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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not A Slave But A Child

Having just last night composed a blog entry entitled What Does It Mean To Be Under Grace I found this interesting this morning.

The following is from C. H. Spurgeon's evening devotional:


"Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."-Romans 3:31         When the believer is adopted into the Lord's family, his relationship to old Adam and the law ceases at once; but then he is under a new rule, and a new covenant. Believer, you are God's child; it is your first duty to obey your heavenly Father. A servile spirit you have nothing to do with: you are not a slave, but a child; and now, inasmuch as you are a beloved child, you are bound to obey your Father's faintest wish, the least intimation of His will. Does He bid you fulfil a sacred ordinance? It is at your peril that you neglect it, for you will be disobeying your Father. Does He command you to seek the image of Jesus? It is not your joy to do so? Does Jesus tell you, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect"? Then not because the law commands, but because your Saviour enjoins, you will labour to be perfect in holiness. Does He bid his saints love one another? Do it, not because the law says, "Love thy neighbour," but because Jesus says, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments;" and this is the commandment that He has given unto you, "that ye love one another." Are you told to distribute to the poor? Do it, not because charity is a burden which you dare not shirk, but because Jesus teaches, "Give to him that asketh of thee." Does the Word say, "Love God with all your heart"? Look at the commandment and reply, "Ah! commandment, Christ hath fulfilled thee already-I have no need, therefore, to fulfill thee for my salvation, but I rejoice to yield obedience to thee because God is my Father now and He has a claim upon me, which I would not dispute." May the Holy Ghost make your heart obedient to the constraining power of Christ's love, that your prayer may be, "Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments; for therein do I delight." Grace is the mother and nurse of holiness, and not the apologist of sin.

 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Does It Mean To Be Under Grace?


Often times error is simply the embracing one aspect of truth while failing to recognize another aspect.  For example, it has become commonplace to find fault with those who have standards by arguing that they are simply trying to put us back under the law.  I suppose that in a few rare cases that is probably true.   The minute anyone seeks to define modesty from the bible instead of the culture they are considered a legalist.  If anyone insist on gender distinctive clothing they are trying to put us back under the law.  How long is long, how short is short??  We are told over and over again that those who arrive at convictions concerning such things are trying to rob us of a life of grace and bring us back into the bondage of the law?


Is this really what is happening?  Well, there are probably a few isolated cases where this is true.  Just like there are a few isolated cases where people will claim grace as a license to do practically anything.

There is a verse of scripture that is often brought to the table the minute any one develops a standard of behavior to contrast what is holy with what is worldly.


Romans 6:14 - For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

I would like to give you my simple, and I believe biblical, logic concerning this verse.  It is the last part of the verse that is held up as the standard, but it really does not tell us much.  Ye are not under the law, but under grace.  This is a true statement and I thank God for it.  If this were not true we would have no hope of going to heaven.

The first part of the verse says something also:  For sin shall not have dominion over you.  What is sin?  We can look it up in the Greek and Hebrew.  We can look it up in an English dictionary.  We can look it up in a thesaurus.  We can also look it up in 1John 3:4 - Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.   I suppose it is here where the Holy Ghost defines sin.  Sin is a transgression of the law.  Therefore when the bible says, for ye are not under the law, but under grace, it is giving us the reason that sin does not have dominion over us.  It seems the verse is saying because we are under grace we will not be dominated by transgressions of the law.  Personally I like the thought of that kind of grace!

The very next verse seems to support my conclusion:  Romans 6:15 - What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.  In other words shall we transgress the law because we are not under the law but under grace.  The answer is a resounding "God forbid".


In fact grace is not a passive influence in our lives.  It is a very active influence in our lives.  Grace teaches.  The Bible says so!  Titus 3:11,12a - For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us . . . .  What kind of grace teaches us?  The same kind that brought us salvation.  So it doesn't seem that far off base to say, saving grace teaches us.

The question then becomes what does it teach us?  This is not left to speculation.  Once again the Bible comes through with great clarity.  Titus 3:12 - Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; . . . .  So the grace that saves us also teaches us some things.  It teaches us that we SHOULD live soberly, righteously, and godly.  It even teaches us how we are to do this, by denying ungodliness and worldly lusts.  It even teaches us where we are to do this, in this present world.

So, we are not under the law but under grace.  And that grace teaches us that we are to live:

Soberly
Righteously
Godly

I'm guessing the bible probably has quite a bit to say about all three of these characteristics.  It would be helpful if we filled our minds with the Scripture related to these virtues rather than defining these virtues through the lens of the culture.  This can only result in a distorted view of sobriety, righteousness, and godliness.

We do this by denying:

Ungodliness
Worldly lusts

Again, I am thinking the bible probably has a lot to say about ungodliness and worldly lusts.  And, again, it would be helpful if we filled our minds with the Scripture related to these characteristics rather than defining them according to the world who the scriptures warns us has had their "understanding darkened being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart."


What kind of grace are you under?  Saving grace?  Saving grace teaches us some very important principles about holy living.  Turns out grace is even more amazing than we give it credit for sometimes!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Holy Man

The following is from J. C. Ryle's Holiness It's Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots




"A holy man will remember . . .

that Christ would continually deny Himself in order to minister to others;
that He was meek and patient under undeserved insults;
that He thought more of godly poor men, than of kings;
that He was full of love and compassion to sinners;
that He was bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin;
that He sought not the praise of men, when He might have had it;
that He went about doing good;
that He was separate from worldly people;
that He continued instant in prayer;
that He would not let even His nearest relations stand in His way, when God's work was to be done.

All these things, a holy man will try to remember. By them, he will endeavor to shape his course in life."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

For What Purpose Do You Inquire?


Why do we read our bibles?  Why do we go to church?  Why do we hope to attend church where a prophet (preacher) occupies the pulpit each service?  Is it simply for the satisfaction of saying we sought a word from God?  Is it so we can have our conscience soothed just by being mature enough to take the truth?  Is it so our lives can be transformed?  Our motives in respect to these issues are important and will ultimately be reflected in the fruit that is borne in our lives.  Are those that hear the word of God and dismiss it more noble than those who have no interest in hearing the word of God?


Consider Ahab and Jehoshaphat in 1 Kings 22.  Ahab was of course the notoriously wicked king of Israel, he was and is infamous for his idolatry and wickedness.  Jehoshaphat on the other hand was the good and mostly godly king of Judah.

Ahab requested Jehoshapat's help in reclaiming Ramoth-gilead from Syria.  Jehoshaphat unwisely argued that there was no difference between Israel and Judah. (1 Kings 22:4)  Jehoshaphat being a lover of Jehovah and not a worshiper of Baal asked Ahab to inquire at the word of the LORD.  (1 Kings 22:5)  Ahab called together 400 false prophets to seek their counsel about going to war with Syria.  The false prophets encouraged the action claiming Syria would be delivered into their hand.  Jehoshaphat was not satisfied.  He wanted to inquire of a prophet of the LORD.  (1 Kings 22:7)  Jehoshaphat was right to be concerned.

Ahab indicated there was a prophet, Micaiah by whom they could inquire of the LORD; but Ahab hated him.  Why?  Because he never prophesied good concerning him but evil.  (1 Kings 22:8)  At Jeshoshaphat's insistence Micaiah was summoned. Micaiah was informed that the other (false) prophets had prophesied favorably concerning the potential venture and he was instructed to fall in line. (1 Kings 22:13)  When Micaiah arrived he too prophesied that they should go up.  Ahab must have sensed the sarcasim in his voice and rebuked him for his obvious patronizing. (1 Kings 22:15,16)  Micaiah therefore prophesied that it would be unwise to war against the Syrians (1 Kings 22:17) and he even prophesied concerning the events that unfolded in heaven that brought about the lying prophets for the ultimate destruction of Ahab. (1 Kings 22:19-22)  How was the prophet of the LORD treated for speaking the truth.  He was imprisoned and fed with the bread and water of affliction.  (1 Kings 22:26,27)

Jehoshaphat was present and heard and watched all of this unfold.  On one hand we have Ahab who did not want to hear a prophet of the LORD because he always prophesied evil concerning him.  On the other hand we have Jehoshaphat who insisted on hearing from a prophet of the LORD.  He wanted to hear what God had to say about it.  They both heard the word of the LORD through the prophet of God.  Jehoshaphat heard Micaiah prophesy defeat.  He heard Micaiah explain the chain of events that led to the inaccurate prophesy of the false prophets.  He saw Micaiah imprisoned and ill-treated for giving them a word of God.  But.....at least he had sought and heard the word of God.

So what happens?  1 Kings 22:29, So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead.  The end result was the same for both of the men.  Ahab who did not want to hear what the prophet of the LORD had to say went up to Ramoth-gilead anyway.  Jehoshaphat who did want to hear what the prophet of the LORD had to say went up to Ramoth-gilead anyway.  They both went up to war against the Syrian in spite of the prophet warning against doing so.  One went not wanting to hear the prophet.  The other went having desired to hear the prophet.  But they both went.

It very nearly cost Jehoshaphat his life. (1 Kings 22:31-33)  It did cost Ahab his life.  (1 Kings 22:34-38)

We must be careful about delighting to hear the word of God but ultimately dismissing the word of God!

James 1:22 - But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Have Your Eyes Checked




Saul was a big man with a little heart!  He was head and shoulders above the rest of his countrymen in relation to his stature but he was petty and petulant in his treatment of others, especially David!
There was a natural tension that would exist between these two men!  Before we get to 1 Samuel 18 several things had already been divinely decided.  Saul had been rejected as King over Israel and David had been anointed as the next king of Israel.  One was leaving the throne and one was assuming the throne.  It was a long process wherein their paths would cross.  They would meet each other; one on the way down, the other on the way up.

Their divinely appointed end was known to each of them respectively.  God had told Saul the kingdom was to be taken from him.  David had already been anointed the next King of Israel.  The question becomes how do each of these men manage the information?  They should both accept the will of God with humility.

Saul would continue on the throne as long as God intended with the humble realization that because of his own disobedience God would be preparing another to take his place.  He would not take offence at indications that God was grooming another for his place.

David would not press the issue but realize that God would give him the throne in his time.  He could wait because he had the promise and anointing of God.  He would feel no need to raise a rebellion to supplant the present king.  He would in fact honor the present king knowing that one day he would be king.

One man rose to the occasion and acted as he should under trying circumstances.  The other man sunk to new lows as he sought to circumvent God's decree.  This of course brought them into conflict.  David conducting himself with dignity and honor in spite of the ill treatment he received at the hand of Saul.  Saul conducting himself with malice and bitterness in spite of the honorable treatment he received at the hand of David.

The growth of the contagion that seized Saul's heart toward David has for years been a point of reference for me to guard my own heart.

1 Samuel 18:9 - Saul eyed David
I actually like to call this "the evil eye".  Having heard the women sing Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands had served to remind Saul of his divinely decreed decline.  David suddenly became suspect.  This in spite of the fact that David had been nothing but faithful to Saul and Israel.  Yet, his elevated prominence in the nation caused Saul to perceive him as a threat.  He allowed his suspicion to rule his heart.  Now it mattered little what David did, it would never be right in King Saul's eyes.  His failures would be highlighted.  His successes would be scrutinized.  If he did the wrong thing Saul was not surprised.  If he did the right thing he had sinister motives.  David was corrupt in Saul's eyes.  But the real problem was Saul's eyes, not David's behavior.  David was not doing anything wrong, Saul was simply seeing everything wrong.

1 Samuel 18:12 - Saul was afraid of David
Because David was suspect he was to be feared.  He was a threat.  He had to be addressed.  Remember Saul actually attempted to kill David on several occasions.  On the other hand David had at least a couple of opportunities to kill Saul and refrained leaving vengeance to God.  But from Saul's perspective the threat had to be eliminated.  David was such a bad man that he needed to be dealt with in the harshest terms.  There was only one problem.  David was not a bad man it was Saul that had bad eyes.  It became so bad that anyone that even appeared to aid or defend David became a fit object of Saul's scorn.  Saul had a whole family of Priest killed for innocently helping David.  But Saul was sure they were in on a conspiracy that did not exist.  Saul even threw a spear at his own son!  He spent the last years of his life hating David.  He was preoccupied with bringing David down.  And all of this toward a man that till the end saw him as the anointed of God and even lamented his death on the battlefield as a great loss to Israel.

1 Samuel 18:29 - Saul became David's enemy
Saul was not David's enemy because David had declared war on him, but because he had declared war on David.  All David could do was run and keep space between him and he who had chosen to be his enemy.  Saul had an enemy of his own making!  He became enemies with one who wanted to do him the most honor.  He had made an enemy out of one who would not even engage him on those terms.  In Saul's eyes David was the enemy.  In David's eyes Saul was the Lord's anointed.

Saul had a vision problem that was precipitated by his own sin and disobedience.  Because he was not right he began to see others around him as not right.  Even he who was most right, a man after God's own heart, was suspect, was to be feared, and was ultimately counted as an enemy.

The arrangement kept David on the run for fifteen years hiding from Saul, waiting on God and it kept Saul in a constant state of agitation knowing that David lived and that he was a better man than he (which he admitted at one point) and that he would likely one day assume the throne.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Step It Up A Notch



Well, here we are January 3rd 2012.  I was beginning to think the day would never get here, but alas it always does.  It is that first real day after the holidays.  Don't get me wrong I like the holidays as much as the next guy.  From the end of November till the very first of January everything is different.

The food is different
The schedule is different
The weather is different
The spirit is different
The whole world just seems different

It is probably this phenomena that heightens the yearning of a new year.  We finish Christmas and find a New Year staring us in the face and we find ourselves thinking, "You know this year I want to be different." Because somehow "different" takes on a very pleasant quality in December.

Some people make a list every year outlining the way they intend to be different, the way they know they ought to be, a better way.

Some people claim they don't make lists.  I don't completely trust those people.  Do they really exist?  Oh, they may not write their list down, but do they really not have a list; even mentally?  Do they somehow manage to escape the common lot of man and the yearning that accompanies each new year to do better? to be better?  OK, they probably exist somewhere, somehow.  I think they are the minority.  I can't prove it I just feel it......strongly!

There is something about a new year that fills us full of hope and just a good ole' fashion "can do" attitude.

But then today comes!

It is usually on the 2nd of January, unless like this year New Year's day falls on Sunday then the day gets pushed back a day to the 3rd.  It is the day when things get back to normal.  We go back to work, school, pay the bills, start thinking about having the valve cover gaskets replaced on the car and the tires replaced on the truck and thinking too bad I don't have all that money I spent on Christmas.  We have to start dealing with the boss again and it seems his or her festive mood must have accidentally got put on Santa's sleigh and ended up in the North Pole (I've been there, such a place exist).  After a month of feasting I'm not too excited about a year of self-imposed famine, more commonly known as a diet.  Already we are feeling like, can I really keep the list?  Have I over committed myself?  I have probably been too hard on myself!  The "can do" attitude is already slipping in the direction of the "who cares" attitude.

I don't really have to read my bible though in a year.
I'm not that overweight.
I get exercise going to and from the car.
Why read about it when I can watch a documentary about it.

Funny what a difference a week can make.  From I need some work to I pretty much have it all together.

I like list.  I like a challenge.  I don't want to adopt the attitude I fail therefore I will not challenge myself.  I do fail, sometimes miserably.  Even in failure I learn some valuable lessons.  1.  I am weak and frail.  2.  I need to have patience with others weakness and frailty.  After all we are all basically the same.  Our weakness and frailty may reveal itself differently, but it is what it is and we all battle it.

I challenged myself to read the bible through last year, and I did!  I finished a month early.  I would have read my bible a lot last year and most every day but it is not likely I would have read it through without the commitment to do so.  I enjoyed it.  This year I'm going to read my bible through twice.  A year ago I would not have believed that was likely.  This year I know it is possible.  Only the passing days will determine if it happens.  If it doesn't I'm pretty sure I will at least read it through once.  I want to as Spurgeon said, "bleed bible".

My lists of years gone by probably mark more failures than successes.  That's OK.  Not that I am OK with failure, I despise it in myself as much as in anyone.  But even failure means you tried!  Trying is better than not trying.  Success never came in the absence of a challenge.  There have been some success over the years.  Successes that would not have happened had it not been for the self-imposed challenge.

I have a list this year too.  I'm not telling you what it is.  It's really none of your business ;-)  And you won't help me reach the goal.  You will just see me fail and secretly delight that you are not the only one that fails.

I have shared my goals with three people.  My wife and two of the men in my church.  My wife can be brutally honest.....ouch that hurts kind of honest!  Is it possible to be brutal and loving at the same time?  She is!  But at least she is my wife and she already knows that I am a frail, weak creature, so my failures do not surprise her in the least.  Two of the men in my church know.  I don't want them to see me fail, but they probably will on some level.  But really they already know I am just mortal flesh anyway.   I need to quit fooling myself....  I have told others my goals before in hopes that they would help hold me accountable.  They haven't.  I'm pretty sure they didn't because they were struggling with their own goals.  Sometimes we don't ask people questions because we don't want them asking us questions.  So incorporated into my objectives for this year is the commitment to volunteer an update every couple of weeks.  That way they don't have to ask me about something specific but just mention that it has been a while since they have seen an update.  Update, what update?  Oh, that update!  Now I either have to  fudge the truth or be honest and do better.  I hope I never opt for the former.

This year at the church I pastor we are going to emphasis a Determined Discipleship.  I encouraged my people on Sunday to "step it up a notch".  I told them I was not asking them to sell all they have and give to the poor, but just to step it up a notch.

That is what I hope to do!  That is what I must do!  And if I fail, I will fail trying!

Philippians 3:14 - I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.