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Spending Time With Jesus: #2 Doubting our Doubts – Luke 1:18-25


The following statements were taken from official documents, newspapers, or magazines widely read in their day:

  • 1840: Anyone traveling at the speed of 30 mph would surely suffocate
  • 1878: electric lights are unworthy of serious attention
  • 1901: No possible combination can be united into a practical machine by which men shall fly
  • No doubt we have all thought in recent years that we would never have believed we could send large documents “in the air” via email, etc.

These were men and women who had doubt, expressed it, and later had to “eat their words.”

When we think of ‘doubt’ in connection with the Bible, we nearly always think of it as negative…there are warnings which ought to raise ‘red flags:’

Romans 14:23: “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.”

James 1:5-8: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. {6} But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. {7} For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, {8} being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

I heard this statement several years ago that has stayed with me: “He who has never really doubted has never really believed.”

Doubt causes us to ask questions and get answers…it helps us analyze possible error…it is the capacity to question a proposition as long as we think that more “light on the subject” can be shed.

No faith is perfect. Because of the nature of belief, there can be no absolute certainty. This is troubling to some. This can cause us to question their standing with God:

  • “Am I really a Christian?”
  • “Am I saved, are all my sins forgiven?”
  • “Does the Lord really love me?”
  • “Can I count on Him to provide?”

Doubt can be like fear. Because of our humanity and the nature of faith, we cannot eliminate it from our lives. What we can do is make our faith greater than our doubt. We must accept doubt’s presence and live despite it.

Zacharias was there that day in the temple when Gabriel, the angel who stands in God’s very presence, appeared to him and promised to give Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, a son. He should have been ecstatic with joy. Every day for years this devout couple had prayed, “Lord, if it would be Your will, give us a son.”

But that had been years ago. Now it was just too-o-o-o late. They were both long past the time when even couples who had children were able to conceive. Zacharias had reconciled himself to reality—they were not going to have a son.

He had come to terms with God over the matter: “God is sovereign. He is free to bestow His blessings on whom He wishes. For some inscrutable reason, He has withheld that blessing from us.”

And now, Zacharias was not willing to open himself to the roller coaster of hopes and fears that he had long left behind. And so he doubted the word of the angel.

What can Zacharias teach us about the problem of doubt?

We all struggle with the problem of doubt.

A. Doubt is a problem, even for the righteous.

Zacharias was “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (1:6). Being righteous in the sight of the Lord means that his godliness was not an outward show, like the “righteousness” of the Pharisees, but a matter of the heart.

The man walked with God and he had done so for many years. The fact that such a godly man doubted shows us that none are exempt from the problem.

The son of Zacharias, John the Baptist, had a time of doubt. He was languishing in prison and he began to wonder, “If Jesus is truly the Messiah, why am I, His messenger, here in prison?” So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

Then He gently rebuked John’s doubt by adding, “And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me” (Luke 7:22, 23). Jesus went on to tell the crowd that among those born of women, there is no one greater than John. He was a godly man, but he had his time of doubt.

So doubt is a problem, even for those who are righteous in God’s sight. If godly men like Zacharias and John fell into doubt, we should be on guard, so that we do not fall.

B. Doubt does not stem from a lack of evidence, but from a lack of belief.

Have you ever talked to someone who said, “If I just saw a miracle or had a direct word from God, I would believe”? It doesn’t work that way. Here, Zacharias had an angel suddenly appear and speak a direct revelation from God, but he did not believe.

Later in Luke, the rich man in Hades pleaded with Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers, so that they would not also come to that awful place of torment. Abraham replied that his brothers had Moses and the prophets. But the rich man said, “No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!” But Abraham replied, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:27-31).

You may wonder, “How does Zacharias’ question differ from Mary’s question (Luke 1:34 (ESV) And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”)” When the angel told her that she would become pregnant with Jesus, she asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel did not confront her for doubting.

God, who sees the hidden secrets of each person’s heart, knew that Zacharias was different than Mary. Zacharias was limiting God by the normal course of human nature. He and Elizabeth were too old to have children. Case closed! But he should have acknowledged, as Gabriel says to Mary, “Nothing will be impossible with God” (1:37).

So even if we’ve walked with God for years, we need to look to our hearts, which are prone to limit the Almighty by human possibilities. God has given us abundant evidence in Scripture that He is the God of the impossible. Nothing is too difficult for Him.

The biblical balance is not to waver in unbelief if God doesn’t do something the way we thought He should have. We allow God to be sovereign, but we believe that if He said He would do something, He will do it, even if it takes a different form than we had expected.

C. We know through His prophetic word that God does what He says.

Luke wants us to see that God is clearly at work in the births of these two men. He sovereignly broke into history and announced what He was about to do. Then He proceeded to do it.

This is emphasized in one other way that is a bit more obvious in the Greek text than in the English. In verse 18, Zacharias expresses the reason for his doubt by saying, “I am an old man.” It is an emphatic expression, ego eimi in Greek.

In verse 19, the angel responds by using the same emphatic expression, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I have been sent to speak to you …”

It’s a deliberate contrast between the feebleness of man’s word and the power of God’s Word. It’s as if Gabriel said, “You may be an old man, unable to father a child, but I am no less than the angel who stands in God’s very presence and comes to speak His word at His command.” Thus, clearly, the word of God overcomes the word of man.

So the angel struck Zacharias dumb and, apparently, deaf (see 1:62). By doubting God’s ambassador, he was doubting God Himself. God took that seriously.

As a loving Father, He taught His erring child a lesson he would never forget. The angel specifically states Zacharias’ sin: “because you did not believe my words” (1:20).

Zacharias’ chastisement was appropriate for his sin. He shut his mouth in silence when he should have praised God, so he would be silent until the day when his lips were loosed to praise God in front of others (1:67).

Read John 20:24f

Thomas only asked for evidence to believe. He was no different than were the ten a week before.

A doubter is one who sees the evidence and still doubts. Thomas only asked for the evidence the others saw. He was of a nature that he would not be otherwise persuaded.

Jesus provided him the same evidence He gave the ten. Once again, the solution to living with doubt is to face the evidence.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2020 in Luke

 

Spending Time With Jesus: #1 Our Faith is Rooted in History Luke 1:1-4 & When God Brings Revival Luke 1:5-17


Spending Time With Jesus: Falling in love all over again

1  Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,
2  just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,
3  it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
4  that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

If ever a man wrote a book filled with good news for everybody, Dr. Luke is that man. His key message is, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He presents Jesus Christ as the compassionate Son of man, who came to live among sinners, love them, help them, and die for them.

In this Gospel you meet individuals as well as crowds, women and children as well as men, poor people as well as rich people, and sinners along with saints. It’s a book with a message for everybody, because Luke’s emphasis is on the universality of Jesus Christ and His salvation: “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10).

Luke has a universal emphasis…the gospel is for every class, race, and nation. Not just Gentiles, but sinners of every stripe are the focus of Luke’s gospel. He uses the word “sinners” 16 times.

By focusing on sinners, outcasts, the poor, and women (who were often disregarded in that day) and by showing that Jesus Himself, even in His birth in the stable, was rejected, Luke shows Christ to be the Savior of those whom society rejects or despises.

Luke is the only synoptic gospel to call Jesus “Savior” (2:11). He alone uses the word salvation (6 times) and 10 times he uses the word for preaching the good news, which is only used once in the other gospels.

Luke alone of the three uses the word grace (8 times) and Luke is the only Gospel writer to use the words “redemption” and “redeem” (J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book [Zondervan], 5:254).

Walter Liefeld states, “The entire Gospel of Luke pictures Jesus as reaching out to the lost in forgiveness” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Zondervan], 8:811).

Luke wrote his gospel to assure his acquaintance, Theophilus, of the truth concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke “wrote for people removed from the ministry of Jesus, both in geography and time, and his task was to provide them with such an account of the story of Jesus as would enable them to see that the story with which they had already become partially acquainted was a reliable basis for their faith.”

Theophilus’ name means “friend of God,” and the title, “most excellent,” seems to identify him as a ranking Roman official.

Theophilus may have been troubled by questions like, “Is the Christian faith I believed in really the truth and the only truth? If it is true, why was Jesus rejected by His people and crucified? Why are Christians being persecuted? Why have most of the Jews rejected the message, while the Gentiles are receiving it?” (Adapted from Darrell Bock, Luke [Baker Exegetical Commentary], 1:65).

It was indeed a dark day for the nation of Israel. The people had heard no prophetic Word from God for 400 years, not since Malachi had promised the coming of Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6). The spiritual leaders were shackled by tradition and, in some instances, corruption; and their king, Herod the Great, was a tyrant. He had nine (some say ten) wives, one of whom he had executed for no apparent reason. But no matter how dark the day, God always has His devoted and obedient people.

Luke’s Gospel is rooted in the facts of verifiable history.

Luke is at pains to make this clear, and it is not a trivial point. The apostle Paul links the entire Christian faith to one verifiable historical event, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. If that is not true, says Paul, then go be a hedonist: Eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow you die and there’s nothing else.

But if it is true that Jesus was raised bodily from the grave, then He is Lord and we must submit our entire lives to Him.

What this means is that Christianity is not a religious philosophy based on the speculations and ideas of some great religious thinkers. Christianity is primarily about the God who created the universe miraculously invading human history in the person of Jesus Christ who uniquely revealed God to us.

Thus the great doctrines of the Bible are not matters of personal opinion or philosophical speculation. They are matters of revelation from God and therefore, they must be submitted to.

God has revealed Himself in history in the person of Jesus Christ. Luke wants us to know and believe this with absolute certainty.

How can we know that this is true? Luke mentions several things to establish the credibility of his account. First, there were many written witnesses to the life and ministry of Christ which Luke consulted (1:1). Second, Luke states that many of these written sources were eyewitnesses to the entire ministry of Jesus Christ (1:2).

In addition to all of these witnesses, Luke himself, although not an eyewitness to these things, had carefully researched the written and oral accounts to verify everything before he wrote (1:3).

Luke’s Gospel is an orderly, purposeful account of the life and ministry of the Savior.

Postmodernism is the prevailing philosophy of our day. A main tenet of this philosophy is that there is no such thing as absolute truth….truth is personal and subjective…it is not discovered, but created.

In religious and spiritual matters, especially, to say that you have the truth is viewed as arrogance because this implies that you’re right and others are wrong.

You’ve probably encountered this philosophy when you have attempted to share the gospel with someone, only to have him or her respond, “It’s great that you believe in Jesus and that it works for you. But I’m into the New Age vegetarian natural Zen approach, and it works for me.”

Spiritual truth becomes a matter of personal opinion and whatever works.

Postmodernism also lies behind the strong push toward tolerance, where doctrinal truth is played down and love and unity are magnified. It also shows itself in the emphasis on feelings over thought.

When God Brings Revival Luke 1:5-17

5  In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6  And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.
7  But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8  Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,
9  according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
10  And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
11  And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12  And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.
13  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
15  for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,
17  and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Have you ever prayed for something over and over again, year in and year out, but God has not answered? I hope that you can answer yes, because if you say no, could show that you were not persistent in your request. If you pray, you have prayed for things that God has not yet answered.

One unanswered prayer that every committed Christian should be praying is that God would send revival to our country. It is as of yet unanswered because nothing that is being described as revival today even comes close to the many examples of true revival that God has sent in times past.

True revival is not a superficial, emotional response that results in a temporary experience, but no long-term fruit of righteousness.

True revival is when the living God sovereignly and powerfully breaks into human history with the good news of His salvation.

It invariably begins with His people coming under deep conviction of sin and turning from that sin in genuine repentance. It always involves a recovery of biblical truth, especially the truth about how sinners are reconciled to a holy God.

Our text records God breaking into history with the greatest revival ever, since it involved the coming of the Savior into this world. If our nation is to be spared God’s awful judgment for our many sins, we desperately need true revival. Therefore, these verses deserve our careful attention.

There are certain conditions that are common to most revivals. While meeting the conditions does not guarantee revival, not meeting the conditions surely prohibits revival. Our text is no exception. It shows us,

While God is sovereign in bringing revival, we must be prepared to receive His sovereign grace

Zecharias and his wife, Elizabeth, were faithful, believing Jews, both from the tribe of Levi. Luke sets the scene for what follows by informing us that they had no child and that they were both advanced in years (1:7). As a priest, Zecharias would serve at the temple for two one-week periods each year, apart from the three great festivals

Because of the great number of priests, estimated at between 18,000 and 20,000, they used a system of lots to determine which priests got to offer the incense on the altar in the holy place. This was a once in a lifetime privilege (Mishnah, Tamid 5.2), and so it would have been the high point of Zecharias’ priestly ministry.

The priests were divided into 24 courses (1 Chron. 24), and each priest served in the temple two weeks out of the year. In spite of the godlessness around them, Zacharias and Elizabeth were faithful to obey the Word of God and live blamelessly

The priests on duty drew lots to see which ministries they would perform, and Zacharias was chosen to offer incense in the holy place. This was a high honor that was permitted to a priest but once in a lifetime. The incense was offered daily before the morning sacrifice and after the evening sacrifice, about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. It was probably the evening offering that was assigned to Zacharias.

Their only sorrow was that they had no family, and they made this a matter of constant prayer. Little did they know that God would answer their prayers and give them, not a priest, but a prophet! And no ordinary prophet, for their son would be the herald of the coming King!

As Zecharias was offering the incense, suddenly an angel appeared to him and announced that his prayers had been heard. He and his wife would have a son, and he would not be an ordinary son, but the very one predicted by Malachi, the forerunner who would prepare the way for the Lord.

Luke mentions angels twenty-three times in his Gospel. There are innumerable angels (Rev. 5:11), only two of which are actually named in Scripture: Michael and Gabriel. When Gabriel appeared by the altar, Zacharias was frightened, for the angel’s appearance could have meant divine judgment.

God sovereignly takes the initiative in revival. God often waits until times are dark and hopeless before He sends revival. It was “in the days of Herod” that this word of hope came to Zecharias. Herod was an immoral, violent king of Edomite descent who claimed to be a Jew in his religion, but was such in name only.

He held onto power by murdering numerous family members over the years, including one son just five days before his own death. He was the same tyrant who slaughtered the infants of Bethlehem in his attempt to kill the newborn king of the Jews. It was near the end of this evil reign that the Lord broke into history with His gracious message to Zecharias.

Religion in Israel was corrupt. The high priests and members of the Sanhedrin vied for power and prestige. They made a healthy profit in the business of selling animals for sacrifice in the temple precincts. It was a bleak situation spiritually and morally.

But it’s often at such bleak times that God breaks into history with true revival. His power is made perfect in our weakness.

God brings revival through His faithful remnant.

Even though the times were spiritually dark, here were Zecharias and Elizabeth, “righteous in the sight of God” (1:6), going about their lives in obscure faithfulness. They walked consistently in the fear of the Lord, seeking to obey Him in all their ways.

If God brings revival in our day, it will be because His ordinary people walk in obedience before Him, seeking His kingdom and glory.

We need to be the kind of people that Zecharias and Elizabeth were, so that God can use us if He chooses to do so.

We must be righteous in His sight.

Men may look at our deeds, but God looks first at our heart.

It is ironic that Herod was called “Herod the Great” by his contemporaries, but here John is called great by God (1:15). It would be the wicked son of this wicked tyrant who put John to death. But in the final court of God, both Herods will not be great, but John will be highly esteemed.

God wanted John to be distinct from the culture around him, even from the common religious culture. Rather than being controlled by wine, he was to be controlled by the Holy Spirit .

If we live righteous lives, set apart unto God, filled with His Spirit, then God can use us to bring revival.

John would be used to “turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God” (1:16), and to “turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous” (1:17).

These are the two great commandments, to love God and to love others, beginning in the home.

Self-love is at the root of our relational problems. If we want God to send revival, God’s people must humble themselves, confess their wretched love of self, and seek to obey God and serve one another in love. Rather than blame others, we must point the finger at ourselves in genuine repentance. We must go to God first, and then to those we have sinned against, and ask forgiveness for our self-centered attitudes and sinful behavior.

We must be prepared for the Lord Himself.

John’s ministry was to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (1:17). Since it was Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, for whom John was preparing the way, it is clear that Jesus is the Lord, eternal God in human flesh. But the point is, it is the Lord Himself who visits us in revival.

If we are daily judging our sin on the thought level, seeking to live as those set apart for the Lord, filled with His Spirit, repentant of all our sins, we will be prepared for that awesome event, should it happen, that the Lord Himself would visit us in revival.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2020 in Luke

 

The Helmet of Salvation and the Sword of the Spirit – Ephesians 6:17


Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17  )

I don’t remember where it was, but I was about to go down a stairway that had a low entrance. Above it was a sign that read, “Mind Thy Head!” It meant, “Look out or you will hit your head!”

I’m also amazed at how many Christians do not mind their heads. They swim in the currents of worldly ideas and entertainment without developing a Christian mind. They’re oblivious to the godless philosophic assumptions that underlie worldly thinking.

They buy into the postmodern idea that there is no such thing as knowable, absolute truth in the spiritual or moral realms. These careless Christians ignore, or sometimes even ridicule, the need for sound doctrine. They want experience, not doctrine. They want good feelings, not careful thinking. Because they do not mind their heads, they are not transformed by the renewing of their minds. Rather, they are conformed to this evil world (Rom. 12:1-2). God gives us the helmet of salvation so that we will mind our heads:

Just before going into battle, the Roman soldier would put on a helmet, either made of bronze or of leather with pieces of metal covering it. It also had cheek pieces to protect part of his face.

1. The helmet protects your head from the enemy’s attacks.

Your head is a very important part of your body, because it contains your brain, which controls everything. Your head determines how you think about all of life.

How you think in large part determines how you feel and how you act.

How you think determines your worldview, which also affects how you feel and act. A person with a postmodern worldview does not believe in moral absolutes. They do not think anything is absolutely evil. They do not believe in judging the behavior of others as wrong. That would be intolerant and judgmental.

B. Your head determines how you function in all of life.

If your brain is not working properly, it affects how other parts of your body work. A brain injury can affect motor skills or the ability to speak or think clearly. If a soldier got knocked unconscious by a blow to the head, he was probably doomed. He had to guard his head by having his helmet securely in place.

Spiritually, salvation determines how we live in this sinful world. We live as pilgrims who have been rescued from this present evil kingdom of Satan. We live in subjection to Jesus Christ as Lord and King. We view everything—values, money, entertainment, the arts, or politics—from the perspective of being saved people.

C. Your head determines how you relate to others.

Once you put on the helmet of salvation, you realize that all people are in one of two (and only two) camps: either they are saved and going to heaven; or, they are lost and going to hell.

If a person is not saved, then he cannot understand the things of God. They are foolishness to him (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14). He is blind to much of his own sin. He is living for himself and his own futile goals. He has false views about death and eternity, thinking that if there is a heaven, he’s probably good enough to go there.

But because you have put on the helmet of salvation, you relate to people differently than you did before. You now love the people of God, whom you avoided before. You now view lost people with compassion and understanding, yearning that they would come to know God through Jesus Christ.

You do not view lost people as the enemy, but as victims of the enemy. While you can no longer join with them in their course of sinful behavior (1 Pet. 4:3-4), you pray for their salvation and look for opportunities to talk with them about the Savior. Putting on the helmet of salvation means that you relate differently to the world.

Believers Stand Firm by Taking Up the Sword of the Spirit

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)

The sword Paul refers to is the dagger (machaira), which varied in length from six to eighteen inches. It was the common sword used by Roman soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, and was carried in a sheath attached to the belt.[1]

A skillful soldier used it to deflect the blows of his enemy, and the Word of God must be used in this fashion. We get a picture of this when Satan attacked Christ in the wilderness (Matt 4). To each of Satan’s temptations, Christ responded with Scripture. Therefore, the Christian who does not know the Word of God well will have problems defending against the attacks of the devil.

A Proper View of Scripture 2 Peter 1:19-21

Most people know they need guidance for their lives. Just over a thousand randomly selected persons were surveyed recently on behalf of a life insurance/financial services company. 75% said they believed they were created by God for a purpose, but only 45% of those said they understood what that purpose was.

The questions more people in that survey said they would like to ask God than any other?

  1. “What is my purpose on Earth?”
  2. “Will I have life after death?”
  3. “Why do bad things happen?”

To some of us, it would seem strange that anybody would want to ask such things of God. We’d likely reply that he has already answered them.

Christians believe that God does communicate with the men and women he has created in his image and that the primary vehicle through which he does so is the Bible.

The Barna Research Group discovered a few years back that 10 % of the 1,000 people in one of its polls thought Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife, 16% were sure the New Testament contained a book written by Thomas the apostle, and 38% thought the Old and New Testaments were written a few years after the death of Jesus.

While it may be impractical and impossible for every Christian to be a genuine biblical scholar. It’s not unreasonable to expect that every Christian should be a regular reader and prayerful student of Scripture.

(2 Peter 1:19-21)  And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. {20} Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. {21} For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Paul had words of praise for the Christians at Thessalonica in that they received the gospel message, not as the word of men, “but, as it is in truth, the word of God” (I Thes. 2: 13).

This parallels Paul’s text about the Word of God: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

2 Timothy 4:2 (ESV)
2  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort (encourage), with complete patience and teaching.

God enabled certain specially chosen individuals to know the otherwise unknowable or interpret the otherwise merely puzzling and communicate those insights correctly.  We believe the Bible in inerrant (without error) and authoritative.

Four propositions which I feel must govern our thinking as we approach the subject of the authority of the Scriptures in this 21th century

  1. We have no right to hold a different view of Scripture than that held by Jesus himself.

The authority of the Bible rests squarely upon the authority of Jesus Christ himself.

To be a Christian at all means that we have fully accepted the authority of Jesus. It is an utter inconsistency to say that we accept what the Bible says about Christ and reject what he says about Scripture.

  1. We have no right to views of Scripture which are different from the apostles’ view of Scripture.

The apostles, like our Lord, are our teachers. We are not theirs. It is Karl Barth who says, “We cannot stand and look over the apostles’ shoulders, correcting their work. It is they who stand looking over our shoulders, correcting our work.”

The apostles, in writing the New Testament, everywhere declare that their authority is simply the Lord’s authority. They, too, rest the authority of their words squarely upon the authority of the Lord Jesus.

These men who lived in the 1st century and associated with the Lord Jesus, who heard his words, and who so ministered in power throughout the world of their day as to transform the generation in which they lived, knew far more about what God thought and said than any man studying theology today.

  1. Scripture does not need to be defended, but simply declared.

No one today has access to divine truth by means of any personal interview with deity. God does not speak in dreams, visions, or by a supernatural illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Objective revelation has been made known through the completed Bible, and men will only be exposed to the message of the Scriptures as we distribute the sacred volume and proclaim its saving message.

Every single Christian must take seriously his obligation to teach the Bible consistent with his divinely appointed role, ability, and opportunity.

The whole testimony of this church is to the fact that it is the preaching and the exposition of the Bible that establishes its authority. We do not need to defend it, just declare it, proclaim it.

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 367–368). Chicago: Moody Press.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2020 in ephesians

 

Protected by the Shield of Faith – Ephesians 6:16




I once heard a Christian psychologist on the radio say that to tell hurting people to “trust God” is useless advice. Giving him the benefit of a doubt, perhaps he meant that just to repeat that phrase without explaining how to trust God, is useless advice. But that’s obvious.

I rather think that he meant that trusting God wouldn’t help the hurting person work through the deeper struggles in his life. For that, he needs a psychotherapist!

If he was right, I wonder how the many generations of saints through the centuries before the advent of modern psychotherapy managed to deal with life’s overwhelming problems? They faced the sudden death of loved ones. They had disappointments and discouraging setbacks.

They struggled with friends and family who betrayed them. They had to cope with failing health, the loss of income, and the fears of armies that threatened to invade their homelands. Life wasn’t any different then than it is now. How did they cope without psychotherapy?

Answer: they trusted in the living God. Listen to how David described his grim situation (Ps. 31:13): “For I have heard the slander of many, terror is on every side; while they took counsel together against me, they schemed to take away my life.” Then he added (31:14-15a), “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.”

Trusting in the living God is not useless advice! It is the secure stronghold of saints in dire circumstances down through the centuries. And it is Paul’s counsel to us here: To stand firm against the enemy’s attacks, take up the shield of faith.

Paul pictures the believer in the heat of battle. The air is thick with flaming arrows that had been dipped in pitch and set on fire. It’s a life and death situation. How will he survive? Paul’s answer is (Eph. 6:16), “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

When the enemy attacks, believers are to trust in God and His sure promises to block and quench the flaming arrows.

The Bible is full of stories of believers who were in overwhelming circumstances, where they despaired of life itself. What did they do? They couldn’t get an appointment with their psychotherapist. He didn’t do battlefront calls. So they cried out to God and trusted in Him.

In many cases, He delivered them from death. In other cases, He sustained them as they died in faith. You can read a summary of these stories in Hebrews 11.

1. There is an evil enemy that is seeking to destroy you.

Satan is the evil one, a hideously malevolent power who is relentlessly opposed to God and to God’s people. As we saw, this is not just an impersonal force for evil in the world, but rather an intelligent, cunning personal evil spirit who commands an army of evil spirits at war against God, His holy angels, and His saints.

What are these flaming arrows of the evil one? They include all forms of temptation that are common to us all:

· It may be the temptation to pride and selfishness that we all battle every day.

· It can be the slanderous things that others say about us.

· It may be the temptation to fear world events or to fear our own difficult circumstances, including health problems or death itself.

· There are the flaming arrows of discouragement, despair, and doubting God.

· Many of our brethren around the world face the arrows of persecution.

· They have lost loved ones and all of their personal possessions because of their faith in Christ. They are under intense pressure to renounce their faith in order to escape with their lives.

The enemy will follow up the arrows with the accusation, “Ha! You call yourself a Christian, but look at how you’re thinking! You’re just fooling yourself! You aren’t following Christ or you wouldn’t have thoughts like that!” How do you deal with this attack? You take up the shield of faith! But, what does that mean?

2. To take up the shield of faith means actively trusting in the living God and His Word.

Paul to use the shield of faith to refer to actively trusting in God. It is applying what God is and what He says to the particular problem or temptation that the enemy has shot at us. Note three things:

A. The shield protects us as we take refuge behind it.

Roman soldiers had two kinds of shields. They had a smaller shield that fit on one arm. It could be easily maneuvered to ward off the enemy’s sword in close combat. But they also had larger shields (referred to here), about four feet high by two and a half feet wide, that they hid behind while advancing against the enemy.

They were made of wood, covered with leather, and bound with iron. The soldiers would stand shield to shield, forming a wall of protection against the enemy’s flaming arrows. As long as they were behind their shields, they were protected.

If they moved out from behind the shield, they could suffer painful or fatal wounds. One soldier reported having over 200 enemy arrows in his shield after an intense battle! So the shield was essential for survival!

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (The Christian Soldier [Baker], p. 305) says, “Faith here means the ability to apply quickly what we believe so as to repel everything the devil does or attempts to do to us.”

B. The shield is our faith in the living God and His Word.

The Bible often refers to God Himself as our shield. The Lord appeared to Abraham in a vision and said (Gen. 15:1), “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.”

David knew God in the same way. Ps. 18:2-3: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

There is a difference between knowing intellectually that God is a shield to all that take refuge in Him and actually taking refuge in Him by faith.

C. To take up this shield, we must actively trust in God.

Looking at your circumstances and at God’s promises and deciding to rely on God.

Carl Brecheen gave me the idea many years ago to read the Psalms often. The Psalms are experiential examples of men in desperate circumstances that trusted in the Lord for deliverance. Often, the psalmist’s life is in danger. He rehearses his circumstances and then cries out to God for help. By the end of the psalm, even though his circumstances have not yet changed at all, he rejoices in God’s promised salvation.

That’s how you actively trust God. You analyze your situation:

· “God, I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer.”

· “God, my teenager is rebelling against you and being sucked into this evil world.”

· “God, I need a job to provide for my family.”

     You tell the Lord your desperate situation. Then, you rehearse who God is and what He has promised and you make a decision to rely on Him. You may have to say with Job (13:15), “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him,” because you know that beyond the grave you have eternal life with Him.

   Implicit in this process is the next step: Actively trusting in God requires knowing your weakness and God’s strength and His promises.

We all tend to trust in ourselves and in our own ability to get ourselves out of the difficulties we face. So the Lord has to bring us to see our weakness.

Faith by definition looks away from oneself and to God alone for help.

But to trust in God we must also know God’s strength and His promises. We learn of these qualities and promises in God’s Word. 

Sometimes Christians complain that they don’t have enough faith. They see a Christian with strong faith and they say, “I wish I could have faith like you have!” But that puts the focus on faith itself, rather than on God.

Faith is only as good as its object. Your faith will grow stronger as you read God’s Word and see how He has sustained believers in every imaginable kind of difficulty.

3. Taking up the shield of faith implies that we are not in the fight alone.

As I said, the Roman army moved ahead by the soldiers putting their shields side by side, forming a wall of defense. While each soldier had to hold his own shield, the strength came by doing it with all the others.

So while each believer must take up the shield of faith individually, we do it together with others who are trusting God in the battle. You’ll be stronger in the battle if you know that your brothers and sisters down the line are fending off the enemy’s arrows by their shields. We must stand together and pray for one another, so that we can encourage one another in the fight of faith. Finally,

4. When we take up the shield of faith in our trials and temptations, we learn in a deeper way to savor the sweetness and all-sufficiency of Christ for our souls.

A main reason God allows the enemy to shoot his fiery arrows at us is that it drives us to a deeper experience with Christ. We all tend to trust Him only to the degree that we are forced to trust Him.

When the arrows are flying and we take refuge behind our shield, we come to know aspects of His glory and beauty that we did not know before the battle. As He delivers us, we know by experience, as David did, that He is “my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Ps. 18:2).

Conclusion

Maybe you’re thinking, “But I struggle with having faith in God in my trials. How do I get the faith that I need to make Christ the shield for my soul in times of trouble?”

First, recognize that your lack of faith in God constitutes a relational problem with God. If someone is completely trustworthy and you tell him, “I don’t trust you,” you’re calling him a liar and creating distance in your relationship with him. Not to trust God is to say, “Your promises are not true. You’re a liar.” That’s a terrible sin!

Second, confess your unbelief as sin and ask God’s forgiveness. He will forgive if we acknowledge our sin and return to Him (1 John 1:9).

Third, ask God to give you faith to trust Him fully.

Fourth, don’t try to work up faith; rather, look to the Lord Himself. He is trustworthy. He has never failed anyone, including the martyrs. Read your Bible to see who He is.

Fifth, do not trust in how you feel, but trust in the sure Word of God. Faith must often stand against feelings. God’s Word is the compass to guide you when you’re lost in the fog of trials.

The world’s counsel may seem right, but the counsel of God’s Word is always faithful and true. Follow Him, not your feelings!



 
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Posted by on August 27, 2020 in ephesians

 

Protected by the Footwear of Peace – Ephesians 6:15


When we became Christians, we gained an enemy. Satan and his demons desire to steal our peace and joy, kill our physical bodies, and destroy our witness.

We stand firm in the strength and power of the Lord—apart from this, we will be destroyed (Eph 6:10). But we also stand firm by putting on the full armor of God (Eph 6:11).

Each piece must be firmly put in place. The armor of God refers to righteous character traits (cf. Col 3:12). Therefore, sin in the life of believers gives the devil a foothold to destroy us and others.

The belt of truth reminds us that Satan is a liar and that he constantly uses deception. The breastplate of righteousness reminds us that Satan attacks our vital organs representing our mind and emotions and also that sin in general opens a door for him.

In Ephesians 6:15, we will consider the footwear of peace, as well as its implications about Satan’s schemes.

6:15 …and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.NIV Proper footwear can make a huge difference, whether you’re hiking or playing a sport or fighting in a war. In Paul’s day, soldiers did not have land mines. Instead, they put sharpened spikes just beneath the surface of the ground, camouflaged with leaves or soft dirt around them.

An advancing soldier needed sturdy boots to stop the spikes from penetrating or he would suffer a debilitating injury. He could be outfitted in the most invincible armor from his head down to his ankles, but it wouldn’t do him a bit of good if he couldn’t walk.

When your feet hurt badly, you can’t even stand up, much less fight or march. So it was essential for soldiers to wear rugged boots designed for battle.

Roman soldiers wore boots that had small nails protruding from the bottom to give them firm footing in combat.

The Word of God is the gospel, or Good News, that brings peace. In other words, believers are ready for battle because “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [their] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 nkjv).

They can stand firm, with peace, even in hand-to-hand combat, because they know that they are doing right and that they are on the winning side. Christians are in the battle both with the inner peace Christ has already given and the desire to produce that peace in the hearts of others.

When the enemy, the deceiver (Revelation 12:9), offers false ways to peace or tries to get us to focus on our concerns and fears, we Christian soldiers can stand up to him. Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27 nkjv).

There is deliberate irony, in that the gospel of peace enables us to wage war successfully. The gospel of peace is our firm footing in the battle against Satan. Let’s see how that applies to us.

1. To be prepared with the boots of the gospel of peace, we must clearly understand the gospel so that we can defend it against attack.

There is one sense in which the gospel is easy to understand. Little children can grasp it. Illiterate primitive people can get it. In fact, Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, it is often those who are wise in this world that scoff at the gospel, whereas God reveals it to the simple, so that no one may boast before Him.

The good news (that’s what gospel means) is that although we all have sinned against God and deserve His eternal judgment, because of His great love and mercy He sent His own Son to bear the penalty that we deserve.

We receive God’s gift of salvation by faith alone, apart from any merit or good works on our part.

Satan hates the gospel and is always attacking it from various angles. We see this repeatedly within the pages of the New Testament, where false teachers quickly perverted the essentials of the gospel.

Paul wrote Galatians to defend the gospel against those that claimed to believe it, but they added the Jewish rite of circumcision to faith as necessary for salvation. Paul rails against them in the strongest possible language (Gal. 1:6-9).

Even Peter and Barnabas for a short while had compromised the gospel by currying the favor of these false teachers, until Paul confronted them (Gal. 2:11-14).

The apostle John wrote much of his first epistle to warn his readers against those who were trying to deceive them (1 John 2:26).

2. To be prepared with the boots of the gospel of peace, we must have appropriated that message personally.

A. Appropriating the gospel personally begins with repentance from sin and faith in Christ alone for salvation.

In order to appropriate the good news about Jesus Christ, you must also accept the bad news about your sin. The Bible confronts and indicts us all with the plain truth (Rom. 3:23), “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Further (Rom. 6:23a), “For the wages of sin is death….” If you take sin and judgment out of the gospel in order to make the message more acceptable to modern thinking, you just took away the need for a Savior.

Christ did not die to save us from poor self-esteem! He does not save us from a bad marriage to a good marriage! He does not save us from financial failure to success. Christ died to save us from sin and God’s eternal judgment, which we deserve because we have sinned.

To appropriate the gospel, we must repent of sin as you believe in Jesus Christ, and as you are a sinner in need of a Savior, the Biblical and logical step is to die to sin and be immersed in water in order to have your sins forgiven, and the guilt removed.

B. Appropriating the gospel personally continues with preaching the gospel often to your own soul.

Jerry Bridges’ book, The Discipline of Grace [NavPress, 1994] challenges us to preach the gospel to himself every day. Vincent writes (p. 7), “God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted. Actually, He offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness.” He adds (p. 8), “Over the course of time, preaching the gospel to myself every day has made more of a difference in my life than any other discipline I have ever practiced.” I can’t give you all of the benefits that he lists, but here are three:

(1). Preaching the gospel to your own soul increases your love for God, for others, and for the lost.

These three loves represent the two greatest commandments and the Great Commission. The gospel focuses us on God’s great love for us and of the infinite price that He paid to redeem us from our sins.

The gospel also increases our love for others. Many verses could be cited, but note Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us….”

And, the gospel increases our love for those who need to know Christ. After Paul goes through the gospel in Romans 3-8, reaching the crescendo of God’s unfailing love that enables us to endure all trials (Rom. 8:35-39), Paul’s next words tell of his great sorrow and unceasing grief because his fellow Jews are not, for the most part, saved (Rom. 9:1-3). Rehearsing the gospel to your own soul burdens you with the condition of those who need to hear about Jesus Christ.

(2). Preaching the gospel to your own soul humbles your pride.

Pride is at the root of every sin. Pride leads me to think that I know better than God does what is good for me. Pride leads me to be selfish and disregard the feelings of others. “Nothing suffocates my pride more than daily reminders regarding the glory of my God, the gravity of my sins, and the crucifixion of God’s own Son in my place.”

(3). Preaching the gospel to your own soul causes you to glorify God in all things, including your trials.

In Ephesians 1, the fact that God chose us before the foundation of the world and saved us through Christ’s blood is all “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6).

Paul shows repeatedly, reveling in the gospel of God’s grace towards us while we were yet sinners causes us to rejoice even in our trials, knowing that He is using them to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom. 5:1-8; 8:28-39).

C. Appropriating the gospel personally brings the peace of Christ practically into your daily life.

Paul tells us to stand firm by putting on the boots of “the gospel of peace.” We saw in Ephesians 2 the two-fold peace which the gospel brings to us.

First, it brings us peace with God. Formerly, we were alienated from God because of our sins, separate from Christ, “having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12). But as Paul goes on to say, the cross of Christ preached peace to us and reconciled us to God, so that now we have access to Him. You cannot fight the evil one unless you have God’s peace in your heart because you are reconciled to Him through the blood of Christ.

Second, the gospel brings us peace with one another. As Ephesians 2 shows, Christ Himself is our peace (2:14). He brought together into one the formerly hostile Jews and Gentiles, reconciling “them both in one body to God through the cross” (2:16). The battle against Satan is not just individual; it also is corporate. He is trying to destroy the church and one way he does it is by creating division and strife over personality clashes or over non-essential doctrinal fights.

Be alert to Satan’s schemes here! He often gets a church fighting over non-essentials. Then some in the church react to the sinful fighting by saying, “We shouldn’t fight at all!” So the church ends up tolerating those who promote destructive heresies regarding the gospel.

Paul has emphasized the need for tolerance with one another on the non-essentials (4:1-3). But he also has warned about the dangers of destructive false doctrines (4:13-16). We should be at peace with all that love the true gospel. We are at war with those that pervert the gospel.

3. The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace represents having the peace of God.

Not only has God given each of us peace with himself, but we also have the peace of God. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace Christ had while asleep in the boat during the storm, the peace that enabled him to go to the cross, he has given to us. It is not God’s will for us to live in anxiety, fear, and worry. Scripture says, “Do not be afraid,” “Do not worry,” and “Be anxious for nothing” (Phil 4:6). Christ has given us the promise of his peace.

If you are worried, anxious, and fearful, you have the wrong footwear for this battle. Our enemy is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). The lion roars to incite fear in his prey. Some believers are fearful about their future; others are fearful about what others think or say. Others are afraid of failure. These fears undermine the footing of Christians—our readiness for battle comes from God’s peace.

Therefore, God commands us to put on his peace. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Paul also refers to the peace of Christ as clothing to be worn (cf. Col 3:12). As believers, we must let God’s peace rule in our hearts—not fear of failure, losing our jobs, or rejection. Satan wants to lead us as slaves through fear, but God guides us as children through his peace (cf. Rom 8:15).

Philippians 4:6-7 says,  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

If we are going to have God’s peace, we must reject anxiety and fear. They are not God’s will for us, and they are sinful. They say, “God, you are not to be trusted,” or “You are not in control.”

If we are going to have God’s peace, we must learn to pray about everything. Prayer must become the atmosphere we live in. When we are not living in prayer (i.e. God’s presence), the storms of life will constantly frighten and overwhelm us.

If we are going to have God’s peace, we must learn to give thanks in everything. When we complain, murmur, and criticize, we lose the peace of God.

4. The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace represents peace in our relationships with others.

Animosity between Jew and Gentile was a major issue for the early church. In Acts 6, the Jews neglected the Greek widows in the daily distribution while providing for the Hebrew widows. However, Paul said Christ is our peace—he has made us one.

Surely disunity is one of the major weapons the enemy uses against our churches. Sometimes he brings disunity through racism, as seen with the Jews and Gentiles in the early church.

Sometimes he uses doctrine. What God means to equip and strengthen us, the enemy uses to bring division and discord.

Most times, he just uses pride. Pride says, “My way is the only way, and it can’t be done any other way.” Churches divide over changing the color of the carpet, the music, the flow of worship services, and any other thing. The root of this is pride—”my way is the only way.”

Ways the Gospel is under attack

A. The gospel is under attack from the radical non-lordship salvation heresy.

Jesus warned of many who would claim to believe in Him, but they are not genuinely saved (Matt. 7:21-23). As James and First John clearly emphasize, saving faith necessarily leads to a life of obedience to Christ. Those who claim to believe in Jesus but do not obey Him are deceived (1 John 3:4-10).

B. The gospel is under attack from “Christian” psychology, which denies the sufficiency of Christ and the gospel.

This popular movement that has flooded into the church claims that while you must believe in Christ for salvation, in order to deal with your psychological and relational problems, you need the insights of psychology. So the gospel is nice “spiritual truth,” that is fine for your devotional life, but it doesn’t really have much to say to the real life problems that you face. To deal with these problems, you need more than Christ, more than the Holy Spirit, and more than the Bible. You need a professional therapist.

But that view assaults the transforming power of the gospel. It subtly, but surely, attacks the person and work of Christ. Did His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection end the tyranny of sin in the lives of believers or not? Is the gospel promise of new life in Christ just a nice, but useless, platitude or does it really give us a new heart, new desires, and the power to overcome sin?

C. The gospel is under attack from the “seeker church” movement.

The seeker church movement has softened the offense of the cross to make the gospel more palatable and user-friendly. It seeks to apply American marketing principles to the church. They have asked potential “customers,” “What would it take to get you to come to church?” The customers answered, “We’d like an upbeat, short service that relates to our felt needs. Tell us how to succeed in our families and at work. Tell us how to cope with our problems. Give us contemporary music that makes us feel good (keep it light on content!). Throw in some entertaining drama to keep the program moving. Keep the sermon short and humorous. By all means, get rid of that hellfire and damnation stuff! That’s depressing!”

So, the church marketing folks went back to the drawing board and designed a church around these felt needs. Throw in a Starbucks Coffee bar, a workout room to keep those bodies in shape, some great multi-media effects, and you’ve got a program that the seekers will flock to. But in the process, the gospel gets changed into some variation of, “Try Jesus, He’ll help you with your problems.”

But that’s not the gospel! It’s really another form of idolatry, where you “use” your “Jesus idol” to get what you want out of life.

D. The gospel is under attack from the postmodern views of the emerging church.

Buying into the view that truth is relative and ultimately unknowable in any certain way, the emerging church has also attacked the atonement of Christ. It proclaims a tolerant, all-inclusive universalism that does not confront sinners with their need to repent and believe the gospel.

If I had time, I could deal with other modern attacks on the gospel.

The “new perspective on Paul” undermines justification by faith alone, which is at the heart of the gospel.

“Open theism” attacks God’s sovereignty and omniscience.

Some in the charismatic movement preach a false gospel that promises health and wealth to everyone.

The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church lure frustrated evangelicals through a message of salvation by ritualism and good works.

The cults all have a works-based offer of salvation.

Native religion and eastern religions promise salvation through mysticism and works. The list goes on and on!

The point is, if we are going to be prepared for battle by being shod with the gospel of peace, we need to understand the gospel clearly so that we can spot Satan’s relentless, but often subtle attacks and defend the gospel against these soul-destroying errors.

Conclusion

Truth could not be truth in this world if it were not a warring thing, and we should at once suspect that it were not true if error were friends with it. The spotless purity of truth must always be at war with the blackness of heresy and lies.

Do you have your boots on? Without them you are not prepared to stand firm against the enemy of the gospel.

Be prepared with the boots of the gospel of peace by understanding the gospel message so that you can defend it against error. Appropriate the gospel of peace personally and preach it often to your own soul, as well as to those who are lost. In so doing, you will enjoy God’s peace in your soul.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2020 in ephesians

 

Protected by Truth and Righteousness – Ephesians 6:14


Ephesians 6:14 (ESV)  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…,

Many college students cannot bring themselves to say that the Holocaust was evil (see Bloom, p. 67). One student said (in Reader’s Digest  [Feb., 1998], p. 75), “Of course I dislike the Nazis, but who is to say they are morally wrong?” While these students deplore what Hitler did, they express their disapproval as a matter of personal preference, not as a moral judgment.

I wish that our cultural tolerance of sin and rejection of moral absolutes were only outside the church. But a study by George Barna showed that while only 28 percent of the general population expressed strong belief in absolute truth, among those who identified themselves as born-again evangelicals, the number dropped to 23 percent! (Cited by James Dobson, newsletter, Dec., 1991.)

If you have ever worked through one of the many personality tests, you will find some that have the strong response that they “know what they know, and they know what they do not know.”

It’s my hope that many Christians are able to ‘check off that box.’

When the apostle Paul tells us how to stand firm against these evil spiritual forces, he lists six pieces of spiritual armor to put on. Today we will examine the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness, which stand firmly opposed to the philosophical and moral relativism of our day.

  1. To stand firm against the enemy, gird yourself with the belt of truth.

For the Roman soldier, the girdle or belt was a leather apron-like piece that extended down to the thighs, protecting the lower abdomen and other private areas. The soldier tucked his robe or tunic into it so that he could move quickly and without encumbrance in the battle.

The main idea of a soldier girding his loins was that he was ready for vigorous action. Paul’s point in telling us to gird our loins with truth is that we cannot be ready to fight the enemy if we are not strong and ready with God’s truth.

When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He used the same weapon that we have today: the word of God.

As the belt formed the foundation of the soldier’s armor, the truth is the foundation of the Christian life. This “truth” refers to the believer’s character as a person who can be relied on for the truth. It certainly also refers to the truth of God’s Word and his message in the gospel.

If we could not be absolutely sure of our faith, if we were not sure that Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6), then there would be little use for the armor or in attempting to fight any battle.

God’s truth, as revealed to us through Jesus Christ, forms the foundation of victorious Christian living.

When the enemy, the father of lies (John 8:44), attacks with his lies, half-truths, and distortions, we believers can stand on the truth we believe.

The foundation for truth is the gospel, which centers in Jesus who is the embodiment of truth. As a result of our being new creatures in Jesus Christ through the gospel, we are to be truthful people.

But first, we need to answer the question:

Since God is the only essential reality in the universe, He is truth and the standard for all truth. Jesus referred to Him as “the only true God” (John 17:3).

If He is the only eternal, self-existent Being, then He is the truth, the only unchanging reality in the universe. He cannot lie.

The Hebrew word was often used of things that had proved to be reliable. Thus it often refers to God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises.

John 1:14 states of Jesus, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus said (John 14:6), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

God’s Word is His revelation of truth.

Jesus prayed (John 17:17), “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

Paul referred to the Bible and its central message, the gospel, as “the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Therefore, any deviation from God’s Word is error or falsehood.

How do we put on the belt of truth so that we can stand firm against the enemy?

To stand firm against the enemy, gird yourself with the core truths of the gospel.

Paul writes (2 Cor. 4:4), “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

While sincere believers differ over non-essential teachings, on the core truths of the gospel, we must agree.

If the enemy assails you with doubts, go back to the bedrock of the gospel: Who is Jesus Christ? Are His claims true?

Did He die for my sins according to the Scriptures? Was He raised from the dead as the many New Testament witnesses testify? Have I experienced the change from blindness to sight?

To stand firm against the enemy, gird yourself with truthful behavior. Paul applies it by commanding (4:25), “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

2. To stand firm against the enemy, put on the breastplate of righteousness.

The breastplate covered the soldier from his neck to his waist, front and back. Thus it protected his heart and other vital organs.

In Hebrew thought, the heart represented the mind and will, and the bowels were the seat of the emotions. Thus the breastplate of righteousness protects the believer’s mind, will, and emotions, areas where Satan often attacks.

What is righteousness? I define it as “being right with God.”

“Righteousness” provides a significant defense; it gives the evidence that we have been made right with God and that this righteousness has been given us by the Holy Spirit. Believers have been made righteous through the blood of Christ.

We first learned of this concept when we were told that Abrahan “believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Satan is ready for battle at every turn, willing to hit us unfairly from behind if given the chance.

Righteousness is the opposite of Satan’s complete wickedness. Satan seeks to thwart righteous living.

When the enemy, the accuser (Revelation 12:10), tries to convince us that we are not really saved, that we just keep on disappointing God, and that we’re “poor excuses” for Christians, we can stand up to him because of the righteousness we have been promised through our faith in Jesus Christ.

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22 niv).

How do we put on the breastplate of righteousness so that we can stand firm against the enemy?

(1). To stand firm against the enemy, put on the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Paul made the astounding statement (2 Cor. 5:21) that God made Christ, “who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

He wrote (Rom. 4:5), “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

The glorious truth is that we stand before God clothed with the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. That is our only hope for eternal life.

But Satan comes and gets us to focus on our sinful behavior. “Look at how you just exploded in anger! Look at how you lied to cover your tracks! Look at how you lusted after that girl! Some Christian you are!” How do you answer him if his charges are true?

You answer by applying Christ’s imputed righteousness: “You are right, Satan, I did just sin. But my eternal life does not depend on my sinless behavior or perfect track record. I am trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ and His righteousness credited to my account. Take it up with Him!”

As we walk as God’s children in this world, as new creatures in Christ, we will be growing in conformity to God’s holy standards as revealed in His Word.

Fruit takes time, but there should be evident progress in holiness and obedience. If there is a gap between our profession of Christ and our practice, the enemy will use it to attack us.

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It almost never fails, that when someone comes in for counsel, a certain verse almost always comes up.

Philippians 4:8 (ESV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

As Christians, we must learn to give our thoughts and emotions to God, and we must steer our thinking through verses like this one.

We are surrounded with gossip, innuendoes, lies, distortions, what we ‘think’ is true compared to what is actually true.

My dad taught me that when talking with children, to use a phrase “tell me the truth” is often difficult to interpret.

His advise? Tell me what ‘really happened.’

It almost always works.

We need us allow truth to change our mind and heart. It puts us in the correct ‘frame of mind’ to then tell God ‘what really happens’ in our life in order to get the cleansing and renewed ‘clean conscience.’

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2020 in ephesians

 

Standing Strong, Standing Firm Ephesians 6:10-13


General Dwight D. Eisenhower said “War is a terrible thing. But if you’re going to get into it, you’ve got to get into it all the way.”

I sense that many Christians are defeated in their Christian lives because they are not seriously engaged in the warfare to which we are called.  What keeps them from using God’s power?

  1. We don’t sense danger or recognize the power of the enemy.
  2. We don’t have all the weapons. We have never been taught the significance and importance of those weapons.
  3. We are untrained in the use of those weapons. Without practice, no soldier can be ready for battle.
  4. We may be in a comfort zone. Perhaps We are nowhere near the battle or We are somehow compromising with the enemy.

Ephesians 6:10-13 (ESV)  10  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

The word “finally” signals the beginning of Paul’s conclusion to his letter. At the beginning of this letter, Paul prayed for believers to know God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (1:19-20 niv).

The power that raised Christ from the dead empowers God’s people as they prepare for the spiritual battle they must face on this earth. The struggle occurs in the spiritual realm and must be won with spiritual weapons.

What might keep one from acknowledging this battle? Perhaps they came to Christ under a false “sales pitch.”

  • They were told, “Jesus will solve all your problems.
  • He will give you peace and joy.
  • He will give you a happy family life.
  • Come to Jesus and enjoy all of these blessings and more. He promises you abundant life.”

And so they signed up for what they thought would be a wonderful life of peace and happiness.

  • All of those claims are true, but they’re only half of the picture. Jesus promised to give us abundant life (John 10:10), but He also said that He was sending us out as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matt. 10:16). That picture might not fit your idea of an abundant life!
  • Jesus promised peace, but in the same breath He said that in this world we would have tribulation (John 16:33).
  • He assured us of His love, but He went on to say that the world would hate and persecute us.

John 15:12-13 (ESV) 12  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 18  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20  Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21  But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

It is vital for our survival as a Christian that we realize that when we became a Christian, we were drafted into God’s army. Daily we are engaged in a battle with an unseen spiritual enemy that seeks to destroy us. Otherwise, when trials hit, you will think that something is wrong. You will wonder why God has allowed this. You won’t understand the reality of your situation.

When a man’s ministry is effective, the enemy will work overtime to bring him down. It may be through internal problems in the church or through key leaders who turn against him or through discouragement or through temptation to moral failure.

To be strong in the Lord, you must be in the Lord. I won’t belabor the point, but I need to say that Paul’s command to be strong in the Lord rests on his first two chapters, where he makes it clear what it means to be in the Lord. To sum up his treatment, he wrote (2:8-9), “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

To be strong in the Lord, you must know your own weakness.

This is a continual, lifelong process that begins at salvation. We cannot trust completely in Christ to save us until we come to some awareness that we are helplessly, hopelessly lost and unable to save ourselves by our own good works.

Our pride blinds us to our true condition. It makes us think that we have some measure of strength in ourselves. In reality, the strong Christian is one who has come to see more and more of his own weakness and propensity towards sin. That awareness drives him to depend all the more on the Lord’s strength.

To be strong in the Lord, you must know the Lord’s strength.

Satan is a powerful foe, but he is only a created being, whereas God is the eternal, almighty Creator of the universe. Christ has already defeated him at the cross and resurrection of Jesus (Col. 2:15).

(Genesis 18:14 (ESV) 14  Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Jeremiah 32:17 (ESV) 17  ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

Standing firm against the enemy is the result of putting on God’s full armor.

It’s not a matter of “letting go and letting God,” where you are passive and God does it all. Nor is it a matter of gritting your teeth and doing it yourself, with occasional assistance from God. Rather, it is a blending of His power and our striving.

Putting on God’s armor means that in every trial and temptation by faith you appropriate Christ’s strength in place of your weakness.

By faith you cry out to Him for deliverance and strength to persevere. By faith you rely on His promises.

Stand firm against the enemy by growing in biblical understanding. Paul wrote the first three chapters of this letter to set forth the necessary doctrinal foundation of all that God has provided for us in Christ.

Strong Christians are doctrinally grounded in the truth of Scripture. Unless you know the Word well, as Jesus did when He defeated Satan, you will not stand firm in the evil day.

We fight a spiritual battle, but we might well ask, who is the enemy? It’s not the nonbeliever, although occasionally you will meet a person so full of evil and rebellion against God that he or she actually declares himself or herself the enemy of Christianity.

The secular media or world systems work relentlessly to undermine God’s truth, but they are not the enemy either, although they are often tools in his hands.

Our enemy is Satan and the spiritual “forces of evil.” Satan, the deceiver (Genesis 3), the accuser (Zechariah 3), the destroyer (1 Peter 5), is the adversary of our souls and of the souls of our friends and loved ones.

Our enemy is powerful, but he is also a defeated foe.

Paul states (2 Cor. 2:11), “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”

Satan launches repeated attacks on the credibility of Scripture, whether through evolution or by attacking the person of Christ. Satan lures us into sin by portraying it as pleasurable and by hiding its consequences. He uses discouragement, pride, selfishness, the love of money, lust, and many other traps to lure us away from the Lord.

Standing firm against the schemes of the devil means that we stand firm on the core doctrines of the faith. We cannot budge on the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, biblical salvation, or the inspiration and authority of Scripture.

Conclusion

John MacArthur observes (ibid., p. 378), “Ephesians begins by lifting us up to the heavenlies, and ends by pulling us down to our knees.”

I read about a missionary years ago in the jungles of New Guinea who wrote the following letter to his friends back home: “Man, it is great to be in the thick of the fight, to draw the old devil’s heaviest guns, to have him at you with depression and discouragement, slander, disease. He doesn’t waste time on a lukewarm bunch.

“He hits good and hard when a fellow is hitting him. You can always measure the weight of your blow by the one you get back. When you’re on your back with fever and at your last ounce of strength, when some of your converts backslide, when you learn that your most promising inquirers are only fooling, when your mail gets held up, and some don’t bother to answer your letters, is that the time to put on mourning? No sir. That’s the time to pull out the stops and shout Hallelujah!

“The old fellow’s getting it in the neck and hitting back. Heaven is leaning over the battlements and watching. “Will he stick with it?” As they see who is with us, as they see the unlimited reserves, the boundless resources, as they see the impossibility of failure, how disgusted and sad they must be when we run away. Glory to God! We’re not going to run away. We’re going to stand!”

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a best selling book (Outliers) that showed us that we have to do something 10,000 times to fully reach the place where we are an “competent or an expert.”

If you want to complete a marathon, you have to run hundreds of training miles. If you want to learn a foreign language, you have to spend some hours memorizing declensions and conjugations. If you want to play the piano, you have to learn the scales and how to read music.

And if you want to accomplish anything for God, you have to spend time with the spiritual disciplines: Bible study, prayer, church involvement, fasting, serving.

Being a Christian is a living relationship with our living Lord Jesus. But like any other relationship, if you want it to be deep and meaningful—beyond the superficial and empty formalities—it takes time and commitment.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2020 in ephesians

 

Beliefs Matter: It Really Does Make A Difference What We Believe About the One Spirit Ephesians 4


One New Year’s Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, one of the more beautiful floats suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone was able to get some more gas for the float. Do you know which float it was? The one representing the Standard Oil Company. With its vast resources of oil, its truck sat there helpless.

We need to talk today about the One Spirit, which is our power supply? How has your power supply been working for you this past week?

It matters what we believe; it affects spiritual health.   Eph. 4:5 speaks on seven 1’s which serve to unite us. As we are One Body, we also possess One Spirit, which works in each of our lives.

 How do we begin? Obviously the Spirit is holy (divine) – God is Father, Son, & Spirit.

The Spirit is spirit. He is not flesh and blood, is not tangible. That makes for much of our difficulty in grasping a better understanding of him.

he Spirit is not the same as the word. The phrase “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17) says that the word is the Spirit’s sword, so the word cannot be identical with the Spirit.

If we say “the weapon of the soldier is a rifle,” that does not mean the soldier is a rifle. Rather, the rifle is distinct from him, it is his weapon, an entirely different entity. So if the sword of the Spirit is the word of God, then the word of God is a separate entity from the Spirit, it is his weapon.

  • The Spirit is personal – a he, not an it
  • The Spirit lives inside every Christian: (Romans 8:9 NIV) You, however, are controlled not by the [flesh] but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
  • (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NIV) The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. {13} For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
  • The Spirit is powerful: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
  • The Spirit living in us is a down payment on our future inheritance: (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV) Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, {22} set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
  • The Spirit living in us indicates we are God’s children: (Romans 8:16-17 NIV) The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. {17} Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
  • (Galatians 4:6-7 NIV) Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” {7} So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
  • The Spirit is involved in transforming us. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV) Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. {18} And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
  • He also intercedes for us in prayer; convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment; empowers us to speak boldly; and gives us gifts.

We can tell whether we really believe God’s truths by how we live our lives. Belief isn’t tested so much theoretically as practically. Again, the reason God wants us to believe his truths is not merely so we can pass a doctrinal test; rather, it is so that we will have healthy spiritual lives. If we examine our lives, that’s how we clarify what we really believe. So do you believe in the One Spirit?

One important way is to see whether we believe in One Spirit:

(Romans 7:6 NIV)  But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

What does that mean? How can we tell which way we are in fact approaching it?

Some characteristics of the old way of the written code:

  • Law, rules, focus on externals (attendance, conformity, concern over that which is outward and appearances)
  • Pride and superiority or guilt and inferiority
  • There’s comparison and concentration on human effort
  • And it is exhausting (Galatians 3:3 NIV) Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
  • If this is your pattern, Jesus wrote this: (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. {29} Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. {30} For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
  • Biting and devouring others (Galatians 5:15 NIV) If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
  • Being a control freak, “It is our determination to be independent by being in control that makes us unavailable to God” Richard Neuhaus.
  • “Those who are filled with the Spirit have died to that determination, surrendered their right to be in control, and made themselves radically dependent on and available to the Holy Spirit.” Stephen Seamands

Some characteristics of the new way of Spirit

  • Belong to Jesus as if married (Romans 7:1-4 NIV)  Do you not know, brothers–for I am speaking to men who know the law–that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? {2} For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. {3} So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. {4} So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
  • Is your relationship by marriage dominated by rules & regulations for your spouse???
  • Bear fruit to God (Galatians 5:22-26 NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. {24} Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. {25} Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. {26} Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
  • “Ministry, if it is to be fruitful—not merely productive—must be through the Holy Spirit,” Stephen Seamands. Productive: means it likely comes from us…from our effort.
  • Changed being (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV)  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. {18} And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (whole lot easier to act compassionately if we are in fact compassionate)
  • You know the love of God (Romans 5:5 NIV) And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
  • Choose to go along with the Spirit: (Galatians 5:25 NIV)  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

(Ephesians 4:30 NIV)  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

(1 Thessalonians 5:19 NIV)  Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;

How do you change to the “new way” of the Spirit

  • Deliberately stop thinking in terms of rules (cf. die to the law). Am I good enough? (of course not!). Is it a sin to…? God didn’t give us law, lists, etc. that was totally dominate our thinking…this isn’t the usual language of the new way in the Spirit.
  • It’s legalistic in its way of thinking
  • Instead, start thinking in terms of relationship, pleasing someone we love who is close to us.
  • Re-envision your Christianity in terms of being in a relationship with God. (remember, I will not leave you as orphans, children of God).
  • Talk to him respectfully but as in a real relationship, open yourself up to him, pour your heart out to him, greatest commandment is to love God w/ all our heart, soul, mind, & strength, what does that mean?
  • I’ve done this and that…”what else do you want me to do?”
  • What does it mean to love our spouses or our children or our friends? The idea of WWJD is pretty good, except that it has become pop religion and frequently doesn’t have much substance to it.
  • Can we really do WWJD or even know WWJD if we aren’t also doing what he did regularly in terms of spending time alone with God?
  • Give God opportunities to write his word on our hearts (pray, open, read, meditate)—this fits fruit-bearing. You must come to a personal understanding of what that means

 If we want the power of God to transform our lives, we need to do some work and also make ourselves available for God to do some work to transform us deep within by the power of his Spirit.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2020 in God

 

Beliefs Matter: It Really Does Matter What We Believe About: One God


A mother asked her son to tell her what he learned in Sunday School.  The boy said, “We learned how Moses and all the people of Israel built a huge expansion bridge across the Red Sea, then crossed to the other side, set explosives on the bridge, and when the Egyptians started to cross, they blew it up! 

The mother was shocked and asked, “Is that really what your teacher said?”  “Well, no Mom,” her son replied, “But if I told you what really happened, you’d never believe it!” 

It’s true that God has done some absolutely remarkable things. And it’s also true that a lot of people in this county and state don’t believe most of it.

It’s our task today to learn a more about our amazing, awesome God!

Psalms 19:1: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (let some nature slides proceed)

About 1400 years ago, the pope was Gregory the 1st. Later he came to be referred to as Gregory the Great, a title I’m not sure he would have accepted personally, based on something he said about God: “Almost everything said of God is unworthy for the very reason that it is capable of being said.”

That’s a little bit extreme, yet it underscores the awesome challenge of seeing what God is like. This one is the most challenging. We’re wrapping up this study Beliefs Matter…we’re come to the final of the seven ones.

 (Deuteronomy 4:35 NIV)  You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.

(Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV)  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

 (Isaiah 46:9 NIV)  Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

God is over all. He is supreme, high above all material and sinful things. God says, “I dwell in the high and holy place” (Isaiah 57:15).

God is through all. He is so omnipotent and powerful that He can do all things. No barriers limit His power.

God is in all. His power energizes the atom of all creation. He dwells not only in the high and holy place, but also with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit:

(Isaiah 57:15 NIV)  For this is what the high and lofty One says– he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Ways We Can Know God – Avenues we can pursue later.

  1. That challenge is underscored by God’s very name, his name is one way we can know him. Often called God or Lord (Master), but also has a name LORD. It’s not Jehovah as translated in (Exodus 3:13-15 NIV) Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” {14} God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” {15} God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation..

Take a minute and look at the words closely.

Hebrew Word for God: ‏אֱלֹהִים‎  Transliteration: elōhîm

Hebrew Word for LORD (His Name): ‏יהוה‎  Transliteration: yhwh

Hebrew Word for I AM: ‏הָיָה‎   Transliteration: hāyâ 

Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary

Footnote in your study Bible at vs. 14: I AM WHO I AM is another way of saying: “I will be what I will be.”

Footnote in your study Bible at vs. 15: The Hebrew word for Lord sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for I Am in verse 14.

God is telling us that “You can’t put me in a box.”

I will do & be in surprising things. Let your mind go back to the Exodus; I don’t think anyone could have guessed that. Think of the creativity, the awesome power, the marvel of God in leading His  people out of Egypt.

His remarkable deeds in the past show us something of what He is, but at the same time they don’t limit Him. He will be what he will be. What an appropriate name for God!

One way you tell if we believe in the one God is by whether we try to put him in a box.

OLD TESTAMENT NAMES FOR GOD

JEHOVAH-MACCADDESHEM…….Exodus 31:13 meaning “The Lord thy sanctifier”

JEHOVAH-ROHI……Psalm 23:1  meaning “The Lord my shepherd”

JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH…….Ezekiel 48:35  meaning “The Lord who is present”

JEHOVAH-RAPHA………Exodus 15:26  meaning “The Lord our healer“

JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU……Jeremiah 23:6  meaning “The Lord our righteousness”

JEHOVAH-JIREH………Genesis 22:13-14  meaning “The Lord will provide”

JEHOVAH-NISSI………Exodus 17:15 meaning “The Lord our banner”

JEHOVAH-SHALOM……..Judges 6:24  meaning “The Lord is peace”

JEHOVAH-SABBAOTH……Isaiah 6:1-3  meaning “The Lord of Hosts”

EL-ELYON…………..Genesis 14:17-20,Isaiah 14:13-14  meaning “The most high God”

EL-ROI…………….Genesis 16:13  meaning “The strong one who sees”

EL-SHADDAI…………Genesis 17:1, Psalm 91:1  meaning “The God of the mountains or God Almighty”

EL-OLAM……………Isaiah 40:28-31  meaning “The everlasting God”

2. Another way we can know him is by his avatar (computer user’s representation of himself). What does God say about Himself? How does He represent Himself?

(Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)  And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, {7} maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

God is both merciful & just. I can’t tell you when or for how long he will be merciful or just, He will be what He will be, but I can tell you he will be both merciful and just. One way we can tell whether we believe in the one God is whether we strike a balance between justice and mercy.

Justice: we’ll take sin seriously! Mercy: we’ll take forgiveness seriously!

3.Another way we know him is by words others use to describe him.

(Isaiah 6:1-5 NIV)  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. {2} Above him were seraphs, 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.” {4} At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. {5} “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

When we see God, we are amazed, humbled, and we are made aware of our own sin. It changes us!

I am skeptical of those who speak of “God appearing to them” for a lot of reasons, but first of all they don’t talk about being flat on their face…they tend not to be humbled, but rather ‘puffed up’ in pride…they aren’t aware of their sins.

4. Another is refuge our place of safety & comfort.

 (Psalms 62:5-8 NIV)  Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. {6} He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. {7} My salvation and my honor depend on God ; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. {8} Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah

I believe God will take care of us, not always when or how we think He should—He will be what he will be—but He will take care of us.

Does your first choice when in need of refuge reflect your belief in the One God? More ways we can tell whether we believe in the one God are whether we worship him in his holiness and whether we find security & comfort in him as our refuge.

5.Another way we know him is by his commandments. He insists on our total devotion.

(Exodus 20:2-3 NIV)  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. {3} “You shall have no other gods before me.

Based on this act, He gives commandments.

(Colossians 3:5 NIV)  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

We might not literally bow down in worship before these items, but when we put them first by our actions and thoughts, they seek to replace the “One God.”

A very telling way we determine whether we believe in the one God is by whether there are other gods in our lives. We are monotheists: we only worship one God.

6.One of the very best ways we know him is through Jesus.

(John 1:1 NIV)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

(John 1:14 NIV)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(Colossians 1:15 NIV)  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

(Hebrews 1:1-3 NIV)  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, {2} but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. {3} The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

If you want to know what God is like, study Jesus closely. As you read the way he interacts with people, put yourself in the account & you’ll see how he feels toward you.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been saying that belief matters. Though we may not all agree on everything, there are some matters that are really important. Eph 4 tells us what some of those matters are.

I say again today what I’ve said enough in this series that you may be tired of hearing it: we don’t determine whether we really believe these things by inquiring whether we agree with them but rather by the way we live our lives.

For today’s message, we find out whether we believe in the One God by:

  • whether we try to control him & say what he will and won’t do or let him be what he will be
  • whether we take sin seriously & also take forgiveness seriously
  • whether we worship him and him alone
  • whether we make him our refuge
  • whether we have other gods in our lives

Faith is a journey, so if our lives indicate we don’t really believe all these things, that’s not surprising. But we do need to continue on the journey.

Because these seven beliefs mentioned in Eph. 4 really matter: One body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, & God. These hold us together as God’s people.

  • May we always be known as a church that believes something & is not afraid to say so.
  • May we always believe that these seven Ones matter.
  • And may we also be a church whose beliefs are apparent by the way we live our lives.
 
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Posted by on July 23, 2020 in God

 

Beliefs Matter: One Faith: A Call To Arms! – Philippians 1:27; Jude 1


A note posted on a religious website, discussing sexuality as a spiritual experience…says “it is OK be monogamist OK to be Gay,  Bi, Straight; OK to be different; OK to follow our own path; OK to make our own choices without being judged, particularly in this community.”

The truth tells us that while people may indulge their sinful desires in that way, we don’t please God like that.

How do we know? Where do we go for direction? We believe there is One Lord, and today we see there is one place where we can go to find the written directions. The “one faith” does not refer to the act of believing, but to the body of doctrines which we believe. The one faith is the Gospel.

(Philippians 1:27 NIV)  Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel

(Jude 1:3 NIV)  Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

It is not scriptural to speak of “many faiths” or “interfaith activities” as many do. There are not two faiths nor several faiths. There is only one faith that leads into God’s presence and that is the faith founded by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Contrary to what Oprah and others are teaching, there is no other approach to God. If a person wishes to live with God—to be approved and accepted by Him—that person has to approach God through the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 NIV)  But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. {14} He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The point is this: every believer has come to God in the very same way—by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Him is the only way, the only true faith. Therefore, standing before God and having come to Him through the same faith, there is no room for any differences. We all stand on the same ground, on the same level: the ground and level of faith.

If you want to be a member of this congregation, realize that we believe there is One body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, and One Faith.

Jude 1:1-4 (ESV)
1  Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
2  May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
3  Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
4  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Why did Jude write this letter?

To warn his readers that the apostates were already on the scene! Peter had prophesied that they would come, and his prophecy had been fulfilled.

He wrote to “exhort” them (Jude 3). In the Greek language, this word was used to describe a general giving orders to the army; hence the atmosphere of this letter is “military.” Jude had started to write a quiet devotional letter about salvation, but the Spirit led him to put down his harp and sound the trumpet! The Epistle of Jude is a call to arms.

The Army (Jude 1-2)

The Captain of the army is Jesus Christ, and the soldiers He commands are people who share a “common salvation” through faith in Him. Jude called them saints and addressed them as sanctified.

Not only are God’s saints set apart, but they are also preserved. This means “carefully watched and guarded.” The believer is secure in Jesus Christ. This same word is used in Jude 6 and 13 (“reserved”) and also in Jude 21 (“keep yourselves”).

The Enemy (Jude 3-4)

I must confess that I sympathize with Jude. I would much rather encourage the saints than declare war on the apostates. But when the enemy is in the field, the watchmen dare not go to sleep. The Christian life is a battleground, not a playground. Jude wasted no time in identifying the enemy.

They were ungodly (v. 4b).

This is one of Jude’s favorite words. While these men claimed to belong to God, they were, in fact, ungodly in their thinking and their living.

They were deceitful (v. 4c).

They “crept in unawares.” The Greek word means “to slip in secretly, to steal in undercover.” How could false brethren get into true assemblies of the saints? The soldiers had gone to sleep at the post! The spiritual leaders in the churches had grown complacent and careless. This explains why Jude had to “blow the trumpet” to wake them up.

They were enemies of God’s grace (v. 4d).

Why did they enter the churches? To attempt to change the doctrine and “turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4). The word lasciviousness simply means “wantonness, absence of moral restraint, indecency.” A person who is lascivious thinks only of satisfying his lusts, and whatever he touches is stained by his base appetites.

Many scriptures warn us that the apostates would argue, “You have been saved by grace, so you are free to live as you please!” The apostates, like the cultists today, use the Word of God to promote and defend their false doctrines.

They seduce young, immature Christians who have not yet been grounded in the Scriptures. Every soldier of the Cross needs to go through “basic training” in a local church so that he knows how to use the weapons of spiritual warfare.

They denied God’s truth (v. 4e).

Jude was affirming strongly the deity of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God! But the apostates would deny this. They would agree that Jesus Christ was a good man and a great teacher, but not that He was eternal God come in human flesh. The first test of any religious teacher, as we have seen, is, “What do you think of Jesus Christ? Is He God come in the flesh?”

Anyone who denies this cardinal doctrine is a false teacher no matter how correct he may be in other matters. If he denies the deity of Christ, something will always be missing in whatever he affirms.

They were ordained to judgment (v. 4a).

Jude did not write that these men were ordained to become apostates, as though God were responsible for their sin. They became apostates because they willfully turned away from the truth. But God did ordain that such people would be judged and condemned. The Old Testament prophets denounced the false prophets of their day, and both Jesus Christ and His Apostles pronounced judgment on them.

Why should these men be judged by God? To begin with, they had denied His Son! That is reason enough for their condemnation! But they had also defiled God’s people by teaching them that God’s grace permitted them to practice sin.

How, then, should the church respond to the presence of this insidious enemy? By earnestly contending for the faith.

“The faith” refers to that body of doctrine that was given by God through the Apostles to the church. The word doctrine is found at least sixteen times in the Pastoral Epistles alone.

What does it mean to “contend for the faith”? The Greek word is an athletic term that gives us our English word agonize. It is the picture of a devoted athlete, competing in the Greek games and stretching his nerves and muscles to do his very best to win.

You never fight the Lord’s battles from a rocking chair or a soft bed! Both the soldier and the athlete must concentrate on doing their best and giving their all. There must also be teamwork, believers working together to attack and defeat the enemy.

Sometimes you hear well-meaning people say, “Well, it’s fine to contend for the faith, but don’t be so contentious!” While it is true that some of God’s soldiers have been the cause of quarrels and divisions, it is also true that some of them have paid a great price to defend the faith.

As Christian soldiers, we must not fight each other or go around looking for trouble. But when the banner of Christ is in danger of being taken by the enemy, we cannot sit idly by, nor can we ever hope to win the victory by wearing kid gloves.

Paul admonished both Timothy and Titus to make sure the believers were being taught “sound doctrine,” which means “healthy doctrine,” doctrine that promotes the spiritual health of the local church.

While individual teachers and preachers may disagree on the fine points of theology, there is a basic body of truth to which all true Christians are committed.

He exhorted Timothy to entrust the Word to other faithful men (2 Tim. 2:2). You and I would not have the Word today were it not for faithful believers down through the ages who guarded this precious deposit and invested it in others.

The church is always one generation short of extinction. If our generation fails to guard the truth and entrust it to our children, then that will be the end! When you think of the saints and martyrs who suffered and died so that we might have God’s truth, it makes you want to take your place in God’s army and be faithful unto death.

False doctrine is a deadly poison that must be identified, labeled, and avoided. We must always speak the truth in love, and the weapons we use must be spiritual. At the same time, we must dare to take our stand for “the faith” even if our stand offends some and upsets others. We are not fighting personal enemies, but the enemies of the Lord.

It is the honor and glory of Jesus Christ that is at stake. “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12).

The Victory (Jude 5-7)

Jude 1:5-7 (ESV)
5  Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
6  And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—
7  just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Jude reached back into Old Testament history and gave examples of God’s victory over those who had resisted his authority and turned from the truth. The point Jude was making is that God judges apostates. Therefore, the false teachers who had crept into the church would also one day be judged. Their seeming success would not last; God would have the last word. 

The sin of Israel was rebellious unbelief (Heb. 3:12). The sin of the angels was rebellion against the throne of God. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was indulging in unnatural lust. Unbelief, rebellion against authority, and sensual indulgence were sins characteristic of the false teachers.

The conclusion is obvious: the apostates will be judged. But, meanwhile, God’s soldiers must stay on duty and see to it that these false teachers do not creep into the ranks and start to lead people astray.

Jude 1:17-25 (ESV)
17  But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
18  They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”
19  It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.
20  But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,
21  keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
22  And have mercy on those who doubt;
23  save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
24  Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,
25  to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

What can we do practically to oppose the enemy and maintain the purity and unity of the church?

For one thing, we must know the Word of God and have the courage to defend it. Every local church ought to be a Bible institute, and every Christian ought to be a Bible student.  The pulpit needs to declare positive truth as well as denounce error.

Second, we must “watch and pray.”

The Christian life must never stand still; if it does, it will go backward. The enemy is already here and we dare not go to sleep! Spiritual leaders in local congregations need to be alert as they interview candidates for baptism and church membership. Congregations must exercise discernment as they select spiritual leaders.

Finally, we must have the courage to maintain a position of biblical separation from those who deny Christ and the fundamental doctrines of the Word. This does not mean that we separate from fellow believers over minor doctrinal differences, or that we practice “guilt by association.” God’s true army needs to stand together in the battle for truth.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2020 in ephesians

 
 
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