Monday, April 17, 2017

Obedience.

It is quite common to see an individual when faced with a choice to obey Christ or not, set out to pray about it. This is not entirely wrong, it is true we find grace and help in time of need, and the way of escape during times of temptation, as we seek God in prayer. Jesus sets the example for us in His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, as He fervently sought the Father that he cup might pass from Him. Although sweating drops of blood in His anguish, He yet submitted to the will of His Father and found the strength He needed to go on to face the cross (Luke 22:39-44).We read that He learned obedience through the things that He suffered (Heb 5:7-8).

Yet it is far too common to see individuals substituting prayer for obedience. They pray for God's will, they pray for strength, they pray for help, but the truth is they do not intend to obey. Having thus prayed, they feel justified​ in their inaction, as they wait for God to somehow make them obedient. God however will not obey for us, He will not force us to do what we are unwilling to do, as true obedience must come from our willing hearts if it is to be pleasing in His sight.

God does not command us to do that which we are unable to do.
It has been taught that man is incapable of doing any good at all, that his depravity is such that he can only do evil. Yet look around and you will see unsaved individuals doing right things. There are people who are not born again, yet have some morals that they follow. Jesus said that even sinners love those who love them back. The rich young ruler was obedient to the commandments, yet fell short in one area (Mark 10:17-22). Likewise Paul, before his conversion was also blameless in the Law, yet he could not break free from covetousness (Phil 3:6; Rom 7:7). The fact that sinful people can obey God's law does not make them righteous, it does not give them favor in God's eyes, but it proves the point that God does not expect us to do something impossible; we can obey. Depravity lies within our wills, we refuse to do what is right, choosing instead to do wrong, and as a result falling into bondage to our selfish desires.

We might say it is too hard. There are things that we may face in our Christian walk that are indeed hard, our flesh is selfish, and Christ's commands go against that. Yet we read that His yoke is easy and His burden is light ( Matt 11:28-30). We also read that His commands are not burdensome (1John 5:3).  The problem is not with what we are asked to do, but lies with us. Our human nature will try to rise up and gain the mastery if we will not subdue it.

In Luke 17:1-10 we read of Jesus' instructions concerning an offending brother, and our duty to not only confront such a one, but to also forgive, multiple times if necessary. Finding this a bit daunting, the disciples cry out, "Increase our faith."
Jesus replies that a tiny bit of faith, even the size of a mustard seed is all that is necessary to accomplish great things. It is not a burst of heavenly energy that we must wait for if we would be obedient, but simply to take God at his word, and then put it into practice. We like to claim His promises in this way, but we must also put His word into action in our lives by faith as well.

Jesus goes on to teach us that as His servants it is our duty to obey as well. Once again it is not an issue of I can't, but just as an employer expects so much out of an employee, likewise God expects our obedience as well.

As Christians we have the law of God written upon our hearts, and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. We do not have to live in bondage to sin and selfishness, as Christ has done all that is necessary to bring us into a life of loving obedience. It is up to us to count ourselves dead to sin (Rom 6:11-14), to put off the old man (Eph 4:23), and put on the new (Eph 4:23-24), and to abide in Christ (1 John 3:6).

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How Do You Read Your Bible?

Scripture tells us that there is one faith (Eph 4:5), that was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 1:3). If so, how can it be that we see so many differing doctrines among professed believers? Why is there so much confusion over things such as divorce and remarriage, or eternal security? How about Jesus' teaching on materialism? He taught against it, but the opposite is taught by prosperity teachers today. There is much confusion within the Church over issues that should be cut and dried instead.

Much of the problem stems from how we approach the Bible. First off, let me be clear that the Bible is God's inspired word to us. From Genesis to Revelation, it is God breathed and useful for training and correction (2 Tim 3:16). The events of the Old Testament were written for our example as Christians today (1 Cor 10:6). However we also understand that not all of the Old Testament commands given to Israel are binding upon followers of Christ under the new covenant. So we must interpret God's word correctly so that we can follow it correctly.

It is common for many Christians to approach the Bible as a "flat book." That is they place equal authority upon both the Old and New Testaments. Again, while it is true that both testament are equally inspired, yet we do not follow the precepts of the Old in the same way we follow what Christ has commanded in the new. For example, most Christians are not following the dietary laws found in the law of Moses, and we are not stoning people caught in adultery, as New Testament believers.

However, when the Bible is approached this way, we can get ourselves off track. There are many verses in the Old Testament dealing with war. God allowed Israel to fight their enemies under the old covenant. We also have examples of wealthy men such as Abraham, David, and Solomon in the Old Testament. Many Christians today turn to these passages when seeking to defend their position on these two issues. The focus was on Israel, a physical nation chosen by God, so we often lose sight of the kingdom of God as found in the New Testament, blurring it with our own physical nation. In America there is a tendency to combine God and country, resulting in an overly patriotic Christianity. We also see emphasis placed upon the law, and the inability to keep it. We then turn to the epistles of Paul, and focus on the teachings of grace through faith, finding comfort in the fact that we are "covered" in spite of the fact we are living in disobedience to what God expects us to do. Sadly many are unaware of the promise found in the new covenant that will enable us to live in a manner that pleases God. Much harm has been done in the past, by professing believers, in the name of Christ, because people looked to the law instead of to the words of Jesus.

We read in Hebrews 1:1-2, that at one time God spoke through the prophets, but now he has spoken to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is introduced to us as the "Word" in the first chapter of John.

In Matthew 17:1-8 we read of the transfiguration of Christ. Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ, talking with Him. Peter desired to build three tabernacles, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus. But while he spoke, a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice proclaimed out of the cloud, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear Him." When they again looked, Jesus remained alone.

 There is much we can learn from this. Moses and the prophets had much to teach. Not only to ancient Israel, but to us today as well. We learn from them about God, His attributtes, His holiness, what He expects concerning sin and righteousness. We read of the prophets urging the nation to turn back to God in repentance, something that is vital to our own salvation today. Yet it is Jesus Christ who we follow. He calls us as disciples to lay down all, and come after Him. It is His word we are to hear and obey, His example we are to emulate. His kingdom is built upon entirely different principles than those that the nation's of the earth are built. His is a kingdom of peace, mercy, and extravagant love. While the old covenant may have made provision for war, Jesus forbids it. While men may have acquired wealth and material prosperity under the old, we are taught to give it away, as we cannot serve two masters. We must look at all of scripture with an eye to Jesus Christ, as He holds the rights to us as disciples and citizens of His kingdom. The law of Christ is our rule. This does not abrogate the old, as the moral law has been summed up by Jesus as loving God with supreme love, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. What Paul teaches about grace in no way clashes with Christ's demand for obedience, instead if one carefully reads through the New Testament epistles, you will soon see a harmony between the two. It is all about Jesus. Whether it is Old Testament or New, Jesus must be central.





Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Does It Really Matter?

The national anthem. Kneeling football players refusing to stand. Angry people, insulted by the "disrespect" shown to the flag and country it represents. Amidst the roiling turmoil, Christians have raised their voices in disgust as well. But does it really matter? Is this a cause that should be of the utmost importance to the advancement of the gospel and kingdom of Christ, that we as Christians need to become involved in it? Does Christ expect us to be patriotic? These are real questions that we should all ask ourselves.

As for being patriotic, the Bible teaches us to be in subjection to our leaders, to obey the laws of the land, pay our taxes, and respect those in authority (Romans 13:1-7). However, you will be hard pressed to find a passage of scripture that would teach us to be patriotic. It is not "God and country" as so many Christians believe. The exact opposite is true. The bible also abundantly teaches us that we as Christians are strangers and pilgrims in a world that is not our home (1 Peter 1:1; Heb 11:8-10, 13-16, 13:14). In fact we are exhorted to come out and be separate (2 Cor 6:17), to not be conformed to the world (Romans 12:2), and not to love the world (1 John 2:15).

Contrary to popular opinion, America is not a godly nation, it is not God's chosen people, and is not currently serving God. Like all of the other nations of this world, it is enshrouded in spiritual darkness, the hearts and minds of the people blinded by the god of this age (2 Cor 4:4). Look at the rampant sin, the disdain for God and His ways, all of the wicked things that this nation does and allows, and ask yourself how it could be possible as a Christian to be filled with patriotic fervor? Whose side our we on? Do we love Christ or this world? It can't be both.

We are in this world, but not of it (John 17:14-18), citizens of Christ's kingdom.  As Christ's ambassadors our purpose is not to fix this world, not to make our nation great again, but to lead others to repentance and faith, that they too would escape the corruption of this sinful world, and find refuge in Christ Jesus. We read that someday the kingdoms of this world will all come to nought. This world and all it stands for will someday be destroyed (2 Peter 3:8-13; 1 John 2:16-17). We are called to follow Jesus, to obey Him, to live by His word, and to make His kingdom the all consuming priority of our lives, while we wait for a new heavens and earth where righteousness dwells. Don't let yourself get sidetracked by other things, and as a result lose out in the end. When we appear before Christ, it will not be about our protests, our defense of the pledge of allegiance or the national anthem, but we will be judged by our obedience to Christ.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Redeem the Time!

Only one life 'twill soon be passed. Only what's done for Christ will last. C.T. Studd
 As I was out doing some yard work this morning, I began to reflect back over the years of my life. I looked back at things that were milestones in my life, but I also looked back at those things that seemed so empty and meaningless, and realized that so much of my life has been wasted living for the here and now, and so little has been done for the cause of Christ.

Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I has exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
To be sure, we all have our jobs and families to look after and care for. Jesus expects us to be responsible for them. To do less is to deny the faith (1 Tim 5:8).  Yet, it seems that for so many of us, our lives never rise any higher than the temporal. We say we are living for Christ, but in reality we spend our time at our jobs, at our hobbies, working for a vacation, looking to get a head a little bit in this world. We enjoy our friends and families, which in itself is fine, but we rise no higher. At the end of the day, we are only pursuing our own interests, at the expense of Christ's.

If all we ever accomplish in this life is merely our daily routine, we have failed miserably. We are admonished to seek first the kingdom of God (Matt 6:33). It does not cut it to live out our days for ourselves, go to Church on Sunday and Wednesday evening, and think that we are on fire Christians. We are supposed to be dead to this world, our lives are supposed to be hidden with Christ. As those who are risen with Christ, we are to be seeking those things that are above (Col 3:1-3). That kind of life should be quite different from that which so many of us are used to!

Paul has this to say, "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil (Eph 5:15-16). Walking as wise men, making the most of our time! Time goes by so swiftly. The years seem to fly by, opportunities come and go, some we will never have again! Our lives as Christians are not about us, but are absolutely, totally to be lived all out for Christ. Let us redeem the time that is left, making the most of every opportunity. Whatever is done, no matter how good the deed, noble the motive, is still empty if it was not done for Christ.
                                                                 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Its About Souls.

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things. 
(Romans 10:14-15 KJV)

My family and I were in Fargo ND. the other day. We hadn't been there in quite some time, and were quite surprised to see the large number of Muslim immigrants shopping along side of us. We were not aware that so many had settled in this area. We have also heard that there are other communities nearby that have a large Muslim presence in them also.

I am aware that a large segment of American citizens are opposed to this. They voice concerns for safety, concerns about jobs and welfare. There is a general fear of terrorist activity related to the influx of these immigrants, and as a result, people are demanding that we close our borders. Sadly, a great number of professed evangelical Christians seem to be loudly at the forefront of these demands. They, like all the others, are concerned about terrorism, jobs, giving "handouts" to undeserving refugees, and the like.

I would like to look at this from a totally different standpoint. As Christians, this life is not supposed to be about us. Our lives as Christians are not supposed to revolve around our material prosperity, or maintaining our physical safety either. A safe and secure country with carefully guarded borders is not what Jesus has in mind for those who would truly follow Him. As Christians we have been given the awesome task of going into all the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15). We serve Jesus Christ as citizens of His heavenly kingdom. The business of His kingdom is to be the all consuming business of our lives (Matt 6:33). How can we claim to be His followers, intent upon advancing His kingdom, while we cry out at the same time to close our borders, desiring to keep these "dangerous" people out? Things like this were never upon the minds of the early Church as they fearlessly advanced the gospel, even at the cost of their very lives. The desire to glorify God by bringing souls into His kingdom burned within their hearts. They were compelled to go. 

There are many who have not yet obeyed the command of Jesus to go. For those of us who have not yet gone, perhaps Jesus is bringing the mission field home to us.....?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Political Jesus?

We read in John's gospel that Jesus "perceived that they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king" (John 6:15 KJV). I fear that this is what many professing Christians desire to do today as well. They seem to believe that somehow Jesus wants to reign and rule in the affairs of the United States through political means. If somehow we can get a "conservative" president, the right mix of conservatives in congress, a conservative bench, then righteousness will reign in this country, Jesus will be king of our nation.

I find it interesting that Jesus, when He perceived the intentions of the people, departed from them. He had no interest, no desire to rule an earthly kingdom. Imagine the good He could have accomplished in His lifetime for the nation of Israel had He actually displaced the Roman empire and ruled from Jerusalem. However, that was not His true purpose in coming to earth.

We read of Him standing before Pilate, when He states, "My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36 KJV).

Why then do we insist upon embroiling ourselves in the politics of this world, when instead, we should be living for the advancement of the true kingdom of Jesus Christ. There are indeed two kingdoms, the kingdom of this world, and the kingdom of God. Let the world take care of the world, while we put our effort and energy into Christ's kingdom, where our allegiance truly belongs. 

Someday the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. (Rev 11:15) Until then however, this world will wax worse and worse. We as followers of Jesus Christ, can accomplish far more good through the spreading of the gospel and fervent prayer. It has never worked to legislate righteousness through political means, and it never will. The "legalizing" of Christianity during the reign of Constantine is the perfect example of the error of mixing Church and state. Let the Church be the Church, living as strangers and aliens in this present world, looking for the city which is to come (Heb 13:14), while calling people out of the darkness of this world, into the kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13).

See also this link

Friday, February 19, 2016

Victory Over the World.

It is impossible to be a worldly Christian, as the values of this world are in opposition to the values of Christ and His kingdom.


Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
(James 4:4 KJV)

Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters. Our allegiance cannot be divided (Matt 6:24). Likewise, friendship with the world puts us at odds with God. The things that this world esteems make it impossible to serve Christ with the wholehearted devotion that He demands of His followers. We read in 1 John,

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 
And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.
(1 John 2:15-17 KJV)

Once again, it is impossible to love the things of this world and God at the same time. Those who claim to love God and yet live in the pursuit of worldly pleasures and accomplishments show that they neither love, or even know God.

Love towards God requires obedience. To truly love someone is to desire the highest good of that person, even to the giving of ourselves to meet the needs, and promote the well being of that individual. To truly love God requires that we seek His will and kingdom (Matt 6:33); it is to do all in His name, and for His glory (Col 3:17; 1 Cor 6:20, 10:31). Obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ will flow naturally from the disciple who truly loves Him (John 14:21-24; 1 John 5:2-3). 

We are required to Love God with the entirety of our beings (Deut 6:4-9). This is upheld by the words of our Lord Jesus as well (Matt 22:36-40). Love is something that cannot be legislated; it cannot be coerced, it must come from the heart willingly, and unrestrained. Jesus demands this love, as the Highest good in the universe. How can we measure up? How can we overcome this world with all of its vain trappings; with all of the things that would steal our hearts from the One who truly deserves our highest affections? 

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory thst overcometh the world, even our faith.
Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the son of God? 
(1 John 5:4-5 KJV)

If we are not overcoming the world, it is overcoming us! We overcome by faith in the risen Christ, Jesus the son of God. When we trust, we will obey, with a faith that works by love (Gal 5:6).