Friday, January 31, 2014

Scarcely Saved

1 Peter 4:18 KJV
And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

Barnes Notes has some worthy thoughts on this passage:
“…[Peter] admits that the righteous are saved with difficulty, or that there are perils which jeopard their salvation, and which are of such a kind as to make it very near not to happen. They would indeed be saved, but it would be in such a manner as to show that the circumstances were such as to render it, to human appearances, doubtful and problematical. This peril may have arisen from many circumstances:
(a) The difficulty of forming a plan of salvation, involving a degree of wisdom wholly beyond that of man, and of such a character that beforehand it would have been problematical and doubtful whether it could be. …
(b) The difficulty of bringing those who are saved to a willingness to accept of salvation. …
(c) The difficulty of keeping them from falling away amidst the temptations and allurements of the world. …
(d) The difficulty of rescuing them from the power of the great enemy of souls.”

I am happy for the simple plan of salvation; that it is no difficult thing to be born again but that "…whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." But I am also aware that a good number of souls never come to realize the blessing of such salvation.
Countless numbers are trapped in a religion which blinds them to the way of the gospel

Still others are deceived that they have the gospel
But theirs is not the gospel of grace but another gospel which is accursed.

Many others are caught up in humanistic reasoning
They have embraced a doctrine that insists there is no salvation available nor necessary.

The salvation God offers is free to all and easily obtained. But it was hard won by Christ and only accepted by the few. It may then be said that we are scarcely saved. From the viewpoint of the man, that gospel was more likely to have been rejected than accepted.

We therefore, who are saved, have all the more reason to rejoice that we did in fact receive it. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How to Silence the Ignorant

1 Peter 2:15 KJV
For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

Contemporary philosopher, Samuel Harris, has it out for religion, all religion. Catholic, Muslim, Hindu. (The possible exception he grants is to Buddhism). He argues from the utilitarian perspective that religion has done people more harm than good. He sees religion as oppressing personal freedom and suppressing the growth of humanity.[1]

Most Christians would argue that this is only true of eastern religions and especially of Islam; we characterize it as a religion of violence. When pressed we will agree that Catholicism also has a history of violence but we will then deny that Catholicism is pure Christianity. Trouble is that Protestantism, though having a much shorter history than Catholicism, has been no less violent. 

There is a kind Christianity that does not have a violent history.
  • Instead of being oppressors, they were the oppressed
  • Instead of forcing their views upon people, they won their converts through preaching and teaching the truth of the gospel
  • Instead of persecuting those who disagreed with their doctrines, they prayed for them
The testimony of the ancient Anabaptists is remarkable to say the least.

So why doesn't Harris make an exception of the Anabaptists? I think it is because there is little in the Christian world that is representative of ancient Anabaptist faith. Those who have a claim to their lineage have too closely adopted the practices of Protestantism. Many would cheerfully identify with certain elements of Protestantism. Baptists, the rightful heirs of the Anabaptist heritage, have become much too focused on
  • Politics
  • Movements and
  • Self promotion
We have trouble putting to silence the ignorance of foolish men because we are much too busy building our own self interests at the expense of others. Harris can easily argue that Baptists today are not utilitarian; do not seek to do the most good for the most people but, on the surface anyway, only seek to grow their own interests.

The old Anabaptists were interested in nothing more than the spreading of the good news of 
Jesus Christ. They were as generous with their lives as they were with the gospel. Their purpose was to advance the doctrines of Jesus Christ and not their own names, churches or possessions.

It is the will of God that we silence the enemies of Christ:
  • Not by debate
  • Not by intellectualism
  • Not by political legislation 
  • Not by overwhelming numbers
but by consistently, unwaveringly, selflessly doing the right thing.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Certain Sure and Definite

1 Peter 1:21 KJV
Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

People are prone to put faith and hope in all sorts of things:
  • The ancients often put their faith and hope in a man made statue
  • The oppressed very often put their faith and hope in a powerful leader, even if he is a dictator
  • The gambler will put his faith and hope in the next roll of the dice or the next pick of the lottery
  • The fearful may place their faith and hope in a system of religion or philosophy
  • The sick will put their faith and hope in a doctor or a particular medical facility
  • The love struck will put their faith and hope in the one they intend to marry, sometimes
  • The quarreling couple will once in a while put their faith and hope in a newborn baby
In every case, the failure of this faith is rooted in the fact that none of these are perfect and sure. They each have their own failings. They may, in turn, be placing their faith and hope in the one who places faith and hope in them. 

The Bible urges us in a different direction. God's Word calls upon us to place our faith and hope in God. This is foolproof and sound because the object of the faith is
  • Perfect in His character
  • Sufficient in His self and
  • Unchanging in His person

This hope is certain, sure and definite. It is as sure as if we had already taken possession of the thing hoped for. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Wishing Evil vs Pronouncing Judgment

2 Chronicles 24:22 KJV
Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, The LORD look upon it, and require it.

There is a difference between wishing evil upon a person and telling them evil will come upon them. 

We are compelled to recognize a contrast between the stoning of Zechariah, here recorded and that of Stephen in the book of Acts. Stephen's words of prayer at the moment of his death are given in the spirit of forgiveness for those who so brutally took his life. Zechariah appears to have taken a different spirit, seemingly praying that he be revenged. The conflict is resolved when we see in the New Testament that Zechariah's words were not meant as a prayer for revenge but as a prophecy of the future. 

Both of these spirits are true and necessary. A Christian must faithfully pronounce that judgment is the end of the wicked. 
  • There is a Tribulation
  • There is a literal hell and
  • There is a lake of fire and brimstone
  • There is a chastening of the wayward Christian
  • There is a sin unto death
  • There is a worldly seed that, when sown, must be harvested

It would be calloused and irresponsible to not warn others of these judgments. On the other hand it would be unchristlike to wish any of them upon them. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

If the Lord wills and the creek don't rise

James 4:15 KJV
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

The Bible is to be interpreted literally but understood spiritually. It means what it says but that doesn't mean we get what it says. 

"Ye ought to say, if the Lord will" carries a far deeper meaning that simply saying words. The context requires we understand this to be a dependence upon the Lord for
  • Life
  • Enablement and
  • Means
 to do whatever it is we do. Merely saying "If the Lord wills and the creek don't rise" is a far cry from trusting the Lord for life and breath and being.

This is the true sense of the passage. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tread Lightly on Grace

2 Chronicles 20:18 KJV
And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD.

Jehoshaphat is a marvelous story of recovery and the hope of another chance. A good king and a godly one, Jehoshaphat had that near fatal indiscretion of making an affinity with Ahab. He survived and not only returned home in peace but returned to demonstrate a greater spiritual ardor than previous. His rekindled faith was rewarded by great victory against an invading enemy. Truly he had not only survived his compromise with Ahab - he improved. 

But this ought not to be taken as permission to presume upon God's grace. A future, terrible price was yet top be paid. The seeds sown in his compromise did not yield fruit until his death, but it was bitter fruit indeed. 

When Jehoshaphat's son became king, his first act was to murder his brothers. Jehoshaphat's compromise introduced his son to Ahab's daughter. They married.

Whether she poisoned Jehoram alone or if the poison had already been planted by his grandfather's anger against God and his father's compromise and then sudden revival to spirituality, is difficult to tell.  Jehoram proved to be a wicked man. 

I am thankful for the grace of God; thankful for the second and sometimes third and fourth chances He gives. But I would be a fool to believe I can tread on such grace without price. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Almost Swept Away

2 Chronicles 18:1 KJV
Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab.

One of Jehoshaphat's first actions as king was to reinforce his position against Israel. Now we find him
  • Befriending
  • Making an allegiance with
  • Marrying his son to the king of Israel's daughter and then
  • Going out to war on the side of
Israel. Could it be that Jehoshaphat believed that he had strengthened himself sufficiently that Israel could no longer be a threat? Jehoshaphat could have even argued that he was being a spiritual example to Ahab. He urged him to seek the Lord prior to entering the battle and, when all of the patsy prophets had done their ritual, Jehoshaphat asked for a prophet who was loyal to the God of King David. 

But the error of Jehoshaphat's compromise became quickly apparent when, in battle, the enemy mistook him for Ahab. Though he was spared and returned home in peace, his son was not so spared. His wife, the daughter of Ahab, was a curse to Judah and to he and his children. 

We are inclined to believe, when we are strong, that we are capable of withstanding the temptations and troubles of compromise. The truth is, we are never strong enough to safely wade in the waters of worldliness. Any attempt to play in them will almost certainly result in our being swept away in the current.

The wise Christian strengthens himself against sin but always sees himself as weak and in need of the strength of God.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

There All The Time

2 Chronicles 15:1-2 KJV
And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded:
And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.

I find it interesting that none of my usual commentaries make note of the theology of this passage; theology which so seemingly contradicts New Testament thinking. We are prone to say things such as, "You may leave God but He never leaves you." Our theology teaches us that, no matter how far we remove ourselves from the things of God, when we turn to seek Him we learn that, "He was there all the time."

What we find here is not a contradiction in theology but a demonstration of the perspective of the Old Testament believer vs. the New Testament believer. The Old Testament was more about form more than the truth, about the shadow rather than the body of doctrine. The Old Testament believer tended to see results rather than the underlying spiritual truth
  • The result of forsaking God is the loss of blessing and victory
  • The result of trusting God is the experience of blessing and victory
In neither case did the position of God move. He is immutable, unchangeable, without variableness or shadow of turning. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. Indeed whenever we have forsaken God, if we will but turn toward Him we will find He has never been afar off. He was "there all the time."  

However, the experience of being forsaken of a God is as real today as it was in the Old Testament. God is here; but sin still separates us from God. It breaks our sense of fellowship; it ruins our joy in the knowledge of His presence.

Asa demonstrates this truth as well. In his later years he chose to trust a foreign king for aide against an enemy. He succeeded in the battle but when the prophet rebuked him he refused to repent. In his last years he suffered with diseased feet but refused to ask God for healing. His sin was not that he sought the help of the physicians but that he rejected the help of God.

God was there but Asa couldn't enjoy His presence.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Separation for Success

Hebrews 13:13 KJV
Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

Notice the energy in the voice of the Apostle. There is no hint of
  • Despondency
  • Sadness or
  • Defeat
He is not asking us to hang our heads and admit surrender to the forces of this world. He sees bearing the reproach of Christ as a mark of
  • Courage
  • Honor and of
  • Victory 
Here rests the problem with so much of today's Christianity. It measures victory in the ability to assimilate with and make unions inside the camp. It has no intention of heading outside the camp, let alone of bearing reproach. It finds those things distasteful and repugnant to their own ideas of success and victory.

The mark of the genuine believer is separation from this world. We do not have to be mean spirited; we should not be. We are not called to be obnoxious in personality. But we are called to be different; to come out if this world and to make no friendship with it.

Let's do what the Apostle urged us do. Let's meet Jesus outside the camp and identify with Him rather than the world.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

We Are Surrounded

Hebrews 12:1 KJV
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Growing up, as I did, competing in rodeo events, I can easily picture the type of scene the Apostle is painting here. The Greek games, of which the Apostle's original readers would have been so familiar, were staged in such a way that many of the spectators of the various events would also be competitors in the games. It was, as was the rodeo life I grew up in, truly a situation where the competitor is
  • Watched
  • Encouraged and
  • Evaluated
by their peers.

Whenever I would complete my turn in whatever event I had entered, I would immediately take my place either
  • In the stands or
  • Behind the chutes or
  • Somewhere along the fence
to watch the others who were competing. We were literally surrounded by those who had just done exactly what we were about to do or doing what we had just done.

The Word of God reminds us, as we run this race of the Christian life, that we are encompassed about, surrounded by, those who have already finished the very race we run. Some of them ran that race with more or less success; many of them stumbled along the way, but they finished their course. We can learn from them, be encouraged by them and be urged to pass the baton faithfully to the next runners by them. 

Don't see yourself as a lone runner in a rugged contest. See yourself surrounded by those who have already run, those who are yet running and those who will run after you. 

We Must Write

Hebrews 11:4 KJV
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

Abel's testimony was such that "he being dead, yet speak with." A man I think can aspire to nothing greater. 
  • Some men do things that are remembered
  • Some men build things in their memory
But to leave something behind that serves to speak far after you are dead; that is a true influence. 

Everything we know about ancient civilizations is from those of that time who wrote. We have no way of knowing if what they wrote is an accurate reflection of their day or not. We only know what they wrote. 

Many great preachers have served the Lord over the two thousand years of Christian history. We only know about those who were written about or those who wrote. Great ministries have very likely been lost to the earth (though not to eternity) because nothing was written from them or about them. Men like AW Pink, John Gill and a few others, have defined what was Baptist thinking in their day, not necessarily because theirs was typical Baptist thinking but because they wrote down what they were thinking. 

If therefore a Baptist preacher (or anyone else for that matter) would speak even after he is dead. He must write. And he must seek to publish what he has written. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Good Things to Come

Hebrews 10:1 KJV
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

Hebrews 10:13 KJV
From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

Hebrews 10:34 KJV
For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.

Hebrews 10:37 KJV
For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.

The first verse of Hebrews ten says that the Old Testament had "a shadow of good things to come." It was never meant to be a final answer but always looked forward to something much better. That something is New Testament Christianity. 

Our Christianity is not meant as a final answer either, but merely as the gate moving us toward better things to come:
  • When the enemies of Christ and Christians will be put down
  • When in heaven we have a better substance
  • When Jesus comes and we dwell together with Him

The Jews' made the mistake of viewing their religion as an end all and because of it, could not or would not see that which was better in Christ. Let's not make a similar mistake and think of Christianity right now as the end all. It is just the door that opens the way to eternity.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Not What We Do but What He Did

Hebrews 9:1-5 KJV
Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.
For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.
And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

This passage seems to imply that the Old Testament worship was represented by those activities in the inner chamber of the tabernacle while New Testament worship is represented by what is inside the Holiest of all. 

When one considers it, the inner chamber was a place of duty and maintenance:
  • The priests kept fresh bread there.
  • The priests kept the light burning there.
  • The priests kept incense rising to heaven there.
It was a matter of maintaining the status quo. 

Only once per year did anyone enter the holiest of all and that only by one man; the high priest. The work he did was on the Day of Atonement; the one day the sins of the people could be considered paid for. Inside was the ark, the mercy seat and the cherubim. There was nothing inside to maintain. All the high priest did was sprinkle blood. 

It reminds me that New Testament Christianity is not about what we do; it's about what Christ already did and what God has done for us. 
  • He is feeding us His Word through the Spirit (pot of manna)
  • He is guiding us by His Word (Ten Commandments)
  • He is calling out shepherds to care for us in our journey (Aaron's Rod that budded)
  • He is ministering to us through His angels (cherubim) and
  • His mercies toward us are new every morning (mercy seat)
This is all made active by the blood of Jesus Christ shed just once for all men everywhere. 

When Jesus gave up the ghost the Bible says the veil of the temple was rent in twain, making the way into the holiest of all available to everyone all the time.

Ours should be more that a religion of duty but a faith in God's ministry in and through us. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Place Where We Are Free

1 Chronicles 9:33 KJV
And these are the singers, chief of the fathers of the Levites, who remaining in the chambers were free: for they were employed in that work day and night.

There is a place, inside of which, a person is free. 

We often think if freedom as being without restraints. The fact is, there are few people more enslaved than the one who knows no bounds. 
  • He is enslaved to uncertainty, as he holds no schedule
  • He is enslaved to poverty, holding down no job
  • He is enslaved to passions, doing only what feels good
  • He is enslaved to loneliness, his freedom leaves him without committed friendships

True freedom can only be found inside defined boundaries. While a person may see those boundaries as preventing him from going outside, he ought to see them as preventing dangers from entering in. We are only free when we see clearly where those boundaries are. Inside of them, we have perfect freedom.

There is a kind of freedom then, that a man may have regardless what state he may find his body in. There is a freedom of soul that is possible even if the body is 
  • Wracked in physical pain or 
  • Bedridden through handicaps or illness or even
  • Imprisoned in the chains of man
Prisoners of war have testified of this freedom. Inmates in the prison system who have gotten saved, have experienced this freedom. Handicapped persons such as Fanny Crosby though blind, knew this sort of freedom

The Christian who has trust in God for the outcome of all things is truly the most free of all. He submits his life to the will of God’s (whether it seems easy or difficult) but knows God works all things together for good.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

This Is Not Theory

Hebrews 8:1 KJV
Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;

After describing a high priest that is completely different than the sort the Jews knew
  • An High Priest who us immutable
  • An High Priest who is immortal and
  • An High Priest who is impeccable
A person may be led to think, "Yes, but such a High Priest is just a dream. No such man could ever be found to be this perfect minister." It is to this objection chapter eight turns our attention. In fact the passage insists, "We have such an High Priest."

God's Word insists that our faith is not theory. That those things we believe; those things we are taught in the Bible are reality. Our High a priest is not on earth[1] but He is nonetheless reality. 

Christians will be required to face the objections of the skeptic and unbeliever until the day Christ returns. There is no way to convince through faith the one who has abandoned all faith. But the believer sees assurances of the reality of our High Priest daily:
  • He ministers to us through peace in the soul
  • He ministers to us through comfort when troubled
  • He ministers to us through direction when lost
These evidences in the soul of faith, though not measurable and observable in the beakers and bins of science, are more certain than any concept the intellect may prove.

[1] vs 4

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

To Whom Do We Tithe?

Hebrews 7:8 KJV
And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.

The context and lesson of the passage concerns the better priesthood of Jesus Christ. Many arguments are presented as to why his is better:
  • His is immutable; theirs changed with each High Priest
  • His is one; theirs was many over the centuries
  • His is perfect: theirs was flawed because if the sins of the men called to be High Priest
In this verse,
  • His is immortal and therefore eternal; theirs is mortal and therefore temporal
 The verse uses the tithe as a means to point out this contrast. I would like to point out a secondary lesson in the text. The Old Testament tithe was given to men, the New Testament tithe (I believe it us fair to equate Abraham’s tithe to Melchisedec as being a type of a New Testament tithe because it was before the Law) is not to men, but to the Lord (as Melchisedec is clearly given as a type of Christ).

Our tithe should not be viewed as an offering to the pastor or even an offering to the church. It should be viewed as an offering we give to the Lord through His church.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's The Fruit that Counts

Hebrews 6:7-8 KJV
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

The same earth has access to the same benefits. Yet the one piece of ground yields fruit and herbs and it receives the blessing of God. The other piece of earth yields thorns and briars and is rejected and burned.

There is no possibility of misinterpretation here; only that of our ignoring it. It is the fruit that determines the response of God. We are made of the same earth and we are all given the same opportunities for salvation. The difference is the yield. One produces fruit, the other produces thorns. The fruit (or rather, the ground that produced it) is blessed of God; the thorns (or rather, the ground that produced it) is rejected and burned.

There is no mention of the amount of yield. That ground that produces fruit may produce lesser or greater quantities. That is not in question. The only question is, is it fruit or thorns? That ground that produces thorns may yield greater or lesser quantities. That is not the question. The question is, is it fruit or thorns? 

The blessing of God does not go to the one with the biggest harvest
It goes to all who bears fruit for God.
The curse of God does not go only to those who are exceptionally terrible
It goes to all who receive God's grace but reject its life giving impact. They each produce thorns and briars of one degree or another and all will be rejected of God in the end.
Any piece of ground may produce fruit and herbs

It is merely the result of receiving God's grace as from God, and giving the ground to His care.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Those Out of the Way

Hebrews 5:2 KJV
Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.

Lately I have felt great compulsion to pray for those who have made a profession if faith in Christ but for whatever reason are trapped in some form if worldliness. 
  • In some cases it is through the example of their parents
  • In some cases it is the result of being confirmed to the teaching of the educational system
  • In some cases it is a tendency to follow the most charismatic voice near them
Whatever the reason, some seem to get trapped out of the way. I picture a sheep stuck in some thicket of wood or a calf fallen off some precipice. Many times they resist the efforts of their “would be” savior. Their fear of their circumstance has worked them into irrational fear even of rescue. Trapped, they would be free. But trapped, they are wary of any who would help to free them. So trapped they remain.

The High Priest was taken from men, and the Great High Priest became man in order to have compassion on the ignorant and them that are out if the way, Jesus Christ compassionately seeks to save the lost.

My heart's desire is to be a tool He uses to rescue them.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Come Boldly

Hebrews 4:13-16 KJV
Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

The fact that Christ is "passed into heaven" is viewed here as an advantage. That is because He is not dead but is still alive and acting as our great High Priest
  • He is seated at the right hand of the Father to make intercession for us
  • He is acquainted with all our afflictions, having been tempted like as we are yet without sin and
  • He has opened the way to the throne of grace
Let us therefore... This is more than doctrinal permission to come to the throne of grace; it is an invitation, even more, an urging to come. We may, therefore we ought to; we must come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.