Friday, November 30, 2012

An Exclusion to Faith

John 5:44 KJV
How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

Jesus gives here an exclusion of faith. Regardless of what a man might say he does or does not believe; believing in Christ, trusting Him, is impossible if we have desire for any honor other than that that comes from God only. Any honor that seeks both the praise of God and that of other men (even those who are professed believers) negates faith. It makes it void and in fact unreal.

We have got to abandon the desire for applause and recognition and seek alone that honor that God gives and no one else will. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Place to Go Back Too

John 4:5 KJV
Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

It is remarkable that, even in the New Testament, such care is given to remember and record significant events that happened in this or that place in the land God had given His people. In this case it serves as a reminder of God's grace in that land as it was at
  • This place Abraham first built an altar and it is
  • This place Jacob had given to Joseph
But this place, to provide a contrast for the current event, had become a place of drunkenness (The Ephraimites were noted for that[1]) and of the rebellion of Jeroboam. It is this place that one again finds grace.

There is no guarantee that remembering our past will guide us in our future, but it is a guarantee that to forget our past will leave us adrift in our future. Those who remove the ancient landmarks are likely to never find their way home.
  • To review our past, our heritage, especially spiritually, and
  • To keep it forefront in our meditations
will, if not keep us on course, help us find our way back when we lose our course.

We must know our heritage. We must, frequently study
  • Where God found us
  • How He brought business out and
  • What were the instruments of His working
if we would keep on course. When we find we have lost our way the thing to do is go back to that place where it was lost and there call upon the Lord for a fresh start in our old path.

There is grace to be found in those old places of the faith.



[1] Isaiah 28:1 KJV
Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Only Name that Matters

John 3:28 KJV
Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.

John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New Testament preachers. As such his ministry is prophetic of all New Testament ministries. John's place was never to make a name for himself but to always point to Christ.
  • When people came to him, his response was always the same; find Christ.
  • When word got to him that men were following Jesus (to the exclusion of John) his response was "…this my joy therefore is fulfilled."
And so it should be for the preacher today. Our watchword must ever be, "I must decrease." It is simply not about us and what people may make of us. The only name that matters is the name of Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Believers, Believing

John 2:11 KJV
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

Here is a humbling and hopeful thought. Jesus was at this wedding with his first disciples.
  • They were followers of His.
  • They had previously believed Him to be the Messiah.
  • They had left family and occupations to learn at his feet.
They were believers. But here their belief was strengthened, confirmed and developed by the observation of Christ's miracle.

Is it not true that we, who are believers, are very aware of our own personal shortcomings in faith? We know that we believe but we also know that there is
  • So much unbelief
  • So much that is backwards and not what it ought to be
  • So much in our life is inconsistent with what we understand should be true of the follower of the Lord

In our humility there is reason here for hope.
  • As we walk with the Lord
  • As we live for Jesus Christ
  • As we observe His working in the world
we, who are believers, may believe more deeply. Our commitment to Christ may become more firm, our love for Him more profound.

It seems to me that there is but one requirement for this growth to take place; we must be His disciples. That is, we must be present where Christ is, following Him wherever He may be found. In order to grow through the observation of Christ's work, we must be there when He works.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Same

John 1:2 KJV
The same was in the beginning with God.

An interesting passage, this verse repeats for emphasis and clarity what was first written in verse one. The same becomes a near title for the Lord Jesus Christ. The phrase could also be translated "This One."
  • This One who is the Word
  • This One who was God in the beginning
  • This One who was with God in the beginning

This same One who is referred to in verse one was in the beginning with God.

Word Pictures of the New Testament[1] says that this verse links together two ideas
  • “In the beginning He was with God”
  • “Afterwards in time He came to be with man”

Taken together the two verses teach us three doctrines concerning Christ
  • His pre-existence before He became man
  • His personality as the Creator and
  • His deity as God in fact

  • The One who was in the beginning
  • The One who was with God and
  • The One who was God

He is the same One who has saved me from my sins.


[1] WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT by Archibald Thomas Robertson , “This one,” the Logos of John_1:1, repeated for clarity, characteristic of John’s style. He links together into one phrase two of the ideas already stated separately, “in the beginning he was with God,” “afterwards in time he came to be with man” (Marcus Dods). Thus John clearly states of the Logos Pre-existence before Incarnation, Personality, Deity.”

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Damage Done by One Sinner

Ecclesiastes 9:18 KJV
Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

Gill
"…his own soul by his sins, and the souls of others by his counsels, example, and conversation, which corrupt good manners; so does one sinner in a family, neighbourhood, and town; as one poor wise man does much good, one sinner mars much; one Achan in a camp or army, one bad counsel for in a cabinet, one false teacher in the church, will do a great deal of mischief, as well as one debauchee in a town or city."

I doubt that any of us realize the damage that is done by our sin. We have grown so accustomed to sin. It is all around us and indeed in us.
  • Sin is the cause of death in this world
  • Sin is the cause of all fighting and disagreement
  • Sin destroys families, churches and indeed, nations
  • Sin separates us from God
Yet we think little of our sin, feel it is our right to continue in it and that no other has a right to judge us for it.

May God open our eyes to the good that is ruined by sin so that we may speedily seek the grace of God to overcome it. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Where the Living Are


Luke 24:5 KJV
And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?

Gill writes:
"Nor is Christ to be found among dead sinners, or lifeless professors, but among living saints, and among the churches of the living God;
nor is life to be found among the dead works of the law, or to be obtained by lifeless performances on the dead letter of the law."

People tend to seek for the spiritual in all the wrong places: among the
  • shamans and
  • philosopher's and
  • practitioners of the world
among those who profess a sort of spirituality but who are themselves yet dead in trespasses and sins.

The living only inhabit those places of life.
  • In the true churches of Christ
  • Where the Word is faithfully preached
  • Among people who through faith have met the living Saviour

It's not the first place you'll be drawn to go when you look for life. Your own nature will lead you to large and beautiful places. But they put the dead in whited sepulchers. You'll find the living where small bands of generally outcast believers meet in obedience to the Lord. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

The End of a Thing


Ecclesiastes 7:8 KJV
Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

One of the great observations I have seen over the years of my salvation has been that the beginning of a thing has little importance compared to how it ends. The month I began to pastor the church in Astoria another man began a church in Klamath Falls. As the two of us approached the end of the first year I was meeting with a small handful of people in an abandoned gas station, but he had purchased a building and had assembled nearly one hundred people. However by the end of the year he had left and I could not even tell you his name; I doubt any pastor in Oregon could. But we continued on.

Over these very nearly thirty years I have witnessed many who have come, seemed to make a big splash at the beginning, only to quickly quit. McMinnville had one of those. Wearing his black and white dress shoes, He loved to introduce himself as the pastor of the most exciting church in Oregon. In a few months time, there was no new church in Oregon. Some of the most well known pastors in the independent Baptist churches have ended as criminals and sexual perverts. Some of the pastors of the fastest growing churches have fallen in huge ways. The end of a thing is better than the beginning because we really have no idea what a thing really is until its end.
And so it is with every man. We ought not judge our own lives by where they are today but by where they end.

The Biblical Illustrator gives this:
"I. At the end of his life he is introduced into a better state.
1. He begins his life amidst impurity.
The first air he breathes, the first word he hears, the first impression he receives, are tainted with sin; but at its end he is introduced to purity, saints, angels, Christ, God!
2. He begins his life on trial. It is a race—shall he win?
 It is a voyage—shall he reach the haven? The end determines all.
3. He begins his life amidst suffering
“Man is born to trouble.”
II. At the end of his life he is introduced into better occupations.
Our occupations here are threefold—physical, intellectual, moral. All these are more or less of a painful kind. But in the state into which death introduces us, the engagements will be congenial to the tastes, invigorating to the frame, delightful to the soul and honouring to God.
III. At the end of his life he is introduced into better society.
We are made for society. But society here is frequently insincere, non-intelligent, unaffectionate. But how delightful the society into which death will introduce us! We shall mingle with enlightened, genuine, warm-hearted souls, rising in teeming numbers, grade above grade, up to the Eternal God Himself. (Homilist.)"

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Few Words


Ecclesiastes 5:2 KJV
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

The preacher gives some sound counsel to preachers right here. Pastors are given to see it as their place to be the spokesmen of the church. After all, they stand to bring the message of God service after service. But for him to remember that God is in heaven and the preacher is on earth; that serves to keep him humble.

The preacher's own words at church should be few. Rather than filling the congregation's ears with his own thoughts about politics or philosophy or even about theology, the preacher would do best to keep those words but few and fill the congregation's souls with the Scriptures. We must preach the Word and not just preach around the Word. We must give those congregations God entrusts to us, His Word and not our thoughts about His Word. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Tears of the Oppressed


Ecclesiastes 4:1 KJV
So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

That this phrase begins with the conjunction "and" gives even more weight to an already striking verse.
  • Here is a man with prominence and power
  • Here is a man with wealth and wisdom
  • Here is a man who possesses more than most men can imagine.
He is discontent, not with materials but with their value. Having all, he finds he owns so little of real worth. As he seeks fulfillment and purpose he beholds the tears of those who are oppressed and have no comforter.

I suggest this is a good place to stop the search for meaning and fulfillment. I suggest that every man who has the means would find his life much more meaningful if he or she will behold the tears of such as are oppressed and use the means in their possession to bring to the comfort. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

One Lone Man

Luke 23:51 KJV
(The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.

Joseph of Arimathaea was a rare sort of man. Though everyone else in the leadership of Israel supported the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, He stood as one lone man, opposed.
  • He was not able to change the will of the majority but he was able to maintain his own integrity
  • He was not able to prevent the death of Jesus but he was able to offer Christ a proper grave
  • He was not capable of turning the tide of public opinion but he was capable of keeping his spirit looking for the Lord

The world will go where it goes. We will not be able to prevent it. But we certainly do not have to partake in it. Even when we stand alone[1] we stand in the right when we stand for Jesus Christ.


[1] I am reminded that, though only Joseph in mentioned here, Nicodemus was also a silent follower of Jesus Christ. When we stand alone it is helpful to remember that there are others standing alone somewhere. We are not really ever alone; we are just never in the majority. Heaven will be filled with men and women who, alone, stood for Jesus Christ only to find in heaven, they were never really alone.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hard Working Mom

Proverbs 31:31 KJV
Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

I am always amazed at how this passage is misrepresented in our current Christian culture.
  • We prize the man who is industrious and hard working, who rises early and makes hay while the sun is shining
  • We nearly denigrate the woman who does the same
Our current picture of wives being "keepers at home"[1] requires that we re-write the Proverbs 31 woman and wrest the Scriptures in ways that are terrible to God's Word and burdensome to families.

This woman, if she is anything, is a hard working mom. She does not spend all of her time at home, but does business in
  • Real estate
  • Factories of manufacture
  • Merchandising and
  • Personnel management

In the culture difference her time she made the household income and thereby freed her husband to occupy his time in influencing the
  • Thought
  • Politics and
  • Government
of his day; no doubt a very important occupation.

Ours is a different culture, but to insist that the woman must stay at home is an abuse of the Bible and panders to our male egos, desiring to be the bread winners, and the flesh (of the wife) not wishing to rise up early, stay up late, and care for both home and business.


[1] Titus 2:5, the teaching of the Bible must reconcile both passages. To insist that keepers at home means that the wife is only a house wife and to make an interpretation of Proverbs 31 that keeps her in the home is abusive of the Bible and of the truth. It is interpreting the Bible according to our preference rather than understanding the Bible and letting it teach us.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Every Word


Proverbs 30:5 KJV
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.


Gill writes of this verse...
"The whole word of God. "All Scripture", given by inspiration of God, to which Agur directs, as giving the best account of God, of his name, nature, and perfections; of his Son, person, offices, and grace; being pure, very pure, "purified" (z) like silver, purified in a furnace of earth. The whole of Scripture is pure, free from all falsehood and error; coming from the God of truth, who cannot lie, and therefore called "the Scriptures of truth": every promise is pure as well as precious, made without dissimulation, faithfully performed, and all yea and amen in Christ; every doctrine is pure, free from the mixtures and inventions of men; the sincere milk of the word; consistent and all of a piece, not yea and nay; and tending to promote purity of heart and life; wholesome words, and doctrines according to godliness"

The question is begged then, what does every, and what does pure mean?

If every word of God is pure, then how can that account for the so called errors that the higher critics and purveyors of modern translations like to insist upon. If every word is pure then how does this jive with the modern preacher's attestation that the Bible is more than ninety nine percent incorrupt? Certainly, they say, it is good enough we can trust it, but in practice they demonstrate it is off enough they feel a liberty to tweak it. Every means every; without exception.

Pure means "as having come through the refiner's fire." It means that it has been tried and tested. It grants that a process has been accomplished. But today the modern Biblical scholar throws the dross back into the mix. Not satisfied that the work is finished, ever anxious to keep his craft alive, he must find excuse to light the furnace and he does it with the dross. He has discovered the slag the old refiners discarded and he creates from it an ever newer but always corrupt version with which to justify his work and sell his wares.

The reason I know when the refiner's work was done is because I know when the scholars began adding the dross back in. The King James Version was the last translation that worked without the corrupted manuscripts. From there on out, even with modern attempts to refine the KJV, those corrupted texts were in some measure put back in the mix.

  • I believe God
  • I believe that He has superintended over the history of mankind to deliver us a Bible that is in every word, pure
  • believe that exists in the King James Bible

They Thought


Luke 19:11 KJV
And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.

The disciples had just heard Jesus tell Zacchaeus "This day salvation is come to this house." Apparently they took that as a sign of a physical salvation and not an eternal one.

We are constantly prone to the same error.
  • We translate eternal things into temporal things
  • We look for earthly parallels to spiritual promises and then
  • We get upset at God when our expectations are deflated
Keep your eyes on eternity. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Authority


Luke 20:2 KJV
And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?

The issue of authority was big then as it is now. In our day people are taught to question authority. I suppose it has never been that much different. But that authority is a necessary element of civilized people is obvious to all but the basest of anarchists. The origin of authority is varied:
There is enforced authority
Such as that of the police; the authority is demanded because of a badge. Sometimes the man with this authority is as guilty as those he may be policing. His own integrity has little to do with his authority. In some instances to challenge his authority is in itself a crime.
There is inherited authority
Such as belongs to a military officer whose authority is the result of an education and commission.
There is earned authority
When a man has proven himself a leader and those who may have at first followed out of duty begin to follow out of devotion.
There is voluntary authority
When people follow a man because they believe in his cause or His message.

The highest of all authority is that which is given by God
It is seldom (except in the case of government which is ordained of God) forced upon its subjects.

Jesus was not compelled to tell them who gave His authority. They would not have believed Him and He would not have forced them to. The authority which is of God seeks to lead people through conviction rather than compulsion. Those who possess this authority use only the Word of God. They depend upon the embracing of the Word by their listeners. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Worse than a fool

Proverbs 26:12 KJV
Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

The Bible has no good to say of the fool:
·         He says in his heart there is no God[1]
·         He refuses instruction[2]
·         So low is a fool that Jesus warned the disciples of the sin of accusing a man of being one[3]
Gill calls the fool a profane person. He is lost in his sin and he generally refuses the message of the gospel.

But this proverb tells us that there is one more hopeless than the fool; He is the self-conceited, self-righteous man. That man who cannot see that he is a shameful sinner is in far worse shape than the man who cannot see that God is. God will always reveal Himself, but the self righteous man may very well admit that God is, he just thinks that everything is well between him and God.

This delusional sin can take on many forms:
·    It might be the religious man who, believing his deeds of religion have earned him admittance before God, refuses to see a need for a Saviour
·    It might be the minister or priest, who has convinced himself that his service to his church has purchased his way into the holiest
·     It could be the worldly good man who sees himself as being better than most men
But whatever for it takes, it has the same consequences; there is no hope of salvation for the man who cannot see his need of salvation.




[1] Psalms 14:1 KJV
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
[2] Proverbs 23:9 KJV
Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.
[3] Matthew 5:22 KJV
But I say unto you, …. but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Foolish Change

Proverbs 24:21 KJV
My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:

I once knew a young pastor who, after a period of time, decided to make "change" his signature in the ministry. He often bragged in his sermons about
  • How he was given to change, that
  • It was in his nature and that
  • He had always been that way and,
when an old "rock" in the church died, this young pastor was so bold as to insist at his funeral that the deceased believer, though always cautious against the types of changes the pastor was making, actually liked what this pastor had done in the church. They are no longer Baptist. They are now followers of some of the most radical and progressively arrogant Protestants in the country. His change has destroyed what his church asked him to do when they called him.

There is no doubt that some changes become necessary.
  • We have changed from type writers to computers
  • We have changed from buggies to vehicles
But there is a difference between changing for efficiency and having a restless spirit of change.

Only the restless fool questions that it is obvious that change, for the sake of change, is always leads to spiritual decline. It never builds but always results in calamity.
  • Wise children of God make improvements but recognize the value of heritage and stability
  • Fools disregard these traditions and lead those who follow them into ditches

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What Shall I Do?

Luke 16:3-5 KJV
Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?

Every man needs a "What shall I do?" moment if not many of them.
  • Every man must come face to face with the consequences of his sin staring him in the face, then ask himself, "What shall I do?"
  • The Christian also comes to those places in life when God is calling him and he must ask, "What shall I do?"
  • We may frequently hear a message that confronts a sin in our lives and our response must be, "What shall I do?"

The Lord commended this steward because when faced with that period in his life he:
Assessed the options
"What shall I do?"

Made a plan
"I am resolved... "

Set to work
"So he called... "

May we each do the same. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Consider This


Proverbs 21:12 KJV
The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the wicked: but God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness.

What wisdom could a righteous man gain from considering the house of the wicked? There are three answers possible. I tend to take it that when a passage has more than one very probable interpretation, God so ordained that we could benefit from each:
The righteous man could refer to God Himself
Who considers the wicked and keeps record
  • Of their actions and sin
  • Of their training their children to sin, of the abuses of their privileges
  • Of their carelessness for the souls and the souls of their children.
The eyes of the Lord run to and fro, beholding the evil and the good.

It could refer to the believer observing the lost and learning from them what not to do.
We can contrast the outcome of the life of those who live for God with that of those who live wickedly and see that the fruit of righteousness is much to be preferred.

It could also mean that the righteous man gets to know the wicked with a desire to reach them with the gospel.
A wise believer wants to win his neighbors. He knows that they will eventually be overthrown unless they are won to the Lord.
  • He studies the best way to reach them, to be friends with them but to carefully associate so as not to be spotted with their sin.
  • He comes to know perhaps, their interests and finds that common ground which is a suitable place to meet, develop a friendship and then present to them the gospel.
He also learns that ground he must not follow his neighbor onto, knowing that there the influence will be more towards their fall and their neighbor's salvation. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

At the Resurrection


Luke 14:14 KJV
And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Most Christians, I think, want recompense at the resurrection of the just. I doubt there is a Christian who doesn't want treasures laid up for themselves in heaven. But our actions make it appear to me that we attempt to lay up our earthly treasures in a way we hope will lay up also those heavenly ones. We work for earthly gain hoping that we are doing it in such a way that we have heavenly gain as a by product. The fact is Jesus did not give us leave to lay up earthly gain at all. Ours is to give in this world seeking only recompense at the resurrection of the just.

I ought to behave myself in a manner that betrays that my only hope of reward is heavenly. When I do that there may frequently be some earthly blessing along the way.
  • I may find friends when I show myself friendly
  • I may receive of men when I give
  • I might see fruit of my labor when I am a witness for the Lord
But
  • I should never be friendly so that I have friends
  • I should never give just so men will give to me
  • I should never witness just so I may see the fruit of my labor
To do so would betray an insincerity in my actions and focuses on the wrong thing. I ought to do what I do out of obedience to the Lord and not out of some recompense I want right now.