Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Oh Vain Man

James 2:20 KJV
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

Who is he?

He is a supposed man
I do not believe there is anyone in particular James is referring to. This isn't a rebuke leveled toward any one person but is a rhetorical tool. One who would meet these conditions would be vain.

He is a prejudiced man
His prejudice is against those who are without. There are very few prejudices that are more commonly accepted than this; those who have believe they have a right to think of themselves as better than those who haven't. Those who haven't very often have been conditioned to think of themselves as below those who have.

He is an empty man
·         His hopes to gain from his prejudices will come up empty
·         His hopes to earn future heavenly rewards will come up empty
·         His hopes for respect from God because of his position will come up empty

Monday, July 30, 2012

This Freedom Serves

James 1:25 KJV
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Doubtless there is liberty in the gospel of Christ. But not the sort that so many of today's Christians preach and practice. The liberty, the freedom that the gospel brings is a liberty to work and a freedom to serve.

Notice the action words the passage:
·         Continue
·         Doer
·         Work and
·         Deed
Far from set at liberty to go our own way, the liberty of the gospel is a liberty to be busy in the master's business.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The End of Their Conversation

Hebrews 13:7-8 KJV
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

It must be remembered that their "conversation" refers to the testimony and not their speech, which is referenced earlier in the verse. We are encouraged to follow and imitate the faith of those who are spiritual rulers over us. And we are to do that "considering the end (the results of or the object of) their conversation", which is Jesus Christ.

Everything revolves around Christ.
  • We are not following men; we are following the faith of God in them.
  • We do not seek them as our end; we seek a relationship with and the presence of Jesus Christ.
Man worship has led to preachers who exploit the Word of God for their own gain. We do have rulers
  • We do need teachers of the truth
  • We are in need of shepherds
But they are to lead us toward and to Christ and him alone. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Joy Set Before Him

Hebrews 12:2 KJV
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus endured the Cross for
  • The joy of being in his Father's presence
  • The joy of returning home
  • The joy of a finished work
  • The joy of having rescued souls

We will endure much better if we consider those things that God has set before us. If we grow a true love
  • For God
  • For His fellowship
  • For heaven as our home and
  • For the rewards that await us
We will be much more effective in suffering those things that this world may bring in our efforts to win the lost. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

We Understand

Hebrews 11:3 KJV
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

I have recently been watching a series of class lectures from Columbia University on the history of the world. The fifth lesson deals with the history of Creation (Cosmogony). The professor refers to Bishop Usher's chart defining history and giving the earth's age as four millennia from Creation to Christ. As the professor points to each of the segments of the chart he says that each segment mark a millennia and then stutters a moment, second guessing himself and supposing he should have said ten millennia.

The professor suggests that students of history are often unwittingly influenced by the Bible even if they don't believe the Bible because it records more history than any other ancient record available. But then he nearly dismisses the conclusion of the Bible, preferring to believe that man's history must begin somewhere other than where the Bible places it. Having no faith he just doesn't understand. He speculates, guesses, researches, and records his findings, but he doesn't know.

The Bible answers his problem completely. No one can understand how the world came into being without faith in the Living God. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Who Will Be My Friend?

Job 17:3 KJV
Lay down now, put me in a surety with thee; who is he that will strike hands with me?
Though the passage uses terms that are thought to describe legal terms of Job's culture;
  • Lay down describes putting on the table an earnest
  • Surety reference to some form of security deposit and
  • Striking hands would be shaking hands as a sign of agreement
I fix my attention on Job's pathetic question, "Who is he that will strike hands with me?"

I see the question on various levels
  • Who will stand with me in my time of trouble?
  • Who will greet me and be kind?
  • Who will welcome me as a friend?
The ultimate answer to these questions, and the one I believe the Scripture intends to direct us to, is Christ.  He is our advocate and friend like no other and when all others fail. When Paul confessed that no man stood with him he could still joyfully say the Lord stood by him. Jesus promised to be with us always and even unto the end of the world. Perhaps every Christian must go through and experience:
  • Like Job
  • Like Paul, and even
  • Like our Saviour
when we have been forsaken of men and must rest in our relationship with God.

But isn't there a lesson here for the compassionate Christian as well? Knowing that everyone goes through times like these can't some of us choose to take up this poor man's cause? Isn't there someone who will choose to shake a down man's hand and welcome him as a friend?

We will have plenty who chide us and judge us and even perhaps rightly correct us.

Won't someone just be a friend? 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This Takes Work

Job 16:5 KJV
But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should asswage your grief.

Job declares that, should the tables be reversed, he was as capable of the miserable conduct of his friends as they.
  • He could scold
  • He could accuse
  • He could condemn
  • He could judge
  • He could reason with the best in the world
But then he says that would do no one good so he says he would rather use his mouth to strengthen the weak and his lips to ease the pain of the grieving.

All of us have the sin nature so any of us could treat others cruelly. It takes no thought, no character to be judgmental. But to purpose to be helpful, now that takes effort. It does not come naturally and unless we train ourselves even our best efforts to speak comforting words can head south.

In order to do what Job says he would want to do, one has to determine ahead of time and learn those skills necessary to bring comforting words. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is There One?

Job 14:4 KJV
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.

Some of the commentaries suggest that there is, in the words "Who can…" an implied question, "Is there one?"[1] No man is capable of producing a completely pure thing from that which is impure. We try.
We use systems to purify water so it is healthy to drink but the best we come up with is to make it safe to drink.
We cannot remove all impurities.
We have no means of making perfectly clean even our children who are conceived in our own sin.
Though we teach and train and discipline and pray, we can never remove from them the sin nature.

No one, born in this world can bring a clean thing out of the unclean. But there is One who can.
  • Conceived of the Holy Ghost and do not of man
  • Continuing from eternity past
  • Come from His Heavenly Father
Jesus Christ can make perfectly clean the one who was born unclean.

And His method of doing so is marvelous.
  • He who is God became man
  • He obeyed all the righteousness of the Law
  • He carried on His body then sins of mankind
  • He suffered the judgment all of us should have suffered and then
  • He rose from the grave to give to us all of His righteousness.
For those of us who have been born again, He still has not finished but is committed to our sanctification whereby we are separated from this world and to Christ likeness.

[1] Gill, "… to this sense some render the words, "who can--is there one" (h)? there is, that is, God, he can do it, and he only…"

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Problem with Religion

Hebrews 7:28 KJV
For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

The Law made men, who had an infirmity, priests. What is true of the Mosaic Law is true of all religion today; it elevates sinful men.

Of course some of the most obvious would be the elevation of sinful men who became leaders of new religions:
  • Islam
  • Buddhism
  • Etc.
Then there are those who became leaders of aberrant forms of Christianity:
  • Catholicism
  • Protestantism
  • Jehovah Witnesses
  • Mormonism
  • Seventh Day Adventism
among the most common.

But it hasn't ended there. We still elevate sinful men to levels of idolatry.
  • Preachers who develop cult like followers
  • Movements that are dependent upon and centered around well known pastors
The problem with religion is that we all tend toward it and, while we may claim to be followers of Christ; too often we miss Him for the man our religious nature has made our "priest." What's more, because of the infirmity of those we make priests, they very often seek this status of priesthood over us. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Every One Of You.

Hebrews 6:11 KJV
And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

Having assured these believers that he was persuaded
  • That they were not those who had a show of salvation but not substance
  • That they produced those things that accompany a true profession
Paul, the writer of Hebrews, then proceeds to share his burden and desire for them.

And it was a burden that was for every one of them. He was not partial. He had not picked out favorites that he hoped would go on in the spiritual life. He desired that every one of them would labor and minister and follow after those who like Abraham had patiently endured not receiving the promise in this life but in the next.

Even so should be the desire of every preacher to leave no man behind[1] but to bring every one who is in his charge to the fullest assurance of faith.

[1] The seals, as I understand it, have a policy to never leave a fallen man behind. Every one goes home. The pastor should have no less a policy than that.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Salvation God Promised

Hebrews 5:7 KJV
Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;

When Christ came to this earth He came with the purpose both to seek and to save them that are lost. He came knowing that such salvation would require the Cross. He therefore never would have sought a salvation from it. Christ knew that God was able to save Him from death but not dying. Death was His whole purpose in becoming a man. His confidence was not that He would escape dying but that death itself would be defeated in resurrection.

We often want a salvation that is not that which God has promised. We want
  • A salvation from hurt and pain
  • A salvation from responsibility and accountability
We want
  • A salvation that frees us from guilt and that liberates us from expectations
  • A salvation from fear of consequences but not from those acts that bring consequences
Christ came to fulfill His purpose and not to be free of it. So ought we who claim salvation. We have been saved, but not to liberty[1]. We have been saved to service having confidence that God is able to recompense abundantly that service in glory.

[1] I know that we have liberty in Christ, ,but not the kind so many of today's Christians claim to enjoy. Theirs is license.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Qualifying That Illustration

Hebrews 3:2-4 KJV
Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.

The Apostle uses Moses as an example of Christ in verse two then spends the next two verses qualifying his illustration.

As a preacher I find this invigorating. I frequently use illustrations and examples of Christ and His gospel and of other points in a sermon. While those illustrations often work well when relating to things other than Christ, there just is no adequate illustration for Him. Every illustration has to be qualified in order to have any accuracy.

So Moses serves as an example of Christ because God did send him to deliver Israel. But the illustration breaks down in that
Moses failed in the end, having committed such a sin that he was disqualified from leading Israel to their final home.
With Christ there is no such failure
Moses built no house but only led the one that had been built.
Christ did build His house (Matthew 16:18)
In this case the builder was no ordinary man but is God.
Moses serves as an illustration but it is one that must be qualified in that Moses was not a perfect (or even great) illustration of Christ.

Any illustration we may find in this world serves to help others understand a point of truth, but always falls far short of the greatness of Christ.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

So Great Salvation

Hebrews 2:3-4 KJV
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

Our salvation is called here "so great" and is held in contrast with "the word spoken by angels" a reference to the Old Testament that was steadfast and every disobedience and transgression against it recompensed.
This salvation is worthy of even more earnest heed because
  • It was spoken by the Lord
  • It was confirmed by the preaching of those who heard Him
  • It was then witnessed (corroborated) by God through signs, wonders and the giving of the Holy Ghost
I notice that it is the whole message that is called salvation and not only the death, burial and resurrection.
  • It is the message of Christ
  • It is the purpose of Christ's coming
  • It is the constitution of the church and
  • It is all that is given in instruction surrounding it
It is this we are to give the most earnest heed, lest at any time we should let them slip. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sundry Times

Hebrews 1:1 KJV
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

Why God has chosen to work as He has is a matter of His divine wisdom, kept I believe, from the minds of mortality. His truth, His salvation, His message came, the writer says, at sundry times (the dictionaries say that means in different portions.) God chose not to speak all at once but to give His message over the course of thousands of years.

His message is a progressive one but not in the same sense as a school system progressively teaches. He gave a portion of His message and waited hundreds of years before giving the next. So
  • To Adam He gave a promise of a Saviour
  • To Noah He gave the quarter of the world from which He would come
  • To Abraham, the nation
  • To Judah,  the tribe
  • To David, the family
  • To Micah, the city
  • To Daniel the time
  • To Malachi, the forerunner
  • To Isaiah His death
  • To Jonah His burial and
  • To Hosea His resurrection (JFB)
The messages built one upon another but not in scheduled and measurable periods. God spake as God willed, sometimes giving generations substantial portions of the revelation and sometimes leaving generations to mull on that Word they had.

God's ways are past finding out.
  • Ours is to observe and marvel
  • Ours is to meditate and mull
  • Ours is to hear and obey
We do not need to figure God out; we need to bow before God.

Only in Him is wisdom and honor and glory and majesty. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Loophole Faith

Philemon 1:21 KJV
Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.
Paul's confidence was that Philemon would go so far as to
  • Obey what Paul hoped and
  • Do more than Paul hoped
We live in the age of loophole Christianity. Modern believers are looking for ways to get out of obedience. They use the doctrine of liberty as their loophole out of true obedience. They take their faith only as far as they have to in order to ensure for themselves a home in heaven. Preachers are finding their own loopholes too, preaching a kind of doctrine that sounds good from the pulpit but requires little in life style. Like the popular pastor who styles himself a theological conservative and a social liberal, so many look for ways out of separation unto God. They like the saved, blessing of God, changing the world part of Christianity, but they want nothing of the "endure hardness as a good soldier" sort of Christianity.

Not so Philemon.

Paul knew the sort of man he was and was therefore confident that he would not only follow Paul's counsel, but do it and more.

Lord make me a "more than I say" believer. 

Pardon Me

I will be on vacation for the next several days. I plan to spend time with the Lord every day of that vacation and will post those visits when I return,

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kindness and Love

Titus 3:4 KJV
But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,

There are many titles that distinguish our Saviour:
  • Jesus Christ
  • Lord
  • Saviour
  • Word
  • Master
  • Emanuel
  • Son of God
  • Son of Man
As well as many others.

But here is a title I have missed before; "The kindness and love of God."

And that is truly a marvelous name. It is so descriptive both of God and of the Lord. It describes the burden of God and the nature of Christ. God's heart is not full of wrath for mankind, though the wrath of God abides on them waiting to be revealed. His heart's burden is to pour out kindness and love.

Christ's nature is that of kindness and love. To love us is "who He is." The nature of Christ is not anger, jealousy hot temperedness. He did not come to judge but to save. He did not come as to Sodom and Gomorrah, to see if the testimony of the city was as bad as its cry and then judge. He came to a world well known to deserve judgment and jot to find the righteous in it but to make righteous those sinners who would.
  • He did not come to condemn the woman taken in adultery.
  • He did not come to reject Nicodemus the ruler who came to him by night
  • He did not come to revile the woman who had had five husbands and was then living in sin
He came in every case, to be kind and to love them and to purchase for them eternal life.

The kindness and love of God. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

This Is Becoming

Titus 2:1 KJV
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:

The words following Paul says, "become sound doctrine."

There are those teachings that are sound doctrine and then there are those that become or adorn it. We often distinguish them as faith (sound doctrine) and practice (those things that become sound doctrine).

We are witnessing what I think can only be described as an exodus from those practices, which have been taught in Baptist Churches, become sound doctrine. Those who are making their flight justify it with cute little quips like "We're not changing the message, just the methods." What they miss, however, is that these methods (I am speaking of standards of separation and lifestyle) are as biblically compelling as are the doctrines.

Baptists have always ourselves as "of like faith and practice" because we have always been aware that there were others whose faith was similar, but not their practice. Today we are witnessing many young (and some not so young) Baptist preachers who still claim the name of Baptist, even still would have us to believe they are independent fundamental Baptists, but whose practice is less separated and more in keeping with modern Protestant movements. They are deceived by what they perceive to be sound doctrine in those movements because they are attracted to their looser practices.

I want to remember that there are practices that "become sound doctrine". There are life choices that, though technically are not doctrines of faith, are still important biblically and spiritually.
  • Choices in the home (Titus 2:2-8)
  • Choices in the workplace (Titus 2:9-10) and
  • Choices in separation (Titus 2:11-14)
That must be preached as stringently and faithfully as is sound doctrine. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Through Preaching

Titus 1:3 KJV
But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;
The greatest gift a pastor has for his congregation is his gift of preaching. That Paul loved people is evident. That he knew them by name and prayed for them is key. Pastors have an advantage over the evangelist or the television minister in that they know their flock.

But the meatiest and most important treasure that the pastor has to give his congregation is his gift of consistently and passionately making manifest the Word of God through preaching.

He makes it manifest
Brings the Word to light and reveals those things previously hidden. He makes known the depth and riches of God's Word and how it applies to his congregation.

Through preaching
Preaching is defined as the bold proclamation of that Word. Picture the old public crier. His task is to give the people the news they would otherwise be ignorant of.

The pastor has the precious joy of proclaiming to his congregation what they would otherwise be without. He is not their only source of spiritual knowledge; they have their Bible and the have the Holy Spirit. But he is a God-ordained source and is a crucial part of any Christian's spiritual growth. His job is not to organize events and preside over the big days in their lives. His duty his gift to them is to faithfully manifest before them God's Word; through preaching. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Reward Him!

2 Timothy 4:14 KJV
Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:

Here is a fascinating if not (apparently) contradictory passage. The Apostle Paul actually prays for justice upon one of his oppressors.

The passage is one that is filled with emotion as Paul looks his execution in the face and reflects upon his ministry and his life. Indeed he had  fought a good fight and finished his course and kept the faith. He had every reason to rejoice and look forward to his meeting with Christ. But there had been hurdles and hardships along the way and Paul was not the least reticent to name names. As he freely praised those who had blessed him, he freely names those who had done him wrong. But in the case of Alexander he goes a step further. He warns Timothy of him and prays God have justice upon him.

This is interesting in contrast to Jesus and Stephen who both prayed for their executioners "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."  Here Paul as much prays that the Lord not have mercy but given full justice.

  • So why the contradiction?
  • What's different here?
  • Does Paul lack the merciful spirit of the Lord?

My first observation is that Alexander is not Paul's executioner. I do not know but I do not doubt that Paul would have prayed for God's mercy upon those involved in his death. Alexander is a protagonist. He purposefully followed Paul from Ephesus to Rome, likely to stir up hatred for Paul. He has sought to injure not only the character of Paul but the cause of Christ and will likely do it again (thus the warning to Timothy).

The rest of my of my observations come from Gill who says Paul's prayer is "from a pure zeal for the glory of God.... Without mingling his own passions with it." Whenever we pray for justice rather than mercy let it be without the mingling of our own passions. If we cannot pray for justice seeking only the glory of God and none of revenge for ourselves, if we must be passionate, let us passionately pray for mercy.