The Dependence On Outward Signs Instead of Inward Commitment

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  GENESIS 17:9-13; Deuteronomy 10:16-17; Colossians 2:11-12

SIGNS ARE IMPORTANT –

Signs are one way that we communicate with one another and many times how we identify things.

A Salvation Army woman outside of a well-known store during the Christmas season was informed by a policeman that there was a local ordinance that prevented her from ringing her bells and inviting contributions.  She was contrite and apologized that she had “broken” the law.  But the next day she was back in front of the same store doing a brisker business than ever as she waved one sign and then another in the air.  One said “DING” and the other said “DONG”.

SIGNS are important in the lives of God’s people too.  They may not be printed signs but we, as Christians, do portrait who we are by the way we live.  People should be able to identify us by the way we are acting.  Our lives become SIGNS to the world.

In the referenced passage of Scripture in Genesis 17, it is telling us about a sign that identifies God’s people.

Genesis 17:1-2 (AMP)

[1]  WHEN ABRAM was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, I AM the Almighty God;  walk and live habitually before Me and be perfect (blameless, wholehearted, complete).

[2]  And I will make My covenant (solemn pledge) between Me and you and will multiply you exceedingly.  [Amplified Bible]

The FIRST thing I noticed in the study, is this is where we are introduced to the name, El Shaddai–means God Almighty.  The all-powerful God.  It’s here where God tells Abram the name that He wants him to remember Him by.

God tells Abram to serve Him faithfully and in return, He will BLESS him.

Also here in chapter 17, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and Sari’s name to Sarah.

He gives them NEW NAMES when He gives them the sign of the covenant.

God has just informed Abraham that He was making a covenant (not a contract) with him.

CONTRACT VS. COVENANT – Why the difference matters.

With a contract, if one agreeing party does something in violation of the contract then it’s considered broken.  The whole contract becomes null and void.  Basically, the signs of a contract agree to hold up the ends as long as the other signatories hold up theirs.

With a covenant, both parties agree to hold up their ends, regardless of whether the other party keeps their part of the agreement.  A violation of a covenant by one party doesn’t matter as far as the other party’s responsibility is to continue to do what they agreed too.  [See footnote [i].]

So in God’s COVENANT with Abraham, He tells him and his descendants they would be God’s chosen people and God also promised him the entire land of Canaan forever!

Then God went on to say to them…(vs. 9-13)

[9] Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.  [10] This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are going to keep:  Every male among you shall be circumcised.  [11] You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.  [12] For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner–those who are not your offspring.  [13] Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised.  My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.”  [NIV Bible]

You will have a SIGN, a mark on you that will identify you as one of My Chosen People.  When you do this, you’re acknowledging who I AM and what I mean to you.  This will set you apart from the rest of the world.  Your old identity will be gone.  No longer are you who you used to be, now you are one of My chosen people.  This tells those around you who you worship and serve.

The SIGN of FAITH by CIRCUMCISION is just the beginning.

After this act, God expected Abraham and his descendants to be different from worldly people who live among them.

It was a SPIRITUAL SIGN to be dedicated to Almighty God.

As you read and study God’s word, you’ll see that the Jewish people became prideful of this.  The SIGN became a national pride, not a submission to God and a promise to follow Him.  They started depending on an outward sign instead of an inward commitment to God.  The problem with this was the SIGN, not the actual covenant.

Have we as Christians become so prideful in outward signs in today’s society we’ve forgotten God’s covenant?


Again, VERSE ONE: 

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.”

SERVE ME FAITHFULLY, that was the covenant.

Circumcision was the SIGN and not the actual covenant.  God had gotten tired of only token commitment from His people.  They were being circumcised but they were NOT being the people God had intended them to be.

Look at Deuteronomy 10:16-17


SERVE ME FAITHFULLY, that was the covenant.

CIRCUMCISION, a separation from the world.  A separation from SIN; cutaway, circumcise the old ways and, the old sinful heart and serve with a new heart.

What does this mean to us today?  We do have circumcision but it’s just a health-related issue, not a religious issue for Christians today.  While we don’t have the circumcision as a SIGN of our commitment to God, we do have BAPTISM.

The Great Commission – Matthew 28:19, 20 (AMP)

“Go then and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age.”

This is a SIGN that they have accepted what Jesus did for them.  It doesn’t SAVE them, the acceptance of Christ does that and along with that commitment comes a CIRCUMCISION of the HEART.  A change of heart.  A new creation in Christ Jesus.

The apostle Paul gives the best definition I’ve found for Christian Circumcision in his letter to the church at Colossi:

Colossians 2:11, 12 (NIV)

[11] In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with the circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,  [12] having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.

We are BAPTIZED because we have trusted in the mighty POWER of God.  Our SIN is cut away and we tell the world that we are one of God’s children.

I’ve had conversations with many people over the years whose only testimony is that they were “baptized.”  I heard people say they walked the aisle at so and so’s church and was baptized.

If you claim to be a Christian, then you must have a testimony!

There must be a time that you knew and remembered that you BELIEVED and ACCEPTED what Jesus did for you.

BAPTISM IS NOT THE SALVATION EXPERIENCE.

The FAITH that we place in God through Jesus Christ is how God makes a COVENANT with us and we solidify that and show the world through our BAPTISM.

BAPTISM IS OUR CIRCUMCISION.

It symbolizes the removal of the old skin in our lives and identifies us as a child of God.  My heart just aches for those who think that just because they were baptized in front of a church altar, they were SAVED.  They have become like the children of Israel who thought that just because they had the SIGN OF CIRCUMCISION, they were HEIRS to eternal life with God.

God says no, your HEART must be circumcised.

There’s a change if there is true SALVATION.  We are not the same person we were before we met Jesus.

The are OTHER SIGNS that Christians should be showing in their lives.

God told Abraham that he must serve Him faithfully.  Not occasionally, but ALWAYS!

Our TESTIMONY must always be that we were SAVED through the death of Jesus Christ for the punishment for our SIN.

The Israelites carried the SIGN of the Covenant through CIRCUMCISION, but there must be more.

Just like Abraham and everybody else that is a true child of God, we must wear A SIGN of the heart that has been changed; the SIN has been changed, the SIN has been cut away and a life that is living faithfully for God.

Neither CIRCUMCISION nor BAPTISM can save you, only FAITH in God and what Jesus did on the cross.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog-study in the Bible.  I’m always looking for feedback in my study so I can continue to grow in the proclamation of God’s Word.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i]:  Contract Vs. Covenant.  Why the Diffeence Matters; New Creations.org

PHOTOS/IMAGES:  Google Image Search; Settings, advanced search.

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

 

 

 

 

Why Do The “Righteous” Suffer? (PART TWO)

[ Continued from PART ONE – https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/why-do-the-right…suffer-part-one/  ]

“FEAR NOT!” –

Then he [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said:  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”  ~ Mark 8:34-35 NIV Bible.

We FEAR many things as Christians to this WORLD’s perception of who we are.  We FEAR that somehow, unbelievers will think we are RELIGIOUS fanatics and won’t see us as “regular” people and not like themselves, with goals, and hopes, and mortgages, and dentist bills.

We FEAR being misunderstood, that they will conclude that we think we are better than they are.

Even as a follower of the Lord since 1972, I’ve never underestimated the FEAR that most people have in the need to be accepted.

In the HISTORICAL context of the Scripture passage in 1 Peter 3:13-15: PETER instructs us as mature believers and not to be afraid to assert our LOVE and PASSION for God.  It is worth the risk of being misunderstood and to be a person of FAITH!

When I meditate on the verses given, it really boils down to this:

Am I, as a follower of Christ Jesus, am I willing to allow the Lord to direct MY LIFE; shape my ethics and control my ethics and control my conduct, even if it puts me at odds with the culture in which I live?

The person who lives a godly life is going to face FEAR of rejection and intimidation in a culture that embraces the philosophy that says,

“There are no moral absolutes and all truth is subjective”

In such a culture, God’s Word demands us, “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”

Zig Ziglar, a Christian motivational speaker says:  FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real!

We often run from the imaginary and as Job lived,  “that which I feared the most has come to pass”  (Job 3:25).

There are legitimate fears–FEARS that cause us to be cautious:  FEAR of driving on I-5 at the rush hour in Los Angeles/Seattle [I’ve personally experienced both], or, FEAR of snakes [I’ve experienced this also!].  That kind of FEAR is really more respect that can save us a lot of heartache in the end!

PETER wants us to NOT be afraid and to live for JESUS; to let His life dominate ours.

THE SPIRITUAL ANTIDOTE (v. 14-15):

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[14] But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED,  [15] but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;  (NAS bible).

The SOLUTION to FEAR is infallible, meaning it is without error…“but in your hearts…”

Verse 15 gives a very simple solution to obtaining VICTORY over FEAR.

  • SPIRIT-FILLED DEDICATION

“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts”

That simply means, we are to recognize Christ Jesus as OUR LORD, OUR SAVIOR and MESSIAH.

The Apostle Peter, in no uncertain terms, is challenging ALL believers too; that is you and I,  to set apart the LORD JESUS as Lord in our hearts, our being; giving first place to Him in obedience in our lives.

What sounds easy, appears to be a challenge to churches today and perhaps, the greatest problem.  

In a 1999 Gallup Poll, it showed that 78% of Americans expect to go to heaven when they die.  However, less than 30% ever pray, read the Bible or attend church on a regular basis.  And Christians wonder why they are filled with FEAR.

  • SCRIPTURE BASED EDUCATION

“ALWAYS be prepared to give an answer…”

The Spirit-filled life prepares us for education, but doesn’t educate us.  We must APPLY our hearts and minds to God’s WORD under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The word “ANSWER”  is from the Greek word apologia, (op-O-low-gee’-ah), to make a plea; to give an answer for clearing of self; to make a defense  [Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, page 29 of N.T. Words].  It is where we get our word ‘apologetics’ from.

There is a reason for having a Scripture based education, because Satan is a LIAR– with the attempt to let FEAR overwhelm you with his lies.

It is the Spirit-filled Christian who is filled with the knowledge of Scripture that is able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

“SUNDAY ONLY CHRISTIANITY”, won’t serve in defeating your FEARS!

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COFFEE in the church foyer may fill up your styrofoam cup, but never will it fill the life of the believer with the POWER and KNOWLEDGE of Truth that enables you to give an answer–to stand in the midst of an attack designed to cripple your life with FEAR.

“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions and instructions which you were taught by us, whether by our word of mouth or by letter  (2 Thess. 2:15).

God is looking and waiting for His people to SEEK HIM with Passion; to trust Him with the faith of a child and to make Him Lord of their life.

If your BIBLE is neglected and your spiritual passion is on empty, you won’t be able to STAND when FEAR strikes your heart or home!

SPIRITUAL ENCOURAGEMENT –

I thought I would give you some Scripture references that have encouraged me over the years when FEAR has come to roost on my life.

Exodus 14:13:  Moses told the people, FEAR NOT; stand still (firm, confident, undismayed) and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today.

Deuteronomy 31:6:  Be strong, courageous, and firm; fear not nor be in terror before them, for it is the Lord your God Who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you.

Joshua 1:9:  Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

2 Chronicles 20:17:  You shall not need to fight in this battle; take your positions, stand still, and see the deliverance of the Lord [Who is] with you…FEAR NOT nor be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.

Job 11:13-15:  If you set your heart aright and stretch out your hands to [God]. if you put sin sin out of your hand and far away from you and let not evil dwell in your tents; then can you lift up your face to Him without stain [of sin, and unashamed], yes, you shall be steadfast and secure; you shall NOT FEAR.

1 Corinthians 16:13:  Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength.

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CREDITS:

BIBLE Translations:  Amplified Bible, except where noted in the text.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

My Spiritual “Rabbit Hole” and Taking the “Redpill”

Preview of the Coming Attractions:

Going Down the Rabbit Hole!
Going Down the Rabbit Hole!

In 1999, there was a movie entitled, “The Matrix”.  A hacker named Morpheus offers a choice to the films protagonist, Neo, to take the BLUE PILL, where “the story ends, you wake up in bed and believe whatever you want to believe,” or take the RED PILL, where “you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”  The “Redpill” appears to have seen “glitches” within the Matrix. The choice between the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue) and embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red).

Thus I begin my personal story dating back over five years ago, when I overcame the Religious Matrix.  Yes, I took the “Redpill” and ventured down My Spiritual “Rabbit Hole”.

My “born-again” moment in life began in 1972, at the age of 30.  You can read the story on how I came to that moment in the “about” section of “The WORD Detective”.  During the next thirty-two years, my developing experience by spiritual maturity grew.

It’s Good to Be Comfortable–

Courses in “Discipleship Training”, “Evangelism Explosion”, Gospel Music men’s trio, choirs, Christian Drama, deacon, Adult Sunday School Teacher, and so on and so on.  I was comfortable in my Religious Clothing.

Then in the spring of 2005, something began to change in my spirit; it was a mystery at first then it became clear.  God’s Spirit was tugging at me from every direction; soul and spirit.

Every morning, I would read from my Bible, then pray and then read from a Christian author’s book.  In the afternoons, at exactly 3:30 PM, Monday thru Friday, I would turn the television on and watch Dr. Creflo Dollar’s World Changers Ministry;  I took hand written notes almost everyday, soaking up the Word of God like I had never done before.  His God-Based teaching was so simple and practical, why hadn’t ever heard Scripture made this clear before?  The more I listened, the more I studied the Word, the more I understood.

Now my wife Dianne, also every morning would read from her Bible, pray and read from Christian Fiction while in a different room of the house (at the time, I read only non-fiction books).

The “Me too’s” in Life…

In 2006, after we had both  finished reading, I went where she was sitting and said, “I am tired of the same-old, same-old ‘stuff from the church pulpit every Sunday.”   Surprisingly, her reply to my statement of “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired…” (Paraphrased) was simply, “Me too!” 

The Holy Spirit had been speaking to us separately, in different rooms, about the same thing, at the same time.  I have found that after 46 years of marriage, God’s Spirit speaks loudly sometimes to husbands through their wives.

Dianne quietly said,  “One of my favorite smells in the whole world is freshly baked bread coming from a bakery. I am tired of picking up old, stale bread crumbs in the church aisles and pews.” You could have knocked me over with a ‘turkey feather’ when I heard her make that statement.  My quest was the same, and I replied with two words;  “Me too!” 

Unbeknownst to both of us, God had been speaking the thing, but in different ways.  Because of my inpatient spirit, He spoke more directly to my inner ear.  Now to Dianne, who has a more artistic personality, more visual, He spoke to her much differently.  In any case, our previous ways of thinking were going to change.

God was giving us a choice:

Take the “Red Pill” and the Holy Spirit would show us both… how deep the spiritual rabbit hole would go.  Or, take the “Blue Pill” where the story would end and we would wake-up in bed and believe whatever we wanted to believe.

By taking the “Bluepill” didn’t mean we would lose our salvation, not at all.  It meant that we would continue to miss out on what God wanted to expose us to in His Spiritual “Wonderland”.

The “REDPILL EXPERIENCE”:

After taking the “Redpill”, the Spiritual journey began.  I was saved through a Baptist preacher, in a Baptist church and had been exposed to Baptist doctrine and teaching for over 34 years.  After the “Redpill” experience, things were going to significantly change.  I could plainly smell the fresh bread baking for the first time in my Christian life.  With the help of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, I needed to head towards the kitchen instead of looking in the windows from the outside.  Hebrews, Chapter 6 came to mind as I looked down the “Rabbit Hole”.

Hebrews 6:1-3; verse 1 [Paraphrased]:

“THEREFORE LET us go on”  down the “Rabbit Hole”,  “and get past the elementary stage in the teaching and doctrine of Christ, advancing steadily toward the completeness and perfection that belong to spiritual maturity…”  verse 1b.-2,  “Let us not again be laying the foundation of … [These are all matters of which you should have been fully aware of, long, long ago.]”  verse 3,  “If indeed God permits, we will [now] proceed [to advanced teaching.]”

I like how the Amplified version of Hebrew 6:4 says it in regards to what follows… after taking the “Redpill”. 

For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once and for all ENLIGHTENED, WHO HAVE CONSCIOUSLY TASTED the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit.”

Once you swallow the “Redpill”, its impossible to go back to where you were spiritually. You become ENLIGHTENED after tasting the freshly baked bread.  One day, you too, may make the same choice.  “The Redpill”, or “The Bluepill.”