The Misconceptions of SLAVERY and FREEDOM

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Jeremiah 34:8-21; Romans 6:15-23

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF, AND SLAVERY ISN’T AN EXCEPTION

A study of history shows that great civilizations of the world averaged about 200 years and the people of the world have followed this timetable:

The people go:

From slavery to spiritual faith.

From spiritual faith to courage

From courage to liberty

From liberty to abundance

From abundance to selfishness

From selfishness to apathy

From apathy to dependence

From dependence back to slavery.

–The Bible Friend

FREEDOM IS PART OF GOD’S NATURE [Jeremiah 34:13]

At the beginning of Israel’s history, God made a COVENANT with His people to make them FREE.  He would be their God and they would be His people,  There would be times of slavery, but He would always be there to free His people.

And today, God expresses Himself as a God who wants us to live in freedom.

He said this in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth:

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom).”  (2 Corinthians 3:17 Amplified Bible)

So part of God’s nature is the idea that He wants us to be FREE!

Freedom should be a characteristic of God’s people.

Jeremiah 34:14

God made it part of Israel’s social connection.  God instituted a “Year of Jubilee”.  

God provided a way for Israel to keep from hurting one another financially.  When used properly, no one became more important than God.  Everyone would be cared for properly.  [See Leviticus 25:10 for reference]

The terms of God’s covenant, or agreement, allowed service of one Hebrew to another but never slavery.  God also specified a six-year limitation of that service with the seventh year jubilee release of further obligation.

Finally, the king and the people during Jeremiah’s day agreed to the letter of the law. 

The problem was that the people misused this, enslaving people economically.  God never wants us to use our freedom to abuse someone else’s freedom.  Instead, we should be in the business of “setting people free” by using our God-given FREEDOM as our responsibility.

The Bible warns us that we shouldn’t use our liberty to sin.

1 Peter 2:16 (NIV)

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

Charles Kingsley said,  “there are two freedoms–the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where a man is free to do what he ought.”  If we are to be truly free we must follow the latter, not the former.  [Footnote [i].]

The trouble comes when we take the liberty and freedom which God has given us and abuse it. 

In the case of God’s people, they were taking their repentance back and were showing repentance only to get God’s favor.  They never truly wanted a change.

They wanted the benefits of freedom without the responsibility that comes with it,

Jeremiah 34:16 (NIV)

[16] But now you have turned around and profaned my name; each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free to go where they wished.  You have forced them to become your slaves again.

God doesn’t like it when we take the FREEDOM which He has given us and we misuse it.

Look at what He tells His people:  They aren’t truly changed people and as a result, they reap the consequences:

THE LORD WILL SET US FREE!

He released us from the penalty of every sin in our life.  Therefore, we are to forgive others as He has forgiven us.  And sometimes we do that…for awhile.  But then we remember what he said about us, what she did to us and, like king Zedekiah we change our minds and back into our debt they go.

So how can we have true FREEDOM–the real deal?

 


“What then [are we to conclude]?  Shall we sin because we live not under the Law but under God’s favor and mercy?  Certainly not!” (verse 15 – Amplified)

(*See v. 14) – For sin shall not [any longer] exert dominion over you, since now you are not under law [as slaves], but under grace [as subjects of God’s favor and mercy].

To live “under grace” means FREEDOM to do not what we want but what we ought!

It means FREEDOM for obedience, not an excuse for disobedience.

SIN DOES MATTER!

Freedom doesn’t mean the absence of rules.

We live in a free country, but I’m not free to go into your house and take your television.  There are laws in a free country.  People come to live in America because it offers an opportunity to a better way of life (not lack of laws).  The same is true about living for God.

Romans 6:19

“I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations”  (vs. 19a).

Paul admits that SLAVERY is an imperfect illustration of Christian life (God is not like the slave master’s of Paul’s day), but he uses it because it helps us (who have “weak” minds) understand a basic principle–

  • God is our Master to whom we owe total commitment.

So here’s the challenge:  Let God–NOT SIN–rule your life (vs. 19b).

“Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.”

Christians who live as SLAVES of SIN, must no longer live as SLAVES to SIN!

The Big Idea:  Since everyone is a SLAVE–either to SIN or to GOD–it’s best to choose the slavery that gives the best results.  It’s an either-or situation.  Either you’re a slave to sin or a slave to God.  There’s no middle ground.

The question is not if we bow down before a master, but before which master will we bow to?  There’s no such thing as an uncommitted Christian!

The Truth About Freedom:

WRONG THINKING #1:  Many people think serving ONESELF is freedom.

The TRUTH is that “freedom” from God is SLAVERY

Romans 6:16 (AMP)

[16] Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God).

John 8:34 (NIV)

[34] Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

WRONG THINKING #2:  Many people think serving GOD is a loss of freedoms.

The TRUTH is that “slavery” to God is FREEDOM from the power of sin (vv. 17-18).


The second word of the Book of Romans is “doulos” (Romans 1:1).  But Paul was happy to be a slave, a servant, a “doulos” of Jesus Christ.

“Righteousness”  the conduct pleasing to God.

“the standard of teaching to which you were committed” – We are committed (handed over) to the teaching of Christ Jesus like a slave is handed over to his master.  The teaching doesn’t belong to us, we belong to it.

Believe It Or Not, Our Freedom Comes With Consequences

  • Slavery to sin leads to SHAME (vv. 20-21a).

[20] When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.   [21a] What benefits did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?

  • Slavery to sin leads to ETERNAL DEATH (vv. 21b, 23a)

[21b] Those things will result in death!

[23] For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

ETERNAL DEATH – The eternal separation from God in hell begins after death.

  • Slavery to God leads to HOLINESS (v. 22a).

[22a] But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves of God…

HOLINESS can mean either the state of holiness or the process of sanctification (living that’s increasingly God-centered and world renouncing.

  • Slavery to God leads to ETERNAL LIFE (v.v. 22b, 23b).

Eternal Death is a “wage” earned; Eternal life is a “gift” received.

THE SLAVERY OF CHRIST – (Matthew 20:28)

Christ, in a sense, became our slave.

He gave His life as a “ransom” for us so that we could be free.  He now asks us to give our lives to Him.

What Jesus has done leads us to what to do:  Become SLAVES of Righteousness.

FREEDOM doesn’t mean the absence of rules.

“I am using as example from everyday life because of your human limitations” (v. 19a.).

Paul admits here that slavery is an imperfect illustration of the Christian life, but he uses it because it helps us understand a basic principle:

God is our Master to whom we owe total commitment

The Big Challenge:  LET GOD–NOT SIN rule your life.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Commentary:  Proclaiming Freedom by Jim Erwin, July 6, 2013.

Footnotes:  My Favorite Illustrations by Herschel H. Hobbs, Nashville, TN: (Bradman Press, 1990).

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

The Interlinear Bible: Romans 1:1 (Strong’s Concordance 1401.  Greek Word, “doulos”.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or were noted in images.

Images/Photo:  Google Image search.

 

 

 

 

Up From The Graves [THEY] Arose!

Scripture Study:  Matthew 27:51-53

As the Easter season approaches, I wanted to look at some of the strange and unusual events that are recorded in connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  These events are only recorded in one or two verses of Scripture and they have a real significance for understanding the power of the death and resurrection of Christ.  The specific passage I want to focus on in this study is this one:

Matthew 27:51b-53 (NIV)

[51b]  The earth shook, the rocks split  [52] and the tombs broke open.  The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  [53] They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

WHO ARE THE “HOLY PEOPLE”?

It’s possible that this refers to the great saints like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It’s possible but quite unlikely.  The fact that the tombs are empty causes enough of a commotion–had it been that it was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–well that would have caused an uproar in the city.

I get the impression that the ones who showed up were instantly recognized.  It’s like a homecoming with many people in the city welcoming back loved ones who have recently passed away.  The “holy people” we should have in mind are those who have died more recently who now go back to a city where they are recognized without introduction.

In John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, it is said that they were some later saints, Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, John the Baptist himself, good old Simeon, Joseph the husband of Mary, and others, well-known to persons now alive.  If ever you needed a good plot for a movie–this would be it!

Passages like this are easy to speculate about especially because it’s such a brief account.

But this passage wasn’t written to make us open Pandora’s box of speculation.  These verses were written to tell us something about the nature of Jesus’ death.  To see the significance, let’s have a closer look at the process because it happens in TWO STAGES.

The FIRST STAGE happens immediately at the death of Jesus.

You can guarantee that this event caused a big stir on Friday.

The people back then were not buried in the ground like we do today.  People were buried in caves with rocks rolled in front…that’s how Jesus was buried.  It would be easy to see open and empty tombs.  With a little detective work of doing a missing body count, a trend would develop.  Not all tombs are empty–not everyone has come to life.  This was a difficult trend for the Jews to deal with because an event like this shouldn’t happen.  Common belief by most Jews that there would be a resurrection.  However, when that RESURRECTION did take place the Jews expected ALL Jews to rise, not a limited number.

The breaking open of these tombs has created a crisis.

For certain everyone would be asking, “Where are the bodies?”

They will have that answer on the day Jesus rises from the dead!

But the bigger crisis is a FAITH CRISIS–why is it that some were raised and others were not?

This brings us to the SECOND STAGE of the process. 

After Jesus was raised from death, those people went into the holy city (Jerusalem), and many people saw them.  (Matthew 27:53b. – NLT) 

When Jesus died on the cross, everyone thought it was all over.

But looks can be deceiving.

That’s because DEATH isn’t a natural occurrence.  It’s a result of SIN.

  • The grave has every right to hold us unless our sin can be covered.
  • Death has every right to keep us unless payment can be made.
  • Satan has every right to make a claim on us unless a ransom has been given.

And when Jesus breathed His last that’s exactly what happened.  SIN is covered.  Payment is made.  A ransom is given.  And DEATH watches helplessly as Jesus claims what is rightfully His.

It’s the DEATH of Jesus that VICTORY is secured. 

The RESURRECTION of Jesus is more like a victory lap.  SIN has been covered.  The payment has been fulfilled.

When these recently risen holy ones enter the city they do so as participants in the “victory lap” of Jesus.  And that’s the reason why ALL weren’t raised.

All weren’t raised because, in their lifetime, they had their eyes focused on the wrong spot.

  • The holy people were the ones who trusted that God had set them apart, not because they were Jewish, but because He was faithful!
  • The holy people didn’t presume that they had a place in heaven just because they were born in Jerusalem, they trusted in the GRACE of God to bring them into His family.
  • The holy people weren’t those who sacrificed at the Temple and went on with life as they pleased, they sacrificed their hearts as well.
  • The holy people understood they couldn’t do it on their own and they needed God.

Each of those empty tombs represents a person who understands that real spiritual victory can’t be earned…but rather that spiritual victory can be found when we put our trust in God’s incredible GRACE!

So where does all of this leave us today?

I believe it leaves us with a challenge.  What we are seeing here is a preview of what is going to happen in the future.

There will be a day when a RESURRECTION will happen–and it’s going to be a selective event.

Some will end up in the second death, to be banished from God’s grace forever.  And like the people in the city of Jerusalem, none of us should presume which group we’re in.

Looking at the situation from one side of the fence.

  • You may have been baptized in the church–but your baptism doesn’t save you.
  • You may be one of the foundational members–but that doesn’t save you either.
  • You could be a longstanding member–but that’s not what saves.
  • You Mom & Dad, your spouse are believers–but that doesn’t make you any more saved.

And here’s looking from the other side of the fence.

  • You may feel you have nothing to offer the King of Kings–that won’t stop you from being saved.
  • You may be having doubts and questions–they can’t stop you from being saved.
  • You may be carrying guilt, hurt, hidden secrets, regrets–they’re not stoppages.

Salvation is totally and solely linked to the Cross.

If we come on the basis of our own merits we are being presumptuous.

If we disqualify ourselves on the basis of something we’ve done in the past, we are presumptuous.

But if we come to the Cross trusting the GRACE OF GOD then we will never be presumptuous.

That is the challenge…but there is also much comfort.  You see, at the end of the day, the HOLY PEOPLE are just like us.

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CREDITS:

Commentary:  Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary – Matthew 27:53; Studylight.org.

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

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

 

 

 

 

Making A Name For Oneself

As I was exiting a grocery store’s parking lot with my wife at the end of an exhausting day, I particularly noticed the car in front us had abruptly stopped.  Politely, they were allowing space for a car to enter traffic.  I mentioned to my wife what a nice, courteous gesture that was: “You don’t see that very often!”

At that point, noticing the welcoming offer of entering the busy road, it was either being rejected or the other driver was confused.  It reminded me of a TV commercial I often laughed at of “You go, no, you go!”

But on this trying day, my reaction was less humorous, saying  “What a Nimrod that guy is!”  for not entering the traffic.  With that regretted outburst, I sheepishly asked my wife where that expression comes from and the meaning behind it.  We left the question with puzzled looks on both our faces for a later time discussion.

And the Study Begins in Genesis 10:8-11; 11:1-9

The Etymology of Words

In some English-speaking countries, Nimrod is used to denote a hunter or warrior, because the Biblical Nimrod is described as “a mighty hunter”.

In American English, however, the term has acquired a derogatory meaning of “idiot”; “stupid”.

The Looney Tunes synonym.

In 1932, Looney Tunes accidentally portrayed and transformed the word Nimrod into a synonym for an idiot but nobody got the joke that sarcastically compared Elmer Fudd (the “hunter”) to the Biblical figure Nimrod (“a mighty hunter”).

 

The Religion of Nimrod

.

You can notice in the above verses that Nimrod’s very name means “rebel” or “we will rebel!”

Notice also the words in verse 9 “before the LORD”.  This phrase literally means “against God!”

Nimrod rebelled against the Lord and disregarded the past of the family.

Nimrod would have nothing to do with the faith of his ancestors.  Instead of learning from their experiences, he rebelled against their practices.

Family History of Nimrod

His grandfather Ham and great-grandfather Noah along with the others who survived the great flood left a great heritage for him to emulate.  Out of all mankind, they were the only ones who believed God.  They had found grace in the sight of Almighty God!

After the floods receded from the earth, the first thing his great-grandfather Noah did when he came from the ark was to build an altar, offer a sacrifice to the Lord, something that pleased the Lord.

Nimrod’s Actions…

His actions became the subject of a saying back in those days that Nimrod became a “mighty tyrant in the face of Jehovah.”

He was a “hunter” in the sense that he was relentless in searching out and persuading men to obey his will.

He was powerful in hunting and in wickedness before the Lord, for he was a hunter of the sons of men, and he said to them “Depart from the judgment of the Lord, and adhere to the judgment of Nimrod!”  Therefore is it said:  “This Nimrod the strong one, strong in hunting and in wickedness before the Lord.”  [See Footnote [i].]

When I was rebellious as a child, my mom would say…Mel, you’re stubborn as a mule or when I tell you something it goes in one ear and out the other.  But imagine if you can in Nimrod’s day…they might have said to a rebellious child…“You’re rebellious as Nimrod the mighty hunter who turned against God!”

I can see a bit of the “prodigal” in Nimrod.

He wanted to take care of himself.

He reminds me of the song of Frank Sinatra…“I did it my way”

Nimrod DISOBEYED God’s Principles.

God commanded Noah and his family when they stepped from the ark that they had a responsibility.

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

This didn’t just mean that God wanted the earth repopulated, but I believe also that He wanted to replenish the earth with people of faith.

Nimrod was content in making a name for himself.

He cared nothing for the kind of faith that his family before him had.  And as far as replenishing the earth…  I find no records in the scripture of Nimrod ever having any children of his own.

Nimrod’s Rulership (Genesis 10:10-11)

[10] The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad, and Kalneh, in Shinar.

[11]  From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah–which is a great city.

Nimrod made quite a name for himself upon the earth.

He was a selfish person whose desire was to prove that he didn’t have to depend upon God as had his family!  He would make it on his own!

The idea of “mighty hunter” shows his great skill and also his ambition.

He was a great sportsman but his greatest sport may have been that of hunting men.  If you have ever seen the movie series, “The Hunger Games”, where we may have a picture of his participation in the games.  Nimrod was no doubt a conqueror of men.

He established a kingdom (verse 10) rather than replenishing the earth.

Nimrod is determined to rule over his own domain, to make it as large as possible.

And what a kingdom it was!

Nimrod was the founder of the place called Babylon and surrounding areas which is modern-day Iraq.  All the cities mentioned in the above verses became major worship centers of many pagan deities including the “moon god”…”Allah”.

In Verse 11, we see a person whose main ambition, objective, and purpose in life is to be above others, to have more than others, and never satisfied.

Those who will make pleasure, power, and prestige their goal is never content no matter how much control they gain.

Nimrod isn’t content with what he established (verse 10) but goes forth now to Assyria (verse 11) and beyond building cities in Nineveh, Rehoboth, Calah, and Resen.  They all became worship centers for pagan deities.

Moving on to Chapter 11 we see furthered domination.

Genesis 11:3-4 (NIV)

“Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.”  They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.  then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

The person who would be a dictator can only be a dictator if the people below him are willing to follow.

Nimrod had quite a following!

Nimrod had been given quite a legacy to follow, but he rebelled against the idea and have no part in it.

His family had found grace in the eyes of the LORD, but he preferred trying to make it on his own merits.  His ambition…” to make a name for himself.”

GRACE glorifies the LORD while religion glorifies man!

Notice the drastic contrast between Noah and Nimrod.

Noah, Nimrod’s great-grandfather, built an ark so that his family might be saved!

Nimrod built a tower so that he could make a name!

We can see these two attitudes even today and at work in our society.  Some are concerned about the family structure, and the salvation of their family…children.  While others only concerns are about making a name.

Nimrod’s Religion was secular.

  • Genesis 11:3 –  And they said one to another…let us make brick.
  • Genesis 11:4 – And they said…let us build us a city.
  • Genesis 11:4 – and let us make a name.

God comes down to mankind that we might be lifted up to Him.

Nimrod and his religion say…let’s build our own way and let’s just do it on our own!  Sounds a bit like a commercial advertisement in today’s secular society.  “Just Do It!”

Nimrod’s religion was sinful.

We don’t often think of “religion” as being sinful.  There’s a common saying…”It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something!”

That’s one of the most foolish concepts in the world.  It’s also what is one of the most destructive.

What we believe is important because it influences our behavior and most important it decides where we’ll spend eternity!

Nimrod’s religion was sinful because it was an utter rebellion against God!

His religion was sympathetic.

Nimrod’s religion was the beginning of the Universal Church movement.  It’s a religion that prevails in our society today.

It’s a religion that says, let’s put aside our beliefs and all come together.

It’s the religion that will embrace any type of belief and any form of behavior.

The most politically correct term of our day is “tolerance”.

It’s a word used and spoken in our kindergarten classes, from America’s pulpits, from the sidewalks and from the governmental buildings in Washington, D.C.

I want you to understand where I’m coming from in my writing.  We should be loving people and care that our attitude doesn’t come across as being hateful, and bigoted.

I GET IT!

And yet, at the same time we need to take a stand on what’s right and against what’s wrong.  we can and should be sympathetic toward the predicament of sinners, to those of other beliefs, but to embrace their beliefs and behavior is to put a blessing on the very thing that may lead to their destruction…both here and in eternity!

Nimrod’s religion is the harlot mentioned in Revelation 17.

The True Church is one that’s a bride without a spot and without a blemish.

The World’s Church is one that is a harlot–prostitute.  One that is filled with blasphemy, abominations, and filthiness!

Revelation 17:5  (AMP) – “And on her forehead, there was inscribed a name of mystery  [with a secret symbolic meaning]:  Babylon the great, the mother of prostitutes  (idolatresses)  and of filth and atrocities and abominations of the earth.”

NOTICE verse 6:

Revelation 17:6 (NIV) – “I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.”

Two dangerous attitudes in the churches:

“Don’t offend anyone!”

“Don’t get involved!”

THE RUIN OF NIMROD (Genesis 11:5-8)

The LORD Saw!

[5]  But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.

The LORD sees and knows everything, but when the scripture speaks…the Lord coming down to see for Himself, it denotes the seriousness of the matter!

There’s something we need to clearly understand.  God knows what’s going on both on earth and each of our hearts.  He knows whether our religion is sincere or whether it’s a substitute.

The LORD spoke!

[6]  The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

He spoke out against their desire for a one world religion.

“Indeed the people are one, and they have one language”

He spoke out against their enterprise.

“This they began to do”

He spoke out against their evil.

“…nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined doing”

COMPARE this to Genesis 6:5 (NIV)

The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every indication of the thoughts of the human heart was deeply troubled.

The LORD scattered!  (verse 8-9 – AMP)

The phrase used in the Amplified Bible reads “scattered them abroad” is translated   “to dash onto pieces”.  The Lord dealt with them by confounding their languages where they could no longer communicate by dispersing them.

The LORD shattered!  (verse 8-9)

“…they gave up building”

The religion of man is doomed.  God shall one day scatter, and shatter the ‘New Order’.

For further reading on the topic, you might compare how God deals with the Great Harlot Babylon (Rome) in Revelation Chapter 18.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [I] :  The Jerusalem Targum.

Video:  4-Way Stop:  You Go, No You Go – Youtube.

Entymology of Words:  The term “Nimrod” in American slang:  “What is the meaning of the slang term “Nimrod”?  by Quora.

Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  Primarily the New International Version (NIV) and the Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Forward In Spite of the Past

Scripture Study:  HEBREWS 4:14-16

ILLUSRATION:

One man said to his friend:  “Say, you look depressed.  What are you thinking about?”  “My future,” was the quick answer.  “What makes it look so hopeless?”  “My past!”

Our past does tend to put a cloud around our future.  Good, bad, or otherwise.  Our past sometimes determines the path we take in the future.

When we look back over our lives, we all have things we’ve tucked away in our hearts and minds that we would like to delete, the Bad, the SORROWFUL, and remember and even increase the joy-filled times.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (MSG-The Message Bible)

[14-16]  Now that we know what we have–Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God–let’s not let it slip through our fingers.  We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.  He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all–all but the sin.  So let’s walk right up to *Him and get where *He is so ready to give.  Take the mercy, accept the help.  [* Capitalized because of what He is, the spotless Son of God]

MERCY and GRACE, two great things we all need!

When it comes to the pain of the past, we must ask God for MERCY in order to get over it.  These are the same things that we find that are hard to handle,  and hard to overcome, such as:  losing a loved one in death, divorce, abuse, financial loss, etc..

We must ask God with confidence and boldness for MERCY, to put an end to our suffering over these things that are holding us back.

Sometimes we’re tormented in our spirit for years over such things.  But our God is merciful.  We must ask for Him to be merciful in that boldness and He will demonstrate it.

And next, we must ask for GRACE to keep us moving forward.

Every day when I wake up in bed, as sleepy as I may be, I know that I am here by the Grace of God.  We exist by His Grace.  Good things come our way–His FAVOR, by the GRACE of God.  We are only able to forgive by the Grace of God.  And of course, we are only FORGIVEN by God’s GRACE.

We’ll never move forward in life without the GRACE of God!

Our country is in the process of always looking back and well, it should.  We are looking back on that horrendous day of September 11, 2001.

Everything points to the Lord. 

By Him, we live and survive.  And with Him, we die.  

Without Him, we cannot live or live abundantly as He planned in our lives.

John 10:10 (Amplified Bible)

“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy…”

CATCH THIS…

“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”

And we certainly don’t want to die without Him!

In light of September 11, 2001, we must remember, honor and trust.

DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM REMEMBERING THINGS?

Who doesn’t?

And personally, the problem seems to increase with age.

The other side of the coin is this:  We are pretty good about remembering certain things.  Things that deal with our own experiences; our own likes and dislikes.

For example, my wife has expected over the years, that I should take care of servicing her car.  Several years back, I would tell her when she filled up the car with gas, that the station’s attendant would ask if he could check under the hood [ I did mention “several years back”].

“if it needed oil, remember to tell them your husband would add the oil.”

One day she mentioned her car’s oil was down by a quart and she decided that she could add the oil.  After all, how hard could that be?

I asked her if she had any problems and she answered with confidence, “No problems.  But it took a long time to add the oil.”  Scratching my head and asking, “Why did it take so long?”

She explained that after she took the dip-stick out and putting a funnel in the little hole, it took forever to drain the oil can.

After showing her why she had experienced the ‘slow draining’, with both laughing, and thanking God she hadn’t put the oil in the radiator.  Obviously, I had not been taking care of her car.  Would I do that to MY car?  Probably not.

We could apply this though in many areas of our lives.  And we’d all be guilty.

We are quick to take care of ourselves, watch out for ourselves, feed ourselves whether anyone else gets fed or not.

One of the worst things in the world is SELFISHNESS, and one of the saddest things in the world is to forget people.  And it’s extremely sad to forget them in their suffering.

Luke 10, “The Good Samaritan” story.

There was only one good Samaritan.

The priest passed by on the other side, avoiding the injured man he saw in pain.  The Levite also passes by on the other side.  The stranger, the foreigner, the Samaritan took pity on the man and had a strong compassion.  He tried to take care of the man’s wounds…actually took the man to a place where he could be cared for.

If we could be really honest, most of us are like the priest and Levite.  We’re too self-centered, too self-absorbed, or too busy with our own lives to REMEMBER others.

Hebrews 13:3

REMEMBER THOSE WHO SUFFER.  AS IF YOU YOURSELF WERE SUFFERING.

It could be US instead of THEM!

If it weren’t for the GRACE and GRACIOUSNESS of God we all could be in prison!  We all could be some of those families in New York who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center.

Romans 12:15 (NIV Bible)

[15]  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

We must REMEMBER the suffering of others.

We must not be without SYMPATHY and COMPASSION for those who hurt.

May God help us to remember others.  May God help us to have the compassion of Jesus.

The Importance of HONORING –

Romans 12:10 (AMP)  “Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another.”

Romans 13:7 (NIV)  “Give everyone what you owe him:  If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

Philippians 2:25, 27, 29 (NASB) 

[25] “But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need;  [27] For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.  [29] Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard;”  [HONOR]

Some people deserve to be honored.  Not the high and mighty, the rich and the famous, but those who SERVE, those who do, those who care, those who give, those who love, those who die for others without bringing attention to themselves.

It is always right to give HONOR to who HONOR is due!

Think about those around you who deserve your HONOR, your PRAISE, your THANKS, and your BLESSING.

AND THEN GIVE IT

  • TRUSTING 

There’s an old story of a father who took his young son out and stood him on the railing on the back porch.  He then went down, stood on the lawn, and encouraged the little guy to jump into his arms.  “I’ll catch you,” the father said confidently.  After much convincing, the little boy finally made the big leap.  When he did, the father stepped back and let the child fall to the ground.  He then picked his son up, dusted him off, and dried his tears.  “Let that be a lesson,” he said sternly.  “Don’t ever trust anyone!”

That’s a heartbreaking illustration of the world’s attitude on not trusting others in our lives.  The world says, “Watch out for number one, yourself.  Don’t trust anybody, not even family members.”

Without seeming too negative, I wanted to bring awareness to a strong and powerful truth.

HERE IT IS:  Matthew 7:11 (NIV)

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

None of us like to think that we are “evil”, but in a real sense, we have an evil side, a dark side to us, and it’s called the FLESH.  If we ‘dark-sided’ people are good to our children, how much greater is God, our Father, to us!  If we can be trusted in some form, how much more He can be trusted!

2 Timothy 2:13 (NIV)  “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”

At our very worst times of unfaithfulness, God is still FAITHFUL!

He is for us!  He loves us in spite of who we are or in what we think or do!

I realize that concept is hard to comprehend because all we know basically is human love.  And “human love” often fails.

Hebrews 13:5

God is saying to each one of us:

“Why get so engrossed in making money!  I’m here for you.  I will provide for you and your family.  There’s more to life than money!  I’ll take care of you, feed you, put a roof over your head.  Quit wanting more.  No matter how bad your situation gets, no matter how deep in debt you find yourself, I’ll take care of you!  You’re My kid.  Please let me be your Father!  Please trust Me!”

Proverbs 3:5-6

TRUSTING is a hard lesson to learn.

There’s probably not a person in my life who hasn’t failed me in some form or another:  parents, siblings, mate, children, Christian friends.  And I’ve failed them as well.  I didn’t want to fail them, but I did.  I have and I probably will again.

All I’m saying is, that we FAIL one another.

BUT WE HAVE ONE WHO NEVER FAILS US NOR FORSAKES US!

Romans 8:28 (AMP)

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.”

Romans 8:31-33

The famous preacher Dwight L. Moody once said,

“Trust in yourself and you are doomed to disappointment.  Trust in your friends and they will die and leave you.  Trust in money and you may have it taken from you.  Trust in your reputation and some slanderous tongue may blast it.  But trust in God and you are never to be confounded in time or eternity.”

The only way to live is by faith, by trusting God as our living, heavenly Father.  And by trusting in Christ as our Savior.

If we want to live as successfully as possible, as joyously as possible, we must live by FAITH.

WE MUST TRUST GOD.

Remembering, honoring, trusting and loving God.

Making these your commitments will keep you moving forward!

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CREDITS

Photo Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

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

Dwight L. Moody Quote:  201 Dwight L. Moody Quotes by ChristianQuotes.info

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Purpose In Our Lives


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

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

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

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


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

GREETING

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

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

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

AN APOSTLE OF CHRIST –

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

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

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

THE SPIRITUAL GIFTING –

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

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

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

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

THE LETTER BEGINS with the author describing himself:

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

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

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

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

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

PAUL’S PURPOSE ( 1:1b).

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

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

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

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

Called out…chosen before the foundation of the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s PROMISE Revealed!

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

THIS “HOPE” —

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

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

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

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

PREACHING. TEACHING OF CHRIST BRINGS LIGHT (Verse 3)

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

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

SALVATION IS NO LONGER HIDDEN!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul’s Disciple, Titus (Verse 4) –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRACE RECEIVED…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CREDITS:

BibleStudyTools.com – Sanctification

Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words by Stephen D. Renn

Bible Translations:  NASV, NIV, AMP, ESV.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search – advance settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GENESIS 24: Here Comes The Bride

 

Like many things in the bible, this story, the longest chapter in the Book of Genesis, has a two-fold meaning.  Just like a PARABLE has a physical application and a spiritual application (Sower and the seed, prodigal son, the parable of the lost sheep…).  I believe each person in this story represents something, a picture of something, a symbol of something!  So together, let’s investigate and see what these individuals are depicting.

GENESIS, Chapter 24, is the story of the SERVANT of Abraham.

The SERVANT is searching for the perfect bride for his Master’s Son, Isaac.  The story serves as a great illustration of God’s LOVE.

  • In this story within a story, Abraham represents God the Father.
  • Isaac represents God the Son.
  • The servant represents God the Holy Spirit.
  • Rebeka represents the Church, the bride of Christ
  • Camels – Represents GRACE, or a better description is a picture or image of Grace.
  • Brothers and the Mother – Represents the world or a picture/image of the WORLD.

What is Jesus looking for?  What kind of expectations does Jesus have for His Church?

Christ’s Bride consists of those who are the household of Faith–THE CHURCH.

Genesis 24:1-4 (NIV)

[1] Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way.  [2] He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh.  [3] I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living,  [4] but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

The Canaanites were idol worshippers.

In Genesis 12, God gives Abraham a PROMISE:

Genesis 12:1-2 (AMP)

[1] NOW [in Haran] the Lord said to Abram, “Go for yourself [for your advantage] away from your country, from your relatives and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

[2] And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you [with abundant increase of favors] and make your name famous and distinguished, and you will be a blessing [dispensing good to others].”

So Abraham left his homeland in Ur and settled in Canaan.

Genesis 12:7

[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.

Abraham doesn’t want his Son to marry one of the heathen Canaanite women. 

Abraham was a man of great faith.  He’s getting old and wants to be sure that the FAITH he has will continue on in his family.

Abraham knows his son Isaac will take on the responsibility of maintaining faith in God and His promises.  He knows a Canaanite woman could be a bad influence on his son, so he asks his servant to return to his homeland.  While there, he is to find a young woman of faith to become the wife of his Son.

There’s a Biblical principle to be found here that is often ignored.

Amos 3:3 – Can two walk together, except they are agreed?

2 Corinthians 6:14 – Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

How could God have made it any easier to understand?  CHRISTIANS SHOULDN’T MARRY UNSAVED PEOPLE.

It may eventually work out O.K…  However, it usually doesn’t.

Abraham doesn’t want that to happen to his son, Isaac.  Likewise, we shouldn’t want it to happen to our children or grandchildren.

Christ’s Bride consists of those who are willing to commit their lives to Him.

Abraham knows Isaac must remain in Canaan to fulfill God’s PROMISE.

The SERVANT took a VOW to find a BRIDE for his Master’s Son.  But if the young woman was unwanting to return with him to the promised land, he would then be free from the vow.  Abraham didn’t want a ‘shotgun wedding’ for his son, Isaac.

And so it is with God the Father.  God wants us to come to Jesus of our own free will.  If a person doesn’t want to be SAVED, and rather choose Hell over Heaven, that’s their choice.

The Bride of Christ consists of those who are God picked [Genesis 24:7].

[7] “The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, “To your offspring I will give this land–he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.”

God told Abraham He would send an angel ahead of his servant and the ANGEL would help the servant make the choice.

Maybe I should stop here for a moment to clarify something.  There are TWO theologies that come into play regarding the predestination of man.  In other words, when a person is born, God has already determined how he or she will live his life, whether or not he or she will be SAVED or LOST.

Some people like me, believe in the FREEWILL of man.  Everyone born into this world is allowed by God to make his or her own choice.  In other words, we are not puppets on a string with God pulling the ropes.  And we are not actors on a stage acting out a pre-written script.

The TWO theologies seem miles apart.  However, in this Bible story, I find both theologies at work.  God is doing the directing and the choosing, but Rebekah has to be willing to come!

Luke 6:13 says,  When morning came, he (Jesus) called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.

Though Jesus chose 12 men, each one had a CHOICE to make.  They could surrender their lives and follow Jesus, or reject Him and go on living lives as they pleased.  I thought about this for a while and asked myself, “How does this apply to us today?”

Proverbs 1:27-29

So, back to the representations I mentioned:

  • Abraham represents God the Father.
  • Isaac represents Jesus.
  • The servant represents the Holy Spirit.
  • Rebekah represents the Church.

The Holy Spirit speaks to the hearts of the unsaved.

Though the Word of God is certainly found in our bibles, the Holy Spirit CONVICTS us of our sin.  The Holy Spirit leads us to accept Jesus as our Savior.  When we do that, we become part of the Bride of Christ.

Now catch the words in VERSE 10:  “Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and left…”

Why take 10 camels, I wondered?

“…taking with him all kinds of good things from his master.”

[I’ll get to the CAMELS a bit later].

The SERVANT arrives in the city of Nahor [Nahor was Abraham’s brother] and he made the camels kneel down by a well in the evening.

The Servant’s PRAYER (verses 12-14):

[12] “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.  [13] See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.  [14] May it be that when I say to a girl. ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink and I’ll water your camels too’– let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.  By this, I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

Look how quickly this prayer is answered!

[15] Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder.  She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor.

The Bride of Christ consists of those who are attractive  (Genesis 24:16).

REBEKAH was beautiful!  She could have easily won a beauty contest of her day.

Now don’t get the wrong idea here.  God does look at the heart!  Jesus often criticised religious leaders putting on a big show in public (Matthew 23:27-30).

But outward appearance means something!  The Bible isn’t ashamed to tell us that Isaac’s bride to be was beautiful,  So was Abraham’s wife, Sarah.  It isn’t sinful to look nice!  Outward appearance does make a difference.

But taking this beyond our physical appearances, what about what other people see in us?

God wants us to be good examples.  He doesn’t want us to live in such a way that we bring shame on the name, Christian!  Jesus wants us to live lives that are attractive to others.

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.”

The Bride of Christ consists of those who are diligent–hardworking [Genesis 24:17-21].

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Not only did Rebekah give the SERVANT a drink of water, but proceeded to water 10 Camels.  It’s said that one camel can drink 30 gallons of water.

I particularly noticed something about Rebekah that she went well beyond do what was asked of her…He asked for a drink for himself, and she did that and watered the CAMELS!

The Holy Spirit is always looking for people who will go beyond what they are asked to do!

Genesis 24:22 (NIV)

[22] When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels.

The SERVANT rewards her for her services, for her kindness, but he hasn’t yet told her why he’s there!  Interesting!

That’s important.  Think of all the times God blessed you, protected you…BEFORE you became a Christian.  For me, it was thirty years before I came to Christ’s calling.

Watching Camels drink can’t be a pretty sight.

I searched out some interesting facts about a CAMEL.  A Camel has a set of 3 eyelids.  Two of the eyelids have eyelashes to help protect their eyes from the sand.  The third is a very thin lid and works as a sort of “windshield wipers” to clean their eyes.  It closes/opens from side to side rather than up and down.  It’s also thin enough that the Camels can see through it somewhat.

CAMELS can carry an average of 1000 pounds for long distances.  They also have leathery pads on their feet that spread to prevent them from sinking in the sand.  [ SEE footnote [i].]

GRACE can see through obstacles, carry us thru storms, no matter if we feel like the weight of the world is upon our shoulders.  GRACE CAN CARRY US THRU THE WILDERNESS!

Look what Jesus said in Mark 9:41 (NET Bible)

“For I tell you the truth, whoever gives you a cup of water because you bear Christ’s name will never lose his reward.”

Jesus is talking about those who are His disciples and those who aren’t.  It’s so much more than just handing out cups of water!  It’s about helping those in need.  It’s about working hard to help others.

In GENESIS 24, look closely at verse 61:  Then Rebekah and her maids got ready and mounted their camels and went back with the man.  So the servant took Rebekah and left.

Here’s the highlight, I believe, of the story within the story.

As Rebekah was watering the CAMELS, she had to notice that each Camel was loaded down with expensive GIFTS.  She must have noticed that the SERVANT was no beggar.  This SERVANT was a man of means.  EVERYTHING piled on the backs of those Camels would one day become hers!

AND, let’s not forget Rebekah’s Brother and Mother who represents the WORLD – Genesis 24:55 (AMP)

[55] But [Rebekah’s] brother and mother said, “Let the girl stay with us a few days–at least ten; then she may go.”

There’s always going to be people in your life who will try to hinder you and discourage you or delay you in following God.  Maybe your running buddy, your friends, maybe your co-worker, it might even be your family.

It’s still your CHOICE to make!

So would become the BRIDE of Isaac!

On her way to her new homeland in the Promised Land, she would be perched up on top of all those riches!

The symbolism portrayed here is a person surrounding their life to Jesus through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Genesis 24:62-67 (NIV)

[62]  Now Isaac had come from Beer-La-hai Roi, for he was living in the Negev.

[63]  He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.

[64]  Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac.  She got down from her camel  [65] and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

[66]  Then the servant told Isaac all that he had done.

[67]  Isaac brought her int the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah.  So she became his wife, and he loved her, and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

As the BRIDE of Christ, we too are promised untold riches:

Ephesians 1:18

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints”

Ephesians 2:7

“…in the coming ages, He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Crist Jesus.

Ephesians 3:16

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.”

Philippians 4:19

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Who Will Jesus Take As His Bride?

The BRIDE of Christ

HAVE YOU BEEN SAVED?

Take pleasure in knowing if you are a true believer–that Jesus is your Savior and that riches are yours!

If you are reading this Blog-Study and you are NOT SAVED, or insure of your SALVATION, your eternal security, then you can do it today!

Are you afraid of letting go, letting God make the CHOICES in your life?  Remember that Rebekah was God’s perfect choice for the bride of Isaac.  God loves you.  If you rely on His WISDOM, you’ll never regret the CHOICES He makes for your life!

Do you know someone who isn’t SAVED?

Be like the SERVANT and do what you can to bring them to Christ Jesus by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Understand that unlike Rebekah, some will refuse to give themselves to Jesus.  But at least make an effort to reach out your hand and lead them to Jesus!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

PHOTS/IMAGES:  Google Image search.

Footnote [i]:  CAMEL FACTS @SoftSchools.com

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

Sermon notes   Genesis 24;1-63,  Pastor Jimmy Haile, September 30, 2015.