WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?

A small child [in the cartoon series Theopolis] gazes up at the eyes of his father and asks the question…WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?

When I read the dialogue in the cartoon I thought the father gave a reasonably good answer to his son.  He emphasized communication with the Father, seeking first the Kingdom of heaven, displaying the fruit of the Spirit in one’s life.  It wasn’t a bad answer.  But imagine the father’s shock if you can when the son asked if he had actually seen such a person!

Is it possible, as the above cartoon suggests, that we sometimes talk a good talk, but walk a poor walk?  We might be able to tell others what a Christian is–may even profess to be one ourselves–but have we ever shown them?

The 3 W’s That Explains What A Christian Is And How We Can Demonstrate Who We Are

#1.  WHAT WE ARE, 1 John 3:1 (NIV)

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”

John here turns his letter from the world to God.

The world’s glory may be glamorous and enticing, but also shallow and momentary.  What the world gives today, it takes away tomorrow.

God gives something permanent, something authentic, something life-changing, something eternal and something to gaze upon in [VERSE 1 (NKJV)]:

IT’S THE LOVE OF GOD!

Those who have been born of God, meaning those that practice righteousness (2:29), is now “called children of God.”

RIGHTEOUSNESS begins with faith and ends in LOVE.

The reason we are told to “BEHOLD” is to see what great love the Father has bestowed upon us.

“Behold” (idou) means to sense and see, and to see with awakened understanding.  It calls one to stop and think about this amazing truth and what we are to sense, see and marvel at is the GREAT LOVE God has given us.

LOVE is agape, denoting divine or the highest form of love.  The whole wonderful plan of SALVATION begins with God.  And while we were once enemies, God loved us and sent His Son to die for us (Rom. 5:8).  His LOVE is so great that by the NEW BIRTH experience, we are now related to the One Who is the Divine Creator of the Universe and can call him Father!

We Are The Children Of God!

We receive from Christ a new nature, a godly nature, and thus are called children of God.

We shouldn’t expect the world around us to understand this thrilling relationship because it doesn’t understand the awesomeness of God.  This love and resulting sonship are foreign to the world.  Only a person who knows God through Jesus Christ can appreciate what it means to be called a child of God.  Unfortunately, we have become so accustomed to EXPECTING God’s love we no longer stand in awe before it.  In fact, we actually take it for granted.  We even think of it as something God owes us.

When I was a young romantic boy in elementary school, I remember taking the DAISY PETAL TEST sitting on a bench in the lunch arbor.  I had a crush for weeks on a girl and holding a flower in my hand while looking across the table at her and saying as I pulled each petal off, “She loves me, She loves me not.”  I also remember “the look” when she reached for the same flower, pulling off the last petal and said, “He loves me not.”

There’s a much better and more reliable way to know if God loves us!

It’s considering all that He does for us.  And if there’s still any doubt, then think of what He did to SAVE us!

The Bible says that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)

We can become confident in the knowledge of God’s unfailing LOVE because He has proven it beyond all question on the Cross.  We have been reborn into the family of God as His children and the recipients of our Father’s LOVE.

THIS AMAZING LOVE MADE US CHILDREN OF THE KING!

This brings us to our second point:

#2.  WHAT WILL WE BE?  (verse 2)

The emphasis in verse two is on what the children of God will be in the future.

The reference here is, of course, to the time of Christ’s return for His Church.  Having spoken of our present dignity as children of God, John now speaks of our FUTURE DESTINY.

We Are Privileged Children.

Our privileged opportunities in this world are understandable and within reach of all who will lay hold of them abiding in Christ Jesus.  But, the reluctant glories in the world to come are still veiled.  For the BLESSINGS there are connected with the RESPONSIBILITIES here!  The fact that God expects future development as seen in verse one and then seen again in verse two, is where the beloved (“friends”) are addressed as CHILDREN OF GOD.

Child implies that future development is to be expected.  A child has such potential as they grow.  We look at them as children with hope and expectation but don’t know how they’ll turn out.  Some who seem to have so much potential and opportunity throw away their lives.  Others you didn’t think will amount to much accomplish great things.

So it is with the children of God.  Many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first.

The appearance of Christ brings about changes or results in God’s children.

The results of Christ’s appearing is that we will be like Him.  This future fact of being changed into Christ’s likeness is presently known.  KNOW means “perceptive knowledge” that brings one to the point or place of understanding and then conviction.  The fact that we KNOW now is because of the PROMISE given from the Word and the Holy Spirit in supporting our confidence in the truth of our future state,

A Butterfly Emerges!

What an amazing sight to see a Monarch Butterfly emerging from its cocoon and arraying the beautiful colors overs its wings before taking flight.  Who would think that such beauty could come from a drab cocoon?

But a much greater miracle awaits the child of God!

Encased by this body, we look for that day when “the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.”  (1 Cor. 15:52)

For now, we live in these earthly bodies, but not forever.

One day, perhaps soon, we will be made perfect and complete.  We shall see our Savior face to face, and wonder of wonders, we shall be like Him!

God’s LOVE for us doesn’t stop with the New Birth.

God continues ministering to us and transforming us into His image until the revelation of Jesus causes the final, culminating revelation of who we are in Him.

Those Christ purchased at His Cross will be perfected at His coming.

#3.  WHAT WE SHOULD BE (v. 3)

Verse 3 teaches us that if we hope in our transformation at the return of Jesus, then we should keep on, keeping on purifying our lives.

1 John 3:3 (NIV)

[3] Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

So, everyone who has the HOPE purifies, or frees oneself of contamination.

Purify ( Grk., hagmos), is the cleanliness of heart, soul, and spirit of thought, word, and action.

“Purifies himself” means that we must totally surrender to God, so that by His Grace (His unmerited favor), we may separate ourselves all that defiles us.  It’s a continuous process.

Our Goals As  A Believer…

Our goal should be pure just as Christ is pure.  Not to judge our lives by other people, but by Jesus, who is the standard or goal toward which we are to move towards.  God’s desire is that we are conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).

As we read the Gospels carefully and thoughtfully, prayerfully, then you will develop an appreciation for the character, integrity, wisdom, and strength of Jesus.

When I didn;\’t know as much about Jesus as I know now–and I’m still learning daily–. I wasn’t as impressed with Him as I am today.

All the work of transformation is because of the Father’s LOVE for you and me.

Because the Father loved us and sent His Son to die for us, we are children of God.

Because God loves us and lives within us, He wants us to live with Him one day.

SALVATION from start to finish is an expression of the LOVE of God.  We are saved by the GRACE of God (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 2:11-15).

The provision for our SALVATION originated in the LOVE of God.  And since we have experienced the LOVE of the Father, we should have no desire to live in sin (the “flesh”).

An unbeliever who sins is a creature sinning against his Creator.  A Christian who sins is a child sinning against his Father.  The unbeliever sins against the LAW; the believer sins against LOVE.

One Day The Trumpet Will Sound And We Will Ascend!!!

The time to get ready for that turmpet blast is now!  Go to Christ Jesus and become PURE like Him.  That will prepare you in making the ascent–to the glories of Heaven!

Is the hope of being like Jesus a powerful inspiration/motivation in your life?  If it is, you will be purifying yourself as the Holy Spirit transforms your image of Christ.

Are you feeling perplexed by the questions…WHO AM I?  WHERE AM I GOING?

What comfort it is as  a TRUE BELIEVER in Christ to have God’s authoritative answers in the Bible:

WHO ARE WE?

John calls his readers “children of God” (v. 2).

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

John 14:1-6 tells us that one day He will receive us into our eternal home [body?] He is preparing for us.

When you know Jesus, you know who you are and where you are going

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CREDITS:

Dictionary:  Know, Knowledge: Baker’s Evangrlical Dictionary of Bilical Theology.

Photos/Images:  Google Image search.

A Butterfly Emerges:  Youtube 

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

 

 

 

“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.

Dealing With ‘SEESAW’ Christianity

SCRIPTURE STUDY: Philippians 2:12-18

Before we open our Bibles in the study, let me first give you definitions of the word SEESAW:

One of the most difficult things in life is to maintain and to keep all things where they are all supposed to be at all times.  It’s called BALANCE.

I remember going to elementary school way back when and riding a teeter-totter with my best friend and trying to keep all our feet off the ground in perfect balance.  It took a lot of our focus, many times finding ourselves up in the air or flat on the ground.

BALANCE IS CRITICAL IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

What has guided and given me direction and purpose in life are the words found in Luke 2:52.  This Bible verse follows the story when Jesus was lost or separated from Mary and Joseph for three days in the big city of Jerusalem.  When they finally located him, Jesus was in the Temple sitting among some of the greatest teachers of the day, asking questions.  And they were asking him questions as well.  And the Scripture says that the teachers were amazed by his understanding.  After all, he was only 12 years of age at the time.  The Bible is silent for about the next 18 years of his life.  We don’t know exactly what happened during those years but we do have this one verse as a summary of those years and it simply says…

...JESUS increased with wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

So what we know is that life should be filled with BALANCE:

  • He grew in wisdom…Intellectually.
  • He grew in stature…Physically.
  • He grew in favor with God…Spiritually.
  • He grew in favor with man…Socially.

And if we want to live as Jesus did, we need to learn to do the same.  Because, they all matter and when our life is in BALANCE, we’re happier.  And when we’re out of BALANCE, we’re miserable.  Balance is one of the most difficult things in life to maintain.

So the apostle Paul reminds us of three areas where we must maintain balance:

Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)

[12]  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  [13] for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

To understand what Paul is saying here we need to understand what he’s NOT saying.  This phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is greatly misunderstood.  He’s not telling us that we have to work to be saved.  It was Paul who wrote to the church in Ephesus and said…

We cannot be SAVED by works.  In fact, Paul says it is NOT by works.

So to understand what Paul is saying here, you must bear in mind that he is writing to the CHURCH, to believers, so his words have nothing to do with how to come to Christ.  These people already knew Jesus!

So this phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is referring to how we live out our faith.

According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “work out” in the Greek N.T. means “to work to full completion.”  It refers to working in a mine or in a field where you’re constantly digging and cultivating until that mine or garden reaches its full potential.

So here’s a question all of us must stop and ask ourselves at various places in life:  Am I reaching for my full potential in life or am I just settling for average?  What is my level of obedience to Christ Jesus?

Once we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, that becomes our PURPOSE in life to OBEY Him in absolutely everything.

When we get sick and go to the doctor he diagnoses our condition and tells us what we need to do.  He hands us a small slip of paper where he’s written the correct prescription on.  We then take that slip of paper to the pharmacist who fills the prescription and gives us the medication.  Now up to that point, everything has been done for us.  A diagnosis…A prescription…We have received the medication.  Now it’s our responsibility to do something and here it is–follow the doctor’s orders.  Work out the process and if we do, we will recover.

This is also true on a spiritual level.

And here should be our goal.  Paul tells us in verse 13 that God works in us to fulfill His good purpose.  And he describes that PURPOSE as being good.

Whether we know it or not, God wants us to find happiness and contentment not only in the next life eternal but also in this one.  You see there won’t be anything to work out in the next life–it will all be taken care of, but in this one there is.  There are things to be worked out.

Someone has said there are three types of people in the world…

  • Those who make things happen
  • Those who sit and watch things happen
  • Those who wonder what’s happening

God wants us to be in the first group.

God is at work in us to do His good purpose.  This is a balance of power and purpose.  He pours His power into us, we do the things that bring Him pleasure.

Now Paul wants us to see something here.

  • It is His pleasure (not ours)
  • It is His will (not ours)
  • It is His glory (not ours)

This is what makes our lives meaningful.

But there’s a potential conflict right there since most of us prefer to have things go our way.  It’s our attitude.

So Paul tells us the second area where we need BALANCE.

There must be a balance of attitude and action.

To accomplish what Paul is saying here, he gives us a negative and a positive.  Because this is how we get BALANCE.

On the negative side here, Paul says to all of us–you need to watch your attitude.  There are two things Paul mentions here that shows our bad attitude:

  1. Are you a grumbler?  Boy, I’ve been here too many times in my life.  Grumbling is not usually loud.  Its low tone, negative complaining, whining, and one thing it will do for you is that it will steal your JOY!  And unfortunately, it just comes naturally for some of us.  We try to resist but we just pass it around,  Grumblers can find something wrong with everything at once and when they find it…that’s what they focus on.

BOUGAINVILLEA – 

 

I was born and raised in Southern California where the sun shines most of the year–a Mediterranean climate.  Certain plant species especially do well there and my parents loved colorful plants around their home.  We lived high above the street level, so mom and dad decided to plant Bougainvillea on the hillside to cover it with beautiful flowers.  It took several years to blanket the front of their home, but oh, how I remember the beauty that hillside was in full bloom.  Now each year you would find mom and dad crawling over the Bougainvillea to prune them and make them tidy.  The unfortunate undertaking was always a loud outburst by my dad while standing in the middle of the flora–“I hate these thorns!  Let’s pull them all out!”  All dad saw was the THORNS.  He couldn’t enjoy the flower.  The reason is perspective.  It’s an attitude.

Paul said that you and I as believers need to prove to be different by our actions.

He said to prove that you are a blameless and innocent child of God and in the midst of a very dark world, you and I are told to bring LIGHT to the situation.  We should brighten up the place.

Remember that little song we used to sing with our parents and then taught ut to our kids?  “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”  But we are not just “little lights” to the world.

Paul refers to us as stars…

These are no small stars!  The smallest star in our universe is basically the size of the planet Saturn,  The word here means luminous.  Luminaries are surrounded by darkness and that’s why they stand out.

Jesus told us, let your light shine so the people can see your good works and through that glory will be given to God the Father.  [Matthew 5:16 – ESV]

There’s no need to shout, stomp your feet, or scream.  No need for drama.

  • JUST SHINE!

The negative Paul gives us here–don’t grumble.  The positive–just shine!

Get your attitudes and actions in BALANCE.

Then Paul describes a third area we need to balance: There must be a BALANCE at being serious and being joyful.  (verses 17-18)

Reading these two verses gave me an amazing word picture worth looking closely at.  Paul says we are “being poured out as a drink offering.”  Unbelievers had a practice in that day before and after every meal to take 2 cups of wine–would pour one out on the ground before every meal, then eat–then pour another one out after every meal in honor of the god they worshipped.  The PURPOSE was to gain the favor of the gods.

Paul is speaking of the possibility of being poured out as a drink offering.  This has a very serious connotation here.  He’s saying, I may never get out of the situation alive.  Remember he is in prison and facing execution at any moment.  But even if I don’t make it out…it will be worth it!

If you have ever faced the possibility of your own death–it makes you think really serious thoughts.  Paul was imagining that he might be living his final days, the single most serious thought a person can have and yet he was still able to REJOICE.  He refused to FOCUS on the dark side.  He refused to let even the possibility of his immediate death and steal his JOY.

Then he says to us–you need to REJOICE in the same way.

Paul’s words have encouraged me every day after reading his thoughts through in study.  To find something during my last days; finding something to be continually happy about, something to laugh about, to take a day off from writing, to take a walk around the block with my dog, to watch a movie, to work out in the garden, to do something that can take you away from all the seriousness of life.  Give yourself permission to enjoy each and every day.

Karl Wallenda, of the Flying Wallendas, perhaps the greatest group of tight wire walkers in the world, had the amazing ability to keep his focus; to concentrate and keep his balance.  But one night in Puerto Rico, he fell to his death while up on the wire.  Later his wife said that for as long as she had known him he always focused walking the tight rope, but on that given night for some reason, he kept focussing on the possibility of falling.

Often the difference in our success and failure is losing one’s balance and looking in the wrong direction.  The Scripture tells us to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Solomon says, don’t look to the left or right, just keep your eyes on the heavenly Father (Proverbs 4:25-27).

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CREDITS:

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

The Interlinear Bible

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

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

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).

 

 

Using Our God-given Abilities for the Best Results

BLOG’S SCRIPTURE STUDY

Here in Matthew 25,  Jesus and His disciples are just about to enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  A similar account is also recorded in the Gospel According To Luke (Luke 19:11-27).  Both are referred to as the PARABLE OF THE TALENTS.  And by the way, the talents referred to are not the same as the TV show, America’s Got Talent, or from whatever the country you are reading this from.  TALENTS in the parable are monetary units.  Not really a coin but an ingot, weighing roughly 60-70 pounds and valued in that day $30,000.  Seventy-pounds of gold today in the millions.

Bear in mind that Jesus is using a parable to make a point.

What is a PARABLE?

A dictionary definition:  “a placing beside”.  It signifies “a placing of one thing beside another” with a view to a comparison (some consider that the thought of comparison is not necessarily contained in the word).  It is generally used of a somewhat lengthy utterance or narrative drawn from nature or human circumstances, the object of which is to set forth a spiritual lesson…” [See Credits]

Just to make another point: Exodus 38:24

[24] All the gold that was used for the work in all the building and furnishing of the sanctuary, the gold from the offering, was 29 talents and 730 shekels, by the shekels of the sanctuary.  [AMP]

You can do the math, and it boggles my mind!

And to make a quick side note: Revelations 16:21

[21] And great (excessively oppressive) hailstones, as heavy as a talent [between fifty and sixty pounds], of immense size, fell from the sky on the people…”  [AMP]

I think I’ve got a better understanding now–a mental picture–of what a TALENT is.

THE THREE SERVANTS

We have three servants listed in Jesus’ parable, each with different abilities or aptitude.  The master prepared to go on a journey, but first, he gave each of the servants a powerful gift, which in fact provided them with unbelievable opportunities to gain in wealth but also to do good among others.  After all, this wasn’t just about an opportunity for them.

In verse 15, we read that gifts were given to their ability.  The first was given five talents or 375 pounds of gold.  The second received two talents or 150 pounds of gold and the third received one talent or 75 pounds of gold.

We all have received blessings from time to time over the years in one form or another.  What we’ve done with those blessings is in need of reflection because of what Jesus is trying to get through to us.

The first servant went out and traded up his five talents and now has ten talents.  The second servant also doubled his talents to four.  The third servant did nothing with his single talent, he buried it to keep it safe.

It’s time for an accounting.

I believe this is such an important point and perhaps the most meaningful in the parable.  In verse 15 we read the master “gave” each servant according to his ability.

Now in verse 18, there’s a reference to “his master’s money.”  In the first part, there is no instruction or guidelines to reflect anything beyond a GIFT.  The why is the master asking for an accounting?

We may be given unrestricted use of God’s gifts, but we do have a responsibility to use them for HIS glory.

To squander them on frivolity, indecency, illegality is something that we’ll have to answer when our Master, The Lord Jesus Christ is going to return.  When He does, he will have us account for how we used or misused our blessings/gifts.

“But I only have one talent”

If you were setting the story up for dramatic irony, the guy with one talent should have been the good guy.  He would have been faithful with his one little talent and put it to work.  But Jesus didn’t go for dramatic irony, he went for what I think is pretty typical.

The guy who didn’t have as much as the other guys, he looked around and said, “I’m going to hold on to what little I’ve got.”

The guys with the five talents and the two talents do what they’re supposed to,  They get to work and invest their money, both getting a return.  And in both cases, they get the same reward.

You see, the Master didn’t care about the extent of the results, just that there were results.  As the results reveal, in both cases the reward is exactly the same:

They can live secure with the knowledge of two things:

  1. Before they had touched a dime, their Master knew they were worthy of His trust.
  2. And, once they were through, their Master was happy that they had been faithful with what had been given to them.

The LAST GUY, the guy with one talent, however, refused to believe that he was capable of doing anything for his Master.  

And his reaction isn’t shocking.

When he doesn’t think he’s worthy, he doesn’t think anyone around him is either.  He missed out on the fact that his Master thought him worthy to have a talent at all!  Frankly, he resented his Master.  Why me?  Why do I have this thing for him when he didn’t give me the resources to do anything?  Never mind that even at one talent, he still has a year’s wages in the bag to play with.  His attitude was that these gifts were burdens and tasks rather than resources and opportunities to revel with joy.

And so, he misses out!

The point is pretty simple, I think.  Don’t focus on what you don’t have.  That’s not important in the grand scheme of things.  Focus instead on what you do have!

We’ve been given a golden opportunity.

Jesus will someday return and will want to know what you’ve done with the opportunities.  God the Father has sacrificed His Son so that you and I might be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life as servants of His Kingdom.  So the question becomes, how are you investing what God has entrusted to you?

SALVATION

Have you shared the Gospel of Christ with anyone?

Have you invested by faith in the things of God?

Have you been a good steward and found ways to increase that which you’ve been entrusted with?

Has your faith grown, or have you put it in a hole in the backyard and covered it up?

Jesus will reward you for increasing that which He has entrusted you with and not the material things alone but more importantly spiritual things.

Our God has put into each one of us the GIFT OF SALVATION so there might be something more to take out.  Salvation by its very nature produces a return in you and those around you that’s measurable and that’s rightfully God’s to claim since He put in the seed money which was His Son our Savior Jesus Christ.

By the shedding of His blood, Jesus will rightfully lay claim the Heaven and Earth’s throne as a payment for all the sin of humankind.

By His victory over death Jesus’ resurrection has won for us eternal life and He will be proclaimed the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

Revelation 12:10 (NKJV)

As Christians, let us make the most of this precious opportunity that has been given to us.

Our Jesus is returning and with Him, he will reward you for your faithfulness and stewardship.

Bring to Jesus an increase of your faith and devotions along with a good increase in godly character.  Let’s make our King’s treasury rich by risking to invest the great salvation into the lives around us.

I have inserted a video as a conclusion to this study.  I hope you’ll view it as a reminder:  We all come in different shapes.  God made us that way for the best results.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words – “PARABLE”, pg. 457, by W.E. Vine, Merrill Unger, William White Jr.

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

Video:  YouTube – The Parable of the Talent

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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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…

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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.

 

 

 

Making A Name For Oneself

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

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

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

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

The Etymology of Words

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

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

The Looney Tunes synonym.

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

 

The Religion of Nimrod

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

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

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

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

Family History of Nimrod

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

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

Nimrod’s Actions…

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

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

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

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

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

He wanted to take care of himself.

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

Nimrod DISOBEYED God’s Principles.

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

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

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

Nimrod was content in making a name for himself.

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

Nimrod’s Rulership (Genesis 10:10-11)

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

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

Nimrod made quite a name for himself upon the earth.

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

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

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

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

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

And what a kingdom it was!

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

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

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

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

Moving on to Chapter 11 we see furthered domination.

Genesis 11:3-4 (NIV)

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

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

Nimrod had quite a following!

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

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

GRACE glorifies the LORD while religion glorifies man!

Notice the drastic contrast between Noah and Nimrod.

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

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

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

Nimrod’s Religion was secular.

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

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

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

Nimrod’s religion was sinful.

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

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

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

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

His religion was sympathetic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I GET IT!

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

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

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

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

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

NOTICE verse 6:

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

Two dangerous attitudes in the churches:

“Don’t offend anyone!”

“Don’t get involved!”

THE RUIN OF NIMROD (Genesis 11:5-8)

The LORD Saw!

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

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

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

The LORD spoke!

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

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

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

He spoke out against their enterprise.

“This they began to do”

He spoke out against their evil.

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

COMPARE this to Genesis 6:5 (NIV)

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

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

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

The LORD shattered!  (verse 8-9)

“…they gave up building”

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

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

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [I] :  The Jerusalem Targum.

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

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

Images:  Google Image Search.

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

 

 

 

 

Everyone Has A Story To Tell

Many of Jesus’ teachings were in the form of stories.  There’s power in a story.  Everyone has a story.  And if given a chance, everyone likes to tell his/her story.

There are some words as I run across them that brings to mind an association:

“Texas” (family)

“Waco” (Mexican food)

“Vacation” (Fun and relaxation)

“Diet” (not fun)

“Politics” (anger, depression)

How about this description, “Born Again Christian”?

From the world’s point of view, some of these words may come to mind:  (rigid, narrow, uptight, self-righteous, fanatics).

I hope the answers given by individuals who have observed Christians for a long time is true for all of us.

Answers that are given from personal friends who know us:

“They are compassionate.  Just plain kind to others.”

“They tell the truth and talk straight with you.”

“They love God and they love people.”

My Story, and it’s a simple one.

I grew up in a modest, loving home in San Diego, California.  I thought going to church was synonymous with being a Christian.  As a young adult, I attended a church that didn’t have the goodness of the Gospel presented to me.  At the age of 22, I married the love of my life and at 23 became a dad.  And before the age of 28, two more children.  Then in August of 1972, at the age of 30, both my wife and I sat together on our couch with a pastor shared the Gospel message and we both accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior that night.

Everyone has a story.

PAUL, THE APOSTLE, TOLD HIS STORY OFTEN.

When the Apostle Paul wanted to give evidence for his belief in Jesus as the true Messiah, the Son of God, he told his story of meeting Jesus on the Road to Damascus.  Paul’s conversion story is the most compelling story in human history.

When Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, he spoke to the mob of legalistic Jews and told them of his conversion story (Acts 22:1-16).

When Paul stood on trial before King Agrippa, he again told his story of his conversion (Acts 26:12-18).

Saul was his given name.  Born in a Jewish home in Tarsus.  His father was a Roman citizen, so Paul was privileged to also be a Roman citizen.  He was fluent in both Aramaic and Greek languages.

Paul Told About His Life Before Christ.

Paul testified that his life before Christ was empty and dark.  Paul said that something happened to him on the Damascus road comparable to the creation of light (Genesis 1:2, 3):  “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.”  Paul said that same LIGHT that God created shined into his own soul.

The Risen Christ’s Confrontation with Saul On the Damascus Road.

Jesus, the Light of the World, appeared to Saul with the brilliance of LIGHT brighter than the desert sun of the Middle East.

Saul fell from his horse blinded, landing flat on the ground.

Jesus spoke to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  (Acts 9:4 b.)  

Paul murmurs out in a weak, shaky voice “Who are you, Lord?”  [The actual word used in translation for “Lord” is “Sir”.  Paul hasn’t a clue who he’s talking to at this point]

Paul hears the response:  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”.

Saul must have realized that he was being confronted by the very One he didn’t believe in as he laid flat on his face in the middle of nowhere.  Before the very one, he has hated.

Jesus is still hated by many people around the world today.  However many Jews and Gentiles have had their lives transformed and met Jesus.

Choices Have to Be Made…

Jesus gave Paul specific instructions and the next steps to take and Paul had the choice to OBEY or DISOBEY.

Saul became the clay and the Potter began to mold the man.  He surrendered to Jesus and asked the Lord what He wanted him to do.

He was OBEDIENT to the words of Jesus!

Saul/Paul who had been spiritually blinded and was now physically blind.

Jesus had touched his heart and gave him spiritual sight but for THREE DAYS in a tomb of darkness he was blind and had to be led around by someone else.

Ananias, A Disciple of Jesus.

Ananias, whose name means “Yahweh is generous”, was instructed to go to Saul and pray for him.  He argued with the Lord at first hearing because of Saul’s reputation of acts of terrorism against the Church; “the Way.”  Finally, Ananias took courage, went to Saul, and his first words were “Brother Saul…” (verse 17).  Ananias’ attitude, his misgivings had changed for he believed the Lord that this one man who had been against the Church was to be one of them in the new covenant of acceptance and forgiveness.

The SAUL’s of our life rise before us.

I must be the Lord’s bridge to the very people I’ve placed in the tight compartments of my righteous indignation.

Acts 9:17-18 (NIV)

[17] Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.  He got up and was baptized,  [18] and after taking some food, he regained his strength.”

The Theme of Paul’s Life After His Conversion Was “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” ~

When Saul first met Jesus he became a new man in Christ.  He believed what he had experienced could happen to anyone who became a follower of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”

Paul believed and preached that anyone who came to Jesus could be made into a new person.  So the theme of Paul’s life can be summed up in the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

Paul could preach and teach from his heart and he had a story to tell that Jesus is alive and well because he had seen Him.

When Paul met Jesus on that hot and dusty road that day, he changed his view of what he knew of the Cross.  No true prophet or Rabbi would ever dare to envision a Messiah suffering death on a tree (Cross).  The Law declared, “He that is hanged is cursed” (Deuteronomy 21:23).

After meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, Paul saw the Cross of Christ in a new light.  Paul believed the Cross was the wisdom and glory of God.

Paul said his calling was not to preach with lofty, high falutin words but to simply tell God’s message:

1 Corinthians 2:2 (GNT)

[2] “For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross.”

Paul could say, “Since I met Jesus, my life has taken a 180-degree turn.  Jesus is alive just as the prophets had foretold.”

Countless others have said the same thing in different ways:

  • THE MAN WHO WAS BORN BLIND:  “Since I met Jesus, I once was blind, but not I see!”

  • LISTEN TO LAZARUS:  “I was dead in the grave for four days, but because Jesus called my name I’m now alive!”
  • LISTEN TO ZACCHAEUS:  “Before I met Jesus I gained my riches through dishonest taxes.  I soon learned that money isn’t everything.  When I met Jesus I was glad to repay all I cheated with interest.  All the money in the world can’t bring peace of mind and heart, but Jesus gave me peace.”

The question becomes that every person must answer:

“HAVE YOU MET JESUS?”

You Can Help People Meet Jesus.

The Scriptures teach us that Jesus is our BRIDGE to God and eternal life.

The BRIDGE illustration in the image above is a simple way for you to tell others about the importance of the Cross and their bridge to God.

We can use the “Bridge” illustration in sharing with people and helping them to come to Jesus.

Looking at two sides of a river without a BRIDGE:

  • The left side represents people.
  • The other side represents God.

The Bible says that without God people are lost

Romans 3:23  “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”

Romans 6:23  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The right side represents God.

People try all kinds of ways to reach God:

  • Good works.
  • Attend church.
  • Read the Bible.
  • Be a “good person”.

ALL FALL SHORT!

Ephesians 2:8-9 (AMP)

[8] For it is by grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith.  And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;  [9] Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast.  [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself].

Where might you be right now on the BRIDGE, on the left side or the right side?

JESUS BRIDGES THE GAP!

Romans 5:8  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 Peter 3:18  “For Christ [the Messiah Himself] died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God.  In His human body He was put to death, but He was made alive in the spirit”  (AMP).

John 5:24 (NIV)

Jesus gives the invitation to cross over:  Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

“Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

To “open the door” to Jesus, THREE turns off the door to make in inviting Jesus in our heart and life…

  • CONFESS SIN – (1 John 1:9)
  • REPENT – (Acts 3:19)
  • RECEIVE – (John 1:11-12)

You can share the Bridge illustration on a napkin over lunch or on a sheet of paper in your office and you can tell your personal story.  Tell of your life before Christ and how you came to personally know Jesus and received Him as Savior and Lord.

EVERYONE HAS A STORY!  WHAT’S YOURS?

I encourage you this week to write out your brief story–your life before Christ.  How you came to Jesus and now what your life is like now.  The ups, the downs you have faced.

If you haven’t yet crossed the BRIDGE, I encourage you to take the first step and cross this bridge right where you are now.

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CREDITS

Music Video:  Hillsong Worship – Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace).  YouTube, Inc.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, Advance search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Good News Translation (GNT).

FIRST BLOOD

In 1982, an American action film hit the box office, “First Blood”.  It was co-written by Ted Kotchheff and starred Sylvester Stallone who became known to most of us as “Rambo”. 

It was based on David Morrell’s 1972 novel of the same name.  I remember a line in the movie that plays into the movie’s title when he said to his pursuers, “You drew the first blood” and as odd as it may seem, while I was reading in my Bible, the Letter to the Hebrews, this movie theme played in my head as I studied and took notes for this study, FIRST BLOOD.

First blood in the Bible – Genesis 4:4; (Genesis 3:21).

[4] And Abel also brought an offering–fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.  The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering…

It was a sacrificial lamb. 

His brother Cain’s offering was far more attractive than Abel’s was, but Abel’s was what God wanted.

Abel’s offering anticipated the coming Lamb of God.

There’s only one way to approach a holy God and that’s through shed blood (Hebrews 9:22).

It’s an echo of Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

While the first blood shed by Abel was prophetic and pointed forward to that which was to be, the blood of Jesus, on the other hand, it declares the whole work of salvation is finished.

This brings us to our study in the New Testament in Hebrews 9:10-28

The Blood Covenant

JESUS is in heaven right now and seated at the right hand of the Father, guaranteeing the promise of the COVENANT with two aspects:

  • LEGAL GUARANTEE
  • LIVING GUARANTEE

Hebrews 9:11-15 (NIV)  First Blood vs. The Blood of Christ

[11] When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation.  [12] He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.  [13] The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.  [14] How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!  [15] For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Jesus has shed His blood for us on Calvary 2,000 years ago and now appears in Heaven to plead for us.

Hebrews 9:16-22 (AMP)

[16] For where there is a [last] will and testament involved, the death of the one who made it must be established.  [17] For a will and testament is valid and takes effect only at death, since it has no force or legal power as long as the one who made it is alive.  [18] So even the [old] first covenant  (God’s will)  was not inaugurated and ratified and put in force without the shedding of blood.  [19] For when every command of the Law had been read out by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of slain calves and goats, together with water and scarlet wool and with a bunch of hyssops, and sprinkled both the Book (the roll of the Law and covenant) itself and all the people.  [Leviticus 14]

[20] Saying these words:  This is the blood that seals and ratifies the agreement (the testament, the covenant) which God commanded [me to deliver to] you.  [21] And in the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and all the [sacred] vessels and appliances used in [divine] worship.

[22] [In fact] under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sin.

COVENANT is an agreement, but it also means “last will and testament.”

The thing about a “will” is that it doesn’t come into effect until a person dies.

In order for the terms of the New Covenant to come into play, Jesus had to physically die on the Cross.

Luke 22:20 (NIV)

[20] In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Even the Old Covenant was established on the basis of the ‘first’ blood so to speak, but the blood, fire, water (Num. 31:21-24) couldn’t change a person’s nature.  (The altar, ark, people didn’t change when the blood was put upon them, but it did change God’s relationship to it).

The reason why blood was such a big variable in the Old Covenant was that God required BLOOD to be shed before sin could be forgiven (Lev. 17:11).

The Old Testament saints were saved the same way we are with the finish work of Christ Jesus.

People before Christ’s death on the Cross were promised a Messiah/Redeemer by God, they died believing/trusting that God Promise would be fulfilled, however, this is really important…they died with the promise unfulfilled.

One of the first accomplishments of Jesus’ death was to REDEEM all those who had believed in God under the Old Covenant (Christ’s atoning death was retroactive).

In the financial world, redemption is “a removal of a financial obligation by paying off a note, bond, etc.” [Dictionary.com]

In a way, the believers of the O.C. were saved on “credit” or a “note,” and Jesus was the actual payment, “redeeming” the note.  The only way a person could come to God was to have the penalty of his SIN paid for and Jesus provided it for everyone who trusts Him.

He was the bridge!

With Jesus dying on the Cross, He legally died and His Last Will & Testament was legally enacted.

Our inheritance is primarily spiritual in nature. Forgiveness, spiritual gifts/fruit, the changing of our nature.

When Jesus died, what all the ‘first blood’ that had been offered up until that time couldn’t do, Jesus accomplished.

The Howard Hughes Story

One of the richest men in the world when he died in 1976.  His fortune, which he accumulated as an aviator, inventor, engineer, filmmaker, had an estimated worth in the billions when he died.  In the final years of his life, he spent them as a recluse in a Las Vegas hotel as his OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder) took its hold.  Upon his death, it was discovered that he had no WILL made.  All his wealth was divided by the State to 22 cousins.

When Jesus died on the Cross, His last Will and Testament came immediately into force.  He designated all His wealth, power, authority to His children…us!

How foolish we are to fail to claim our inheritance in Him!

A Living Guarantee (vv. 23-26).

OUR LORD BECAME THE SACRIFICE FOR OUR SIN.

He is the better sacrifice, a final sacrifice.

Hebrews 9:23, 25-26 (NIV)

[23] It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

[25] Nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.  [26] Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world.  But now He has appeared once and for all at the end of the ages to do away with the sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

His final Will & Testament was notarized on Calvary’s Hill.

If you’ve ever had to get an official transcript from a school, or an official copy of your birth certificate, it had to have the official seal on it to be valid.  A notary public will authenticate your signature on an important document by stamping it with his/her seal.

Even so, God’s Spirit is the SEAL on every true believer, showing that you are no longer your own.  He bought you with the blood of Christ and now you belong to Him.  No one can take you from Him!!!

He died, but He lives again!

He’s alive to serve as His own executor of His own estate!

He can enforce the PROMISE of His Will and His Will is incontestable because He lives in heaven as our guarantee!

When we come to God we must go through Jesus.  There’s no other way.  Jesus satisfies the Father, therefore no one comes to Him except through His Son, Jesus.

The idea that God accepts us as we are is unbiblical.  We come to Jesus just as we are, BUT…He doesn’t present us to the Father just as we are.  We are a 100% unpresentable as we are.  [God is holy, and SIN cannot be in His presence.]

When Jesus presents us to His Father, He presents us in Himself, as He is.

So when God sees us, He sees Jesus instead; He sees Jesus’ sacrifice instead of our SIN.  His BLOOD PAYMENT for our sin instead of the penalty we deserve for our iniquities.

Hebrews 9:24 (AMP)

[24] For Christ (the Messiah) has not entered into a sanctuary made with [human] hands, only a copy and pattern and type of the true one, but [He has entered] into heaven itself, now to appear in the [very] presence of God on our behalf.

Jesus has taken us into the real Holy of Holies with Him through His SACRIFICE of BLOOD on the Cross.

Hebrews 9:27-28

One person said: Man’s life is made up of 20 years of his mother asking him where he’s going.  50 years of his wife asking him where’s he been, and one hour at his funeral where everyone wonders where he’s gone.

I know where I’m going because I’m in the Will.

The only way we get into the Will is to be placed into the death of Christ Jesus and say, “God, I’m a sinner.  I place myself into the death and resurrection of your Son.  Be satisfied with me for His sake.”

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CREDITS:

Howard Hughes Story – Wikipedia.

“FIRST BLOOD” – Wikipedia.

Video:  First blood Instrumental YouTube.

Photos:  Google Image Search, Settings Advance search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); other translations as marked.