Thursday, January 31, 2013

Let's Let a Man Mature

Romans 15:1 KJV
We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

John R Rice wrote in his book on Acts that the Apostle was wrong to go to Jerusalem and compromise with the Judaizers by performing a vow in the Temple. Rice believed that Paul's love for the Jews clouded his judgment and led him into the trap that caused his arrest and imprisonment.[1]

But Paul's actions in Jerusalem are completely consistent with the message of Romans chapter fifteen. Paul believed that, though he was sure the position of the Judaizers was wrong, they were his brothers and sisters in the Lord and he must bear their infirmities in the sense of accepting them as brethren and putting up with their error until they had matured enough to receive his truth. He obviously did not mean this to mean that the truths concerning Christian liberties should not be taught because he did teach them. But he allowed for the immaturity of these Jewish believers and yielded what he knew to be his liberty for their benefit.

Did it cost him? Yes, it did. It cost him his freedom. Eventually, it cost him his life. But that did not change his conviction.

A Baptist always lets a man mature in faith as God leads. [2]

[1] John R Rice, Filled With the Spirit, pages 450-451, 456-457
[2] I look back at my growing years as a Christian and am thankful for the patience of those God placed before me as my pastors. There were times when my lack of separation must have been the source of many prayers between my pastor and the Lord. Years later my zeal was way ahead of my maturity and I preached messages and said things that must have given my pastor heartburn. Never do I remember feeling like I was anything other than loved and trusted and a blessing to those men. Though looking back I am sure that it cost them to let the Lord deal with me in His time, I am thankful that they did. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Surrendered to Hope

Jeremiah 31:17 KJV
And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.

The prophet Jeremiah was not a doom and gloom man as some have suggested. He was a man of God and therefore he preached truth. He made the people aware of their sin and counseled them to surrender to God's chastening but he also was committed to the message that there is hope in the end.
  • Though the prospects seemed dark
  • Though we know they got even darker and
  • Though the Bible tells us they will be darker still upon the whole earth
There is, with faith in Christ, hope that is brighter than any darkness the forces of Satan can deliver.

Jeremiah's ultimate message was not of judgment but of hope. His true purpose was to bring the people beyond the surrender to judgment to surrender in God's hope.

And so is the message of the Bible preacher today. He must not park on judgment, chastening and wrath but always point his hearers through them to the light of hope. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No Respecter

Jeremiah 29:2 KJV
(After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;)

Nebuchadnezzar carried every one of value back with him to Babylon.
  • He took the king and queen
  • He took the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, but
He also took
  • The eunuchs
  • The carpenters and
  • The smiths
Society tends to class people as upper and lower. Those who are "royalty," wealthy or educated are thought of as a the better class of people, not only in what they possess but also in character and intrinsic value.

God, who is no respecter of persons, sees no such class distinction and places, in the very same sentence, the capture of the king and the commoner. We are, whatever class we find ourselves, of equal value in the sight of God. We ought therefore to view each individual of that same value in our own sight. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Neither Despise nor Judge

Romans 14:3 KJV
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.

This chapter describes so intensely what I think is historically the Baptist conviction, that of individual soul liberty; each man has a right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. Verse three is the key to the success of this conviction; we must neither despise nor judge those with whom we disagree.

My observation has been that those who believe they have liberty in Christ tend to be hateful toward those they view as legalistic (because they choose to separate from things they consider to be worldly). On the other hand, those who believe in separation tend to be judgmental toward those they see as worldly. I am personally in favor of the separatist position. As such I have more than a few times felt the scorn of the more liberal brother. I will also confess that more often than I wish was true I have been judgmental toward the liberal Christian.

I am not advocating dropping our convictions; Paul said each man as should be fully persuaded in his own mind. What I am saying is that the despising and the judging needs to be done away. There is no room for it in our Christian growth. Let the separatist separate and let the liberal progress, but let's each refuse hostility against the other. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

God, Guns and Government

Jeremiah 26:14-15 KJV
As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.
But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.

Over the course of years, I have seen many Christians, Baptist pastors included, whose attitude toward our governments and guns has been,  "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers." 

I understand the sentiment.
  • I enjoy guns,
  • Like to shoot,
  • Like hunting and
  • Support the right of the American citizen to keep and bear arms
I do not, however, agree with the sentiment. Baptists have always been a Bible people even before they were an American people. Observing the message of the Bible has always been much more important than honoring the Constitution of any human government. And the Bible principle is that men can do what they will with this body; God will bless and keep His own.

Vengeance belongs to God. He will repay whatever wrong has been done to right people in His time. We are always wisest and most Biblical when we bless those who wrong us and leave whatever retribution they may deserve in the hands of the Lord. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Give Place

Romans 12:19 KJV
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Poole assigns three possibilities for the phrase "give place unto wrath"
Personal wrath
When someone has wronged us, choose not to execute retribution. As did Ahasueras, walk away from wicked Haman.

The enemy's wrath
Do not defend yourself. Allow him his scorn. Paul counseled to suffer the wrong for God's glory.

God's wrath
Which Poole says is most consistent with the context. By executing our own vengeance we deny the work of God in the situation.

In each case the outcome is the same; we step aside and God steps in for our cause.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Not by What We Build but by How We Care

Jeremiah 22:16 KJV
He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the LORD.

The prophet is addressing here addressing the three sons of Josiah: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Jeconiah.
  • Jehoahaz was captured by Egypt and replaced with
  • Jehoiakim who dies unlamented after wasting huge sums of money upon himself. Finally
  • Jeconiah comes to the throne but is captured and carried off to Babylon where he dies childless.
This forever ends the reign of the family of Solomon over Jerusalem.

While Jehoiakim splurged money on himself in a time of tragedy in the land; he forced labor without pay on the people, the prophet reminded him that his father had demonstrated his relationship with the Lord by doing judgment and justice to the poor and needy.

And so we also demonstrate our relationship with God, not by what we build, but by how we care for those who are around us. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mercy Upon All

Romans 11:30-32 KJV
For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

Truly the depths and richness of the ways of God are past our finding out. God has concluded us all in unbelief:
  • Jews
  • Gentiles
  • The "elect" of Israel as well as the
  • Barbarians
all are in unbelief.

But this judgment, rather than being a curse is the richest of blessings because it opens the way for God's mercy toward all.
  • None is left out
  • No one is exempt from God's mercy
  • All and any
may receive mercy if they will apply to God for it.

There is no elect for salvation and there is no condemned to damnation. There is only unbelief on the part of all and, praise the Lord there is mercy at the disposal of all. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Table of the Heart

Jeremiah 17:1 KJV
The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars;

Jeremiah has three things to say about the heart:
Our sins are graven there
Vs 1
Our heart deceives us
Vs 9
Our God searches the heart
Vs 10

It is in the heart where our faith needs to find its home. A religion that affects the outer man without making a change to the inner has fallen short of saving faith. It is the heart,
  • Our affections
  • Our delights
  • Our aims and
  • Our purposes
that the gospel must reach. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rubble Around the Cornerstone

Romans 9:32 KJV
Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

The Jews of Paul's day did not attain to righteousness while many of the Gentiles did because the Jews stumbled over faith in Christ, which the Gentiles instead embraced.  But today all the world has stumbled over this Stone. Faith in Christ is much less appealing today mostly, I think because the world has seen those who profess faith in Christ to be little changed by their faith.

Centuries ago that which drew men to the faith was the obvious faith of those who professed that faith.
  • They would die before they would deny their faith
  • They would live according to the teachings of their faith
  • They believed that Christ was sovereign and therefore they trusted Him
  • They saw each man as loved of God and therefore they would do even their enemies no harm

Christianity today is very much removed from that sort of faith.
  • The world can point to wars fought in the name of Christ
  • They can present evidence of professing Christians using faith to further their own name rather than to bless and support others
The world stumbles over Christ because Christianity has placed so much rubble before Him.

  • Christ never took up a sword
  • Christ spoke more harshly against religious error than against political abuse
  • Christ ministered to both Jew and Gentile
  • Christ cared for the Centurion as well as the Samaritan
  • Christ forgave the most brutal of His enemies
We might remove some of the rubble in the way of faith if we would do the same. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

There is Nothing He Would Not Give

Romans 8:32 KJV
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

That God did not spare His Son is a thing most astounding.
  • Jesus is His only rightful Son, of the same essence
  • Jesus is His beloved Son, before the beginning of time
  • Jesus is His sinless Son, having been tempted like as we are yet never giving in to that temptation
That is in contrast to those whom Christ was delivered up for and who are
  • Always sinful,
  • Often at enmity with God, and
  • Usually without an appreciation for the sacrifice
That God spared not His only begotten Son is sufficient to demonstrate that there is nothing He would spare for us should it be in our best interest. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Christ Alone

Romans 7:25 KJV
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

When I was in High School in Waitsburg, WA, I used to go frequently to a friend's house. His parents had a small plaque on the wall that said, "If you ever find a perfect church, don't join it or you'll ruin it." There is no such thing as a perfect church because there is no such thing as perfect people. All of us wrestle with hypocrisy because the very best believer serves the Lord with the mind but his flesh still serves the law of sin.

This is no excuse to give up and live in sin. God forbid. But this is an explanation for the struggle that wars in every believer, especially those whose desire is to serve the Lord. The closer we grow to the Lord the more apparent to us will be the nature of our own flesh.

Too many Christians struggle with a sense that their faith is not real because they have yet to realize they cannot deliver themselves from the body of this death. It is Christ alone who brings this deliverance. We find peace in this war when we hand the battle over to Christ. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Christian Ideal

Romans 6:19 KJV
I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

There is in this chapter what I am going to call a Christian ideal. It is the target for which we are all to aim; yielding our physical members to righteousness unto holiness.

But the next chapter presents what I believe is a crisis in the ideal. Even though Paul counseled the saints to do it, and it was in his heart to do the same, the good that he would he did not and the evil that he would not he did. He ends that chapter by expressing his anguish (which I believe is supposed to represent the struggling believer) over his lack of follow through. How will he ever make it?

Chapter eight then provides the answer, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit."  That brings us right back to chapter six, but with new sight on our aim, it is not through our ability we yield to righteousness. We yield by following the spirit of the Lord and not the whims of our flesh. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Beloved of God

Jeremiah 12:7 KJV
I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies.

That God had determined that Jerusalem be given over to the Chaldeans in no way alters what are His heart's feelings for them. They are the beloved of His soul.
·         Their bondage to Babylon did not change that
·         Their trials in reestablishing their Temple after the captivity did not change that
·         Their occupation and subjection to Rome did not change that nor has
·         Their dispersion through the world did not change God's love for His chosen people

The same is true of every Christian who has suffered for whatever reason. Whether our suffering is self inflicted by stupid choices or brought on in our innocence by forces bigger than we are, this fact is still true; God's people are the beloved of His soul.

·         He does not spare us from trouble but uses it to strengthen and mold us and
·         He always considers us His dearly beloved

Thursday, January 17, 2013

God's Delights

Jeremiah 9:24 KJV
But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

What believer would not cherish knowing what it is that is God's delight? As He is our standard, then knowing and understanding those things that bring delight to God are basic to that which we would want to know about Him. Notice that these are not those things God delights in our doing but those things He delights to do.

This is more than an attitude of God but an exercise of God. He is actively loving.

It is the delight of the Lord to give His judicial decree. When we first hear this we might see it as His pronouncing condemnation but when we realize through the New Testament that God justifies the sinner who places faith in Christ we realize that God's delight is finding the sinner innocent.

God is altogether righteous. He delights in exercising Himself in the cause of purifying for Himself a people zealous of good works.

To know God is to understand these fundamental attributes of Him. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nor At Jerusalem

Jeremiah 7:34 KJV
Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride: for the land shall be desolate.

I watched a seventy-five minute long National Geographic documentary on modern Jerusalem today. The program said that Jerusalem is a very unnatural place for a major city and that the only industry that Jerusalem had to sell was "the holiness industry." Three major religions all share Jerusalem as a holy place:
  • Judaism
  • Christianity and
  • Islam
 The Jerusalem I saw in the program struck me in two ways:
It appeared to be a desolate place
I am sure that the people who live there love the city. But I saw very little vegetation, almost no greenery - very plain, very dry, very weather beaten.

It appeared to be an unhappy place
I realize that many of the people who live there love their home.
  • Some of them love it because they were born and raised there and know no other place
  • Some of them love it for the religious implications the land has
But it is a hard place to live, with walls and fences and checkpoints creating barriers throughout the land. The Palestinians must be protected from the Jews; the Jews must be protected from the Palestinians. Each group fights for the right of access to the same places, considered to be holy to each.

·         One Palestinian woman complained that the Israeli authorities would not let her husband, who is a Palestinian, but not from Jerusalem, live there in her family's traditional home. But she refused to move from Jerusalem because she would then lose that family home. She and her husband live in separate homes and only see each other weekly. He would not attempt to visit her for fear of being someday arrested as he traveled.
·         One Jewish man said the reason he lived in Jerusalem (rather than England, where he grew up) is because there he believes he will always be able to defend himself with a weapon if need be.
·         Another Jewish man said that God was obviously not in Jerusalem any more. Why else would He allow the Palestinians to occupy the Temple Mount without killing them all?
·         A Catholic priest, whose brother was murdered some years ago said that every day he wakes up to work at forgiving the killer (who has never been caught) but has never been able to do it.

The problem with all of them is that the focus is on the wrong things.
·         They kiss old walls and tombs
·         They fight for places to kneel that they believe are closest to God
But they miss that the living God is worshipped in Spirit and in truth and not at some sacred spot in a so called holy city.[1]

[1] John 4:21-24 KJV
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Saving Kind

Romans 2:28-29 KJV
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

What is it that makes a person who he is?
  • Is it his birth and heritage?
  • Is it his education and background?
  • Is it his locale and peers?

God said that the Jew is not a Jew for any of these.
  • He was born of Jewish blood
  • He was raised in the Jewish land
  • He was educated in the Jewish tradition
But none of these made him who God created him to be.

A Jew was a Jew when his heart belonged to God.

So is it true with the faith of the Christian.
  • One is not a Christian because he grew up in a certain place or because his parents brought him up under a particular persuasion
  • One is not a Christian because he has knowledge of a certain set of doctrines or because he attends a particular congregation
A man is a Christian when his heart is given to the faith of Christ. When we belong to Jesus Christ in our affections, then we can know our faith is the saving kind. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Just a Servant

Romans 1:1 KJV
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

Paul was not as popular in his day as he is in the Christian world of our day. God had provided him a thorn in the flesh lest he become exalted above measure. Whether he suffered physically or not is a matter of speculation but there is no speculation that he suffered attacks from Christians as well as Jews and Gentile unbelievers. Still I marvel at his humility. He counts himself not as "the servant of Jesus Christ" (though he uses that term elsewhere) but "a servant of Jesus Christ."  As in "one of many." He didn't think of himself as greater and better, he only saw himself as among those who serve.

This sort of humility would be welcome in today's Christianity. We could do with some men who, though obviously used of the Lord, viewed themselves as just one of the many. Too often usefulness becomes a sign of leadership and it has developed into a place where now servants of the Lord take classes designed to elevate them above the rest. The only one who ought to be elevated, the only one whose name should be above the rest is that if Jesus Christ.

Everyone else is just "a servant of Jesus Christ." 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Kindness from a Most Unexpected Source

Acts 28:2 KJV
And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.

Names can be so hurtful and damaging. They can also be so inaccurate. Here is the shipwrecked castaways:
  • Sailors
  • Soldiers
  • Prisoners and I suppose other
  • Passengers
as Luke, who was a free man, but a minister to Paul. This ragged bunch washed up to shore and, as Gill puts it, the islanders "could not understand their language but they could understand their case" and showed them kindness, caring for them in the cold and wet.

We would have thought the words Barbarian and kindness could not agree with one another. But here they are; companions in context.

We never know what is going on in the heart of a man.
  • Perhaps the loudest opponent is the one nearest conversion
  • Maybe the meanest looking man will be the one who does us the most good
We need never judge a man but simply be a witness to all men. God will do what He wills in the case of each one. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Headstrong into the Storm

Acts 27:13 KJV
And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.

The captain and crew had an agenda, a purpose and no preacher was going to steer them from their course, least of all this one who was a prisoner to boot. Flying in the face of the counsel of God, they looked for other signs in favor of their own purpose and, when it appeared they had them, headed out without God. True, they tried to be cautious, sailing close by land, but it was of no use. Their headstrong plunge into their own will plunged them all into the midst of the storm.

What a picture of the case of men. We have God's Word as a light and we have pastors and other teachers of the Bible to help us with counsel, but we also have
  • A will
  • A purpose
  • A course we intend to take with or without God's blessing
We will often invite God along, even force Him through our religious ceremony, but we have little to no intention of letting Him change our course.

No wonder we find our world whirling in the midst of this storm.

The is only one way out of the mess we are in, if we will do it; abandon all hope of saving ourselves and just trust God.

He has a way of calming stormy seas.