Friday, January 29, 2010

Defeated and Discontented (Radio / Podcast)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Romans 1:7)

Beloved of God – you are pleasing to God but you need to exercise your faith for it to manifest in your life (Ephesians 1:6 / Colossians 3:12 / Hebrews 11:6). God is not against you for your sins, He is for you against your sins. We are not at war with God (Romans 5:1), so we need to get on the right side of the battle. You don’t have to do things to get Him to love you and to bless you. In faith you are pleasing to God, and He wants to please you, you just need to get with the program. You can’t be fed lunch when you aren’t in the lunch line, stop complaining about being hungry and get in line.

Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2). You have got to keep on keeping on, and give thanks to God no matter what (Job 13:15). You have got to “pray through” (Daniel 9:2-19). Don’t let the world, the flesh, and the devil steal your blessing (Mark 4). You hear the message, you know it is for you, you believe it, you receive it with joy, and then you go home and let it all slip away. Keep watching and keep praying (1 Peter 4:7).

Preachers, we need to be more concerned about what happens to our people after they leave the building, not just how excited they get when they are in the building. We need to teach people not only how to get it, but how to keep it. Continue in prayer, and abound in thanksgiving.

Abounding in thanksgiving means to be giving thanks a lot, but also that you will abound when you are in a continuously thankful attitude (Colossians 2:7). Remember the old hymn, whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. This is the will of God (1 Thessalonians 5:18)! A.W. Tozer said that God wants to please you, but He will not do it if it will spoil you. We are beloved yet still discontent, and we are not ready for God’s blessing (Hebrews 13:5).

Proverbs 30:15-16 / Proverbs 27:20 – There are two sorts of discontentment, one good, and one very, very bad. There is spiritual discontentment and there is carnal discontentment. The heart of a carnally discontent person is comfortless. Wherever he goes, his ever-increasing misery goes with him. It is hell on earth. The flesh is a raging fire that will never be satisfied. The carnal nature can never be satisfied, if you are discontent, you are living out of your flesh. Our contentment must be in God (Colossians 3:3), or we will be discontent. Philippians 2:3-15 – Jesus was able to give up heaven and take on flesh because He was content in God.

James 4:1-2 – discontent originates in self. Self is the assertive principle in this agony of wars, fighting and murders. It is ‘your lusts that war . . .’ Self gives birth to carnal discontentment. This is always the case; there is no exception.

Psalm 127:2 (ESV) – It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Don’t be so anxious (Philippians 4:6).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Disclosure and Discretion (Radio / Podcast)

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
(John 16:12 – ESV)

One thing that it seems I must learn over and over again is when to tell some people about certain issues, events, situations, and the like. Some people just cannot handle the news; they have to pass it around like it was a hot potato. Sometimes the news is better left unreported until a later time. Of course gossip is not good at all, but we are talking more along the lines of people whom take anything that might be said, anything someone else doesn’t know, and use it to prop up their own sense of self worth.

You know, they were there when it all went down, or they are always one of the first to know because they are important, or they are delivering news because they are up the food chain from the person they deliver it to, etc. They are always in the know, always at the scene, always in the mix, always where the action is, because they are always on top of it all, a frontrunner. This can be subtle or this can be obvious, but the people who purvey it rarely understand what they are doing. The most frustrating thing in the world for those who must always be in the know is to feel out of the loop. The problem is that people want to leave them out because they won’t leave anything in.

Again, we aren’t talking primarily about gossip, although these people are prime prey for its delivery. We are talking about people who have to be at every event just to say they were there. They might not even enjoy being at certain things, but they want anyone who would to know they were a part of it. Frontrunners offer full disclosure whether anyone wants it or not, and about things others wouldn’t even care about, but the person is only caring about themselves and their image. If other people would disclose what they felt about these people, they would have a hard time handling it, so others use discretion. Ironic isn’t it?

We must keep certain items from children because we don’t want to ruin their childhood. There are certain things that they just don’t need to know about yet. Peter said this about Paul’s writings, that some supposed teachers didn’t know how to properly handle the Word of God. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). Christ knew that the disciples couldn’t bear all that he had to yet reveal to them, and even some of the things He had revealed to them they didn’t understand until much later (John 2:22). It wouldn’t be a good idea if God let us know everything before hand. That would lead to chaos, not comfort, conviction, and constancy. He knows better than we do, and He lets us know, as we are able to handle it.

We as Christians sometimes need to learn to be more like God, like Christ, and learn to use discretion when talking to others. Some people just can’t handle it. Have you grown to where you can handle what is given you, or must you always run and tell everyone else without first using a little discretion? If not, no wonder that others use discretion before disclosing things to you. Don’t be a frontrunner; sit back and learn to discern when to open your mouth.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Deity Demonstrated (Radio / Podcast)

This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
(Romans 3:25b – ESV)

With the text of Romans 3:25-26, when we start with a man centered, “what’s it mean to us” then we cannot appreciate the “what this means about God” aspect. God put Jesus on the cross to demonstrate His own righteousness, which is what the text declares as primary.

In this passage Paul’s emphasis is not so much on the righteousness that God has provided in Christ as the righteousness that God has demonstrated through Christ. This distinction may seem subtle, but it is one of great significance. Our minds like to avoid this truth, and we much rather focus on what He has done "for" us. It is too easy to fall into the trap of sentimental thinking about the Gospel, and we need to be reminded that the love of God makes absolutely no sense apart from the wrath of God. Take away the latter, and all you have is the image of a kindly old man who wouldn't hurt a fly, much less punish sinners, and then we start thinking that maybe our own sins really aren't that bad. We cheapen His love by downplaying His wrath.

When we choose to look at salvation from a merely human perspective, we see salvation from the standpoint of what it does for us. God becomes the One who “meets our needs.” While salvation does do something for us, and God does meet our needs, the focus is wrong. Paul portrays this passage from the divine point of view, fixing our attention on God’s purpose for saving men: the demonstration of His righteousness. If you can see this, you will see the value of a God entranced worldview, not one where we say it but we actually have it, and we can see with God’s eyes, and we will begin to learn the value of God, not simply as someone who gives us the treasure of forgiveness, but as the very treasure itself.

The death of Christ proved God’s righteousness. Hebrews 9:15,26 – in His forbearance He passed over the former sins, made during and before the old covenant, knowing justice would be served by a new covenant. People just want God to pardon but that doesn’t demonstrate His righteousness. That would be saying that sins are really no big deal to God, and it would also mean that offending God and despising Him isn’t all that important. The sins are real and they must be paid for, and yet God seemingly overlooked them before. The problem in God's passing over sin (which the natural mind does not grasp) is that God's worth and glory and righteousness have been despised, and passing over it makes him look cheap. God would be unrighteous if He passed over sins as though the value of His glory were nothing.

God’s worth and His name are dishonored by our sins, but He vindicated His glory by slaying His Son. That is how valuable His glory is and how awful sin really is and what it requires. It is not that we were worth it, that we were worth saving, but that God’s glory was worth vindicating, and that Christ was the only payment that could satisfy the justice of God for us offending and despising His glory. That is what sin is, falling short of and devaluing God’s glory. We have done violence to the throne of God. That is why hell must last forever because you can never pay it back, your worth is nothing compared to His, no amount of penance can offset the terrible injustice you have done against the infinite worth of God.

This is all about the value of God not the value of man, how much He is worth not how much we are worth. Now we square this with John 3:16 by saying that His love for us is so great that He paid the only way it could be done. God, out of His love and justice, renders Himself favorable to us by His own action. He suffers the ultimate offense and yet He takes on the punishment for that Himself. He passed over sins before Christ because He knew the plan, it was the plan all along, and that is why He could wait until it was the right time (Galatians 4:4).

Did Jesus really have to die to pay for our sins? We say, “Certainly we’ve done bad things, but what we’ve done isn’t so bad that a merciful God can’t overlook our failings.” We are wrong on two counts. First, what we have done IS so bad, that we cannot even begin to fathom how horrible it is. Second, God cannot overlook, He cannot wave His hand and let bygones be bygones. He may freely forgive us, but He Himself must bear the cost.

The wrath of God had to be satisfied. God could not simply overlook sin; it had to be judged. And so God provided men with salvation in such a way that He demonstrated His righteousness and satisfied His wrath, all at the same time. God’s forgiveness costs something, He freely forgives but it cost Him something. It is the heart of the good news...a bloody yet beautiful thing that proves God's worth, not ours...

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dead Men Can Dance (Radio / Podcast)

How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God…
(Genesis 28:17)

The modern versions of the Bible use the word awesome where the King James Version uses the word dreadful, and the old rendering gives a better sense, in a sense, because the majesty of God is indeed a dreadfully awesome thing. Think of Isaiah 6, or the many angelic encounters we see recorded in scripture. When faced with the hosts of heaven, men fall to their knees in worship, reverence, or just plain fear, and probably a combination of all three.

However, in our churches today, we have replaced the majesty of God for the marvels of the world. We have all the latest technology, sound equipment, you name it, we are as state-of-the-art as any amusement park out there, in some respects, and certainly as powerful as any theater, in many cases. Now using technology and visual, audio, etc. is not in itself a bad thing, only if it distracts from the real reasons we are to be at church. Too many have been blindsided by the spectacle and not awed by the holiness, the otherworldliness, and instead have met only the majesty of the worldliness we can muster up. Today many could be in the presence of God but like Jacob they would not know it (vs.16). We have taken things that the world would call “awesome” and have Christianized or baptized them into sanctity. But they are merely spectacular in a worldly sense. They would say “awesome” to its worldly counterpart as well.

So what is the net effect? They liked the experience but they could get that anywhere. They didn’t experience God they had a sensory overload, a soulish delight, not a spiritual awakening or enlightenment. What we need is not bigger and better versions of the world’s diversions we need something that the world cannot duplicate. We need the honest to goodness real thing, the presence of God in our midst. A holy fear of God among us is the fruit of such an encounter, and the response not “wow how cool was that” but “wow what a fool I’ve been”.

It is a matter of emphasis and priority. The emphasis is on entertainment instead of ministry. The priority is on the fun of fellowship instead of the exhortation and encouragement. Hebrews 10:24 says we are to stir each other up to love and good works in the assembly, not stir ourselves up to laughter and enjoyment as our key to building each other up. Instead of just accepting the world’s culture we need to line them up, learn them up, and lift them up (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

When we have special events that aren’t as focused on the proclamation of the Word, these things are not necessarily bad. But ask yourself why we have more people attend, especially those people who don’t normally “do church”? Of course some na├»ve minister or immature congregant will tell you, “Oh we should do this all the time, we get people who otherwise wouldn’t be here”. That is the point, they will come if it is entertaining, but if it is seeking God’s face in worship they want no part of it. They want a safe place but not a sanctified one. They act Christian without conviction. They can praise but they can’t truly worship.

We think that we can play the worlds songs with just a little Christian tuning up and things will be all right. It seems to work, doesn’t it? Well, we think that just because we get them coming to us, just because we get them moving with us, and just because they begin to act like us that we have converted them, but only God converts, friend. They may be active with their flesh but in their spirits they are still dead men. You see, we could even have them dancing in the aisles, but when the tune is on the same frequency as the world, even dead men can dance.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, January 25, 2010

Come On In! (Radio / Podcast)

Neither give place to the devil
(Ephesians 4:27)

Is all sin the same? No, when Jesus said that to even so much as look at a woman with lust is adultery, He wasn’t saying that you might as well go ahead and do it. You have to have the sin in your heart and mind before you do it in action, but to add the act adds more sin. See?

There's a difference in degree (seriousness), a difference in progression (how far the sin has gone), and a difference in consequences. All sin has been paid for and all sin is damning, but different sins have different temporal consequences.

People often miss the point about the consequences of sin. The simplistic notion that to make more of a deal over some sins than others is somehow wrong reveals ignorance instead of a more mature understanding of the heinousness of all sin, whatever its kind.

Some sins are worse than others. Yes they are. They are worse in what they do. They wreck you faster and more completely. They damage others more severely. They reach out further and make it harder for you to come back to God. Oh, His hand isn’t so short it cannot save you, but the further you are away, the more it is going to hurt you to get back, that is for sure.

How many people are leaving the door open for the devil? Many, but how many are assigning him a permanent place at the dinner table? It is a different question, and I want to give an example for us to think about.

People are trying to convince themselves that living together, as an unwed couple, is the same as any other sin. Well, it is the same in THAT it is a sin, and it is the same in that it is the same as some OTHER types of sin, but it is NOT the same as any old sin. It has much more disastrous consequences than many people realize or are willing to admit. Staying in sin is much worse than playing with sin. Yes any sin is bad, but inviting it to stay is like inviting the devil to come in through an always-open door.

There is a difference between continuing to make bad choices, falling back and repenting, etc., and having ONE choice to make but refusing to do it, like the difference between someone who is trying to overcome homosexuality and the person who won’t move out of the house from his gay lover, and the person who marches in the gay pride parade, actively promoting it. Homosexuality isn’t the issue with this missive, however, cohabitation is.

Fornication is wrong, of course. However, moving in with and then continuing to live with a sexual partner, as an unmarried couple, is outright rebellion. It is open warfare and it is different. You are leaving the door open for Satan 24/7 while in that state. At least the fornicator who is trying to repent isn’t in that state at all times, they keep making bad choices and letting the devil in. The outright rebel who only needs to make the one choice is always in their state; they always have the devil right there. They are always leaving the light on for Satan to come on in. The person who slips falls into a snare the person who sits is living in one continually and likes it.

There is a difference, a BIG difference between someone who falls into a snare and someone who dwells in the den. The person struggling with sin is leaving God’s table and eating the world’s food. The person who stays in the house of sin is having the devil over for dinner every night, with a permanent place at the table.

Whenever we sin, we are in danger of allowing the devil to get a foothold. If it continues and forms into a habit, that foothold becomes a stronghold. Those that fall into habitual sin are battling against a stronghold that the devil has gotten in their lives, and they keep fortifying it by their sin. That stronghold becomes a fortress. In our scenario, where some live as an unmarried couple, they move into the fortress itself, and they are paying the devil for the mortgage. You might as well put a sign on the front door that says, “welcome to the devil’s place”…

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Inverse Universe (Radio / Podcast)

Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
(Luke 10:21)

Jesus rejoiced “in the Spirit” it is rendered in some translations, which fits our discussion here. Whenever we are praising God for His sovereign will having being done, we can rest assured that we are doing this “in the Spirit”, for no man calls Jesus Lord but by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3 / Matthew 16:17).

Here Jesus reveals one of the principles of the Kingdom, that God’s spiritual laws are unlike man’s laws. We think that we can and that we must become wise in our own fleshly ways, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). A person can quote every single scripture ever written, but only if the Spirit has opened their heart will they ever understand the spiritual truth contained in them.

Most never come to the realization that God’s economy works inversely to man’s laws (such as give and it shall be given to you, you must die to live, etc.) because no man can understand the things of God but by the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14). The carnal mind is enmity toward God (Romans 8:7), and is not subject to (read: submitted to) God’s spiritual laws, and so only benefits by them through circumstance, not through a purposeful seeking after God.

The key to understanding the laws that govern God’s Kingdom is to realize that the processes of the kingdom are inverted; they are exactly the opposite of what the world teaches, and at first glance, they seem to be counter-intuitive. To obtain what we desire, we have to do the opposite of what we would normally do. When the world says stop, Jesus says go. When the world says go for it, Jesus says no. The laws of inversion are actually the fruits of a Christ-centered life, and this, as Christians know, is diametrically opposed to the world’s views.

The world says that tolerance is the highest virtue, it says “don’t fence me in”, and “don’t tread on me”, or “it is my right to do with my body what I want”. Jesus says that our bodies are not our own. The world says that you must have self-esteem, build up your self-image, and be self-actualized. Jesus says that you must empty yourself to be truly fulfilled by Him. The world says that you have to “grab all you can, can all you grab, sit on the can, and poison the rest”. Jesus says that you must give things away before you can truly have anything worthwhile.

The world says you have to be aggressive, that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, that you must be a self promoter to get ahead, that you have to step over people, or step on them, to advance in life. Jesus says that we must humble ourselves, and God will lift us up. The last shall be first, He says. The world says that we must stay on the cutting edge of technology, be at the vanguard of New Age thinking and postmodern philosophy, and go with the flow. Jesus says that we must become fools to the world’s ways to become truly wise. The world says that might makes right, but Jesus says that when we are weak we are strong. The world says you have got to “go for the gusto”, and have a “lust for life”. Jesus says that we must lose our lives if we are to find them. Jesus truly wants to turn your life upside down, and inside out.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Let the Garment Go (Radio / Podcast)

she caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me." But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.
(Genesis 39:12 – ESV)

Sometimes we will never be validated, justified, or recognized as being right by anyone but God. The scriptures depict many righteous men and women being falsely accused. Sometimes they are vindicated, and sometimes, from an earthly perspective, they are not.

Consider Joseph. Potiphar’s wife had accused him, but he was an innocent man. Yet, she had his garment, and he had probably been seen running away. She was royalty, he was a slave – it would be her word against his. So there was a claim by a more credible person of reputation, there was the physical evidence, and perhaps other personal witnesses to his fleeing the scene of the supposed crime. By all appearances, it would seem Joseph was guilty.

We always talk of how Joseph was vindicated, how he rose to fame and power, how he got out of the pit, out of the prison, and into Pharaoh’s highest courts. He was vindicated before his father and his brothers. However, we may have forgotten that Potiphar never saw him as right. There may be people who you will never look right to, no matter what you do with your life. Sometimes, you might have to let the garment go.

People saw him run away and saw she had the garment. You may say, “Well Joseph got out of that prison”. Yes but it was from the hand of Pharaoh, not Potiphar. It was likely that Potiphar held the charge against Joseph his whole life, but Joseph had to let the garment go and let God take care of it. He went to prison just like he went into the pit, an innocent man. God got him out, yet he wasn’t vindicated in the way he might have wanted to be had he wanted to hold onto the garment. God may not redress the matter now but He will judge the matter and deal with it righteously in the final analysis.

There are some things we cannot control. In the Christian life we may have to let go of friends, family, fame or fortune, if it will ensnare us in sin. Are you holding onto your self respect and worried over the views of others when you are accused wrongly for the sake of Christ? Do you feel that you must be justified and that the garment justifies you and your case? Are you concerned that God might allow you to look bad and get fired or lose your reputation?

This is not a license to not care about what others think at all. Yes, we are indeed to avoid all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), but sometimes it is out of our control, and God is proving whether we will flee from sin or try and hold onto the garment of our own self vindication. Sometimes, it is best just to let the garment go.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Pastor and the People (Radio / Podcast)

The right way for the people in the church to treat the pastor

Galatians 4:12-20
·Their attitude must not be determined by his personal appearance or personality.
·Their attitude must not be determined by their own theological fancies or desire for advancement.
·Their attitude should be determined by his loyalty to the apostolic message in the Bible.
·They should love him with tender mercies and listen to him with eager ears.

The right way for the pastor to treat the people in the church

Galatians 4:12-20
· He must be willing to serve and sacrifice for them.
· He must tell them the truth, even if it seems to make him an enemy.
· He must love them deeply, but never for a selfish motive (unlike Judaizers).
· He must desire to see more than mere excitement, but zeal for good things.
· He must desire to see Jesus formed in them, not himself in them.

Responsibilities of congregants to elders

1 Corinthians 16:15-16
·In subjection to servant leaders (support their service)

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
·Know them (Respect them)
·Esteem them

1 Timothy 5:17-19
·17 – honor all elders, special emphasis on teaching elders
·18 – Those that labor to teach are to be remunerated so as to make their living from it and not have to worry about money but focus on the Word (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:11-14 / Luke 10:7 / Galatians 6:6).
·19 – No accusation is to be listened to against an elder unless there is evidence from 2 or 3 witnesses, they are always in public eye and accusation can be common. This also shows us importance of making sure elders are truly called and installed as elders, that they meet and live out the qualifications.

Hebrews 13:7, 17
·Watch their walk and imitate their godliness
·We should be in submission to our spiritual leaders because they have to give an account (cf. James 3:1)
·We should attempt to be a blessing not a burden

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Become a Deader You (Radio / Podcast)

…depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
(1 Timothy 6:5 – ESV)

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The problem with feel good theology or the prosperity gospel or the temporal blessing agenda or the be obedient and you won’t suffer crowd is that within those systems peace, joy and fulfillment are thought to be found in the same places the culture is looking for it, money, success, position, possessions, etc. Oh they may not seem to say it, or they sprinkle a little self righteous holiness on top, or they deny it when confronted, but think about it, isn’t going after those things exactly what is going on?

The false gospels promote God and godliness as the means to happiness, and happiness is defined the same way the world defines it, as having all you want, and perhaps enough to give out some to others, so we don’t seem so self centered, as if this excuses the heart behind it all. If we are promoting this sort of false gospel, we are in effect saying that we have nothing different to offer than the world, than other systems of thought and other religions; we just have a better way to get it, or we believe that it is sanctified if we do. We are the head and not the tail after all, aren’t we? Yeah, that’s just what Jesus would want us saying isn’t it? Ridiculous.

Christianity isn’t some way to become a better you or to live your best life now. Christianity is Christ, and to live for Him now, and to trust in Him to justify and sanctify you, not in your own best efforts. It is to be conformed to His image, to glorify Him not because we are at the top of the class, but because we have Him at the top of our list no matter what class we find ourselves in. To the Christian the way of suffering is the way of true victory, as we embrace our call to become like our Master.

Yes we can desire healthy bodies, happy homes, successful careers, solid relationships, and many manifold blessings here on earth. It is not wrong to want to be successful in what you are called to do. But our call is first and foremost to Christ. The problem is when these other things become our primary motivation, for we can strive for these things without striving to be godly, it’s exactly what the world is doing, striving for those same things, only we add God to the mix. Then we gain things and think this means we are gaining godliness, supposing that gain is godliness (1 Timothy 6:5 – KJV), when nothing could be further from the truth.

Friend don’t put God on your agenda, get on God’s agenda, and let me tell you something, His agenda may not be for you to have a good life according to the word’s standards, or even your own supposedly godly standard. Are you prepared to follow Christ no matter the cost? It is wrong to think that being godly is a means to getting what we want, unless what we want is to be more like Jesus. To use God as a means to an end, and make no mistake, that is what is going on with the false gospel, to do that is putting things out of order. It is selfish, me centered thinking, and Christians aren’t me or man centered, they are God focused. Now they aren’t perfectly God focused, but their desire is to be more so. It isn’t about more stuff, but more God in their lives. Are you a Christian, or have you believed a false gospel?

What profit it a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul (Matthew 16:26)? Of course they would answer that they have already given their soul to Jesus but they are deceived. They gave Him their soul in name only, their heart still cries for the treasures of this world, not for the One who created it.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, January 18, 2010

Let’s Do Lunch (Radio / Podcast)

But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel…
(Galatians 2:14 – ESV)

How often do we hear it said that the Gospel applies to all of life? If we are around solid Christians or are in a good church then it would be quite often, no doubt. Because we realize the Bible teaches this truth, when we hear it we are quick to say a hearty “amen!”

But let’s get real now. Do you really believe this to be true? I mean, you may say it, but do you live it? Can you explain to yourself and to others, can you teach them why this is so, with real examples, or are you just a parrot? Now we do need to repeat this assertion to ourselves and become convinced of it, but it needs to start playing out in our everyday lives, in our everyday situations, and in every situation. The Gospel applies, but in our sanctification we must apply it. If it doesn’t, many times it is because we don’t do it, we don’t apply it. In whatever situations we don’t apply it the Gospel really isn’t having that effectual power in that part of our lives yet.

Really, it doesn’t yet because we don’t believe it yet. But it can, really. Now stop telling me you really believe it, or trying hard to make yourself believe it. Get into the Word and see for yourself, ask yourself and the text you are reading some questions. How are the situations that are presented in the Bible and the teachings that are given in the Bible affected by the Gospel?

You see, it isn’t always so easy, is it? Do you still believe, or are you silently thinking to yourself, “well, I know the Gospel is all important, but it really doesn’t apply to this or that situation?” Come on now, be honest, and maybe we can show you something today.

What if I told you that the Gospel applies to eating lunch? If you could see that the Gospel applied to something as mundane, regular, and “neutral” as that, wouldn’t that help you to see that we should be looking for ways to apply the Gospel?

Well, the Gospel does indeed apply to eating lunch. In Galatians chapter two, we see Paul confront Peter. Why? Because Peter usually ate with the Gentiles, but he shied away from eating with the Gentiles once the Judaizers arrived. The Judaizers, or “circumcision party”, were those who said you had to become a Jew, and that you had to be circumcised to be saved, or at least to become an advanced Christian. Peter knew this wasn’t true, but he was trying to avoid confrontation, or trying not to look bad in their eyes. Paul calls it fear. It wasn’t that he changed his beliefs, but his convictions were not strong enough and he was avoiding trouble for himself. He wasn’t going to tell the Gentiles they had to be circumcised, he just wanted to avoid having to deal with the Judaizers, and he wanted to stay with the cool crowd, as it were.

This conduct was not in accordance with the truth of the Gospel however, and Paul marched right over to that other table and told Peter off! The Gospel applied to lunch.

Let’s apply the Gospel lesson learned in the lunchroom standoff to our lives today. Do you avoid other Christians when you see them out while you are with your “cool” friends? Do you believe the Gospel truth that there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28 – ESV)? Or do you still separate from those who don’t dress the way you do, look the way you do, have the same social status as you, aren’t as smart as you, or aren’t the same color as you? We could go on and on, but you get the point. The Gospel means we don’t set the boundaries, God does.

Now that you have learned an elementary lesson, you may ask, “How do we learn to bring the Gospel to bear on all of our life?” Keep reading the Bible and asking questions. Pray for God to show you. As you read and pray for this, God will show you in your life experience just how central the Gospel is. It is as necessary as eating your daily bread.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, January 15, 2010

Saved to Serve (Radio / Podcast)

…there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.
(Philippians 3:18 – NLT)

Paul had earlier spoken of the legalists (3:2-3), now he speaks about the libertines. You are to forget the legalist path, the “make your own way” types of the past, but you are not to swing the pendulum too far. Your obedience is not the root of your justification, as the legalists would say, but it is the fruit of your justification, as the libertines wouldn’t say. Good works does not save you, but you are saved unto good works. Grace is a teacher – Titus 1:15-16, 2:11-14. Some are not walking the walk (Galatians 5:25), and they talk a different talk. It is all about what they are allowed to do, they use liberty as license, and they are deceived.

Be aware of this fact: it is not those who don’t even claim the name of Christ that Paul is talking about in this passage, it is those who remain self-indulgent, who don’t press on to maturity, but who keep feeding their old man, and then try and justify it by saying that they are allowed, or even that it is somehow right. They are ripe for deception, and are already deceived. It is not those who are trapped in sin, even, that Paul is discussing and warning about, it is those who defiantly state that they are of Christ but who won’t take their self-indulgent old man to the Cross. This is why Paul says to be following him and those who walk right because there are many who don’t, and they are dangerous.

When you are saved, you are saved to serve, and that means others, not serving yourself, like the people Paul warns about here. When you won’t go to church, what are you doing? Think about it. In order to get your food, you must always do what? Serve yourself, and you never serve others, do you? And you prevent others from serving you.

Paul says beware because these types tend to try and gain converts to appease their conscience. Other biblical writers warn us also. Jude 1:3-5 – obedience is believing, acting in accordance with what you believe (that sin is bad and that Christ has delivered us from its bondage). Look at 2 Peter 2:2, 10, 14, 18-20. 2 (sensual), 10 (despise authority, i.e. they won’t learn in community they won’t follow patterns they must make their own), 14 (they try and recruit others who don’t know better), 18 (they appeal to the flesh of those who are still struggling with it), 19 (they talk of freedom but they are slaves to sin and self), 20 (they are unfruitful in their knowledge – Hosea 4:6-10 / 2 Peter 1:8).

Their end is destruction, whose god is their belly, or their own appetites; they live for the pleasures of the body, mind, and soul. Romans 16:18 – and they try and win others to this view, which is why they are doubly dangerous, it spreads because it is an easy way. Their feelings, emotions, and passions rule them, meaning they do what they want to do; their god is their own self-ish desires, with its self-indulgent agenda. They are proud of their liberty, thinking they are more enlightened than those whom they see as more narrow-minded, and they are constantly trying to defend their “right” to import this or that practice from the world. They are worldly, they thought they could be whatever they wanted to be, worship however they wanted to, and approach a holy God anyway they saw fit, and still keep Jesus too.

They wouldn’t let anyone correct them, they wouldn’t accept rebuke or be admonished, and they thought that they knew better. They are not broken by their sin and instead of falling on Christ, He will fall on them to their peril (Matthew 21:44). They wouldn’t suffer the death of the flesh; they are enemies of the Cross of Christ.

In this way are they enemies of the Cross: they may have thought they believed in it for Jesus, and indeed that is all it takes to be saved, believing Jesus died on the Cross for your sins is a saving knowledge of Christ. However, the bible clearly teaches that this knowledge if held in truth will cause a believer to also follow Jesus to the Cross. Godliness teaches us to become more and more repentant, our lives will progressively become more and more unlike the world, not like the world.

The degree of effectiveness in an individuals life is not the question, the resolve to do it at all or to deny the need to is the matter at hand (1 Corinthians 5), the desire to become sanctified in practice, rather than defiantly avoiding the possibility of going to the Cross for the gradual death of the self life, that is the question. In essence, they deny this saving knowledge in practice, if not in doctrine, by not believing in and following Jesus to the Cross in their own life. They became progressively more and more deceived, their faith was proven not to be real, and they are damned.

Those that won’t go to church wind up serving themselves and that isn’t why we are saved.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I Tell You With Tears (Radio / Podcast)

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
(Philippians 3:17-19 – ESV)

Vs.17 – People who are pressing on follow and fellowship with likeminded, maturing saints. Whose examples are you following; you are following after something, someone, pressing on to be like them, sometimes if we can’t change our friends we need to change friends. Make God the goal of your life, fellowship with other people who are doing it right, and walk in the light you already have, and you will be given more light to walk by, this is what pressing on is about. Otherwise you will be like the many that fall back and fall away. Again, Paul is not saying you have to be perfect he is saying that maturing believers strive toward it, and those that do not are not who they think they are. Too many talk a good game but God is not mocked; if they actually trusted Christ they would treasure Him, but their lives prove that their treasure lies elsewhere.

Vs.18-19 – He has warned them many times, and with a broken heart, that there are many that are not really Christ’s. Those that are not pressing on are falling away to their own desires for earthly things, they have the wrong mindset. Many who profess Christ do not actually possess Christ. He has warned them many times. He tells them with tears that many walk as enemies, not in doctrine, but in practice. What is your mindset, what is your mind set on (Colossians 3:1-2)? If they are not pressing on they are not actually Christians, they may be in name but not for real. This passage is clear that this is the normal Christian life; the high call must be answered. It is not that your work saves you but that if you are saved God will give you the desire to answer the call. “Their god is their belly” means their appetites, what they set their minds on, what has them fascinated, what they live and strive for, what is most important to them, it says “who set their minds on earthly things”. They don’t treasure Jesus; they are not broken over their sin and their heart grows harder and their sight becomes dimmer and their mind becomes more clouded every day. They are pressing on, yes, but they are pressing on to perdition. No one stands still to the things of God, you will either be pressing on towards the upward call, or you will be pressing on down the path of destruction.

We could still have a revival but we must answer the call and press on, souls are at stake including yours. We will either press on or fall away. In doing that we must remember it isn’t your decision to start but your determination to stay that counts, and he that endures to the end shall be saved, and we can endure all things through Christ who strengthens us. Let’s press in that we may press on.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Maturing Minds (Radio / Podcast)

Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
(Philippians 3:15-16 – ESV)

Mature people press on, they keep maturing, and God gives them more light. We must walk in the light we have in order to receive more. The expectation of a new revelation is not to make you less careful in walking according to whatever degree of spiritual maturity you have already attained. God makes further revelations to those who are obedient to the light they already have (Hosea 6:3). There is little point in pursuing God's will if we are not willing to comply, especially with obedience in the things He has already made known to us. How can we expect to receive more light if we have not responded to the light we have been given? God's guidance subsides when it is unaccompanied by our acceptance. We should examine our lives to see if we are disobeying in areas He has already made clear. Walk in the light as you have it, or else it will become darkness to you, and you will grow cold to the things of God.

Maturing people, people who are pressing on walk consistent with the light they already have. Many are deceived into thinking they are in the kingdom of God but all they do is walk outside the will of God. They are falling back into the flesh, instead of pressing on in the Spirit of Christ. Instead of advancing they are retreating, instead of pressing on, they are falling back, and they are falling away. Falling away from the faith, falling away from Christ, falling away from church, falling away from the Bible, falling away from prayer, falling away from the old paths, falling away from Jesus being the only way, falling away from sound doctrine, falling away from all that is holy, falling away and falling prey for all the fads and frauds that come down the pike. People are falling away and falling down and falling back and falling into a trap, falling for anything that makes them feel good but is not of God. Falling away and falling to stay, falling to pieces but still not broken over their sin.

Yes I believe that when we are saved we remain saved forever, but I also know that the scriptures declare that many will think they are saved when they are not, and that many will be caught up and carried away with the cares of this world (Mark 4:18-19), and that is what Paul says in this chapter. Examine yourself in the light of God’s Word. Are you pressing on or are you falling back? Is your life becoming increasingly conformed to the image of Christ, is it even a real concern for you, are you consumed with Christ or with being a worldly consumer? Are people better off spiritually having been around you? Is your light shining, or is it becoming dimmer, soon to be snuffed out? If you fall behind, eventually you will be left behind.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Going Towards the Goal (Radio / Podcast)

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:14 – ESV)

Here again is our basic outline of the text from Philippians 3:12-19.

12. Paul is not there yet, he presses on to know Jesus more
13. He isn’t complacent, he leaves the old life behind and strives toward his destiny
14. He moves toward his goal, the upward call
15. Mature people think this way, they keep maturing, and God gives them more light
16. Maturing people, people who are pressing on walk consistent with the light they already have
17. People who are pressing on follow and fellowship with likeminded, maturing saints
18. He has warned them many times, and with a broken heart, that many are not really Christ’s
19. Those that are not pressing on are falling away to their own desires for earthly things, they have the wrong mindset

Vs.14 – He moves toward his goal, the upward call. What is the goal of your life, what are you chasing after, are you using God as a means to an end, or is Jesus Christ the goal Himself? Is your goal to glorify God, to chase after Him, really now, can you say that with a clear conscience? Godliness doesn’t seem to be the goal in many people’s lives. Most certainly God is patient with us, but which way are you headed? Which goal are you running towards? If you aren’t running towards God, then you are carrying the ball for the other team, and there are only two sides to this contest.

Complacency is the cancer that has eaten up the Body of Christ in these days. This is why God must send affliction our way because the poison must be rooted out. The Bible says that in the very last of the last days, there will be a great falling away from the faith (2 Thessalonians 2). I know that we are in those days because I can see the falling away everywhere I look.

How do I know that this is the falling away? It is because everywhere I look people are falling behind. Falling away starts by falling behind. Today they are falling behind; tomorrow they will be falling away. We will press on or we will fall back. Press on to perfection, to maturity, mature people will continue maturing. The word for "press on" means to follow after like a servant. Too often we are looking to be served.

There is a higher call, and God invites you to higher ground, but it takes diligence (2 Peter 1:10). It is all about Christ and knowing Him. Do you dare to go there; will you press on?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, January 11, 2010

Press On (Radio / Podcast)

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
(Philippians 3:12-13 – ESV)

We’ll start our next series of posts with a basic outline of the text from Philippians 3:12-19.

12. Paul is not there yet, he presses on to know Jesus more
13. He isn’t complacent, he leaves the old life behind and strives toward his destiny
14. He moves toward his goal, the upward call
15. Mature people think this way, they keep maturing, and God gives them more light
16. Maturing people, people who are pressing on walk consistent with the light they already have
17. People who are pressing on follow and fellowship with likeminded, maturing saints
18. He has warned them many times, and with a broken heart, that many are not really Christ’s
19. Those that are not pressing on are falling away to their own desires for earthly things, they have the wrong mindset

Vs.12 – He is not there yet, he presses on to know Jesus more. Conversion is only the beginning, not the end of the chase. Paul knows that he will not be fully perfected and completely matured until he is in the glorified state of heaven, but since it is his destiny, he strives toward it, as all true maturing Christians do, because God gives them a hunger for it, and then they know Christ more fully as they progress, as they mature in this life, they begin to understand Jesus more intimately, whether it be by dying to self interest, or having to suffer persecution and affliction. They press on toward the prize, the upward call, not upward mobility, but spiritual mobility, that they may be as Christ would be in any and every situation. Paul wasn’t all the way there yet, but he was on the right road, the road of faith, the road of submission, the road of repentance, the road of revelation, the road to his Lord. Paul presses on to make the prize of fully knowing Jesus his own, because Jesus has made Paul his own. 1 Corinthians 13:12 / 1 John 3:2, we will finally and fully know God as He knows us, but if we truly have God given faith then we will pursue God, to know Him as fully as we can right now.

Vs.13 – Paul isn’t complacent, he leaves the old life behind and strives toward his destiny. Those that aren’t hungry for God and are only hungry for the same old things are only fooling themselves. Is your faith the faith of fools, or has God truly put His stamp on you? If He has put His stamp on you, then you will be headed in His direction, your life will be run along the right route, which way are you headed? Christians are forgetting their old life and reaching out to their destiny; “what lies ahead” for you? You know the truth! Paul may have been wearied but he wasn’t wandering, he may have been pressed down but he pressed on. This needs to be the pattern of our lives as well. He is not saying you have to be perfect he is saying that maturing believers strive toward it, and those that do not are not who they think they are. If Paul knew he needed to press on, how much more we?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Idol of Ignorance (Radio / Podcast)

Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight." Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
(Proverbs 9:6-9 – ESV)

Our old man of the self tries to protect our self-interest at all costs. If you were in error, would you want to know? Are you so sure about that? Are you actually becoming more teachable? Or do you just want to protect your pet idea, and keep it insulated by ignorance? Would you parade that ignorance as somehow showing a superior form of piety? In other words, do you think it means you have more faith, or that you are somehow a more humble or loving person?

Now in Christianity, some things are a mystery, yet some people think everything about Christianity is a mystery. Or that you can have two diametrically opposed ideas of doctrine and both are still right. Or that when shown something as false from the Bible, that they “just know” that their interpretation is right somehow. People treat conviction with suspicion, and feel that certainty is certainly a sin. They might say, “Oh we cannot know”, and think that for you to be so certain is obviously a sin, and they seem to be certain of that, don’t they?

This does not make them humble and holy but it is actually very arrogant. We are all guilty of that to some degree, but none of that excuses any of the error. Some may begin by acting humble but they soon become hostile. They are, in effect, saying, “I may not know the answer but I won’t allow YOU to teach me the truth”. James 4:17 – So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

The claim of innocence becomes invalid when forced to see the idol of ignorance. Even so, people will often want to cling to their idol rather than suffer regret. They deny and defend, they cry and pretend. It should be a relief when we have found the truth, but no one wants to admit that what they thought was precious was only fools gold, or worse. This is why we must grow up and learn to become lovers of the truth no matter what it may cost us; it is more valuable and precious than any lie that does us any amount of good, emotionally or otherwise. The end of all lies is death and destruction.

When faced with the choice of reconsidering that their notions might be wrong, many would prefer to simply retreat to the “ignorance is bliss” position, or the “you are just being mean” position, or the “but it has done me much good” position, or the “yeah I see what you are saying, but” position, or the “yeah but your way isn’t perfect” position, or whatever else saves them some face. They cannot stomach the thought of having been so wrong so long, having cherished or taught this idea and having to be known as having been wrong on it.

The truth is most of the others who they think will look down on them for “being wrong” won’t, they will be happy to see you embrace the truth. It isn’t as if you have to go back and tell everyone to renounce the false stuff that “worked” for you all this time. You don’t have say, “this didn’t really work”, but “this isn’t really right”. Repentance doesn’t try and hold on to self by trying to defend a false idea, or by trying to point out the errors of the other person before admitting the errors of their own ways. That isn’t repentance; that is rebellion.

It is not about you or them it is about the truth. If you are truthfully interpreting and teaching from the scriptures, no matter how it is told it tends to be cutting people down to size who at best are exalting their idea of themselves over you, but are actually doing worse, they are exalting their knowledge against the knowledge of God.

It is to those who are religious in this way that that the Bible reserves its harshest language. Now we are not writing scripture as led by the Holy Spirit, but using strong criticism, harsh tones, cutting remarks, sarcasm, or absurd arguments may help some see the nature of their superstitions. To underline the ridiculous with the ridiculous can be very eye opening. The Apostle Paul used these tactics, as did the Old Testament prophets at times (cf. Galatians 1:8-9, 5:12 / 1 Corinthians 4 / Philippians 3:8 / 1 Kings 18:27, 1 Kings 22:13-28 / Isaiah / Ezekiel / etc.). They didn’t do these all the time, and neither should we, but sometimes you have to shake them up to wake them up otherwise they will not hear. Even if they get mad at you at least they will hopefully get mad enough to go home and consider what you say. Even if they are trying to disprove it, at least they will investigate.

It is the same for all of us. When we are shown the truth but are unwilling to actually engage the issue, the reason it hurts so much to see the idol smashed is because we will not let it go, and so we are also hit in the process. Sometimes we can hold to deception as tenaciously as if it were Christ Himself, but it was only a projection of your best thoughts, and it was false. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? (Galatians 4:16)

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Bad Dad? (Radio / Podcast)

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
(Luke 11:11-13 – ESV)

People often say that if we ask God for something good He won’t give us something evil, and they use this text as proof. This is true. However, we might ask God for something, and yet receive something else from someone else and think it is God who gave it. Just because we ask God for something doesn’t mean anything we get is from God. True, if you ask the Father for a fish, the Father is not going to give you a snake. But that is the test – if you get a snake, you know it wasn’t God who gave it to you.

Instead of looking at your own desires for it to be something good, look at what is produced. You may want a fish, but you may be asking the wrong source. It is not “look at what is given and it must be good”, but “look at what is given and you can know where it came from”. It is not that whatever comes must be deemed as good, but that whatever comes must point to the source.

What we receive must be consistent with whatever else God has already revealed. If God doesn’t give it, you don’t want it, no matter how “good” it may seem. James 1:17 – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

You may be wanting and hungering and needing something God isn’t going to give, but Satan will, and so when you get it you automatically think it is from God because you asked for it. To your mind it was good to ask for it, and so whatever you got was good, it was from God, or so you think. But there is the problem, we may have thought we wanted something good, but we have actually asked amiss, for our own desire to be an instrument in an area God doesn’t want us to deal with others in. We may be asking for something God isn’t giving, like some made up mantle or whatever, then when something else comes we think we got what we asked for but what we got was some counterfeit.

We must be wary at all times, not knowing the extent to which God will allow the enemy to influence our lives. If we leave a foothold to Satan, God may allow him to use it to test us to see if we are truly faithful or not. It is as if we come asking and waiting and we will wait till we get something, but perhaps God isn’t the one who gave it. As if all the asking seeking and knocking means we can always get what we ask for, even when it isn’t what God wants for us. There are things, even good things, which God in His providence does not desire for us to have. It is not about our desire it is about His.

Our motives are not what we think they are and too often we judge them by our feelings and so then God becomes a projection of our best feelings, our inclinations to do “good”.

So when we ask God for something good, it is true He won’t give us something bad, but that doesn’t mean we will get anything at all, and it isn’t true that He will prevent us from receiving something bad from someone else just because we “claim” this verse as our protection. You can “get’ something, and it not be from God.

2 Corinthians 11:3-4 – But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

We can be Christians and receive the ideas of false spirits, not necessarily possession, but false doctrine and false signs and wonders and teachers, and false systems, etc. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

We must be diligent and on guard against counterfeits. We cannot just wait around till we get something and then declare that it is of God. We must learn to discern, to test what is going on. How can we do that if the something we are waiting on is some anointing that some prophet claims we can have if we ask for it or receive it when it isn’t found in scripture or it is twisted out of its context and made to seem like something we can have when it isn’t? That is the problem when using Luke 11:11-13 as some sort of defense against counterfeit gifts; when we ask for something God doesn’t allow, doesn’t want us to have, or simply doesn’t exist. So you may have this verse memorized, and that is good, but you cannot have it as an unbeatable weapon in your arsenal against deception.

Some think that their motives are pure, saying, “I just want to be used by God”. Well then just be used by God right now in whatever you are normally doing. Oswald Chambers said, “Drudgery is the test of genuine character. The greatest hindrance in our spiritual life is that we will only look for big things to do” (My Utmost For His Highest: June 15).

Now what we often mean when we say “I just want to be used by God” is that we want the excitement of being used by God in some mighty way, or what we think is mighty. However, anyone who can go about the daily life giving God the glory and being excellent in whatever they are doing now, that is the person who is being used by God.

If you are growing in grace, not gifts, but fruit and holiness, in repentance and faithfulness, God is using you. If you are evangelizing out there everyday without those power gifts, God is using you. Remember those in Matthew 7:21-23, they thought that doing God’s will was using power gifts to do His work. They had the power but they didn’t have Christ.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I Don't Agree with the Prayer of Agreement (Radio / Podcast)

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
(Matthew 18:19 – ESV)

I love praying, and I have taught on prayer and preached on prayer many times and for many years. It is one of my favorite subjects and one of my favorite things to do. Whether it is by myself or with others, it is something I am wholeheartedly committed to, without reserve. I firmly believe in the power of prayer, but of course that power needs to be defined biblically.

Many who want to make more of the power of prayer than they ought will claim that this verse teaches something it does not. They will say that if two or more Christians agree in prayer about any specific issue, God will accomplish the prayer. Is that what this verse teaches?

It is good to agree with other believers in prayer for God’s will, certainly this is true. But if this idea about the “prayer of agreement” was true, why then doesn’t God answer all our corporate prayers in accordance with our desires? It is obvious then that there are qualifications to this idea, at best, and it might not even be biblical, so we need to think about it while looking to the actual text.

It isn’t as if there are three votes to be cast, and if you and your prayer partner agree that you want things done one way, then God, His will notwithstanding, has to observe the majority rule. Now you may balk and try and explain the position away as not actually being like that, but it really does boil down to that, doesn’t it? Does your agreement automatically make God to be in agreement? Of course not, we would all say, so let’s look a little closer at this idea, shall we? Let’s not just agree to disagree, but let’s take a look at the text, and see if we can clear up our disagreement by clearly seeing what the text does or does not teach. Agreed?

There can be a real problem with certain ideas drawn from “proof texts”. While they might sound good, and be based on scripture, and in many instances the single verse provided appears to confirm the teaching, on closer examination we see that the verse has been pulled out of the context in which it was given and is claimed to say what it does not. Oh, this particular verse does “say” what it “says” but it does not clearly teach what it simply says.

We cannot simply use “verses in a vacuum”, in other words, we cannot pull them out of their context, and make them say what we want them to mean, thereby becoming “verse ventriloquists”. This is what the kingdom of the cults do all the time; they pour their own meaning into the words. Although we have all had our difficulties with misinterpreting texts and teachings, when we can by God’s grace find our way to the truth, we need to take it as it is.

When looking at texts, we can understand them to apply to Christians universally, such as Matthew 28:19-20 (go therefore and teach all nations), or to someone or something specifically, such as Matthew 10:5-6 (do not go to anyone but the Jews, a command for the disciples only and for that particular time period only, overruled by the Great Commission), or principally, such as Philippians 2:3-4 (Paul was speaking to a particular church but the principle of Christlike behavior applies to us) or not at all, as with 2 Timothy 4:13 (Paul tells Timothy to bring his papers, which we are obviously not to do). Texts meant specifically may also apply principally, so sometimes texts that aren’t teaching on a particular subject may still give us a principle to follow and apply to other matters.

Matthew 18:19 is part of a group of 6 verses, beginning with Matthew 18:15 and ending with Matthew 18:20. This section of scripture is about church discipline, and not specifically about prayer at all. The asking part is about the offended parties going to the leadership as part of the process of that discipline. Church members are asking church leaders to do something, in accordance with standard protocol. So this verse, in the asking part, is not about people asking God, but people asking people.

However, does the verse apply in principle? What about the binding and loosing aspect from verse 18? What about the Father doing something from heaven?

This verse does apply in principle, but not with respect to prayer. This was Christ telling the disciples that the Heavenly Father would ratify the decision of the church leaders. This wasn’t about giving church leaders or “prayer agree-ers” unlimited authority, it was Jesus telling us, in principle, that when proper disciplinary procedures are followed in the church, the leaders have the right to deny fellowship to the person who won’t repent of their sin that they committed against another believer. The binding and loosing has to do with the disciplinary decisions being made; God vests a certain authority to the church.

This is why other passages dealing with the handling of disputes and handing out discipline in a Christian manner, such as 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 are so important, and why church membership, once again, is seen to be an essential for the New Testament believer, not an optional ideal. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is applying what Jesus was teaching here. If you are not part of a local assembly, you are undermining part of the foundation for your Christian life. You need to be a vital part of a local fellowship of believers. This is not just about attending this or that church once in a while, or moving from church to church, that would escape this scenario and all like it, and now YOU KNOW IT.

However, most people don’t want to submit themselves to God’s people. They don't have to worry about failing a test they don't have to take. Many will never submit to discipline, either from the church, or in some degree to the scriptures themselves. They never give up the right to be the final arbiter, and this is the glaring problem in many so-called Christians. The gospel truth is that submitting to God means that we also have to submit to one another.

Now realize that this passage isn’t about handing out punishment without any procedure; this is a very specific plan of action for grieved parties. It is not a decision in relation to the salvation of the sinning Christian, but only in relation to their association with the fellowship. The agreement part is in relation to the process employed in verses 15 through 17 that results in the decision to expel the sinning person from the fellowship.

As a matter of prayer this text does not apply at all. It isn’t about a universal prayer power, it does not specifically deal with prayer, and it does not apply in principle either. It is a good and wonderful thing for believers to dwell in unity, and to pray together in God’s will with faith. However, with regards to how it is taught and understood in some circles, I do not agree with the prayer of agreement, because the bible does not teach it, especially from this verse.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Still the Small Voice? (Radio / Podcast)

…the LORD was not in the wind… the LORD was not in the earthquake…the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
(1 Kings 19:11-13 – ESV)

How many times have you been told that in order to “hear God” you need to listen for that “still small voice”? Yet when we see Elijah actually hearing words, it wasn’t necessarily in that still small voice, or the gentle whisper, as your Bible version may say. No, the gentle whisper, or still small voice, was the end the demonstration, the earth, wind, and fire preceding it.

Now notice, after Elijah heard the whisper, he then went back to the front of the cave, and THEN he heard a voice speaking to him. It was the same question as before, and Elijah answered the same as before. The text seems to indicate that it wasn’t the still small voice that spoke the question again, but that the whisper led Elijah out, and then he heard as he had before.

Even if the voice that came to Elijah was in that same whisper, there is only one time in the whole Bible when God possibly spoke in a still small voice, and yet for some reason we have people trying and people teaching others to try and hear the still small voice.

Yet, the still small voice wasn’t inside of Elijah, it was outside the cave.

In the Bible we don’t read of anyone who clears their mind to seek the voice of God and actually hearing from God. We see people going about their routine when God suddenly speaks to them.

If God wants to get your attention he doesn’t have to wait until you are still or get quiet. As a matter of fact, as we have said before, when Psalm 46:10 says “be still, and know I am God”, it isn’t God telling us to be still and then we will hear Him, it is God telling His enemies and His people that He is God and so we should shut up!

So it would seem as if this is certainly not the way to hear from God.

Oh, and by the way, when God spoke, whether it was in that still small voice or not, it was to tell Elijah that He accepted his resignation (vs. 15-18). Yes Elijah would still serve for a time after that, but really, now, are you resigned to taking one scenario in the scriptures and making that your final position on the voice of God, when He says elsewhere, “The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty” (Psalm 29:4)?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©