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).

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

“To Brag or Not to Brag,” that Is the question.

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Jeremiah 9:23-24, Philippians 3:3-11

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I stole the title for this blog from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To be or not to be, that is the question…”  You’ll see the connection as you read on.

To Brag or Not to Brag?  Doesn’t everybody “brag”?

ILL:  Two young boys were having a discussion over school lunches.  “My father makes more money and, my dad can run faster than your dad!”  Oh, yeah!” said the other boy.  “My dad can beat up your dad.”  “That’s nothing, he responded.  “My mom can beat up my dad!”

So does everyone brag or not?  My mother always asked me as a child when patting myself on the shoulder for my accomplishments, why I was bragging about them  My answer, of course, was to shift the responsibility to someone else.  “My friends brag all the time!”  Her response was always the same: “If one of your friends told you to jump off the roof, would you do it?”  I would shake my head no. and she would continue saying, “Quit shifting the blame to others and admit your own wrongdoing, Mel.  You know better!”  Mom always has ways to make you want to crawl under something when coming up with a wrong ‘you should have known better’ reprimands.

So let’s see what Scripture, God’s Word has to say about “to brag or not to brag”.

SCRIPTURE:  Jeremiah 9:23-24

God says that there is something worth bragging about and it’s not your bank account, your position, your education degrees.  God says that there is only ONE THING worth bragging about.

DO YOU KNOW HIM?

It’s amazing how we can brag about everything under the sun, but God says that if you really want something to shout about, can you brag that you know Him?  Because if you can’t brag about knowing God with a personal relationship. then it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve tucked away, what degrees are on your wall, or what position you’ve acquired in your company.

The only thing really worth talking about in our lives is our relationship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

In Tony Evans’ book, Time to Get Serious: Daily Devotions to Keep You Close to God, he says if God is the all-consuming, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving and infinite Creator, sustainer, and redeemer of this universe, then nothing else we can do matters quite as much as getting to know Him, and to know Him well.

Three Decisions We Must Make In Order to Really Know God:

#1.  LET GOD BE GOD

That sounds pretty basic.  But many times we have a tendency to put God into a box; to trim him down to fit our thinking of who God is.  Personally, I want a God who is bigger than me–bigger than my problems.  A God that Jeremiah speaks about.

I want a God who can handle my prayers, lift me up when I’ve fallen.  I want a God who can save my soul.  I want a God worth bragging about!

And we have one!  In all His infinite knowledge and power, God sent His Son.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:1 (AMP)

God is our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble.

You must be still and know before He can be your refuge and strength.

“Be Still” –

The word still is a translation of the Hebrew word rapa, “to slacken, let down, or ease.”

Christians often interpret to “be still” as “to be quiet in God’s presence.”  While quietness is helpful, the phrase means to stop frantic activity, to let down and to be still.  For God’s people being “still” would involve looking to the Lord for their help.  [See footnote [i].]

#2.  PRACTICE HIS PRESENCE

It’s one thing to say that God is everywhere.  It’s quite another to realize that you are His child.  He is with you everywhere you go.

Psalm 139:7-10  [I want someone with a face!]

Now that’s something to shout about!

Your God is everywhere!  We need to believe it and practice it!

#3.  SEEK TO LIVE A HOLY LIFE

1 Peter 1:16

“Be holy, because I am holy.”

A man brought his boss home for dinner for the first time.  His boss who always bragged, “I’m a self-made man!”  That night at dinner, his boss was loud, rude, and arrogant.  The little boy in the family just stared at his father’s boss but didn’t say anything.  Finally, the boss asked, “Why do you keep staring at me like that, sonny?”  The young boy answered, “My Daddy says you’re a self-made man.”  The boss grinned proudly and admitted indeed he was a self-made man.  The little boy said, “Well if you’re a self-made man, why did you make yourself like that?”  Out of the mouths of babes.

Do you want to be a self-made person?  Or do you want to be a God made individual?

Personally, I want to be a new creation in Christ Jesus.

I want to be continually transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).

I want God to create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

The more we know God the more we will know ourselves.

People are always trying to find out who they are.  But you can’t know that until you come face to face with God.  If you don’t want to know the truth, don’t pursue God.

ILL:  A woman asks her husband, “How do you like my dress?”  Her husband replies, “Worse thing I ever saw!”  His answer got her quite upset and her husband said, “If you didn’t really want to know, then why did you ask?”

GOD CALLS IT AS HE SEES IT (Luke 5:1-11).

And in verse 8 – When Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

But God didn’t leave it here. (Luke 5:10)

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah saw the GLORY of God (vs. 5)

“…for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

GOD TELLS IT LIKE IT IS (Romans 3:23)

“Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives.”

God doesn’t leave you where you are.

Like a good doctor, God gives the proper treatment for your life.  For SIN, He offers SALVATION by the blood of Christ.

Paul in Philippians 3 says, “Been there, done that”

Philippians 3:3-11 (NIV)

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh– [4] though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  [5] circumcised on the eight day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; [6] as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

[7] But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

[10] I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  [11] and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

God’s PURPOSE in the Creation of Man and the Salvation of Sinners is that We Might Boast (‘brag’) in HIM.

THE BRAGGING (BOASTING), PRIDE CONNECTION —

Whether you agree or disagree, we were made in His image and to BOAST in Him.

We were made to give Him credit for all good.  We were made to rely on His power.  We were made to magnify His glory and His all-sufficiency in our weakness.  This is the source of all ultimate joy and satisfaction.  If God were to delight in anything less and our bragging in Him, He would be an idolater and a killjoy.

PRIDE diverts our capacity for exultation from the vastness of God’s Glory to the gutters of our insignificant achievements.  It’s a decorated dead-end street.  Therefore, God hates PRIDE!

What is PRIDE? 

  • It’s bragging in ourselves and not the Lord.
  • It’s taking credit ourselves for what God alone can do.
  • It’s relying on self and not God.
  • It’s feeling sufficiency in our own strength and not in God’s.
  • It’s the unwillingness to admit that we are mere earthen vessels so that another gets the glory.
  • It’s the reluctance to admit weaknesses that may accent the power of Christ Jesus.

Paul said in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to glory [in anything or anyone] except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), through Whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world!”  (AMPLIFIED)

And the PROMISE OF GOD is this:  There is no greater life, no greater joy than to boast in Him!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Commentary:  Topic, Pride & Humility:  “Let Him Who Boasts Boast in the Lord!” by John Piper.

Images/Photos:  Google Image Search.

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

Footnote:  GotQuestions.org.; “To be still” footnote [i].

 

 

 

 

SANCTIFIED: To Be Set Apart As New Creatures

How often do we find ourselves trying to get a handle on religious vocabulary thrown around in Christian circles?  In this study, the words to “sanctify”; “sanctification” will be addressed.

In the generic definition, to sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer [Bible Study Tools- Dictionary].  The pencil was designed by its maker for the use of writing down information.  I used to chew on my pencils all the way through my school years with my mom pointing out…” that’s not what pencils are used for!”  In the theological sense, a human being is sanctified therefore when he or she lives according to God’s design and purpose, set apart for His service.

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  

For all you Word Detective followers, YES, I did a study in these verses in 2018. [THE QUESTIONS about WORLDLY ASSOCIATIONS]

Since some topics of conversation have come up recently in my own family regarding worldly associations, I’m re-visiting the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Church in Corinth.

Paul’s Second Letter to the Church

Paul wrote this second letter because of continued strife and tension over social issues and false teachers who had infiltrated the church attacking him as an Apostle.

Do we struggle in the church today concerning social issues?  Are we hearing messages from pulpits around the globe addressing the moral changes occurring all around us; touching each and every one of us in some way?  Or is “compromise” the word of the day?

The Word Is Constantly Changing

Many changes in society are necessary because we as human beings are not perfect.  For the same reason, much “development” goes in completely the wrong direction.  God’s Word, however, is perfect, and never changes.  Sin remains sin, even when it becomes widely accepted.

The Silver Ladle Story:

Helen was a wonderful Christian woman.  A single mother raising her only son Tom as best as she could to love God.  Helen became very worried when Tom told her that he was moving to the Big City.  A year went by and all seemed well.  Tom called his mother and told her, his friend Sarah was moving in with him.  He told his mom not to worry, they were just roommates, strictly platonic.  Helen knew if she could spend just a little time with them together she would know just how “platonic” it was.  She soon got the chance when invited over for dinner.  All went well until about two weeks later.  Sarah came to Tom and said, “Tom, I’m not saying she took it and I’m not saying she didn’t.  The fact of the matter is, my silver gravy ladle has been missing ever since your mother left.”  So Tom called his mother and left a message on her machine:  “Mom, I’m not saying you took it and I’m not saying you didn’t, but ever since you left two weeks ago, Sarah’s silver ladle has been missing.”  The next day Tom’s mother called and told him:  “Tom, I’m not saying you are sleeping with Sarah and I’m not saying you’re not.  The fact of the matter is, if she were sleeping in her own bed she would have found that gravy ladle.”

We are chosen people (1 Peter 2:9)

As believers in Christ Jesus, we are different.  We are not like any other, we are not supposed to be!

2 Corinthians 6:17 (NIV Bible)

Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate…”

As Christians, we are told by the Bible to live holy lives to reflect the nature of God.  We are to SEPARATE ourselves from actions, influences, or people who hinder our service to God.

True believers are to live differently from those in the world. 

Sounds simple, but there are a lot of people who think they can come to Christ–SAVED–and still hang out with the same crowd.  They think they can still go to the same places, but you can’t.

Being Separate–SANCTIFIED.

The Bible tells Christians to be separate from the world.  SEPARATED means when you are SAVED, you change your life, change your friends, and you change your hangouts.

But that said, that doesn’t mean you abandon your lost friends.

When I came to Jesus at the age of thirty, most of my friends abandoned me.  They thought I was a religious nut talking about how my life had really changed since I came to Jesus.  Their reaction was “The proof is in the pudding.  We’ll just keep an eye on how you’ve really changed.”

You still talk to your old friends, you just change the topic of your conversations.  You can still hang out with your old friends but change the locations.  Instead of going out with them, ask to bring them with you to church.

My point is, you don’t abandon sinners, but you don’t join them either.  As a Christian, you are to bring them up to your level, not let them bring you down to theirs.

A Christian is directed by God’s Word to apply the biblical principles of SEPARATION and avoid a few things:

1.  We are to steer clear of anything that attacks biblical standards. 

If the Bible said it was a sin 2000 years ago, it’s still a sin today.  The Bible doesn’t change to fit the changing culture.

2.  Avoid any association that will hinder your spiritual life. 

So, teenagers, that means if your boyfriend or girlfriend won’t come to church with you, then find a new one that will.  Not only boyfriends and girlfriends but any of your friends.

2 Corinthians 6:14, 16 (NIV Bible)

[14]  Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?

[16]  What agreement is there between the Temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said:  “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

3.  Avoid any situation that you are unsure of:

There are some sins that are plainly spelled out to us in the Bible, and there are sins that are your own personal convictions.  If you have any doubts as to whether or not something is a SIN, then for YOU…it’s a SIN.  Because of God’s word in Romans 14:23   that “whoever has doubts…for whatsoever is not of faith is a sin”.  In other words, if you aren’t sure if it’s a SIN, then for YOU…it’s a SIN.

JUST DO THE RIGHT THING!

James 4:17 says “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”  (NIV Bible)

If you are not living a life separate from the world, then how does the world know you’re different?  If you can still go out and commit the same sins as before you were SAVED, then I hate to tell you, you didn’t get SAVED!  I’m not saying a Christian is never going to sin, for God saved my soul. but I still live in the flesh until I go home to be with the Lord.  So anyone who says that they never SIN is calling God a liar, according to 1 John 1:10.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.  But I’m not talking about ‘slip-ups’ here.  I’m referring to instances where we intentionally sin.  Paul says in Romans 6:15 that Christians are under GRACE (God’s mercy and unmerited favor) and no longer under the law.  So does that give us the freedom to sin at will?  Paul said, “Certainly not!”  Even though Christians are no longer in danger of God’s condemnation, we will still answer to Him for the sins we commit.

Romans 6:12 says not to let sin reign in our bodies.  There’s a big difference between intentional sin and daily struggles of the flesh.

Paul says in Romans 7, that there is none of us who are perfect, that we’ll never be as long as we’re on this Earth.  And even though we aren’t perfect, we are to strive for excellence with the leading of the Holy Spirit.

If you think you can have it both ways, you’re wrong!  Once you accept Christ as your Savior, life will change. and you’ll want to SEPARATE yourself from the old life you had.  Will you completely change?  Of course not, but you will change!

You may ask, I know I’m SAVED but I still have a problem with SIN in my life, so how do I avoid those SINS?

As a Christian, when you sin, it is not the spirit that sins, but the FLESH and Paul said…

Some of the LUSTS of the FLESH are listed by Paul in verses 19-21:

  1. Adultery – any sexual contact outside the bonds of Holy Marriage is a sin – PERIOD.  There’s been a lot said to teenager’s conduct; about keeping their hands off each other, well the same goes for the adults.  If you aren’t married to them, keep your hands off them.
  2. Idolatry – anything that comes between you and your worship of God is an idol – your job, your family, your favorite football team, ANYTHING!
  3. Witchcraft – Harry Potter.
  4. Jealousy
  5. Wrath
  6. Envy
  7. Murder abortion.
  8. Hatred racism.
  9. Drunkenness

“And those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” 

Avoidance of the lusts of the flesh.

Any sin you commit that gives the devil ammo he needs to shoot your spiritual life down, and the ONE WAY to avoid this is to apply the words of Galatians 5:25 -If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.]  Amplified Bible.

Can we walk in the Spirit and the World too?  Not a chance, and that’s why we are to be separated from the sinful world.

Remember you can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

Is Jesus your Master, or are you a captive to the world; a SLAVE to this world and its master?  You can’t have it both ways, so get off the fence and choose today which master you’ll serve.

Remember the words of Joshua chapter 24, verse 15…

____________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS –

Commentary:  Come Out And Be New, contributed by Joseph Nordyke, December 12, 2008 – Sermon Cntral. [The Silver Laddle Story]

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or as mentioned in the text.

 

 

 

And I Saw God’s Glory!

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Isaiah 6:1-3 (NIV)

[1]  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

[2]  Above him were seraphim, each with six wings:  With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

[3]  And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;

the whole earth is full of his glory.”

It’s difficult to know when reading passages of Scripture in the Bible whether God’s GLORY refers to His actual glory or to human recognition of it.  This is true, for example, when Scripture speaks of the earth being full of the GLORY of the Lord.

In Isaiah 6, we see the call and commissioning of Isaiah, the prophet.

We don’t know for sure, but we assume that Isaiah was in the earthly temple.  However, the temple described in verse 1 is the Heavenly Temple.

In the year King Uzziah died it may be like saying the year Pearl Harbor was bombed, in the year JFK was shot, or in the year the Bomb was dropped.  This was a time in the nation of crisis and change that the prophet came face to face with the King of Kings.

HOLINESS tells us that Jesus is the exact representation or image of God.  What many have lost is the holiness of God.  God has become “the man upstairs”, or “the God next door”.  Max Lucado said it well:  “Immanuel, God with us.”

In Jesus Christ, God came near.  Something of the awesomeness and greatness– His GLORY has been forgotten.  The church culture has so allowed the culture around us to shape the way we do things.  The customer satisfaction mentality has invaded our churches we have to be sure not to offend anyone– WORSHIP is all about them.

Here in Isaiah, we see that WORSHIP is all about God.

When we see and sing the words on the Big Screen in church or out of a hymn book, we need to remember the songs are all about Him.  When you read History in the Bible, you need to remember, it’s His story.  What Isaiah got was probably more than he bargained for in a worship service.

God’s High Position (6:1) – Beholding His Glory

[1]  IN THE year that King Uzziah died, [in a vision] I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the skirts of His train filled the [most holy part of the] temple.  [John 12:41]  (Amplified Bible).

Isaiah was reminded that God is sovereign.  When God showed up, Isaiah saw God high and lifted up.  He saw God in His greatness and holiness.  With everything that was happening, God was in complete control while sitting on His throne in heaven.

Here in Isaiah 6:1, looking at several different Bible translations, you can see Lord spelled in all caps–i.e., LORD; and others, Lord.  I just had to dig deeper here.

LORD (all caps or small caps) reflects the original term “YHWH”, while Lord (standard capitalization) is the English rendition of the Hebrew Adonai, meaning “to be”; “the Lord God Almighty, the sovereign or supreme one.”  It suggests that God simply is i.e., He possesses an underived existence; He is the eternal “I AM”.  This name became a special designation–emphasized in God’s relations ship to the nation of Israel.  [“LORD and Lord – What’s the Difference? by The Christian Courier] 

John 12:37-40 clearly tells us that Isaiah was seeing Jesus on the throne!

Isaiah saw God on the throne with His hand on the throttle in complete control.

  • When it says DISEASE–God is on the throne!
  • When the boss says you’re FIRED–God is on the throne!
  • When our children DISOBEY–God is on the throne!

Isaiah saw God high and lifted up, but he also heard the Seraphim cry “Holy, Holy, Holy”

THE HOLINESS OF GOD

The Holiness of God is, His being in a class by Himself with His perfection and greatness and worth.  All His perfection and greatness and worth are distinct and separate–we’ve been taught that HOLY means separate–His in a class by Himself.

HIS HOLINESS IS WHAT HE IS AS GOD THAT NOBODY ELSE IS –

His quality of perfection can’t be improved upon, can’t be imitated, and that determines that He is all of that and nothing is determined from outside Him.

Now when Isaiah 6:3 says that angels are crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty”–the next thing they say is this:  “The whole earth is full of His”…and you might think “holiness” would be the next word.

But he doesn’t say holiness, he says GLORY!

Essentially, “holy”, essentially holy, and the whole earth is full of His GLORY.

I stab a definition here by saying the GLORY OF GOD is the manifest beauty of His holiness.  It’s the going public of His Holiness.  It’s the way He puts His holiness on display for people to apprehend.

Read the words from Leviticus 10:3:  God says He will be shown to be HOLY among those who are near Him and before all the people He will be honored.

I will be shown to be holy,” He says.  “And among ALL the people” — say it another way–“I will be glorified.”

The Worship Connection of His Holiness and Glory –

What on earth does all this have to do with our worship?

EVERYTHING!!!

If you divorce or separate God’s holiness from worship, all you have is entertainment.  Why start on time, why do things in order, why not distract others during the song service and preaching?  Because we should be focusing on the greatness of God!!!

WHY THE CROSS?

The cross was ultimately the result of God’s Holiness.  Sinful man can’t stand in the presence of a Holy God.  God took care of the ‘sin problem.’

2 Corinthians 5:21 (AMP)

[21]  For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].

This God that’s HOLY and separate is the God we need to see in our worship–in our everyday living.

Isaiah’s Posture of Humility in God’s Glory and Holiness –

“Woe to me!  I am ruined and undone…”  (6:5)

To Isaiah’s peers, he was upright. a righteous man, a man of unmatched integrity.  AND then just one glimpse of God’s greatness changed his whole self-perception.

It took God to reveal his guilt, it took a picture of deity to reveal Isaiah’s filthiness–his sin.

Have you ever seen God in such a way that revealed who you really are?

Have you ever recognized that you are a sinner that’s separated from God without hope?

That’s what the VISION did for Isaiah.  It revealed reality to him–God sees us as we are, where we are in life right now!  He sees your heart!!

What happened when Isaiah saw this VISION of God?

CONVICTION –

“Woe is me!  I am undone and ruined.”

The Hebrew word for “undone”:  to come apart at the seams.  Isaiah was totally exposed for who he was before a holy God.

CONFESSION –

A vision of the holiness of God that brings true conviction of sin is always followed by the confession of sin.

I love Billy Ricks’ slant of this fact:  “Regardless of excuses, sin is a prison from which you can never be freed until you admit it’s your own fault that you were thrown in the slammer.”

CLEANSING –

Because Isaiah came clean he was made clean.  The cleansing power of God went to work on Isaiah’s behalf.

God is HOLY and also merciful.  When we confess our sins to Him, God goes to work.  He cleanses us with the Blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9).

What is the big deal about WORSHIP in Christian America today?

To me, it’s about seeing God in all of His manifested GLORY.  Let me break that down just a bit.  When someone says, “Look at the wind blowing outside,” and when you peer out the window you can’t actually see the wind.  What you see is the effect that the wind has on the objects it’s blowing on–the trees, a flag, a hat blown off one’s head.  So when God breathes, you can’t visibly see His breath, but you can see His GLORY manifested in your surroundings.  Just look around you!

In seeing God for who He is we can see ourselves as we truly are.  The church culture of today has so allowed the culture around us shape the way we do things.  The customer satisfaction mentality has infiltrated our churches.

Here is a heavenly worship service where Isaiah saw a fresh vision of God.  From this vision of God’s HOLINESS, Isaiah was inspired to pen words like Isaiah 40:8.

What churches and Christians in America desperately need is a fresh vision of God’s holiness and His Glory.  We don’t need a new revelation because all that God is and has for us is revealed in Christ Jesus.

We give God the GLORY!!!

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CREDITS

Commentary:  John Piper’s “What Is God’s Glory” at desiringGod.org.

Music Video:  “I SAW THE LORD” by Dallas Holmes – YouTube.

Images:  Google Image search.

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

Let the Church be the Church

Bible Study in 1 Peter 4:13-19

It has always been God’s plan to have a holy people; those that would stand for Him no matter what happened in their lives.

JUDGMENT BEFORE CORRECTION AND REVIVAL – 

In my last three blog-posts, I dug into the Book Of Micah and looked into God’s judgment of Israel some 700 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  And as we enter the upcoming Christmas season we should all look at ourselves closer as the Church in our communities of who we are representing in Christ Jesus.

Where Judgment Begins (1 Peter 4:17)

[17]  For it is a time of judgment, to begin with, God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  [New International Version – NIV]

This passage of scripture seemed to me at first reading a little strange.  And as a student of the Bible, I looked in my commentaries to see what theologians had to say about this verse and I was surprised at how they addressed this verse.  This is why context is so valuable when studying God’s word regarding any Bible’s verses.

1 Peter 4:13-19 (NIV)

[13]  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

[14]  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

[15]  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even a meddler.

[16]  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

[17]  For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

[18]  And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 

[19]  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Peter is obviously talking to those born again Jews that would have to go through suffering for their faith.

The church in Jerusalem was already under heavy persecution and would suffer even worse before it was over.

Verse 14 tells us that to be happy–to have joy in the suffering for the cause of Christ, is knowing that in your persecution God is glorified!

Peter also wants us to know that the Christian life is hard enough without coming under God’s hand of discipline.  That’s why he says in verse 15, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal or even a meddler.”  It has always been God’s plan to have a holy people.  Those who would stand for Him no matter what happened in their lives.

One day God will take unto Himself a Bride to be without spot or blemish.

So where does this purification process begin?

It Starts With His Church.

“For the time has come that judgment must begin at the House of God”  verse 17.

It has always been God’s plan…

Jeremiah 25:29 (AMP)

“For behold, I am beginning to work evil in the city which is called by My Name, and shall you go unpunished?  You shall not go unpunished, for I am calling for a sword against all inhabitants of the earth, says the Lord of hosts.”

Amos 3:2 (NIV)

“You have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” 

Then the churches of Asia Minor 

  • Jesus said to the Church in Ephesus:

“Consider how far you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.  If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”  (Revelation 2:5)

  • The Church at Pergamum:

“Repent therefore!  Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”  (Revelation 2:16)

  • The Church at Thyatira:

“So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways.  I will strike her children dead.  Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”  (Revelation 2:22-23)

  • The Church at Sardis:

In case you will not rouse yourselves and keep awake and watch, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not know or suspect at what hour I will come.  (Revelation 3:3 – Amplified Bible)

  • The Church at Laodicea:

“So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.”  (Revelation 3:16 – AMP)

Purification is always done for a purpose–a reason for discipline.

  • Ephesus – Lost their first love.
  • Pergamum – Teaching false doctrine.
  • Thyatira – Condoning immorality.
  • Sardis – They were spiritually dead.
  • Laodicea – They had become apathetic.

The Bible tells us, the church, that we are the light of the world.

In the case of each church mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the light had gone out.  They were no longer a lighthouse for the lost souls and shed no light at all to those around them.

It’s always done to God’s people

Hebrews 12:8 (NIV)

[8]  If you are not disciplined–and everyone undergoes discipline–then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

God cannot and will not tolerate unconfessed sin in the life of the believers–His children.

Discipline.  Who Needs It?

Godly discipline is to refine us (vs. 11) –

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”  (NIV).

  • Godly discipline to reestablish us (vs. 11)
  • Godly discipline to reaffirm His love to us (vs. 6) “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, punishes everyone He accepts as His son.”  

God’s discipline sifts out contamination (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) –

  • The Church cannot condone SIN (1 Corinthians 5:1-2) –

[1]  IT IS actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, an impurity of a sort that is condemned and does not occur even among the heathen; for a man has [his own] father’s wife.

[2]  And you are proud and arrogant!  And you ought rather mourn (bow in sorrow and in shame) until the person who has done this [shameful] thing is removed from your fellowship and your midst!

  • The Church must not compromise scripture (1 Corinthians 15:1-2) –

[1]  Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken a stand.

[2]  By this gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

  • The Church should confront the SINNER (Mathew 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:2, 5, 13).

QUESTION:  Why Does JUDGMENT Begin At The House of God?

I hope this brief study helps you understand, as it did for me, why God wants His church to be holy and pure.  I’m afraid that if the church won’t stand up and be the church, that God’s judgment is going to fall on her.

Are we a church that tolerates and promotes unholiness?

Do we tolerate and promote sin in our own lives?

Let me mention again.  God will not and can not tolerate sin in the lives of His children.  Oh, that we the Church might walk worthy of our calling.

Let the Church be the Church!

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CREDITS –

Commentary:  “Where Judgment Begins” by Michael Goodwin – sermon on July 20, 2005.

IMAGES:  Google Image search.

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

“Giving $20 Explanations to a 50 Cent World” Is Difficult!

SCRIPTURE – 1 PETER 1:13-20

Be Holy…How is this even possible?

I have had difficulties over the years just being a decent husband and father to my three kids.  How am I supposed to be as HOLY as the One True Living God?  I’m just human.  I make mistakes, many of them.  So does HOLY mean I just need to follow a bunch of rules?  A list of things I’m supposed to do and things not to do?  Like, be nice to others?

I’m a good person, mostly, so does that make me HOLY?  Great questions!

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV)…

[15]  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  [16] for it is written: “Be holy because I am holy.” 

Peter isn’t introducing a new concept here.  He’s repeating a principle laid down by God in the Covenant [See footnote].

With all that in mind, let’s see what the Bible says in Psalm 14:2-3 (AMP)…

[2]  The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any who understood, dealt wisely, and sought after God, inquiring for and of Him and requiring Him [of vital necessity].

[3]  They are all gone aside, they have all together become filthy; there is none that does good or right, no, not one.

And in Isaiah 64:6 (NIV)…

[6]  All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.

Both Psalm 14 and Isaiah 64 are in the Old Testament from the time before Jesus’ birth. 

But even in the New Testament, after Jesus, the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:1-3 (AMP)…

“O YOU poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians!  Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom–right before your very eyes–Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified?  Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?].  Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly?  Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?”

There were believers in the early church who were trying to be HOLY; trying to be acceptable to God based on their human efforts.  They believed that they had to continue living up to all the rules; the list of all the “do’s” and “don’t’s” in the Old Testament Law.

The Apostle Paul’s Reminder…that HOLINESS is not just based on our OWN EFFORTS of being good–HOLINESS is WHO WE ARE, based on our RELATIONSHIP with Christ Jesus!

We CAN’T earn God’s favor…

We CAN’T earn His love and mercy…

We CAN’T earn HOLINESS through our own efforts, it’s a FREE GIFT being offered to you right now!

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

[8] For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–[9] not by works, so that no one can boast.

HOLINESS isn’t just who we are…it’s how we live.

1 Thessalonians 4:7 says…”For God did call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”

Let me go back to 1 Peter 1:17 again…

[17]  And if you call upon Him as [your] Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, [then] you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence [on the earth, whether long or short].

2 Corinthians 5:9 explains it more plainly by saying…“So we make it our goal to please Him. whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”

I don’t want to confuse anybody on this point. This has nothing to do with whether or not you are accepted by God.  He offers you a position in His kingdom, in His family, as a “FREE GIFT”… you just need to place your faith, your acceptance, your commitment to His Son Jesus to become accepted by God.

For most of us, growing up in a loving family brings back memorable times.  Our parents loved us and we loved them not for what they did for us materialistically, but because of who they were in our lives.

In appreciation of that LOVE, we, in turn, wanted to please them, respect them, honor them by our actions in response to that LOVE by our obedience.

As a child of God, we should want to please our Heavenly Father on how we live out our daily lives.  But how do we do this?

I’ve already mentioned how being HOLY is not following a list of rules, a lost of do’s and don’t’s. What I did discover in reading and studying God’s Word in this passage of Scripture are THREE things that Peter gives us in helping us to live in HOLINESS:

#1.  PREPAREDNESS

First, we are to prepare our minds for action.  Look at 1 Peter 1:13 again:  “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming.”

I’ve been glued to my TV, watching every afternoon and evening of late the Winter Olympics in Pyongyang, South Korea.  I particularly noticed how the athletes prepared beforehand to compete.  The visualize what they are about to do…they prepare their minds to intently focus on what needs to be done.

As Christians, we are to do the same thing.  In fact, the Bible says in 1 Timothy 4:7 (b) “…train yourselves to be godly.”

A lazy athlete will never perform well…neither will a lazy Christian.

When we allow our minds and hearts to be filled with the world’s garbage, then we won’t be prepared to live in HOLINESS.

We MUST prepare our minds, folks!

#2.  IMITATION

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”  (Quote by Oscar Wilde).

I think a better way to phrase that quote would be is that God much rather us to resemble His Son, than “flatter” Him.

Then, in verse 14, Peter says…“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”

So, the SECOND thing we are to do is to be OBEDIENT.

We are to IMITATE Christ: We turn away from the temptations the world presents to us and we live in OBEDIENCE to our Heavenly Father and His Word.  We won’t know how to IMITATE Jesus unless we do the first thing of preparing our minds.

When we study God’s Word (our bible), we will grow in understanding of Jesus Christ which makes the second thing possible, because the Holy Spirit develops us…makes us more mature…changes us to be more like Jesus.

But it’s still A CHOICE…

We must choose to turn away from temptation and instead turn to God.

Ephesians 5:1 says,  “Therefore be imitators of God (copy Him and follow His example), as well-beloved children [imitate their father]”  (AMP).

We should ask ourselves, “Is this something God would say?”  “Is this something that I would be comfortable in watching if Jesus was sitting next to me?”  “If I do this, will it PLEASE my Heavenly Father?”

We IMITATE Christ in everything we think…everything we do…everything we say.  And as we grow in maturity as “sanctified” (set apart, made HOLY) believers, then we will become better and better at imitating Christ and not the world.

This is the path of HOLINESS!

“you also be holy in all your conduct” – 1 Peter 1:15

KEYWORD is “ALL”- “in ALL your conduct.”  

NOT some of your conduct…

NOT when you feel like it…

NOT just on Sunday when you come to church…

ALL your conduct!

WHY?  Because as believers, we are CALLED TO BE LIKE HIM!

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

#3.  LOVING ONE ANOTHER IN CHRIST JESUS

And the THIRD thing…living our lives in HOLINESS we must LOVE each other…regardless!

Boy, that can be hard to do sometimes.  But you see, you alone can’t do it without the prompting of the Holy Spirit!!!

1 Peter 1:22 reads in the Amplified Bible…

[22]  Since by your obedience to the Truth through the [Holy] Spirit you have purified your hearts for the sincere affection of the brethren, [see that you] love one another fervently from a pure heart.

Jesus says it Himself in the Gospel of John…

John 13:34-35 NIV)

[34]  “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

[35]  By this [LOVE] everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Living our lives in HOLINESS isn’t easy.

There’s a story I read this week about an artist who was making a statue of an elephant out of a huge chunk of marble.  Someone asked him, “How do you do it?  How do you turn this piece of rock into a beautiful masterpiece?”  The artist answers him and says, “I just chip away, chisel the pieces that don’t look like an elephant.”

Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

[10]  For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), created in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

LIVING THE “GOOD LIFE” IN HOLINESS!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

FOOTNOTE:  Note:  Also read Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2 and 1 Thess. 4:7-8.

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

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Sermon Notes:  “Sanctified Saints” by Jeff Strite on July 16, 2016 – Sermon Central.

UNDER UMBRELLAS OF PROTECTION

 

NAHUM 1:1-7 (NIV BIBLE):

[1] An oracle concerning Nineveh: The book of the vision of Nahum the El-ko shite.

[2] The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies.  [3] The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; he will not leave the guilty unpunished.  His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.  [4] He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry.  Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. [5] The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away.  The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it.  [6] Who can withstand his indignation?  Who can endure his fierce anger?  His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him.

LIVING ‘UNDER THE UMBRELLA’ – (verse 7)

[7]  The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in him.

AN UNINTENTIONAL DECEPTION –

We live in an age when even the CHURCH has tried to become politically correct.

We have tried to candy coat God into a nice little good God who loves and never hurts anyone.  He never gets angry at sin, or judges or condemns anyone–let alone sends them to hell.

In our efforts to sell God to the world we have often sugar-coated the awesome reality of God, then question why people don’t take God in the Bible seriously.  In our efforts to bring in proselytes through the hallowed doors of our buildings on Sunday…telling only of God’s LOVE and avoiding His burning HOLINESS and His fearsome WRATH.   We have left it in the Old Testament as if God has changed (evolved) over time to a kinder, gentler God, who overlooks our sins and just wants to bless us all.

All of that’s fine and dandy, but CHURCH…we are in for a rude awakening.  We can’t keep avoiding the bible passages that speak of God’s WRATH, pretending they don’t exist.  If we do, we are spiritually and morally negligent.

THE FACT OF NATURAL DISASTERS (rarely can they be blamed on man directly) –

It is rare for a single generation in a given locale to be spared at least some kind of natural disaster.  Without warning, tornadoes sweep down from the afternoon sky and destroy in moments fury what it took decades or centuries to build.

HISTORIC FLOODING FAR FROM OVER…

I was reading the headlines in the paper while in a doctor’s waiting room this past week:  Nine deaths have been blamed on flooding in several states across Midwestern and Southern United States this past week.  More than 270 roads remain closed across the state of Missouri, with some 200 homes have been impacted by the floods and another 1,500 are in danger (Associated Press).

Do these types of natural disasters represent merely isolated, infrequent events? Hardly.

Throughout history, man has recorded many such tragedies:

  • In 526, an EARTHQUAKE hit the country now known as Turkey and left 250,000 dead.
  • A similar EARTHQUAKE in China in 1556 killed over 830,000 people.
  • In 1889 the famous “Johnstown Flood” occurred in Pennsylvania.  Over 2000 people were killed when the South Fork Reservoir dam burst during heavy rains.

Each time natural disasters happen across the world humanity suffers.  And each time there are those who ask “Why?”  Why them and why now?

The struggle to understand a Good God and the fact of natural disasters is common.

ORIGINAL SIN CURSED THE WORLD (Genesis 3).

MAN’S PERSISTENT UNCONFESSED SIN opens the way for disaster to strike giving Satan a place to establish a STRONGHOLD.

So…MAN’S SIN takes him out of God’s Protection.   

AN UMBRELLA can show us something of God’s Protection and to be covered and protected we must walk close.  If we walk out from under the UMBRELLA we are no longer protected.

  • God is not in every STORM – (He allows them–in that He doesn’t stop them from happening).
  • God is in some storms (He causes some).
  • Time and Chance happen to all (Ecclesiastes).

We blame a lot of DISASTERS on the devil, but the biblical record shows very few times when he was personally responsible (example Job).

However, very often God says I SENT THIS DISASTER AND HERE’S WHY:

GOD IS ON RECORD –

  • Joseph in Genesis 41 (God’s plan to enlarge His people in Egypt) – FAMINE in Egypt–Psalm 105:16 caused by God.
  • David’s 2 Samuel 21:1 – Saul’s sons the reason.
  • David’s Choice 2 Samuel 24:13 – Because of SIN.
  • 1 Kings 18:2 – Elijah-Ahab- Because of Ahab’s SIN.
  • Jeremiah 24:8-10:  (vs. 10)  “And I will send the sword, famine, and pestilence among them until they are consumed from off the land that I gave to them and to their fathers.”

EARTHQUAKES, PLAGUES, AND DISASTERS –

God has POWER & AUTHORITY over the earth, so why does He allow all the destructive storms, plagues, and disasters to occur?

THE ANSWER is found in the first chapters of Genesis.  God created everything perfect and beautiful.  When Adam and Eve SINNED, He placed a CURSE on the earth and everything became broken and degraded.

Although the CURSE brought about CONFLICT, DISEASE, AND DEATH, much of the original beauty can still be seen in God’s Creation.  It continues to show His Power, Wisdom, and Design ability.

But why do Christians suffer?  Couldn’t God protect us from the powers of evil?

The ANSWER is YES, He will.

He protected the nation of Israel in Egypt from most of the PLAGUES and could still do the same today.

Some Reasons Why God Allows Natural Disasters…

ONE reason is to make us realize we are totally dependent on Him:  Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Mt. 6:11). With all that we have and need, we tend to forget this prayer and God’s ability to answer it.  This is a reason why God keeps many of us poor.  If we had all we wanted we would become independent and turn from a close relationship with our Father.

To Cause Us to Call Upon God in the Day of Trouble:

Our TROUBLES give God an opportunity to keep His PROMISES, otherwise, we forget we are dependent upon God for everything.

God says, “And call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you and you shall honor and glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15 AMP).

To Sort Out Our Priorities:

During times of DISASTER, we realize that RELATIONSHIPS are more important than things–especially our Relationship with our heavenly Father and belief in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul said, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

A Call to Repentance:

DISASTERS serve as a wake-up call to REPENTANCE for mankind.  Disasters can have a sobering effect upon the human mind.  When WAR breaks out, or an EARTHQUAKE destroys countless lives and property. or a DROUGHT burns the crops and dries up the water supply, or an EPIDEMIC DISEASE victimizes millions of people, many call out to God either in a curse or in prayer.

It was C.S. Lewis who penned “pain is God’s megaphone to a deaf world.”

 

The DROUGHT in California

 

  • It was an earthquake that caused a Philippians Jailer to cry out “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 17:30)
  • It was a famine that sent king Ahab searching everywhere for the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 18:10).
  • It was a plague that brought Pharaoh to his knees confessing before Moses: “I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you.  Now, therefore, forgive my sin, I pray you, only this once, and entreat the Lord your God only to remove this death from me.”  (Exodus 10:16, 17)

The manifestation of divine judgment through calamities is intended to summon people to repent. 

AN ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE COMING FINAL JUDGMENT:

God’s final judgment is called the Day Of The Lord in the OT.  It reminds us that the Day of the Lord is nearing (Joel 1:15).  They are also to remind us that the Judge of all mankind is standing at the door! (James 5:9).

TO SHOW GOD’S POWER TO RESTORE:  (All Natural Disasters are Redemptive in Nature)

Our Father wants what is best for us.  We don’t know the future.  God does and will shape events to bring true the promise:

“All things work together for good to them who love God”

That’s our UMBRELLA folks.  Knowing that our heavenly Father will work out for us the best deal in town and we do not need to worry when bad times come.

“EACH TIME GOD SENDS HURRICANES, FLOODS OR OTHER CALAMITIES HE IS SPEAKING TO HIS PEOPLE”  by Henry Blackaby.

While not expecting unbelievers to connect anything with God because they don’t think He exists.  Blackaby goes on to say he “expects God’s people to be paying attention and for the most part they aren’t.”

GOD IS IN CONTROL OF WORLD EVENTS (ISAIAH 28:2):

NATURAL DISASTERS are a humbling reminder that there is a God:

Isaiah 13:13:  “Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; the earth shall be shaken out of its place at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of His fierce anger.”  (AMP Bible)

Joel 2:31:  “The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and terrible day.” (AMP)

Amos 4:13:  “He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, whom turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth–the LORD God Almighty is his name.” (NIV)

Is God Judging the Nations Today? YES.

HIS JUDGMENT IS BASED UPON OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM!

WHAT’S YOUR CHOICE?

Feel free to add your comments and observations in the REPLY section at the bottom of this page on God’s control of world events whether NATURAL or manmade.

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CREDITS:

QUOTES BY Henry Blackaby, Founder of Blackaby Ministries and author of Experiencing God.

Photos:  Google Advance Image Search.

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

God Is NOT An Emasculated, Mushy God!

EZEKIEL 9:1-11 (Amplified Bible – AMP):

[THE SPIRIT] cried in my ears [in the vision] with a loud voice, saying, Cause those to draw near who have charge over the city  [as executioners], every man with his destroying weapon in his hand.  [2] And behold, six men came from the direction of the Upper Gate, which faces north, every man with his battle-ax in his hand; and one man among them was clothed in linen, with a writer’s ink bottle at his side.  And they went in and stood beside the bronze altar.  [3] And the glory of the God of Israel  [the Shekinah, cloud] had gone up from the cherubim upon which it had rested to  [stand above]  the threshold of the [Lord’s] house.  And [the Lord] called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s ink bottle at his side.  

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[4] And the Lord said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in the midst of it.  [5] And to the others He said in my hearing, Follow [the man with the ink bottle] through the city and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ant pity.  [6] Slay outright the elderly, the young man and the virgin, the infant and the women; but do not touch or go near anyone on whom is the mark.  Begin at My sanctuary,  So they began with the old men who were in front of the temple [who did not have the Lord’s mark on their foreheads].

[7] And He said to [the executioners], Defile the temple and fill its courts with the slain.  Go forth!  And they went forth and slew in the city.  [8] And while they were slaying them and I was left, I fell upon my face and cried.  Ah, Lord God! Will You destroy all that is left of Israel in Your pouring out of Your wrath and indignation upon Jerusalem?  [9] Then said He to me,  The iniquity and guilt of the house of Israel and Judah are exceedingly great; the land is full of blood and the city full of injustice and perverseness; for they say,  The Lord has forsaken the land; the Lord does not see [what we are doing].

[10] And as for Me, My eye will not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their wicked doings upon their own heads.  [11] And behold, the man clothed in linen, who had the ink bottle at his side, reported the matter, saying,  I have done as You have commanded me.

THE UNSEEN IDOLS (Ezekiel 8:5, 10, 14, 16).

When EZEKIEL 9 begins, God is instructing His angels of destruction, to KILL!  And so I must ask myself the question,  WHY?

In EZEKIEL 8, it is obvious that God shows Ezekiel in a VISION the extreme idolatries that were going on in Jerusalem.

FIRST, was the image of JEALOUSY (v. 8:5)

SECONDLY, was the leadership of Israel worshipping animals” (v. 8:10)

THIRD, the women weeping for Tammuz [ a Babylonian god, who was supposed to die annually and subsequently be resurrected] at the temple.

FOURTH, finally, the leaders of Israel, were at the inner court worshipping the sun-god with their backs to God.

And then the climax, “thumbing their noses” at God, even more, they then returned to God in order to have the appearance of GENUINE RELIGION.

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“IDOLATRY is worshipping anything that ought to be used or using anything that ought to be worshiped” – AUGUSTINE.

WHAT IS YOUR GOD?

“Whatever you LOVE most, SERVE most, SEEK OUT most, GIVE to the most, WORSHIP the most, and CARE about the most is your god.”

Your “god” is whatever you allow to control you, to be the ultimate guide in decision-making.

God doesn’t take IDOLATRY lightly!

Let me get personal here.  Most of my “idols” are what I think, as good things.  I have no intention of making idols out of them.

Mark Driscoll says, “We take good things and make them God things, and thus they become bad things.”

ALL SIN is actually worshiping issues (sex, food, appearance, attendance, smoking, internet–functional saviors).  And to put any of these “things” before God Himself is IDOLATRY.

In Chapters 8 & 9, the recurring phrase is, “the Lord does not see, and has forsaken the land,” which is wrong, but fulfills Deuteronomy 31 to the letter!

So what are your IDOLS? Not do you have any, but what are they?

What do you VALUE more that Christ according to your checkbook, your date book, your friends, your clothes?

The Certainty of JUDGMENT (v. 8:18-9:2).

Just like Deuteronomy 31 promised, the anger of the Lord will be stirred up upon the COVENANT BREAKERS, and not only curses of that book come into being, but JUDGMENT & DEATH will come.

GOD PROMISES here in Ezekiel, JUDGMENT without MERCY!

These angelic messengers are instructed to carry battle axes into the city to strike down old and young men, maidens, women, and children.

And there is but one reason: God is a HOLY God that will not tolerate or ignore spiritual infidelity at any level.

And note that JUDGMENT will begin in the house of God with those who are highest in their level of accountability.

A. W. TOZER:  “It was a common thing in other days, when God was the center of human worship, to kneel at an altar and shake, tremble, weep, and perspire in an agony of conviction.  They expected it in that day.  We don’t see it now because the God that we preach is not the everlasting, awful God, ‘mine Holy One,’ who is ‘of purer eyes’ than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.”

Old fashion thoughts?  I don’t think so!

In my bible study this week I was reading the story in Scripture about UZZAH (1 Chronicles 13:6-13).  You know, the story where Uzzah touched the ark, and God “smote him because he touched the ark; and there he died before God” (v. 10).

How can we explain such JUDGMENT?  How can a God of LOVE bring about such things?

I’ve heard those questions asked by many believers over the years, and this is my explanation, although a bit simplified:

LOVE isn’t His only attribute.  We need to get back to the HOLINESS of God in being our foundation in doing everything.

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AND GOD WILL BRING FORTH RETRIBUTION!

We must realize that if we, THE CHURCH, are truly saved, we will be spared “wrath” per se, BUT…the JUDGMENT of GOD upon our stewardship, our servanthood, is sure, and, to harbor IDOLS is sure to bring us the loss.

Where have the lessons on RIGHTEOUSNESS, on HOLINESS, and JUDGMENT of God gone?

Our GOD isn’t the mushy, emasculated god, but a God that will pour out WRATH upon ALL unrighteousness among the nations–active and passive.

The Only Remnant (v. Ezekiel 9:4):

So bad is the JUDGMENT, Ezekiel cries out, “Will you destroy ALL the Remnant?”

But God told the one angel, who is dressed like a Hebrew scribe, and who might be the Angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ, to put a MARK (Hebrew letter “taw”, written like an X) on a small group of people who will escape death.

God says to find the people who sigh, or gasp, or shutter, as well as those who mourn or weep at the abominations of the people of God.

God said to mark those to spare who are truly broken over the sins of the SAINTS.  These are the ONLY REMNANT that will be left.  We are never told how many if any are marked.

*[See Revelation 7:2-3, 9:4, 14:1; Daniel 9:3-5; Neh. 1:5-9; Isa. 57:15; Matt. 5:4].

To MOURN means to have a BROKEN HEART–

In the GREEK, to have a deep inner pain which occurs when something tragic happens, like a death of a loved one.  It also means to have a desperate sorrow over evil and suffering.  *(See Footnote [i] )

What we need today is NOT ANGER but ANGUISH.  The difference being a BROKEN HEART.  

It is easy to get angry, especially at somebody else’s sins; but it is not easy to look a sin, mine included, and weep over it.

stock-photo-an-older-black-woman-mournfully-looks-out-her-window-570396466

The prophet had no time to PREACH a message, to WEEP, or INTERCEDE, BUT we do!  I don’t mean to simply talk about how it used to back in the ‘good old days’.

REPENTANCE IS A LIFESTYLE, AND NOT AN ONE TIME EVENT!

Where are the Daniel’s and Nehemiah’s, whose regular practice was CONFESS their sins and the sins of the people?

Is there ever true sadness on our part when we see SIN in the midst of the church?

Are our HEARTS so hardened that we feel no pain to see brethren caught in the grip of SIN?

“For A Time Is Coming…” (1 Peter 4:17 – AMP):

“For the time [has arrived] for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will [be] the end of those who do not respect or believe or obey the good news (the Gospel) of God?”  (v. 4:17)

I am convinced, as Shane Edelman pointed out in an article, that ‘the majority of the churches in America are seeking to please the masses rather than preach the Gospel truth.’

“REPENTANCE is rarely sought and sin often excused.  We want to build a church rather than break a heart.”  *[See Footnote [ii] ]

“If the church today had as many agonizers as she has advisors, we would have revival within years” (Leonard Ravenhill).

You might ask, “What’s the big deal?  We’re doing just fine!”

 BUT… 2 Timothy 3:1-5 says otherwise,  

[1] “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  [2] People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  [3] without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  [4] treacherous, rash, conceited, lover of pleasure rather than lovers of God–  [5] having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with such people.”

Sounds a lot like the conditions in the days of Ezekiel to me.

EZEKIEL 14:6 (AMP):  Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn your faces from all your abominations.”

TRUE REPENTANCE is when by the convicting POWER of God’s Holy Spirit, the sinner finally has a sense of… and Godly sorrow for the condition of SIN in his or her heart and comes empty–un-defensive, without pretension or ceremony, in the most personal and submissive posture he’s ever taken…

man making a disgusted face
man making a disgusted face

from a SINCERE HEART that says, “I’m sorry”, to the only One who can truly claim offense at sin; Holiness Himself, the God of the ages…Who alone can FORGIVE and REDEEM and REGENERATE and RECONCILE?

I want to make it clear here, that the Bible clearly teaches that ALL MEN, both living and dead, SAVED and UNSAVED, must give an account to Christ.  JUDGMENT isn’t saved just for the unbeliever.

The Judgment Seat of Christ.

The JUDGMENT of the believer’s works called the Judgment Seat of Christ, or the Bema Seat; where a judge sat in ancient Greece, not to punish contestants but to present awards to the victors (Romans 14:10).

2 Corinthians 5:10 makes it even plainer:

“For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body,whether good or evil [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with, and given himself and his attention to accomplishing].”  (Amplified Bible)

The Great White Throne Judgment (Unbelievers JUDGMENT).

I don’t want to get away from Ezekiel, so, IF you want to do some “Word Detective” investigation on your own regarding the unbeliever’s judgment, I’ll list some Scripture references to help guide you in your search:

[Revelation 20:11-13; Matthew 12:36-37, 10:15, 16:27; Luke 12:47-48; Rev. 20:12-13, 22:12; Matt. 25:46; John 5:28-29; 2 Thess. 1:8-9; Rev.  3:4-5].

bema-vs-white-throne-judgment1

Have you made a commitment, or will you make a commitment?

**NOTE DISCLAIMER:  Sourced material for this study has been gleaned from many different sources.  I have attempted to credit these sources wherever possible.  [See CREDITS & FOOTNOTES.]

 


CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Footnote [i]:  (Strongs #3996) StudyLight.org GREEK THOUGHTS pentheo

Footnote [ii]:  “JUDGMENT Will Start in the House of God” – Charisma News.

Photos:  Shutterstock & Google Image Search.

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