Knowing What You’ve Signed Up For

A BIBLE STUDY ~

 

If you are reading this and are a Christian having committed your life to Jesus, to love and follow Him, I have no doubt you’ve felt like a failure at one time or another.  The reason I can say that is because I know a little bit about our common enemy. 

His name means adversary (aka the accuser, aka father of lies).  He would love nothing more than to take the same Bible I read daily for encouragement and my own spiritual growth, and give me a smackdown with it, accusing me of failing God in certain areas of my life.  I am so grateful then for the verses like Romans 8:33-35 (NIV).

[33]  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies,  [34]  Who then is the one who condemns?  No one.  Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  [35]  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  

The world often fails to see the potential for success that God has placed within a person.  But God Himself knows us and sees us for our true potential.

And when we open our hearts to Him daily and receive His GRACE, that my friends is the beginning of a life of success.  All other successes will be left behind when we leave this earth.  But knowing Jesus and making Him known to others is something we can take with us!

As Paul and his team were successful as they traveled around sharing the GOOD NEWS about Jesus, several dynamics emerge from these verses found in 1 Thes. 2 that helps us become more effective in SHARING God’s GRACE with others.

Even When You’re Up Against Strong Opposition –

1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NIV)

Acts 17 tells of the strong opposition Paul had faced not only in Thessalonia but also in Philippi.  The suffering in Phillipi that he alludes to here is detailed for us in Acts 16:16-40.  I encourage you to read the accounts of tribulation encountered.

In spite of this harsh treatment in Phillipi, they still dared to proclaim the GOOD NEWS (the gospel message) to the Thessalonians, even though they had run into a spiritual brick wall there as well.

Acts 17 tells us that the Jews in Thessalonia were jealous of Paul’s ministry so much, that they formed a mob and started a riot in the city.  Jason, the man whose house Paul was staying, was arrested and later released on bond.

So that night, Paul, and Silas (Silvanus), left for Berea under the cover of darkness.

THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL –

Although over the past 47 years as a Christian, I faced different degrees of opposition to the gospel message.  But I never faced opposition that the apostle Paul faced and experienced.  And I pray that I never will.  That said, I’m prepared for what might come, not by my own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Opposition will come whenever we set out to accomplish something significant for Jesus’ sake–like sharing the gospel message and helping people grow in their faith!  This is warfare on a spiritual level, and the enemy will stir up as much trouble as he can to discourage us and immobilize us in sharing God’s GRACE with others around us.

BUT WE ARE NOT ALONE!

Just as Jesus told His disciples that He would be with them always. so He is with us.  And He will help us accomplish what He has called us to do!

The help that is delivered with Divine Assistance!

It would have been a natural thing in the world for Paul and his team to call a timeout and take a little break in their mission.

Paul decided not to be a whiner because he was not treated fairly by the people he was trying to reach for Christ.

As they passed God’s GRACE on to everyone they met, the RESULT of their efforts, using an American football term, a roughing the passer, penalty!  God, didn’t you see that?  How could you miss that call?  They deserve a penalty!

But Paul didn’t blame God or feel sorry for himself.

Paul knew what he had signed up for.

The Lord told Ananias in Acts 9:16,  “For I will make clear to him how much he will be afflicted and must endure and suffer for My name’s sake.”  Instead of complaining, Paul received strength, encouragement, and help from the Lord.

Sometime later in Corinth, after facing opposition at nearly every turn, the Lord encouraged Paul in a VISION:

Acts 18:9-10

Here’s the lesson to remember when things get tough for us in sharing Christ Jesus with others:

We can withstand any opposition the enemy throws our way

because God is with us!

“With the help of our God, we dared to tell you the gospel in spite of strong opposition.”  (1 Thes. 2:2)

So when we are doing what God has called us to do church, and we face opposition in our calling, God’s got our backs–God is with us and will help us carry out His plan!

And when we SHARE, we need to be sure that we are doing it for the right reasons.

Having the Proper Motivation –

1 Thessalonians 2:3-5 (NIV)

[3]  For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.  [4]  On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.  We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.  [5]  You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed–God is our witness.

In Philippians One, Paul said that some preached Christ for the wrong reasons (envy, selfish ambition), but he was okay with ut, because even with the wrong motivation, at least the gospel of Christ was being preached.

However, the Lord wants us to take a close look at our motivation and make sure it aligns with who He is.

  • Not from bad theology (or “pop theology”).  Anything that makes us think wrongly about who God is and/or who we are.
  • Not from impure motives.
  • Not to trick the listeners (manipulation).
  • Not to please men (seeking their praise, (Vs. 6).
  • Not using flattery.
  • Not out of greed.
  • Positively, to PLEASE GOD!

The proper motivation to have for sharing the GOSPEL–The Good News–with others is to please God!

It pleases God because He doesn’t want anyone to perish without Him, but for everyone to come to repentance.

If we are using our faith to impress others or get something that we want for ourselves, then we are missing it!  How many times over the years in my own evangelistic outreach have I prayed the words of Psalm 139:23-24.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.”

It’s characterized by giving, not taking.

1 Thessalonians 2:6-9

Paul could have asked the Thessalonian Christians to take care of them, providing housing, food, and other needs.  But he wanted to take care of them, not the other way around–much like a mother cares for her children.

Paul spoke of being gentle, not demanding.  He nurtured them and helped them grow while he was there amongst them.  His love was so strong that he said that he was delighted to share not simply the gospel, but his own life.  He worked day and night to avoid being a burden to them while preaching the good news to them.

How was Paul able to do all of this?

Because that’s what Jesus did!  He came to serve, not be served.  He came to give, not take!

GIVING is the truest expression of love.  God so loved that He GAVE…

Jesus loves the Church and gave Himself for her.

So the question, “What’s in it for me?” wasn’t foremost on Paul’s mind.  He knew his reward would come later.  Now was the time to SERVE, not be served!

Its effects are seen in those who share it – 1 Thessalonians 2:10 (AMP)

[10]  You are witnesses, [yes] and God [also], how unworldly and upright and blameless was our behavior toward you believers [who adhered to and trusted in and relied on our Lord Jesus Christ].

Paul knew they needed to practice what they preached!

Not that he had to do anything different but just to set a good example.  A good example flowed out of a life that was sold out to Jesus!  I would like to call this approach, “modeling discipleship.”  Paul was showing them how to live at being honest, hardworking, holy, righteous, and blameless.  He was simply being a follower of Jesus, and they got to witness it.  Its effects are discipled into those who received it,

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

There’s immediate transformation when a person receives the GOOD NEWS about Jesus, but there’s also a lifelong process as well.

The spiritual growth process requires encouragement, comfort, and urging–that’s what DISCIPLESHIP is all about!

Most of us are okay with the encouragement and comfort concept.  It’s the urging that might irritate us at times.  Urging someone to live a life worthy of God and that means that they can’t get too comfortable and satisfied.

A follower (disciple) of Christ cannot give in to every whim or passion or desire that floats through their heads!

So, we are to be as parents to new believers, as a father deals with his own children. 

Sharing the GOOD NEWS with an individual doesn’t end when they accept Jesus as their forgiver and leader.  It’s an ongoing process of discipleship where the life of Jesus is imparted to them in a relationship.

SHARING THE GOOD NEWS WITH OTHERS:

As we ALL share the GOOD NEWS, realize that it comes with the opposition, but can be done with God’s help.

Our motivation should be to please God, not people.  It’s about giving, not taking, and it changes us so we can help reach and disciple others for Christ.  That’s what God intended for each one us as His people and when we became the church–WE ARE THE CHURCH!

The GOOD NEWS about Jesus and the POWER of God is leading to SALVATION for everyone who believes.  If you haven’t yet received the GOOD NEWS about Jesus and by trusting Him for forgiveness and committing to follow Him, I pray you will right now, where you are.  If you already have, then let it TRANSFORM you!  SHARE IT, and DISCIPLE those who receive it!

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CREDITS:

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search

Commentary:  1 Thessamonians 2:1-12 – Bible Hub

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

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and other translations as a reference in the text of used in the Photo/Images.

AFFLICTION OR JUDGMENT? Is there a difference?


Study in AMOS 9:1-15

In my recent studies in Amos, I’ve seen how God used His prophet to warn the people of Israel.  Israel was going through an almost unprecedented period of prosperity and in the process, had forgotten God.

They certainly hadn’t forgotten about religion.  They were still a very religious society.  They still went to worship in their places of worship.  They still offered all their sacrifices, and they still tithed their money.  As a matter of fact, they went over and above what the Law required.

Today, we would say that churches with these qualities and directives would be a successful church.

But like so many times throughout their history, Israel still didn’t get it.  They thought they were OK.  They felt perfectly at ease and comfortable in Zion.

So God Promised A Horrible Affliction On The People.

He promised all the horrible events that would occur some 30 years later.  Assyria would invade and destroy Samaria.

All the woes,  All the promises of affliction.  All the heavy prophesies and messages given by Amos builds to a crescendo in this last chapter of the book.

The Differences Between Affliction and Judgment.

The differences are well worth noting at this point.  Up to now, Amos’ prophetic messages have pointed to Assyria’s invasion of Israel.  That was an example of God afflicting His people in bringing them to repentance.  Repoentance is more than saying, “Sorry, God.”  It’s changing the direction you’ve been heading–a 180 degree turn from sin.

You see, that’s how affliction is different than judgment.

In my charge as the Bible Detective, I find that there are only two times that God has or will JUDGE mankind.

  • The first was at the flood.
  • The next will be the final judgment.
  • One concluded with destruction by water.
  • The other will conclude in the destruction by fire, and NOT by Climate Change.

Anything in between those two judgments is affliction rather than judgment.

Affliction is for the purpose of showing God’s mercy and grace!

Judgment is for the purpose of showing God’s righteousness and holiness!

Up till now, Amos has spoken of God’s promised affliction.  These promises of God were fulfilled.

Then A Change in Focus Occurs – Amos 9:1-3

Amos starts off with a simple statement:  “I SAW THE LORD.”  It’s simple, but oh, how profound!  God revealed Himself to Amos.

THE LORD IS A SEEKING GOD!

Have you ever played peek-a-boo with a small child?  My wife and I sure did when our kids were little.  It sounds funny, but little children think that when you cover their eyes, you can’t see them.  That’s about as silly as we are when we try to hide from our heavenly Father.

God told Israel through Amos that there was no place they could run to.  No place they could hide from His judgment.

It brings to mind the scene unveiling in the Book of Revelation, chapter 6, the opening of the sixth seal:

When God pours out His JUDGMENT, there’s NO PLACE TO HIDE!

If you climbed to the top of Mount Everest or dive to the bottom of the sea in a nuclear submarine, GOD IS THERE!  There’s no hide and seek with God.  Wherever you may try to run, He will SEEK and FIND you with conviction.

David’s words in Psalm 139 remind me of Amos’ words here.

After all the sin in David’s life, God sought him out.  He knew David’s innermost ways and thoughts.  He sought him and convicted him.  And after reading these verses, look at how David reacted and responded to that conviction.

He responded with REPENTANCE!

But what happens if we don’t respond?

Then instead of afflicting us to bring about conviction, God judges us.

And when it comes time for JUDGMENT, there’s no place to hide!  We can’t hide, because the Lord is a seeking God.  He either seeks in conviction or seeks in judgment.

He’s not only a seeking God, But He’s also a sovereign God –  (Amos 9:3b.-8)

Definition:  SOVEREIGN – Greek 3841, pantokrator – Almighty, Omnipotent, the all-ruler… [Bible Hub].

God is sovereign over the circumstances of life.  

God commands the serpent.

He commands the sword.

I’ve got news for you.  There’s no such thing as coincidence! 

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, ever has or ever will happen to you that hasn’t passed through God’s hands.

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People”

This was a best-seller in the ’80s and still very influential in the populous.  It was authored by a Jewish Rabbi named Harold Kushner.

Several years ago, if you remember, a bridge collapsed over a  river in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Within days, the book’s author was on the radio trying to explain the tragedy to people.  He explained that bad things like a bridge collapse happened because God doesn’t control the laws of nature.  He is powerless to do anything about evil events.  Kushner, I’m sure, said these things to try to comfort the people.  What an empty comfort that is!  I just can’t imagine the God of Amos that he had seen on the ALTAR had been Kushner’s god.  A god who is powerless to stop evil, as you and I are.

My God of the Bible is a SOVEREIGN God!!!

The LORD that Amos saw is the same LORD that the apostle Paul wrote of in Colossians 1:15-18 (NIV)

[15]  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  [16] For by him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  [17]  He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.  [18]  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

In Him, ALL things consist.

He is sovereign overall.

He is in control overall.

He is Lord overall.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The LORD that Amos saw is sovereign over nations.

Iraq didn’t surprise Him.

Afghanistan didn’t surprise Him.

Vietnam didn’t surprise Him.

Hitler’s Germany didn’t surprise Him.

None of those surprised any more than Assyria surprised God when they destroyed Samaria and carried the Israelites into exile.

VERSES 7-8 tell us that God isn’t surprised by the actions of nations.

The Ethiopians (Cushites), the Philistines, the Syrians. 

God is SOVEREIGN over them all!

Although this is difficult teaching, most of us, I think, see God’s sovereignty over circumstances, and nations.

But here’s one that will stretch your thinking.  God is sovereign over our rebellious behavior.  See the last part of verse 8:

God said that He wouldn’t utterly destroy Israel; that He would preserve a remnant.

Not because they deserved it, but because He promised it!  He would preserve them for His namesake–not theirs.

As rebellious as they were, God had promised to preserve a remnant.  And he would keep His PROMISE because He’s sovereign.  Even over rebellious people.

The Lord is a seeking God and He is a sovereign God.  But there’s more.

The Lord is also a SIFTING God!

Look closely at Verses 9 and 10:

What Does It Mean to “SIFT” Something?

When I first looked at this passage, I pictured the process of separating the wheat from the chaff described in the Bible (Psalm 1:4; Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17).  I thought that not one grain of ‘good stuff’ would fall to the ground,  But that’s not what it’s talking about here.

Separating the wheat from the chaff was called “winnowing.”  The “sifting” would follow the winnowing step.

During the winnowing, all the chaff was blown away.  Everything heavy fell to the ground.  That included the good grain, stones, and pebbles.  The stones and pebbles were separated from the grain using a sifter.

That’s the process this passage is talking about.

So instead of all of Israel sitting safely in the sifter of the Lord while the impurities pass from them,…ALL of Israel is the one that has to pass through the SIFTER.  They are the ones who will be sorted and sifted through affliction.

They are the ones who will pass through the affliction of God in order to be purified.  The stones and pebbles of SIN AND IMPURITY are the things left in the sifter.  And that’s a good thing…because everything that’s left in God’s sifter will be destroyed in JUDGMENT!

The SIFTER of God in Amos compares to the FIRE that Paul mentions in First Corinthians :

God purified His saints.  He sifts His saints.

Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked to sift him like wheat.  And guess what?  Jesus allowed Satan to sift Peter like wheat.  Even though Peter initially failed miserably when Jesus convicted him of his sin, he repented.  The sifting purified him.  Purified him to the point that he went from a coward to a bold witness of Christ in a few weeks time.

The promise of the New Testament says that if you’ve trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be SAVED.  But Paul says,  “he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.”

God sifts you so you will let go of your sin.  So that even the smallest sin in your thinking, will be separated from you.

One day all the sifting that Israel has gone through over the past 6000 years will result in only the purest grain.  The LORD is a sifting God!

Finally, the LORD is a SAVING God!  (verses 11-15)

As I’ve already mentioned, this chapter in Amos is all about future promises to the nation of Israel.  God made a PROMISE to Abraham back in Genesis 15.

God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a nation.  A nation that God would choose to call His special people.  And God also promised Abraham that He would pour out His GRACE on those people and give them a land filled to overflowing rich blessings of God.

And He sealed that promise, A Covenant, by Himself.

In Genesis 15, God had Abraham set up a traditional ceremony, where both parties would contract together for something.  The ceremonies were often SEALED by the blood of a sacrificed animal.  In those contracts, if one party or the other broke the agreement, the contract would be null and void.

God had Abraham to set up that ceremony but He didn’t allow him to participate in it.  He put him off to the side and performed the ceremony Himself.

I don’t know about you, but I see God in the grace business.  He knows we fall short.  He knew that Israel couldn’t keep up their end of the bargain with Him.  So He graciously called them out anyway.  He made them His people.  And He will graciously pour out His blessings on them as His people.  Not because of who they are or how special they are, but because of who He is!

Look at the wording in verse 11-12:

“And all the nations who are called by My name.”

THAT’S US!  All the nations in the world who aren’t Israel.

In other words, Gentiles.  THAT’S US!!

By His GRACE, God promised the same blessings to the Gentiles who are called by His name as He will give to Israel. 

HOW? 

Through the BLOOD of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

Confirmed in Galatians 3:26-28

These wonderfull promises that God made to Israel are available to us today because the Lord as a SAVING God.

The entire book of Amos has been a warning.  It was a warning that Israel didn’t pay attention to.  But it serves as a warning to us all.

  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE SIN.
  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE FALSE WORSHIP.
  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE HYPOCRISY.
  • He doesn’t tolerate SIN and REBELLION in His house.

Among His people, He seeks out sin.  He’s SOVEREIGN over all things.  And He will sift us.

Maybe He’s been sifting us right now!

At times God sifted Israel with trouble and ar rimes, And at times, He sifted them with prosperity.  So whether we’re having trouble or having prosperity, it doesn’t tell the story where we are in God’s eyes.

Maybe the question we should ask ourselves is, “How does the Lord see us?”  “How does the Lord see our church?”

If we don’t see Him as He has revealed Himself as a seeking, sovereign and sifting God, He will show Himself as JUDGE.  And I don’t think any of us want that.

But if we do see Him as He’s revealed Himself, He will show Himself to us as Savior.

QUESTION:  Where do we all start to see God as He’s revealed Himself?

The same way David did. 

We have to corporately HUMBLE ourselves before God.

We have to corporately CONFESS our sins before God.

AND…We have to corporately REPENT before our God!

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CREDITS:

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); King Jmaes Bible (KJV); and other translations used in the photos/Images.

Photos/Images Used:  Google Image Search.

 

 

Everything In Life Has Terms Attached To It

Sometimes I think that lawyers have taken over the world.

It seems like everything we do today has some type of terms we have to agree to.   Just listen and watch the TV commercials that lawyers seem to continuously present.  All over the ad in big 2-inch letters tell me about all the money they’re going to give me when I’m in an accident.  Of course, you have to squint your eyes or use a magnifying glass to read the fine print below all the money I’,m going to receive.  The only reason they put the terms on the TV ad is that they’re lawyers!  But they still try to hide them as best as they can.

But you can’t hide the fact that nearly everything in life has terms attached to it.  Whether you’re buying anything on time, getting a job, or entering a contract–TERMS HAVE TO BE AGREED TO IT!

Did you know that God has “terms” as well?

Except God is no lawyer–He sets His terms up front!

SCRIPTURE STUDY – Amos 4:1-13

The problem comes, when we try to meet God on our own terms instead of His.

That’s what ISRAEL did.

Ever since God called up Abraham and promised to make him a nation, He had laid out His terms to them.  And in turn, they constantly refused God’s terms.  They wanted a relationship with God but on their terms.

In this passage of scripture, God speaks through Amos to review His case against Israel.

He reviews the way Israel tried to meet God on their own terms in spite of His continual persuasiveness.  Even though times have changed over the centuries, human nature has not,  Neither has God’s character.

There are still two ways we can prepare to meet God, and that fact is undeniable!

We can try to do it on our own terms or His.  And in order to do that, I want to look at some specific things found in this chapter of Amos.

  1. We will see how Israel tried to meet God on their terms,
  2. We will see how God persuaded Israel to meet Him on His terms.

And with the Holy Spirit’s assistance, we will take a look at how it all turned out.

FIRST, let’s see how Israel tried to meet God on their terms.

Verse 1:  “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”

In this picture, God uses the word “cows” to describe the Israelite women.

BASHAN was a hilly area overlooking Samaria and known for its cattle.  If Burger King fast-food restaurants had been around back then, they would have marketed Bashan Burgers instead of Balck Angus.

Throughout history, in every society, women are the main stabilizing forces.  You’ve probably heard the song, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World.  Well, it may not rule the world, but it certainly makes it stable.

The decline of any society can be seen in the way women act.  They are typically more stable, more moral, more obedient to the laws.  They are more kind and merciful to the poor and needy.

But when they begin to turn from those natural ways, society inevitably declines.  That’s what was happening in Israel.  The WOMEN had turned from their natural roles.  They had lost their mercy and kindness to the poor and needy.  They had usurped their roles in the home while demanding to be waited on.  This isn’t just a judgment on women, it’s a judgment on Israel as a whole.  Because women acting that way is an effect.  It’s not the cause.

The cause is from men and society, in general, turning away from God.

Now fast forward to today.

Women in America are no longer valued for their kindness and mercy.  We lift up cutthroat, catty corporate executives and political figures as role models.  From an early age, girls are encouraged to be tough and aggressive instead of kind and merciful.

Just like ancient Israel, just one of the final symptoms of the DISEASE that has been spreading throughout the ages.

The disease is called wanting to behave on our own terms.  We all want to meet God, but we don’t want to behave on His terms.  Just like Israel, we want to behave on our own terms.

But not only did Israel behave on their own terms, but they worshipped on their own terms,

VERSES 4-5

THEY WORSHIPPED ON THEIR OWN TERMS.

Both Bethel and Gilgal had originally been wonderful places to worship for God.  But over the years, the people corrupted it.  That’s where Jeroboam set up the golden calf.  That marked the beginning of a long history of idolatry and false worship there.  Gilgal was the original base-camp of Israel as they conquered much of the promised land.  That’s also where Samuel anointed David King.  Both places had historically been places of worship.  But over the years, WORSHIP had become empty, even repulsive to God.  They seemed to be going through all the right motions, even over and above what was expected.  They brought sacrifices much more often than expected.  They tithed much more often than was requested.  That should all be good things, right?  Well, not if their hearts were in the condition theirs was.  It all became a show.  The freewill offering was proclaimed and published as mandatory.  They were no longer “free.”  They were an obligation.  They were “worshipping,” but they were doing it on their own terms.  They didn’t worship with a changed heart.  They didn’t do it out of free love for God, they did it for SHOW!  They did it out of obligation!

Could this be Church today?

We want to meet God, but we want to WORSHIP Him on our own terms.  We want to come to church to make us feel good or get our batteries recharged.

Or we come to church out of some sort of obligation.  And if the music, the pastor’s message, doesn’t meet our expectations, our needs, our terms, we leave.

When we have that attitude, is that worship on God’s terms, or is it worship on our terms?

God doesn’t force is to change or to do anything.  Just like He didn’t force Israel to change.  He didn’t force them, but He persuaded them.

We’ve seen how Israel tried to meet God on their terms.  Now let’s take a look at how God persuaded Israel to meet Him on His terms.

God gives Israel a WARNING…warning them of His terms.

BACK TO VERSES 2-3 (AMP):  

[2]  The Lord God has sworn by His holiness that behold, the days shall come upon you when they shall take you away with hooks and the last of you with fishhooks.  [Ps. 89:35.]

[3]  And you shall go out through the breaches [made in the city’s wall], every [woman] straight before her, and you shall be cast forth into Harmon [an unknown place of exile], says the Lord.

WHAT OUR GOD’S TERMS?

Well, He tells us in verse 2:

His terms are HOLINESS.

His holiness is the terms He swears by.

Jesus summed up God’s terms on the Sermon on the Mount when He says,

That’s God’s terms.  That’s what He demands.  And Israel didn’t even come close.

But God in His GRACE warned them every step along the way.

Disobedience would bring JUDGMENT.

He changes His picture here.  He goes from picturing women of Israel as fat and happy cows to picturing them as fish on a hook.

God’s warning was literally fulfilled when the Assyrian armies led Israel into captivity just a few years later.

Archaeologists discovered Assyrian carvings showing how their captives were led away by ropes.  Ropes passed through hooks placed in their captives’ noses or lips.

Has God given us WARNINGS as well?

His terms of perfection are the same as they’ve always been.

But along with His terms of HOLINESS (Perfection), He has given us His provision of GRACE!  Grace that our imperfection is covered by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ.  He takes away our sin and gives us His perfection–His Holiness–His righteousness.  But He only does that when we trust Him as our Lord and Savior.

And the Bible is full of WARNINGS when we refuse His righteousness.

  • WARNINGS of weeping and gnashing (‘grinding’) of teeth.
  • WARNINGS of fire and brimstone.
  • WARNINGS of eternal punishment as God’s wrath is poured out on mankind.

These warnings are far worse than being dragged around with a hook in our lips.  When we behave on our terms, God warns on His terms.  When we worship on our terms, God warns on His terms.

But not only does God warn on His terms, but He also persuades on His terms.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August of 2005, I began to hear statements that really bothered me.  Statements that the hurricane was God’s judgment on New Orleans.

Now New Orleans’ reputation of being one of the most wicked city’s in America to visit, but just as many churches in the area were destroyed by Katrina as were “wicked places.”  As a matter of fact, Bourbon Street was virtually untouched.

God’s time of JUDGMENT will come!

And Katrina wasn’t it.  Just like 9/11 wasn’t it.  Or World War II wasn’t it.  Or the Civil War wasn’t it.  Or the great Chicago fire wasn’t it.  Or the Great Depression wasn’t it.  Or Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t it.  Or everything since the flood wasn’t it.

God judged the world in a flood and He will judge the world again with fire.

Everything in between is His persuasion.

Many of the things we consider as trials are given by God to persuade us to return to Him.  Look at our nation.  After the Civil War, there was national renewal.  After the Great Depression, national renewal followed.  After most great times of trouble and trial in America, there have been periods of return to the Lord.

UNTIL RECENTLY.

Even after 9/11, Bible sales skyrocketed!  Every marquee in every town said something like “God bless America.”  But there was a shift after 9/11 and Katrina.  When Katrina happened, there was a tremendous outpouring of support from churches.  But the people weren’t looking for God.  They were looking for the government.

God persuaded America to turn to Him through the awful tragedy of Katrina.  And as a whole, we didn’t.  Instead of falling on our knees and crying out to God to save us, we turned to FEMA.

We saw the same pattern on a smaller scale at Virginia Tech.  Instead of seeing the tragedy as an indictment on our sinful culture, we saw it as a political opportunity to either ban or support gun ownership.  Psychologists were looked to for answers rather than the Lord.

God is persuading us just like He persuaded Israel.

But are we listening?  Or are we like Israel?  Are we too busy with our comfortable lifestyle to pay attention?  Israel tried to meet God on their terms.  They behaved on their terms and they worshipped on their terms.

But God didn’t just let go.  He warned them on His terms,  And He persuaded them on His terms.

Finally, I want you to see what happened.

FIRST, look at the result of Israel’s terms.

Skimming through the above verses, zero in on the last phrase of each verse.  In each of the attempts that God made to get Israel to return to Him, the answer was the same:

“Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

Isreal had set their terms.  They were going to come to God on their terms.  They want to be FAT and comfortable.  And they didn’t want their service to God to get in the way of their lifestyle.  They wanted to put on “I Love Jesus” T-shirts and claim to be God’s children.  They wanted to worship Him in a way that pleased them.  They wanted to get the charge from going to church without the commitment.

Through all of that outward devotion, God laid down the same charge:  “you didn’t return to Me.”

Israel’s terms we selfish and insufficient to meet God in a relationship.  And because of that, they had to meet Him on His terms.

Amos 4:12-13 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

PREPARE TO MEET THE LORD!

Israel wasn’t prepared to meet God.  They rejected every offer of GRACE God had given them along the way.

When God persuaded them with tragedy and disaster, the rejected Him!

When God persuaded them with His only begotten Son, they crucified Him!

The question today for all is… what are you doing with the GRACE that God has extended to you?  He has offered His Son as a sacrifice for your sin.  He has offered His Holy Spirit to you like comfort and power to live like Jesus.

What are you doing with that GRACE?  Are you rejecting it by behaving on your own terms?  Are you rejecting it by worshipping on your own terms?  Or are you going to accept it?

Make no mistake about it.  Each one of us will one day meet God face to face.

Are you going to do it on your terms or His?

If you do it on your own terms Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

But if you meet Him on His terms, through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, we have the promise given by the Word of God:

How then, do you intend to meet God?

On your terms, or His?

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CREDITS:

Bible translations used:   BibleStudyTools.com – Holman Standard Bible; The New International Version (NIV); The Amplidied Bible (AMP); The English Standard Version (ESV).  And others referenced in Google Images.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merril Unger, William White Jr.

Video:  Youtube – Big Truck Lawyer TV Ads.

 

Just Because You Say It Enough Times Doesn’t Make It True

Scripture Study:  Matthew 7:21-23

A Powerful Jesus Straight Talk Moment:

“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

Saying that Jesus is LORD doesn’t make it so.

Let me say one thing very clear as I begin this study in Matthew,  Neither Jesus or I am talking about a works theology of earning His grace and salvation.  In fact, there may be some reading this who’ve tried that method.

Jesus indicates on the Day of Judgment…

Clearly, these are individuals who believe they’ve done a lot…

They believe that the stuff they’ve done is going to gain them entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  And it’s not little stuff either…it’s preaching…teaching…blogging…engaging in spiritual warfare with demons…it’s miracles!

Jesus isn’t talking to the crowd here, He’s talking to the Church.  He’s talking to people who defend themselves with these words:

  • “In Your name we prophesied!”
  • “In Your name, we cast out demons.”
  • “In Your name, we performed miracles!”

It sure seems to me that the problem here is the statement, “In Your name.” 

Jesus uses this statement 3 times in Verse 22.

My point is that doing stuff in “the name of Jesus” makes you feel good, but if you have no real relationship with Him…if He doesn’t really know you and you don’t really love Him…it’s worse than doing nothing at all, because it leaves you in a state of deception.  In my opinion, and it’s just ‘my opinion, it’s one of the most heretical and damning teachings of the Church today.  Its certainly one of the greatest tools that our enemy, Satan, uses to deceive people who have a loose association with Jesus in the Church today:

“Let the stuff you do become more important than the Leadership of Christ.”

“Let Him just be a name you speak and not a Savior you personally love and serve.”

David Platt, in his book “Follow Me” writes this:

I have a friend – let’s call him John – whose first experience to the concept of hell was during an episode of Tom and Jerry when he was young.

During one particularly vivid scene, Tom was sent to hell for something bad he had done to Jerry.  What was intended to be a humorous cartoon scared John to death, and he later found himself at church talking with an older man about what he had seen.

The churchman looked at John and said, “Well, you don’t want to go to hell, do you?”

“No,” he responded.

John paused.  After an awkward silence, he realized he was supposed to repeat after the man, and so he hesitantly responded, “Dear Jesus…”

“I know I’m a sinner and I know Jesus died on a cross for my sins,” the man said.

John followed suit.

“I ask you to come into my heart and to save me from my sin,” the man said.  John echoed what he had heard.

“AMEN,” the man concluded.

Then the nice, old gentleman looked at John and said, “Son, you are now saved from your sins, and you don’t ever have to worry about hell again!”

Surely what that man told my friend John in the church that day was not true.  Surely this isn’t what it means to respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him.

And yet, this story represents the deception that has spread like wildfire across the contemporary Christian landscape:  “Just ask Jesus into your heart and repeat this prayer after me and you will be saved!”

Should it alarm us that the Bible never mentions such a prayer?  Should it concern us that nowhere in Scripture is anyone ever told to “ask Jesus into their heart” or to “invite Christ into their life”?

Yet this is exactly what many professing Christians have been encouraged to do, and they’ve been assured that as long, as they say, certain words. recite a particular prayer, and with every head bowed, every eye closed, (‘no peaky’), told to raise their hand, check a box, sign a card, or walked an aisle, they are Christians and their salvation in eternity is secure.

IT’S NOT TRUE!

We’ve taken the lifeblood out of Christianity and put Kool-Aid in its place so it looks and tastes better to the masses, and the results…are catastrophic.

According to Jesus, “Many…” scores of men and women believe they are saved when they are not.

In Matthew 7, Jesus isn’t talking to atheists and pagans.

He’s talking to people who are associated with Himself and His ministry.  They assume their eternity is safe and will be shocked one day that it’s not.  Even though they professed their belief in Jesus…even did all kinds of works in His name, they never really knew Him…and He never really knew them.

I don’t know about you but His response is heartbreaking.  It sometimes keeps me awake at night and it burdens my soul.

“I never knew you…depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible uses the word “evildoer” for “lawlessness.”

Maybe this straight talk reveals the truth of real SALVATION…and the real issue.  Remember, Jesus is using the word “EVILDOER” toward people who thought they were “good”…because they did good things.

The word Greek word “kakos” [bad, evil, wicked] reveals the inner character of a person.  The iniquity, the sin, the wickedness lives in us all.

The inner wickedness and sin cannot be cured in a name association with Jesus or by doing “good works”, that would be like putting running shoes on a corpse.

In Luke’s gospel, someone asked Jesus. “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

And here’s His answer:

The narrow door (the gate) is the only way in, and once the owner of the house shuts it, it’s too late.

Here’s the picture:  The door’s shut, but people are knocking and pleading to get in.  But, it’s too late!

And the owner’s response to all the knocking…Luke 13:25 b.

“I don’t know you or where you come from.  Away from me all you evildoers.”

“We hung around you Jesus…we listened to your teaching…we ate and drank your meals.”

“Away from me…you never dealt with your sin…you never knew me…I never knew you.”

No wonder verse 28 records:

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth.”

The heartbreak is basing your life on the false hope that “Hey, Jesus is my friend”…but you never died to your sin, you never surrendered your life to His ownership, you never accepted His grace, and now it’s too late!

It all comes down to the truth:  If your heart isn’t open to understanding how much we need God’s grace, you can say a thousand prayers, be baptized over and over again, work your fingers to the bone in Church and you’ll still be lost.

Remember this scripture that the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:

What Jesus is addressing in His straight talk in Matthew is the difference between those who know about Him and those who live in Him.  It’s the difference between working for Jesus to earn His favor and walking with Jesus out of an overflow of faith.

When you or I…or anyone else is “in Christ”, we haven’t “received a get out of Jail free card.”  We haven’t been redeemed because we just believe in something.  We’ve died to self and we now have Christ “IN” us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If you are no different than you were before or you are no different than the rest of the world around you…

You’ve been DECEIVED and you are not a Christian.

The Barna Study Group Research, published on Agust 4, 2011 is revealing!

Almost half of all Americans claim to be “born again” Christians (I don’t know of any other kind! ).  Out of this group of “born again” Christians, researchers found that their beliefs and lifestyle weren’t indistinguishable from the rest of the world.  Many believe that “works” can earn them a place in heaven, others think that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and an ever-increasing number describe themselves as only marginally committed to Jesus.

After reading the study, I think the one thing that’s abundantly clear from these statistics:

There are a whole lot of people in the world that think they are Christian but are not!  There are a whole lot of people who think they’ve been born again, but are dangerously deceived!!

Now I understand the concept of different levels of spiritual maturity…babes in Christ versus grown-up followers, but Jesus didn’t come to make good people better, He came to raise dead people to life, and that can’t happen in someone’s life and it not be noticeable in attitudes and actions.

Here’s is an illustration I came upon in my reading this week that I think really fits here:

Imagine you and I set up a meeting for lunch at a local restaurant, and you arrive before I do.

You wait, and wait, and wait, but 30 minutes later, I still haven’t arrived.  When I finally show up, completely out of breath, I say to you, “I’m so sorry I’m late.  When I was driving over here, my car had a flat tire, and I pulled over on the side of the highway to fix it.  While I was fixing it, I accidentally stepped into the road, and a Mack truck going about 70 mph, suddenly hit me head-on.  It hurt, but I picked myself up, finished putting the spare tire on the car, and drove over here.”

If this were the I shared, you would know I was either deliberately lying or completely deceived.  

WHY?  Because if someone gets hit by a Mack truck going seventy miles per hour, that person is going to look very different than they did before.

Jesus isn’t a pussy-cat…

He’s the Lion of Judah and if you come face to face with Him, the Word of Creation, the Sovereign Lord of the Universe and He reaches down into the depth of your heart, saves you from the slavery of sin and transforms you to follow Him…you are going to look different…very different!

So what happens when the Mack truck of God’s glory and forgiveness hits us?

There’s repentance and baptism and resurrection of new life by the Holy Spirit.  And, we begin to look like Jesus in this world, according to 1 John 3:1-10.

DON’T BE DECEIVED!

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CREDITS:

Sources:  Interlinear Bible; Vinne’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W.E. Vine.

Images/Photos:  Google Image Search.

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

 

“If the foundation be destroyed…”

Scripture:  Psalm 11:3; Isaiah 58:12

A Christian college professor asked his doctoral students to complete a theological survey of congregations – They learned that many churches, over 56%, don’t know their church’s basic theological positions.  They can neither summarize nor explain their church’s doctrine.  There are many reasons why, and that brings me to this week’s blog.  

Many people have asked me over the last few years, what “denomination” am I member of”.  They are somewhat taken back when I answer, “I’m a fundamentalist!  I don’t ‘belong’ to any “denomination”.

So what is a “fundamentalist”?

GOING BACK TO THE “BASICS” 

The Huffington Post revealed its ignorance in an article that attempted to portray the President’s nominee for Army Secretary as some sort of Christion fundamentalist weirdo:

“Trump’s Army Pick:  Looking at Victoria’s Secret Catalogs Can Turn

Men Into Saddam Hussein,” 

…read a headline that was published.

RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM –

Over the past several years I’ve heard and read about attacks on the fundamentals of the Christian faith:

It was suggested in a recent television program that Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, that Mary’s conception was the result of being raped by a Roman soldier.  Such attacks aren’t new:

John 6:42 (NIV)

The said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we knew?  How can He now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

Years ago it was reported that a certain Anglican priest expressed his view that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, rather, he merely ‘swooned’ or passed out then regained consciousness a few days later.  After showing Himself to the apostles, he moved to Egypt and lived to a ripe old age.

Mark 15:44-45


Such attacks against the FUNDAMENTALS OF OUR FAITH must not be swept under the carpet.

Galatians 1:6 (NIV)

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in  the grace of Christ and is turning to a different gospel–“

“Those who take pride in their steadfastness shall fall the hardest”  (Quotes & Things, D. Collins ).

1 Corinthians 10:12 (AMP)

“Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands [who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm], take heed lest he falls [into sin].

Manufacturers Know 3 Secrets of Increasing Sales:  Advertise, advertise, advertise.

A carefully crafted advertisement, frequently repeated during primetime viewing to increase sales.

Someone once laid down two guidelines for selling a LIE:

  • Keep repeating it to yourself until you believe it, then…
  • Tell it again and again to as many people as possible.

WE NEED TO BE SELECTIVE IN REGARDS TO THAT WHICH WE EXPOSE OURSELVES…

Or we’ll end up believing a LIE.

But more than that, we need to ‘repeat to ourselves’ over and over again the fundamental truths of the gospel so that we might remain fully convince and firmly established in the TRUTH.

Read carefully the instruction that God gave to the Israelites:

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (NIV)

[6]  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  [7]  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  [8]  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  [9]  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

[18]  Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.   [19] Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

NOTE too, what the Apostle Peter wrote to Christians:

[Also read 2 Peter 3:1-2, 17; Proverbs 3:3]

FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS OF THE GOSPEL THAT NEED TO BE UNDERSTOOD:

Isaiah 58:12 (AMP)

[12] And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of [buildings that have laid waste for] many generations; you shall be called Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of Streets to Dwell in.

#1.  The Virgin Birth.

The record concerning Jesus’ birth:

What does the record say concerning the Birth of Jesus?

Luke 1:26-55

 

AND, in Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

The facts presented by Luke and Matthew are clearly to the point.  Mary was a virgin.

In case there might be any doubt, what is meant by the word ‘virgin,’ (some say it just means ‘young woman’), it’s clear from the text that it means ‘one who hasn’t had sexual intercourse’.

Mary says, “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  (Luke 1:34)

Matthew states that This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about:  His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  (Matthew 1:18)

To deny the fact of the virgin birth is to deny that Jesus is the eternal Word of God who “was made flesh, and dwelt among us” as the Scriptures affirm.

AND…

AND…

“The first man [was] from out of earth, made of dust (earthly-minded); the second Man [is] the Lord from out of heaven”  (1 Corinthians 15:47 – Amplified version).

DENY that Jesus is God’s one and only Son as the Scriptures affirm:

[Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4; 1 John 4:9]

The Word of God says of those who DENY the fact of the Virgin Birth and that Jesus came in the flesh is plain:

  • They are not of God (1 John 4:2-3).
  • There are deceivers and an antichrist:  2 John 1:7 (NIV)

[7]  I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world.  Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.

THE DEATH ON THE CROSS

The record of Jesus’ death on the cross:

What does the Bible say concerning Jesus’ CRUCIFIXION?

Acts 2:23 (AMP)

“This Jesus, when delivered up according to the definite and fixed purpose and settled plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and put out of the way [killing Him] by the hands of lawless and wicked men.”

The evidence presented by the evangelists are quite clear:

  • JESUS “gave up His spirit” (Matthew 27:50)
  • When the soldiers came to Jesus, they “saw that He was dead already” (John 19:33)
  • John also notes the fact of the soldier who pierced Jesus’ side with a spear (John 19:34)

To deny that Jesus died on the cross is to deny that Jesus has died for all our sins.

[Also READ: 1 Corinthians 15:3; Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18; Romans 5:6]

To DENY that we have been RECONCILED. JUSTIFIED, then we are still alienated; separated from God’s mercy and grace.

Romans 5:10 (NIV)

“For if,  while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

To DENY that Jesus tasted death for everyone, it means we must pay the price for our sins after all (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 2:9).

To DENY that the Devil has been rendered powerless!  (Hebrews 2:14)

THE RESURRECTION

The record stated of the resurrection:  (Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-31)

The RECORD clearly states that Jesus was raised from the dead (Matthew 28:5), and He appeared to His disciples (Matthew 28:8-9; John 20:14, 10).

The disciples saw and touched His wounds  (John 20:20, 26-28)

To DENY the RESURRECTION is to…

Regarding Jesus:

Say that His soul was left in Hades and that death has dominion over Him, and the pains of death haven’t been loosed.

Acts 2:31 (NIV)

“Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that He was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay…”

Romans 6:9 (NIV)

“For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him.”

Acts 2:24 (NIV)

“But God raised him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.”

DENY THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD:

Romans 1:4 (AMP)

“And [as to His divine nature] according to the Spirit of holiness was openly designated the Son of God in power [in a striking triumphant and miraculous manner] by His resurrection from the dead, even Jesus Christ our Lord (the Messiah, the Anointed One).”

DEMY THAT JESUS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN and sat down at the right hand of the Father, and ruling from His throne:

Ephesians 1:20-21; Acts 2:30; Philippians 2:5-11

To say that Jesus will not return:

1 Thessalonians 1:10 (AMP)

And [how you] look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead–Jesus, Who personally rescues and delivers us out of and from the wrath [bringing punishment] which is coming [upon the impenitent] and draws us to Himself [investing us with all the privileges and rewards of the new life in Christ, the Messiah].”

Regarding Us.

Say that everything we believe and hope is in vain and meaningless:  “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”  (1 Corinthians 15:14).

We will not be resurrected:

Romans 8:11 (NIV)

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in  you.”

And, we are not SAVED and still in our sins:

  • 1 Peter 3:21.
  • Romans 10:9.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:17.
  • Romans 4:25.

We have no hope:

  • 1 Peter 1:3.
  • 1 Peter 1:21.

The fundamentals of our faith are under attack from the very beginning to the present day, and they will, without a doubt, continue relentlessly until the end of time.

Philippians 3:1

Three of the fundamental doctrines that constantly come under attack are…

  1. ‘the virgin birth’
  2. ‘the death of Jesus on the cross’
  3. And ‘the resurrection.’

To deny, modify these fundamental truths (the HEART of the Gospel) means denying the whole body of teaching surrounding the heart.

We need to constantly remind (READ) ourselves the FUNDAMENTALS of our Faith…the FOUNDATIONS of our Belief, and defend the faith delivered to the saints with the sword of the Spirit.

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CREDITS:

Christian fundamentalism AMERICAN PROTESTANT MOVEMENT written by J. Gordon Melton, Ernest R. Sandeen – Encyclopedia Britannica.

PHOTO/IMAGES:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), and other translations used in the photos and images.

“Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way!” – BUT Whose Will?

SCRIPTURE:  Luke 22:39-46

“…not my will, but yours, be done.”  (v. 42)

To find out what is the will of God and to do it whole-heartedly I want to begin this study with one of my favorite musicals put on film, one that most people are familiar with – The Sound Of Music.

“How do you solve a problem like Maria?”

How do you solve the problem?  The answer is easy – you make her someone else’s problem!  (Captain Von Trapp).

Here’s a girl who’s always getting herself in trouble!  She’s always off doing her own thing!  She doesn’t conform, she doesn’t follow the rules – but she desperately wants to!

Maria was a square peg in a round hole….she wasn’t where she was meant to be, doing what she was meant to do.  Does any of this sound familiar?

On a spiritual level, do you sometimes feel that you’re off “doing your own thing”–not really doing what you’re meant to be doing?  Do you sometimes think that you are trying as hard as you can to be holy; you’re trying your best to do all that is expected of a good Christian–but you never quite seem to make it?   How many times have I personally been in these instances and looked up and yelled:

“HELP ME! Give me solace, Lord!”

Spiritually speaking, perhaps you find yourself as a square peg in a round hole and ask yourself are you where you are meant to be?  Are you doing what you were meant to do?

After watching the movie clips. the Reverend-Mother asked Maria a very significant question,  “What is the most important lesson you have learned here…”  Maria’s response was very profound I thought,  “To find out what is the will of God and to do it whole-heartedly.”  If someone asked me what one lesson have I learned in life I would have to say I have learned “to seek out God’s will and then do it gladly–even if I don’t want to do it!”

In the scripture referenced you can read a moment in the life of Christ about His Father’s WILL and His own WILL where they seem to be at odds with each other.

To put this in context, Jesus was fully aware of His impending death.  He had just spent time in the upper room celebrating the Last Supper with His disciples, preparing them for what was going to happen.

Jesus had now taken them to the Mount of Olives to pray.

The text tells us that this was a regular thing for them to do–but on this particular night, there seems to be a particular tension among them.

For the disciples, the Last Supper had just been a confusing and emotional time.  Jesus had been talking about feeding them with His body and blood, there had been a fight over who was the most important disciple, and Jesus had scolded Peter for asking about the restoration of the nation–and even gone on to tell that Peter would be about even knowing Him–the Peter who Jesus would build His Church upon.  And just before the disciples had left to go to the Mount of Olives, Jesus told them to arm themselves with swords!!!

On the Mount of Olives Jesus commanded them to PRAY–

But the poor exhaustive disciples, like Maria in the Sound of Music, didn’t live up to what was expected of them.

They tried to be “good Christians,” they tried to pray, but sleep got the better of them.

For Jesus, the stress of the situation was obvious, in sweating buckets.  I can almost hear the anguish in His voice as He prays,  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…”

Jesus wanted one thing, but His Father wanted another…

At this moment Jesus wanted to be spared the physical pain and agony, the ridicule and embarrassment, the provocation and aggravation that was to come–God wanted Him to go through it–so the rest of the world could be reconciled to Himself.

Jesus wanted to be spared the defilement of taking on the sins of the world–BUT this was God’s WILL for Him–

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”  (NIV).

And now God’s GRACE…

Those poor disciples!!!  The loved Jesus with all their hearts.  They wanted to please Him, wanted to follow Him–and they did so earnestly.  They wanted to obey Him and live out His leading, even if they didn’t always get it right.  We probably could say that their “hearts were in the right place,”  for they faithfully followed Jesus, even though His teachings didn’t always make sense.  The faithful followed Him, even when they messed up–and when they messed up, they tried hard not to make the same mistake twice.

As for Jesus, He was the dutiful Son!

He knew that His Father knows best.

He knew that His Father’s WILL superseded His own will.

Jesus knew that He had a choice to make–He could follow His own instinct for self-preservation and have the whole purpose of His mission fail, or…

He could submit to His Father’s WILL and believe that “all things work together for good…”  (Romans 8:28)

The dutiful Son loved His Father –

He trusted His Father, He knew that His Father would work everything out for the best.

Jesus was willing to PRAY, “Father, I don’t want to do what you are asking me to do–but I’ll do it anyway if you really want me to!”

How much LOVE, how much TRUST do you need to have in someone before you can say that to them?  I had to think about that for a moment–think how much He loved me to be willing to die for me, for us!  How much He trusted His Father’s will–to be obedient unto death!

Surely Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Jesus was willing to do God’s WILL before His very own…

JUDGMENT in the World –

Ask yourself, Am I like Maria?  Are you like the disciples?

Maybe you’re struggling within the basics of Christian living–perhaps you just can’t stick to this praying and Bible reading every day– “I just can’t seem to find time in my busy life; getting the kids ready in the mornings, keeping the house straight, fixing meals and then doing it all over again each and every day!”

Maybe your struggle is with THE CALLING–maybe you have sensed God calling you out to a particular task, but you don’t want to do that!!!

Given that my calling is teaching, I’m thinking specifically of a call to teach–but there are many other calls and vocations from God too.  Whatever our struggle may be, we must “…find out what is the WILL of God and to do it wholeheartedly.”

GRACE in the World –

The GOOD NEWS is that we can know the WILL of God for us, and the Bible tells us how…

Romans 12:1-2 says,

So the KEY is to present ourselves as living sacrifices–a SACRIFICE is simply something that has been offered.  Something that has been given to God.

Have you given your life over to God…completely?  Isn’t that the first step to take as you seek to discover God’s WILL for your life?

The next step is to… “not conform to the pattern of this world”–we are to be TRANSFORMED by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us.

“I DARE TO BE DIFFERENT”

Len Ballentine’s chorus says,

I dare to be different, I dare to believe;

I dare to be different, God’s Spirit receives.

I dare to be different, my life sacrificed;

I dare to be different by living like Christ.

Do I “dare to be different”?

Do you “dare to be different”?

Do you dare to SACRIFICE your life to live like Jesus?

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he tells us that only by offering ourselves–that being available and living a life that’s different from the world around us, that we actually gain the ability to discern what God’s perfect will is for us.

There’s an old cliché that says, God doesn’t look at our ability, rather He looks at our availability.

HOW AVAILABLE ARE YOU?

IS THE LORD THE LORD OF YOUR LIFE?

IS HE THE KING OF YOUR VERY BEING?

My prayer for you is found in the chorus of one of my favorite Praise songs, Reign In Me:

When we sing the words we are surrendering, we are sacrificing ourselves to God.  We are making ourselves available to Him.  We are yielding to His will.

How about you?  Are you willing to make that sacrifice, making yourself available for Him to use you in any situation?

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CREDITS:

PHOTO IMAGES:  Google Image Search

Music Videos:  YouTube.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); or where noted in the photo/images, or in the text.

 

THE AVENGER


With the recent news headlines regarding the lack of justice in the land and in the world, let’s face it.   It’s frustrating!  It seems that hardened criminals get off with just slaps on the wrists.  I can’t stand the lack of consequences being dealt out for evil behavior.

While injustice in our country and the world abounds, my spirit rises when I ponder the Word of God when it clearly communicates that the wicked will not go unpunished.  As the Day of the LORD approaches, The Avenger of all the earth ensures that the wicked are done away with and justice is done.

In the last several weeks I’ve been reading and studying in THE BOOK Of Jeremiah, learning that because of the people’s constant sinning against the LORD, the Jews of Jeremiah’s day received what they deserved–the JUDGEMENT of the LORD.

God didn’t let them get away with rebellion against Him.

The people who God used to carry out His judgment were the Babylonians.

However, the tactics and methods of the Babylonians were absolutely unconscionable and brutal.  That gave rise to the question, which Jeremiah anticipates in the two chapters referenced:

“Will the Babylonians be punished for their evil deeds?  Will justice be done?”

And the answer given of Jeremiah 50-51 is “Yes, the Babylonians are going to be punished for the evil they commit against you.  The destroyer is going to be destroyed.  Babylon is going to fall and not rise again.”  

And for the Jews, Jeremiah 50-51 held a great comfort:

  1. The Babylonians were not going to get away with their evil deeds.
  2. The Jewish nation was going to survive.  God was going to redeem them in the land of captivity and return them to their homeland and be their God.

God’s JUSTICE…Is the fact that God will not let the wicked go unpunished.

But before we can have an understanding of God’s commitment to JUSTICE, we need to learn and understand about His vengeance and the anger that is aroused in Him by a person or nations in disobedience.

Jeremiah 50:15

Jeremiah speaks of the city of Babylon as an act of vengeance by the LORD:


Jeremiah speaks of how the time has come to be punished and how God was going to take vengeance on the Babylonians for what they had done to His Temple:

Jeremiah 50:27-31 (AMP)

[27] Slay all her bullocks (her choice youths, the strength of her army); let them go down to the slaughter!  Woe to [the Chaldeans]!  For their day has come, the time of their visitation (their inspection and punishment).

[28] Listen!  The voice of those [Jews] who flee and escape out of the land of Babylon proclaiming in Zion the vengeance [of the Lord upon the Chaldeans] for [the plundering and destruction of] His temple.

[29] Call together [many] archers against Babylon, all those who bend the bow.  Encamp against her round about; let none from there escape.  Recompense her according to her deeds; just as she has done, do to her.  For against the Lord, against the Holy One of Israel, has she been proudly defiant and presumptuous.

[30] Therefore shall her young men fall in her streets and squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed on that day, says the Lord.  [31] Behold, I am against you, O Babylon [you who are pride and presumption personified], says the Lord, the Lord of hosts, for your day has come, the time when I will visit and punish you.

Jeremiah’s prophecy of the destruction of Babylon was 170 years before its fulfillment.

In verse 29, God’s intent was to repay Babylon for her rebellion against Him.  Like things are said in Jeremiah 51:6; 51:11; 51:13; 51:24; and 51:36.

One of God’s Attributes: GOD IS A GOD OF VENGEANCE!

For some of us, the idea that God is a vengeful God just doesn’t seem right.  Yet in Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19 we read:  “It is mine to avenge; I will repay”

And in Romans 12:19,

So what is the vengeance of God about?  —justice, retribution, punishment, payback, balancing the scales of right and wrong, righteous and holy anger.  It’s God’s response to SIN AND REBELLION.  Vengeance and the punishment of the wicked is God’s right and His duty.  In fact, if God can’t be true to His character of holiness and justice and if He allows SIN AND REBELLION to go unpunished…and if justice is to mean anything, then rebellion, lawbreaking, disobedience, arrogance, and all evil acts necessitate punishment.  God cannot and will not let the wicked go unpunished. 

As Nahum 1:3 says, “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished…”. 

Proverbs 11:21 also says “Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free.”

Just so I don’t leave you with an inaccurate view of God, we need to understand that the Bible balances the fury of God’s vengeance against the sinner with the greatness of His mercy on those who repent of their wicked ways.  This includes the nations of the world as well.

Our God is incredibly merciful!

In Psalm 116:5 it says, “The LORD is gracious and righteous, our God is full of compassion.”

In 2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance.” [AMP]

For in Jesus and the Cross, the full expression of God’s MERCY and GRACE is made available for us–for in the CROSS and the shed BLOOD of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice for sin, the remedy for our sin and the judgment of God we all deserve.

As the time came for Babylon to be punished and experience God’s wrath against her, so the time approaches for the people in our day to experience the same.

Without a doubt, the Day of Judgment approaches.

In Hebrews 10:30-31, it says “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.”  [31] It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

And again in 2 Peter 3:10 it says,  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will vanish (pass away) with a tremendous crash, and the [material] elements [of the universe] will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.  [AMP]

There’s a reason for this happening:

  • BECAUSE of the wickedness of mankind.
  • BECAUSE OF OUR SIN.
  • BECAUSE of peoples refusal to live as God requires us to.
  • BECAUSE the justice and righteousness of God demands that sin and rebellion be punished.

While the great Day of Judgment approaches, the Bible also teaches us that after we die and face judgment, each one will appear before the LORD and give an account–and to Heaven or Hell one will go for all eternity.

I know, most pulpits today are not preaching this.  And why?  “People that come through our doors don’t want to hear negative sermons,” as it’s been noted in churches across the land.

Here is something to note:  The one who will judge, the one who determines where one’s eternity will be spent…IS JESUS!

John 5:22-23 records Jesus saying,  

TWO THINGS as it pertains to the coming Day of Judgment:

For most, the Day of Judgment will be a terrible day for them–for they will experience the LORD’S hand against them.

For the few righteous, the children of God, a glorious day, the Day of the Lord shall be!

For all the saints a day of celebration and praise will take place.  Along with the angels of Heaven who will declare “True and just are your judgments O Lord.”  [See Revelation 16:7, and note Jeremiah 51:48. ]

The Required Preparation for the Day of the Lord.

  • The only way to be prepared is to be right with God.  The only way to escape the coming JUDGMENT is to be at peace with God.
  • The only way to be right with God is to be a follower of Jesus.  As Jesus says in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
  • The only way to have peace with God is to humble ourselves before Him, confessing our sin, mourning over it, and embracing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

THE GLORIOUS NEWS OF THE SCRIPTURE–

For those who are right with God–meaning they’re disciples of Christ on the Day of Judgment–they shall not experience condemnation of God. 

Romans 8:1 (NIV) says, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

As the angel of death passed over the houses of the Jews and the blood of the lambs spread on their doorposts, so the destruction of the Lord will pass over all those identified and spiritually marked with the shed blood of Jesus–the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.

VENGEANCE IS GOD’S BUSINESS, NOT OURS!

Like the ancient Hebrews, many Christians have misapplied the doctrine of divine vengeance using it as an excuse for holding on to the “getting even” against others.  Jesus has clearly spoken out against this:

Likewise in Romans 12:17-21 the Apostle Paul by the Spirit of God, commands us saying, 

Since VENGEANCE and REPAYING EVIL is God’s domain, we need to ask:

  • Is there someone you are holding a grudge against in the present, or in the past?
  • Is there someone in your life who you would like to get even with?

If you are struggling with a grudge, with unforgiveness, and with a retaliation spirit, then confess it now and ask the Lord to forgive you and to give you the mind of Christ, which is LOVE for your enemies, to turn the other cheek, to forgive those who trespassed against you.

As much as I or you hate injustice in our society and wrong sinful behavior, God hates it 1000 times more.

GOD HAS MADE A PROMISE:

He will not let the wicked go unpunished,

His HOLINESS AND COMMITMENT to justice demands this.

The only way to escape the AVENGER’S wrath is to flee to Jesus Christ who took upon Himself the punishment for sin that you and I deserve.

On the CROSS He endured the wrath of God for our sins and that whoever should believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The more injustice and evil abound, the greater the comfort comes from this doctrine we have looked at in this study will be to us.

While our God is a God of vengeance, an AVENGER, we need to remember it’s held in the perfect balance of His rich and undeserved mercy (1 Thessalonians 4:6).


VENGEANCE IS GOD’S BUSINESS, NOT OURS

We need to learn to turn the other cheek and to wait upon the Lord–for He will AVENGE the wicked–they will not go unpunished.

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CREDITS:

Encyclopedia:  International Standard Bible Encyclopedia – Avenge; Avenger.

Dictionary:  VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY.

IMAGES:  Google Image search.

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