matter of an answer that’s delayed.

In Jeremiah 42:2-7 we read where the people asked the prophet to speak to God for providing immediate direction in their lives–“We want it right now!”

Sometimes the answer comes for longer than simply ten days later.  It might be years later.

Sometimes we misunderstand prayer.

We pray out of selfish motives. 

True prayer is God-centered.

But we often turn our prayers into a self-centered activity.  I

n the New Testament Book of James, we’re told: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).  

The object of prayer is that God is glorified and not ourselves.  At times we think of prayer as Aladdin’s lamp to use in glorifying self.  We often think of God as a genie who is at our bidding and command.

Can we not pray for ourselves?

Of course, but we should pray for ourselves unselfishly.  Unselfish prayer for self is a prayer which seeks not self-centered comfort but Christ-centered conformity to God’s will.  Prayer isn’t an end in itself but a means to a greater end which is to glorify God!

The Bible promises us that God will hear our prayers.

The Bible never says that God will obey our orders and sometimes that’s the way we treat prayer.

In the Book of Acts, we don’t see Peter praying self-centered prayers.  He isn’t begging for his freedom.  He’s resting in the comfort of God.  He trusts God so much on the eve of his execution, he falls asleep and he sleeps so soundly that when the angel comes to wake him up, a gentle nudge won’t do.

When I was a young teenager, my mother would come into my room in the morning and wake me up for school–quietly coming to my bedside and gently rocking my shoulder she would say, “Mel, Mel, time to get up and out of bed and go.”  No–that wasn’t the way the angel woke up Peter.  The angel acted like my father.  When Dad would wake me up, he would crack the bedroom door and shout, “Mel.  Get out of bed right now and get to school!!”

Acts even says the angel had to hit Peter in the side to wake him up!  [Acts 12:7 – Interlinear Bible].

And you know, that in itself is really the best answer to prayer–not that God would do this or God would do that, but that He would give us such trust in Him that we could rest comfortably and calmly in His loving presence.

And the church should pray…

___________________________________________________________

CREDITS

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), or as stated.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old and New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr.

Commentary:  Drumbeat of Love by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Contributions by Maynard Pittendreigh in researching commentary on Acts Chapter 12.

Returning to One’s Own Vomit [Part One]

PROVERBS 26:11 (NIV)  

“AS A DOG RETURNS TO ITS VOMIT, SO A FOOL REPEATS HIS FOLLY.”


History Repeats Itself  [See Ecclesiastes 1:9].

I was reading an article the other day which prompted me to begin this study in Hebrews 6, believe it or not.  The article was entitled “Reasons why millennials are walking away from their faith,” by Stacia Hall.

The statistics show that 65% of them would not consider themselves to be religious.  This is a huge number, but when you’re talking about a cause-driven generation, who is very focused on community and are actually finding it both online and in person, you can see how the purpose of the church and God’s Word would be less necessary.  Being a grandparent, trust me, I’ve noticed.

But the statistics don’t end there. 

32% of them say they actually don’t believe in God’s existence.  1/3 of people between the ages of 18-30 don’t believe that God is, that He exists, that He started it all.  [See footnote [i] ]

Worse, many who at one time said they believed, and now don’t.  And let’s not just point fingers at the “millennials”.  Many people today from all generations are walking away from Christ.

Many are compliant but unconverted.  Some may come to Christ later.

Many of those are not denying that Jesus is the Son of God, they just don’t care!  Some have become enemies of the Gospel or embraced false religions.

Others just numb, deliberate rejection. 

That was the question the Messianic Jews had when they saw and heard their peers trashing Jesus and returning to mainstream Judaism.  We call this APOSTASY and shouldn’t be confused with falling into sin.  A lot of evangelical Christians, as many of us like to call ourselves, based on group dynamics, are a lot like the ancient Hebrews who followed Moses.  It was the thing to do.

Most of us agree I think, that someone whose FAITH & TRUST are not in Jesus is lost.

But what if they once professed the faith that they now deny?  What happened?  Were they SAVED then lost their salvation, or were they never really SAVED?  I believe the later.

In one sense, it doesn’t matter they are lost.  In another sense, it does matter, because if God ELECTS people to salvation, is God really in control here?  Is His SOVEREIGNTY broken?

We can anticipate knowing people who once claimed to be followers of Christ but later in life decided to disavow Him.

I’ve asked myself the question regarding a few members of my own family.  How could this have happened?

THE HISTORY LESSON ~

The lesson I’ve chosen for this study is built upon  The Rejection of the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14).

Most of the Hebrews were skeptics, even though they were ENLIGHTENED by God’s Word.  However, their commitment to Yahweh was flimsy, with reservation, not final, unreserved, and genuine.  It could have been a case of group dynamics and being overwhelmed.  Sound familiar?

They had seen God’s Power in miracle after miracle on their journey to the Promised Land.  Yet, in their hearts, they wanted to return to Egypt and worship the gods of Egypt.

The twelve spies were sent out to preview Canaan and then sorted out its challenges in two opposite ways.

They tasted the amazing produce of Canaan, including the giant grapes.

The people refused to believe God and honor His Word.

They couldn’t backtrack: too late.  So because of their ‘stiff-necks’ and their unbelief, they suffered God’s judgment [Numbers 14:32-37]:  Wandering 40 years in the wilderness until they dropped dead.

And their problem?

They didn’t actually Trust God’s character?

The same principle applies to those who have professed faith in Jesus to later reject Him.

Hebrews 6:4-12 (NIV Bible)

[4] If it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  [5] who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the [powers of the coming age,  [6] if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  

[7] Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  [8] But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed.  In the end, it will be burned.  

[9] Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case–things that accommodate salvation.  [10] God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  [11] We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.  [12] We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Applying this passage of Scripture to the people who professed their FAITH in Christ Jesus only to later REJECT Him is drawing parallels in some sense.

If you spend some time in the Book of Numbers account, it’s obvious that many or most of the Hebrews were not right with God, at least that first generation.  It’s not like they were ‘godly’ and then fell away.  They went along with Moses (sometimes), but did they take ownership of their relationship with the Lord?  No, they didn’t!  And this understanding is crucial.

Why has REPENTANCE become impossible?

It’s not that God won’t accept repentance, it’s, rather, that it’s impossible for these mentioned here to repent; they have crossed a boundary.  An expression I love to use in this regard is “You cannot put an impression on concrete once it’s dry.”

They had been ENLIGHTENED with the Gospel.

  • The Hebrews were enlightened by a pillar of fire/the Torah.
  • The Hebrews sampled the grapes, this sampled SALVATION.
  • They have tasted the produce of the HEAVENLY Canaan.  They haven’t entered the land and the rest that goes with it.

They have seen God’s POWER through the Holy Spirit in their lives and yet they desired to return to their previous religious status forsaking their inheritance that God had promised.  It’s one thing to doubt and it’s another thing to backslide.  And yet another to deny and reject Jesus!

They changed their INTERPRETATION of the Cross in unbelief and in their unbelief they’re agreeing with those who nailed Jesus to the cross.  If Jesus was a false teacher and a fake, then death was the appropriate penalty.

They cannot BACKTRACK and now accept the Messiah; too late!

Look closely at Peter’s words:

“wallowing in the mire” – Def. deep mud; wet, spongy earth.  To soil with mud or foul matter; to stick in a mire.

I was about 16 months in this old photo, but looking at my expression, I didn’t seem to be enjoying the “mire”.

At this point in the study, to correctly interpret any Scripture, we must know the basic rules of interpretation.

The FIRST RULE is to interpret Scripture in the context of the Entire Bible.

Secondly, we are to interpret in context with the Immediate Passage; we need to know the purpose of the letter or book that the text is written by looking at the verses immediately around our text, then interpret with the things as a backdrop for our interpretation.

And THIRDLY, we need to interpret Scripture using other Scripture.  Scripture isn’t going to contradict itself!

Finally, we want to interpret Scripture that is less clear with Scripture that is more clear.  So in this study, I have tried to use these principles in interpretation.

The verses in the first part of our passage of Scripture have been some of the most challenging for Christians throughout the centuries to interpret and taken by themselves, can seem to indicate that if you are a Christian and turn away from Christ, you can lose your salvation and there’s no hope of you ever being saved again.

THAT’S NOT WHAT IT’S SAYING AT ALL.

Verse 4 and 5 says it is impossible for those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become a sharer of the Holy Spirit, and have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come [AMP].

That certainly could be a Christian, but then the author goes on to say if they fall away, it would be impossible for them to be brought back to a place of repentance.

So, when trying to understand this in light of the context of the Bible, it would seem to contradict other Scriptures that say otherwise, because the Bible as a whole, teaches that Salvation is by Grace and Guaranteed to believers by God.

It teaches that a TRUE BELIEVER is eternally secure in their SALVATION when they have truly believed.  We’ll explore this in greater detail in Part Two of this study.

Ephesians 1:13-14

When a person has truly believed they are given the Holy Spirit–and God says through Paul that the indwelling Holy Spirit in a person’s life becomes a deposit that guarantees our salvation.

And other Bible verses give testimony to the same:  2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 2:8-9.

Additionally, I want us to be aware of what the author of Hebrews doesn’t say, that other writers of Scripture say when they are talking about someone who is actually saved.

He doesn’t say that the people he’s talking about have been sealed with the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13, 4:30), or…

  • born again (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23), or…
  • chosen (Eph. 1:11; 1 Peter 1:12), or…
  • predestined (Roman. 8:29-32; Eph. 1:5, 11). or…
  • reconciled (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18; Col. 1:11), or…
  • forgiven (Luke 5:20, 7:48; 1 Jn. 2:12), or…
  • that they had never believed at all! (John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9-10; Eph. 1:13).

Those phrases are each used in multiple places to describe a person who is SAVED.

Here is what the author does say about those he’s talking about:

  • They’ve been enlightened.
  • tasted the heavenly gift.
  • shared in the Holy Spirit.
  • tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age.

Now while those things would certainly be true of a Christian, the QUESTION is…

“could they be true of a person who hasn’t received Christ as Savior”?

To answer that question you will have to continue the study in Part Two, Returning to One’s Own Vomit

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CREDITS:

Footnote [i] – everything.church, Jan. 5, 2016.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

Personal Photo:  “Muddy Mel” – Family Photo Album.  1943.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or as noted.