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DIVINE PROTECTION [9/13/20]

At the start of each day as we face our daily chores, whatever they may be and wherever they may take us, we face the dangers of travel, occupation or whatever duty we are required to perform. So, we have two choices, face the day with our own determinations or seek the providential safeguards of our God. When we make the choice to go on our own resolve, we face challenges and circumstances over which we have little or no control; however, under God’s guidance and protection He takes control.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT COURSE

“In December 1995, American Airlines Flight 965 departed from Miami on a regularly scheduled trip to Cali, Columbia. On the landing approach, the pilot of the 757 needed to select the next radio navigation fix, named Rozo. He entered an R into his navigation computer. The computer returned a list of nearby navigation fixes starting with R, and the pilot selected the first of these, whose latitude and longitude appeared to be correct.

Unfortunately, instead of Rozo, the pilot selected Romeo, 132 miles to the northeast. The jet was southbound, descending into a valley that runs north-south, and any lateral deviation was dangerous. Following indications on the flight computer, the pilots began an easterly turn and slammed into a granite peak at 10,000 feet. One hundred and fifty-two passengers and all eight crewmembers aboard perished. Four passengers survived with serious injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated, and . . . declared the problem human error. The navigational aid the pilots were following was valid but not for the landing procedure at Cali. In the literal definition of the phrase, this was indeed human error, because the pilot selected the wrong fix… . .

The front panel of the airplane’s navigation computer showed the currently selected navigation fix and a course deviation indicator. When the plane is on course, the needle is centered, but the needle gives no indication whatsoever about the correctness of the selected radio beacon. The gauge looks pretty much the same just before landing as it does just before crashing. The computer told the pilot he was tracking precisely to the beacon he had selected. Unfortunately, it neglected to tell him the beacon he selected was a fatal choice.” [Source: Perfect Illustrations and More Perfect Illustrations by Christianity Today International.] How often people make similar choices in life, some deliberately, others because of what they believe to be a correct choice; and as the days and years go by, they finally comprehend they have been on a wrong course.

“There is a way that seems right to a man[person], but in the end it leads to death.” <Prov.14:12 (NIV)> This verse describes the end-result of those individuals that make the wrong choice in life, and we must understand that the use of the word “death” does not necessarily mean physical death but most certainly “spiritual death” or eternal separation from God. Every individual person born into this world inherits the sin of Adam our forefather <see Rom.3:9-18, 23> and where no repentance is evident will face the penalty for sin which is spiritual death <Rom.6:23>. God has given to each of us the freedom of choice, just as He did for His chosen people the Jews <see Deut.30:19-20> and the choice we make will determine our destiny, and since we are all under the same condemnation we need to turn to God in repentance of our sins <see Isa.55:6-7> for as in the illustration above, the pilot made his choice but he was on the wrong course.

We are therefore encouraged to seek Divine protection, not only from the penalty of our sins but also from the perils that we face on a day-to-day basis. God promises us safety in travel <Psa.121:8>; safety during the day or night <Psa.91:4-5, 9-11> and safety during perilous times <Psa.27:5>.

FACTS TO CONTEMPLATE

We have no right to put God to the test when requesting His physical protection when we engage in careless or unlawful acts, or by putting ourselves in situations of deliberate disobedience to God’s commands. Neither is it ours to dictate to God which method He should use to protect us; for it is within His power to suspend or to counteract natural laws, or to use supernatural means to protect when it is within His purpose. We should also understand that delays in His response may be because of His love for us as He is able to see what is not evident to us. We must also be aware of, and accept, the possible eventualities of our circumstance as it fits what will be God’s divine purposes and sovereignty.

So, we make our choice each day, and for each circumstance we face we must rest on on God’s ability to protect us, recognizing the fact that we are in His hands and under His control, He is Sovereign, Omniscient, and Omnipotent <see Psa.91:9; Mk.4:35-40>.

“We said a prayer that God would watch over us.” Sherri Conley, of Oklahoma, telling the “Daily Oklahoman” how she, her husband, and two sons had huddled in their hallway linen closet for protection from a deadly tornado. After the storm passed, she discovered the closet was the only thing left standing from the family’s home.” [Source: Perfect Illustrations and More Perfect Illustrations (Tornado Insurance) by Christianity Today International.]

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EXCELLENT AND PROFITABLE DEEDS [9/5/20]

Paul is not advocating that good works are required for salvation <Titus 3:1-11>, instead he is teaching that good works are the result of our salvation <see Jas.2:14-18; Eph.2:10>. All believers are citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom, but we must submit ourselves to our earthly governments so as to assist in the welfare of our communities <see Rom.13:1-7; 1 Peter.2:13-17>. So, he instructs Titus to “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities” <Titus 3:1-2 (NIV)>, and to be ready to carry out whatever suitable action that is deemed necessary. Titus is to remind the believers of what is not considered to be “good works”, “slander no one”; so often we are tempted to speak critically about others especially when we do not have all the facts, and this action must be sternly avoided in the Church. Believers should be “peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility” towards all members of the Church and to all others in the community <cf Jn.8:7; Gal.6:1; 1 Cor,15:9-10>.

Paul reminds us that “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” <Titus 3:3 (NIV)>, and this should be the thought that influences our behaviour and actions, considering the fact that God has forgiven us of our past sins so we now must be considerate in our response to those that are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to those that are not yet believers in Christ <see Matt.6:12>. He continues by referring to the “kindness and love of God” <Titus 3:4 (NIV); 2:11>, through which God saved us instead of condemning us to eternal punishment, and it is important to understand that our salvation is not the result of our righteous deeds; “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” <Titus 3:5 (NIV); 1 Pet.1:3>; and we must also understand that our salvation is secured “through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”; indicating a reference to the “new birth” as seen in the teaching of Christ <see Jn.3:3, 5>, whereby we are not saved by baptism, only by rebirth through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Our salvation is therefore completely based upon the grace of God, “poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” <Titus 3:6-7 (NIV); 1:2; 2:13; Jn.10:10b>; and Paul says that this is a “trustworthy saying”, a reference to his doctrinal statement in verses 4-7.

Titus is to put emphasis on these teachings “so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” <Titus 3:8 (NIV)>; directing us back to the opening statement “to be ready to do whatever is good” <Titus 3:1>; and such should be characteristic of all true believers in Christ. But Paul warns us to “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.” <Titus 3:9 (NIV)>, these behaviours should not characterize believers in Christ since they contribute nothing to the good works that are expected of us. Paul then concludes with a stern warning: “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time.” <Titus 3:10 (NIV)>; how often do we encounter such an individual in the Church today? Doctrinal differences, worship music and songs, decisions made by our church leaders, and such, often cause divisiveness, and when this occurs within the Church it must be dealt with immediately, otherwise it will ferment like yeast. Paul further says that if the individual will not listen and cooperate then have nothing to do”with that person because such a stubborn refusal to listen to correction reveals an inner perversion (NIV Study Bible).

Paul further determines that “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.” <Titus 3:14 (NIV)>. The primary characteristic of each and every believer is to be faithful in doing what is good, and Paul has addressed this previously; he has cautioned us as to what should be avoided <see Titus 3:9-11> as opposed to what we should be doing <Titus 3:1-2>. This behaviour will then lead to the secondary factor in that we will take care of the daily essentials, physical and spiritual, not only for ourselves but also for other members of the community of believers, and outsiders, as is deemed necessary. We should not be consumed with the idea of Christ’s imminent return to the extent that we sit back and do little or nothing as we wait for this event <see Titus 1:12; cf 2 Thess.3:6-13; cf Rom.15:1; Gal.6:2>. He also speaks to an attitude in the lives of some believers when he comments on “unproductive lives”; where often we attempt to sit back at various periods of our Christian life and think that there is nothing left to do, but we must always remember that we are to continually work for our Master until He returns, even if it involves only our praise and adoration for Him <see Psa.92:12-15>. So, let us live our lives always doing good so that others will benefit as we contribute to their physical and spiritual needs.

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ACCEPTABLE TEACHING [8/29/20]

Flawless doctrine must be taught by all leaders of the Church <Titus 2:1-10>, and Paul emphasizes that sound doctrine and a holy character should be the distinctive of all God’s people regardless of age or social standing, instructing Titus; “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” <Titus 2:1 (NIV)>; and wherever this is the practice the Church will show evidence of godliness to the community of unbelievers. Unblemished doctrine, doctrine that is not diluted or “watered down” to please the false teachers is absolutely necessary, for it stipulates the right conduct of all believers; and this teaching is required for all ages, from the children to the older members of the Church; older men and women, younger men and women. The older members should demonstrate self-control and teach the younger members “what is good” <Titus 2:3>, and this characteristic should also be displayed by the younger men and women; and all, including Titus, should live by example <Titus 2:7>. Paul also instructs Titus that his teaching should show inflexible regard for truth, understanding the seriousness of the issues he is addressing, his speech should be sincere and understandable, so that his critics may be silenced; “In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” <Titus 2:7b-8 (NIV)>

Paul also addresses Slaves. It may be difficult to appreciate what slavery means today, but we should remember that slavery was a basic element in Roman society and many Christian masters had slaves who were converted to Christianity, these slaves had no legal rights and their destiny was entirely in the hands of their masters. The same “sound doctrine” is also applicable to them for they are to show respect to their masters and be pleasing in all their work and not to steal. How then is this applicable today? We are all members of the workforce in some way or form, and we too as followers of Christ are expected to demonstrate our Christianity in all of our actions in our workplace; not only in words but also in our behaviours! “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” <Titus 2:9-10 (NIV)>. It should be observed that when “sound doctrine” is taught in the church the results will be, “no one will malign the word of God.” <Titus 2:5 (NIV)>; “those who oppose you may be ashamed” <Titus 2:8 (NIV)>; “they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” <Titus 2:10 (NIV)>. No one will be able to slander God’s Word; our opponents will be silenced and ashamed, and God’s teachings will be attractive to a world that is lost in sin. It is unfortunate that this has not been fully achieved in our society today! <cf 1 Pet.2:11, 15; Phil.1:27a>.

Paul now concludes by showing that after our salvation take place, there are two sides to the change that comes into a person’s life. First there must be rejection of all that is evil; “say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions” <Titus 2:12 (NIV)>; secondly, we are to live holy lives guided by the “sound doctrine” that we have been taught; “live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” <Titus 2:12 (NIV)>. He stresses that our sincere objective should be to do what is good; “a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” <Titus 2:14 (NIV); cf Prov.16:7; 2 Cor.8:21; 1 Pet.2:12, 15>. He states that our salvation is based entirely upon the grace of God that is available to all mankind; “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” <Titus 2:11 (NIV); cf Rom.1:20; 5:8>; and that through God’s grace and His Word we are taught to live godly and self-controlled lives while we await Christ’s return to take us away from this present sinful world to live with Him for all eternity, for that was the reason He offered Himself as our atoning sacrifice; “It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” <Titus 2:12-14 (NIV); cf Heb.9:24-28; 1 Jn.3:2-3>. Sound doctrine will encourage us to anticipate the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ <Rev.22:17, 20>.

Good sound doctrine based entirely on scripture is what needs to be taught from all our church pulpits!

PROCLAIM AND REPRIMAND [8/23/20]

LEADERSHIP RESPONSIBILITIES

“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” <Titus 1:5 (NIV)> The implication here is that at some time, not elsewhere recorded in Acts, Paul and Titus were together in Crete, and Paul is now instructing Titus to get the Churches organized by appointing Elders. Both Timothy and Titus were instructed by Paul to appoint Elders and Deacons in their respective Churches over which they ministered. However, the problems affecting the Churches in Ephesus; Gnosticism, Judaism and severe self denial, required a different approach for Timothy <cf 1 Tim.3:1-7>. Titus had a different problem in Crete; the difficulty he faced was that the people had a deplorable morality, they were dishonest, gluttonous and lazy <Titus 1:12>; so, the qualifications that he had to look for were slightly different to Timothy. Differences can be seen in the qualifications given to Titus: “not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient…. not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.” <Titus 1: 6-7 (NIV)>. Since the Elder is entrusted with God’s work <Titus 1:7>, “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” <Titus 1:9 (NIV); cf 2 Tim.1:13-14; 4:3-4>; for the Elder or Bishop must be thoroughly educated in the doctrine of the Scriptures since he is required to live by such doctrine and to teach such doctrine to the members of the Church. This has been the objective in the Church from the time of the Apostles until the present, but Satan has worked very hard to ensure that there are those in the Church, then and today, who do not meet this qualification! Unfortunately, there are leaders of the Church who do not hold to the Truth of God and do not teach or defend The Truth; they remain under the control of Satan and teach false doctrines, and are therefore unable to truly encourage the people under their leadership.

Titus was instructed to avoid three groups of individuals: those that were rebellious against God and God’s Word, gossips and deceivers; and those that belonged to the “circumcision group” who taught that salvation was dependent upon circumcision and keeping the Mosaic Law. “They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach — and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” <Titus 1:11 (NIV)>. Because the Cretans were liars, lazy, gluttons and “evil intimidators”, the possibility of these behaviours being taken into the church was very real, so Titus was instructed “Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.” <Titus 1:13-14 (NIV); cf 1 Tim.5:20>.

Paul then makes a statement in regards to virtuousness, “To the pure, all things are pure” <Titus 1:15 (NIV)>, but to the corrupt nothing is pure. He implies that to Christians, who have been purified by Christ’s atoning death, all of God’s creation is good and nothing should be rejected or condemned if received with thanksgiving <cf 1 Tim.4:4>, contrary to what those who are corrupt believe; such have unbiblical principles against foods, marriage etcetera and do not enjoy the freedom of choice of true believers in Christ. Such unbelievers, says Paul, “claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” <Titus 1:16 (NIV)>, which concludes that believers should be consistent not only in word but also in deed <cf Jas. 1:22; 2:14>.

Our salvation depends upon the reliability of God, the preachers of the gospel and ourselves. First, we can depend upon God’s trustworthiness, for the scripture teaches that anyone who calls upon Him will be saved. We can also depend upon the faithfulness of preachers who deliver God’s message of salvation. But as an individual, one must accept the good news of salvation, for faith in God comes from hearing the message through the preaching of the Word of Christ. The Preacher or teacher of God’s word has a great responsibility before God in that “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” <Titus 1:9 (NIV)>. For the servant of God, by whatever given designation, must be able to encourage God’s people in whatever the circumstance by applying sound doctrine, and renouncing those that oppose sound doctrine. The message of the gospel will always be challenged by false teaching, deceivers and those who refuse to recognise God’s authority; and the instruction given to Titus is that “They must be silenced” because they are deceiving other individuals in the church. <Titus 1:11>.

Paul refers to sources of weakness in the church-life at Crete: liars; nastiness, unpleasantness, displeasing; laziness and gluttons: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” <Titus 1:12 (NIV)>. Titus is to reprimand them severely so as to encourage them to be sound and healthy Christians.

Unfortunately, our salvation does not entirely remove or silence our old sinful nature, and this old temperament oftentimes rises above our new personality that we have in Christ <see Rom.7:21-23>; and this condition is the same for all believers in Christ. We then as believers must be sure to subdue the “old nature” through the help of The Holy Spirit, first and foremost for our influence on other believers we need to live godly lives <see Col.3:5-10>. This was Paul’s message to Titus, and this is God’s message to all believers today; ungodliness, false teaching and sinful living cannot be permitted in the Church or in the lives of the individuals that constitute the Church; so, let us all be conscious of what the Scriptures teach!

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A KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH [8/16/20]

The first-century inhabitants of the island of Crete were notorious for untruthfulness and immorality <Titus 1:12-13>. Paul’s objective in his letter to Titus is “for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness” <Titus 1:1-2 (NIV)>; he states that knowledge of the Truth will lead to godliness. What is the knowledge of “the truth”? First of all, what is truth? This was the question that Pilate asked of Jesus, when Jesus stated “for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” <Jn.18:37-38(NIV)>; what is the “Truth” that Jesus was referring to? It is recorded that “The Word” (Christ Jesus) came as a “light” to testify concerning the “truth”; Christ took on the form of mankind <see Phil.2:5-8> and as a person came into this world to reveal God His Father who is grace and truth <see Jn. 1:1-14>.

It is widespread in our culture in the present day for our politicians, leaders and journalists to make statements that are questionable, and oftentimes prove to be misleading or completely false; one national leader speaks of “false news”; and many people express with dismay “who, or what can we believe”. The Scriptures teach that such statements are the result of the “darkness” of sin, and Satan the great deceiver causes all mankind to believe his lies that he has been communicating to us from the beginning of time <see Gen.1:13; Isa.44:18; 2 Cor.11:13-15; 2 Thess.2:11-12>, and since mankind has refused to listen to God He allows us to believe the lies of Satan. Christ Jesus came into this world to reveal the “truth” to mankind, to free us from the “darkness” of sin, and those who desire the “truth” must turn to Christ in faith, believing in Him and accepting His offer of salvation from sin and the hope of eternal life, and this will lead us to godliness, for godliness is the character of all believers in Christ.

Paul also speaks of “a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life” <Titus 1:1-2 (NIV)> and that this eternal life was promised by God “who does not lie” <Heb.6:17-18> from the beginning of time, and at His appointed time “he brought his word to light” <Titus 1:3; cf. Gen.3:15; Gal.4:4; Jn.1:1, 14> and later entrusted the preaching of the gospel to Paul. Paul is referring to the fact that Christ came into this world and revealed the truth of God’s word which is far removed from the lies of Satan, and that the gospel message is the truth of God. When anyone accepts the gospel message that person, through faith in Christ, now rests in God’s righteousness in the hope of eternal life <see Rom.3:22-26; 5:1-2; Col.1:27>.

Paul addresses Titus as “my true son in our common faith” <Titus 1:4 (NIV)>, an indication that Titus was converted to Christianity through the preaching of Paul, similar to Timothy <1 Tim.1:2> and Onesimus <Phm. 10>, and all individuals because of faith in Christ share in this “common faith”, or the mutual faith of all true believers in Christ.

The question to all of us is: Do you want the truth of the Scriptures or are you satisfied to accept the lies of Satan? The Cretans were quite satisfied to do so since “Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, ….”” <Titus 1:12 (NIV)>, because the habit of continuous lying is the character of Satan, and Titus was instructed by Paul that such characteristics were not to be allowed in the community of believers that constituted the Church in Crete. What is your choice, the lies of Satan or the truth of the gospel? There is not one individual that does not wish to spend eternity in heaven, but there is only one way to be sure of eternal life with God; Christ said: “You must be born again” – born of the Spirit of God <Jn.3:3, 5>; and to all who have been born again of God’s Spirit is the promise of eternal life <Rev. 21:1, 6-8>.

What is your decision?

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BE SKILLFUL [8/9/20]

“RICH MAN, POOR MAN, PANHANDLER, THIEF”

“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!” <Prov.16:16 (NIV)>. If you apply yourself to seeking wisdom and understanding, you will understand the fear of the Lord and find God’s knowledge <Prov.2:1-5>; happy are those who find wisdom and gain understanding <Prov.3:13‑15>; the fruit of wisdom is justice wealth and prosperity. <Prov.8:18-21>. Can it be said that the rich person is more skillful than the poor person: or is the poor person more skillful than the panhandler? Many would agree that the thief is more skillful than the first three. In today’s lifestyle, which of the four really enjoys living? Again, most people would agree that many rich people enjoy life to its fullest.

THE STORY OF THE EIGHT RICH MEN: In 1923, a very important meeting was held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Attending this meeting were eight of the world’s most successful financiers. Those present were: The president of the largest independent steel company; the president of the largest utility company; the president of the largest gas company; the president of the New York Stock Exchange; a member of the President’s cabinet; the greatest “bear” in Wall Street; the Head of the world’s greatest monopoly and the President of the Bank for International Settlements. Certainly, we must admit that here were gathered a group of the world’s most successful men. At least, men who had found the secret of “making money”. Twenty-five years later (1948) let us see where these men are. The president of the largest independent steel company ‑ Charles Schwab ‑ lived on borrowed money for five years before his death, and died bankrupt. The president of the greatest utility company ‑ Samuel Insull ‑ died a fugitive from justice and penniless in a foreign land. The president of the largest gas company ‑ Howard Hopson ‑ is now dead. The president of the New York Stock Exchange ‑ Richard Whitney ‑ was recently released from Sing Sing Penitentiary. The member of the President’s cabinet ‑ Albert Fall, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home. The greatest “bear” in Wall Street ‑ Jesse Livermore‑ died a suicide. The Head of the greatest monopoly ‑ Ivan Kreuger ‑ died a suicide. The president of the Bank for International Settlements ‑ Leon Fraser ‑ died a suicide. All of these men learned well the art of making money, but not one of them had learned how to live. (Louis R. Lurie, in the Journal of Living. p573 Knight’s Book of Illustrations). There are those people, whose only aim in life is to accumulate as much money as they can, by any means that they can. Some of these people are called “thieves”.

THIEVES: “Immoral procurement” destroys those who obtain it <Prov.1:19>; “dishonest money” soon disappears <Prov.13:11>. There are three ways not to obtain wealth: “get‑rich quick” schemes; false information / advertising; outright robbery; are all “the way of the wicked”. <Prov.21:5‑7>. Dishonesty is robbery <Prov.11:1; Lev.19:35‑36> and all standards must be based on honest references <see also Deut.25:16>.

Unnecessary financial pressure on the poor by forcing them to pay dearly for their existence is the way of the world often duplicated in the Christian community, in that the poor and less fortunate members are at the mercy of the more prosperous members; and the less fortunate members are powerless as they strive to make ends meet; “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” <Neh.5:9 (NIV)>; this is not a good testimony for any Christian community or church! The Lord prospers us in varying degrees as He sees fit, all that we are and have is given to us by Him; therefore, let us use our resources for His glory.

Slothfulness ‑ “the lazy”; “the slothful man” (another form of robbery); one of the most common forms of robbery that faces our society today, and there are those in our community that must understand that work is not a curse. God encouraged work <Gen.2:15>, and it was a regular habit of Jesus <Mark 6:3> and Paul <Acts 18:1‑3>. We work so as to earn an honest living. The “slothful”; however, loves to sleep <Prov.26:14> although sleep is necessary too much is destructive! <Eccl.5:12>. On the job a lazy person is more of a nuisance than a help! He/she daydreams but does not work hard enough to fulfill the dreams <Prov.21:25>; has a “know‑it‑all” attitude and lives in fantasy telling everyone else how/what to do even though the lazy person has never succeeded in much <Prov.21:25‑26>. The lazy person is good at making excuses <Prov.20:4>; and is destined to live in poverty and hunger, and become a drain on our society including our churches (unless cared for by others) <Prov.10:4; 2 Thess.3:6‑15>. Lazy people lose their freedom to others <Prov.12:24>, waste God‑given resources <Prov.18:9> and opportunities <Prov.10:5>. Laziness, therefore, is nothing but theft, because laziness robs the employer of resources or income; or laziness leads to stealing so that the lazy person can survive.

THE POOR AND NEEDY: When the Jews entered the land of Canaan, each family of the 12 tribes was given a portion of the land as an inheritance, and Moses instructed them (through the Law) that the land was never to be sold, it was to be handed down to each succeeding generation within the same family. Consequently, each family would have some form of income by cultivation of the land, or livestock farming, thus making poverty non‑existent. God in His wisdom also gave specific instruction in the Law to control the amassing of huge properties which would allow the owners of such large properties to control the economy. The Law made provision for the Sabbath day ‑ a day of rest in seven days; there was also the Sabbatical Year during which the land, animals and workers were given a year of rest; and there was the Year of Jubilee (50th year) during which time the land was uncultivated and the property was returned to its original owner, if for some reason it had been forfeited <see Lev.25>. As a result of the failure of the people to obey these laws, God had to send His people into captivity to give the land its rest <see 2 Chron.36:20‑21>, and poverty became a way of life for some. In later years, our Lord Jesus said to His disciples in this context ‑ “the poor you will always have among you” <Matt.26:11>.

SOME CAUSES OF POVERTY: outright refusal to work <Prov.10:4>; love of pleasure <Prov.21:17>; undisciplined lives <Prov.13:18>; such are unable to maintain employment. “At the entrance of one of the great manufacturing plants in America is a sign that reads, “If you are like a wheelbarrow‑‑going no further than you are pushed‑‑you need not apply for work here!”  A sign in another workplace reads: “If you do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, you should be here at quitting‑time.” Undisciplined lives lead to loss of employment and ultimate poverty! And further causes of poverty can be attributed to unwise financial dealings; mortgaging the house to finance those “get-rich-quick” schemes. Assuming debts larger than one’s ability to repay <Prov.22:7> which is very common in today’s society! Current news item: “Canadians continue to declare personal bankruptcy in record numbers”. People and events over which one has no control, allows injustice to sweep away one’s resources; wicked rulers and business people crush the less fortunate, seizing what little they possess, (high/excessive taxes, interest) <Prov.13:23; 18:23>. Oppression of the poor is condemned by God who respects both rich and poor showing no preference; therefore, believers should not show any preference in dealing with the rich or poor members of the community <Prov.14:31; 22:2>.

WAYS OF HELPING THE POOR AND NEEDY:  do not “despise” or “put down” the poor <Prov.14:21>: do not exploit or rob the poor <Prov.22:22‑23>. Believers should strive for justice for the poor <Prov.29:7>; should judge fairly and defend the rights of the poor <Prov.31:9>. The Church Family has an obligation to help their own needy persons first <1 Tim.5:4, 8> and if we ignore the cries of the poor, God will ignore our prayers <Prov.21:13>.

What do the Scriptures say about the Rich? Is excessive wealth encouraged or discouraged? Wealth is neither encouraged nor discouraged, but the scriptures do comment on the way one handles riches and the manner in which one gains wealth. In dealing with this the Book of Proverbs speaks of “diligence” and “skillfulness” as distinguishing characteristics.

THE DILIGENT: Diligent – constant and earnest in effort and application; attentive and persistent in doing something.  Skillful – ability or competence in an occupation, having had long experience, thus having acquired a high degree of proficiency; not being an amateur. Diligence leads to skillfulness, skillfulness eventually leads to wealth; that is, a skillful worker is able to earn more honestly. Diligent people are characterized by: DISCIPLINE; discipline of the inner person, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” <Prov.4:23 (NIV)>. Cultivation of the inner person through prayer and meditation on the Word of God, and submission to the will of God, produces the joy of a diligent and disciplined life. The discipline of diligent work produces the ability and character that others can trust; creating the opportunity for additional responsibility: examples ‑ Joseph in Egypt and David the shepherd. Wisdom is the principle behind diligence <Prov.4:7‑8>, and there is no substitute for hard work <Prov.10:4>. We must discipline ourselves for hard work so as to become more skillful. Diligent people plan their work and work their plan “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty…. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” < Prov.4:23; 16:3 (NIV)>. A successful job is not accomplished by accident, it requires planned disciplined work; the result may be surprising but hard work must be put into it, and God blesses honest hard work <Prov.13:11>. Honesty should be exhibited both in actions as well as words. DEBT‑CONSCIOUS: diligent people are careful not to incur debts they are unable to handle, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” <Prov.22:7 (NIV)>. In today’s world we can easily get into debt over our heads, especially those who are less fortunate. Demands far exceed our income when we consider the bare necessities of life ‑ rent, food and clothing. Therefore, it is imperative for us to be wise in respect to borrowing. Diligent budgeting is a MUST; we must confer with our spouses and carefully list our combined incomes and expenditures before using those easy‑to‑come‑by Credit Cards, or spending the Cash from our wallets and purses. Do not fall into the trap of WANTING more of material things, go for the NEEDS first. Above all discover the financial level God wants you to be living at and be CONTENT with it.

“Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, `Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.” <Prov.30:7-9 (NIV)>. Do not try to impress others by accumulating material things which cannot be afforded and must be put on credit, for which you will spend the rest of your working days paying. Our Lord and Heavenly Father knows that we His children have needs that must be met; but our most important task in this world is not to earn money. The most important thing for us is that God can trust us with money, being faithful and accountable in the way we use what He has given to us. “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” <Matt.6:32-33 (NIV)>

The real measure of our wealth “is how much we would be worth if we lost all our money” (John Henry Jowett). Character is more important than position, wisdom more than possessions <Prov.13:7>. Success in the business world is all-important to the young executives today, but be careful how we climb the “corporate ladder”!

The diligent HAVE A SENSE OF SECURITY: not in their possessions or income, but in their peace‑of‑mind before God. The righteous will flourish <Prov.11:28>; their peace is not purchased <Prov.15:16‑17> and their good name has not been bought <Prov.22:1>. The diligent ARE CAREFUL NOT TO BE PROUD “Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honour and life.” <Prov.22:4 (NIV)>. It will not be our ability or hard work that will make us rich. It will be the health and physical strength that God gives us that will enable us to accomplish anything in this life; and this leaves no room for pride or boasting.  The diligent HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE TOWARD MONEY: a wrong attitude can wreck friendships and destroy homes, “A greedy man brings trouble to his family, but he who hates bribes will live.” <Prov.15:27 (NIV)>. Those who think only of getting rich place more importance on money instead of people and principles, and the pursuit of riches causes neglect of family and friends. Many families have been destroyed and friends alienated because love has been replaced by expensive gifts. Let us therefore heed the wise advice of the King <Prov.8:10-11>.

Rich man, Poor man, Panhandler, Thief; none but one is condemned by God. The manner in which we become rich or live poor is governed by our relationship with God, the way we use our resources will display our love for our Lord; and wisdom can be found in all three of these types. The Thief and stealing are definitely condemned by God, this type is the only one that despises wisdom.

Get wisdom: do not forsake or despise wisdom though it cost all that you have <Prov.4:5-7>.   “BE SKILLFUL”

 

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THE END-TIMES [8/1/20]

The following is a brief outline of what the Scriptures teach about events that constitute what is referred to as the end-times.

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”  <Dan.9:24-27 (NIV)>

What are the main points contained in this passage?

  • From the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the millennial reign of Messiah = 490 years <v 24>; “sevens” are interpreted to mean a seven-year period of time. The decree was given by King Artaxerxes to Nehemiah in 445 B.C.
  • From the issuing of the decree till Messiah comes = 483 years <v 25>
  • From the issuing of the decree till Messiah’s crucifixion = 434 years. <v 26>
  • There will be 49 years of Roman subjection culminating with the total destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem (by Titus in A.D. 70).
  • The birth of Messiah took place in approximately B.C. 6; and His crucifixion was in approximately A.D. 31 = 37 years approximately.
  • 434 + 49 = 483 years.
  • The Church age began at the time when Christ returned to His father in heaven, and has lasted until the present day. The Church is not mentioned in any prophecy.
  • The final 7 years of Daniel’s prophecy are yet to be fulfilled. It will begin when the Jewish nation signs a covenant with the anti-Christ, and will be broken by the anti-Christ halfway through the term. This will usher in the “great tribulation” period spoken of by the prophets as “Jacob’s trouble”, and will last for the balance of this seven-year period (3 1/2 years). <v 27>
  • At the end of this 490-year period, Messiah’s millennial reign on earth will begin.

“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” <Matt.24:1-3 (NIV)>

Three question asked of Jesus by the disciples: 1. When will this happen? 2. What will be the sign? 3. When will be the end of the age?

  1. There will be continued unrest and fighting with Rome while the gospel is being preached, and Jerusalem will be totally destroyed (Titus in A.D. 70), and the Jews dispersed throughout the world. The gospel will continue to be preached throughout the then known world, and eventually to the entire world — the church age –; while the Jews will continue to suffer greatly (through two world wars and numerous conflicts). A temporary end will then come to the suffering of the Jews as they become integrated into society and some return to the land of Palestine. After a time determined by God – the church age — will end. <Matt.24:4-14; 2 Pet.3:10>.
  2. A covenant will be signed between Israel and the nations that is supposed to bring peace; this is the beginning of the final 7 years of Daniel’s prophecy; halfway into the period (3 ½ years) the covenant will be broken by the sign of the “abomination”. “Great distress” or tribulation that has never been seen or experienced before will begin for the Jews and will last for the next 3 1/2 years. <Matt.24:15, 21>.
  3. At the end of this period (7 years), Messiah returns and sets up His millennial kingdom <Matt.24:29-31>. The final battle and the millennial reign of Christ is referred to in <Rev. 19:11; 20:6>.

God’s mercy and grace has been extended to all mankind (not only to the Jewish nation), because the Jews rejected God in rejecting the Messiah <see Rom. 9:1 – 11:36>

“For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith” <Rom.9:15-16 (NIV)>. God offered salvation by faith to all people <Jn.3:16>, and that salvation has been rejected by the Jews as a sovereign state.

“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile– the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” <Rom.10:12-13 (NIV)>; Jews and Gentiles enjoy the same salvation.

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” <Rom.11:11 (NIV)>

And so, the CHURCH AGE was ushered in. God began by using the Jewish nation as His earthly witness, and their mandate was to present God to the other nations and all peoples on earth; but they failed in this respect and were set aside by God for their rejection of Him. God is now calling out of all nations and peoples a body of people called the Church; and as has been previously stated, the Church was never spoken of by any of the prophets because it remained a “mystery” and was never revealed to them by God; so all their prophecies looked through time towards the coming of Messiah and His millennial reign. This “mystery” was finally revealed to the New Testament believers through Christ’s first advent and the birth of the Church <see Eph.1:9-10>. The Holy Spirit was given to the Church to indwell each believer personally; something different to the Old Testament believers (mainly Jews), who only experienced a special presence of the Spirit of God for some important task that they were called to do. God’s promise to His disciples was that the Holy Spirit would “abide” with them and all those who became disciples after them; meaning all members of the Church <see Jn.14:16-17>.

This passage in <Jn.16:5-16> speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit and His work among the members of the Church and His influence upon mankind in general during the church age. Therefore, it is understood that while the Church is present on the earth the Holy Spirit will also be present and active. But there will be a day when the Church is removed (“rapture”) from this earth <1 Thess.4:13-18>, and the work of the Holy Spirit will no longer be necessary. This will then start the “seventh week” of Daniel’s prophecy and all the terrible tribulation of the Jews and judgments of God upon an evil and wicked world. It will also be at this time that the “anti-Christ” will take full control of this world and all its peoples.

In 2 Thess.2 :1-12 we find a description of the influence of the anti-Christ as opposed to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Although the anti-Christ, or the “the man of lawlessness” may be at work behind the scenes at this present time, he will not be fully revealed to people on earth “until the rebellion occurs” <1 Thess.2:3 (NIV)>. The “rebellion” simply means that when the Church and the Holy Spirit is removed from this earthly scene, there will be a total rejection of God by all people that remain on this earth, which will lead to the revelation of the anti-Christ <see Matt.24:10-12; 1 Tim.4:1>. This is so because “the one who now holds it back” <1 Thess.2:7 (NIV)> is none other than The Holy Spirit <see Jn.16:8-11>, and when He is removed the activities of the anti-Christ will no longer be restrained, giving him power over all people. His rule of lawlessness and ungodliness will last for seven years – the last seven years of Daniel’s prophecy.

The 483 years prophesied by Daniel is already behind us, we are currently in the Church age; soon God will close this present age of the Church and begin the last seven years that Daniel spoke about. The removal of the Church and The Holy Spirit will be a sudden and unexpected event for those that have, and still reject God and His Son Christ Jesus our Lord.

The question is: where do you stand in relation to what the Scriptures teach concerning the end-times? Are you ready and waiting for Christ’s return, or are you still rejecting His salvation? <see Matt.24:14, 30-31, 36-39; Lk.21:34-36; Rev.22:7>.

 

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SALVATION AND REWARDS [7/18/20]

(THE SAVED AND THE LOST)

Of great importance in understanding the Word of God as taught in the New Testament Scriptures, are the doctrines of salvation for the unsaved sinners, or those that have wandered away for God <Isa.53:6>,  and the doctrine of rewards for those that are converted (saved) <Jn.3:7>. A clear distinction must be made between the two which may be observed in the following contrasts.

  1. Salvation is a Free Gift: it is offered freely by God; there is no charge to the recipient; and is offered to whoever wishes to accept it. Although the penalty for all sin is death, God offers the gift of eternal life, and we can only be saved by the grace of a merciful God and not by anything that we can do to attain this salvation. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”…”For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”……”he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” <Rom 3:23; 6: 23; Titus 3:5 (NIV); see also Isa.55:1; Eph.2:8-9; Rev.22:17>.
  2. Works or service pleasing to God will be rewarded. Such works are the result of our salvation and are in response to the graciousness of God. We will be rewarded for the good deeds expressed to others in our service to God; we will be rewarded with a “crown of righteousness” for faithfully finishing the task that we have been given here on earth; our reward will be in accordance to our works; our reward will be incorruptible or everlasting unlike earthly rewards. Those who have been trustworthy in the insignificant affairs will be given authority over greater things. All our efforts will be tested by God and we will be rewarded accordingly; and we are encouraged to be faithful to God until the very end of our life and we will receive the “crown of life”; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” <2 Tim 4:7-8 (NIV); see also Matt.10:42; Rev.22:12; 1 Cor.9:24-25; Lk.19:17; 1 Cor.3:11-15; Rev.2:10>. Rewards are referred to as crowns, and the Scriptures mention four crowns: joy, or rejoicing for our service; righteousness, for faithfulness in our witness; life, for faithfulness under difficulty; and glory, for our faithfulness under hardship <see Phil.4:1; 1 Thess.2:19; James 1:12; 1 Pet.5:4; Rev.2:10>.
  3. Salvation is a current possession. We receive the gift of salvation the moment we express our faith or belief in Christ and His provision for us in the “offering” of Himself as a sacrifice to God for our sins <see Lk.7:50; Jn.3:36; 5:24; 2 Tim.1:9; Titus 3:5; 1 Jn.5:11>. This salvation is eternal and we can never suffer the loss of our salvation. Although our old sinful nature may cause us to sin, we have an advocate in heaven, in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we can request forgiveness. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life”……” If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”……”But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins…” <Jn.5:24; 1 John 1:9; 2:1-2 (NIV)>.
  4. Rewards will be received at a future event. We will receive our reward at the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ at His second Advent, and such rewards will be “according to our faithful service”. “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” < Matt.16:27 (NIV); see also Lk.14:14; 2 Tim.4:8; 1 Pet.5:4; Rev.22:12>. God’s purpose of rewarding His servants is to restrain us from the pursuit of earthly riches and pleasures; to sustain us in persecution and to encourage us in the exercise of Christian virtues <see Dan.12:3; Matt.5:11-12; 10:41-42; Col.3:22-24; Heb.6:10; 11:8-10, 24-27; 12:2-3; Rev.3:11>.

 BELIEVERS AND PRETENDERS

Throughout the Scriptures there has always been two groups of individuals: those that are genuine in their affirmation of belief in God and those that “profess” or pretend to believe but are not genuine in their affirmation. It is unfortunate that such will continue until our Lord Jesus Christ returns in His glory. There are numerous scripture references to this <see Gen.4:3-5; Ex.12:38; Num.11:4-6; Matt.13:24-30, 37-43; 2 Cor.11:13-15; Gal.2:4; 2 Pet.2:1-2; Phil.2:12-13; Eph.2:8-9>.

  1. Believers are saved – Pretenders are lost. Let us compare what the Scriptures teach in respect to True Believers and Pretenders.

(a) TRUE BELIEVERS: true believers are saved by faith alone; are committed to the teachings of the scriptures; can never lose their salvation and are covered by God’s righteousness. All are known to God and are destined to be with Christ in heaven; the work of salvation that has been started will be completed by Christ when we are taken to be with Him. All are committed to follow Christ to the end. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” < Jn.10:27-30 (NIV); see also Lk.7:50; Jn.6:37, 39, 47; 10:14; 17:24; Acts 2:42; Rom.3:22; Phil.1:6; 2 Tim.2:19; Rev.19:7-9>.

(b) PRETENDERS: such live a life of pretense, they profess to be saved but their actions prove otherwise; they unfortunately accept leadership roles, and sometimes go as missionaries but are not committed to Christ. God who knows and sees everything – nothing is hid from His eyes – will dismiss them from His presence. “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”…. “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” <1 Jn.2:19; Matt.7:22-23 (NIV).  They do not live by faith! They never entirely surrender to Christ! * <see Matt.22:11-13; 23:28, 33; Jn.6:64-66; Acts 8:13, 21; *Heb.6:4-6; 10:38; James 2:14>.

  1. Believers Will Be Rewarded – Pretenders Are Condemned.

Compare  Matt.25:19-23 with Matt.25:24-30;   Lk.12:42  with Lk.12:45-47; Col.3:24 with Matt.7:22-23

In conclusion, understand that these principles are a guide to a precise understanding of the teaching of the Scriptures. The judgment of Pretenders is not assigned to us as believers, but is reserved for the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer’s responsibility is to serve God to the best of our ability with the help of The Holy Spirit, anticipating the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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THE BELIEVER IN CHRIST [7/11/20]

THE TWO PERSONALITIES

We are taught by the Scriptures that every spiritually born-again person possesses two natures; the first received by our natural birth which is the “sin nature” and is anti God; the other is the new birth which is the nature of God Himself that comes through our salvation.

The sin-nature is such because we inherited it from our fore-father Adam who died spiritually because of his disobedience to God’s specific command “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”” <Gen.2:16-17(NIV); cf Gen.1:27; 2:7; 3:17-19; Rom.5:12>. Consequently, every living person on this earth has been born with the sin-nature, and there is nothing that any one of us can do the escape the ensuing condemnation of spiritual death <see Psa.51:5; Jer.17:9; Rom.3:10-12>. This does not mean that there are no “good” people in the world, many are quite refined and cultured, generous, charitable and even religious, but none are “righteous” or seek after God, and this fact is sometimes difficult to accept especially when it has to do with family and respected friends; because such people continually insult God’s rights, deny the divinity of Christ and are unmoved by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ <see 1 Jn.1:10; 5:10; cf Gen.6:4-5>. Ever since the creation, mankind has struggled to improve, to eradicate wickedness and make the race better, but sadly we have only become worse. The sinful nature that is within us constantly comes about in every thought, word and action <see Mk.7:21-23; 1 Cor.2:14; Rom.8:7-8; Eph.2:3>; thus, such people cannot obey, please or understand God.

Conversely the believer in Christ, although still possessing the “old sin-nature” which is unchanged and unchangeable, has received a “new nature” which is patterned after God in righteousness and true holiness; and this is exhibited as a “new creation” and not merely a transformation. As we received the sin-nature by natural birth, we receive the new-nature by rebirth: “Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”” <Jn.3:3 (NIV); cf 1:12-13>.  We must be careful, however, that we are not confused by the present popular teaching of, “The universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of mankind”, since only those who are born again spiritually are children of God and accepted into the family of God. Adam is referred to as the son of God, but the scriptures are careful to state that Seth is the son of Adam (not God) <cf Gen.1:27; 5:1-3; Lk.3:38>. So the believer is called to “put on the new self” (person) that is a characterization of righteousness and true holiness and in accord with Christ <see Rom.8:10; Eph.4:24; 2; Cor.5:17; Gal.2:20; Col.1:27; 3:3-4; 2 Pet.1:4; 1 Jn.5:11-12>.

It is important to understand that this new nature which is Christ’s, is existent within the believer together with the old sin-nature, and this fact is addressed by Paul where he comments – “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” <Rom.7:21 (NIV)>, and the Scriptures have other examples of this internal conflict <cf Job. 42:6; Dan.10:7-8>. So it is evident that there is constant conflict between these two natures, and is seen in the experience of Paul where he expresses the “I’s” in his effort to overcome the conflict <see Rom.7:14-25>, and this is a discouragement and perplexes all new believers in Christ, and can only be overcome by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Paul expresses – “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” <Rom.7:24-25 (NIV); cf Rom.6:6; 8:13; 1 Cor.6:19-20; Gal.5:16-17>. Therefore, we are not to allow our old nature to control us causing us to yield to sinful practices, because the conflict is now between the sin-nature and the Holy Spirit <see Rom.6:11; 8:1-4, 12-14, 31; Phil.3:3; Col.3:3>.

THE BELIEVER’S STATUS AND CHARACTER

In studying the N.T. Scriptures it is very important to understand the difference between the “status” (standing) and the state or “character” of the believer in Christ. The status of all believers is the result of the work of Christ from the very moment of faith in Him, and nothing can be added or done to improve or diminish that status that we have in Christ. This places all believers on the same status level, and no one can claim to be any closer to God than another believer. We read, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” <Jn.1:12 (NIV)> and that “…. if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” <Rom.8:17 (NIV)>. All believers are God’s children and have equal rights to an eternal incorruptible inheritance in Christ that is set aside for us in heaven, we are a chosen group, a distinguished priesthood, we are complete in Christ and have direct access to His grace and rejoice in the anticipation of sharing His glory; we have confidence in the fact that we will live eternally with Christ in His kingdom because of the eternal life that has been given to us; we also have courage to enter His holy presence  <see 1 Jn. 3:2; 5:1; 1 Pet.1:4-5; 2:9; Eph.1:11; Col.2:10; Rev.1:5-6; Rom.5:1-2; Jn.3:16; 1 Jn.5:13; Heb.10:19; Eph.1:3, 6, 13; 2:4-6, 13; 5:30; 1 Cor.12:13; 6:19>. All these things are true of every believer in Christ, and not one can be attained by any other means but by faith in the finished work of Christ; we are instantly clothed in the righteousness of God and seated with Him in the heavenly domain <see Rom.3:22; Eph.2:6>. This, then, is our status or where we stand in God’s analysis; but our state or character is no where near the level of what our status is.

Let us now look at some contrasts between our status and our actual character.

  • Our Status declares that we are recipients of God’s grace and that we are expectantly awaiting Christ’s return <1 Cor.1:2-9>; while our character displays controversy, envy, strife and division <1 Cor.1:11; 3:1-3; 5:2>.
  • Our status affirms that we are cleansed, sanctified and justified by God <1 Cor.6:11>; but our character shows our lack of will to endure hardship <1 Cor.6:7>.
  • Our status confirms that we are members of Christ <1 Cor.6:15>; but our character shows our willful indulgence in sinful practices <1 Cor.6:15>.
  • Our status produces an understanding of scriptural truths <Matt.16:16-17>; while we characteristically depend on our human understanding of what the scriptures teach <Matt.16:23>.
  • Our status declares our freedom from the power of darkness <Col.1:12-13>; but our character produces anger, rage, bad language and lies <Col.3:8-9>.

There are many more contrasting differences that could be added to this list but we should observe from these listed that God’s design under grace is to establish the highest possible status for the believer, and then to encourage the believer to maintain that status in accordance with His grace; and that the Scriptures make a clear distinction between the status and the character of the believer. Positionally, God declares the believer to be “perfect” forever <Heb.10:14>; but as the believer examines his/her character in the light of scripture, the finding is like that of Paul – not yet perfect <Phil.3:12>.

In conclusion, we could say that the application of God’s Word to the lifestyle and conscience, the discipline at our Heavenly Father’s hand, the work and teaching of the Holy Spirit, difficulties and trials and the final transformation at Christ’s appearance; are all intended to align the believer’s character with the status that we received at our conversion; and in the end both status and character will be equal <see Jn.17:17; Eph.5:26; Heb.12:10; 1 Cor.11:32; Eph.4:11-12; 1 Pet.4:12-14; 1 Jn.3:2>.

 

LAW VERSUS GRACE [7/3/20]

A detailed study of the Scriptures reveals a noticeable and contrasting division of God’s administration over the Jews (Law) and the Church (Grace): “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” <Jn.1:17 (NIV)>. This quote does not indicate that there was no Law before Moses, since at the creation account God gave specific instructions and the ensuing consequence of breaking His command <see Gen.2:15-17>; neither does it suggest that there was no Grace before Christ came into the world; since in the response of God after Adam and Eve broke His command and sinned, God came down to earth looking for Adam and finally provided for Adam and Eve’s redemption from their sin a means of cleansing and forgiveness (His Grace), by clothing them in the skin of an animal that had to be killed in their place, representing a sacrifice for sin, that which the Law required <see Gen.3:21>; for the Law required the death of the sinner. Here then, we see the very first mention in scripture of the Grace of God and is referenced in the N.T. in the sacrifice of Christ Himself for the salvation of all sinners; “God made him [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” <2 Cor.5:21 (NIV)>; “He himself [Christ] bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” <1 Pet.2:24 (NIV)>.

It is important to observe that wherever the Law is mentioned in Scripture it refers to the Law given by Moses and covers God’s administration up to the event of Christ’s death on Calvary, the final and eternal sacrifice for all sin. From that point in time, and onward, God’s Grace is the characteristic of His administration over the Church age and will continue until He comes to call all believers (the Church) to be with Himself <see 1 Thess.4:16-17>. Furthermore, it should be observed that in any time period defined by God (dispensation), the Scriptures do not combine the two principles of Law and Grace, and Paul explains this in his letter to the Galatians’. Wherever the Law is mentioned it demands justice, condemnation, curses and the death of the lawbreaker; and a study of the books of Exodus and Leviticus will reveal the demands of the Law <see such passages as Ex.20-23; Lev.19-24>. In contrast then, where the Law brought terror, Grace brought freedom to the worst of sinners <see Lk.23:39-43; Rom.5:8; 1 Cor.6:9-11; 1 Tim.1:15>.

Another important observation that must be made is that the N.T. references to the “law” are to the Law given by Moses, but there are exceptions <see Rom.7:21-23>. In some cases, the reference is to the both the “moral law” (10 commandments) and the “ceremonial law” (offerings and sacrifices), both comprising the whole law. Examples are: of the whole law <Rom.6:14; Gal.2:16; 3:2>, of the moral law <Rom.3:19; 7:7-12>, and of the ceremonial law <Col.2:14-17>. Contained in the ceremonial law are the “types” or “foreshadows” of the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ as Priest and Sacrifice pictured in the Tabernacle and the Levitical Offerings <see Ex.25-30; Lev.1-7; cf 2 Cor.3:7-18>.

Three errors that have plagued Church teachings are those that affect the relationship between Law and Grace:

  1. ANTINOMIANISM: such maintain that believers in Christ have been freed from the moral law by virtue of faith and grace and therefore are not required to live holy lives: <see Titus 1:16; Jude 4>
  2. CEREMONIALISM: a system of rites and formalities and originally it demanded that believers should observe the Levitical ordinances, and the modern form is in the teaching that such ordinances are essential to salvation: <see Acts 15:1>
  3. GALATIANISM: or the intermixing of law and grace – teaching that justification is partly by grace and partly by law; or that grace is given so that the incapable sinner can keep the law. Such teaching has been addressed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians’ and is God’s conclusive answer: <see Gal 1:6-8; 3:2-3>

The following outline and scripture references, which speak specifically to the moral law, is what the Scriptures teach us on this important subject.

  1. WHAT THE LAW IS: It is holy, just and good <Rom.7:12>; spiritual <Rom.7:14>. It is something in which we should delight ourselves <Rom.7:22>. It is NOT of faith <Gal.3:12>
  2. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW: It exposes, or makes us conscious of sin <Rom.7:7; 13>; it condemns us before God, it cannot justify <Rom.3:20>. It was given because of transgressions <Gal.3:19>, and makes us guilty before a holy God <Rom.3:19>. It demands complete adherence in all it’s elements <Gal.3:10; James 2:10>. It is the administration of death and condemnation <2 Cor.3:7, 9>, and proclaims the death sentence upon all <Rom.7:9>. It is the power of sin <1 Cor.15:56>. It was given (2500 years after Adam) to convict guilty mankind of sin and complete helplessness in view of God’s just requirements – strictly an administration of condemnation and death <Jn.1:17; Gal.3:17>
  3.  WHAT THE LAW CANNOT DO: It cannot justify anyone before God <Acts 13:39; Rom.3:20; Gal.3:11>; or anyone who attempts to obey its principles <Gal.2:16>. It cannot obstruct God’s grace <Gal.2:21>. It cannot pass judgment on the sinful nature (only the sinner) <Rom.8:3>, and cannot make anyone perfect in God’s sight <Heb.7:19>.
  4. THE BELIEVER IS NOT UNDER LAW: Christ, through His death, burial and resurrection has freed us from the demands and condemnation of the Law, and through our faith in His sacrifice we are identified with Him in His death (through baptism), and death exempts us from the Law <see Rom.6:1-10> Now that we have been risen with Christ we should live according to the principles that direct our life-style as believers <Rom.6:11-23>. We are not delivered from the guilt of sin but from the control of sin <Rom.6:14>. However, this should not encourage us to lean toward Antinomianism where we say that a godly life is not important <Rom.6:15>. Another principle that is given to us is that since we are dead to the Law and alive unto Christ, our lives should demonstrate the “fruits” of our new life <Rom.7:1-6; Gal.2:19; 3:23-25; 1 Tim.1:8-9>. Note here that in Rom.7:1-6 Paul is not referring to the Ceremonial Law but to the Moral Law <Rom.7:7>.
  5.  THE BELIEVER’S RULE OF LIFE: The believer should live as Christ did <1 Jn.2:6; Eph.4:1; 5:1, 15-16>; and should love as Christ loved <1 Jn.3:16; Jn.10:11; 13:34-35; 15:13>. The believer must abstain from sinful desires <1 Pet.2:11, 12-23>; having turned from the “darkness” of sin, must live in the “light” of the gospel <Eph.5:8-11>. The believer should not indulge in the desires of the old sinful nature to which he/she has “died” <Gal.5:16-21>; and must follow Christ’s example <Jn.13:15>, in obedience to His commands <Jn.14:21; 15:10, 12; 1 Jn.3:22-23; Heb.10:16>.

In consideration of the above, it is instructive “to remember that God’s appointed place for the tables of the law was within the ark of the testimony [covenant]. With them were “the golden pot that had the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded” (types [pictures], the one of Christ our wilderness bread, the other of resurrection, and both speaking of grace), while they were covered from sight by the golden mercy-seat upon which was sprinkled the blood of atonement. The eye of God could see His law, so badly broken by Israel, only through the blood that completely vindicated His justice and propitiated [appeased] His wrath” (quote from Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth – Emmaus Correspondence Course) <see Heb.9:4-5; cf Ex.25:21; 34:27-28; 40:20-21>.

WHAT IS GRACE?

Grace is the undeserved mercy and kindness of God to a sinner; even though we as sinners are not deserving of God’s grace: <Rom.5:6-8; Eph.2:7-9>. “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy….” <Titus 3:3-5 (NIV)>

GOD’S PURPOSE IN GRACE – We are saved from God’s wrath by His grace through our faith in Christ, and justified apart from the Law <Rom.3:24; Eph.2:8-9; Gal.2:16>. As a result of His Grace we should look forward expectantly to the hope of all believers – the hope of His return for us <Titus 2:11-13>; we have also been made heirs of salvation <Titus 3:7; Eph.1:13-14>. We now have direct access to the throne-room of God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ <Rom.5:2; Heb.4:16; 10:19-22>, and are maturing through His written Word <Acts 20:32>. The Grace of God is therefore complete and all-inclusive, and these principles cannot be blended together with the Law, “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” <Rom.11:6 (NIV); see also Rom.4:4-5; Gal.3:16-18; 4:21-31>.

In conclusion then, we see that believers in Christ are not classified as “children of the bondwoman (or slave)”, we have been freed from the bondage (slavery) of sin <Gal.4:31>, consequently we have no fear of what the Law demands (death of the sinner), and we should not attempt to divide the Law into “Moral” and “Ceremonial” for we are not bound by what Moses gave to the Israelites at Sinai <see Heb.12:18-24>. This is referred to as “the righteousness of God apart from the law” <Rom.3:21>. So all unbelievers, having violated the Law, should accept the sentence of the Law “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” <Rom.3:23 (NIV); Rom.6:23 >; but such can find in Christ a perfect and eternal salvation for; “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes……..if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” <Rom.10:4, 9 (NIV)>.