Saturday, November 30, 2013

Law Subdued by Grace

Galatians 3:16 KJV
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

I do not mean to make less of Israel than is biblical but I also do not mean to make more of them than is scriptural. Paul is here explaining the position of God's covenant with Abraham, a covenant that is generally associated with the Jews. He explains that the Jewish law came four hundred and thirty years after Abraham and could in no way disannul or make void that covenant of grace that was made to Abraham. 

Paul marks that the scripture says seed, singular and not seeds plural. It was not to be through the nation of Israel and their law that all nations would be blessed. They would be blessed through just one child of Abraham, that child being Christ. 

This does in no way diminish the role of Israel. They as a people are the apple of God's eye and have precious promises awaiting them. But it does put the Jewish law in its proper place: it is subjugated by the grace of God through faith. It is supplanted and set aside by that faith. 

May God free all from such a law by the grace which is by faith. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

What God Deems Good

2 Samuel 15:26 KJV
But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.

A person might accuse David of quitting here. The charge could be made that he was giving up, resigned to defeat. He had after all heard the judgment of Nathan concerning his sin with Bathsheba. This was nothing less than the fulfillment of that judgment. 

But David had done anything but given up. He had the priest and Hushai posted in the city. He had made arrangements for news to get to him as needed. David wasn't giving up. But he was placing all outcomes into the hand of God. He saw himself as belonging to the Lord and believed that whatever the Lord was pleased to do would be righteous and good. 

This is genuine contentment. He wasn't quitting by any means but he was satisfied with whatever outcome the Lord gave. He hoped to see the city and the Temple once again. But he was settled in his heart even should he die in the wilderness. 

When once a Christian is able to get this  spirit in his heart true contentment comes. We rest in the pleasure of God. We find peace and joy in knowing that, though we are working instruments, the results are worked out in the plans of God. "Let Him do to me as seemeth Him good. "

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Give Me This Preacher

Galatians 1:12 KJV
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

That the Apostle Paul is an exception to the average Christian is, of course, obvious.
  • He was an apostle
  • He was the original missionary (excluding, of course, Jesus who is the ultimate missionary)
  • His work in writing the Word of God is unequaled among men.

His position is so unique that missionaries, evangelists and pastors alike see him as a model

The ministry Paul had passed with the and the other apostles. We do not claim gifts of healings or tongues or extra-biblical revelations today. We could never, in the same manner as Paul could, claim that we were not taught our doctrine but by the Lord Jesus Christ. We have all (who are preachers) been taught:

  • In church
  • In college or
  • In some sort of fellowship

Who would ever consider a pastor credible who is a novice spiritually? He must at least have a good report among the brethren, which necessitates he has extensive time in church.

But I would be afraid of the preacher who doesn't have some sense that his doctrine was received of the Lord.

  • To have a preacher with no training would be to follow one who is a novice in defiance of the Bible. 
  • To have a preacher who only mimicked what he had received of men, and had no sense of receiving a message from God, would be to follow an academic whose only knowledge had never made it from his head to his heart. 

Give me a preacher who has studied the Word of God under sound mentors but has also walked with God. Give me a preacher who is disciplined and grounded in his faith through training but who gets alone with God for refinement and identification of his message. Give me a preacher who steps in the pulpit confident that what he is about to deliver comes not from extra biblical revelation, but from the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

No Way to Reconcile Righteously

2 Samuel 13:39 KJV
And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.

John Gill writes, [though Amnon] "could not be brought back from the grave, ...Absalom might be from his exile, to which he (David) had an inclination; but he knew not how to do it, consistent with justice and his own honour."

The sin of the King had come to this. One son was dead by the hand of his brother and the one whose hand had done the killing was now irreconcilably severed from his father. David longed for him but knew of no way to be reconciled to him in righteousness.

So sin works. Love of brethren is never really quenched. But justice, honor and the sense of right can put us on opposing sides, compelled to fight but broken hearted in the doing of it.

One of Santa Ana's soldiers had a brother slain in the battle of the Alamo. Through they fought and one died, the surviving brother petitioned Santa Ana for permission to bury his brother. The rest were burned in disgrace. This brother, though compelled to fight, still loved the brother who died.

Absalom was returned to Jerusalem at the request of Joab. Joab should have stayed out of it and the nation would have been better off for it. Though we may long for reconciliation, if it does not come through the eye of righteousness, it is a folly that will bring greater heartache later. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Trouble with a Defensive Spirit

2 Samuel 10:1-7 KJV
And it came to pass after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead.
Then said David, I will shew kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father shewed kindness unto me. And David sent to comfort him by the hand of his servants for his father. And David's servants came into the land of the children of Ammon.
And the princes of the children of Ammon said unto Hanun their lord, Thinkest thou that David doth honour thy father, that he hath sent comforters unto thee? hath not David rather sent his servants unto thee, to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it?
Wherefore Hanun took David's servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away.
When they told it unto David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed: and the king said, Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return.
And when the children of Ammon saw that they stank before David, the children of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Bethrehob, and the Syrians of Zoba, twenty thousand footmen, and of king Maacah a thousand men, and of Ishtob twelve thousand men.
And when David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the host of the mighty men.

What a mess took place because an act of kindness was misunderstood. David's intentions, in sending the messengers, were completely innocent. Nahash, king of the children of Ammon, had done him a kindness. David's only desire upon hearing the news of his death was to honor that kindness. But his intentions were misread. Hanun's advisors believed they were there as spies and abused them. Of course, David was upset, but war was not the inevitable thing.
  • Negotiations
  • Apologies
  • Diplomacy
might well have avoided this war. 

But Hanun chose instead to hire other kings, enemies of the Jews, to bolster his army. This aggression had to be answered. The Syrians first and the Ammonites after may have avoided all of the loss of life in their armies if they had only chosen diplomacy instead of aggression. 

Too often our own battles come upon us because of misunderstandings and misinterpretations of another's action. Too often further harm and injury might have been avoided if, rather than taking up an offense, we seek peace with a brother or a sister. 

What a shame when division and hard feelings hinder the work of the Lord, all because we took up a sword instead of a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Just What You See

2 Corinthians 12:6 KJV
For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.

Barnes Notes has an extensive but very appropriate piece on the latter part of this verse. I believe it to be well worth our meditation.

"Lest any man should think of me ... - The idea in this part of the verse I take to be this. “I desire and expect to be estimated by my public life. I expect to be judged of men by my deeds, by what they see in me, and by my general reputation with respect to what I have done in establishing the Christian religion. I am willing that my character and reputation, that the estimate in which I shall be held by mankind, shall rest on that. I do not wish that my character among people shall be determined by my secret feelings; or by any secret extraordinary communication from heaven which I may have, and which cannot be subjected to the observation of my fellow-men. I am willing to be estimated by my public life, and however valuable such extraordinary manifestations may be to me as an individual; or however much they may comfort me, I do not wish to make the basis of my public reputation.
I expect to stand and be estimated by my public deeds; by what all people see and hear of me; and I would not have them form even a favorable opinion of me beyond that.” This is the noble language of a man who was willing to enjoy such a reputation as his public life entitled him to. He wished to have the basis of his reputation such that all people could see and examine it. Unlike enthusiasts and fanatics, he appealed to no secret impulses; did not rest his claims for public confidence on any special communications from heaven, but wished to be estimated by his public deeds. And the important truth taught is, that however much the communion we may have with God; however much comfort and support in prayer and in our favored moments of fellowship with God; or however much we may fancy in this way that we are the favorites of heaven; and however much this may support us in trial: still this should not be made the foundation of claim to the favorable opinions of our fellow-men.
By our public character; by our well-known actions; by our lives, as seen by people, we should desire to be estimated, and we should be satisfied with such a measure of public esteem as our deportment shall fairly entitle us to. We should seldom, perhaps, refer to our moments of secret, happy, and most favored communion with God. Paul kept his most elevated joys in this respect, secret for fourteen years: what an example to those who are constantly emblazoning their Christian experience abroad, and boasting of what they have enjoyed! We should never refer to such moments as a foundation for the estimate in which our character shall be held by our fellow-men. We should never make this the foundation of a claim to the public confidence in us. For all such claims; for all the estimates in which we shall be held by people, we should be willing to be tried by our lives. Paul would not even make a vision of heaven; not even the privilege of having beheld the glories of the upper world, though a favor conferred on no other living man, a ground of the estimate in which his character should be held! What an example to those who wish to be estimated by secret raptures, and by special communications to their souls from heaven! No. Let us be willing to be estimated by people by what they see in us; to enjoy such a reputation as our conduct shall fairly entitle us to. Let our communion with God cheer our own hearts; but let us not obtrude this on people as furnishing a claim for an exalted standard in their estimation."

We need no other reputation from men than what is the truth. And let the truth be a testimony of the grace and the glory of God's work in our lives!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Pastor's Fear

2 Corinthians 11:2-3 KJV
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

The apostle was both jealous and fearful for these believers at Corinth. He knew that, just as Satan had tempted Eve (recall that he begins this chapter by calling this church a bride) and led her astray, he had many means to attempt to do the same to this church.

A pastor has legitimate and Biblical precedent to have those same fears and jealousies for those he watches over. 
  • Satan has a hold on the peer pressure of the world to corrupt pure faith
  • Satan has the sword of the philosophical and academic realm to corrupt souls from simple faith
  • Satan has a plethora of substitute doctrines to lure people from simple faith

We have witnessed enough Christians being lured away from sound doctrine
  • Sometimes into the world
  • Sometimes into intellectual confusion
  • Sometimes into various religious denominations

Indeed, we have witnessed whole churches and even whole church movements turn from the simple faith to some other, that we are sure there is reason for both our jealousies and our fears. 

Some may think us alarmist. We have been accused of clinging too tightly to the traditions we have received. But the watchful pastor is wary. He has been charged to present his care to Christ a chaste virgin. It is his job to fight off whatever would spoil his work. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Christian Combat

2 Corinthians 10:2-4 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.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

The accusation was that Paul warred after the flesh. Now, that Paul warred was no question. He, as are all Christians, are In combat. Albert Barnes says, 
"(1) It is a warfare with the corrupt desires and sensual propensities of the heart; with eternal corruption and depravity, with the remaining unsubdued propensities of a fallen nature.
(2) With the powers of darkness; the mighty spirits of evil that seek to destroy us;
(3) With sin in all forms; with idolatry, sensuality, corruption, intemperance, profaneness, wherever they may exist. The Christian is opposed to all these, and it is the aim and purpose of his life as far as he may be able to resist and subdue them. He is a soldier enlisted under the banner of the Redeemer to oppose and resist all forms of evil. But his warfare is not conducted on worldly principles. Muhammed propagated his religion with the sword; and the people of this world seek for victory by arms and violence; The Christian looks for his conquests only by the force and the power of truth, and by the agency of the Spirit of God."
Paul surely was in combat. The error of the accusers was in believing that this warfare was in the power of the flesh and not of the spirit. There are two ways to view this:
That he warred with worldly motivations and not spiritual ones
  • That his principles and purposes, that his procedures and battle plans were carnal and self centered
  • That Paul was a glory seeker only serving to build his own self interests
This Paul flatly denies. His work had higher ideals than that of self. His ministry was not for personal glory. His principles were not self developed. He was led of the Spirit and sought only the glory of God.
That he warred with earthly power
  • That his dynamic was his education or background or charismatic abilities
  • That he was somehow able to gain a following by his own powers of persuasion and debate 
Once again this is emphatically denied by Paul. His weapons were not carnal. He was endued with power that was of God. 
  • It was the Holy Spirit's gifting and not and not personal charisma
  • It was the Holy Spirit's inspiration and not his education
  • It was the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and not his powers of persuasion

The people of the world have always accused the work of Christ of having a lower motivation than God and of having a lesser authority than the Spirit. 

Let them accuse. But do not give them evidence of the truthfulness of their words. Keep the contest in the realm of the spiritual. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

When We Will Have Peace

2 Samuel 7:18-22 KJV
Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?
And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord GOD; but thou hast spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord GOD?
 And what can David say more unto thee? for thou, Lord GOD, knowest thy servant.
For thy word's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them.
Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

David had a dream to do something great for the Lord. 

He had spent years in flight from Saul and in a contest against Saul's son. But here he finds himself in a time of peace and rest. The kingdom was solidified and the ark was back in the tabernacle. It was at this point when David got the idea to build a house for the Lord. Why he asked the prophet rather than the priest I cannot tell but even the prophet thought this was of the Lord. It seemed so reasonable, so right. 

But it was not God's will. 

After God had spoken to the prophet, Nathan was able to give David more than a "yes" or "no" concerning the temple. David learned that a temple would indeed be built, but not by David. It would be the labor of his son. Nathan also expressed God's promise of blessings upon the family of David; a promise that reached its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. 

There are times when we would like to know the future promise of God for our lives, as David was blessed to know. But there is an application for us. Whenever God says "no" to our dream it is because He has a greater vision planned than what we could have dreamed.
  • If we trust the Lord
  • If we will believe that
  • If we learn to wait upon the Lord in all things

Then we will have true peace. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Example of Christ

2 Corinthians 8:9 KJV
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

Paul sets before us the example of Jesus Christ as our model for giving. And in so doing he exposes how far we fall short. 

That Jesus was rich before He came to earth is without question. 
  • He is God
  • He is Creator of heaven and earth
  • He reigns over the universe and upholds all things by the word of His power
Jesus Christ thought it not robbery to make Himself equal with God but He gave up his wealth to be born into the poorest of families.
  • He lost, even more, when Joseph (we presume) died
  • During His ministry, He had nowhere to lay His head
  • He slept in a borrowed room in a borrowed bed and did so from town to town.
Though He could order the fishermen's nets to be full and have Peter collect money from the mouth of a fish, He never had any to speak of. His greatest poverty happened when His country turned against Him and demanded His crucifixion. One of His closest companions betrayed Him for a few pieces of coin and His disciples fled away when He was captured. On the cross, He felt so alone that He cried out, "My God, My God, why hast though forsaken me?"
He became poor that we, through His poverty, might be rich. 

Now one might argue that Christ is not a fair example. He, after all, got it all back when He got to heaven. In a manner, He never gave up anything. 

Exactly the point.

If we gave so much of what we have away that we became impoverished for the rest of our lives. If we gave so much away for the good of others that we, in the eyes of the world, had squandered it all gone, we would have lost nothing. The things of this world are mere trinkets in comparison to heaven. They mean nothing more than a few moments of comfort while we bide our time on earth.

True riches are all heavenly ones.

  • Do we believe that?
  • Does our giving demonstrate that?
  • Does our lifestyle prove that?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Paul's Favorite?

2 Corinthians 7:3 KJV
I speak not this to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you.

What an interesting phrase, "to die and live with you". It is meant as an earnest expression of affection for them. He could easily wish to live with them for the rest of his life. It is similar to the phrase, "til death do us part".  

Paul's stay at Corinth was his longest. Though he had come to them in much distress, and though his first letter was filled with corrections against practices in the church and though he had sent his first letter with bated breath, concerned over how it might have been received, he had grown to love these people with his heart. 

  • He said nothing negative to the church at Philippi but he did not tell them he would want to live the rest of his life there. 
  • He had an obvious affection for those of Ephesus[1] and Colosse but he never said he would like to live the rest of his life in those cities. 
  • We do not find where he had hoped to live his out his old age in Antioch or even in Jerusalem (a place he was willing to risk his life for).
But he did tell the church at Corinth that he had it in his heart "to die and to live with" them.

Was this his favorite? I do not know. But I do know that
  • Their sins
  • Their misunderstandings of doctrines even
  • Their provoking of him through the false apostles
had not changed his deep love for them.

Perhaps this is meant as an example of God's undying love for us. 

[1] Acts 20:37-38 KJV
And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him,
Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Good Fight

2 Samuel 4:11 KJV
How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed? shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth?

Though David had long been at war with Ishbosheth, when he was killed by his trusted aides and that while asleep in his bed, David's indignation was not upon Ishbosheth but upon his murderers. David went so far as to proclaim Ishbosheth a righteous man. Learn:
A struggle is often a matter of differing understanding. 
It is not that either party is wicked but that they have differing points of view. In such a case it may be very appropriate to continue struggling for what we believe but we have no cause for animosity toward those against whom we struggle. 

Even in the midst of the most intense battles, there is still an appropriate way to conduct oneself. 
If Ishbosheth had died in battle it would have been reasonable and justified. To be killed while asleep and by men he believed he could trust is unacceptable even in the eyes of the opposition. 

The judgment of those who cross the lines of what is appropriate is harsher than for those who fight appropriately though on the losing side. 
A soldier defeated in combat is often highly regarded even by those of the opposing and victorious side. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are examples. Though they fought on a losing side during the Civil War, and though we might challenge their judgment for taking up arms against the country, all sides recognize them and honorable men and stellar soldiers. 
Not so the likes of Benedict Arnold[1] and the British Major John Andre[2]. Not so with John Wilkes Booth. Andre's request to be executed honorably by firing squad was denied because he was wearing civilian clothes and going by a false name when captured. He was hanged without honors because he was acting as a spy and not an officer. Booth died in a gunfight and his accomplices were unceremoniously hanged for their actions. It was not who they had killed but how they had done it that was their greatest offense. 

Applying this to the perspective of the Christian's charge to earnestly contend for the faith:
We must fight the good fight according to the dictates of our conscience even if that battle is against someone we love
Truth is the greater priority. 
We must contend honorably and appropriately
It is not all right to disobey Biblical truth for the greater good of Biblical truth
We must never lower ourselves to anything below loving souls.
Our greatest (human) adversary ought to be loved and respected of us. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

In Heart and Not in Appearance

2 Corinthians 5:12 KJV
For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

Paul thrust in this chapter is to give a fair show why his brand of Christianity,
  • Which is not wealthy
  • Which is not popular
  • Which is not even healthy (he suffered much in the flesh)
In comparison to that of his accusers and those false apostles who had made their way to Corinth, is still right Christianity.

He wanted to give these believers an answer for the accusers:
  • Their Christianity was all about appearances
  • His Christianity was all about the heart

  • Their Christianity was meant to give rewards on earth
  • His Christianity was meant to lay up treasures in heaven

  • Their Christianity was nothing more than a reformation of the old nature
  • His Christianity made him a new creature

  • Their Christianity accused anyone who was different
  • His Christianity was confident in eternity 

Not much has changed. The larger numbers of people still follow after a kind of Christianity that glories in appearance and not in the heart. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Pastor's Chapter

2 Corinthians 4:12-13 KJV
So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

2 Corinthians 4:17 KJV
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

This is the pastor's chapter. The whole thing is a description of the ministry in contrast to those in the pews. 
Death worketh in us
Because the vessel is earthen and frail, our ministry to the Lord is always with trouble. Paul speaks of the trials that are a part of daily life in the ministry. 

Life in you
While it is draining and humbling and always short, our ministry is what God uses to lead others to a saving knowledge. It feeds the flock of God. It is costly but worth it. 

We speak of what we believe
  • We can't always speak from experience.
  • We have not experienced heaven.
  • We have not experienced victory over the flesh.
  • We have not experienced the joy of seeing Jesus come in the clouds
but we speak of these things because we believe these things as they are revealed in the Bible. 

Though we are afflicted we faint not because our affliction

  • Is light compared to the price of salvation in Christ's blood
  • Is only a moment compared to eternity and
  • Is leading to a great prize in glory

Saturday, November 16, 2013

To See Clearly, Change the Heart

2 Corinthians 3:12-16 KJV
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.
Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.

Paul's hope and his reason for speaking so plainly and so boldly the Word of God was because he believed the Corinthians had a heart for God. He said that Moses put a veil over his face and spoke in language that was filled with shadows of truth because Israel did not have that heart for God. He goes on to say that Israel was still blinded to the Word of God. There was still a veil upon their hearts. But then he said that when they turn their heart to The Lord that vail will be removed. 
  • He did not say "if"
  • He said "when"
One day Israel as a whole will turn to Christ and the eyes of their understanding will be opened. The veil covering the shadows of Old Testament doctrine, which was removed by Jesus Christ but they have kept over their hearts, shall be finally and completely taken away. 

And I believe the same is true for any man who turns his heart to the Lord. The same day the vail is removed and he begins to comprehend the
  • Length and
  • Breadth and
  • Height and
  • Depth

of the truths of God's Word. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Truest Test of Obedience

2 Corinthians 2:9 KJV
For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.

Every indication is that this is a reference to the man Paul had told them to remove from the church back in First Corinthians chapter five. They had been overly lenient in that case, reveling in grace and refusing to address the immorality of the young man. Paul's counsel then was to deliver the man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. His sin had to be dealt with. He could not be, should not be ignored. 

The church had followed Paul's admonition. We do not know any of the details but we do know that repentance happened and a turning from the sin took place. Now it was Paul's counsel to restore this man into the fellowship of the church and completely forgive him. Paul indicated that if they did that he would have proof of their obedience "in all things". 

It is one thing to judge a wrong. Though we might be lazy about judgment sometimes and though many times we are lenient especially, to those we love; even a parent understands when their child must be judged if the crime is heinous enough. Judgment is a much more natural response than Paul's second instruction- to forgive.
  • To really release the offending party from any repercussions
  • To restore them into fellowship as if the offense had never taken place
This is the truest test of obedience to the Scriptures. 

Perhaps God allows us to be offended, sinned against, to prove us and to see if we will obey not only in righteous judgment against sin but in absolute forgiveness and restoration in the case of repentance. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Judgment's Coming

1 Samuel 30:16 KJV
And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad upon all the earth, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah.

The Amalekites thought they had really gotten away with something. While the Philistines and Israel prepared themselves for battle one against the other, these opportunistic Amalekites raided the southern edges of Judah and the cities of the Philistines, Ziklag, David's city, being one of them. The Amalekites could not have known that the Philistine princes would refuse to allow David in their fight. They burned the city and took their spoil believing they were safe in doing so and that no reprisals would be coming any time soon. As they left the scene a slave grew sick and, not willing to take the time to care for him, left him alone to die.
  • How could the Amalekites have known that David and his men were just behind them?
  • How could they have known that this slave would survive to see David?
  • How could he have known he would have the strength to lead David to the very men who have raided his city?

David reached the Amalekites in the middle of their victory celebration. They believed they were successful. They believed they were safe. But they did not know that God had so ordered things that they would be caught and they would be judged. 

I see in this a type of what is happening in the world today. Evil and ungodly men believe they have won the day.
  • They see people of the faith as tired and divided
  • They see enemies of Christ mounting up on every side and
  • They see themselves in a ripe place to reap the spoils of this world
It appears in many respects that they have succeeded in their anti-God operations and they are, these days, celebrating their victories. 

  • What they can't see is that God is still very much on His throne
  • What they can't see is that God's plan has been in no way hindered by their seeming successes
  • What they don't see is that judgment is just over their horizon
I am not anxious to see the world judged. There are too many people I care about who will be in that judgment. There are millions and even billions more I know I would care about if I only knew them personally. I am not anxious for God's judgment to come. But I am anxious to see God. I am anxious for that time when His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Even so come quickly, Lord Jesus. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Your "What Ifs?" Should Never Change Your "I Wills"

1 Corinthians 16:4 KJV
And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.

There are a lot of "ifs", "may be's" and other sorts of uncertainties in this chapter:
Vs 3 "whomsoever ye shall approve"
Vs 4 "if it be meet..."
Vs 6 "it may be that I will abide with you"
Vs 7 "if the Lord permit"
Vs 10 "if Timotheus come"
Vs 12 "I great desired... but"
Vs 15 "I beseech you"
Vs 22 "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ..."
Even the Apostle was subject to uncertainties. He did not choose every person who worked beside him he could not determine God's will for every fellow-laborer on his team. He had no means of assuring that every professed of faith would love The Lord Jesus. He could not know ahead how circumstances would move in every decision he would make.

But there are also some "I wills" and other sorts of absolutes found in the  chapter:

  • Vs 1 "as I have given order"
  • Vs 3 "them will I send"
  • Vs 5 "I will come unto you"
  • Vs 8 " I will tarry ad Ephesus"
  • Vs 13-14 " Watch ye, stand fast in the faith..."

There are some things Paul gave orders to do rather than beseeching them to do. There were some things he expected would happen. There were some things that, regardless of what were the circumstances, he would do.

We live each day with many uncertainties:

  • Things we cannot control
  • Things we do not know ahead of the time

In those uncertainties, it is ours to trust the Lord. These uncertainties should have little sway over our convictions and commitments to the Lord.

  • I cannot know how others will follow the Lord but I can determine to follow Him regardless
  • I cannot know in all ways how God will lead me but I can determine to go wherever He leads
  • I cannot say what circumstances might try to keep me from the will of the Lord but I can decide ahead that nothing will turn me from Christ

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Declaring the Preaching

1 Corinthians 15:1 KJV
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

Paul here declared what he had previously preached. Some commentaries suggest there is an element of reproach here; that the Apostle is perturbed that he must restate the message he has already stated. I, for one, am thankful he did it. Here we have the clearest explanation of the whole gospel we find in the Word. And here we find another principle for great preaching - the stating, restating and explaining of that preaching. 

Paul preached the gospel and then, with paper and pen declared that message again:
  • Refreshing the mind with its doctrine
  • Outlining its details and 
  • Providing arguments in its defense

Paul used the spoken word to preach his message and then the written word to reinforce it. He was not content to quit with having only delivered the message. He wished to provide for them a lasting record of that message, so vital to salvation.

One preacher I know likes to interview his hearers to see that they got what it was he intended to say. Many preachers today provide recordings of their messages for their congregations to listen to again at a later time. Other pastors now have the option to post their sermons either in written form or recorded, on a church web site. In every case the principle is being applied. The message of God's Word is too important to leave to one simple hearing. We need to declare what we preach for our congregation's further benefit.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What Preaching Ought to Be

1 Corinthians 14:1-9 KJV
Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

Paul is distinguishing between the values of speaking in tongues and prophesying (which I believe the context teaches to be preaching) and in so doing gives great teaching on preaching: 
Preaching ought to be easy to understand
Vs 9
One preacher used to say, "Profundity is placing all the cookies on the lowest shelf." Some preachers need to realize their task is not to elevate a person's mental acuity but to raise their spiritual ability.

Preaching ought to fall into one of these categories
Vs 6
1. Revelation
Revealing what the Word of God has to say
2. Prophesying
Declaring the impact of what the Word of God has to say
3. Knowledge
Expanding the experience of the listener to the Word of God
4. Doctrine
Teaching the truths that are found in the Word of God

Preaching ought to aim to accomplish one of these objectives
Vs 3
1. Edification 
Building the people of God up in their relationship with Christ
2. Exhortation
Urging them to the spiritual practice of their faith
3. Comfort
Assuring them of the benefits of grace in the midst of this troublesome world

Preaching ought to be beneficial to the church rather than glorifying to the preacher
Vs 4
There is a tendency today to promote a type of preaching that has too much of an entertaining value. The motivations might be sincere. We live in a world deluged with entertainment. People do not have the capacity of attention they may once have had. But the trap is none the less real; preaching that contains an entertaining value quickly degenerates into a celebrity status for the preacher and little real adoration for the Saviour.