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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Of What Spirit Are We?

Luke 9:51-56 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

Jesus told James and John, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of."  I want to take Jesus' rebuke and turn it into a question.  Of what spirit are we?  I want us to think about this question from the passage in Luke 9.

It is a relevant question.  It is a question we may need to ask of ourselves with increasing frequency.  As the cultural decay continues, as the intolerance to truth becomes more acute, and as Christian commitment continues to be redefined; as the task becomes more difficult and the environment more hostile emotions of all kinds sweep over our heart and soul.

We can find ourselves vacillating between anger and fear, discouragement and hope, despair and faith.  It is in these tumultuous times that we should be asking ourselves, Of what spirit am I?  When the world is falling apart and chaos reigns I still must be Christlike!  I must live out Christ before a hostile enemy!  My spirit must be submitted to his Spirit.

Vs. 53 - The Spirit of the Samaritans: They did not receive him

This is the prevailing spirit of the day.  It always has been.  The only difference is the intensity with which people do not receive him.  Passive or active rejection?  Complacent or defiant rejection? Ours is a day when people are not receiving him actively and defiantly.  But really does it matter that much?  The result is the same.  People are not receiving him!

The bible actually gives us a heads-up about this very thing.
John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
Romans 3:10-11 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Why does the spirit of the Samaritans prevail?

The natural bent is to not receive him
Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

The bondage of sin hinders men from receiving him
John 8:34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
Proverbs 5:22 His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.

The darkness in which men exist hinders them from receiving him
John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Colossians 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

The blindness to which they are subject hinders them from receiving him
2 Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
2 Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

If we were to come across a person who, going about his business, found himself blind, and in a dungeon with no light and consequently helpless and hopeless would we call down fire upon him or, would be be moved with compassion on him and do what we could to help him.

Next we see:
Vs. 54 - The Spirit of James and John: They wanted to call down fire to consume them

Theirs was a spirit of wrath.  It is important to temper our initial reactions with biblical truth.
James 1:19-20 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Psalm 37:8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.

The spirit, quite frankly, is understandable.  How could the Samaritans so blatantly reject him?  James and John knew him to be the Messiah.  They loved Jesus!  However the spirit is misguided.

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places

Our preoccupation with a perceived enemy hinders us from addressing the real enemy.  We therefore apply ourselves to political, legislative, and social remedies.  These things are important in their place but they are limited in their scope.  None of these things can change the heart of a man.  We should be applying the lion's share of our effort and resources to prayer, gospel preaching, discipleship, missions and all things that advance the spiritual kingdom of which we are a part and in fact has the capacity to sway earthly kingdoms!

Then in:
Vs. 55,56 - The Spirit of Jesus:  Not to destroy but to save

In verse 55 James and John were rebuked.  Jesus turned to them and said, "Ye know not what manner of spirit you are of."  If we are not careful we will find ourselves with a spirit that is not consistent with the Christian message.  It will be a spirit that would rather call down fire than preach the everlasting gospel.  We especially must be careful in an environment that is increasingly hostile.  When the hostility heats up we are predisposed to fall prey, as previously mentioned, to misidentifying the enemy.  The devil and the works of the devil we should desire to be destroyed and they will be one day.  Lost sinners we should desire to see saved!

They were rebuked for not being like him.  "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.  For the son of man . . . . "  In other words you do not have the same spirit I do!  Yours is a spirit that wants to call down fire, mine is a spirit that wants to reach out to and save sinners!  You need to bring your spirit into line with mine!

Verse 56 relates the spirit of Jesus.

The Son of man is not come to destroy lives.
John 12:47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
John 3:17-18 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Jesus did not come to destroy lives.  They are already being destroyed.  The one who does not believe is condemned already. The wrath of God already abides on him.  He needs deliverance!

While he did not come to destroy them he did come to save them.

Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Matthew 18:11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
Matthew 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

Let us ask ourselves of what spirit are we?

Finally in the last part of:
Vs. 56 - The Spirit of Perseverance:  And they went to another village

They kept on doing what they were doing!  We have a message to proclaim!  We have a bible to follow!  We have a kingdom to advance!  We are to stay at it!  Whether in favor or out of favor with the current generation we are to stay busy doing what our spiritual forefathers have been doing for two millennium.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
2 Thessalonians 3:13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Hebrews 12:3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
2 Corinthians 4:16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
Hebrews 10:36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.

There is always another person!  Remember Jesus came to seek and to save.  The seeking came before the saving.  Some generations, some cultures, some nations require more seeking before there will be any saving.  What are we to do in a day, and in a culture, and with a generation when so few want to hear?  We just keep preaching being mindful of what spirit we are. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Trite Religion

Isaiah 66:1-3 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.

Trite - Not interesting or effective because of being used too often: not fresh or original.

One of the synonyms for trite is "stale".  The title of the blog post could have just as easily been A Stale Religion!

In every religion there is something to do.  False religion is characterized by doing certain things to appease God and gain his favor and hopefully salvation which is defined in a host of different ways depending on the false religions one is considering.

True religion,  bible Christianity, is characterized by doing certain things because one has been made right with God by grace apart from human merit and effort.  However there are lots of things a bible Christian should do!  The real difference, as I often point out, is that the bible teaches we don't do good works to gain the favor of God but we do good works because we have the favor of God through repentance and faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the context of bible Christianity, true religion, what we do as Christians can become "trite" or "stale" if you like that word better.  Whatever you call it we should scorn it as the plague.  A trite religion is a dying or dead religion.  Coming to church because that is just what we do.  Praying for stuff or about things instead of praying to God.  When we read our bibles it is dry and disconnected from reality.  Church is just something we do if we don't have anything better to do.  We sing without worshipping.  We listen to sermons without hearing.  We are churchy at church time and worldly the rest of the time.  We pray with our hearts unhumbled and our eyes half open.  It is quintessential "having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof".

When Jesus disappears from what we are "doing" then what we are "doing" loses all its meaning!  Ours is a relational religion.  If the relationship is lacking our religion becomes "trite" or "stale".  Without Jesus at the center of what we are "doing" all the "doing" becomes mechanical.  It ceases to have warmth and zest!  It ceases to be emotional because it has ceased to be relational!  We are no longer excited and anticipating going to church because it is something we do instead of because of who we know!  Prayer is difficult because it is a list of things instead of a talk with the Father in Jesus name!  Bible reading is drudgery because we are counting pages or chapters instead of looking for Jesus and relevance!  Singing is underwhelming because we are singing a song instead of singing about Jesus!

Result: Religion is Trite!

The passage before us addresses this very issue.  It essentially follows this logic.  We need a fresh view and a bold renewal.  If we do not have this our religion will become trite.

Verse one and the first part of verse two is where we are challenged to have a fresh view.

The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool

God is big!  Stop for a minute and take in the imagery that is deployed to arrest our attention and make us think, "WOW! God is immense!  To often we have a little God!  But a little God is not the God of the bible.  The God of the bible is big.  He should be filling our view!  A trite religion is the result of having trifling thoughts of God!  Religious acts cease to be trite when done with a conscience awareness of the magnitude of God.

where is the house that ye build unto me?

Don't be lulled into thinking that God's prescribed method of worship is an indication that he can be contained.  Because God purposed to especially reveal himself in a tabernacle, or temple, or congregation of baptized believers, or in prayer, or a hymn, or in the word of God we should never thing that God is completely contained within those things.  Not one or all of them.  God predates the Jewish temple.  God is in the church and the church is in God.  God is not just hearing prayer he is hearing everything.  It is not the hymn that exalts God it is God that exalts the hymn.  The word of God does not extend to the limits of God but it does extend beyond our own limits.  Our religion is trite because we perceive our God as small, and disconnected, and distant, and inconsequential.

and where is the place of my rest?

Where does God settle in?  We perceive God as inattentive but he is truly engaged at a level we have a hard time grasping.   He neither slumbers or sleeps.  He is active.  We think that he, like us, needs a rest.  Omnipotence does not tire!  Omnipotence need not disengage to seek a place and time of rest.  Our religion is trite because we experience God as stagnant.

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been

Our God made the throne upon which he sits, and the earth upon which he rests his feet.  Our God made the house in which he is worshipped.  God is the origin of all things!  He is in everything!  We see him in little and possibly nothing and our religion becomes trite!  There is nothing that cannot ultimately be traced back to the great I AM!  Everything is about him although we live in a world that conducts itself as though nothing is about him!  We lose the wonder of his presence and the awe of his person and religion becomes a stale exercise.

At the end of verse two we are invited to experience a bold renewal.

But to this man will I look

God, of course, sees everything.  When he says to this man will I "look" he is saying it is this man that I will regard, it is this man that I will respect.  To be regarded by God is to keep our religion form becoming trite!

even to him that is poor

Poor is not just a reference to economic standing but to disposition of mind.  To be poor is to be depressed in mind and circumstances.  It is the essence of humility.  A truly humble man is more likely to have a fresh and interesting religion.  A trite religion is the possession of a proud man.  A stale religion is the curse of arrogance.  While God is in everything and it all originates with him our tendency is to see ourselves in everything.  We view everything through the lens of self-importance rather than the lens self-abasement.  God is little because we are big!

and of a contrite spirit

Contrite is a powerful word that is laden with emotion.  It involves the idea of being smitten, dejected.  It is a feeling, or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming.  Our religion is trite because we are not contrite!  The more important we see ourselves the more trite and stale our religion becomes.  Think about it.  We panic if we leave our cellphone somewhere.  "What if someone needs to make contact with me?"  I'm actually a supporter of social media however we must keep our heads about us.  Few things have done more to give people a sense of self-importance like social media.  With four people telling us how smart, or beautiful, or caring, or spiritual, or remarkable we are it is hard to be contrite.  And, lets face it, it's easier to seek the approval of man than of God.  Especially of those who hardly know us.

The Lord has regard to the man with a contrite spirit.  When we are contrite, broken, coming to church is a privilege, praying is humbling work, singing is occasion for adoration and praise, bible reading is time for honesty and self-reflection comparing ourselves with a holy God and his son the Lord Jesus Christ rather than all the sinners around us.

and trembleth at my word

We tremble because we are fearful, afraid.  For a generation now we have been marching to the drumbeat of tolerance and acceptance.  When God speaks he expects us to pay attention.  We push aside his precepts, stiffen our necks at his statutes, cast aside his commandments and we complain that we don't get anything out of our religion.  The reality is that God regards the man that regards him!  A trembling man will not have a trite religion.  A reverential awe for the fact that God has spoken goes a long way in keeping religion fresh!  He who is more attentive to what the world says is a man who will end up with a trite religion.  Going through the motions because that is what respectable people do.

Then in verse three we have the full-blown fruit of a trite religion.

He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol

He is doing all the right things but it does not mean anything.  He is at the place of worship but his heart is somewhere else.  He is doing and God is not regarding.  His religion has become trite and stale!  He does not rightly esteem the prescribed worship because he does not rightly esteem God!  His offerings are fresh but his heart is stale!  He does the right thing, at the right time, in the right place and he is unmoved by it.

Yea, they have chosen their own ways

This is not the attitude of a humble man.  This is not the attitude of a contrite man.  This is not the attitude of a man who trembles at the word of God.

and their soul delighteth in their abominations

But God does not!  They feel good about what they have done but they have not gotten anything out of what they have done.  They feel better about themselves but they are not better within themselves.  This is the result of a trite religion.

God give us a fresh view!  God give us a bold renewal!  God deliver us from a trite religion!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Saints & Sinners

1 John 3:4-10 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

We tend to abandon uncomfortable truths.  If a passage makes us cringe we rush along to fairer fields.

"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin".  How is that for a scriptural statement to make one cringe.  The whole passage, like that in James 2, is uncomfortable because too many have embraced an unsound position related to grace.

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

 Jude 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lasciviousness is a big fancy word that simply means wantonness.  Wantonness is being without check or limitation.

A grace that does no change the life does not save the soul!  In the scripture these two things go together.  A saved soul results in a changed life because it is change at the most fundamental level of human existence.  The very seat of our feelings, intellect, and will has been saved.

Reminds me of the old negro spiritual, "everybody talkin' 'bout heaven ain't goin' there".

It also reminds me of an account I read once about D. L. Moody.  He once disembarked from a train in a northern city and as he made his way to the gate a drunk stumbled up and said, "Mr. Moody, I'm one of your converts."  To which Mr. Moody retorted, "You look like it".  Implying, of course, he did not look like one of the Lord's converts.

Baptist take a beating at times over the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer.  It is a doctrine for which I am more than willing to take a beating.  But some of it is unnecessary.  Someone makes a profession of faith, agrees to some statements made my a soul winner, repeats a prayer and is pronounced saved.  Their life doesn't change.  They don't hate sin and love righteousness.  The don't loath their own sin and love the Savior.  And we still keep insisting that they have been redeemed, washed in the blood, had their sins forgiven.  And a lot of the religious world takes such opportunities to poke fun at our eternal security of the believer.  While they would likely explain such a phenomenon as a person losing their salvation I would contend they never had it.

Matthew 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Mark 13:13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Luke 8:15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Hebrews 3:6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. 

Hebrews 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;

Revelation 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

It is not that we hold fast to the end to be saved.  We hold fast to the end because we are saved.  This is a critical distinction.  It is the fruit of salvation.  We love to talk about the preservation of the saints but get cold feet when it comes to the perseverance of the saints.  The saints that don't persevere it will be discovered in the end were not preserved either, because they were not saints but sinners.

This uncomfortable passage in 1 John strikes at the very foundation of this issue.

Sin and the Savior

1 John 3:4 defines sin.  Sin is the transgression of the law.  Sin is not what we believe it to be.  Sin is not determined by what we think.  Sin is not defined by cultural norms.  Sin is the transgressing of the law.

1 John 3:5 makes two points related to the defeating of sin.

"And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins"  This as the context actually bears out is in reference not to the penalty of sin but to the power of sin.  This passage we are dealing with was prefaced in verse 3 with the words, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure".  You will notice the word is plural, "sins".  He did not come only to forgive sin but also to take away sins.  The Lord intends to change our relationship to sin.

"and in him is no sin"  This is why he can!  He can take our sin away because he has none of his own.  He can forgive our sin thus addressing the penalty of sin.  He can conquer our sin thus addressing the power of sin.  He can banish our sin thus addressing the presence of sin.  The Lord came to deal with, not just the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin in our lives.  He who removes the penalty of sin also removes the power of sin!

1 John 3:6 makes a two points related to the deleting of sin.

"Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not"  This is a startling declaration!  It is important to note what he is not saying.  And we can determine this from the context of the book.

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

So, before he gets to chapter three and verse six has already told us that we cannot say we have not sin without deceiving ourselves and if we say we have not sinned we make God a liar and don't sin, but if you do.  It is with this background that he says "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not".  We are clearly not talking about sinless perfection.  However:

One who is born again does not sin habitually, or is not an habitual sinner.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 

One who is born again does not sin deliberately and of design.

Romans 7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 

One who is born again does not sin finally or fall away.

Colossians 1:21-23 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 

"Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him"  The point is one does not meet Jesus and stay the same, or get worse.  The Holy Ghost does not come into the soul and leave things as they are!  Men sin habitually because they have not seen him, nor known him.  Men sin deliberately and by design because they have not seen him, nor known him.  Men sin finally and fall away because they have not seen him, nor known him.

They don't lose their salvation.  They never had salvation!

The Son of God and Satan

The first part of verse seven, "Little children, let no man deceive you" indicates that already there was deception afoot on this point.  People are deceived about this very thing.  There are three point where we are potentially deceived.

1.  They who have been made righteous live righteously.  The second part of verse seven says, "He that doth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous".  Perfect, sinless righteousness?  No.  They are righteous in the sense that they do not sin habitually, deliberately, or finally.  It is not perfect living, but perfected living! Those who are born again reflect the image of the sinless one.  They do so increasingly.  It is not that there is no ebb and flow in our spiritual development but the direction is toward Christlikeness.

2.  They who commit sin are of the devil.  The first part of verse eight says, "He that committeth is is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning".  Don't be deceived about this!  One who is living in habitual sin is of the devil.  Just because they said a prayer at some point and say they believe in Jesus does not mean they are saved.  James two that other passage with some uncomfortable truths clearly states that "faith without works is dead".  A faith that does not produce a different kind of life in relation to sin is not a saving faith.  Just because we want to believe something does not mean it is right to believe it.  There is a great disconnect when one is living on the devil's side claiming to be on the Lord's side!  It is the devil's nature to sin and if it is your nature to sin deliberately, habitually, and/or finally you have the nature of the devil and have not been made a partaker of the divine nature.

3.  The purpose of the son of God.  The last part of verse eight says, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil".  What was the purpose of the Son of God being manifested.  You could probably make an argument for several purposes but one of them which is often over-looked was that he might destroy the works of the devil.  What are the works of the devil?  Sin!  "the devil sinneth from the beginning".  If sin is not being destroyed in someone it is because Christ is not living in them.  The minute Christ moves in he begins to fight sin.  And he fights it continually.

The Children of God and the Children of the Devil

The children of God cannot sin.  Again, in verse nine, we are confronted with a very shocking declaration, especially for our generation.  The argument runs thus: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin".  That is, one born of God does not commit sin habitually, does not commit sin deliberately, does not commit sin finally.  Yes, the children of God can backslide but there are at least a couple of things to keep in mind about that.

Psalm 32:3-4 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.

The true child of God is never comfortable in sin!  If you can get comfortable you need to get saved!

Hebrews 12:5-8 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

When a child of God begins to live in disobedience he is corrected by his heavenly Father.  God's children are promised the corrective hand of the Lord if they stray.  If you do not receive this correction then the scripture says you are bastards and not sons.

Can a Christian backslide?  Yes.  But, they will never be comfortable and they will always be corrected!

The argument continues in verse 9, "for his seed remaineth in him".  He has been made a partaker of the divine nature and he has the seed of the word of God in him.  The word and Spirit of God is constantly present reproving and rebuking.  Guilt is no longer simply the product of a violated conscience but it is now the product of the violation of God's word.  Guilt is now produced by living at odds with the Spirit of God within you.

And then at the end of verse nine, "and he cannot sin, because he is born of God".  Salvation changes your life!  Where is the consistency in claiming you have been born of God and yet you continue to cuss, drink, do drugs, carousing, immorality and have no true genuine interest in the bible, or church, or the people of God?  These things cannot be scripturally reconciled!  There are a lot of people out there that think they are OK because they have prayed the prayer, they have asked Jesus into their heart but they are as lost as they ever were and even more so because now they are deceived as well and are made two-fold more the child of hell than before.

Lastly, in the first part of verse 10 we are reminded there is not great secret here.  It is laid bare with two thoughts.

"In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil".  People, say, "Well, we can't know who is saved and who isn't".  The word "manifest" here has the meaning of shining, apparent, known.  I'm just defining words.  People say we can't know, the bible says they are made manifest!?  I will leave you to wrestle with that one!  You said a prayer when you were five, or eight, or twelve but your whole adult life has been spent out of church and in the world?  You asked Jesus into your heart twenty years ago but you continue to curse, drink, never go to church, never read your bible, and only pray when you want something??  This is going to take some explaining and I would hate to have to be the one doing the explaining.

 And then the bible says, "whosoever doth not righteousness is not of God"  It is not only what you are doing (sin of commission) but also what you are not doing (sins of omission) that manifest that you are not a child of God but a child of the devil.  John pens some other words that serve to bolster the contention he makes here.

1 John 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

 1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 

Even Jesus touched on this very touchy subject when he walked the earth, Matthew 7:20-21 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

It is not by what they say but by what they do that we know the children of God and the children of the devil.

This is a hard passage because it confronts us with some unpleasant realities.  It is not about getting people to agree with us about a few verses and having them pray a prayer.  It is about bringing the law to the proud and grace to the humble.  A proud man is not a good candidate for the gospel.  He must first be humbled by the law.  His mouth must be stopped.  He must feel the weight and burden of his sin.  Asking people if they want to go to hell is like asking them if they want to get caught in a house fire.  Of course they don’t!  Asking people if they want to go to heaven is like asking them if they want to go on an all-expense paid vacation.  Of course they do!  Asking them if they believe in Jesus is like asking them if they believe in George Washington.  Of course they do!  Salvation is not a simple mental assent to a set of facts.  It is a presentation of the word of God related to sin, judgment, and righteousness that affords the Holy Ghost the opportunity to convict men in these three areas.  We have a whole generation of people who have said the prayer and gone on living like they always have and have basically been immunized against the gospel.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Getting Past The Past

Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 

One of the things that excites me about a new year is that when you flip the calendar over to January it is blank.  Here is another starting point.  I have the opportunity to manage those blank spaces and fill them with profitable actions that will bring glory to God.

There are times though when we have trouble anticipating a new year because we don’t seem to be able to get past the past.

Are you dreading a new year with the baggage of an old year clinging to you?  Has this year started like the old year ended?  Those besetting sins.  Those footholds that have become strongholds.  The worry.  The missed goals.  Is the weight of 2015 keeping you from reaching forth into 2016 with hope, anticipation, and resolution?

Or, even worse, have you become so accustomed to carrying the baggage over from year to year that you have resigned yourself to just trudging through another year mired in mediocrity?

I have a single word for you.  Confession!

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

What a blessed verse when we approach it honestly and with transparency.  When we embrace the full range of truth presented.

If we confess our sins

The first thing that arrests my attention is the fact that the word sin is plural.  It is not confessing sin but sins.  We should not seek to address specific sins in the context of general confessions.   If our "confessions" are always general, "Lord, forgive my sins", then it is right to raise the question if we are even truly confessing.

1 John 1:8 says, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. And 1 John 1:10 says, If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. If we are not careful we will be living on either side of verse nine. Of course we don’t live there intellectually but we do practically! We would not claim to have no sin but our lack of confession belies the true nature of things.

Sin is to be confessed!  Confess means to assent or acknowledge.  The essence of the word is to be in the same place as God in relation to our sin.  By nature of the fact that we are exhorted to confess sins we can logically conclude there are several things we should not be doing with our sins; we should not ignore them, justify them, minimize them, surrender to them, or hide them.

Confession is not a foregone conclusion.  The bible says "if" we confess our sins indicating we won’t necessarily do it!  It is more than just asking forgiveness.  It is the spiritual effort to get to the same place God is in respect to our sin.  We keep having to ask forgiveness for the same sin over and over again because we have yet to confess it!  The essence of confession creates abhorrence!  We don’t have the power of God because we have unconfessed sin.  The Holy Ghost is grieving instead of empowering!  If we will confess we can, we will, get past the past!

He is faithful and just to forgive our sins

    Sins once again takes center stage.  The reality is that God is in the business of dealing with sin.

     He is faithful!  To be faithful is to be true, trustworthy, and sure.  2 Timothy 2:13 declares, If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.  Verse 5 of 1 John 1 reminds us that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  He is not going to cut a deal with sin!  The two pillars of God’s faithfulness is that he is first and foremost faithful to himself and to his word.  God’s faithfulness to us can only be appreciated in the context of God being faithful to himself and faithful to his word.  He will not deny himself or forsake his word in order to be perceived as being faithful to us.  God’s faithfulness to his people is in the context of fidelity to himself and devotion to his word!

    He is just!  To be just is to be equitable and right.  It was Abraham when interceding on behalf of Sodom and Gommorah that asked the rhetorical question, "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?"  God is upright!  He does not lean to one side or the other!  He stands as he ought!  God is the ultimate standard of right and wrong!  He is the great moral compass of creation!  God is just!  He acts and responds in keeping with his holy nature!  God is right, he is always right and he is absolutely, infinitely just!

     He is faithful and just to forgive!  My what a blessing of grace that his faithfulness and justice is revealed in forgiveness as well as chastisement.  As his children we can mitigate the rod of correction by confessing sin.  When we confess it calls forth his faithfulness and justice to execute forgiveness.

     There is a very real sense in which we don’t have to seek forgiveness we need only to confess and he will be faithful and just to forgive!  If we will confess we can, we will, get past the past!

     And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

    Unrighteousness is injustice, iniquity, moral wrongness of character, life, or act.  It is worthy of note that God wants to deal with “all” our unrighteousness.  The question is, do we?  Do we want to be able to face a clear calendar with a clear conscience?  Do we want to be able to get past the past?

           It is important to note God is faithful and just to do two things not just one.  He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse.  These two things cannot be separated.  We are unfortunately living in the throes of a practical theology that believes one can be forgiven without being cleansed.  This error of thinking permeates the grand doctrine of justification.  It reveals itself in the common belief that you can be saved and drink, cuss, live immorally, never go to church, and in general just go about life like you normally would.  It is an error that also makes its impact felt in the doctrine of sanctification.  We have largely devolved into a Christianity that wants to be forgiven but does not want to be cleansed.  A Christianity that want to walk with God in the darkness!  The clear declaration of 1 John 1:9 is that he is faithful and just TO CLEANSE US from all unrighteousness.  It is a foreign concept to God that there would be forgiveness without cleansing!

    To cleanse is to make clean, purge, and purify.  God is in the business of wiping the slate clean.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if here at the start of a new year when God blesses us with a clean calendar he also would bless us with a clear conscience!  If we will confess he will cleanse!

     Confession is the precursor to cleansing.  We seek forgiveness over and over in relation to the same sin because we are never cleansed from that sin.  We are not cleansed from that sin because we never confess that sin.  If we are not cleansed can we really hold out hope that we are forgiven.  Didn't he promise to do both?  It might do us well to simply humble ourselves and admit that we often do not see our sin like God does.  This might prompt us to pray, “O Lord help me to see my sin like you do so that I can truly confess it and know your forgiveness and cleansing.

     Proverbs 28:13  He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

     Genuine, sincere confession is the key to getting past the past!