4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (NASB)
Why do authentic Christians persevere? Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. Genuine Christians persevere to the end because God is faithful. The faithfulness of man is at best unreliable. Also, notice that Paul did not say that Christians persevere because of faithful ministers to lead and guide them. No, God would never trust His children’s perseverance to mere men. Instead, the whole burden of our salvation must rest on the faithfulness of our covenant God.
3 Jesus answered and said to him, amen amen I say to you, except one is born again, he is not able to see the Kingdom of God. John 3:3 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
In John 3:3 (above) is a term that is unique to Christianity and is not well understood even by those have been γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν. The word translated above as “again” is ἄνωθεν or anōthen, which is comprised of ἄνω or anō, “above, upwards,” and the suffix θεν or then, which denotes “from.”
16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NASB)
The passage above is best known as our Lord Jesus’ Great Commission to the Church. This is what we are to be about. I heard a survey taken at a Christian bookseller’s convention a few years ago in which one of the questions asked was something like, “Is the Great Commission best fulfilled by preaching the Gospel or by Christians ‘being the Gospel?’” Well over half of the answers given were affirmative for the latter rather than the former. That was not surprising after the rest of the survey results were revealed though. The overall lack of depth of real Bible knowledge and doctrine in that group was indeed telling. From that discussion it became apparent that most of those responding to the survey actually believed that their performance as Christians had more to do with evangelism than actually preaching the Gospel itself.
13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NASB)
The total lack of the fear of God is what marks the ungodly. (Romans 3:18) On the other hand, genuine believers in scripture are described as those who do fear Him. Tragically, when moral issues between professing Christians and the unchurched are compared there is very little difference. There is the same level of divorce, adultery, pornography, dishonesty, etc.; in both groups. This should not be so.
7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95:7-11 (NASB)
Preaching or teaching from God’s Word is nothing to trifle with. The responsibility that goes with each is eternal. Those who minister through the Word will be held accountable. We must ask each time we preach or teach, “Did I treat what is Holy as it deserved? Have I fallen into doing my ministry perfunctorily?” Those of us who teach must never do so in a way that is in any way motivated by anything other than our love and devotion for our Lord. Yes, there will be circumstances that we respond to and use as inspiration or input, but, even in that, we do a tremendous disservice to our Lord if we don’t go to Him in prayer first before we respond, write, preach, or teach. While the leader has a huge responsibility to minister by the Spirit, those who hear the truth from God’s Word will also be held accountable.
1 “These things I have spoken to you that you not be caused to stumble.” John 16:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
In John 16:1 (above) when our Lord spoke of the “things” He spoke of in order that believers “not be caused to stumble,” He was referring to John 15:18-25, which is the fact that those who are truly in Christ will be hated by the world just as our Lord was. Our Lord made it an imperative that we understand that this is true, but also that we do not have to contend with this alone. In John 15:26-27, the promise of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, is given again. Those who have the Holy Spirit are genuine believers and they bear witness about Christ because that is what the Holy Spirit does. In this post we will look at John 16:1-15 and the truths about the promise in v1 as well as the difference between Kingdom fruit and worldly fruit.
1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1 (NASB)
My brethren, the message from Revelation 3:1-6 goes contrary to most of what is taught in Evangelicalism today. The church at Sardis had a name that it was alive yet our Lord bluntly said that even so, they were spiritually dead. Since 2006 when I became involved in this ministry, I have seen good friends like the late Ken Silva, along with all of those associated with him, denigrated because we stood firm with what God’s Word says about what constitutes real Christianity and what doesn’t. When we point out that certain ministries do not measure up, we are called divisive, haters–and many other ugly things–and then some of our critics resort to worldly things such as lawsuits and even denial of service. Excuse me, but how can anyone justify this and call it Christian behavior?
16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16 (NASB)
What differentiates a genuine Christian from one whose religion is only skin-deep? Jesus said that He knows those who are His. He calls them His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him. (John 10:27) He also called them His disciples. He gave us the requirements for being His disciple in Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23 where he said that if anyone desires to follow Him they must deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. If we combine these two views then we learn that our Lord’s sheep, His disciples, are those who hear His voice, deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. This is telling us that genuine Christians are those who humble themselves before their Lord, die to self, submit to Him as Lord, obey Him, and emulate Him as He leads.
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. John 15:4-10 (NASB)
For the first 20 or so years of this walk I was in a very immature spiritual state. I was utterly convinced during that time that my worth as a disciple depended upon my performance, my learning, my obedience, et cetera. With that mind-set it was a very horrible experience at times since I was on a roller coaster ride of obedience and backsliding. What amazed me during that period was that I was looked at as one of the more mature believers at our church. I knew better. That all changed in 2004 and 2005 as God drew me into the light and drastically changed that ‘mind-set.’ It was as I learned and held to the truth that our salvation is all according to God’s will not ours that I began to have peace and freedom. He chose us according to the good pleasure of His will, not according to our abilities or any other inherent attribute we may have. With this remaking of my mind-set came the ending of that cycle of obedience and backsliding. It was as if it had been put to death.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (NASB)
The doctrine of imputation is under severe attack in our day. Those who have made the mistake of seeking a peace with those who desire to change or do away with this doctrine have erred egregiously. This doctrine must never be negotiated. Why? The changes certain people desire to make to this doctrine would change our justification from being according to faith alone to a combination of faith and works. According to Galatians 5:3, this would make us obligated to keep the whole law, which none of us can do. Only our Lord Jesus Christ kept the commandments perfectly, therefore, His righteousness is imputed to those who trust in His obedience to be justified.
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (NASB)
Sola Scriptura is under heavy attack in the visible Church. Some of those who are leading this battle against it are already predicting victory. The central theme of Phyllis Tickle’s book The Great Emergence is, “Where is our authority?” This question is asked in order to stress the need to do away with Sola Scriptura in order to make way for “the step and subsequent journey out of traditional church expressions and into new ones.” She also said that there are forty-four specific events that underline the move away from Sola Scriptura and that it’s not if Sola Scriptura ends, but when…
15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15 (NASB)
The Church in our time appears huge, but this is only in appearance. It is thousands of miles wide, but only a fraction of an inch deep. Much of what claims to be Christian is not and proves it by what is actually its focus and what (or who) it actually worships. The focus has its foundation in pragmatism and its worship is nothing more than self-aggrandizement. They give lip service to their own version of “Jesus” who bears little if any resemblance to the Jesus we read of in God’s Word. This counterfeit Christianity is the majority while the true Church, which is made up of those saved by grace through faith because of God’s election and effectual calling is the minority. This should not surprise us because the Word of God tells us that this will be the case as this age comes to a close to make way for the age to come. Also, just a few weeks ago we went through the false prophecy of September 23, 2017 being a firm date for the return of our Lord. Some claimed this would be “the beginning of sorrows.” Others even went so far as to say it would be the “End of the World.” What did we learn? People who claim to know things like that on certain dates prove they are false prophets because God’s Word tells us that no one knows these things except the Father. Therefore, do not believe these liars.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:9 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
When we talk about “the flesh” in this life, we are not always talking about these living breathing bodies we all have though the context does mean that in some cases as we shall see. Here in Romans 8, the root word of what is translated in English as “flesh” is σάρξ or sarx.
2 Consider it all joy my brothers whenever you fall into various trials 3 knowing that the testing of your faith works endurance; 4 let endurance work to fulfillment, that you be mature and complete lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The word joy in my translation (above) is the Greek noun χαρὰν, which is the Accusative, Singular of χαρά or chara, “is an antonym of grief and sorrow. It denotes ‘joy, happiness, and gladness.’” In other words, James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is telling Christians to not grieve or be sorrowful, but to be glad and full of joy when they “fall into various trials.” The words “you fall” translates the verb περιπέσητε, which is the Aorist tense, Subjunctive mood, and Active voice of περιπίπτω or peripiptō, which is a compound of περί or peri, “properly through (all over), that is, around” and πίπτω or piptō, “fail, fall (down), light on” with the result coming to mean, “to fall into something that is all around, that is, light among or upon, be surrounded with: – fall among (into).” Doesn’t that “figuratively” describe how we so often have found ourselves in the midst of something that seems “overwhelming?” The word trials translates the noun πειρασμοῖς, which is the Dative, Plural of πειρασμός or peirasmos, “refers either to a testing or a temptation to do something wrong.”
6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written,
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 (NASB)
I’m sure the title of this post struck some of you in a way hard to explain. When I first started this study, I could not help but think back on an investigation I did many years ago into some false teachings by a man who claimed that his ministry was based entirely “in the deep things of God.” That mysterious statement seemed to be used by him as a smokescreen to hide the fact that he was teaching rank heresy and that heresy was claimed by him to be coming to him as a direct revelation from God. Well, if that were true then it would indeed be “the deep things of God,” but what he was teaching was very shallow spiritually and really called for people to become submissive to him as a prophet based on one thing; he said so. Also, he attempted to keep everyone in line through bullying tactics and that included those of us who stood up to him. This is not what the depths of God (the deeps things of God) are. Let us take a closer look.
1 I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O LORD, I will make music. Psalm 101:1 (ESV)
Not only was Martin Luther an accomplished theologian and beloved pastor, but he also had some gifting for music. He wrote many hymns, many of which are sung to this day not only by those in the Lutheran tradition but by other Protestants as well. Perhaps the best known is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which is based on Psalm 46. Luther well understood the power and influence of music. His understanding is well captured in his statement that “music is the handmaiden of theology.”
Like a handmaiden who assists her master, music serves theology and the teaching of God’s Word. And like a handmaiden, music can be a good servant or a bad servant. When music is a good servant, it provides the right setting for the teaching of God’s truth and for helping the people of God grasp the deep things of the Lord. Quality hymns and songs enrich our hearts and minds, driving home what God has revealed to His people. On the other hand, when music is a bad servant, it gets in the way of good theology. Poorly crafted music and lyrics promote error. As an art form, music always communicates something, and it can communicate either truth or error.
24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Matthew 23:24 (NASB)
A huge trap that Christians can fall into is self-righteousness. It is a form of idolatry and that always causes spiritual blindness (Romans 1:24-25). Self-righteousness puts all effort towards godliness in the wrong place. It creates a form of piety that is all about outward appearances while putting little or no priority on matters of the heart. It is all about being concerned about appearances and what others think rather than being totally committed to abiding in Christ from within first. The self-righteous are consciously holy. However, that is not what we are called to be. Christians must be consciously repentant and unconsciously holy. The difference is huge for these are totally opposite walks.
Give Me Jesus
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus
And when I am alone
Oh, and when I am alone
And when I am alone, give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus
And when I come to die
Oh, and when I come to die
And when I come to die, give me Jesus
“Give Me Jesus” is a traditional Black Gospel song. The author is unknown and when it is performed reverently, with all focus on the Lord, not on self, I find myself worshipping and often weeping with joy. Many artists have recorded this song like Jeremy Camp and Fernando Ortega. I have both in my library. I seem to listen to Fernando’s version the most though there is nothing wrong with Jeremy Camp’s. In any case, this last Sunday in church we sang this song as part of our worship service. Man oh man! Everything came alive! Why? Our focus was on Jesus as our all-in-all! Who needs the nonsense this lost and dying world has to offer? Where is your treasure? If you are clinging to the stuff of this world as your treasure then you cannot sing this song and worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. Please mediate on this today and repent as the Lord leads.
12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” John 2:12-16 (NASB)
Some today have made a caricature of our Lord Jesus Christ. This man-made image is far from the truth we see in Sacred Scripture. There have been some who have even portrayed the Bible as revealing two separate “Gods,” the mean, angry God of the Old Testament, and the kind, gentle Jesus of the New Testament. The former is an image contrived by those who resent God’s commands for holiness and righteousness while the latter is vastly incomplete and derived by those who are either ignorant of what the New Testament teaches about our Lord or they are deliberately ignoring what it says.
34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. John 3:34 (NASB)
In John 3:1-21 our Lord spoke the words of God to “a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.” In this passage our Lord clears the table and tells it like it is. He tells Nicodemus in v3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Of course, Nicodemus doesn’t “get it at first and asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” in v4 and, “How can these things be?” in v9. In between those two perplexed questions, our Lord, the Λόγος or logos or Word, the living Christian proclamation as a whole of the New Testament proclaimed τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ or “the words of God” to Nicodemus in a way that he had never heard before. He said,”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” As we read in John 3:34 (above), He spoke or uttered the ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ to this man and all who read John 3. What did he say? Only those born again are part of the Kingdom of God and to be born again is to be born of the Spirit. Notice carefully that this rebirth is not something controlled by or contained by or comprehended by people of the flesh. Everyone truly born of the Spirit are so by the work of the Holy Spirit not by the works of men. These are the ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ.
1 “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1
(translated from the NA28 Greek text)
In John 15:1, we have our Lord’s last of His seven “I am” sayings signifying His claim of deity. The word “true” in v1 translates the adjective ἀληθινὴ, which is nominative, singular of ἀληθινός or alēthinos, “unfeigned, trustworthy, true.” The nominative case form, ἀληθινὴ of ἀληθινός means that the metaphor our Lord is making of Him being the “true vine” is subject to the main verb in the sentence with is εἰμι, which, of course, means, in this context, “am.” Therefore, our Lord is saying that the fact that He is, in fact, deity means that He is the “true vine.” What this means, of course, is that there are “other vines,” but He is the only one who is “true” and God the Father is the γεωργός or vinedresser. The noun γεωργός or geōrgos, “can refer to the owner of a farm or to those who work the farm.” Here our Lord is using this term metamorphically to refer to God the Father as the owner of a vineyard, the “vinedresser.”
34 Do not think that I cam to bring peace on the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. Matthew 10:34 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The peace that Christians have because they are in Christ is between them and God and because of that, with each other. However, that does not mean that there will be peace between them and those not in Christ. In fact, these words of our Lord in Matthew 10:34-38 make it clear that those truly in Christ will be so changed by the Gospel, the presence of the Holy Spirit in them, and their new nature that there will be inevitable separation between them and those who are not in Christ. This holds true even within families. This is true because the genuine believer is so changed that no matter what sort of pressure comes to bear on them, they simply cannot be at peace with the ways of the world or the ways of the flesh. Their conscience is bound to Christ and His Word while those not in Christ have consciences bound to the flesh no matter how religious they are.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, for a little while now, if it is necessary, having been grieved by various trials, 7 that the tested genuineness of you faith—infinitely more valuable than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6.7 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
A few weeks ago we looked at the doctrine of the imputation and what that means to the believer and what implications it has on both how we handle the gospel and how we live this Christian life. The following quote is from John Wesley, “The doctrine of imputation saws off the leg of holiness…” I am writing this post because in our time men like Rick Warren and those who follow him are revealing their Pelagian roots by insisting that people must “work” in order to be right with God and that the doctrine of imputation is something “made up” by the Reformers like Calvin. I actually had that accusation thrown at me in a Facebook discussion group the other day.
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NASB)
The Apostle Paul defined the gospel for us throughout his writings in the New Testament. In these dark spiritual times in which people believe their opinions and feelings are consistent with “truth” it is vital that we know God’s truth and make it known to all who will hear. I would like to start in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. I placed vv1-2 at the top of this post. In v1 he tells us that he is going to define the Gospel (εὐαγγέλιον) as a process. In this process, the Gospel must be proclaimed (εὐηγγελισάμην) and through this some who hear it will receive it and it is their very foundation. I pray that you noticed the similarities between the two Greek words above. The word εὐαγγέλιον is Greek for “a good message” or “the good news.” The word εὐηγγελισάμην literally means “announce good news.” It is the word from which we get our English word “evangelize.” Notice also that those who hear the good news and are saved by it also stand (ἑστήκατε) within it because it is their foundation. This Greek word means “you stand.” They abide in the covenant of the Gospel because it is now their foundation.
16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Revelation 3:16-18 (NASB)
I have stopped listening to the media on anything having to do with politics. Since the entertainment elites are bound and determined to have their say in the political fray I have also stopped watching much of that, of course, I don’t watch that much TV anyway so this isn’t a great sacrifice for me. This morning on Facebook a good friend posted something where she was venting about the stuff that had gone on at the Emmys last night. I didn’t see it so I had no idea what it was, but I had a good idea by reading some of the comments. I made this comment:
I quit watching the news several months ago. I guess I don’t know what is going on, but then again, my hope is not in a President or a political party. My hope is in Christ. Pray for your family. Pray for your lost relatives and friends. Be that person always ready to be the hands and feet of Christ in all situations. Racism is for fools. Our enemy is using all those negative things to divide us. Get you focus back on Christ and follow Him. I have to work on this as well…
As we walk out our lives here in the Church age where should our focus be? I know many professing Christians who are all about using politics and political parties to maneuver things around in such a way that they believe they can bring about a national revival of some sort. I was serious in my comment that our hope cannot be in those things. No our focus, our hope, must be in Christ and our treasure, therefore, must not be here in this lost and dying world, but in Heaven.