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Friday, September 28, 2007

Practicing The Jewish Religion In The Context Of Christianity

A couple of people have expressed an interest in my view of embracing Jewish religious customs in the context of Christianity. My most intimate familiarity with this thinking comes from a friend I had about 17 years ago who began to attend a Messianic Temple and eventually left the New Testament church to join himself to this temple. I briefly scanned the website that one of my questioners mentioned and while I do not have the time to read much of the material I am somewhat acquainted with the thinking. A couple of the books on the website I recognized (in fact I own one of the them; Hislops, The Two Babylons) and they basically deal with the Catholic church. Unfortunately when most people think of Christianity and especially the abuses therein they think Catholic. I say it is unfortunate because Catholicism is not a faithful expression of New Testament Christianity, nor or her daughters.

But......to the point at hand. I feel compelled to begin by asserting my love for the Jewish people. Christianity owes a great debt to the Jewish nation. Our Saviour was of Jewish birth. Our Bible was given to us by Jews who recorded the inspired words of God. The early New Testament church was largely Jewish. Most Gentiles have the Apostle Paul to thank for their salvation, and he was a Jew. I believe the covenants made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are unconditional promises that have yet to be ultimately fulfilled, but they will be. I believe that those who curse Israel will be cursed and that those who bless Israel will be blessed. I count myself among the Jews strongest supporters.

The Jewish people are a miracle of God. Having been dispersed across the globe for almost 2,000 years they managed to maintain their identity and eventually landed back in their ancient homeland, although that has been the occasion of much dispute. The Jews are the chosen people of God, the apple of his eye!

However........Their history is a history of disobedience and rebellion. They themselves have rarely kept their own law and ceremonies and if they did so it was often with a wrong heart. They have been the recipient of some of God's harshest judgment. The fact is that today they cannot practice their religion as the Old Testament outlines for to do so they must have a Temple, and they do not. The Hebrew religion is a system of sacrifice and they are not doing that. They have made substitutes but it is disingenuous for any of them to claim that they are practicing the Jewish religion as outlined in the Old Testament. Where is the priesthood ministering daily in the Temple. Where is the Most Holy place, the Holy Place, the table of shewbread, the alter of incense, the golden candlestick, the alter of burnt offering, etc. . . There is no one (to my knowledge) practicing the Jewish religion as it is set forth in the Old Testament.

Another thing to consider is that the Scripture clearly expresses that the Jews, as a nation, have been set aside for a time and God is fulfilling his plan primarily through the Gentiles. The Apostle Paul discusses this reality at length when concerning the Jews he writes:

Romans 11:8-28 - (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.

I am not one who believes we should abandon all of the Old Testament in view of the New. I do however believe that the New Testament supersedes the Old Testament in that it provides a more clear view of the purposes of the Old Testament. The New Testament certainly reveals the fact that much of the Old Testament has been fulfilled and is consequently unnecessary for the New Testament believer. The moral law is, of course,unchanging. However the religious ceremonial law was fulfilled in Christ and as a result is rendered useless. If the book of Hebrews is not teaching us this then I don't believe I could ever be sure what it is teaching us.

Jesus fulfills the office of priesthood:

Hebrews 7:22-28 - By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

The system of sacrifice, priesthood, and carnal ordinances of the Old Testament was simply a foreshadowing. With the advent of the substance, Jesus, the shadow disappears!

Hebrews 9:1-14 - Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?


The ceremonial law simply was a shadow of good things to come.

Hebrews 10:1-4 - For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

As for the feast days the Apostle Paul also addresses the New Testament believers relationship to these when he writes:

Colossians 2:16,17 - Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

One of the main problems with this kind of thinking is that it diminishes the significance of the New Testament. The context of the New Testament is clearly different than that of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament God was manifesting himself through a nation. In the New Testament God is manifesting himself through the churches.

Ephesians 3:21 - Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

It is not unto him be glory in a nation but in the church. The New Testament emphasis is clearly placed upon the churches.

Jesus said "I will build my church".

Most all of the Epistles are addressed to particular churches.

The other Epistles that are addressed to individuals address church issues.

The Revelation is addressed to the seven churches of Asia.

The churches are referred to as the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, and the building of Christ.

Ephesians 2:19-22 - Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Who is the "ye" in the verses? The church at Ephesus! The church at Ephesus was the temple of the Lord, an habitation of God through the Spirit. Churches have displaced the Old Testament Temple.

Finally the way to know the truth is through Jesus Christ as revealed in the gospels, expounded in the epistles, and unveiled in the Revelation!

John 14:6 - Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

The truth is not unveiled in the Old Testament rituals but in the New Testament Saviour! The Old Testament ritual was simply a shadow, an imperfect reflection of the New Testament Saviour! Seeing Jesus helps us more clearly understand the Old Testament in its proper light because in him we have the reality, the substance and not the mere shadow! It is my fullypersuaded conviction that those who point us to Old Testament ritual are moving us back into the shadows!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The following is from Spurgeon's message, Turn Or Burn!

"Perhaps some of the Puritan fathers may have gone too far, and have given too great a prominence to the terrors of the Lord in their ministry; but the age in which we live has sought to forget those terrors altogether, and if we dare to tell men that God will punish them for their sins, it is charged upon us that we want to bully them into religion, and if we faithfully and honestly tell our hearers that sin must bring after it certain destruction, it is said that we are attempting to frighten them into goodness. Now we care not what men mockingly impute to us; we feel it our duty, when men sin, to tell them that they shall be punished; and so long as the world will not give up its sin, we feel we must not cease our warnings. But the cry of the age is, that God is merciful, that God is love. Ay, who said he was not? But remember, it is equally true, God is just, severely and inflexibly just! He were not God, if he were not just; he could not be merciful if he were not just, for punishment of the wicked is demanded by the highest mercy to the rest of mankind. Rest assured, however, that he is just, and that the words I am about to read you from God's word are true: 'The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God;' 'God is angry with the wicked every day;' 'if he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.' Forsooth, because this age is wicked, it is to have no hell; and because it is hypocritical it would have but feigned punishment. This doctrine is so prevalent as to make even the minsters of the gospel flinch from their duty in declaring the day of wrath. How few there are who will solemnly tell us of the judgment to come. They preach of God's love and mercy, as they ought to do, and as God has commanded them; but of what avail is it to preach mercy unless they preach also the doom of the wicked? And how shall we hope to effect the purpose of preaching unless we warn men that if they 'turn not, he will whet his sword?' I fear that in too many places the doctrine of future punishment is rejected, and laughed at as a fancy and a chimera; but the day will come when it shall be known to be a reality."

The judgment of God is to be preached solemnly and earnestly. People should tremble knowing the terrors of the Lord. One of the evidences that the world is morally corrupt and unrighteous is that "there is no fear of God before their eyes." If we knew that a bridge was out on a major interstate and that cars were rushing past headed for certain destruction; would we stand politely on the shoulder, saying, "Excuse me, Excuse me" in hushed tones. To do so would be a great dereliction of duty. For the love of humanity we would stand as much as we dare in the way of traffic, waving our arms and demanding that they stop and turn around lest they be destroyed. How can we do any less for the countless souls who rush past us every day on the way to eternal destruction?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What Wilt Thou Do Then Without A Saviour?

The following is from Spurgeon's message, Love's Commendation.

"Again, a day is coming when thou wilt feel thy need of Christ, if thou dost not now. Within a few short years, perhaps months, or days, thou wilt lie upon the last bed that shall ever bear thy weight; soon thou shalt be stayed up by soft pillows; they frame will be weak, and thy soul full of sorrow. Thou mayest live without Christ now, but it will be hard work to die without him. Thou mayest do without this bridge here; but when thou gettest to the river thou wilt think thyself a fool to have laughed at the only bridge which can carry thee safely over. Thou mayest despise Christ now, but what wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan? Canst thou face death, and not be afraid? Nay, man, thou art affrightened now if the cholera is in the city; or if some little sickness is about thee thou shakest for fear; what wilt thou do when thou art in the jaws of death, when his bony hand is squeezing thee, and when his dart is in the vitals? What wilt thou do then without a Saviour? Ah! thou wilt want him then. And what wilt thou do when thou hast passed that black stream, when thou findest thyself in the realm of spirits - in that day of judgment, when the thunders shall be loosed, and the wings of the lightning shall be unbounded - when tempests shall herald, with trumpet voices, the arrival of the great Assize. What wilt thou do when thou shalt stand before his bar, before whom, in astonishment, the stars shall flee, the mountains quake, and the sea be licked up with tongues of forked flame. What wilt thou do when, from his throne, he shall exclaim, 'Come hither, sinner,' and thou shalt stand there alone, to be judged for every deed done in the body. Thou wilt turn thine head, and say, O! for an advocate!' And he shall look on thee and say, "I called, and ye refused; I stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; I also will not laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh'. Ah! what wilt thou do then, sinner, when the judgment-seat is set? O! there will be weeping - there will be weeping at the judgment seat of Christ. And what wilt thou do in that day when he shall say, 'Depart, ye cursed;' and when the black angel, with a countenance more fierce than lightning, and with a voice louder than ten thousand thunders, shall cry, 'Depart!' and smite thee down where lie forever those accursed spirit, bound in fetters of iron, who, long ago, were cast into perdition. Say not I tell thee terrible things; if it be terrible to speak of, how terrible it must be to bear! If you believe not what I say, I shall not wonder if you laugh at me; but as the most of you believe this, I claim your most solemn attention to the subject."

I am reminded of the Pilgrim in Pilgrim's Progress. Shortly after leaving the city of destruction he met a man by the name of Evangelist. Evangelist opened a scroll and written thereon were the simple words, "Flee the wrath to come!" Pilgrim was desirous to do so and sought direction from Evangelist. If I remember correctly he pointed him to the little, narrow gate in the distance. He told him to go there and that he would find the way to the Celestial City.

In fleeing the wrath to come Jesus is the only acceptable refuge. Baptism, good works, church membership, and religious activity will all be found wanting in the day of judgment! Countless millions of baptized people are in hell. There are good people in hell. There are church members in hell. There are religious people in hell. Only if our confidence is in Christ, and Christ alone, will we have no need to be ashamed and we will have no need to make haste. He is the sure foundation, the chief cornerstone.

A false hope is a false hope no matter how sincerely it is believed! We can be wrong about a lot of things, but to be wrong about matters of salvation, heaven, and hell is to be wrong about that which matters most.

Let me finish by assuming the role of Evangelist and issue a stern warning to flee the wrath to come! Go to the little wicket gate (Christ) and enter in, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat. May these words of warning fall on the ears of some lonely pilgrim who has departed the city of destruction and is looking for the way to life everlasting!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dome of the Texas Capitol


Yes, of course it is taller than the National Capital in Washington, just like the San Jacinto Monument is taller than the Washington Monument!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Book Review - Holiness

For years now in my reading I have read authors who have quoted J. C. Ryle. In particular earlier this year I read a book that quoted extensively from his book entitled Holiness. The quotes were compelling so I went shopping. I found the book on ebay and managed to win the bid for, if I remember correctly, around $15.00. The book I have was published in 1952 and I have a copy from the 1962 printing. It runs 331 pages in 21 chapters.

J. C. Ryle was an Anglican bishop who lived in the latter part of the 19th century (1816-1900). This would make him a contemporary with C. H. Spurgeon. He, like Spurgeon, had drank deeply from Puritan writings. Consequently he was Calvinistic in his theology and was a strong believer in practical holiness, thus the book that I just finished reading.

Although he ministered in a sacramental church there were several things he wrote in this book that could raise questions about his view of the sacraments. In the last chapter he clearly defended the proposition that salvation was in Christ alone without the aid of any religious ceremony. The following quote is notable in that connection:

"There are multitudes of baptized men and women who profess to honour Christ, but in reality do him great dishonour. They give Christ a certain place in their system of religion, but not the place which God intended Him to fill. Christ alone is not 'all in all' to their souls. -- No! It is either Christ and the Church - or Christ and the sacraments - or Christ and His ordained ministers - or Christ and their own repentance, or Christ and their prayers - or Christ and their own sincerity and charity, on which the practically rest their souls."

This seems to be a remarkable paragraph coming from a sacramental church and minister!

He dealt with the sins of the days by addressing card playing, theater, dancing, etc. . . .

He clearly emphasised the reality of a changed life in one who truly believes. It is technically a book dealing with sanctification and holiness in the life of the believer. It is a very thorough and practical treatment of the subject. He begins the book dealing with sin and ends dealing with the sufficiency of Christ. In between there is a wealth of thought-provoking ideas presented for our consideration. It is in fact a much needed message for our present generation. If he was discouraged by the low of practical Christianity in the late 19th century what would he think about the early 21st centuries brand of Christianity. I feel quite certain after reading this book that he would be lifting up his voice like a trumpet and showing Israel their sins.

It is well worth reading and mostly engaging. There were a few slow spots, but not enough to discredit the work. There was enough engaging material to keep you reading and expecting! While I am sure that Bishop Ryle and myself would disagree on numerous things and while I did not even agree with everything I read in the book, I do give it a hearty recommendation for those who have not read it.

Following are some of the things I underlined in the book:

Chapter 1 - Sin

"The tendency of modern thought is to reject dogmas, creeds, and every kind of bounds in religion. It is thought grand and wise to condemn no opinion whatsoever, and to pronounce all earnest and clever teachers to be trustworthy, however heterogeneous and mutually destructive their opinions may be. Everything forsooth is true, and nothing is false! everybody is right, and nobody is wrong! Everybody is likely to be saved, and nobody is to be lost!"

"Stand up for these great verities, and you are called narrow, illiberal, old-fashioned, and a theological fossil!"

"I am convinced that the first step towards attaining a higher standard of holiness is to realize more fully the amazing sinfulness of sin."


Chapter 2 - Sanctification

"A regeneration which a man can have, and yet live carelessly in sin or worldliness, is a regeneration invented by uninspired theologians, but never mentioned in Scripture."

"It is nonsense to suppose that we have the Spirit, if we do not also 'walk in the Spirit'."

"A 'saint' in whom nothing can be seen but worldliness or sin, is a kind of monster not recognized in the Bible!"

"God who has given them grace and a new hear, and a new nature, has deprived them of all excuse is they do not live to his praise."

"The holiest actions of the holiest saint that ever lived are all more or less full of defects and imperfections."

"In fact it is sickening and disgusting to hear the cool and flippant language which many pour our about 'conversion - the Saviour - the Gospel - finding peace - free grace' and the like, while they are notoriously serving sin or living for the world."

"There is no greater mistake than to suppose that a Christian has nothing to do with the law and the Ten Commandments, because he cannot be justified by keeping them."

"Let us never be ashamed of making much of sanctification, and contending for a high standard of holiness."


Chapter 3 - Holiness

"He know his own hear is like tinder, and will diligently keep clear of the sparks of temptation."

"But it is the excellency of a holy man that he is not at peace with indwelling sin, as others are. He hates it, mourns over it, and longs to be free from its company."

"I dare not call anyone holy who makes a habit of wilfully neglecting known duties, and wilfully doing what he knows God had commanded him not to do."

"The great question is not what you think, and what you feel, but what you do."


Chapter 6 - Growth

"God has wisely linked together our comfort and our increase in holiness."

"We ourselves are to blame, and none else, if we do not grow."

"Nothing perhaps affects a man's character more than the company he keeps."

"Whatever the world may please to say, we may be sure there is no danger of any of us becoming 'too good'."

"let us never measure our religion by that of others, and think we are doing enough if we have gone beyond our neighbors."

"At our very best we are far worse than we ought to be. There will always be room for improvement in us."


Chapter 7 - Assurance

"There are degrees in our sanctification. In our justification there are none."

"A hope that does not purify is a mocker, a delusion, and a snare."

"A vacillating walk - a backwardness to take a bold and decided line - a readiness to conform to the world - a hesitating witness for Christ - a lingering tone of religion - a flinching from a high standard of holiness and spiritual life - all these make up a sure receipt for bringing a blight upon the garden of your soul."


Chapter 8 - Moses an Example

"Better to suffer and obey God than be at ease and sin."

"There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough - a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and is worth nothing."

"A faith that does not influence a man's practice is not worthy of the name."


Chapter 9 - Lot a Beacon

"Make a wrong choice in life - an unscriptural choice - and settle yourself down unnecessarily in the minds of worldly people, and I know no surer way to damage your own spirituality, and to go backward about your eternal concerns."

". . . . beware of needless mingling with worldly people."


Chapter 10 - A Woman to be Remembered

"Nothing so hardens the heart of man as a barren familiarity with sacred things."

"It is impossible to leave out any portion of God's truth without spoiling the whole."

"Are you making some professions of religion, and yet clinging to the world? Alas, many do! They aim at being though regular Christians, church-going people; yet all the while their dress, their tastes, their companions, their entertainments tell plainly they are of the world."



Chapter 12 - The Ruler of the Waves

"No one can say how much weakness might appear in himself if he was placed in circumstances to call it forth."

"I hold strongly that the ways of the believer should be as distinct from those of the unbeliever, as bitter from sweet, light from darkness, heat from cold."

"You must not hastily conclude that a man has no grace merely because you see in him some corruption."


Chapter 14 - Visible Churches Warned

"I fear much for many professing Christians. I see no sign of fighting in them, much less of victory. They never strike one stroke on the side of Christ. They are at peace with His enemies. They have no quarrel with sin."

"Come out boldly from the world, and the world will be obliged to let you go."


Chapter 15 - Lovest Thou Me

"May we never think that we can love Christ too well, live to Him too thoroughly, confess Him too boldly, lay ourselves out for Him too heartily! Of all the things that will surprise us in the resurrection morning, this, I believe, will surprise us most; That we did not love Christ more before we died."


Chapter 16 - Without Christ

"There will be a day when your place will be empty and you will be only spoken of as one dead and gone. And where will you be then, if you have lived and died without thought about your soul, without God, and without Christ?"


Chapter 17 - Thirst Relieved

It is not when we begin to feel good, but when we feel bad, that we take the first step toward heaven."


Chapter 18 - Unsearchable Riches

"Let us all seek humility. No grace suits man so well. What are we that we should be proud?"

"Never is a land in worse condition than when the minsters of religion have caused their office to be ridiculed and despised."

"I ask what you think of the faithful minster of Christ, who honestly exposes sin, and pricks your conscience."

"They like a ministry which does not make them uncomfortable, and send them home ill at ease. Oh, believe me, he is the best friend who tells you the most truth!"


Chapter 19 - Wants of the Times

"When you cannot answer a sceptic, be content to wait for more light; but never forsake a great principle."

"The difficulties of the Christianity no doubt great; but, depend on it, they are nothing compared to the difficulties of infidelity."

"Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing."

"You may see scores of religious people (so-called) continually doing things which in days gone by would have been thought utterly inconsistent with vital religion. They see no harm in such things as card-playing, theater going, dancing, incessant novel-reading, and Sunday travelling, and they cannot in the least understand what you mean by objecting to them!"

"Try to do a little good before you die. Strive to be useful."


Chapter 20 - Christ is All

"Look less at yourself and more at Christ, and you will find besetting sins dropping off and leaving you, and your eyes enlightened more and more every day."

"No hope is reasonable which is not scriptural."

Book rating ****

Friday, September 14, 2007

Talking Like Devils

The following is from Thomas Watson's message, The Ten Commandments.

"The tongue which at first was made to be an organ of God's praise—has now become an instrument of unrighteousness. God has set two natural fences to keep in the tongue—the teeth and lips.

"Not slanderers." 1 Timothy 3:11

In the Greek it is, "not devils." The same word signifies both a slanderer and a devil. Some think it is no great matter, to misrepresent and slander others; but it is to act the part of a devil. This is a great sin; and I wish I could say it is not common.

The heathen, by the light of nature, abhorred the sin of slandering. Diogenes used to say, "Of all wild beasts, a slanderer is the worst." Antonius made a law, that if a person could not prove the crime he reported another to be guilty of, he should be put to death.

The Scripture calls slandering, smiting with the tongue. "Come, and let us smite him with the tongue." Jer 18:18 You may smite another—and never touch him!

The scorpion carries his poison in his tail; the slanderer carries his poison in his tongue!

Job calls slander "the scourge of the tongue." As a rod scourges the back, so the slanderer's tongue scourges the name.

Eminence is commonly blasted by slander.

Holiness itself is no shield from slander. The lamb's innocence will not preserve it from the wolf. Christ, the most innocent upon earth, was reported to be "a glutton and a drunkard." Matthew 11:19

The tongue inflicts greater wounds than the sword.

No physician can heal the wounds of the tongue!

To pretend friendship to a man, and slander him, is most odious.

We must not only not raise a false report—but refuse to hear it. He who raises a slander—carries the devil in his tongue! He who receives a slander—carries the devil in his ear!

You may kill a man in his name as well as in his person. Some are reluctant to take away their neighbor's goods; but better take their wares out of their shop—than take away their good name! This is a sin for which no reparation can be made; a blot in a man's name, being like a blot on white paper, which can never be gotten out.

Surely God will punish this sin. If idle words shall be accounted for, shall not unjust slanders? Oh therefore, take heed of this sin!"

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Morbid Dread Of Controversy

I am almost finished with Ryle's book Holiness. I was reading toward the end last night and ran across several things that he wrote that are worthy of noting. When I am finished with the book I will at least give a list of things I have underlined in the book. After reading his book I think he would be quite disappointed in the condition of the Anglican Church today.

He writes:

"Myriads of professing Christians nowadays seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with colour-blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound. . . . . Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none are unsound, everybody is going to be saved and nobody going to be lost. Their religion is made up of negatives; and the only positive thing about them is that they dislike distinctness and think all extreme and decided and positive views are very naughty and very wrong!

. . . . . For their lives they could tell you what they think is truth about justification, or regeneration, or sanctification, of the Lord's Supper, or baptism, or faith, or conversion, or inspiration, or the future state. They are eaten up with a morbid dread of controversy and an ignorant dislike of party spirit; . . . . "

The scripture says:

Ephesians 4:4-6 - There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Jude 1:3 - Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

Galatians 2:4,5 - And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

Galatians 1:6-9 - I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 - For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Our Entertainment: The Cultivating Of Holiness - Part 1

Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Think on these things! Entertainment is stimulus. It causes to us to think about things. If our entertainment is causing us to think about things that are contrary to the virtuous things in the above verse it is the wrong kind of entertainment.

While the verse before us tells us what to think on, it also is telling us what we should not be thinking on. I think you could simply insert the opposite in each slot and have a fairly accurate picture of the kind of things we should not be thinking on.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are dishonest, whatsoever things are unjust, whatsoever things are impure, whatsoever things are hideous, whatsoever things are of evil report, if there be any vice, and if there be any reproach refuse to think on these things.

On what does you choices of entertainment cause you to think?

I am starting with entertainment because it has a direct impact on other areas of separation. Our entertainment influences the way we think and see the world. The way we think determines the way we behave. As I have closely considered the issues of separation I have become convinced that many people cannot or will not grasp the principles that come to bear on separation because of their entertainment choices. They spend hours a week watching worldly TV and movies. They spend hours more listening to the world’s music with its sensual beat and emphasis on rhythm. They spend hours on video/computer games that at bare minimum deprive them of time that could be used to cultivate virtues. And now we have the Internet to round out our diet of worldly carnal appetites. Having a couple of generations that have gorged themselves on the world’s entertainment it is no wonder that separation is becoming a relic of past generations. So, now it is not only the unbeliever who scoffs at a believer’s separation convictions the carnal, worldly believer has also taken up the mantle belittling and scoffing at any pretense to perfect holiness in the fear of God. Remember we are instructed to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit".

What we expose ourselves to in the name of entertainment and amusement is of no little consequence. It will largely determine the degree to which we are willing to pursue holiness. It will dictate our appetite for righteousness. Jesus said, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness”. Not those who hunger and thirst after the latest movie, CD, or video game. In either case what we hunger and thirst after is what we will be filled with and what we are filled with will be manifested in our lives.

Here at the outset, we need to sincerely pray, Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:19-24

Is there anything you are unwilling to give up that is keeping you from pursuing holiness?

It is blindness of the first degree to think that the Bible has no principles whereby our entertainment choices are to be governed. Most people just do not care. They know what they like and they have no interest in having their choices of entertainment challenged, even on the basis of God’s word.

It is important that we examine some of the clear principles that have a direct impact in the area of entertainment. Then, after having set forth a Biblical premise for the examination, consider some of the options available to us for entertainment and see how they measure up.

BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES RELATING TO ENTERTAINMENT

Romans 12:9 – Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. To abhor means to detest utterly, have a horror of. Surely this has relevance in the area of entertainment. Would anyone deny that there is evil entertainment?? Now we may disagree on what is evil but I think we can agree that there is such a thing as entertainment that is evil.

Psalms 101:3 – I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes. This does not mean that we will never see a wicked thing. Surely if we live in this world we will see a plethora of evil things. This has to do with what we set before our eyes. It has to do with the choices we make. It is a truth that should have an impact on our entertainment choices.

1 Thessalonians 5:21,22 – Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. If we are to prove all things, that is test, scrutinize all things then surely we are to be testing our entertainment choices. Having tested the choices we are instructed how we are to respond. The good we are to hold fast. The evil we are to abstain from all appearance.

Romans. 16:19 – For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. The Scripture says that we should strive for simplicity concerning evil. The idea of being simple is being unmixed, innocent. We should be childlike when it comes to evil. Much of modern entertainment conditions us to accept evil. It teaches us evil. It parades as virtues everything that is a vice. Part of the problem is that we don't want to be simple concerning evil when it comes to entertainment. We don't want to think we have missed out on anything.

Psalms. 119:37 – Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way. Here is another verse that should give us some direction concerning entertainment. Are we beholding vanity. Is our entertainment encouraging vanity.

Job 31:1 – I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? We know that this is a good covenant that Job made because the principle is set for time and eternity in the Ten Commandments and Matthew chapter five, where both Moses and Jesus speak of adultery. Moses of the act and Jesus of the heart. Moses give the letter of the law and Jesus gives the spirit of the law. And as believers we have been freed from the letter that we might keep the spirit of the law. How much entertainment is built around sensuality. Scantily clad females. Sexually suggestive content. Outright nudity and pornographic material. I am quite convinced that all men should make the same covenant Job did.

Proverbs 17:15 – He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD. How often does entertainment do this very thing. Takes the vices and turns them into virtues and the virtues and turns them into vices. Entertainment that justifies the wicked and condemns the just is abominable entertainment and the genuine believer should be very careful to guard his soul against such a perspective.

Romans 1:29-32 – Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Are these not the things that characterize much of the entertainment scene today? All of these vices are presented to us as entertainment and we sit gladly and watch and listen and derive some kind of sadistic pleasure from it. The scripture is clear that those who do such things are worthy of death and not only those who do these things but also so those who take pleasure in them that do them. This is exactly what people do when they make decisions to be entertained by these kind of themes. God help us to see the wickedness of it!

Ephesians 5:15,16 – See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. If we are not careful we can spend much time entertaining ourselves. Spending vast quantities of time that could be better spent cultivating virtues, educating ourselves in some area, ministering to the needs of others. I have observed that video games can become a major source of wasting time. In fact I read an article recently that said video games tended to be addictive just like drugs. To see some people play them you would have to agree. Children, adolescents, and even adults that can tell you every detail of several video games but have trouble finding time to read, memorize, and study the Scriptures so they can be conversant in the writings of Moses, Paul, and Peter!

1 Corinthians 15:33 – Evil communications corrupt good manners. Communications here has to do with more than just talking it is actually a word that means communion, companionship, and intercourse. If we choose entertainment choices that are evil our own character is being corrupted. Because we have failed to guard our heart, we are being transformed not into the image of Christ but into the image of the world around us. We ignore this sober exhortation at our own peril.

Romans 14:23 – And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. If in doubt don't! Don't wound your conscience by violating it. Don't sear you conscience by repeated transgression.


APPLICATION OF THE PRINCIPLES TO ENTERTAINMENT IN GENERAL

This is an issue that must be addressed. You can refrain from owning a TV, video/DVD player, radio, video games, Internet access and a host of other media items and you will still have to address issues of entertainment. There will always be people who will want you to watch or listen to something they have found interesting, entertaining, or otherwise beneficial.

There are some basic realities that must be kept in mind concerning entertainment. Entertainment mediums impact the soul often times without arousing it. In other words we are impacted at the deepest levels of our existence without knowing it. Entertainment, especially picture-oriented entertainment, is a powerful avenue of imparting a message and altering behaviour. It impacts the sight, and hearing at least.

If you doubt what I am saying, follow the money. Consider the advertisement industry. Billions are spent every year because it is profitable. The message is effectively communicated and behaviour, buying patterns are altered. If it was not cost effective the money would not be spent. Don't think that just because we go from a commercial to programming or a DVD that behaviour is not being altered. It is! All entertainment is seeking to sale you someones idea of how the world is or how it ought to be.


All entertainment is educational. Everything you watch or listen to is educating you. There is no such thing as pure entertainment. All entertainment is theological at its core. It teaches something about God. Entertainment is the expression of a person’s view of the world. Either the way they believe it is or they way they believe it should be. It is artistic expression of their view of life.

Entertainment is often sought out as a form of amusement. The word muse means to think closely, to study in silence. The word is even used in Ps 143:5 - I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands. Crabb’s English Synonyms provides the following concerning amuse, “What ever amuses serves to kill time, to lull the faculties and banish reflection.” “A” as a prefix can mean not, without. Thus, amuse means to not muse, without musing. To be amused is to not think closely, to be without studying in silence. Entertainment for amusement results in no musing.


Entertainment is a powerful tool of Satan to bring about the willingness to compromise. Why? Because we find ourselves willing to be exposed to increasing level of ungodliness just to have something to do, for entertainment sake. Entertainment should not be used to relieve boredom.
In fact it is a form of self-deception to believe that it does relieve boredom. It does not relieve boredom it only feeds it and produces a more ready spirit of compromise to relieve the boredom. In fact people get bored with their entertainment choices so what do they do? They seek out something even more outrageous be it more violent, or more sensual.

Entertainment should be used to give the kids something to do. Again they become bored with entertainment and then there is pressure to find something else entertaining and the temptation to compromise is introduced.


Entertainment should not be for purely entertainment sake. If it is the flesh will demand more vivid expressions to create the same level of entertainment and the willingness to compromise convictions becomes a very real problem.


Entertainment should not be sought out for excitement. If it is the flesh will demand more excitement, which generally requires more action, and bloodshed and gore and convictions are compromised on the altar of excitement.


Do you not see how entertainment is an especially useful tool of Satan to deceive us concerning the infiltration of evil communications that will corrupt our good manners? Consider what we allow in the name of pure entertainment. We allow characters in our home that we would never allow in person. We allow language to be used in our home that we have banned under all other circumstances. We allow immodesty in our homes that in other circumstances would cause us to blush. We allow violence in our homes (blood and gore) that would violate our sense of decency in real life. We allow immorality to be paraded before our children that we say we are against. We allow the ridicule of the things that we hold dear. We allow the atrophy of the intellectual powers of our families in contrast to our stated position that we are to be getting wisdom and with all your getting get understanding. There can be little wisdom and understanding where our intellectual capacities have been hindered by entertainment.


"Be not deceived evil communications corrupt good manners". The presentation of evil communications through media does not lessen that effect to the contrary it heightens the effect.


APPLICATION OF THE PRINCIPLES TO TELEVISION

Consider the programming. Hollywood and Television have been at the forefront of pushing the cultural boundaries. One of the biggest lies being told is that Hollywood is just giving the people what they want. The fact is they are notorious for pushing the envelope When you examine the Seeing TV programming by the decade helps to see the trend. It is hard to argue that it is a good trend.

40’s
Hopalong Cassidy
The Lone Ranger
Candid Camera (the first one)

50’s
The Honeymooners
Father Know Best
I Love Lucy
The Ed Sullivan Show
Twilight Zone
Amos and Andy
Perry Mason
Leave It To Beaver

60’s
Andy Griffeth Show
Dick Van Dyke Show
Bewithched
Beverly Hillbillies
I Dream Of Jeannie
Adams Family
Munsters
Gilligan’s Island
Green Acres
Get Smart
Brady Bunch

70’s
All In The Family
Odd Couple
Mary Tyler Moore Show

Dukes of Hazard
Three’s Company
Happy Days
Laverne and Shirley
Mash
Mork and Mindy
Love Boat
Walton’s
Little House on the Prairie
These last two were the direct result of some people trying to reverse the trend in television.

80’s
Cheers
Married With Children
Mama’s Family
Designing Women
Family Matters
Murphy Brown
Roseanne
My Two Dads
Baywatch

90’s
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Family Guy
Judging Amy
Frasier
Touched by an Angel
Boy Meets World
Homicide: Life On The Street
Mad About You
Freaks And Geeks
Xena: Warrior Princess
Beavis and (you know who)
Two Guys and a Girl
Sabrina: The Teenage Witch
Ellen
Unhappily Ever After


We moved from Hopalong Cassidy to Freaks and Geeks in 60 years.

In comedy sin and the sacred is trivialized.
In the family dysfunctional is portrayed as normal. Weak, stupid Fathers. Strong, seductive mothers. Arrogant, rebellious children.
Soap Operas are fantasy rooted in moral upheaval.
Drama increasingly relies on violence and sensuality/sexuality.

The 24 hour news cycle is an absolute waste of time. When you find them talking days on end about Paris Hilton's Jail stay you know there is nothing news worthy. Many of the themes and reports give details that should cause us to blush.

Commercials. They are loaded with worldly music, sensuality, and vanity. They are repetitious beyond belief resulting in a major waste of time re-watching the same thing or waiting for the programming to return. The products that are advertised would have caused our great-grandparents to blush.


APPLICATION OF THE PRINCIPLES TO MOVIES/DVD’S/VIDEO’S

Consider the evolution of Hollywood by the decade.

40’s
Casablanca
It’s A Wonderful Life
Great Expectations
Grapes Of Wrath
Sergeant York
Miracle on 34th Street

50’s
Twelve Angry Men
Singin’ In The Rain
Some Like It Hot
Ben-Hur
The African Queen

60’s
Psycho
To Kill A Mockingbird
The Great Escape
Inherit The Wind

70’s
The Godfather
Star Wars
Jaws
The Exorcist
Halloween

80’s
The Shining
Diehard
The Terminator
The Killing Fields

90’s
Saving Private Ryan
Brave Heart
Casino
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Witchcraft 8 – Salem’s Ghost

We moved from It’s A Wonderful Life to Witchcraft 8 – Salem’s Ghost in 60 years.

The evidence seems to indicate that Hollywood has not mirrored the culture but manipulated it. They only mirror the culture they have created.

Gone With The Wind was produced in 1939. There was one curse word in the whole movie and it is a lengthy movie and the curse word was mild by today's standards and there was moral outrage over this one curse word. People actually left the movie theater offended at what they had heard. Now people allow themselves to be bombarded with the vilest of language. Another thing while I am on the point. There are some Christians that would never step foot in a movie theater but as soon as the movie is released on DVD they are down at the store purchasing it so they can watch it in the privacy of their own homes! Shame!!

Hollywood has been so successful in pushing the envelope year after year that we now have a society that is drowning in sensuality, immorality, violence, and ungodliness. Everything that is the antithesis to the gospel of Jesus Christ and being a new creature in Christ.

I think another thing that is worthy of our consideration is the danger of video stores. Browsing through a video/DVD store is like walking through a moral wasteland in search of purity. The temptation to compromise one’s values is strengthened, because after all we need something to do. It becomes increasingly easy to put off the new man and put on the old which is the exact opposite of what we are to be doing. When we allow ourselves to turn to the entertainment industry for something to do we are choosing a recreation that is fraught with danger. We must be careful that we do not compromise the command to be holy for I am holy simply in order to amuse or entertain ourselves.

In our entertainment oriented society we cannot afford to just indiscriminately embrace nearly everything that comes down the pike. When I was studying for this message I looked up the movie The Patriot. I did not see the movie but I remembered that it was a big hit. Mel Gibson starred in and produced the movie. He has plundered the American people by trafficing in violence, blood, and gore. When I read the review on the movie on a sight I use to discern movies before we watch them, which is not very many, I thought to myself there is no way I could read the review in mixed company. I honestly do not see how someone who is a follower of Christ could watch the kinds of things that were detailed in that movie. Actually I do understand because we all still live in the flesh and the flesh craves that kind of thing. But it should cause us to blush.

It is important to be careful about watching something in order to see if you should watch it. In order to escape that trap I usually refer to http://www.kids-in-mind.com/ I have found that if I know before hand exactly what is in the content of the movie I am able to be more honest in my discernment and exercise greater discretion.

Some people may be thinking based upon what I have written that I am saying you can't watch anything. To be honest I am not quite prepared to go to that length. But..........if it did mean that would be we be willing to give up all entertainment in order to perfect holiness in the fear of God?

I don't think this is an issue we can afford to sweep under the rug and accept the status quo. I am convinced that much of the worldliness in present day Christianity is a direct result of our entertainment diet. I am thinking that we need to keep constant tabs on what is going in and make sure it does not violate the the spirit of Holiness!

A Great Thought

In my private devotions this morning I was reading in Deuteronomy. I came across the following verse and the one phrase really caught my attention.

Deuteronomy 31:6 - Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

My own testimony is that he has not, he is not, and he will not! Great is thy faithfulness.