Christian authenticity – the example of Christ

Ὀφείλομεν δὲ ἡμεῖς οἱ δυνατοὶ τὰ ἀσθενήματα τῶν ἀδυνάτων βαστάζειν καὶ μὴ ἑαυτοῖς ἀρέσκειν. ἕκαστος ἡμῶν τῷ πλησίον ἀρεσκέτω εἰς τὸ ἀγαθὸν πρὸς οἰκοδομήν· καὶ γὰρ ὁ Χριστὸς οὐχ ἑαυτῷ ἤρεσεν, ἀλλὰ καθὼς γέγραπται· οἱ ὀνειδισμοὶ τῶν ὀνειδιζόντων σε ἐπέπεσαν ἐπʼ ἐμέ. ὅσα γὰρ προεγράφη, εἰς τὴν ἡμετέραν διδασκαλίαν ἐγράφη, ἵνα διὰ τῆς ὑπομονῆς καὶ διὰ τῆς παρακλήσεως τῶν γραφῶν τὴν ἐλπίδα ἔχωμεν. ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς ὑπομονῆς καὶ τῆς παρακλήσεως δῴη ὑμῖν τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖν ἐν ἀλλήλοις κατὰ Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν, ἵνα ὁμοθυμαδὸν ἐν ἑνὶ στόματι δοξάζητε τὸν θεὸν καὶ πατέρα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Διὸ προσλαμβάνεσθε ἀλλήλους, καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς προσελάβετο ὑμᾶς εἰς δόξαν τοῦ θεοῦ. Romans 15:1–7, NA28

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on ME.” For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. Romans 15:1–7, NASB

Christ-likeness is what we call the desired outcome of our maturing in Christ. Even as we remain in our renovation from sinful, flesh-bound yet redeemed believers to spirit-filled, obedient, and mature believers we will begin to manifest Christ’s character in our walk. God seems to enjoy surprising us in our testing when we respond to that which is unreasonable with grace and patience. This, of course, is part of the fruit of the spirit that is manifest through the spirit-filled.

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Christian authenticity – do not cause another to stumble

οἶδα καὶ πέπεισμαι ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ ὅτι οὐδὲν κοινὸν διʼ ἑαυτοῦ, εἰ μὴ τῷ λογιζομένῳ τι κοινὸν εἶναι, ἐκείνῳ κοινόν. εἰ γὰρ διὰ βρῶμα ὁ ἀδελφός σου λυπεῖται, οὐκέτι κατὰ ἀγάπην περιπατεῖς· μὴ τῷ βρώματί σου ἐκεῖνον ἀπόλλυε ὑπὲρ οὗ Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν. μὴ βλασφημείσθω οὖν ὑμῶν τὸ ἀγαθόν. οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ βρῶσις καὶ πόσις ἀλλὰ δικαιοσύνη καὶ εἰρήνη καὶ χαρὰ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ· ὁ γὰρ ἐν τούτῳ δουλεύων τῷ Χριστῷ εὐάρεστος τῷ θεῷ καὶ δόκιμος τοῖς ἀνθρώποις. Ἄρα οὖν τὰ τῆς εἰρήνης διώκωμεν καὶ τὰ τῆς οἰκοδομῆς τῆς εἰς ἀλλήλους. μὴ ἕνεκεν βρώματος κατάλυε τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ. πάντα μὲν καθαρά, ἀλλὰ κακὸν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τῷ διὰ προσκόμματος ἐσθίοντι. καλὸν τὸ μὴ φαγεῖν κρέα μηδὲ πιεῖν οἶνον μηδὲ ἐν ᾧ ὁ ἀδελφός σου προσκόπτει. σὺ πίστιν [ἣν] ἔχεις κατὰ σεαυτὸν ἔχε ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. μακάριος ὁ μὴ κρίνων ἑαυτὸν ἐν ᾧ δοκιμάζει· ὁ δὲ διακρινόμενος ἐὰν φάγῃ κατακέκριται, ὅτι οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως· πᾶν δὲ ὃ οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως ἁμαρτία ἐστίν. Romans 14:14–23, NA28

I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. Romans 14:14–23, NASB

In Romans 14:1–13, we looked at the Law of Liberty that genuine believers have in Christ. This Law is not license for licentiousness but, rather, it is freedom to not be bound by ritual or religiosity while denying self in order to not cause strife and disunity in the body of Christ by practicing that liberty in a way that causes those with weak faith to have battles with their conscience. In this lesson we will finish Romans 14 in looking at vv. 14–23. This passage is actually a continuation of Paul’s teaching on this vital topic for the Church in our day.

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Christian authenticity – do not pass judgment on one another

Τὸν δὲ ἀσθενοῦντα τῇ πίστει προσλαμβάνεσθε, μὴ εἰς διακρίσεις διαλογισμῶν. ὃς μὲν πιστεύει φαγεῖν πάντα, ὁ δὲ ἀσθενῶν λάχανα ἐσθίει. ὁ ἐσθίων τὸν μὴ ἐσθίοντα μὴ ἐξουθενείτω, ὁ δὲ μὴ ἐσθίων τὸν ἐσθίοντα μὴ κρινέτω, ὁ θεὸς γὰρ αὐτὸν προσελάβετο. σὺ τίς εἶ ὁ κρίνων ἀλλότριον οἰκέτην; τῷ ἰδίῳ κυρίῳ στήκει ἢ πίπτει· σταθήσεται δέ, δυνατεῖ γὰρ ὁ κύριος στῆσαι αὐτόν. Ὃς μὲν [γὰρ] κρίνει ἡμέραν παρʼ ἡμέραν, ὃς δὲ κρίνει πᾶσαν ἡμέραν· ἕκαστος ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ νοῒ πληροφορείσθω. ὁ φρονῶν τὴν ἡμέραν κυρίῳ φρονεῖ · καὶ ὁ ἐσθίων κυρίῳ ἐσθίει, εὐχαριστεῖ γὰρ τῷ θεῷ· καὶ ὁ μὴ ἐσθίων κυρίῳ οὐκ ἐσθίει καὶ εὐχαριστεῖ τῷ θεῷ. οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἡμῶν ἑαυτῷ ζῇ καὶ οὐδεὶς ἑαυτῷ ἀποθνῄσκει· ἐάν τε γὰρ ζῶμεν, τῷ κυρίῳ ζῶμεν, ἐάν τε ἀποθνῄσκωμεν, τῷ κυρίῳ ἀποθνῄσκομεν. ἐάν τε οὖν ζῶμεν ἐάν τε ἀποθνῄσκωμεν, τοῦ κυρίου ἐσμέν. εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν καὶ ἔζησεν, ἵνα καὶ νεκρῶν καὶ ζώντων κυριεύσῃ. Σὺ δὲ τί κρίνεις τὸν ἀδελφόν σου; ἢ καὶ σὺ τί ἐξουθενεῖς τὸν ἀδελφόν σου; πάντες γὰρ παραστησόμεθα τῷ βήματι τοῦ θεοῦ, γέγραπται γάρ· ζῶ ἐγώ, λέγει κύριος, ὅτι ἐμοὶ κάμψει πᾶν γόνυ καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσεται τῷ θεῷ. ἄρα [οὖν] ἕκαστος ἡμῶν περὶ ἑαυτοῦ λόγον δώσει [τῷ θεῷ]. Μηκέτι οὖν ἀλλήλους κρίνωμεν· ἀλλὰ τοῦτο κρίνατε μᾶλλον, τὸ μὴ τιθέναι πρόσκομμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ ἢ σκάνδαλον. Romans 14:1–13, NA28

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this— not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. Romans 14:1–13, NASB

When I encounter a believer who is legalistic, no matter how well versed they are on the Biblical passages they specialize in, I know I am dealing with someone who is spiritually immature. The more mature we become in Christ the more Christlike we become and that means we do not pass judgment on those who do not understand the Law of Liberty.

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Christian authenticity – fulfilling the law through love

Μηδενὶ μηδὲν ὀφείλετε εἰ μὴ τὸ ἀλλήλους ἀγαπᾶν· ὁ γὰρ ἀγαπῶν τὸν ἕτερον νόμον πεπλήρωκεν. τὸ γὰρ οὐ μοιχεύσεις, οὐ φονεύσεις, οὐ κλέψεις, οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις, καὶ εἴ τις ἑτέρα ἐντολή, ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ ἀνακεφαλαιοῦται [ἐν τῷ] · ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. ἡ ἀγάπη τῷ πλησίον κακὸν οὐκ ἐργάζεται· πλήρωμα οὖν νόμου ἡ ἀγάπη. Καὶ τοῦτο εἰδότες τὸν καιρόν, ὅτι ὥρα ἤδη ὑμᾶς ἐξ ὕπνου ἐγερθῆναι, νῦν γὰρ ἐγγύτερον ἡμῶν ἡ σωτηρία ἢ ὅτε ἐπιστεύσαμεν. ἡ νὺξ προέκοψεν, ἡ δὲ ἡμέρα ἤγγικεν. ἀποθώμεθα οὖν τὰ ἔργα τοῦ σκότους, ἐνδυσώμεθα [δὲ] τὰ ὅπλα τοῦ φωτός. ὡς ἐν ἡμέρᾳ εὐσχημόνως περιπατήσωμεν, μὴ κώμοις καὶ μέθαις, μὴ κοίταις καὶ ἀσελγείαις, μὴ ἔριδι καὶ ζήλῳ, ἀλλʼ ἐνδύσασθε τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ τῆς σαρκὸς πρόνοιαν μὴ ποιεῖσθε εἰς ἐπιθυμίας. Romans 13:8–14, NA28

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. Romans 13:8–14 NASB

Human Reason can be an idol. In those who consider themselves to be “intellectual” or have been educated in philosophy thereby become existentialists, Human Reason is seen as the path to perfection. These will discount in various degrees how relevant or pervasive Holy Scripture, God’s Word, is in being the basis of truth. To these, Human Reason far outweighs the Bible in determining truth. Some see Scripture as totally irrelevant. Others see it as a valuable “historical” book. Sadly, many professing Christians are guilty of worshiping at the altar of Human Reason while their Bibles gather dust somewhere.

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Christian authenticity – submission to authorities

Πᾶσα ψυχὴ ἐξουσίαις ὑπερεχούσαις ὑποτασσέσθω. οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν ἐξουσία εἰ μὴ ὑπὸ θεοῦ, αἱ δὲ οὖσαι ὑπὸ θεοῦ τεταγμέναι εἰσίν. ὥστε ὁ ἀντιτασσόμενος τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ τῇ τοῦ θεοῦ διαταγῇ ἀνθέστηκεν, οἱ δὲ ἀνθεστηκότες ἑαυτοῖς κρίμα λήμψονται. οἱ γὰρ ἄρχοντες οὐκ εἰσὶν φόβος τῷ ἀγαθῷ ἔργῳ ἀλλὰ τῷ κακῷ. θέλεις δὲ μὴ φοβεῖσθαι τὴν ἐξουσίαν· τὸ ἀγαθὸν ποίει, καὶ ἕξεις ἔπαινον ἐξ αὐτῆς· θεοῦ γὰρ διάκονός ἐστιν σοὶ εἰς τὸ ἀγαθόν. ἐὰν δὲ τὸ κακὸν ποιῇς, φοβοῦ· οὐ γὰρ εἰκῇ τὴν μάχαιραν φορεῖ· θεοῦ γὰρ διάκονός ἐστιν ἔκδικος εἰς ὀργὴν τῷ τὸ κακὸν πράσσοντι. διὸ ἀνάγκη ὑποτάσσεσθαι, οὐ μόνον διὰ τὴν ὀργὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν. διὰ τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ φόρους τελεῖτε· λειτουργοὶ γὰρ θεοῦ εἰσιν εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο προσκαρτεροῦντες. ἀπόδοτε πᾶσιν τὰς ὀφειλάς, τῷ τὸν φόρον τὸν φόρον, τῷ τὸ τέλος τὸ τέλος, τῷ τὸν φόβον τὸν φόβον, τῷ τὴν τιμὴν τὴν τιμήν. Romans 13:1–7, NA28

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Romans 13:1–7, NASB

God is the sovereign ruler of the Universe. All of creation is subject to Him. He is the one who hung the Earth on nothing and set boundaries of the seas. He is the one who established the authority system that governs the peoples of the Earth. Is it okay for Christians to participate in Civil Disobedience then? Should the Church rule over government or should the government rule over the Church? God has setup the correct order of things.

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Christian authenticity – marks of the true Christian

Ἡ ἀγάπη ἀνυπόκριτος. ἀποστυγοῦντες τὸ πονηρόν, κολλώμενοι τῷ ἀγαθῷ, τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ εἰς ἀλλήλους φιλόστοργοι, τῇ τιμῇ ἀλλήλους προηγούμενοι, τῇ σπουδῇ μὴ ὀκνηροί, τῷ πνεύματι ζέοντες, τῷ κυρίῳ δουλεύοντες, τῇ ἐλπίδι χαίροντες, τῇ θλίψει ὑπομένοντες, τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτεροῦντες, ταῖς χρείαις τῶν ἁγίων κοινωνοῦντες, τὴν φιλοξενίαν διώκοντες. εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς διώκοντας [ὑμᾶς], εὐλογεῖτε καὶ μὴ καταρᾶσθε. χαίρειν μετὰ χαιρόντων, κλαίειν μετὰ κλαιόντων. τὸ αὐτὸ εἰς ἀλλήλους φρονοῦντες, μὴ τὰ ὑψηλὰ φρονοῦντες ἀλλὰ τοῖς ταπεινοῖς συναπαγόμενοι. μὴ γίνεσθε φρόνιμοι παρʼ ἑαυτοῖς. μηδενὶ κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ ἀποδιδόντες, προνοούμενοι καλὰ ἐνώπιον πάντων ἀνθρώπων· εἰ δυνατὸν τὸ ἐξ ὑμῶν, μετὰ πάντων ἀνθρώπων εἰρηνεύοντες· μὴ ἑαυτοὺς ἐκδικοῦντες, ἀγαπητοί, ἀλλὰ δότε τόπον τῇ ὀργῇ, γέγραπται γάρ· ἐμοὶ ἐκδίκησις, ἐγὼ ἀνταποδώσω, λέγει κύριος. ἀλλʼ ἐὰν πεινᾷ ὁ ἐχθρός σου, ψώμιζε αὐτόν· ἐὰν διψᾷ, πότιζε αὐτόν· τοῦτο γὰρ ποιῶν ἄνθρακας πυρὸς σωρεύσεις ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ. 21 μὴ νικῶ ὑπὸ τοῦ κακοῦ ἀλλὰ νίκα ἐν τῷ ἀγαθῷ τὸ κακόν. Romans 12:9–21, NA28

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him A drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9–21, NASB

All that is not of faith is sin. That includes good works and any religious acts that are done from any motivation or source other than faith. The Christians who walks before the face of God Spirit-filled are the ones who are walking by faith. As we have seen in this study, so far, those that become Spirit-filled are those who are living sacrifices. The continual process of mind renewal is transforming them.

This renewal is actually a complete renovation of the intellect or mind by the Holy Spirit as they become immersed more and more into the Word of God. This causes them to surrender more and more unto the Lordship of Christ. They have given over their circumstances to the Lord so they have taken up their crosses and are following the Lord.

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Christian authenticity – the gifts of grace

Λέγω γὰρ διὰ τῆς χάριτος τῆς δοθείσης μοι παντὶ τῷ ὄντι ἐν ὑμῖν μὴ ὑπερφρονεῖν παρʼ ὃ δεῖ φρονεῖν ἀλλὰ φρονεῖν εἰς τὸ σωφρονεῖν, ἑκάστῳ ὡς ὁ θεὸς ἐμέρισεν μέτρον πίστεως. καθάπερ γὰρ ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι πολλὰ μέλη ἔχομεν, τὰ δὲ μέλη πάντα οὐ τὴν αὐτὴν ἔχει πρᾶξιν, οὕτως οἱ πολλοὶ ἓν σῶμά ἐσμεν ἐν Χριστῷ, τὸ δὲ καθʼ εἷς ἀλλήλων μέλη. ἔχοντες δὲ χαρίσματα κατὰ τὴν χάριν τὴν δοθεῖσαν ἡμῖν διάφορα, εἴτε προφητείαν κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς πίστεως, εἴτε διακονίαν ἐν τῇ διακονίᾳ, εἴτε ὁ διδάσκων ἐν τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, εἴτε ὁ παρακαλῶν ἐν τῇ παρακλήσει· ὁ μεταδιδοὺς ἐν ἁπλότητι, ὁ προϊστάμενος ἐν σπουδῇ, ὁ ἐλεῶν ἐν ἱλαρότητι. Romans 12:3–8, NA28

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly:if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:3–8, NASB

As we saw in the last post dealing with Romans 12:1–2, Christian Authenticity – A Living Sacrifice, genuine Christians have a duty to God to give themselves unto Him completely. It is through become a living sacrifice that the believer’s sanctification precedes to the level of surrender. This process takes place as the Holy Spirit renovates the mind as the believer submits more and more to the Word of God in all parts of his or her life. Those who are on this path of spiritual growth become ready for service.

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Christian authenticity – a living sacrifice

Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. Romans 12:1–2, NA28

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1–2, NASB

Works righteousness is the default religion of man. However, God’s ways are not man’s ways. Neither are His thoughts man’s thoughts. His ways are higher than man’s. The Natural Man believes that the way to be justified by God is to do good works or not be as bad as those really evil people. However, Romans 1–11 makes it clear that no one is righteous or innocent. All have sinned. All are guilty. Also, there is not one thing anyone can do about that problem. Oh, people have and still try all sorts of things to try to earn salvation, to be justified by God. They become very religious. They do good works. However, Paul makes it crystal clear that that is all a total waste of time.

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The mystery and victory of the resurrection

And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:17, NASB

All of us have witnessed a certain very well known Christian leader who appears very genuine in his faith and even takes stands against those who would dilute the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ no matter how costly. He debates homosexuals who are demanding to be called “gay-Christians,” for instance, and come out of those debates very well, with those he debates licking their wounds, etc. Then, just a few weeks later we see this very same Christian leader worshipping and praying at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, even taking part in a “revival” there. This is confusing. It is also well known that this same Christian leader is virulently anti-Reformed Theology.

For those of us who are Reformed in our theology this makes it even more troubling. How are we to handle this? We must never forget my brethren that just because someone expresses that they have faith and believe does not mean that he or she actually does. One’s genuiness in Christ is not revealed by confession. The Bible teaches of only one way to know if one is truly in Christ. That is perseverance in the faith to the end.

Christians are not saved through the good works in their walk or even by the fact that they do persevere, but they prove their Christian authenticity through these things. Faithfulness is a mark of genuineness. When professing Christians wander off the path for whatever reason, this does not mean that God will forsake them, refusing to have mercy on them and bring them back.

In John Bunyan’s monumental work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, we see how easy it is for pilgrims to be deceived by all sorts of things, to become distracted; and this blinds them spiritually so that they lose sight of the spiritual and, therefore, see things through eyes of flesh. Then they find themselves off the path in all sorts of deception and trouble. God is good. He will draw His genuine believers back to the narrow path, but those who are not truly His will reside in their spiritual blindness and remain deceived in their fleshly pursuits or false doctrines.

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A calling out of all false teachers

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 1:3–4, NASB

Carefully read the passage above my brethren. The writer of the Epistle of Jude is the brother of James, the well-known leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; Gal. 2:9) and, therefore, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. In v. 3 we read that Jude had intended to write a letter on salvation as the common blessing enjoyed by all true believers.

This intent was probably to emphasize unity and fellowship among believers as he reminded them that God is no respecter of persons, however, his plans were changed. He doesn’t say why he “felt the necessity” to write something else, but what we have in this letter is actually a call to battle for the truth in light of the appearance and infiltration into the Church of apostate teachers.

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What is religious externalism?

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self- indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:25–28, NASB

Because of our old church going Purpose Driven in 2006, my wife and I left. The journey to find a new local church fellowship was a long and difficult one. One of the churches along the way was just a few blocks from the one had just left. A coworker of mine served there as part of one of their worship teams. This was one of the churches my ex-pastor was continually commenting about because of how small it started out and how big it had become while his church seemed to be stagnant, maybe even declining. The “worship” at this church was what I like to call “show time!” There are all sorts of colored lights with spotlights on those “performing.” Each had their own microphone and were all dressed in the same colors. There were at least 20 musicians on stage playing drums, keyboards, guitars, horns, you name it. The drummer was enclosed in a glass booth. It was all very “contemporary.”

After the “worship,” the main pastor walked onto the stage with the spotlights following him. The stage was black. The stairs were black. They worked the lights so that nothing could be seen on the stage except the pastor. He was dressed casually in all black. He was carrying a nice looking cardboard box that he set on the table next to the lectern. He said a few words to direct our attention to the screen that dropped down silently behind him. Then the auditorium went dark. We watched a movie for about 15 minutes of a glass blower working on a vase. The video took us through the whole process of blowing and shaping the glass. It looked like both hard work and a bit fun. In any case, when the movie ended the spot light came back up revealing the pastor preparing to open the box.

He then spoke of Jesus desperately desiring for “us” to give Him a chance to make our lives better. All we had to do was “accept” Him, and then Jesus would remake our lives unto excellence. Then he reached into the box and took out a beautiful glass vase. He told us that this vase was the one the glass blower in the movie was working on. He gestured to the vase and said, “This is what Jesus wants to do for you, to take you from corruptible sand to beautiful glass.” I don’t remember much after that. That was one of the shortest “sermons” I have ever heard.

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All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. John 6:35–37, NASB

Human reason, which is worldly wisdom, is useless for anyone to rely on in order to be saved. Our salvation is a work by all three persons in the Holy Trinity. God the Father chose his people before the foundation of the world. He set into motion all of the circumstances that would result in all of them becoming part of the Family of God. The Son, Jesus Christ, became the God-Man. He became flesh and dwelt among us. He lived a perfect, sinless life then was murdered by wicked men, dying a horrible death by crucifixion.

While dying on the cross, the Father poured out His wrath upon the Son. This wrath was against the sin of those whom He elected. Jesus became sin on their behalf. He knew no sin, but He became separate from the Father because of their sin. His death paid the price for their sin. Jesus was three days and nights in His tomb, but rose from the dead. His resurrection paved the way for all who believe on Him as Lord and Saviour for their future resurrection.

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For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12, NASB

In this day in which the truth is said to be unknowable, Christians must rely on the only source of pure truth we have. There is no truth that we can say is the complete truth unless we take it from God’s Word. The Bible is pure truth and it is the authority we rely on in order to have a firm foundation in this lost and dying world that is consuming itself in rebellion against God.

Just a few weeks ago we learned that “Christian music artist” Michael Gungor is “Christian Liberal,” that is, he rejects the infallibility of God’s Word, its inerrancy, its authority, etc. However, he said something very troubling in defending his position. He said that every Christian generation must fight the battle against those he classified as fundamentalist “Bible worshippers.” He stated his theology as being based on following Jesus not what the Bible says. However, we counter, how do you know the truth about Jesus without the infallible and complete truth about Jesus from the Word of God?

Let use look more closely at Hebrews 4:12 to learn about the Word of God and how God uses it in the lives of both believers and unbelievers.

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Jesus Christ is God; He is the Word who became flesh

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life – and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. 1 John 1:1–4, NASB

What sort of Christian message is it that is not Christ centered? Any form of preaching that is man-cenetered instead of God-centered does not contain the genuine gospel and so is not Christ centered.  Instead the focus is on the needs of the people rather then God’s glory. This includes all forms of “seeker-sensitive” preaching. I contend that the entire “seeker-sensitive” paradigm does not serve the role of bringing the lost into the Kingdom. Instead, it only confuses them.

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Yieldedness unto Spirit-filling

Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. Romans 12:1–2, NA28

Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern the will of God, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1–2, translated from the NA28 Greek text

One of the requirements for Spirit-filling, which is truly the key to that filling, is “yieldedness.” Those professing Christians I have dealt with who are mired in unbelief about God’s sovereignty, for instance, also display all outer evidence of not being filled with the Holy Spirit. What do I mean?

They are not Christlike. They do not reason critically. They are emotional about everything. They use dirty tricks and logical fallacies to try to promote their “cause” instead of stating their points and relying on the Holy Spirit to implant His truth in the hearts of those in debate. Of course, that would imply that their position was biblical, which it is not because if it were then there would be no need for such manipulation. In any case, what is the biblical nature of this “yieldedness” that enables believers to become Spirit-filled?

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The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever. Psalms 111:10, NASB

Are New Testament believers to fear God or was that only for the Old Testament? The answer to that is yes to the former and no to the latter. However, it is possible to have irrational fear of God so we must fear God properly and in the right context. So, what is a good description of right fear?

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Whom do you fear?

“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Luke 12:4–7, NASB

We are told not to fear earthly things or other people no matter how evil or violent they are. However, we are told to fear God. Much of the fear Christians have, however, is not based in their fear of God, but in the fear of their own failures being exposed or their own spiritual deficiencies being exploited by the devil’s seed. Of course some of that fear comes from the spirit of fear that dominates some Christians.

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Do you believe men or do you believe the Word?

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. Luke 2:15–20, NASB

Human faith is not the same thing as Genuine (saving) faith. The former is based in Human reason and intellect. The latter is supernatural. What passes for faith in many professing believer’s “Christianity” is a belief based in who preaches to or teaches them. This is not Genuine faith because it is not a belief in the Word or in God through the Word. These are “believers” who will eventually fall away. Some may last a lifetime, but if the fires of tribulation come upon them they slide into apostasy because their faith is not of the substance that endures.

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But who do you say that I am?

And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “ The Christ of God.” Luke 9:18–20, NASB

In our last several posts we have looked at the growing apostasy that appears to be consuming the Church. Let us not forget that there are many who claim to be “Christian” who view what we have been discussing and exploring as the very thing they are trying to accomplish. They view our exposition of it as “interference” and “over reaction.” We must never forget that only those who have the truth of God written on their hearts can see the veracity of these things.

Only they have the ability to escape the delusion that is swiftly coming upon the earth. I believe we should look at the Biblical truth about the real Christ so that we will be able recognize all impostors. We will do that in this post along with the markings of a genuine disciple, one who has the truth of God written on his or her heart.

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The meaning of discipleship

“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:32–33, NASB

I really don’t keep up with Contemporary Christian music. Before last week I had never heard of Michael Gungor. However, he must have a large following and must sell a lot of “product” because after he revealed his “personal theology” in some interviews it suddenly became a big deal. Here is a link from my friend Amy Spreeman’s web page and radio show about this.

My input on this has been that this is nothing new. What I am reading from Michael Gungor is the same thing we have been hearing from the Emergent camp for years. Also, those defending him are using the same techniques and arguments trying to cast all who disagree with him as “hick Fundamentalists” or something along those lines. Again, this is nothing new. What we must never lose sight of here is the true nature of Christian Discipleship, that is, what it is and what is not.

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Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:1–7, NASB

Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling. t is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly Than to divide the spoil with the proud. Proverbs 16:18–19, NASB

When I encounter a professing Christian who is joyless and focused entirely on trying to be fulfilled by worldly things, I want to take them aside and tell them that what they are seeking will not be found where they are looking. I want to show them that only genuine Christians who are humble as their Lord is humble find true blessedness. All truly regenerate believers have what they need to become humble and Spirit-filled, but most of us struggle for many years in the furnace of sanctification before God gives us that first taste of joy that is beyond measure.

Why do we struggle so? God knows what is best for us. Each of us is unique and God will use us according to His will in His timing. Some require much more refining than others based on what God has for them to do. However, everyone who is regenerate can experience the blessedness our Lord shared at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount. Let’s take a close look at what some call The Beatitudes.

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Spiritual death comes through Adam, while spiritual life comes through Christ alone

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned – for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. Romans 5:12–14, NASB

I cannot count how man times Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians have objected to the teachings here on the doctrines of grace through arguments against original sin. That view is totally man-focused and utterly unbiblical. On the other hand, I have many friends who have escaped from the Word of Faith Movement. When we discuss these things on public forums those who see it as their role to defend WOF usually try to attack and ridicule my friends as they testify clearly that they left churches which were becoming mired in apostasy.

Are these things related? At first glance, Pelagianism, Word of Faith, and the growing apostasy in our churches do not seem to have much of a relationship. However, there must be one because these attacks and discussions are against a common theme. That theme is the differences between the natural man mindset and the transformed mindset.

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The nature of genuine repentance

And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ezra 7:8–10, NKJV

If we study God’s Word from cover to cover we will find that only God is perfect. He is Sovereign. He is Holy. He is complete and perfectly righteous. On the other hand, people are none of the above. We are a fallen race who, even after God’s gracious regeneration of our hearts, must continually work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

That implies that we still sin. We still fall into temptation and become entangled. Even when God graciously allows us to walk in victory for awhile, we get our eyes off of Him and on ourselves and begin to believe that we are invulnerable to the worst our flesh can throw at us. That, of course, sets us up for a next stumble.

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Who we are in Christ is by God’s grace alone

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10, ESV

There are two extremes that Christians must avoid at all costs. The first is over confidence in one’s own ability, which is pride in its positive form. This causes believers to rely on their own abilities to do “good works.” The other extreme is to become paralyzed into inactivity because of pride working in its negative form.

It tries to resemble humility by proclaiming things such as, “I’m not sanctified enough to do that sort of work.” Both are attitudes of pride and are in rebellion against God.

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God’s knowledge of man is perfect and complete

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.

Psalm 139:1–4 NKJV

Our God is beyond our understanding. Thankfully, He has revealed Himself to us, to a degree, in His Word. Those who claim to serve Him, but treat His Word as if it was not important, or refuse to submit to the truths therein are fools. That has always puzzled me about those who take a sliver of God’s Word, misinterpret it, and then build massive doctrines around their misinformation. Have they no fear of God?

God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He knows all, is everywhere at once, and is all-powerful. Those who play games with Christianity must have no understanding of this for if they did, they would not dare trifle with God Almighty!

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