AFFLICTION OR JUDGMENT? Is there a difference?


Study in AMOS 9:1-15

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

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

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

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

So God Promised A Horrible Affliction On The People.

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

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

The Differences Between Affliction and Judgment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE LORD IS A SEEKING GOD!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He responded with REPENTANCE!

But what happens if we don’t respond?

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

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

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

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

God is sovereign over the circumstances of life.  

God commands the serpent.

He commands the sword.

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

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

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People”

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

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

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

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

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

In Him, ALL things consist.

He is sovereign overall.

He is in control overall.

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

The LORD that Amos saw is sovereign over nations.

Iraq didn’t surprise Him.

Afghanistan didn’t surprise Him.

Vietnam didn’t surprise Him.

Hitler’s Germany didn’t surprise Him.

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

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

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

God is SOVEREIGN over them all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord is also a SIFTING God!

Look closely at Verses 9 and 10:

What Does It Mean to “SIFT” Something?

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

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

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

That’s the process this passage is talking about.

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

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

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

God purified His saints.  He sifts His saints.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at the wording in verse 11-12:

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

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

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

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

HOW? 

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

Confirmed in Galatians 3:26-28

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

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

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

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

Maybe He’s been sifting us right now!

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

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

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

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

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

The same way David did. 

We have to corporately HUMBLE ourselves before God.

We have to corporately CONFESS our sins before God.

AND…We have to corporately REPENT before our God!

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CREDITS:

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

Photos/Images Used:  Google Image Search.

 

 

Everything In Life Has Terms Attached To It

Sometimes I think that lawyers have taken over the world.

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

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

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

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

SCRIPTURE STUDY – Amos 4:1-13

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

That’s what ISRAEL did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now fast forward to today.

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

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

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

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

VERSES 4-5

THEY WORSHIPPED ON THEIR OWN TERMS.

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

Could this be Church today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

BACK TO VERSES 2-3 (AMP):  

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

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

WHAT OUR GOD’S TERMS?

Well, He tells us in verse 2:

His terms are HOLINESS.

His holiness is the terms He swears by.

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

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

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

Disobedience would bring JUDGMENT.

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

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

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

Has God given us WARNINGS as well?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s time of JUDGMENT will come!

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

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

Everything in between is His persuasion.

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

UNTIL RECENTLY.

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

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

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

God is persuading us just like He persuaded Israel.

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

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

Finally, I want you to see what happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREPARE TO MEET THE LORD!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How then, do you intend to meet God?

On your terms, or His?

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CREDITS:

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

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

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

Video:  Youtube – Big Truck Lawyer TV Ads.

 

“If the foundation be destroyed…”

Scripture:  Psalm 11:3; Isaiah 58:12

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

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

So what is a “fundamentalist”?

GOING BACK TO THE “BASICS” 

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

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

Men Into Saddam Hussein,” 

…read a headline that was published.

RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM –

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

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

John 6:42 (NIV)

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

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

Mark 15:44-45


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

Galatians 1:6 (NIV)

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

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

1 Corinthians 10:12 (AMP)

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

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

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

Someone once laid down two guidelines for selling a LIE:

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

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

Or we’ll end up believing a LIE.

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

Read carefully the instruction that God gave to the Israelites:

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (NIV)

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

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

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

NOTE too, what the Apostle Peter wrote to Christians:

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

FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS OF THE GOSPEL THAT NEED TO BE UNDERSTOOD:

Isaiah 58:12 (AMP)

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

#1.  The Virgin Birth.

The record concerning Jesus’ birth:

What does the record say concerning the Birth of Jesus?

Luke 1:26-55

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND…

AND…

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE DEATH ON THE CROSS

The record of Jesus’ death on the cross:

What does the Bible say concerning Jesus’ CRUCIFIXION?

Acts 2:23 (AMP)

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

The evidence presented by the evangelists are quite clear:

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

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

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

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

Romans 5:10 (NIV)

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

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

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

THE RESURRECTION

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

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

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

To DENY the RESURRECTION is to…

Regarding Jesus:

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

Acts 2:31 (NIV)

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

Romans 6:9 (NIV)

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

Acts 2:24 (NIV)

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

DENY THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD:

Romans 1:4 (AMP)

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

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

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

To say that Jesus will not return:

1 Thessalonians 1:10 (AMP)

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

Regarding Us.

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

We will not be resurrected:

Romans 8:11 (NIV)

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

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

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

We have no hope:

  • 1 Peter 1:3.
  • 1 Peter 1:21.

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

Philippians 3:1

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

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

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

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

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CREDITS:

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

PHOTO/IMAGES:  Google Image Search.

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

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].