Wednesday, December 30, 2009

II Peter 2:14 Into the Mind and Out of the Mouth

I use the computer everyday in my job. Sometimes, as part of my assignments, I have had to use the computer to sort through billions of dollars worth of financial transactions to find stuff (i.e.—how much was spent on payroll for each employee, transactions involving small items such as computer equipment). Most of the time, I am able to find what I’m looking for without a ton of problem but I have on more than one occasion put the wrong search criteria in, waited 15 minutes, and gotten nothing out of the data only to realize I made an error. I found out the hard way how the adage “Garbage in/Garbage out” is very true. In much the same way, Peter in this verse shows us how these godless false teachers are corrupted inwardly and how that corruption is displayed outwardly.

First of all, as with all sin, we find that these false teachers depraved character begins in their minds—in the appetites they allow themselves to cultivate. In the previous verses, we’ve seen how their sinfulness is evident in their attitudes and their actions. They do what comes naturally and are so brazen in their sinfulness that they don’t even wait for the cover of darkness. Peter now shows us why they behave this way. He tells us they have “eyes full of adultery”. Now, you would point out, and rightly so, that I said the problem started in their minds but here Peter says “eyes”. That is true. However, what do you look at? Well, you look at what you want to look at, don’t you? You direct your eyes with your mind. Your eyes do not have a mind of their own but rather you focus them on the things that you want to see.

Now, we see these men who claim to speak for God, as we see here, focus their eyes on objects of sexual lusts. They don’t just take casual, passing glances. Rather, their eyes are “full”, which is used here it seems to describe how frequently they lust with their eyes. These men, in positions of trust and responsibility, use that position to abuse those who trust them. In all churches throughout the world this sort of thing has happened. The saddest, most heart wrenching part of that fact is that there are men who have helped to cover up these abuses. While Peter does not specifically say that sexual activity has taken place, these men have at the very least lusted with their eyes, which is just as sinful from God’s perspective. In fact, the verb in this phrase, “having”, is in the present tense which means this is an ongoing activity for them. Also, Peter tells us their eyes “never cease from sin”. Further, since Peter says their eyes are full of “adultery” we know that the looks are not simply a passing glance but rather a lingering gaze. As Warren Wiersbe has written, it is possible for a man to look at a woman, know that she is beautiful and not lust after her (I don’t suggest trying to convince your wife or girlfriend of that-joe). What Peter describes here is a look that is intended to gratify some sexual desire in the mind of these false teachers and it is intentional.

Their depraved character is also evidenced in what they say. From out of their mouths come words intended to entice “unstable souls”. Now, in the context, this could very well be descriptive of false teachers who seduce “weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses” (II Timothy 3:6). However, I believe this could apply to other kinds of false teaching as well. The human heart is wicked and depraved to the core. We want to reject the truth of God’s word and the authority it represents. Satan uses all the means at his disposal in his attempts at “enticing” (delazo [1185]-to bait or trap) us to sin. For some, it may be the promise of a life of comfort (“God never meant for you to be broke or sick”). For others, it may be a license to sin as some suggested in Paul’s day (Romans 6:1). Others still may be beguiled by the suggestion that they can earn their own way to heaven or in someway cooperate with God in their justification and thereby be made righteous through their own efforts. It should be noticed that those who follow are described here as being “unstable souls”. Rather than being grounded and established in the truth, these people are able to be swayed by the false teachers because their doctrine is shaky and unsteady. They may know what they believe but they don’t know why. They would most certainly not be students of the word who are prepared to defend the truth and give an answer for what they believe. These people willingly follow a false gospel because their heart has not been transformed by the truth.

The words and thoughts of these false teachers indicate the depth of their depravity. They are truth godless and not only have rejected the truth but attempt to lead others astray. As we serve the Lord, we must constantly be on guard for false teachers among us so they can be refuted and their false doctrine rejected.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Matthew 7:7-8 God-A Heavenly Father or Cosmic Slot Machine?

Why does Jesus instruct us to pray in the Sermon on the Mount and even show us how we should pray? As we examine these verses, I believe it’s pretty clear that God is our Father and wants us to realize and therefore depend on His love for us. Because of His relationship with us, we can go to Him in prayer with out needs. However, we should not take these verses out of context to insinuate that God sits on His throne, exalted in heaven, wearing a celestial plastic name tag saying “May I take your order?”

Notice, first of all in verse 7, that Jesus gives us 3 commands (imperative). The first of these is that we are to “ask”. Now, obviously, if we are asking for something that suggests a lack of some sort. I mean, you wouldn’t ask for something that you already had or had enough of. The Greek verb actually has the sense of imploring in earnest. You might even describe it as begging. This is not just a simple request but an urgent one. Jesus also tells us to “seek”. We’re not to just ask, sit on our hands, and wait for the answer to drop out of the sky. If we are so urgent in our needs that we are pleading with God then we will actively look for His solution. We will put feet to our faith. Again, since the verb in the Greek is in the present tense it should be understood that we are to continually seek. We should be persistent.

Finally, if we’re really serious in our prayer to God, we should also “knock”. Notice the progression, not only in activity but in intensity. If you’ve ever been home when someone has come by that you didn’t want to see and you hid out while they knocked on the door you know how irritating a persistent knocking on the door can be. I don’t believe that Christ’s point is that we should annoy God as if such a thing were even possible. I submit that His intention was that we should not give up on prayer and we should constantly and consistently come before the throne of God with our needs.

As we see in verse 7 and verse 8, prayer is effective. God is moved when His children pray and when we “ask…seek…and knock” we can be sure that we receive, find, and discover that the door is opened. But, the question is surely raised, what is it that we will find? Those with an unbiblical “name it/claim it” theology strip this verse from its context and use it to justify asking from a greedy heart, seeking in a covetous manner, and imagine themselves knocking on the door of the vault of heaven’s riches. However, let us remember the context of this command. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has painted a picture of humility, and a sincere, perfect devotion to God as demonstrated by not only the outward action of the person but the inward character of the individual. Now, recognizing that, all of us have to admit that none of us get close to that. I know, in my own heart, that when I get to heaven I want to compare notes with the Apostle Paul about the whole “chief of sinners” thing, because I’m pretty sure I’ve got him beat. If we truly meditate on our unworthiness and God’s righteousness and just how far we fall short of that then I doubt seriously we will treat God as the equivalent of an omnipotent Bellhop. I can’t conceive of someone who recognizes themselves as a sinner who deserves not God’s grace but God’s wrath and that it is only by His sovereign election that he or she is saved they will not pray selfishly. We can and certainly should come to God with our needs, the most preeminent of which is our spiritual need to have our hearts and minds made new and conformed to the image of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jesus in these verses directs us to persistently seek God in prayer. In fact, He commands it. As we will see in the following verses, we do not go simply as sinners imploring the Almighty Ancient of Days. We are children of God and we can approach Him as such, as we will see in the next verses.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Advent of The Lord part 5

This is the final post in my series on Matthew 2. I pray just as the magi found what they were looking for and rejoice that you too will find joy in this season where we celebrate the birth of Christ.

Blessings
joe

There is nothing in the universe that will satisfy the human heart like Jesus. People try to find the ultimate pleasure in success, money, physical relationships, power, possessions, and many other things. However, the only way to truly enjoy life to the fullest and find true, lasting satisfaction is in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only when we humble ourselves and worship Him as our God will we ever truly feel lasting joy. In our scripture passage today, the wise men from the east find just that kind of joy when they find and worship the Lord Jesus.

As we read the scripture, we find that after they conversed with Herod the Great as to how long the star had been appearing, they left immediately. Verse 9 records that when they had heard the king, they departed. These guys were on a mission. They were focused and persistent. They had made a long, probably dangerous, journey and they were very close to their goal. As we read earlier in this chapter, these men had come on this journey to worship God. As impressive as Herod’s court likely was to these foreign dignitaries, it was not enough to delay them from their ultimate goal,

We also note in that verse that these men searched persistently. The verse records that the star which they had seen in the east went before them till it came and stood over where the young Child was. These wise men had followed this star all the way from the east and knew it to be a supernatural sign from God that pointed to the birthplace of the Messiah. They persistently followed this sign. This sign was available to all the citizens of Jerusalem and certainly to the religious leaders. However, these Jews were not the ones to go and greet the Messiah. Instead, these Gentile astrologers were the ones followed this star to the King of kings.

Because they had found the One they were looking for, they were overcome with happiness and rejoiced with exceedingly great joy as Matthew records in verse 10. They weren’t just happy to have found Him. They had joy on top of joy. They were ecstatic. We can imagine these men having spent their whole life pursuing meaningless, empty truth. At some point, they must have been able to read and learn the Hebrew Scriptures because they knew the prophecies concerning the Messiah. At some point, they felt a desire to search for the Truth and find the God who would come as Messiah. While we do not have recorded the particulars of how or why they began their search, they must have gone in response to the Word of God. They found the fulfillment of the prophecies they had read and were overjoyed.

Their joy is ultimately expressed in their worship. Worship should be a natural expression of our love for God. These men, upon seeing God in human flesh, fell down and worshipped Him. We see in verse 11 as much as anywhere the true motivation behind the journey of these men. Yes, we had heard them say they were here to worship, but here we see them express their feelings by their actions. I know in churches sometimes people will stand with the congregation during the hymns and not sing. Perhaps they feel that singing is reserved for those who have beautiful voices. I submit to you that after what God has done for us by choosing us and sending His Son to be a sacrifice for our sins, we should sing no matter how we sound. We should worship through our giving, through our service, and through out attention as His Word is preached to us. Praise God for the example of these Gentile men who fell prostrate before our Lord and worshipped Him as God Almighty. We also observe that they gave Him gifts that recognized His Kingship, His Priesthood, and His role as sacrifice by giving him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We should reflect on their sacrificial giving and recognize that worship is only truly worship when it is performed out of love from a heart that is thankful. When we remember the grace of God and how He drew us to Himself, our hearts should rejoice as these men’s hearts did and that joy should overflow into love and praise for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Advent of The Lord part 4

I will be posting the exposition I did a few years ago of Matthew 2. I felt it particularly appropriate for this time of year. I pray that you are encouraged.

Blessings
joe

In Genesis Chapter 3, we read about the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. When God pronounced His curse on the serpent, He said that the Seed of the woman would crush his (Satan’s) head while Satan would bruise the Seed’s heel. This conflict between Satan and God is carried on throughout Scripture. Time and time again, we find Satan attempting to thwart the plan of God to bring salvation to the world. Time and time again, we find Satan used the same means in his attempt to do so. Through various means, he tried to kill the Jewish people since the promised Messiah would be Jewish. We see in the book of Exodus, the wicked Pharaoh was motivated to kill all the Jewish males in an attempt to exterminate the Jewish race. In the book of Esther, we see Haman try to have the Jewish race killed by the King of the Medeo-Persian Empire. Although we know Satan has no way to be able to defeat the plans of God, we see examples in scripture of him trying to do just that. In Matthew chapter 2, we see this all too familiar strategy attempted again by this wicked Roman ruler.

We can see how carefully Herod the Great laid his evil plan out. We see in verse 7 of chapter 2 that he secretly called the wise men. Most of the time, if someone is trying to do something secretly, it’s usually not something good. Oh, sure, someone could be trying to set up a surprise party or hide a Christmas gift for someone special. However, most of the time, if someone wants something hidden it is because it is something they are ashamed for people to see. We know the end of this story and what Herod wanted to do to our Lord Jesus. Even if we didn’t already know that, however, the facts we know in history and what we have read so far in chapter 2 would cause us to be suspicious at his secret consultation with these wise men. We also observe the manner in which he questioned them about the star. The verse records that he determined from them what time the star appeared. In the Greek, the way determined is used indicates that he thoroughly questioned them to find out precisely how long the star had been appearing in the sky. This same word is translated carefully in the next verse. Herod wanted to make sure he knew not only where his target was but how long he had been alive. We see him methodically planning and plotting with a sinister precision that would even impress Lex Luthor.

In fact, his method of planning his crime is not the only way he resembles a comic book villain. He even employs henchmen. I imagine once he found out where the Child was born, he thought it would be too obvious or cause too much of a scene if he went there himself. Perhaps he was afraid the people would revolt against him in favor of this new King. Whatever his motivations, he did not travel to Jerusalem himself. Instead, verse 8 records that Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem with instructions to search carefully for the young Child and when they found Him he wanted them to bring back word to him. Again, he wanted no stone left unturned. His instructions were for them to make a thorough, accurate, exhaustive search to find exactly where this new King was living. This agent of Satan did not want to miss his intended target. In the ultimate act of hypocrisy, he tells them that he, too, wants to worship the Christ. We should remember that not every person who claims to be a Christian is truly a Christian. People use the name of Christ and the church sometimes to try to hide their less than pure motives. The epistles are replete with examples of false teachers who try to use their ministry for their own greedy purposes. I know that sort of thing still happens today. What we see in Herod, then, is just another example of a lost person trying to use religion as a cloak for his own sinful desires.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Advent of The Lord part 3

I will be posting my exposition of Matthew 2 over the new few weeks in anticipation of the celebration of our Lord's birth this season. I pray that you are encouraged.

Blessings
joe

We observed in the last study of Matthew 2 how the birth of our Lord Jesus caused uneasiness in the heart of Herod the Great and the people in Jerusalem. The advent of the Prince of Peace caused them to panic for different reasons. Herod was afraid of a political rival and the people were afraid of Herod. However, one would expect the religious leaders, who were fervently anticipating the arrival of the Messiah, to have a proper response. Surely, they would praise God for finally sending the “Consolation of Israel” and fall down to worship Christ. We will see, as we study God’s word that, sadly, this is not the case.

We read in verse 4 of the text that Herod gathered all the chief priest and scribes of the people together and he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. This was a fairly startling move for this man and it reveals something of his motivations. We know that the news that One had been born King of the Jews troubled him. We also know that he was not Jewish and from things we can read in history he was not a person of faith. We know, therefore, that the reason for his inquiry was not godly nor were his motives pure. In fact, being a Roman official and an outsider to Jewish life, he actually condescended himself in asking this information from the chief priests and scribes. Josephus records that when Herod was named the Roman provincial governor of Jerusalem, he killed many of the scribes that were in Jerusalem. He, like most Romans, felt these people in Jerusalem were beneath him. Therefore, it must have humbled him to have had to ask these people for this information. He appears willing to humble himself somewhat if it means that he can thwart the Messiah’s rise to power.

He certainly looked for the information in the right place. We observe that he inquired of the chief priests. There was only one chief priest ordained at a time so, in reality, this could have included not only the current chief priest but also so of his predecessors. The priesthood had become something of a political office and sometimes they were disposed of at the whim of the local governor. These men were responsible for the service and maintenance of the temple. As such, they were important figures in Jewish life and could actually only come from one family. The scribes were the lawyers. They were professionals who devoted their time to the study of the law. In short, Herod called together the religious and judicial leaders of the nation in his haste to find out where his rival was born.

The fact that he was able to find any of these men should come as a surprise to us. They had just heard the news that the star announcing the birth of the Messiah had been seen by the magi. They knew the scriptures. If anyone in the city of Jerusalem should have been running to greet the Lord, it should have been these men. Instead, we find them having been assembled by this godless, evil man to assist him in his attempt to find the Messiah. They were able to do this with no trouble at all. Quite simply, scripture records that they said to him “In Bethlehem of Judea” and they noted that it was written by the prophet. They quoted the substance of the prophecy. Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. They also recognized the source of the prophecy was the revelation of God through His prophet. These guys could have made 100 on a Bible pop quiz. If they were on Jeopardy and the category was “Old Testament” and they hit the daily double, they could confidently say “I’ll bet all of it, Alex.” They knew, in a head knowledge kind of way, everything that a person needed to know to understand the significance of the birth of Christ. Instead of seeking Him our, they were indifferent. They were content to be called as consultants to this Gentile king who they hated rather than welcome their one, true King.

They even go so far as to quote from the Old Testament to substantiate their claim. In my day job, I’m an auditor. That is an accountant that has specialized in the task of telling other people how to do their jobs. Basically, when an auditee presents me with information, I never take their word for it. I always look for corroborating evidence. In a sense, that is what these men do here. They quote from Micah 5:2. We see in their quotation that is recorded in Matthew 2:6 that they knew the humble beginnings of the Messiah (You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah.) They also know from Scripture the character of the Messiah. They quote that the Messiah shall be a Ruler. The word ruler translates the Greek word hegeomai which means leader and has the sense of royalty. However, even though He would be the Messiah and would rule with a rod of iron, as noted in Revelation 19:15, He would be tender and compassionate with his subjects. These men further quoted that this Ruler would shepherd My people, Israel. We know that in the book of John, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd in chapter 10 and David proudly proclaimed that the Lord was his Shepherd in the 23rd Psalm. There is no more selfless, tireless kind of caretaker than a shepherd and that is exactly the kind of Messiah that was revealed in this prophecy.

These men knew all these things. They knew where He was to be born and, after the visit of the magi, they knew when He was born. Instead of going to look for Him, they remained in their lofty positions of power and influence in Jerusalem. Friends, let us pay careful attention to this. A person can know a lot about Jesus and the Bible and be lost as a goose. I would dare say there may well be some very well educated theologians that go straight into Hell and not all of them may be liberals. It isn’t head knowledge that saves a man or a woman but a real relationship with Jesus Christ. These men, by their indifference to the Messiah, prove their lack of a true faith in God.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Advent of The Lord Part 2

In anticipation of the celebration of Christmas, I will be posting my exposition of Matthew 2 over the next few weeks. I pray that you will be encouraged.

Blessings
joe

Matthew records that when Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled. The word, translated troubled is the Greek word tarasso and it means to agitate, disturb, or stir up. It is used to describe the emotional condition of the disciples when Jesus walked on the water to meet them in the boat during a storm. It is also used in John chapter 5 to describe water being stirred. One might say that the things he heard from the questioning magi caused him to fret. We should ask ourselves “Why?” Why would news of this sort cause this man to be agitated?

The answer lies in history. The Jews had been under foreign rule since about 500 years before Christ’s birth when the Babylonians invaded Judah and conquered the people, Rule passed from Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece and, finally, to Rome. The Jewish people hated being under the control of a foreign ruler and, as such, were somewhat difficult to control. Occasional revolts against their rulers were not uncommon. So Herod was in a tense political environment, to say the least. He was a descendent of Esau and, therefore, a foreigner. Therefore, the Jews hated him and he knew that.

In addition to the tense political situation, we have to remember that Herod was a ruthless, power mad despot. He killed two of his sons and their mother because he feared they were a threat to his power. Upon being promoted to king in Jerusalem by the Romans one of his first official actions was to kill many religious leaders in Jerusalem. The Jews knew him to be ruthless. He was also wildly ambitious and jealous. Therefore, when he heard the magi were asking about the one who had been born King of the Jews, he was thrown into a jealous fit. He couldn’t stand the thought of someone else bearing his title and he feared the people of Jerusalem would support the usurper.

We see, however, the people did not have the reaction he feared that they would. In fact, Matthew records that all Jerusalem was troubled with him. Of course, we know that they were aware of the evil this man who had been set over them as king was capable of because of his ruthlessness and cruelty. However, all Jewish people were expectantly hoping for the arrival of the Messiah. They knew His arrival was imminent because of the prophecy in Daniel 9:25. Their hearts longed for what they expected to be a political emancipation from foreign rule. Instead of rushing out to find where this Messiah was born, we see that they are troubled. In contrast to Gentile philosopher kings who brought word that the promised Messiah had been born and traveled many hundreds of miles to do so, God’s chosen people, the Jews, wouldn’t so much as travel less than 20 miles to their south to find their true King. Their fear of this Gentile king led them to ignore their Messiah who was God in human flesh. Instead of turning in faith to God, they kept their eyes on their circumstances and robbed themselves of the joy of greeting their Messiah.

Which side do you and I fall on? Are we like the Jews who were so worried about their circumstances to seek after God? Or do we have the faith of the wise men who followed a star on a treacherous journey because they were desperate to find God. Do we allow worldly concerns to become more important than seeking God and His Truth, no matter how hard the voyage.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christians-Our Present Condition

Our present condition is summed up in one word that begins verse 12 of chapter 3 in Philippians: “Not”. We’re not there yet. We’re in this world and, as our Savior told us, we will have trouble. As Peter told us, we will endure fiery trials. While spiritually we have been sanctified positionally, we grow and mature as Christians as we walk the Christian walk and become more and more sanctified practically. In the 12 verse, Paul states “Not that I have already attained or am already perfected”. Now here was the greatest evangelist, theologian, and pastor that has ever lived who was a mature teacher and preacher of God’s truth and he realized that he was not yet perfected. If he realized that he still had growing to do, how much more room for growth do we have as Christians. He says that there is still a goal in his sights-a prize to be won. He says “Not that I have already attained” and in verse 14 he says his goal is “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. He pictures this prize he seeks to attain as something external to him. He uses a word lambano (2983) which is often translated “to take”. He sees this prize as a goal in his future that he wants to lay his hands on. He also sees a personal transformation that will occur when he is redeemed. Paul says that he also is not “already perfected”. In the New Testament, the idea of perfection means to be complete or finished. Paul recognized that, in this life, we should grow more Christ like but we will never attain perfection until we are with Christ. In Romans 8:29, Paul writes that God “predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of His Son”. Paul also says that Christ intends to “present [us] to Himself, a glorious church, not having a spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”. Eventually, we will be perfect and complete. However, in this world, we’re not there yet.

So, what do we do? Paul set an example that I think we should follow. He said “I press on”. We do not cooperate with God in our salvation and it is through His power that we are able to become more Christlike. However, we must exercise our spiritual muscles to develop them. When I use a pen to write, that pen lays the ink on the paper but I am the one doing the writing. In much the same way, Paul tells us to “work out” our own salvation but that God is the one working in us. The Greek word Paul uses here that is translated “press on” is dioko (1377) and it is used to describe an athlete exerting maximum effort in a competition. It is the same word that Paul uses in verse 6 of this chapter to describe persecuting the church. In other words, the same effort and intensity that Paul showed in his effort to imprison and kill God’s church was the same effort and intensity that he displayed in his pursuit of godliness. This was not a passive, halfhearted kind of faith. He was chasing this prize. As he states in verse 1st Corinthian 9:24, we should run as if we were trying to win a prize. We should follow Paul’s example then and “Go for the gold” in our pursuit of God.

Paul also displays intensity in how he describes his goal. He says that he presses on in order that he “may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me”. The word translated “lay hold of” is katalambano (2638). The preposition kata is used to show intensity of the verb lambano which he used earlier in this verse. When he said lambano it was translated “attained” and he was expressing the idea that he wanted to take the prize. Now, he has said he would “press on” (chase after) this prize so that he may “lay hold” (seize, take as his own) of it. He also recognizes that ultimately this desire to become more godly is given to him by God. In His providence, God chose Paul before the foundation of the world just as He also chose us. Paul recognizes that he was chosen as an instrument of God’s sovereign will and that it was Christ who “has also laid hold of” Paul. We read in the book of Acts how God called Paul on the road to Damascus. He intervened in Paul’s life and took Paul as His instrument to share the gospel with the Gentiles.

As Christians, we are being transformed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. In this life, we will never reach perfection. However, we are called in the Bible to give our effort to putting into practice the faith that we believe. We do not live godly lives to obtain salvation. We live godly lives as a result of our salvation. Let us pray for a desire like Paul to “press on” and win the race.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Santa and his Elves are not real, but the dancing skills displayed by my family and I in this video ARE real!!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

The Advent of The Lord part 1

The celebration of the birth of our Lord is just around the corner. I will be reposting over the new few weeks exposition that I did a few years ago of Matthew Chapter 2. I hope you are encouraged.

Blessings
joe

Matthew records events that occurred after Christ’s birth to give us a clear picture of the kinds of responses people had to His birth. In chapter 2, we see Christ sought after, feared, ignored, and worshipped. We ever see innocent people murdered in an attempt to kill Him due to jealousy.

In verse 1, Matthew records that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was south and slightly east of Jerusalem. It was a small town but it was important for several reasons. First of all, it was the birthplace of King David. Secondly, the town had prophetic importance. As noted in Micah 5:2, the Messiah would be born in this town. Therefore, the location of Jesus’ birth was significant.

Additionally, Matthew records the ruler who reigned at the time. Herod the king was the man assigned to govern this area by Rome. Essentially then, he was a governor. The Jews hated this man. First of all, he was not Jewish but a descendent of Esau and, therefore, a foreigner. Secondly, he was known for ruthlessness and cruelty. Because the horrible man was set over them as king and he represented Roman rule, he was a constant reminder that Israel was under the political rule of another country.

Into this tense political climate came wise men from the east. The word wise men is magios in the Greek. It referred to men who were devoted to the study of the sciences of that day as well as philosophy and religion. Since these men came as the result of seeing a star, it is reasonable to assume that they spent at least some of their time studying astronomy or astrology. We also know the general location these men came from because Matthew records that they came from the east. Many Bible scholars believe these men were Persian. In any case, it was fairly obvious that these wise men “weren’t from around these parts.” These men left their homes and went on an arduous, possibly even dangerous, journey to follow this phenomenon. Very likely, it had taken them a long time to reach their destination. They were obviously motivated by some intense driving force. As our Lord noted in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” The faith and persistence of these men is an example to us.

We find further evidence that these men were people of faith as we examine the inquiry they made when they arrived in Jerusalem. They went around to people saying “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” Again, we see these men were persistent in the manner in which they asked. As John MacArthur observes in his study Bible, the word saying is a present participle in the Greek text. This indicates that they were probably asking everyone they met this same question. They were also fully cognizant of Whom they were asking about. They identified Him as the king of the Jews. Evidently, they were aware of the position of royalty this baby boy was born into. They also must have read and been familiar with the Hebrew prophecies and knew the Messiah would be born under a sign; a star. While this star looked like it might have just been a heavenly body, it was probably supernatural since it led these men here and would eventually settle over the house where Jesus was living. They knew the Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah 60:3 and Numbers 24:17 that the sign of the birth of the Messiah would be a star. Finally, we see their faith further evidenced by the purpose of their visit. They came not as political envoys or curious men, but as people who were in fact seeking God. They were Gentiles and, therefore, outsiders to the Jewish community. They were not seeking religion nor were they Jewish proselytes. Instead, these men went on this long journey to find God in order that they might worship Him. Let us pray for God to draw us even closer to Himself as He drew these wise men. Let us also pray that he would give us a heart to seek the truth as persistently as these men did.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christians-Our Future Hope

Christians live in two realities in a sense. Of course, we live and minister in this world as Christ Jesus said in John 17:15 “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world but that You should keep them from the evil one.” However, Paul notes in Ephesians 2:6 that God has “raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Quite simply, we are strangers in this world and we long in our spirit to be completely redeemed and at home with our Lord and Savior. The fact that we are not home here even though we reside here creates a tension in our lives. The apostle Paul, in the above verses, explains to us this struggle in his own life and gives us insight into what he does in response to this kind of “dual” existence.

Paul writes in Philippians 3:11 “if, by any means, I may attain resurrection from the dead”. He is concluding a thought he began he began in verse 8. In short, since his conversion, Paul came to realize that his man-made righteousness was not sufficient to please God and that true righteousness was found only in Jesus Christ. He says in verse 9 that this righteousness comes “through faith”. When we read Paul’s statement in verse 11, we must keep the facts about his conversion in mind. In other words, he does not say “if” in order to suggest that he doubts the truth of his salvation. In fact, he says “if, by any means, I” with a sense of humility. Paul was humble and realized the kind of life he had lived and was grateful that God would chose to save him. In 1st Timothy, he called himself the chief of sinners. Paul also says, in this phrase, “by any means” meaning that there is no other way that he is going to be saved. If God saves someone, he always accomplishes this by faith. Therefore, Paul is not expressing doubt about his future but proclaims the source of his hope about the future. In others words, the “means” he mentions in verse 11 is the “faith” he mentions in verse 9.

He acknowledges that his ultimate redemption is still in the future. He says “I may attain resurrection from the dead”. In my study of this passage, I have read theologians who debate what resurrection Paul is referring to. Is he talking about the general resurrection before the White Throne judgment or is he talking about the resurrection of the dead at the Rapture. To be perfectly honest, I don’t claim to know and I’m not 100% sure it even matters. I mean, at the end of the day, when we stand before God after we are resurrected we will be fully, completely redeemed. We won’t hurt anymore. There will be no more death, no more sin, and no more pain. We will praise Him forever more and live in perfect fellowship. Paul recognizes that he has not arrived at that destination of being resurrected. The word “attain” translates a Greek word katantao (2658) which means literally “to arrive at”. Paul is saying, then, that he has not “arrived” at the resurrection. We can be encouraged by this statement of Paul as he reminds us that our redemption is still ahead. The best is yet to come.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

II Timothy 3:14-A Sermon on Discipleship

Here is a sermon I preached back in May of 2009. I had posted a link where it could be downloaded but I found a place to host the audio so that I could embed it here free. I pray that you are encouraged.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am no longer serving at the church that I preached this sermon at nor am I affiliated with that church in any way.


II Timothy 3:14-Christian Discipleship -

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

II Peter 2:13 False Teachers-Their Conduct Part II

We are called to live as salt and light in this world. Truthfully, many people have speculated as to exactly what Jesus meant when he used the metaphor of “salt”. I submit to you that He meant we should be distinctive as Christians. People should see our conduct and see that we live differently because of our faith. As Peter continues in this verse, he further describes the conduct of these false teachers. As we will see, it is decidedly not Christlike.

First of all, in their conduct they show themselves to be soiled. The church of Christ is called to live holy lives, worthy of the calling with which we have been called (Eph 4:1). When sin is discovered in the church, it is to be dealt with (Matthew 18:15-17). In fact, it is the purpose of Christ to present the church to Himself as a bride not having any defilement whatsoever (Eph 5:27). In contrast with this purity, these false teachers pervert the truth of God’s revelation and live with their pleasure as their first priority. Therefore, they are rightly called “stains and blemishes”. They defile the church with their false doctrine and their sensual lifestyle.

Further, instead of preaching true doctrine, these false teachers conduct themselves by using subterfuge to gain an audience. In fact, they are proud of that fact. Peter here says that they spend their time “reveling in their deceptions”. I can picture them sitting around in meetings with other ministers, patting each other on the backs, forming little more than a mutual congratulation society. Instead of preaching truth, they ensnare people with a false gospel that does not and cannot save. In fact, the sadder truth is that not only do these false teachers preach lies but they believe them as well to the point that they take pleasure in them. They were able to gain popularity then and we can see that false teachers are still able to gain popularity today. Some of the most successful preachers (Olsteen, Warren, Schuller) preach doctrine that flatly denies scripture. However, they are “reveling in their deceptions” all the way to the bank.

Finally, we see their conduct was sensual. Peter says the false teachers would “carouse” with others. The word “carouse” means to feast lavishly. Now, there is nothing wrong with having money and enjoying that money because God has blessed you with it. However, if the first thing that you think of is “How can I use my resources to bring pleasure to myself” may I suggest that your priorities are not in line with God’s will. We should be willing to spend ourselves—our time, talents, and assets—to further the kingdom of God. These false teachers prove themselves to be interested only in their own indulgence and they themselves are blind to the truth and spend their time deceiving others.

We are called to be distinctive in our behavior to bring glory to God. Our Christian witness demands that we submit to the Lord and not the desires of our flesh. Of course, we can only do that with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. May we pray for God to conform us to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fearless by Max Lucado-A Guest Book Reivew

I have been lucky to be married to a wonderful, smart, beautiful woman for now 13 years. Recently, as part of the Book Review Bloggers Program at Thomas Nelson, I was able to obtain a copy of Fearless by Max Lucado. I ordered the copy because my wife said she wanted to read and review it. So here, for the first time in cyberspace and on this blog, is my MUCH better half, Patricia, and her review of the book.

Fearless by Max Lucado is an entertaining read. It is the sort of book one could likely sit and read in one or two evenings. Fearless addresses the issue of, (obviously from the title) fear. Lucado seeks to identify and describe instances of fear as well as how each should be dealt with by a Christian.

While scripture is used in the book, it is, at best, glossed over . Scripture is used primarily to highlight or emphasize the author’s points. For instance, Lucado relates an experience of a journey to the local animal shelter to retrieve the family’s pet stirring emotion within. He wanted to take every lost pet home with him. This “urge helps me understand why Jesus made forgiveness his first fearless announcement. Yes we have a disappointed God. But, no, God has not abandoned us.” He states. Three scripture references follow to further drive home his point. Additionally, in the chapter titled “I’m Sinking Fast”, Lucado lists three instances in which humans might long to hear “I am here” from family and friends who are near. Again, he links these to scriptures which indicate God saying these three coveted words.

Further, the author tends to add supposition and conjecture into scripture. For instance, Luke 8:51 is quoted next to a heading “He united the household.” When Jesus went to the house, he let only Peter, Joh, James, and the girl’s father and mother go inside with him.” In the case of Jairus (Luke 8:51), Lucado supposes that perhaps the mother has not been mentioned previously due to her having been at Her child’s bedside or because the child’s illness driving a “wedge between Mom and Dad”. God does not give us any details about the dynamics of the family. It seems that Lucado adds such conjecture to appeal to those in such circumstances today, instead of allowing scripture to speak for itself.

What’s more, Lucado often treats scripture with a degree of irreverence. He quotes Matthew 8:23-24. Then, he paints an image of Matthew poring over a thesaurus for the perfect term to depict the storm. Additionally, Lucado refers to the same setting as a “dinner cruise” transformed into a “white-knuckled plunge. Finally, he pictures the disciples shuffling cards for a “midjourney game of hearts”.

This lack of depth, postulation, and irreverence add to the overall feel that the book’s primary purpose is one of entertainment or self-help. For a true Christian looking for spiritual nourishment from the meat of the Word, this is not a book to spend time on.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy 13th Anniversary, Patricia!!

I love you always and forever.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Praise and Thanksgiving to the Lord

This is a video of our church choir. The piece is The Heavens Are Telling from the oratorio The Creation by G.F. Handel. I hope you are blessed.

video

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

II Peter 2:13 False Teachers—Their Conduct Part I

False teachers in the church throughout the ages have one thing in common: their conduct ultimately gives them away. Like Wile E Coyote on the old Looney Tunes cartoons when he would dress up as a sheep to try to steal some young ewe out of the flock, these false teachers can only play dress up for so long before they are found out. Peter, in his second epistle, goes on in his description of these false teachers by describing their conduct.

One adjective we might apply to Peter’s description is shameless. In verse 13, we read that these false teachers “count it as pleasure to revel in the daytime”. Now most bars here in Nashville are packed to overflowing on most weekend nights with some people doing things that most of us would consider inappropriate. But drive by the same places on a Monday or Tuesday at about 10 am and you will likely find them deserted if they’re even open. Most people have jobs or perhaps they’re just sleeping off their weekend activities. However, I suggest the main reason is that some activities are done under the cover of night. Unconsciously, perhaps, people want some sort of cover for their sin. These false teachers, in contrast, don’t even have enough shame to wait for the cover of night to for the “pleasure” they take while they “revel” with others. They are so bold, so proud that they actually do what they do “in the daytime”.

Not only does Peter tell us when they do what they do but he also tells why. These men, instead of being devoted to displaying God’s glory by teaching and preaching God’s word to His people are instead motivated by “pleasure”. The Greek word translated “pleasure” can be used in a positive or negative sense but is most often used in a negative sense to describe people who indulge sinful, selfish desires. Instead of, as Jesus said, taking up their cross daily and following Him, these false teachers have rejected Him and the gospel He preached for a “me first” mentality. However, the pursuit of pleasure is not the aim of the Christian life. In fact, Jesus said in Luke 814 that pleasure can choke the seed of the gospel so that it bears no fruit in a person’s life. The motivation of a person’s life, when that person is truly focused on the gospel, is the glory of God and spreading of His precious gospel. How, then, could these teachers who have claimed to speak for God and teach His word come to the point where they would abandon the gospel message and, in fact, pervert that message?

They consciously make the choice to seek pleasure. Peter says they “count it pleasure to revel in the daytime”. The word translated “count” is the Greek word “hegaomai” (2233). It is a term that means to come to a conclusion or a decision after examining the facts. This verb is also in the present tense so it means that they continuously think about their pleasure and have come to the conclusion that it is right for them to live the way they live. They have as their theme song that classic Bobby Brown track from the 80’s “It’s My Prerogative”. They have examined the evidence of the gospel and have made a fixed decision based on that evidence that they have the right to live in pursuit of their own pleasures and lusts rather than surrendering themselves as slaves of Christ, acknowledging His Lordship over them. In doing so, they have rejected the only Way of salvation
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Our lives are not about us, really. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We must be willing to die to ourselves to live as slaves of Christ—slaves with no rights an no freedoms. But slaves who are provided for and loved by their Master who gave Himself for them on Calvary’s cross.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Characteristics of Genuine Saving Faith part 3

The Mentality of Genuine Saving Faith

The reason Jesus is such a touchy subject to non-Christians is because of what He represents. Most people, have been blinded to the truth of the Gospel by the Devil, regard salvation and heaven as something they can earn through their own goodness. They believe either they are capable of attaining righteousness on their own or that they are already righteous. However, Christ’s death on the Cross destroys that theory.

By His death, He affirmed that sin demanded a penalty. He also demonstrated that sin’s penalty was death. Therefore, if I recognize that He paid my debt by His death and His resurrection is true, then I must conclude that He is God and I have to stop doing things my way and submit to Him. To do so, I would have to acknowledge my sin and my inability to make myself right with God. People want to create their own righteousness and earn their way to heaven so they don’t have to submit to God.

However, we who are Christians, have ”no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). We do not believe that our flesh has any power to save us. In fact, we have come to Christ and trusted in Him for just that reason. In Romans 7:18-25, Paul says “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” We submit to God and trust Christ when we have come to the conclusion that we are incapable of producing righteousness.

A true, saving faith is characterized by our mindset and our actions. Ultimately, those who trust Christ for their salvation rather than trusting themselves and those who serve the Lord are the ones who are spiritually circumcised.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ancient Word, Changing Worlds: A Book Review

In the book of Genesis, we find in chapter 3 verse 1 the first recorded words of Satan—“Indeed, has God said…” (NASB) From the beginning, Satan has attempted to cast doubt or even to destroy the word of God. In the past 150 years, the word of God has come under attack as never before. However, the most vicious attacks have not come from outside the church by scientists who sneer at the idea of God creating the world out of nothing or by philosophers who dismiss the Bible as just another book.

In fact, the most sinister attacks have been from those who call themselves “Christians” but who reject the idea that the Bible is the word of God with all the authority that being the word of God entails. The book Ancient Word, Changing Worlds: The Doctrine of Scripture in a Modern Age written by Stephen J. Nichols and Eric T. Brandt seeks to give a solid overview of the fundamental doctrines of scripture (inspiration, inerrancy, and interpretation) by reviewing some of the writings of major theological figures in the debate over these key issues regarding the Bible ranging across denominations from the end of the 19th century through the new millennium. While the book itself is not very long, it does an excellent job of packing quite a bit of information in a concise, accessible format that would be useful for all Christians interested in defending God’s word.

First of all, the book is a fairly quick read. Including three appendixes, the book totals only 175 pages. Furthermore, each chapter is laid out logically presenting both the arguments for and against the conservative evangelical position including material from a wide variety of scholars. The book is full of good information without being overly technical. A person could read the book in under a week without having to devote a undue amount of time to reading it.

Second of all, the book does an outstanding job of tracing the development of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy in the modern age, going all the way back to the Princeton Theologians Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield. While not giving an exhaustive examination of all their writings, the authors do a splendid job of including some of their major writings on the subjects covered while also providing a fair examination of the opinions of dissenting theologians. In short, a person who read this book would come away with a solid foundation of the major points related to the inerrancy, inspiration, and interpretation of the sacred text.

In short, I highly recommend this book. It would make an excellent addition to any Christian’s library and would also work well for a small group study. In a world where the word of God is constantly under attack, it is imperative for all Christians to be able to give solid answers to the hard questions regarding the reliability of the word of God.

Matthew 7:6-Don’t try to teach pigs to sing

I saw a sign once in music school that read “Never try to teach a pig to sing—it frustrates you and annoys the pig”. That has not been easy advice for me to follow. You see, I am like a bulldog chasing a car when I get in an argument. I go as hard as I can, hold on as tight as I can, and don’t know when to give up the chase. This is particularly true related to my core convictions as a Christian. While there are some issues that I can agree to disagree on, there are others that I sometimes, shamefully, get so worked up over I could punch somebody in the nose. As I have studied and meditated on the truths of this verse, I have been convicted of the fact that there are times where we as Christians must be willing to say “Enough is enough” and that I personally need to be willing to forgo the goal of winning a battle so as not to loose the war.

First of all, notice that Jesus here commands discrimination. In this verse, we are told “Do not give” and “Do not throw”. Whether we are giving (didomi [1325]-to give based on the decision or will of the giver) intentionally or throwing (ballo [906]-to throw or let go of something without concern for where it falls) haphazardly, we are not to completely abandon discernment. Much to the chagrin of liberals who love Matthew 7:1 for all the wrong reasons, Christ is, in this verse, calling people to judge. And based upon that judgment using biblical discernment, He calls for His followers to “not give” and “not throw”.

Further, He identifies the distinction that we should make when sharing the precious truth of God’s word. We should recognize first of all that the truth of scripture is “holy” and that it is as valuable as “pearls”. To be holy is to be set apart and biblical truth is certainly set apart by God as His unique revelation of Himself to mankind. It is the antithesis of human wisdom. The Bible reveals not only the character but the supernatural genius of God. It is also precious and valuable. Without the written, inspired, inerrant word of God each man or woman would have to try to figure God out all by themselves using solely subjective means to do so. We would be like Israel in Judges where everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

Not only is biblical truth distinctive, but we must make distinctions as we share the truth. Not everyone is going to be willing to hear and obey the word of God. Some reject it as being wholly true and therefore believe some parts are truer than others. There are those who simply reject the Bible and its truth outright. Certainly we may not know how someone will respond before we have the opportunity to share with them, but we should take their response into account when deciding to further share God’s word with them. This is true not only with unbelievers but also with believers. Hebrews 5:14 tells us that “But solid food (doctrine) is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses rained to discern good and evil.” If we use discernment in how we present doctrine to believers, how much more carefully should we present biblical truth to unbelievers? We should judge, by their reaction, their receptivity to the truth and determine whether they are “dogs” (vicious, potentially dangerous) or “swine” (profane). Dogs were not at the time that Jesus lived, domesticated pets. They roamed the streets and the wild in packs, carried diseases, and scavenged for food. Swine were the filthiest animals a Jewish person could think of. They represented being unclean. As we share the gospel with folks and we observe their reaction, we should be careful to distinguish between those who have an open animosity toward the gospel and those who do not. We are called, upon making this distinction to not “give what is holy” or “throw pearls” before those who have shown themselves to be hostile to the gospel.

There is a very specific reason for the warning Jesus gives in this verse. We discriminate in this manner to avoid placing ourselves in real danger where it can be avoided. Now, there will be times and are times where sharing the word of God will be dangerous. In China, churches have to meet in secret to avoid being arrested. In fact, Christians all over the world are still martyred in various countries. There are times when you are going to have to choose to obey God rather than men and share your faith. However, to simply do so indiscriminately without an awareness of your audience or surroundings is unwise. For instance, if you are at work and a co-worker mentions that he is gay, it may not be the best idea for you to explain to him that homosexuality is a sin and then call him to repent and trust Christ. I would suspect you would likely be fired for that. There is a time, place and manner to share that truth with him. There may be situations where you would be able to share like that during a casual conversation at work. However, I can imagine few scenarios where a situation like that is going to turn out well. It is far more likely that the co worker will “trample” that truth under his feet and “tear” into you verbally before going and filing a complaint with human resources. Certainly, if you know beforehand someone is going to be strongly opposed to the gospel, you should exercise caution when sharing it.

We have to use our heads if we’re going to honor God in our efforts to evangelize people and share the truth of God’s word. Sometimes as one of the character Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus says, we’re going to have to “take chances, get messy, and make mistakes”. However, we need not check common sense at the door. There are some battles that should be left to the Holy Spirit. It is not our job to convert souls, but to speak the truth in love.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Characteristics of Genuine Saving Faith part 2

The Activity of Genuine Saving Faith

Christianity is not a spectator sport. We, when we gather as the body of Christ for worship, are not an audience being treated to a free show. As Christians, we are called to service. Paul teaches the Philippians this when he tells them that they are the circumcision “who worship God in the Spirit”.

The English word worship is used to translate several Greek words in the New Testament. Sometimes, worship is used to translate the Greek word proskuneo (4352) means to prostrate oneself or fall on your knees and touch the ground with your forehead in reverence. In other words, it means to bow. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 14:25, Paul writes “…falling down on his face, he will worship God…” Also, in Matthew chapter 2, when the wise men came from the East, they stated they had come to worship (proskuneo) Jesus. However, the word translated worship here is the Greek word latreuo. The root word of this word is the word latris which means “a hired servant”. The word latreuo is usually translated as serve. In fact, Jesus Himself uses this word when being tempted by Satan. In Matthew 4:10, He says “Away with you Satan! For it is written ‘You shall worship (proskuneo) the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve (latreuo)’.” Certainly, worshipping our God corporately and singing praises to Him is proper and edifying. Corporate worship is important and God certainly deserves the praise of our lips. I was personally drawn into the church through children’s choir and youth choir. However, if that is the only way we worship our God, something is missing. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that true saving faith will change the way we live and give us a desire to serve our God. Romans 12:1 tells us that presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to God is our “reasonable service”. The word service is the translation of the Greek word latreia (2999) which is similar to latreuo. In the NASB, this verse calls our sacrifice our “spiritual act of worship”. We do not serve in order to obtain salvation. Rather, we serve because we are so thankful for what Christ has done for us.

Our worship as service comes from heart that is thankful. The power that enables us to serve is spiritual. In the New King James version, the text reads that we “worship God in the spirit.” Other versions read that we “worship in the Spirit of God.” In either case, our service is not just something we do but it is rather action that is the overflow of the effect of the Holy Spirits presence in our lives. The action of service is physical but the motivation behind it is spiritual. In fact, Jesus said in John 4:24 that the worship of God must be in “spirit and in truth”.

Paul says in Philippians 3:3 that true believers “rejoice in Christ Jesus”. The word that is translated rejoice is the Greek word kauchaomai (2744). The word means to boast or to glory. Therefore, Paul is saying that Christians should boast in Christ. Why? Obviously it is because we have nothing to do with our salvation. Romans 8:29-30 tells us that He foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified us. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that even the faith we have to believe was not ours but that it was the gift of God. Boasting in Christ Jesus and recognizing the miracle of salvation is a humbling activity. It is also exclusive in the sense that proclaiming salvation through Christ alone means that there is no salvation available anywhere else. In this day and time, people don’t like absolutes. Even people who call themselves Christians appear squeamish when faced with the possibility of proclaiming Jesus as the only way. Our culture of “tolerance” loves to talk about spirituality and even God. However, when you bring up Jesus people are ready to argue that point to the end.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

II Peter 2:12-13 False Teachers-Their Condemnation

I have very little tolerance for false doctrine. I do understand that there are some things about which men and women of good conscience can disagree on because they are not central to the gospel. However, in a recent blog thread, I was responding to someone who made the claim that homosexuality is not a sin because Jesus never called it a sin. This individual went on to make other claims such as parts of the Bible are not inspired or that Paul’s writings reveal his own personal agenda and prejudice. Now, I’m no pugilist but I have to admit, when I hear stuff like that and then I refute it with the truth but the person still won’t back down, I want to pop them in the mouth. However, I’d settle for a good ol’ fashioned round of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots.



When my God and His precious word are slandered, it gets my blood boiling. However, one day there will be a payday for all those who presume to speak for God but spread falsehood. Those people who pretend to be true teachers of the word will have their day in the court of heaven with the Judge who can’t be fooled or bribed. They will be justly condemned and eternally punished.

First of all, their condemnation will come because divine judgment will come on this sinful world. In Genesis, we read how the serpent, Satan, will have his head crushed. In Revelation, we read how Christ will come on a white horse with a sword to exact vengeance on this sinful world, thereby crushing Satan’s head. Peter tells us, continuing his description of these false teachers, that just as the animals he compares them to will be destroyed, these false teachers will also suffer destruction in divine judgment. The word translated “destruction” is a Greek word that describes something that is rotting. Just as the Pharisees in the time Jesus lived were called white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones, these false teachers put up a good front on the outside but on the inside rotting. The spiritual cancer of sin is eating them up slowly because they have rejected Jesus Christ. Someone diagnosed with cancer often times is given a pronouncement of how long they can expect to live. This world is rotting in sinful filth. All of creation is tainted by sin and will be destroyed. In that destruction, which has been predicted, these false teachers will also suffer personal divine judgment.

This divine judgment will deliver to these false teachers what they finally deserve. As Psalm 1 describes the wicked, they will be driven like straw in the wind—just blown all over the place. They will be helpless and hopeless in the face of almighty God. It will, in face, be exactly what they deserve. They will, as Peter writes in verse 13, find themselves “suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong”. They will have sowed into their life evil and rejected God and His word. They thought they could con people out of their money and gain fame and applause for themselves. They had positions of power and prestige. People looked up to them and they were for a time famous. However, this life is short and eternity isn’t. When it’s all said and done, they will know what Romans 6:23 means by “the wages of sin” because they will receive the wages they have earned. The harm and pain their false teaching caused will come back to them. They may have mocked God and His word for a time but He will have the last laugh in the end.

One life lesson I constantly try to reinforce with my children is that “Choices have consequences”. When false teachers choose to reject the truth and teach what they want they may have success for a while. The money may flow into their coffers and for a while, at least, they may live “high on the hog”. In the end, however, they will be judged. Their condemnation is certain and they will get exactly what’s coming to them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Characterisitics of Genuine Saving Faith Part 1

The Identity of Genuine Saving Faith

Paul, in verse 3 of chapter 3 in the book of Philippians, tells the believers that “we are the circumcision”. The emphasis in the phrase is on the word we in the Greek. Paul wants to stress to the believers that it is they who are the true circumcision as opposed to the Jewish legalizers who are in fact the false circumcision or “mutilation” as he calls them in the previous verse. As we noted last week, the Jews were proud of their circumcision and felt that it gave them a spiritual advantage before God. However, scripture has a different testimony regarding circumcision.

First of all, we should realize that circumcision itself was not a Jewish invention. It was actually practiced by other people before Abraham was told to do it as the sign of the covenant. The spiritual significance of the procedure was totally missed by the Jews. God required a spiritual purity. No physical procedure could provide that. However, the physical here is used to point to a spiritual truth. In fact, the Old Testament records that God in fact revealed this truth about circumcision to the Jewish people. For instance, in Deuteronomy 30:6, scripture records that “the Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your children to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, that you may live.”

Also, Moses called the people to “circumcise the foreskin” of their hearts in Deuteronomy 10:16. To have their hearts circumcised means to have their sin nature put off so that they would be clean before God and able to serve Him with a pure heart. Paul also wrote about this truth in the New Testament. In Colossians 2:11, Paul refers to this spiritual circumcision as “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.”

Finally, in Romans 2:28-29, Paul writes, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is in the outward flesh but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not from men but from God.” Therefore, the title Jews claimed for themselves in a prideful way actually belonged to Christians because the Jews missed the true spiritual application.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Matthew 7:3-5 Judgment—Where to begin

As we have seen in our study of this chapter thus far, not to mention the whole Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does not forbid Christians in all instances from judging. However, He does tell us how not to judge. We are not to use human wisdom or our own personal preferences. The judging we do should be based on God’s word and the truth’s it contains. If we are going to proclaim something (a law, for instance) to be sinful like legalized abortion or if we are going to come alongside a fellow believer and exhort them to repent of their sin, we should look to these verses so that we do so in a God honoring manner.

First of all, Jesus asks a question that my mother might have summed up this way “Rake around your own door and keep it clean before you come raking around mine.” The Lord asks us, basically, to consider our perspective. In short, the question asks why we are focused on someone else’s condition while not evaluating our own. The terms used in verse 3 (“speck” “log”) are metaphors that reflect a spiritual truth. If we take the time to “look at the speck that’s in [our] brother’s eye” then we have missed the point of our responsibility to speak the truth of God in love. The verb “look” is in the present tense in Greek which means the act of constantly looking at something—in this case a speck in our brother’s eye. This isn’t a passing glance but rather we are constantly directing our attention to the speck. We are actively examining this problem. However our Lord says that is not the first thing we should do.

He chides us for paying such close attention to this speck while not giving much needed attention to the “log” in our eye. I would submit, based on the context, that the log represents the sin of pride. Here, Jesus shows someone assuming that their poor brother needs help. He has seen the speck in his brother’s eye and knows the he can help him remove it. The problem is he has not examined himself first. He sees his brother’s needed to be cleansed of sin but does not recognize his own need. We will never, while living in the world, be free from sin. We will all have specks in our eye with which we need godly men and women to come alongside us and help us remove. But we cannot help anyone without examining ourselves first. As Paul says in Romans 1, we cannot go to someone who is dealing with sexual sin if we’re dealing with that as well. The church’s witness to the world regarding sexual morality would be much less hypocritical if we didn’t say “Homosexuality is sin” with the same mouth that we say “I want a divorce” just because we’ve decided that our spouse gets on our nerves or we fell “out of love”.

This does not preclude us from proclaiming biblical morality. It does put a high standard in front of us that we must reflect upon because, brothers and sisters, we are called to live holy lives. If we are going to witness to the world that God calls men and women everywhere to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, we must live lives consistent with our proclamation that we have done just that. We have a huge responsibility to live what we believe. If we do not examine ourselves in the light of scripture and, as David said, pray that God would show us any of our faults, there is no way we can say to the world or our fellow Christians “Let me take the speck out of your eye” when, as Jesus says in verse 4, we have a big, honkin’ huge log stuck in our eye. That log says “My sin is not as bad as your sin”. Without dealing with that self righteous attitude, we will be of no help to anyone.

In fact, Jesus commands us to drop our self righteous act (“You hypocrite”) and examine ourselves. Where are we falling short of living as God has called us to live? Is it at home? At work? We can put up a good front some of the time but there is no one who can keep it up all of the time. Our hypocritical mask of being Super-Christian is just that—a mask like a child might wear on Halloween. We are commanded to take out this log immediately. The tense of the verb gives the sense of “Do it now. Don’t delay. Quickly!” When we have done that, we are in a position to go to our brother and help him. When we have allowed God’s Holy Spirit to lead us in self examination and we have confessed our sins we are able to help others deal with theirs.

Does this sound like a tall order? I think it should. I don’t think nearly as many Christians are spiritually mature enough to help others as this verse instructs us to do. We certainly have a responsibility to speak biblical truth to people, but we must be sure that we are doing so with the proper perspective. It is imperative for us to seek to be right with God before we can help others do that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Reliability of the New Testament

On a blog comment some time back, an individual alleged that the canon of the New Testament was not agreed upon until very late in church history and that the Bible was little more than a collection of human documents written by men. His allegation further suggested that there was little agreement as to what books were in the Old and New Testaments and some people left books such as the Apocrypha out of the canon in some cases but not in all and therefore the canon could not be relied upon as authoritative. It was as much chance as anything else that led us to getting the books in the Bible that we have now. In the case of the Old Testament, we have a statement from the Jewish historian Josephus. He lived at the time of Christ and said

“We have not a countless number of books, discordant and arrayed against each other; but only 22 books, containing the history of every age, which are justly accredited as divine. Of these, FIVE BELONG TO MOSES, which contain both the laws and the history of the generations of men until his death. This period lacks but little of 3000 years. From the death of Moses, moreover, until the time of Artaxerxes, king of the Persians after Xerxes [to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah], THE PROPHETS, who followed Moses, wrote down what was done during the age of each one respectively, in thirteen books. The remaining four contain HYMNS TO GOD, and RULES OF LIFE for men. From the time of Artaxerxes, moreover, until our present period, all occurrences have been written down but they are not regarded as entitled to the like credit with those which precede them, because there was no certain succession of prophets. Fact has shown what confidence we place in our own writings. For although so many ages have passed away, no one has dared to add to them, nor to take anything from, nor to make alterations. In all Jews it is implanted, even from their birth, to regard them as being the instructions of God, and to abide steadfastly by them, and if it be necessary, to die gladly for them.”

Now, these days we have 39 books in our Old Testament. Josephus mentions 22 because, at that time, some of them were combined together. For instance, Joshua and Judges were one book and the twelve minor prophets were collected in one book called the Twelve. Therefore, on the witness of a recognized historian from the time that Jesus lived on this earth, I’ll go on record as saying the OT canon was fixed as of the time of Jesus’ birth.

Now, as to the New Testament cannon, I did a little analysis. Examining a list of 16 early sources on the development of the New Testament Canon spanning from about 110 AD to the compilation of the Latin Vulgate Bible in 400 AD revealed some pretty interesting facts.

1) The average percentage of acceptance for the 27 books of the New Testament used today between these 16 sources was 73.84%. Oh, what did you expect from me, a ROUND number? Hello. I am an accountant. To have agreement on an average of almost 12 of the 16 people surveyed is pretty decisive.

2) Of the 27 books, 19 of them (70.3%) were accepted as inspired scripture by 11 of the 16 sources. Again, pretty convincing numbers.

3) Of the 27 books of the NT, only 4 of them (14.8%) were accepted by fewer than 8 of the 16 sources. So, 23 of the books of the NT (85%) were accepted by 8 of the 16 sources over a span of nearly 300 hundred years.

Needless to say, it is pretty obvious that most of the NT books were overwhelmingly recognized as inspired by God. Now, the other gospels and books written that some tried to add to the word of God (see here for a list of NT books and pseudographical books that were not part of the New Testament) there was little support at all among the sources.

1) The average acceptance of the 19 false gospels and epistles among the sources was 6.58%.

2) The highest level of acceptance among any of the 19 was 25% (Shepherd of Hermas).

3) 9 of them were not accepted by any of the sources. A big fat goose egg is a pretty poor score.

Now, bear in mind that these were men who were independent of each other and came to these conclusions. The weight of their evidence seems pretty convincing. The New Testament as we know it was overwhelming affirmed as authentic. The pseudographical books were soundly rejected as not inspired.

Now, you have the evidence. You make the call.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

II Peter 2:12 False Teachers-Their Communication

I remember taking French in high school as a foreign language. While in class, one of my classmates astutely asked the teacher “Are you going to teach us to cuss in French?” I’m sure he expected a giggle from his classmates, which he got. But we were all somewhat surprised by the teacher’s response—she said she wanted us to know those sorts of things. She explained that knowing stuff like that about the French language would you us gauge the character of people we were around if we were ever in a French speaking area. It’s true that you can tell a lot about someone by the kind of language they use and the topics they bring up in a conversation. As we study this verse, we see Peter describe the false teachers who had infiltrated the church by telling us about their communication.

First of all, he tells us about the quality of their communication. Peter writes in verse 12 that these false teachers spend time “reviling”. The word that is translated “reviling” is the root of the English word “blasphemy” (blasphemo-987). The verb is in the present tense and therefore indicates this is a continuous activity of these false teachers. This is the quality of speech that characterizes these men. We all know or have known someone about whom we could say “They can’t say a nice word about anything.” They grumble. They complain. These men, who purported to be leaders in the church and teachers of God’s word, spend their time not leading or teaching but rather speaking evil. This should be a red alert for any Christians to take note of in a person’s life. All Christians, but especially Christian teachers, are called to speak truth for the purpose of building others up in Christ. As Paul writes in Colossians 3:8 “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander (blasphemian-988), and abusive speech from your mouth.” In other words, these men are known, as a pattern and habit of their lives, to speak in a manner directly opposite of the way Paul says we as believers are called to speak. Also, he writes in chapter 4 verse 6 of that book “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Clearly, the quality of speech of these false teachers is in stark contrast to the kind of speech a believer is called to be known for in their lives.

However, it’s not just the quality of their speech that characterizes these false teachers, but also the substance of what they say. In short, they make a lot of noise and presume to speak for God. In the end, though, they “have no knowledge” of what they’re talking about. The word used here can mean not only that they are ignorant and don’t know what they’re talking about, which is most certainly true, it can also mean they refuse to think about something as if they ignore it. I suspect Peter had both views in mind. These false teachers are ignorant of what the scriptures truly teach and they refuse to study the scriptures so they could see what it really says. The pastor of America’s largest church has said something along the lines of “There are a lot of people who know more about the Bible than me and can teach it better”. I believe this gentleman is saying that he disdains to study the Bible—he doesn’t really believe it has a lot to offer people and he thinks his advice on becoming a better you or being a champion in your life (whatever that is supposed to mean) is more useful and edifying than the life giving, powerful, word of God. In like manner, these false teachers that Peter speaks about have a habit of beating their gums together and making sounds come out of their mouths, but in the end they haven’t said a thing. Their words are useless.

As Christians, we should make sure we speak the truth. The Bible is God’s revealed word and should be the substance of our teaching and preaching—not our own ideas or whims. We must study to know the truth. Then we must speak the truth in love with the goal in mind of building others up in the faith and proclaiming the good news Jesus Christ to all men and women.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Matthew 7:2 To Judge or Not To Judge

As we have seen in the study of this chapter in Matthew, Jesus did not intend in chapter 7 verse 1 to forbid Christians from all judging. The immediate context demonstrates this pretty clearly. The broader context of the New Testament also proves this unquestionably. We are left then with the question “How are we to judge?” I believe, as we look at chapter 7 verse 2, we can see a clearer picture of the kind of judging Jesus is talking about.

First of all, observe that Jesus tell us that we will be judged. He says in this verse “…you will be judged…” and “…it will be measured to you.” Now, He doesn’t say who is going to do this judging. Obviously, He may have had two things in mind—the judgment of God and the judgment of man. Perhaps He intended both here.

Now, He further clarifies not only that we will be judged but how we will be judged and in so doing gives us our parameters for judging, if you will. We see here that the kind of judgment we will have applied to us is the same kind of judgment that we use. Now, the question then becomes “What kind of judgment do we want applied to us?” Let’s look at some examples from scripture and see.

  • Psalm 139:23- Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
  • Job 31:6- Let Him weigh me with accurate scales, And let God know my integrity.
  • Psalm 26:2--Examine me, Lord, and try me. Test my mind and my heart.

I could go on, but I think we see a pattern developing here. If our desire is to live a life that pleases the Lord, we invite the judgment of our heavenly Father. When He judges, He does so according to perfect righteousness and that perfect righteousness is revealed in scripture. Therefore, when we judge, it should be according to scripture. However, we must be humble and bear in mind that we are not omniscient (we don’t know the minds and hearts of people) and therefore must be cautious in any judging that we do.

Jesus is not issuing a blanket prohibition on judgment by Christians but rather giving us guidelines in exercising that judgment. As we apply those guidelines, we should bear in mind that it is God alone that judges perfectly and while we should never bend or waver on defending the truth of scripture and of the gospel, we must remember that there are some battles worth fighting and some where we must agree to disagree.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Can Someone Be Too "Edu-ma-cated"??

Gerd Lüdemann, Professor of History and Literature of Early Christianity at University of Göttingen and a visiting professor at Vanderbilt University, wrote an article called Liberated from the Christological Madhouse where he postulates that Christians today try to read too much into the Old Testament regarding Christ. Now, I'd personally like to challenge him to a fight with Nerf N-Force swords even though that wouldn't do anything.

He offers up this little jewel though related to Matthew and his use of Isaiah 7:14-

The evangelist Matthew would have us believe that Isaiah 7:14 foretold the virgin birth of Jesus; but since the announcement of this forthcoming birth refers to an event during the reign of king Ahaz (741-725 BCE), Jesus cannot have the child referred to.

Would have us believe indeed?? Yeah, because surely God couldn't have meant for it to say that and mean that. I mean, He just INSPIRED the text to be written the way it was written. I am not nearly as learned (pronouned "learn" "ed"--two seperate words) as the distinuguished professor but I am just foolish enough to believe that when a New Testament author interprets the Old Testament that the New Testament writer got it exactly right because God inspired him to do just that. I guess I'm kinda silly that way.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

II Peter 2:12 False Teachers—Their Classification

Did you ever use an acrostic to try to remember something for a test? I’ve always found those to be helpful. For instance, in 8th grade science, we learned the scientific classification for living things: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. I still remember it like it was yesterday because of a simple acrostic my teacher taught us—Keep people clean or forget good smells. Anyway, as we begin to look at this verse, we will see that Peter teaches us what class the false teachers of the day should be listed under.

In other words, what are these people who have crept into the church and begun teaching false doctrine? Peter says in verse 12 that they are “animals”. Now the Greek word for animals basically means something that is alive and doesn’t really have any sort of negative connotation. Without taking this into context, someone might say “Well, man is just an animal”. Peter goes on to clarify then what kind of animal these false teachers are by calling them “unreasoning”. The Greek word (alogos-249) comes from “a” which means “without” and “logos” which means “reason” and is the root of a good deal of words in English that will help us understand what Peter is saying here: logarithm, and logic just to name a few. Therefore, Peter is not talking about someone who looks at information, analyzes it, and is able to come to an appropriate conclusion (Romans 12:1-where Paul calls a believer’s sacrificial worship “reasonable (logikos) service”). These animals are not driven by thought or the rational, logical exercise of their mental faculties. It’s like the old joke “Where does an 800 pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants.”

In fact, Peter further drives this point home by indicating how these false teachers live. He describes them as “creatures of instinct”. The word translated “instinct” is the Greek word “phusikos” (5446) and it basically means to do something by nature. Like the Buck Owens song, the word describes someone who will just “act naturally:” In scripture, the same word is used in Romans 1:26 and 27 to describe natural function with regards to human intimacy. Now, we can train ourselves to do things by nature. I played saxophone for many years and I did not have to pull out a chart every time I played a piece of music to see how to position my fingers. I had “muscle memory”—I had trained myself or developed an instinct to be able to do something (look at symbols on a piece of paper and translate that into muscle movements and control of my breathing) to produce music. Now, that didn’t happen overnight. When I started in 5th grade, it was not instinct for me to play the saxophone. However, by the time I was in college a few years I could almost play the thing in my sleep. However, these false teachers did not practice this pattern being described but rather they were “born as creatures of instinct”. They didn’t develop the sinful instincts they follow. They are simply following the nature the inherited from their spiritual father—Satan.

So where does this path of sinful disobedience to God lead these false teachers? Peter has said these men were dangerous to the people of God bringing in “destructive heresies” and he reinforces that point here by saying the path they follow leads them to be “captured and killed”. Now, the word translated “killed” doesn’t mean that Bubba walks up with his Remington pump and says “I got you now, varmint”. It really has the idea of decay or rotting. I think the idea is more that they are captured and then they rot in their own filth. The fact that Peter says they would be captured and killed reminds us once again that false teachers are dangerous and cannot be allowed to spread their false doctrine.

We could picture a tiger roaming a stage. Now, you can have a tiger and you can think you’ve tamed it and got it under control. However, all it takes is one time for that bad boy to say “I got you where I want you” and to get hold of you by the neck, drag you off of that stage (just ask Siegfried and Roy) and end up telling his friends something like “It was great. No fur. No claws. Just soft and pink. I would have preferred it with a mango salsa, but you can’t always get what you want, right?” The fact that Peter stresses here and other places is that these false teachers are depraved (following their own sinful lusts) and dangerous (like wild animals) and are to be avoided at all costs.