Thursday, February 28, 2013

When Faith Increases

2 Corinthians 10:2 KJV
But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

This whole chapter is taken up with the subject of authority. Paul's appeal is that the believers would respond to his authority by faith and not because of any exercise of it.
  • He expresses an unwillingness to demonstrate that authority when present
  • He describes his authority as being supernatural and not carnal
  • He implies that he has demonstrated that authority in times past (Elymus the sorcerer as an example)
  • He diverts their attention to the need for ministry that expands beyond them
Those regions beyond were Spain and France and England, places that continue to change the world once the Gospel reached them.

The cause of Christ is to great to get caught up in challenges about who has control. Souls need to be reached. When the faith of a congregation increases then the ministry of the preacher enlarges. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reckless Giving for Missions

2 Corinthians 9:2 KJV
For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.

Mention is made of three places in this context:
  • Macedonia
  • Achaia and (as his audience)
  • Corinth
All of these were under the Roman government and, because they were all in the West, closely attached to Rome. Between the death of Christ (33 AD) and the death of Apostle John, near the end of the first century, Rome went through eleven Caesars, every one of them were either murdered or committed suicide.

This is in a period of great unrest in Rome. Caesar Claudius was in power when Paul first went to Corinth, but it was a tense power, gained almost surely by his owning aiding in the assassination of his predecessor, Caligula. Claudius was the black Sheep of his family and was himself assassinated after thirteen years (by his wife). He was followed by Nero, who burnt Rome so he could build a larger palace. Nero committed suicide and was followed by four empowers in one year.

It was in all of this turmoil that Paul asks these believers to prepare an offering to be delivered to needy saints in Jerusalem - an area even more heavily impacted by the troubles of Rome. Paul, for all practical purposes, ignores the political climate of his day, focusing instead on the need rather than the obstacles.

This makes a brilliant application when we look at our own circumstances. It could be argued that these are days to be turning inward.
  • Our government has spent itself (and us along with it) into near oblivion
  • The cause of Christ is being denigrated in our land to such an extent that some are calling the U.S. a new missions field
  • Jobs are scarcer now than they have been I think in thirty years
But if we follow the Pauline pattern we ignore those circumstances in favor of focusing on the need.

Notice that Paul was aware of the hardships many of these people faced. He said they gave out of deep poverty and affliction. But they still gave. Now that is missions giving.
  • Focusing on the needs of another
  • Planning ahead so we can help with the need
  • Giving by faith trusting that God will provide for us and
  • Praising God for the example of others giving with us.
It is reckless abandonment of the cares of this world in order to see another have the opportunity to reach souls with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

One Fire to Another

Ezekiel 15:7 KJV
And I will set my face against them; they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them; and ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I set my face against them.

The Jews thought of themselves as greater people than God claimed they were. He says here that they are merely a vine in the forest, not even a branch that could be made into a peg. They were useless for anything but the fire and vines are fairly useless for that.

Those who think more highly of themselves than they ought to think generally find themselves running
            From one fire to another
            From one calamity to another
            From one worry to another
Choosing to refuse the counsel of God for their own wisdom, they live in instability.

The only sure foundation for life is one lived
            By resting on the promises of God and
            In obedience to the principles He gives us in the Bible

Monday, February 25, 2013

Perfecting holiness

2 Corinthians 7:1 KJV
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Barnes writes,
“The unceasing and steady aim of every Christian should be perfection - perfection in all things - in the love of God, of Christ, of man; perfection of heart, and feeling, and emotion; perfection in his words, and plans, and dealings with people; perfection in his prayers, and in his submission to the will of God."

  • The fact that no man but Christ is perfect is no excuse
  • The fact that none will make perfection in this world cannot lessen the responsibility

Perfection is the aim. Praise God that entire perfection is a work finished by the Holy Spirit. But praise God too that He blesses the believer with this purpose in the time of our life.
  • We have an holy aim
  • We have a worthy cause
  • We have a meaningful labor
Perfecting our holiness.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Baptists and Politics

Ezekiel 11:1-2 KJV
Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the LORD'S house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people.
Then said he unto me, Son of man, these are the men that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city:

Though Ezekiel was in Babylon and not Jerusalem, he was aware of those who were in leadership there. Of course, that leadership had changed since Nebuchadnezzar's first attack. Whether Ezekiel knew the leadership by word of mouth or as the result of his spiritual vision, I am not sure. It does impress upon me that the Old Testament prophets were aware of political things and especially political figures.

Baptists have never been movers and shakers in the political world, at least not before Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority. J Frank Norris was also politically aware during the days of WWII. But previous to that the most politically involved we see are those Baptists who appealed to Madison not to make any denomination a state-sanctioned religion but let each church "compete" for support through the promotion of their ideas. (Many believed that religion would die completely without state support.)

Some say that Baptists never influenced politics only because they never had the chance to do so. I believe it was for different reasons. I believe they recognized a different kingdom than that of this world and that they served to influence it rather than this. That influence may not be so clearly seen today, but it will be revealed forever in the annals of glory.

We needn't spend our time pronouncing judgments on the politicians of our day. We generally only embarrass ourselves when we do that anyway. But we ought to be very aware of them so that we may pray for them
  • With earnestness
  • With intelligence and
  • With compassion
which is a direct New Testament instruction. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

We Must Pray

Ezekiel 9:4 KJV
And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

The captivity of the Jews to Babylon took place, not in one stroke but in a series of waves. Ezekiel was already among the captives in Babylon but God had transported him through a vision back to see the abominations still happening there.

Originally the Jews didn't think God would let Babylon defeat them (even though Isaiah had prophesied it a century before and Jeremiah had told them to surrender) but since Babylon had defeated them, those remaining in Jerusalem, rather than repenting, got crosswise and determined that God didn't care. Since, in their minds, God had forsaken them they turned their backs on God,  followed after idols and all committed sorts of other immoralities. Judgment was again coming. Another wave of defeat from Babylon was about to happen.

In a vision God showed Ezekiel how He had marked those who sighed and cried over the sin in the city. These would be spared when the next destruction came.

Sometimes there is nothing that can be done about the course a people have taken.
  • Their head strong nature
  • Their lack of spiritual concern
  • Their foolhardy rush into the ungodly
just can't be stopped. But the godly can weep over it. We can grieve. We do not have to take an impartial, calloused and careless attitude about it. I am not saying we should be hateful of sinners, but neither need we be neutral to their sin.
  • We can grieve
  • We can sigh
  • We can cry and
  • We can pray

We must pray. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

An Open Vessel

2 Corinthians 4:2-7 KJV
But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

Talk about two things that do not fit! The Apostle said that the treasure he had received of God was possessed in the earthen vessel of his
  • Weakness
  • Mortality and
  • Finite flesh

Why would God have ever entrusted such value in vessels of such frailty? We do not have to guess at the answer. The Bible boldly proclaims it. It is so the excellency of the power of the ministry would be of God and not of man.

Paul had learned long before this to be open and upfront. He had renounced
  • Hidden things
  • Dishonest things
  • Crafty things and
  • Deceitful things
His life was out in the open for all to see.

  • They saw his physical weakness
  • They saw his limitations of power and persuasion
  • They saw his struggle with evil
  • They saw both his skill in God's Word and where he had no answer from the Lord
Paul was in no way attempting to make himself look good to say he wanted to make God look good. He was more than happy for people to see his "warts" because it made that which God had done in him that much more glorious. 

The Letter and The Spirit

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 KJV
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

The ability of the man of God is not one that can be obtained through
  • College courses or
  • Internship and
  • Training
These things can only give a man the letter of God's Word. The sufficiency of the able minister is not in his natural abilities
  • To lead or
  • To communicate or
  • To inspire others
The sufficiency of the man of God is in the God given ability to get past the letter of the Word and deliver to others the Spirit of the Word.

And it is no mean task; for the Bible is to always be taken literally. Much damage has been done by those who spiritualize the Bible and claim that little of it is true, but it only contains truth. In fact all of it is true.
  • Every page
  • Every paragraph
  • Every word
is the inerrant and infallible Word of God. Nothing must be explained away. No portion of the Bible need be reconciled with science (falsely so-called). Science must be reconciled with the Bible for the Bible is true and science is mere guesswork.

It truly takes the work of the Holy Spirit in a man to enable him to preach the truth of the Bible but also preach the Spirit of it and not just the letter of it. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Forgive Also

2 Corinthians 2:9-10 KJV
For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.
To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

The context Paul writes of has to do with the man who had been involved in a relationship with his father’s wife (not his own mother, but a stepmother) in the first epistle. Paul obviously believed in discipline because he rebuked the church in 1 Corinthians for not disciplining the sin. But he also believed in a speedy and rapid forgiveness once things were made right.

Paul's lesson on forgiveness extends beyond the original offender and becomes a general instruction concerning offenses and forgiveness:
Forgive because others have
Paul affirmed his trust in them that if they had forgiven anyone, he would also forgive on their word. Could it be that someone else has seen a demonstration in another that we have not seen? Could it be that our own pain has kept us from objectively viewing the repentance of another? If someone else has forgiven the offending party we would do well to take their actions into consideration in our own attitude toward them.

Forgive for the sake of the church
Very little has the potential to cause havoc in a church as having members who refuse to forgive. The matter of the church is so much bigger than we are in our own. The consequence of damage to a church weighs so much greater than damage to us as individuals. For the sake of the church, for the good of the body we ought to forgive.

Forgive as a matter of fellowship with Christ
  • Who forgave those who took Him to the Cross
  • Who forgave us while we were yet sinners

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Be Not Thou Rebellious

Ezekiel 2:8 KJV
But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.

After receiving news that the congregation Ezekiel was to minister to was a hard-hearted and rebellious God turned his focus onto Ezekiel himself and charged him, "... Be not thou rebellious..." Here we have emphasized the matter of personal responsibility.
  • Regardless of the actions of others
  • Regardless of the numbers who choose to go a direction away from God
each of us has the very same charge, "Be not thou rebellious."

Often the direction of rebellion has an appealing look. It seems to be like those well-watered plains that Lot chose. Frequently the direction of rebellion seems like the path God sets before us. Baalam knew better than to go to Balak, but it seemed like God had opened that door.

The path of rebellion is the direction almost everyone else is taken. But I am reminded of the old Puritan adage "Dead fish travel downstream."
Our responsibility before God is clear, if we will hear it; "Be not thou rebellious."

Obey the Lord if you are the only one who does. 

Duty. Virtue and Honor

1 Corinthians 16:15-16 KJV
I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.

Submission is a dirty word in our current climate. We have elevated ourselves to the point that we do not easily see a reason to ever put ourselves under another. There are few causes for which we, like our American forefathers, would give our lives, our fortunes and our honor.
  • The average American may not even care if he has a testimony of honor
  • Duty is of little value
  • Virtue is almost unheard of

And yet the Word of God instructs the Corinthian believers, a church filled with Christian inconsistencies, error and sin, to submit themselves to those who had addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.

The most effective way to correct the error in the church was through submission.

That is still the case. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Or Else He is a Liar

1 Corinthians 15:14-15 KJV
And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

There is a saying that either Christ is God in the flesh, or He is a liar.  Paul said as much about his own ministry. Either Christ is truly risen from the dead or else he must be judged a false witness, a liar.

The argument worked for some time simply because many people
  • Were not bold enough to call Jesus a liar
  • Were not brave enough to declare Christ did not rise again
Not so now. Modern and respectable people are clearly willing to call Jesus a liar and judge the Apostles as false witnesses. College professors mock the idea of the resurrection with admittedly weak arguments but they do so before large classes of approving students.

We are truly living in perilous times for people of faith. It is not a day to give up. Nor is it a day to get crazy with zeal. It is a day
  • To seek the filling of the Spirit
  • To find boldness from the Lord and
  • To clearly, spiritually and with an honest heart, speak up for Jesus Christ.
God will convict the hearts of men and women today as He has always done. We must be willing instruments in His hands. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

God's Word Only Reaches the Heart

1 Corinthians 14:24-25 KJV
But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

Many times people have come to me after a message and expressed that it was if I had been peering through the window of their home and reporting in church what I had seen. So powerful is a simple message from the Word of God that it needs not the flash and show of the World to inspire the heart.

The message of God's Word is the only thing that will convince a person of the truthfulness of God's presence.

They see past those who put on a show. When music and excitement and thrill must be used to conjure up results, it is obvious that God is not there.

I do not mean to say that a crowd can't be gotten by means of entertainment. I only insist that even the crowd knows that God is not there. The flesh has always been attracted to idolatry. It should not surprise us then that people would be attracted to the show. But it is through plain preaching, assisted by nothing but the impulse of the Spirit of God that reaches into the heart of man and brings real conversion. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Greatest of These

1 Corinthians 13:13 KJV
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

The Apostle tells us that in the world of faith, three things remain
  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Charity
Not that there is nothing else for in the world of secularism. There remained still
  • Virtue
  • Honor
  • Chivalry
  • Knowledge and etc.

In the world of religion there yet remained things such as
  • Dedication
  • Loyalty
  • Leadership and etc.

Paul did not suggest that these things no longer existed. He simply contrasted them to these three and these stand out far beyond the others.

Faith, hope and charity so excel the others as to leave them as nothing.

But of the three, one excels them all. Charity was the word selected by the King James Version translators and not the word love. It seems right to at least consider that they saw in this text something unique, something set apart from the common idea. Indeed, according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, this word is a unique form of the root Agape not previously seen in Greek writing prior to Paul's use of it in 1 Corinthians 8:1. It is a unique word. It is the sort of love that one has for the church for which Christ died.

Charity, love directed toward that thing Christ loves, is unquestionably the greatest quality a man may have.
  • Virtue may be earned by cruel acts done in the name of the state
  • Honor may be defended in a bloody dual to death
  • Knowledge too often puffs up the possessor

  • Faith sees the unseen
  • Hope reaches passed the earthly for the eternal and
  • Charity blends faith and hope into a quality that benefits the people of God right now

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Critical Test of the Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:3 KJV
Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Keeping in mind that the context has to do with spiritual gifts and that this passage has a supporting text in 1 John[1], we find here two tests to prove a word is given by the Holy Spirit

No man who is filled with the Holy Ghost will curse Christ.
This is reasonably easy to implement. If a man or woman curses any aspect of Christ or His doctrine as given in the Word of God, they have not the Spirit regardless of what they may insist is true.

No man can say Jesus is Lord except that he is filled with the Holy Ghost.
This becomes much more challenging because
·         Countless numbers have said those words having full knowledge and freely professing they do not believe it
·         Multitudes more have said those words in feigned sincerity but have after proven not to be believers and
·       Still more continue to say those words while espousing doctrines that are contrary to the message of God's Word
We must be misunderstanding that test.

Gill writes,
"though a man may historically say all this, as the devils may, and hypocritically, as formal professors and foolish virgins do now, and will at the last day; and as all men then will by force, whether they will or not, confess that Jesus is Lord, who have not the Spirit of God; yet no man can call him his Lord, can appropriate him to himself truly and really, as his Lord, Saviour, and Redeemer, like David, Thomas, the Apostle Paul and others have done, but by the Spirit; since such an appropriation includes spiritual knowledge of Christ, strong affection to him; faith of interest in him, a hearty profession of him, and sincere subjection to him; all which cannot be without the Spirit of God"
Simply put, a man may not be born again by the mere expression of the words but by a work of the Holy Ghost in his soul.

Modern soul winners need to more carefully consider what is their duty as witnesses for Jesus Christ. A man is not saved except that the Holy Spirit has worked. It is not ours to merely elicit a profession but to be tools of the Holy Spirit until He transforms the heart so that it must confess Jesus is Lord.

[1] 1 John 4:1-3 KJV
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.