And I Saw God’s Glory!

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Isaiah 6:1-3 (NIV)

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

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

[3]  And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;

the whole earth is full of his glory.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE HOLINESS OF GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Worship Connection of His Holiness and Glory –

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

EVERYTHING!!!

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

WHY THE CROSS?

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

2 Corinthians 5:21 (AMP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened when Isaiah saw this VISION of God?

CONVICTION –

“Woe is me!  I am undone and ruined.”

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

CONFESSION –

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

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

CLEANSING –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We give God the GLORY!!!

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CREDITS

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

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

Images:  Google Image search.

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

Eternal Security GUARANTEED!

At the core of every human being is the desire to be APPROVED–to be liked.  Our self-esteem is often set by the opinions of others around us.  And from those opinions, so many of us feel bad about ourselves.  That deep down inside our soul we have a sense of failure–failed either to please those around us, ourselves or our heavenly Father.

The Apostle Paul seems to reinforce our own notions of failure in the first seven chapters of the Book of Romans in the Bible.

In my flesh, that is my old nature, Paul tells us,  “dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:5).

Paul sums it up at the end of the chapter by saying, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24)  Then he answers his own question without taking a breath:  “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25).

So it’s not through our own efforts, through our family line, through our associations or deeds that we receive acceptance–but it’s through the efforts of Jesus Christ on our behalf that we are rescued, cleansed and loved and then empowered and changed by that relationship.

Acceptance Brings Security Forever!

“I DON’T WANT TO GO!  DON’T MAKE ME LEAVE!”

One of the saddest stories I’ve read was about the biological mother of this young boy who had won a bitter legal battle to reclaim her son from his adoptive family.  When she arrived with her lawyer to take him from the only home he had ever known, the terrified 4-year-old little boy pleaded with those he knew as Mommy and Daddy not to give him up to this complete stranger.

“Don’t make me go,” he begged.  “Please, please don’t send me away!”

Without an understanding of the courts, lawyers and legal codes, the boy was removed and left to wonder what he had done to be banished from those who had always said they loved him.

Some Christians live with the terrifying insecurity that in God’s mind lurks a willingness to send them away if they fail or disappoint Him.  Despite their love of God, they fear that God will withdraw His love from them and remove them from His heavenly home forever.

In the Bible, however, God promises His children that once He sets His love on them, we can be secure in that love forever!

The place to begin to understand a believer’s security with God is with God,–for a believer’s security is not rooted in the believer, but in the believer’s God.

The Believer’s Relationship with the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:1 (GNT)

“There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.”

This one verse should be tattooed on everyone’s hand–printed on paper and posted on your fridge, and memorized by every believer.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, how you’ve acted, who you are–how much you think you’ve failed–if you are truly in Christ, you are NOT condemned anymore.  Think about that, let it settle in.

God isn’t sitting in heaven with a big hammer in His hand, waiting for you to mess up so He can whap you on the head.  That’s hard for us to accept–quick to judge ourselves–so Paul goes on to tell us why this is a reality.

Romans 8:2-4 (AMP)

[2]  For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and death.

[3]  For God has done what the law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh [the entire nature of man without the Holy Slirit].  Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice].  [Lev. 7:37]

[4]  So that the righteous and just requirement of the Law might be fully met in us who live and move not in the ways of the flesh but in the ways of the Spirit [our lives governed not by the standards and according to the dictates of the flesh, but controlled by the Holy Spirit].

We are under a new authority–jurisdiction now–it’s like when you leave your residing country, you are no longer under your country’s laws, but the law of whatever country you go to.

By believing in Jesus Christ, you left the country called “the world” and have joined God’s kingdom–and are now under a new law–a law called “the law of the Spirit of life.”

So, in Christ, we are not condemned because we’ve been set free–[in verses 1-4]. 

Set free from what?

Romans 8:5-8

So set your mind on the Spirit–

That’s easier said than done–but it’s important to see the distinction.  I think one of Paul’s points is that we have been empowered and set free–the chains have been broken–so we can now choose which mind will control us.

Before I was a Christian my sinful nature controlled my mind.  There was a little tract being passed around at the time by the Billy Graham organization during his Crusades around the country called “Have you heard of the Spirit-filled life?”  Inside it showed the life of a person who doesn’t have Jesus–priorities, hope. actions–all out of whack with no order or purpose.  We are controlled–either by the sin nature or by the spirit nature–the Spirit of God.

A life controlled by Jesus has order and purpose.

The order becomes more evident the more time you spend in the relationship in Christ.  There’s a wonderful promise here in that even though we continue to live in bodies we live with a nature that’s opposed to God–one day our perishable bodies will put on an imperishable nature.  Like Jesus, we will have a perfect, indestructible body without a flesh nature–won’t that be wonderful?

So where then does our loyalty lie?

Romans 8:12-13 (NIV)

[12]  Therefore, brother and sisters, we have an obligation–but it is not to the flesh to live according to it.  [13]  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

We have an obligation Paul says–it’s the idea of owing a debt to someone–like a mortgage to a bank.  God gave us life through the Spirit, so we are in debt to Him, He owns us–it’s a spiritual reality we need to make in an outward reality in our lives.  We are no longer indebted to our sinful nature–in fact, we need to put to death the flesh.  [vs. 12-13]

In our Godly relationship, closeness to God means we lose control but given a new nature (verses 14-17).

There is so much here in the above verses and the main point is this: the fleshly nature leads to death and fear–fear of punishment and condemnation.

But when we come to Christ Jesus, we don’t get condemned and we are welcomed into a special, close relationship.

“Abba” was the cry of a child to its daddy.

Not only that but we are now heirs to God’s riches–and boy does He have riches–not the kind you spend in a store, but the kind you live off of for the rest of eternity!

Also, looking at the end, there’s something to sharing in Christ’s sufferings that’s part of the process of becoming a child of God.  [vs. 17-b]

Look at what Paul says about it:

Having this new relationship with Christ Jesus means we will be changed.  Right now, creation itself has been waiting since the fall of mankind for the day when we receive new bodies.  It hasn’t happened yet–but it’s coming.

In the meantime, “eagerly wait for it with perseverance”, Paul says.

How–when we seem to be in constant battle with the flesh and spirit? 

Keep reading on:

There’s a lot of theology in these verses–“predestination and foreknowledge”–commentary, books, etc..

It’s at the bottom of an argument between Calvinism and Arminianism:

Calvinist believe God chose who He was going to save and we had little to do with it.  Armenians believe that we chose God and God had little to do with it,  My position, like a few others, is in the middle–I believe God knew beforehand those that would choose Him and so predestined them–that there is a balance between actions of God and actions on man when it comes to salvation.  What I want to focus on here is in verse 28.

Do people really believe this?  A more literal way to translate this would be:

“to them that love God, all things work together for good according to His [not our] purpose.”

In that case, this Scripture is true:

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness.  Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Once that repentance happens, ALL THINGS work together for good.

The word, “work together” is a good one–it’s where we get the word synergy.  

Synergy is where more than one thing works together well–“the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  [Dictionary.com]

An isolated event in ones’ life might seem bad at the time–like my visit to the hospital for four days last January from an acute respiratory infection.  But because my illness brought me to a hospital bed, I was able to share and comfort the hospital chaplain intern who came to tears sitting in a chair next to my bed over a rebellious daughter who was living in sin.  Through my sickness, God gave me the wisdom and confidence to be of some comfort.  It “worked together for good”

The word “good” means:  “BENEFIT”.  It’s not “good” like “virtue.”  

God isn’t saying “well you’re going to suffer but it’s a good thing to suffer.”  “No pain, no gain!”

There’s an actual benefit that God works through circumstances–yes there will be pain and suffering at times, but know that part of this relationship we have with Jesus means in the end, God will work even the bad to our benefit.

Now we might not see that benefit till we get to heaven–and that leads to Paul’s final major point in this chapter:

Belonging to God’s family means facing death, but receiving a rich inheritance.

God is on our side and we need fear no enemy–losing our job or sickness, or hardship or even death and taxes.

What a wonderful picture God is building–accepted into a new family (the family of God).  For ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD,  and God, who was our enemy, is now on our side–but it gets better!

Romans 8:37 (NIV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

So we can CONQUER in God.

The base word for “conquer” means “a means of success.”  Not only that but it’s a “super success.”  An individual, a group of people, can’t be a “conqueror” and be a failure at the same time.

Sin no longer has mastery, trials no longer hold terror, life is no longer something to be dreaded…BECAUSE we ARE conquerors.

Now that doesn’t mean we are free from suffering and pain, BUT we are always connected to the One who works for our benefit–NO MATTER WHAT!

Paul puts the cap on this wonderful chapter of promises with this:

What more could we ask for that “nothing can separate us from God’s love” (vs. 38-39).

God so wants to convince His children that His eternality of His love for them that He devotes an entire chapter in His Word (Psalm 136) in which every one of the 26 verses repeats the PROMISE:

“His steadfast love endures forever.”

And so, if He ever stopped loving a believer in Christ Jesus, He would be lying about His LOVE of being “steadfast” and “forever.”  If God ever allowed anything to separate one believer from His love, He would be a liar.

What great confidence we have then,  There’s no one, nothing, no event, and at no time that you can be torn from God’s loves in Jesus.  There’s no reason to say, “Oh, God can’t love me anymore after what I’ve done.”

Oh yes, He can and does!    Far from separating from you, He wants to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).

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~ CREDITS ~

Commentary:  Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc., “Secure Forever” by Donald S. Whitney.

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

Images:  Google Image search.

Returning to One’s Own Vomit [Part One]

PROVERBS 26:11 (NIV)  

“AS A DOG RETURNS TO ITS VOMIT, SO A FOOL REPEATS HIS FOLLY.”


History Repeats Itself  [See Ecclesiastes 1:9].

I was reading an article the other day which prompted me to begin this study in Hebrews 6, believe it or not.  The article was entitled “Reasons why millennials are walking away from their faith,” by Stacia Hall.

The statistics show that 65% of them would not consider themselves to be religious.  This is a huge number, but when you’re talking about a cause-driven generation, who is very focused on community and are actually finding it both online and in person, you can see how the purpose of the church and God’s Word would be less necessary.  Being a grandparent, trust me, I’ve noticed.

But the statistics don’t end there. 

32% of them say they actually don’t believe in God’s existence.  1/3 of people between the ages of 18-30 don’t believe that God is, that He exists, that He started it all.  [See footnote [i] ]

Worse, many who at one time said they believed, and now don’t.  And let’s not just point fingers at the “millennials”.  Many people today from all generations are walking away from Christ.

Many are compliant but unconverted.  Some may come to Christ later.

Many of those are not denying that Jesus is the Son of God, they just don’t care!  Some have become enemies of the Gospel or embraced false religions.

Others just numb, deliberate rejection. 

That was the question the Messianic Jews had when they saw and heard their peers trashing Jesus and returning to mainstream Judaism.  We call this APOSTASY and shouldn’t be confused with falling into sin.  A lot of evangelical Christians, as many of us like to call ourselves, based on group dynamics, are a lot like the ancient Hebrews who followed Moses.  It was the thing to do.

Most of us agree I think, that someone whose FAITH & TRUST are not in Jesus is lost.

But what if they once professed the faith that they now deny?  What happened?  Were they SAVED then lost their salvation, or were they never really SAVED?  I believe the later.

In one sense, it doesn’t matter they are lost.  In another sense, it does matter, because if God ELECTS people to salvation, is God really in control here?  Is His SOVEREIGNTY broken?

We can anticipate knowing people who once claimed to be followers of Christ but later in life decided to disavow Him.

I’ve asked myself the question regarding a few members of my own family.  How could this have happened?

THE HISTORY LESSON ~

The lesson I’ve chosen for this study is built upon  The Rejection of the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14).

Most of the Hebrews were skeptics, even though they were ENLIGHTENED by God’s Word.  However, their commitment to Yahweh was flimsy, with reservation, not final, unreserved, and genuine.  It could have been a case of group dynamics and being overwhelmed.  Sound familiar?

They had seen God’s Power in miracle after miracle on their journey to the Promised Land.  Yet, in their hearts, they wanted to return to Egypt and worship the gods of Egypt.

The twelve spies were sent out to preview Canaan and then sorted out its challenges in two opposite ways.

They tasted the amazing produce of Canaan, including the giant grapes.

The people refused to believe God and honor His Word.

They couldn’t backtrack: too late.  So because of their ‘stiff-necks’ and their unbelief, they suffered God’s judgment [Numbers 14:32-37]:  Wandering 40 years in the wilderness until they dropped dead.

And their problem?

They didn’t actually Trust God’s character?

The same principle applies to those who have professed faith in Jesus to later reject Him.

Hebrews 6:4-12 (NIV Bible)

[4] If it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  [5] who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the [powers of the coming age,  [6] if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  

[7] Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  [8] But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed.  In the end, it will be burned.  

[9] Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case–things that accommodate salvation.  [10] God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  [11] We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.  [12] We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Applying this passage of Scripture to the people who professed their FAITH in Christ Jesus only to later REJECT Him is drawing parallels in some sense.

If you spend some time in the Book of Numbers account, it’s obvious that many or most of the Hebrews were not right with God, at least that first generation.  It’s not like they were ‘godly’ and then fell away.  They went along with Moses (sometimes), but did they take ownership of their relationship with the Lord?  No, they didn’t!  And this understanding is crucial.

Why has REPENTANCE become impossible?

It’s not that God won’t accept repentance, it’s, rather, that it’s impossible for these mentioned here to repent; they have crossed a boundary.  An expression I love to use in this regard is “You cannot put an impression on concrete once it’s dry.”

They had been ENLIGHTENED with the Gospel.

  • The Hebrews were enlightened by a pillar of fire/the Torah.
  • The Hebrews sampled the grapes, this sampled SALVATION.
  • They have tasted the produce of the HEAVENLY Canaan.  They haven’t entered the land and the rest that goes with it.

They have seen God’s POWER through the Holy Spirit in their lives and yet they desired to return to their previous religious status forsaking their inheritance that God had promised.  It’s one thing to doubt and it’s another thing to backslide.  And yet another to deny and reject Jesus!

They changed their INTERPRETATION of the Cross in unbelief and in their unbelief they’re agreeing with those who nailed Jesus to the cross.  If Jesus was a false teacher and a fake, then death was the appropriate penalty.

They cannot BACKTRACK and now accept the Messiah; too late!

Look closely at Peter’s words:

“wallowing in the mire” – Def. deep mud; wet, spongy earth.  To soil with mud or foul matter; to stick in a mire.

I was about 16 months in this old photo, but looking at my expression, I didn’t seem to be enjoying the “mire”.

At this point in the study, to correctly interpret any Scripture, we must know the basic rules of interpretation.

The FIRST RULE is to interpret Scripture in the context of the Entire Bible.

Secondly, we are to interpret in context with the Immediate Passage; we need to know the purpose of the letter or book that the text is written by looking at the verses immediately around our text, then interpret with the things as a backdrop for our interpretation.

And THIRDLY, we need to interpret Scripture using other Scripture.  Scripture isn’t going to contradict itself!

Finally, we want to interpret Scripture that is less clear with Scripture that is more clear.  So in this study, I have tried to use these principles in interpretation.

The verses in the first part of our passage of Scripture have been some of the most challenging for Christians throughout the centuries to interpret and taken by themselves, can seem to indicate that if you are a Christian and turn away from Christ, you can lose your salvation and there’s no hope of you ever being saved again.

THAT’S NOT WHAT IT’S SAYING AT ALL.

Verse 4 and 5 says it is impossible for those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become a sharer of the Holy Spirit, and have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come [AMP].

That certainly could be a Christian, but then the author goes on to say if they fall away, it would be impossible for them to be brought back to a place of repentance.

So, when trying to understand this in light of the context of the Bible, it would seem to contradict other Scriptures that say otherwise, because the Bible as a whole, teaches that Salvation is by Grace and Guaranteed to believers by God.

It teaches that a TRUE BELIEVER is eternally secure in their SALVATION when they have truly believed.  We’ll explore this in greater detail in Part Two of this study.

Ephesians 1:13-14

When a person has truly believed they are given the Holy Spirit–and God says through Paul that the indwelling Holy Spirit in a person’s life becomes a deposit that guarantees our salvation.

And other Bible verses give testimony to the same:  2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 2:8-9.

Additionally, I want us to be aware of what the author of Hebrews doesn’t say, that other writers of Scripture say when they are talking about someone who is actually saved.

He doesn’t say that the people he’s talking about have been sealed with the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13, 4:30), or…

  • born again (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23), or…
  • chosen (Eph. 1:11; 1 Peter 1:12), or…
  • predestined (Roman. 8:29-32; Eph. 1:5, 11). or…
  • reconciled (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18; Col. 1:11), or…
  • forgiven (Luke 5:20, 7:48; 1 Jn. 2:12), or…
  • that they had never believed at all! (John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9-10; Eph. 1:13).

Those phrases are each used in multiple places to describe a person who is SAVED.

Here is what the author does say about those he’s talking about:

  • They’ve been enlightened.
  • tasted the heavenly gift.
  • shared in the Holy Spirit.
  • tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age.

Now while those things would certainly be true of a Christian, the QUESTION is…

“could they be true of a person who hasn’t received Christ as Savior”?

To answer that question you will have to continue the study in Part Two, Returning to One’s Own Vomit

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CREDITS:

Footnote [i] – everything.church, Jan. 5, 2016.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

Personal Photo:  “Muddy Mel” – Family Photo Album.  1943.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Need For REBUILDING – RESTORING

Scripture Passage:  Nehemiah 9:1-37; 10:28-39

I want to first take a quick glance at the setting in Nehemiah 9:

  • The Jewish people had been in captivity in Babylon.  Their Temple (place of worship) and the entire city of Jerusalem was destroyed.
  • Now, after 70 years, they’ve returned and rebuilt their city.

Although, when I say “returned” to Israel, most of them were first-time arrivals.  They were a newer generation, born in captivity.  They found the Law of Moses while working on the Temple.  And when the Prophet Ezra read it aloud to them, they vowed to return to God’s Law.  They were determined to get back to God’s ways.

Chapter 9 continues on this theme.

Then Ezra leads out with the beautiful PRAYER (vs. 6-37) and in that prayer, you can clearly see the nation making attempts to RECONNECT with God.

This is the longest recorded PRAYER in the Bible. 

It was a prayer of CONFESSION & REPENTANCE, recounting what God had done for them personally, as a nation, and man’s failure to honor Him.  This prompted me to read and re-read this prayer, making notes in my workbook while checking down the examples in the prayer with my own prayers.

How selfish we can be at times in our prayers.

There was this realization by the people just how far they had drifted from God and an honest CONFESSION of their sin. 

This is the first step for RESTORATION, for REVIVAL–a realization that we have drifted away from God and a desire to return to a Godly life in an ungodly culture.

This CONFESSION makes RENEWAL possible!

TRUE CHANGE OR RENEWAL –

This can only begin to happen when three things happen.

We need the 3 A’s to take place:

  1. Admit our wrongs,
  2. Acknowledge God’s ways, and…
  3. Act on it!

THE FIRST STEP…

CONFESSION is to admit that there’s a need for change!

James Montgomery Boice, a Christian theologian, Bible teacher, author, a speaker says, “There can be no genuine forward moral progress for either a nation or an individual without an acknowledgment of, sorrow for, and a true turning from sin.”  

It’s important that we all examine ourselves in reading God’s Word.

In Nehemiah 8, we can see where it began with the people – when they heard the Word they mourn and wept.

In Chapter 9 of Nehemiah, we see this again in corporate prayer.  If we’re not convinced that we need a CHANGE, we won’t.

This realization leads to REPENTANCE.

And by the way, it doesn’t help if we confess ‘just to confess’, or because ‘this is what everybody does’, or because ‘we have to do it’.

We should CONFESS because we are being prompted of the Holy Spirit when He brings to our mind the Word of God.

We want to CONFESS because we are moved by God’s Word or convicted by the Holy Spirit.

This is what happened to the prodigal son in Luke 15:17-18 (confession).

QUESTION:  Why does God want us to confess?  Surely not to inform Him of something He already knows about us.

First of all, God wants us to admit our sins so that we can take the steps toward CHANGE. 

Only when we agree with God of our faults, our trespasses, and our need to change can we find the commitment to do so.

Secondly, CONFESSION makes us real.

REAL, if we are honest with God, honest with SELF and honest towards people.

It’s being AUTHENTIC, being VULNERABLE and BEING REAL!

This is the way to happiness.  We’re not weighed down, burdened with GUILT or SHAME.  We experience God’s FORGIVENESS and the JOY of forgiveness.

REAL FELLOWSHIP with God can’t happen when unconfessed SIN is in our lives.

WHAT IS SIN?

I’ve had the question directed at me over the years to what I think “SIN” is.  And my response is always redirected to,  “What do you think “SIN” is?

In a nutshell, according to the classical definition, “hippo”, SIN is “a word, deed, or desire in opposition to God’s Word.”

The second thing that’s necessary for RESTORATION to take place is to acknowledge God’s way–or take God’s Word seriously.

It’s this deep conviction of His Word that’s the only blessed way!  This conviction is closely related to the first thing–CONFESSION.

GOD’S WORD LEADS TO CONFESSION!

The reading of the Law in Nehemiah and the subsequent DAILY reading of the Scriptures led to the people’s confession and repentance.  It wasn’t the preaching of Ezra, the Levites that brought about restoration.  It was God’s Word!

The realization that yes, we’ve sinned against God, comes through the reading of the Word of God and by the leading and conviction of the Holy Spirit. 

We will never acknowledge SIN to be SIN or grieve, weep over it unless we understand it’s an offense against God, and the only way to see that is to know God’s Word.

So what are we looking at in all of this?

If we want CHANGE to happen we’ve got to have an alternative:

  • What do we really want to change into?
  • What kind of a change are we looking at?

It can’t be your way against my way or his way against the world’s way.  It must be God’s WAY we’re looking at.  It must be God’s Word we’re fixed on.  That’s the standard.  God’s Word is the MIRROR of our soul. our character, and our conduct.

In the prayer of CONFESSION, the Levites directed the people’s thoughts–notice I didn’t say ‘manipulated’ their thoughts–to the goodness and grace of God.

NOTICE how many times“YOU” appeared throughout the PRAYER.

Despite their failures, they were to recognize God’s KINDNESS in their betrayal, that God remains FAITHFUL and continues to shower His blessing on them.

NEHEMIAH 9:17

“YOU” didn’t desert them in the desert; “YOU” gave your good Spirit to instruct them; “YOU” didn’t withhold your manna from their mouths, and “YOU” gave them water for their thirst; “YOU” made their sons a numerous as the stars in the sky.

NEHEMIAH 9:31

NEHEMIAH 9:33

THE PEOPLE’S PRAYER…

In the PRAYER, the people were led to see through their history a God who is great, good and gracious despite man’s SIN AND FAILURES.  This is the basis why we CONFESS our sin.  We have a forgiving God, a merciful and gracious God.  This is why the father waits for the prodigal son to return.  Not to judge or condemn him, but to embrace and forgive him (Luke 15:11-32).

Our PARDON today is not based on our MERIT or our WORTHINESS, but upon His goodness and grace. 

We shouldn’t base our appeal on our past accomplishments (how much I HAVE DONE for God), but simply upon His grace and mercy (Nehemiah9:17-b) –

[17-b]  But You are a God ready to PARDON, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great steadfast love; and You did not forsake them” (AMP).

The THIRD STEP in a CHANGED LIFE is to ACT ON IT!

When we know that we know, where we are and where we want to go, we need to take the necessary steps to bring about the CHANGE.

NEHEMIAH 9:38 –

The LEVITES led by Ezra ended the people’s prayer saying, 

THE COMMITMENT –

The ASSEMBLY, the gathered people are going to make a COVENANT (an agreement, COMMITMENT) before God that they are willing to do the following:

Nehemiah 10:30 – “We shall not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons,”

10:31 – “We shall forego raising crops the seventh year [letting the land lie fallow] and the compulsory payment of every debt” [Exod. 23:10, 11; Deut. 15:1, 2].

10:32, 35, 36, 37 – “And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites”

10:39-c  “We will not forsake or neglect the house of our God.”

The people were determined to make right what was wrong and so should we today.

OUR NEED FOR REBUILDING – RESTORING BEGINS NOW!

EXAMINING ourselves in light of the world that surrounds us is a great place to start if you are looking for REVIVAL.

David – Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

[23]  “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

[24]  “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Allow the Holy Spirit to take away the hindrances and obstacles we’ve placed in God’s way.  Be honest with yourself.

  • Tell Him what you did wrong.
  • Is there someone or something you love more than Him?
  • Is God’s Word a concern to you?  Can you really worship Him, or has something taking the place of God in your spirit?
  • Tell Him the attitudes you have that aren’t good – pride, arrogance, jealousy, lust, unwillingness to forgive, laziness…

Allow Jesus to minister His CLEANSING & HEALING to your spirit.

  • If we CONFESS OUR SINS, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness.      (1 John 1:9)

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CREDITS –

Christian views on SIN – Wikipedia.

Photos & Images:  Google Image Search – Settings advance, using referencing bible verses.

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

 

God Is NOT An Emasculated, Mushy God!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS YOUR GOD?

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

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

God doesn’t take IDOLATRY lightly!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOD PROMISES here in Ezekiel, JUDGMENT without MERCY!

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

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

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

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

Old fashion thoughts?  I don’t think so!

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

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

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

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

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AND GOD WILL BRING FORTH RETRIBUTION!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To MOURN means to have a BROKEN HEART–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

man making a disgusted face
man making a disgusted face

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

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

The Judgment Seat of Christ.

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

2 Corinthians 5:10 makes it even plainer:

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

The Great White Throne Judgment (Unbelievers JUDGMENT).

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

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

bema-vs-white-throne-judgment1

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

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

 


CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

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

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

Photos:  Shutterstock & Google Image Search.

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

Preparing for Christmas by Rediscovering the Cause of Celebration

SCRIPTURE REFERENCE – Mark 1:1-8

The title I chose for this particular blog’s message, “Preparing for Christmas by Rediscovering the Cause of Celebration,” thinking, this was a great way to begin the holiday season.  You know, like going to the garage and dragging heavy boxes of decorations, putting up the tree (3 in my house), purchasing gifts for love ones, doing all the holiday cooking and baking that my wife and I do, and maybe a thousand other things that NEED to be done before Christmas.  I’m exhausted already from listing the “to do’s”!

But that’s not what I mean at all about preparation.

In addition, you may find the Scripture study an unusual choice for a Christmas message, since in the gospel of Mark, we find the only gospel account in the Bible that has nothing at all to say about the birth of Jesus.  In fact Mark mentions neither the miraculous conception nor the birth of Jesus.

Mark begins his account of the life of Jesus in this way (Living Bible – TLB):

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[1]  Here begins the wonderful story of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

[2]  In the book written by the prophet Isaiah, God announced that he would send his Son to earth, and that a special messenger would arrive first to prepare the world for his coming.  [3] “This messenger will live out in the barren wilderness,” Isaiah said, “and will proclaim that everyone must straighten out his life to be ready for the Lord’s arrival.”

Though Mark doesn’t give us a CLASSIC Christmas story when he opens his book, he essentially wraps up the Christmas message with just a few words.

There’s nothing wrong with Christmas trees and tinsel along with the children’s delight at the unwrapping of presents and food and laughter and the making of family memories this time of year.  I am thinking of my own memories as I write this blog.  All those things make Christmas special!

The opening line of Mark is “the beginning of the good news” [the “gospel”].

Our task at Christmas is not to chop down the tree of celebration–rather it is to rediscover the cause of CELEBRATION–“What is this GOOD NEWS?”

Mark doesn’t begin his gospel account with the birth of Christ, but instead, he tells about a rather unusual character named John the Baptist.

In my investigation, with the study of the words spoken here, I noticed THREE things about John:

First, he was an unusual messenger.

VERSE 6 states that “John wore clothing woven of camel’s-hair and had a leather girdle (belt) around his loins and ate locusts and wild honey.”

I get the impression that John. who was Jesus’ cousin, was a bit different?  There are some folks who, if invited to a social function, you would feel somewhat uncomfortable to have them around, John was like that.

John wore clothes made of camel-hair, wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locust and wild honey.  He was a man of the desert, he ate the food of the desert and he wore clothing of the desert.

Secondly, he had an unexpected message.

Mark says that John FULFILLED THE PROPHECIES both Malachi (3:1) and Isaiah (40:3-5).  The more lengthy prophecy of Isaiah says,

[3] A voice of one who cries: Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord clear away the obstacles]; make straight and smooth in the desert a highway from our God.  [4] Every valley shall be lifted and filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked and uneven shall be made straight and level, and the rough places a plain.  [5] And the glory (majesty and splendor) of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.

When John the Baptist comes and acts as a Herald or an announcer that JESUS is coming, “prepare the way of the Lord,” the fulfillment of prophecy takes shape.

The word translated “prepare” is from the Greek word “kataskouazo” meaning to “make ready” or “keeping it ready.”

John wasn’t telling them to PREPARE a literal road, but rather he’s telling them to PREPARE themselves for the coming of JESUS.  He says, “GET READY!”

In our love of the CELEBRATION of the birth of Jesus, I think we sometimes get lost.

We love to prepare for Christ because it’s like preparing for a baby to be born.  We get so wrapped up in the manger scene, we forget that He is not a baby anymore!

We think that somehow he is satisfied to see us make our annual appearance at Christmas, singing a few Christmas Carols.  This One Who was born into a crude manger is now a KING!

John the Baptist was telling people, “you need to get ready because someone more powerful than I is coming.”

John the Baptist tries to get the world ready for Christ.

The world of his day was made up of religious and non-religious people, neither of which was READY for the Lord.

THE NON-RELIGIOUS of his day, like our own, liked their SIN and didn’t want Christ Jesus in their lives.

THE RELIGIOUS of that day, like our own, think they don’t need Christ.

So when Christ came, the RELIGIOUS and the NON-RELIGIOUS alike, rejected Him.  They were not ready for Christ to come in their lives.

John’s voice was one crying out in the barren places.

At this time of year people are expected to be happy, but in fact, there are more suicides than any other time of the year.  In the middle of much cluttered activity and “Ho, Ho, Ho ‘ng” in many lives, there is spiritual dryness.

The question is…”HAVE YOU PREPARED YOUR HEART TO RECEIVE JESUS?”

In verse 4, John uses the word “REPENT”:

“John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a BAPTISM of REPENTANCE for the REMISSION OF SINS.”  [NOTE: capitalized words for emphasis]

John tells us that PREPARATION that we need to make is to “REPENT”.  The Greek word translated “repentance” (metanoia) is a word that means “a changed mind”; “changing your direction 180 degrees.”

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The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV):

[10]  “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

There are TWO kinds of REPENTANCE possible when you think about it, that’s possible in human experience.

Many of us recognize the unpleasant consequences of our SIN and persuaded of the GUILT that may result in a superficial sorrow–that may lead to a temporary reformation, but not to a genuine turning to Christ for forgiveness.

“Godly sorrow” on the other hand, accompanied by CONVICTION of SIN , which is the work of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:37), comes about from the realization of offending a holy God, which in turn, leads to genuine repentance.

REPENTANCE may begin with a “sorrowful heart,” but to be GENUINE, must lead to a determined action.

The CALL to REPENT is one of the most important things we will hear among the sound of exchanges of CHRISTMAS GREETINGS, the singing of Carols, and the shouts of JOY as presents are opened.

Not only did John have an unexpected message…THIRD, he had an extraordinary ministry…

In verse 5 we read“The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him, confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (NIV Bible).

“A once lonely man,” Story:

It was a bright Sunday morning in 18th century London, but Robert Robinson’s mood was anything but sunny.  All along the street there were people hurrying to church, but in the midst of the crowd, Robinson was a lonely man.

The sound of church bells reminded him of years past when his faith in God was strong and the church was an integral part of his life.  It had been years since he set foot in a church, with years of wandering, disillusionment, and gradual defection from the God he once loved.

That love for God–once fiery and passionate–had slowly burned out within him, leaving him dark and cold inside.

Robinson heard the clip-clop, clip-clop of a horse-drawn cab approaching behind him.  Turning, he lifted his hand to hail the driver.  But then he saw the cab was occupied by a young woman dressed in finery for the Lord’s Day.  He waived the driver on, but the woman in the carriage ordered the carriage to be stopped.

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“Sir, I’d be happy to share the carriage with you,” she said to Robinson.  “Are you going to church?”

Robinson was about to decline, then he paused,  “Yes,” he said at last.  “I am going to church.”

He stepped into the carriage and sat down beside the woman.  As the carriage rolled forward, Robert Robinson and the woman exchanged introductions.  There was a flash of recognition in her eyes when he stated his name.

“That’s an interesting coincidence,” she said, reaching into her purse.  She withdrew a small book of inspirational verses, opened it to a ribbon-bookmark, and handed the book to him.

“I was just reading a verse by a poet named Robert Robinson.  Could it be you?”

He took the book, nodding “Yes, I wrote these words years ago.”

“Oh, how wonderful!” she exclaimed.  “Imagine!  I’m sharing a carriage with the author of these very lines!”

maxresdefault-1But Robinson barely heard her.  He was absorbed in the words he was reading. They were words that would one day be set to music and become a great hymn of faith, familiar to generations of Christians.

He could barely read the last few lines through the tears that brimmed his eyes.

“I wrote these words–and I’ve lived these words. ‘Prone to wander…prone to leave the God I have.”

The woman suddenly understood.

“You also wrote, ‘Here’s my heart, O take and seal it!’  You can offer your heart again to God, Mr. Robinson.  It’s never too late!”

[See FOOTNOTE [i] ].

IF your greatest need had been for INFORMATION, God would have sent us an EDUCATOR.

IF our greatest need had been TECHNOLOGY, God would have sent us a SCIENTIST.

IF our greatest need had been MONEY, God would have sent us an ECONOMIST.

IF our greatest need had been PLEASURE, God would have sent us an ENTERTAINER.

BUT HE DIDN’T!

Our greatest need was FORGIVENESS…God sent us a SAVIOR.

Has your Christmas Preparation really begun yet?

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i]:  Ron Lee Davis, Courage to Begin Again [Harvest House, Eugene, Or. pp. 145-147] – http://www.crossroad.to/Victory/come-thou-fount-of-every-blessing.htm

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY of Old and New Testament Words.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible, except where noted.

 

Our CONSCIENCE: The Good, the Bad, and the Uncomfortable

LIFE is full of decision-making, whether we are young in life or old.  

I can look back today at my childhood and often wondered in making decisions,

“Should I do this or do that?”  

My mother would say, “Always listen to your CONSCIENCE Mel.”

At the time, I had no idea what a “conscience” was, so mom would explain “It’s that little voice you hear inside of you coming from your heart.”  Now that was confusing at my young age.

Dictionary.com DEFINES Conscience as “The inner sense of what is right or wrong in our conduct or motives, impelling one toward right actions.”

If my mother were alive today and heard this definition of Conscience, she would chime in…”that’s what I said!”

And now, in the twilight of my years, I still have trouble keeping my CONSCIENCE under control.

Managing your conscience is somewhat like keeping Chayote Squash under control in the garden

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My wife tells the story of her distaste for the squash growing up in Southern, California.  She says that her dad loved it so much, that he grew it in their backyard against a wooden fence.  The vines grew uncontrolled and the squash was so prolific, they had Chayote every night for dinner during the Summer months.  Now I like squash, but every night for dinner?

Managing your CONSCIENCE is somewhat like keeping Chayote Squash under control by continually struggling to keep the vines under management.  

Our CONSCIENCES are also a struggle to manage.

THE GOOD CONSCIENCE:

Our CONSCIENCE can uphold us when we struggle spiritually.  

The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to fight the good fight; to keep a clear conscience when facing struggles.

1 Timothy 1:19 (AMP):

“Holding fast to faith (that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence) and having a good (clear) CONSCIENCE. By rejecting and thrusting from them [their conscience], some individuals have made shipwreck of their faith.”

Our CONSCIENCE can also protect us from TEMPTATION.

In Genesis 39:7-12. Joseph was sexually tempted by his bosses wife.  Joseph followed his CONSCIENCE and resisted the temptation.  Because of his decision, he developed a stronger testimony for God.

THE BAD & THE UNCOMFORTABLE CONSCIENCE:

Our CONSCIENCE can also display a bad side which can fuel PARANOIA

Proverbs 28:1 (The Message bible):

“The wicked are edgy with guilt, ready to run off even when no one’s after them;”

Let me give you a few more bible examples of “bad consciences”:

1 Timothy 4:1-2 says,  [1] “But the [Holy] Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach,[2] Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars whose CONSCIENCES are seared (cauterized)  (AMP).

That folks, is an example of a hardened conscience!

Another example I found in Scripture, was a CONSCIENCE of self-destruction in a disciple, a follower of Jesus (Matthew 27:3-5 NIV): 

[3] When JUDAS, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders.  [4] “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”  “What is that to us?” they replied.  “That’s your responsibility.”  [5] So Judas threw the money into the temple and left.  Then he went away and hanged himself.

So by EXAMPLE, our CONSCIENCES are not altogether GOOD or BAD.

Billy Graham said “Most of us follow our CONSCIENCE as we follow a wheelbarrow. We push it in front of us in the direction we want to go.”  So the issue is managing our consciences properly.  And how do we do that?

God has given each one of us the resources needed in managing our CONSCIENCES…which brings me to the BIBLE TEXT FOR THIS BLOG-STUDY, where God’s RESOURCES are revealed to help us manage our conscience.

God’s RESOURCES found in 1 John 3:18-23:

 

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Whatever you do, let your ACTIONS be motivated out of LOVE (3:18)

A good illustration of this Resource can be found in 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul discusses eating food that has been offered [sacrificed] to idols.  The question had been raised:  ‘Is it proper–the right thing to do–to eat meat that was left after the blood was used in sacrificing to an idol?’  Paul’s instruction was that it was okay. There was nothing morally wrong with it.  However, if this practice causes someone else to stumble, then avoid such practices.

LET LOVE BE THE GUIDING PRINCIPLE!

Using this RESOURCE as our guide, we should then apply this principle concerning our actions–

  • Speaking rudely to another person.
  • Social drinking.
  • Cursing.
  • Being critical of another person.

Our words, actions and thoughts should communicate LOVE to the other person.

Paul says in Acts 24:16,  “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”

Another RESOURCE noticed in John’s letter was to submit to the TRUTH.

SUBMIT TO THE TRUTH
SUBMIT TO THE TRUTH

Sometimes a GUILTY CONSCIENCE is inappropriate.  That said, there are times when I personally feel guilty because…I AM GUILTY!

The best guide in determining TRUE GUILT isn’t other people.  They may not give you very sound advice.

The BEST GUIDE is God’s Word!  It is always consistent, unlike opinions from others.  It is unchanging.

BUT there is a challenge here in becoming submitted to the TRUTH, God’s Word and accepting what it teaches.

I once read somewhere,  “The TRUTH will set you free but it will make you uncomfortable in the process.”

Here’s but one example to apply:  Maybe you are having trouble forgiving someone.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive your [own] shortcomings and let them drop”  (Mark 11:25 AMP).

As we submit to God’s Word in the Bible, we will make right decisions in following a consistent pattern that is pleasing to God.

The 3rd RESOURCE John lays before us is to Accept the GRACE of God (3:20):

[20] “Whenever our hearts in [tormenting] self-accusation makes us feel guilty and condemn us.  [For we are in God’s hands.]  For He is above and greater than our consciences (our hearts), and He knows (perceives and understands) everything [nothing is hidden from Him].”  (Amplified Bible)

The Bible instructs us to throw your sin into the deepest ocean and leave it there. In addition, God has put up a no fishing sign:

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If you have confessed your sin and asked God’s forgiveness, then REJOICE in the GRACE OF GOD!

GRACE isn’t a pacifier for those who want to continue living in their SIN.  However, if you truly REPENT–change your direction–God’s GRACE will heal your wounds.

Finally, in verse 23, we find the RESOURCE of Putting Your Trust in Jesus.

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“Now, what does JESUS have to do with managing our conscience?”

Good question.

JESUS forgives us when JESUS FORGIVES us when we SIN, thus giving us a CLEAN HEART (clear conscience).

“If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins…”  (1 John 1:9).

BUT there’s more!

Besides forgiving you and I for our sins, He will also give you a fresh start!

A lady by the name of Louise Fletcher Tarkington wrote a poem entitled “The Lord of Beginning Again” [See Footnote [i] ].  This poem reflects the desires of many.

I wish that there were some wonderful place

Called the Land of Beginning Again.

Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches,

And all of our poor selfish grief

Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at 

the door And never put on again.

In Jesus this is possible.

We can gain victory over our CONSCIENCE.

We must follow the internal leadings of LOVE, submit to God’s TRUTH, accept the GRACE of God and put our TRUST in Jesus.

Is God speaking to you about your CONSCIENCE right now?  He wants to give you VICTORY.  Will you accept it today?


CREDITS & FOOTNOTES –

Footnote [i]:  http://fromtroublesofthisworld.wordpress.com/…/the-land-of-beginning-by-lau…

Photos:  Google Image Search

Bible Translations Used:  Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted in the text.