Tag Archive: Christians



Galatians 3:23-25, “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”

image

Paul declares that the law, which revealed our inability to be in complete compliance with the law and/or God’s nature, was added so that mankind may see their need for Christ. The law was the birth pains, through which the wonderful promise made known to Abraham became manifest and fulfilled in Christ Jesus, through whom we, in faith, become righteous before God. There is a paradoxical nature within the law concerning both it’s goodness, it being from God and representing holiness, and while at the same time being a burden unto man, for the law condemns and in the law itself, there is no hope, for all have violated the law.

image

Furthermore, the strict obedience to the law, can in fact break the law. Again, this is rather paradoxical, but we can reconcile these seemingly contradicting aspects, not by the law, or through man, but rather in Christ. Some, like the Pharisees, held the law to such a strict standard, that they idolized the law above faith in God, thus breaking the law, of which they claimed obedience. It is possible to worship the law itself and forgetting about the conditions of faith that are proclaimed all throughout the scripture. This is not to say that obedience to the law is bad, for this same law is now upon our hearts, but rather by faith, the law becomes represented through our relationship with Jesus. We do not develop obedience in the law and then acquire faith, it has been designed and purposed by God that it be the other way around. This is implicit in the law, but man lost focus as he put his faith in the commands rather than the author.

image

Realize we still run the same danger today. When we approach the word of God, we need to approach it in and through our relationship with the Spirit, otherwise the Living Word, loses that necessary condition of faith. This is a lesson I need to consistently keep in the forefront of my mind when approaching the Word of God. I study the word, but I have come to understand that the Bible itself can’t save you anymore than the law provided salvation. There are numerous atheists and deists who know the Bible better than some Christians do. Thus, we find that what is contained in the word is a path to Christ, but if we look at the words alone, we are missing the point.

image

I myself love studying the word, but I also love extrapolating the philosophical points behind the Scriptures. As I have stated before, the enemy and the self, can take even the best intentions and askew them. Thereby, there was a time when I saw that my study of the Scripture wasn’t as God has intended. We are to not seek the philosophical points behind the Scriptures, but rather seek God and we should direct our hearts to developing a deeper relationship with Hm. We shall not forget this, for to do so, we are the same as those who study the law, and forego God. We should let the Spirit speak to us through the word, for our study is not study alone, but rather communion with our Lord, and we need to pray and be open unto this while we approach the Word of God.

image

Likewise, man forgot this aspect when they approached the law. They strove to be in compliance with the law, and forgot about the faith represented in the law. All the great men and women within the Old Testament understood this point, that the law reflected our noncompliance, and thus they were brought to faith and reliance on God and His promises, rather than just to the law itself, which again trespasses against the law, for it can idolize the law in a sinful manner.

image

So in Christ, we have a new revelation of faith that we can rest our reliance on. This was purposed from the beginning that the reconciliation between the law and faith, along with justification, would rest on Jesus Christ. Since man mistook the law and did not come to God in faith, He has now revealed a more present object upon which our foundations of faith are built, His Son. In addition, the law showed our great need of the deliverance that God had promised prior to Abraham, and this was purposed to draw men unto the promise by faith. Now, by the new covenant, the promise has been fulfilled and we eagerly await those promises from God that are still yet to come.

image

Advertisements

“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!” -Romans 5:10

Photobucket

There were times, and are times when I act more in accordance with an enemy of God than an ally. This is of course much to my shame, but this is essentially what sin is, battling against God and those perfect decrees He has made known through all creation. Yet, through the death of Christ on the cross there is offered reconciliation even for the likes of myself. Furthermore, if that what was accomplished through His death, how much more was accomplished by His resurrection? His death was the gateway into salvation and His resurrection the completion. It could not have been accomplished unless these two things were in complete unity. As 1 Corinthians 15:17 states:

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

Thus, when we come to Christ in faith, we must believe upon Him, His death, and His resurrection. For in His death we die along with our sins, but in His life we arise as a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (see my note on, “On The Old Overtaken by What is New”) tells us:

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come!”

Photobucket

Though we are made anew, this doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t contest with those things we allied to when we were enemies of God. In fact, those sins which enslaved our lives are more apt to be the ones we most struggle with in Christ. Yet, let us never tire of doing good, for despite our flaws, we are being renewed day by day (see my note concerning 2 Corinthians 4:16, “On Not Losing Heart Due to Sin”). This can be an esoteric truth to understand when one comes to Christ and it may serve the enemy to trip up those who are new to the faith. I once had a discourse with a messenger from Satan regarding this very thing.

Photobucket

I had found myself losing battles but striving to do what was right in sight of the Lord. The enemy came to me saying, “Are you sure this is what you want? In me is true contentment, lack of struggle and gratification.” I am not proud to recount that it was a temptation for me. Did I really want to fight against the flesh, isn’t it much easier to go the way of sin, than of righteousness? I found myself warring against myself and I prayed for some sort of guidance and delivery from the argument. This temptation was apparently very effective, for I almost buckled under the weight of it. I kept warring back and forth between ease of gratification and the difficulty of conviction.

Photobucket
Then the Lord began to answer me and the dark messenger. I found myself responding to the enemy, that even if I fail, even to the point of eternal condemnation, I shall rejoice that Christ has been victorious. By responding as such, the provocation subsided and I was astounded at the thought, to be honest, for like anyone I fear the fires of hell, but my fear was trumped by my love and praise. I began to realize, with the help of verses like the aforementioned one in Romans, that despite losing battles, the Lord is the one who won the war on our behalf. I consistently see new Christians struggle with this very thing, the associations of conviction and condemnation, but as this verse suggests, it’s not about the skirmishes that we may lose, but who we ally ourselves to. I began to see from a different point of view, that in conviction God doesn’t condemn, but rather uses it to produce better soldiers in His army.

Photobucket

Illustration for John Milton's, "Paradise Lost," by Gustave Dore, c. 1866

The Lord is putting us through a Holy boot camp, that we may serve Him to the best of our ability, and that our abilities may keep improving and developing. If one who has given their life to Christ, still finds themselves asking if they truly belong to Him, they must transcend the worlds idea of worth through action. One should seek inside themselves what side they really are fighting for and against, without taking their lost battles into account, for as I mentioned before, Christ has already won the war. Ally yourself on he side of victory and push beyond what you may conceive as easy, for as the Lord showed me at the end of my discourse with the darkness, effort is put in serving the sinful nature, just as it is in surpassing it. May you surpass it and receive the blessings of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Photobucket

"Christ Blessing," by Simone Martini. tempera on panel, c. 1317


“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” -2 Corinthians 4:16

Photobucket

This verse is one that I personally need to repeat to myself daily. When one first comes to Christ and is covered by grace, it is often easier to accept it offers the nullification of the sins of the past than it is to understand that this very same grace covers the sins of the future. Now, I am not one who likes to consistently blame our sins on Satan directly, for to do so negates our own responsibility in sight of the Lord. Furthermore, since we are offered forgiveness in Christ, it testifies to our role in accepting and following the temptations or tricks of Satan.

Photobucket

Before one comes to Christ, Satan’s deceptions center around keeping man from accepting God or coming to Him. Yet, after we are covered by grace, it seems that Satan reaches into a entirely different bag of tricks altogether. One of his favorite tools is one of condemnation for believers.

Photobucket

"Lucifer in Hell," by Gustave Dore. engraving, c. 1861 (From Dante's "Divine Comedy," Canto 34 of "Inferno")

As I have mentioned before, Satan hasn’t created anything. He merely takes God’s purpose, His great deeds, and twists, manipulates or perverts them, offering them unto man in a way God hadn’t intended. Our responsibility is apparent when we choose to follow either truth, or the lies of darkness.

As Christians, Satan may now attack us in ways that belittle Christ’s sacrifice and/or our relationship with the Lord. When we come to Jesus and are baptized in His blood, we begin to gain a conviction of sin through the Spirit and we may feel guilty or sorrowful for our disobedience in sight of God. Yet, the enemy tries to twist this conviction into condemnation, again making a mockery of what Christ accomplished on the cross.

Photobucket

"The Darkness at The Crucifixion," by Gustave Dore. engraving, c. 1866

I am no stranger to this lie, and I remain quite convinced it is a common trick used by the enemy that Christians need to be aware of and refute using scripture. This is a verse the Lord led me too early on after my conversion and one that has allowed me to overcome the stumbling block of such condemnation. This is the very same condemnation Christ took upon Himself and freed me of and it is disrespectful to the Lord to say that what He did wasn’t good enough for me, when everything about the message of reconciliation says otherwise.

Yet, let us remember that we are not given a divine “get out of jail free card,” to continue sinning. For to rely on grace as an excuse to continue sinning is to trample on the blood of Christ and take advantage of God’s Son to indulge in your own evil desires. This is disrespectful and evil as well, and I urge all Christians to not fall into that trap. The grace of God is not a pass for sin, but an opportunity to fight against it. Sin still has the ability to easily entangle, that’s why the conviction of the Spirit is so important, not to condemn, but to warn or identify that area in your life that remains a stronghold.

Photobucket

Give thanks that God does not want you to take on these strongholds alone. It is important that one press on, ignore the taunts from the enemy, work on your relationship with the Lord, and pray He would mold your heart and guide you into victory. If God demanded perfection in man, then Christ wouldn’t have came. What He does demand however, is your love, faith, trust and loyalty.

Photobucket
Do not lose heart if you slip and fall, for Christ’s grace is sufficient for you, just as it was for Paul. As a river’s water is renewed day by day, Christ, the River of Life, will renew your water day after day, hour after hour, and moment by moment. Though our bodies age, decay and become marred by mud, sweat and blood, the internal self is not bound to such a sentence. Rather we can develop that side of ourselves which is unseen, and gain a richer relationship and understanding of our Savior.

Photobucket

Do not let conviction of sin, and even guilt, turn into condemnation, which is closely followed by despair, for this leads to death. Rather rejoice, not in your sin, but instead that the Lord by His Spirit is convicting you of it, and is therefore with you, and realize that if He couldn’t cover your sin, you wouldn’t have been granted the Spirit, a deposit guaranteeing what is to come, in the first place.

Photobucket


2 Corinthians 7:8-10, “For even if I grieved you with my letter, I do not regret it—even though I did regret it since I saw that the letter grieved you, yet only for a little while. 9Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance. For you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn’t experience any loss from us. 10For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death.”

godlysorrow

There is, of course, much discussion concerning the “letter” or “epistle” referred to by the apostle Paul in verse 8. There are at least five theories concerning the biblical etymology and development of the books known today as 1 and 2 Corinthians. These theories are discussed in the NIV Study Bible and the Life Application Study Bible. The NIV Study Bible tells us:

“Some think Paul here refers either to 1 Corinthians or to 2 Corinthians 10-13, but more likely he refers to a letter now lost that he wrote shortly after his ‘painful visit.’” –Philip E. Hughes, NIV Study Bible

This “painful visit” is mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:

2 Corinthians 2:1, “So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you.”

Philip E. Hughes continues:

“This former visit could not have been the one he made to Corinth at the time when the church there was founded in response to the preaching of the gospel. Therefore he must have paid a second visit, which is confirmed by [2 Corinthians] 12:14; [2 Corinthians] 13:1.” –Philip E. Hughes, NIV Study Bible

Epistle_to_Galatians_Illuminatad

These aforementioned verses read:

2 Corinthians 12:14, “Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.”

2 Corinthians 13:1, “This will be my third visit to you. ‘Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’”

Paul, therefore, is stating that his visit to the Corinthians is to be his third. His first visit was apparently the founding of the church at Corinth itself, so we have a “missing” second visit. Concerning this the NIV Study Bible says:

“The second visit probably took place between the writing of 1 and 2 Corinthians, though some hold that it occurred before 1 Corinthians was written.” –Philip E. Hughes, NIV Study Bible

download (1)

So, we can already see that there is some disagreement in when these lost letters of Paul were written, how many there were, and if indeed the letters in some way corresponded to the visits themselves. The Life Application Study Bible takes another stance on the issue.

“’That severe letter’ refers to the third letter (now lost) that Paul had written to the Corinthians. Apparently it had caused the people to begin to change.”Life Application Study Bible

“Paul visited Corinth on his second missionary journey and founded a church there. He later wrote several letters to the believers in Corinth, two of which are included in the Bible. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is lost.”Life Application Study Bible

The Life Application Study Bible cites that this lost letter is referenced in a passage in 1 Corinthians 5:

1 Corinthians 5:9-11, “When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. 10But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 11I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.”

The Life Application Study Bible continues to explain:

“[Paul’s] second letter to them is our book of 1 Corinthians, his third letter is lost.”Life Application Study Bible

P46

The Life Application Study Bible cites that this additional lost letter is referenced in a passage in 2 Corinthians chapters 2 and 7:

2 Corinthians 2:6-9, “Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. 7Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. 9I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions.”

2 Corinthians 7:12, “My purpose, then, was not to write about who did the wrong or who was wronged. I wrote to you so that in sight of God you could see for yourselves how loyal you are to us.”

The Life Application Study Bible states:

“[Paul’s] fourth letter is our book of 2 Corinthians. Second Corinthians was written less than a year after 1 Corinthians.” –Life Application Study Bible

“Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to deal with divisions in the church. When his advice was not taken and their problems weren’t solved, Paul visited Corinth a second time. That visit was painful for both Paul and for the church [2 Corinthians 2:1]. He then planned a third visit but delayed it and wrote 2 Corinthians instead. After writing 2 Corinthians, Paul visited Corinth once more.” –Life Application Study Bible

Despite what one may conclude about the letters to the Corinthians and the existence or, rather, non-existence of missing letters, it is apparent that when one comes to Christ we feel sorrowful for our sin, of that which was manifest in both the old creation and the new. Sorrow can imply that we feel remorse for wronging someone, God, man, or even self, and this sorrow becomes known and abundant once our eyes are opened by Christ. For in that moment we, in our hearts, know how we were supposed to act if we were indeed obedient in the Lord. Yet, it is because of this disobedience that Christ had to be nailed unto the cross, that we may have forgiveness of our trespasses. Once this is made clear, Godly sorrow envelopes us, but for the purposes of repentance, rather than a means to drive us into despair. This is where sorrow of the world leads, despair, hopelessness and eventually death. Not of the body, for everyone goes through that, rather the death of the spirit. The true death where there is no hope.

damned

Despair has several like traits, but in my own personal observation, it seems to multiply burden and with an overwhelming feeling of sorrow, this makes hope in one’s life crumble into dust. In this position many slip down the well-worn worldly path towards self-destruction and/or become allied with the enemy. There is an ecclesiastical meaninglessness to life, which makes one focus on the Lord, and there is a worldly meaninglessness that makes one focus upon the self. In regards to the latter, they seek not to protect the self, but rather engage in actions of carnal gratification which eat at a person from the inside out, until they are just a shell of what they might have been, tragically spending all effort in chasing after material rather than the eternal.

Christians, of course, are not granted a lifetime without hardship when coming to the cross. In fact, there are many throughout history, also in contemporary times, that have experienced greater hardship due to their suffering which is directly related in the sharing of the message of reconciliation, that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Great persecution and martyrdom still occurs to this day, despite the gospel of “tolerance,” the world supposedly subscribes to. More on current examples of martyrdom and persecution, check out, “The Voice of The Martyrs” site.

Yet, there is a vast difference between the hardship of those in the world, and the hardships of those who belong to Jesus Christ. It’s not found in the nature of the hardship, but rather in the response. The world under hardship lacks hope, while those in Christ have it in abundance and there are several ways our hope is apparent.

sidewalk

With Christ we have the hope in Him that He cares about us and our daily lives, and indeed this is truth. We pray that He will strengthen us, lift us out of such snares and the painful circumstance we may find ourselves in and put us back on our feet. Furthermore, we know that when we pass from this world, the problems that confront and confound us here, will cease to be on the other side of eternity, where we will truly live.

Godly joy stems from these things which are some of the cornerstones of the faith and experienced in all Christians, as well as the faith and love that the Spirit instills and perfects within us. Yet, Christians are not immune from breaking away from this hope and grace to chase joy and happiness in the pleasures of the flesh. I myself am guilty of this very thing.

Besides being apart from Christ, one of the problems with this strategy is that you will never come to a place of fulfillment. In fact, you may desire more and more, chasing after “new” experiences, but never realizing how similar those experiences are. Eventually you come to a point where you gain exactly the opposite of what you were looking for: despair. Trying to choke out the feeling of despair by worldly means brings one to the point of calamity, and it is only by Jesus Christ that one can be pulled back from the edge of the precipice.

cliff-edge

True joy is found with Christ Jesus, who offers it freely to those who follow Him. Christ went through that feeling of despair as He was beaten and executed that we wouldn’t have to. Christ offers us a way back from the tomb of despair, that our lives may have meaning, and in that we may have joy.

fearless


2 Corinthians 5:20“Therefore, on behalf of Christ, we are ambassadors, as God is exhorting through us, we beseech on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

When we accept Christ and are found to be in Christ testified to by the presence of the Holy Spirit, we will naturally (as concerns our newly created actuality, rather than that of the old nature) have the desire to spread the gospel message of Christ, which amounts to a reconciliation between us and God. This desire and caring for the spiritual condition or well-being of others comes direct from the Holy Spirit. As I have mentioned before in other posts, “therefore” is a word that implies a direct conclusion. That which follows the word “therefore,” is the stated induced or deduced conclusion arrived at from the pre-stated premises or arguments which precede the word, “therefore.” We necessarily, then, arrive at the question, of which previous statements is Paul referring.

icarethereforeikern-dribbble

The answer to this inquiry is 2 Corinthians verse 18-19 of chapter 5.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “And all this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. 19For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.”

message-of-reconciliation-black_1955208567

“On behalf of Christ,” according to the LITV, or Jay Green Sr.’s A Literal Translation of The Bible, is mentioned twice within the verse. The first instance modifies the statement immediately proceeding it, “We are ambassadors.” More or less, this reveals that “we are ambassadors for Christ.” The second instance, that we beseech on behalf of Christ, implies that we share the same message that Christ Himself shared, which is extant within the Scriptures and gospels.

hqdefault

In addition, when the Word of God repeats itself, or seems redundant in repetition, it is truly not redundancy, but rather repetition is used for a means of emphasis. Therefore, Paul is emphasizing the fact that we are speaking on behalf of Christ, which means a number of things. Some of which will be explored in this blog post. A couple of the most basic though, are that it emphasizes that this message is not of human speech and motive alone, but rather a message preceding from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself. Moreover, we share in Paul’s divine appointment, which will be discussed later, as will we discuss the great responsibility of such an appointment.

divine_appointment-300x240

The term “ambassadors” that is utilized is truly an important one. As The Life Application Study Bible says:

“An ambassador is an official representative of one country to another.” –Life Application Study Bible

William MacDonald in his Believer’s Bible Commentary says:

“An ambassador is a minister of state, representing his own ruler in a foreign land. Paul always speaks of the Christian ministry as an exalted and dignified calling. Here [in 2 Corinthians 5:20] [Paul] likens himself to an envoy sent by Christ to the world in which we live.” –William MacDonald

43476306_scaled_232x256

Given this definition or usage of the word, “ambassadors,” we find that it is more than appropriate. Ellicott’s commentary gives us a little insight into the origins of the usage of the word in this particular verse.

“’Ambassadors,’ which may be noted as singularly felicitous, first appears in the version of 1611. The word, derived from the medieval Latin ambasciator, and first becoming popular in the Romance languages, is found in Shakespeare, and appears to have come into prominence through the intercourse with France and Spain in the reign of Elizabeth.” –Charles John Ellicott

Prior to this the word used was “legates.” This word has a definition within both the Catholic and Roman traditions. The Catholic usage, is “a member of the clergy, especially a cardinal, representing the Pope.” However, because Paul was a contemporary of the Roman Empire, he obviously was using the word in the Roman context which meant, “the general or governor of an ancient Roman province, or their deputy.”

8021_54009

Utilizing both “legates” and “ambassadors” we can reach several striking conclusions. The first concerns authority. By authority I mean that we are given a degree of this authority by Christ and His instruction to share this message of reconciliation. In addition, we are authoritative figures as we are both heirs to the Kingdom and beneficiaries of the glory of the Lord.

Romans 8:17, “And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering.”

Moreover, concerning this authority, the Christ Jesus says:

Luke 10:16, “Then He said to the disciples, ‘Anyone who accepts your message is also accepting Me. And anyone who rejects you is rejecting Me. And anyone who rejects Me is rejecting God, who sent Me.”

Furthermore, in John, Jesus tells His disciples:

John 20:21, “Again [Jesus] said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’”

maxresdefault

However, being an “ambassador” means we are subservient to a higher rule, which is the Lord Himself. Due to the fact we are subservient, our message must correspond with the message of the higher ruling Agent, which is that of Christ Jesus. In addition, we have a great responsibility in sharing this glory, authority and message of reconciliation. As the Life Application Study Bible states:

“An ambassador of reconciliation has an important responsibility. We dare not take it lightly.” –Life Application Study Bible

This authority and responsibility in sharing the message of reconciliation denotes a couple of things. First, and again, it is extremely important that our testimony, witness, or appeal unto others must be in complete correspondence with the ministry of reconciliation as revealed by Christ and the Scriptures. Second, we must be a living testimony and sacrifice that our behavior will not conflict with the ministry. Within us the ministry of truth must be apparent as well as expressed, for we discredit the message by not being in obedience to it. I believe this responsibility and the extreme duty we have to follow Christ’s commandments is expressed earlier in chapter 5 of 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 5:11, “Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.”

photo

If we are to be sincere and be fearful in our responsibility about this ministry of reconciliation, then it follows that not only will we preach the truth, but we will live according to it. Moreover, to some degree we can see how the two are mutually interconnected, so that if we cease to live by Christ’s expressed truth, the message we share with others will become distorted or open to falsehood. In addition, if we accept or let a false message creep into the message we share, how long before there is a concurrent output that becomes evident in our lives. Christians need to beware at making compromises or concessions to their faith based on sympathies or the ways and arguments of the world, for when we give these freedom or speak them, they will produce a harvest of falsity in our faith and detrimentally affect our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, we are to be partners with the Lord and not oppose Him, basing our relationship with Him on invasive doctrines. Unfortunately, this is all too common, which Paul recognized as he said, stating both our responsibility and this danger:

2 Corinthians 6:1, “As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it.”

It is God Himself who enables us both to be in obedience and to be ambassadors to the Good News, thereby let us adhere to God’s ways, the ways of the Spirit, the commands of Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:6, “[God] has enabled us to be ministers of His new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.”

Eschatology_The-New-Covenant_620

This enabling by the Lord is perhaps nowhere seen more explicitly than in the example of Paul, who was chosen by the Lord, by grace and divine appointment, to spread the message of reconciliation unto the Gentiles. As Christ tells Saul at his conversion:

Acts 26:17-18, “And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in Me.”

Though we might have authority by being trusted with this ministry, it does not mean we share, at this time, in kingly comforts which the world might tend to bestow to those who have authoritative positions. It is Paul again who mentions himself as an ambassador even though he lay in chains.

Ephesians 6:20, “I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly as I should.”

These prayers were most certainly answered, for Paul becomes an example for Christians to follow as it applies to the ministry. Obviously our prime example is Jesus Christ, but the early church fathers do present examples of how should live and how we are to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. This concerns not only how they lived there lives in obedience to their faith, but also how they shared the message of reconciliation.

reconciliation-gif

The Christian cannot help but be impressed with the love of God. That the Lord implores, beseeches, and pleads with us to be reconciled to Him expresses this deep love. This love is manifest in both the Testaments. Some have the perception that the God of the Old Testament is entirely wrathful, while the God of the New Testament is entirely loving, yet the discerning Christian will realize that the Old Testament has attributes of love, while the New Testament speaks too of wrath. Yet, our Lord loves us and implores us not to come under this wrath. We live under two realities, we can either live under wrath, or we can live under grace and love. It is apparent, which one the Lord wants from us. Ezekiel (a rather wrathful book in itself) states God’s great love and desire to impart mercy.

mercy-grace-21585658

Ezekiel 18:31-32, “Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign LORD. Turn back and live!”

Concerning man’s rebellion, Matthew Henry exhorts us:

“Now man must lay down his arms of rebellion, must cease his stubborn revolt, and must be reconciled to God.” –William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary

This shows the Lord’s earnest pleading, and it is not because God is on some power trip or selfish, for what does our Lord have to gain or lose by us coming to Him or not coming to Him? Matthew Henry expounds on this point:

“Though God cannot lose by the quarrel [the enmity between God and man], nor gain by the peace, yet He beseeches sinners to lay aside their enmity, and accept the salvation He offers.” –Matthew Henry

Concerning this enmity, William MacDonald states matter-of-factly:

“If any enmity exists, it exists on man’s part.” –William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary

Paul implores, pleads, begs, and beseeches that we would be reconciled to God. Again, God Himself is doing this! The Creator of the universe is begging before the likes of man for us to be reconciled to Him. This speaks amazingly of God’s great love, and brings forth images of Christ washing the disciple’s feet. That the Lord of all, would be so humble as to implore us is almost beyond belief. Yet, I am not the only one to be struck by the reality of this and its implications.

implore

“[Beseeching] seems rather strange language to apply to an ambassador. Usually we do not think of an ambassador as pleading, but that is the story of the gospel, that, in it, God is actually on bended knee and with tear-dimmed eye begging men and women to be reconciled to Himself.” –William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary

Truly, it is an amazing God we serve, and we should do so, in full knowledge of God’s love, and our love for Him, in complete obedience and servitude for this is what He deserves. Further, this is the message that we should portray and share with others, that those we come into contact with may experience the love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

mercy-grace


“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” -Matthew 7:16

PhotobucketAs we travel along the busy thoroughfare we call life, we form many ideas and opinions of those we encounter along the way. A popular response from people when they suspect our opinion, or when we offer a rebuke of their sin is, “Don’t you judge me!” Usually, this is not so much to do with those who offer the conviction, as it has to do with the person who feels they are being judged. When we rebuke someone due to their lifestyle or actions in accordance with the Lord’s urging, it’s never comfortable. We should know this from experience.

Now the scriptures also tell us that we should not judge, so the reconciliation between what is proper and what isn’t takes some discernment through a relationship with the Lord. For instance, we shouldn’t judge on an issue we ourselves are indulging in, lest we become hypocrites. The word hypocrite I feel is immensely overused. Understand that we can convict and hold each other accountable while still struggling, for we all are sinners and in such contexts not only should the truth be shared, but also our own shortcomings in a particular area, whatever that may be. These urgings, through the Lord produce accountability and victory. If we gain a victory through Christ, convict others, and later stumble, this isn’t hypocrisy, though we by sinning are certainly in error. Hypocrisy is when one willfully engages in their iniquity, not holding themselves to a particular standard, but at the same time, holding others to it and judging them due to that same error evident in their own life.

Photobucket
Of course we need to judge, for if we didn’t how would we know a good situation from a bad one, or a person that will forward our lives and faith in Christ as opposed to hindering it? It’s apparent that when applied as an absolute, even our judicial system would collapse in that we couldn’t hold each other responsible for their actions, nor would there be such a thing as guilty or innocent in a court of law. We need that discernment, to know when it is appropriate, lest we fall more often and find ourselves in a place where we could very justly be cut down and thrown into the fire, or even lead others to such a place.

Photobucket
Although this verse talks explicitly about false prophets, we can implicitly find plenty of truth concerning how we must view others in general, in order that our walk with the Lord may be protected. Men, and women, are masters of deception. It’s unfortunate, and although we want to sometimes trust everyone, especially when a person evokes the name of Christ, the previous verse, Matthew 7:15, makes it abundantly clear that all that claim Christ, don’t necessarily belong to Him.

Photobucket

False Prophet Manasseh Jordan, who along with his father, E. Bernard Jordan, not only claim him to be a prophet of God, but God Himself.

How do we recognize them and protect ourselves? Jesus tells us that we should look to the fruit that people produce. Not just those wolves who claim the name of Christ, or even have a lofty position in the Body of Christ, but this can apply to anyone.

Photobucket
Sunday and Monday, I didn’t post due to a exciting day I had at church and a couple days in which I was in close fellowship with great friends and those in Christ. I wrote the first part of this article and attended afterward, for a time, a conference at a local church. I also got hands laid on me and got a few prophecies revealed to me as to the direction my life is going in Christ. Yet, as exciting as it was, I also found myself somewhat skeptical of the abilities in the Spirit, which some professed, by mere action, to have been granted.

Photobucket
I was plagued by the question of whether or not I was in the right by being skeptical of such things? Was I being too judgmental. In all honesty and simplicity, I trust in the Lord, but I don’t trust in man. Now, as I begin to finish this article, and I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me at the time of these prophetic occurrences, I realized that just a half-hour prior that the Lord had already answered the question I would later pose to myself. I was informed by a person very dear in my life that supposedly this happens quite a lot to me, and I, of course, praise the Lord for his timely response concerning my constant questioning.

Photobucket

By the verse, and indeed those surrounding it, in correlation with the questions that were raised in my heart, it is apparent that skepticism concerning the gifts of the Spirit and those who profess to have acquired them, is both a good thing and a bad thing. In one sense it protects us, and in another it may hinder us. Personally, I believe that within my life time I have had the skepticism affect me in both aforementioned ways and I have stumbled and engaged both extremes of the spectrum.

PhotobucketOften times our skepticism is due to our lack of experience in experiencing something someone else testifies to encountering. Even if we witness it and we haven’t experienced those particular manifestations, those who have, or those it is evident in, can seem strange or to an extent, crazy. Therefore, we may come to the false conclusion that it is faulty or feigned. Though such a conclusion can sometimes be correct, other times it can seriously detain us from learning or experiencing something, especially when concerning our walk with the Lord. In fact, we see many who are so skeptical that the mere idea of God and experiencing Him, is so silly that they consider it some form of mental illness. The fact is, perfectly sane and brilliant people experience God all the time, but due to the skeptics unwillingness to accept God, it’s improbable they will experience God in a life changing way, for they are already surrounded by Him, but fail to recognize because of the hardening of their hearts and skepticism (among other things).

Photobucket
Yet, on the other hand, those who are completely non-skeptical run the danger of being led astray by falsehood in the name of Christ. This, too, I have experienced. In my example, God and His interaction with us, and even my salvation, was determined by an emotional response. That is, when one has an emotional response to God, this alone determines God’s presence, His power, and to what degree we experience Him. Some will also say without such a response, one ceases to be saved. Not only do some say this, but you begin to say it in yourself, and you equate God and your salvation with that emotional response. Having an emotional response concerning the truth of the Lord and His sacrifice is blessed, but seeking an emotional response in and of itself to experience God is not, for though we may fool ourselves, it is not based on God.

We are emotional creatures, but our relationship with God isn’t determined by emotion. There are times your heart swells and there are times where you feel God is absent, but the latter is never the case. God is always there, through all emotions or none at all. I myself have yelled at God, cried to Him, and laughed in His company. Yet, there have been times where I didn’t “feel” anything. When I was ensnared by this particular brand of  falsehood, I produced the emotional response of my own accord and spoke for the Lord without His urging, but fooled myself that it was indeed from Him. There lies the danger.
Photobucket

If one has fooled themselves or been fooled that a relationship with God is a strict emotional one, then they will chase after that emotion, looking to that emotion rather than the Lord Himself. To worship an emotion is idolatry, and before you know it, your worship may forgo the Lord altogether. Don’t misunderstand, there are times when emotion is included, absolutely! Yet, there are also times the Lord tests us by pulling away. Is faith really faith if you need that emotional response? It’s much easier to be obedient in emotion, but can you follow the Lord without it? This is a test we are all put through at times. As our relationship with our earthly parents attests, we eventually need to go out from under their wing and live according to our own devices to make it in the world. In the same way our Heavenly Father may pull back in order to see how we do, and if our faith can withstand the test, that we may be ambassadors for the Kingdom.

Photobucket
When one relies on emotion, it is more based in self than God. Emotion can fool you, and we have the ability to fool ourselves into an emotion. I pray, dear reader, that the Lord may utilize it for His glory in you, but keep it too from ensnaring you. This all being said, how do we know if we are in danger? This answer isn’t a simple one and requires God’s urging and truth to be given unto our hearts.

Do not be fooled by the self, for even the positive good intentions in your life can have a negative effect and hinder you. Be wary of this always. Look to motive in yourself and in others for insight on whether your or others are in danger. Do not let your skepticism steal your joy in the Lord. God does amazing things everyday and such things He wants us to rejoice in. So, keep in The Word that you may be discerning when falsehood is manifest in someone. If it doesn’t follow The Word, then it cannot be of God, because God cannot contradict Himself.
Photobucket
In order to determine the fruit one bears, one must have fellowship. We can see a gorgeous piece of fruit from afar, but looks can be deceiving. We have no way of knowing whether or not, by viewing at a distance, if that fruit, say, contains a worm, or is sour or bitter. Thus, it comes down to a discernment through God, Prayer, the Word, and an intimate knowledge, through relationships, of those who claim and are in Christ. There are those who have been tragically led astray that will come upon your doorstep one day and make it seem as if you are of like spiritual faith, but that’s a means to ensnare. If you were to  get to know them you’d find their Christ and yours to not be one in the same. One should not assume on mere superficial appearances, but get to know one another. We have been called to develop relationships, so let us do so that we may gain trust in one another in like faith, mutually encourage each other, and protect one another from the skepticism that steals joy and promotes falsehood.

Photobucket
Again, do not let your skepticism steal your joy, for whoever you encounter and however the Lord is present in them, realize that they are mere men. Yet, God manifests himself in a variety of ways. Be open to this as well and never let your skepticism hinder you from growing with the Lord, or leading someone to Christ. We all have our comfort zone. Understand that discomfort can come both from the enemy and your preconceived notions. We all like the churches we feel most comfortable in, but this may only hinder you from doing God’s work and growing in the Lord. Don’t put limits on God. Be skeptical of man, but never in God. Look to the scriptures, pray, and get to know your brothers and sister in Christ, that you may know to a full degree the fruits of their Christian labors.

A friend of mine told me that skepticism is based in fear. He can’t be more right. Yet, at times, fear can keep us from being caught up in something that may be ungodly, despite its appearance. If there is good fruit, if by friendship and communion, you find them to be trustworthy, if they follow the same Word, then do not let your doubt steal your joy, for gifts are presented to some, but not to others. Never through your skepticism come to the point that just because it’s different or uncomfortable, on that alone, draw the conclusion that it isn’t from God. Again, never be skeptical of God, but be wary of man, who even in the name of God can distort His eternal Name.

Photobucket


“I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molech, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name.” -Leviticus 20:3

Molech was a pagan semitic god who was worshipped by the detestable act of child sacrifice. The alters were in the semblance of a bull or calf, a sacrificial animal itself, with a pit before it, or in the belly of the man made edifice. Within these pits, large fires would be built and children were tossed in as an offering to the god.

In this verse, we not only see God’s disgust in the worship of other gods, but also the abhorrent nature of human sacrifice. The Book of Judges, Chapter 11, contains the infamous account of Jephthah, who after making a vow to the Lord concerning the defeat of the Ammonites sacrificed his daughter to God. Atheists and non-believers,  like to distract Christians by citing this account, but nowhere does it say that God approved of Jephthah’s sacrifice of his only offspring. In fact, God’s displeasure could implicitly be contained in the account, for the Ammonites, whom Jephthah was fighting, were devout worshippers of Molech. Thus, it represents a veiled connection between the Judges account and God’s statement against such practices in Leviticus.

"Jephthah," by John Everett Millais. oil on canvas, c. 1867

Human sacrifice wasn’t a rare practice and every continent and almost every indigenous people seems to have engaged in it at one time or another, from the civilizations of Central America, to even the Native Americans. Yet, again, verses like this one, and those like it, show that God does not desire such offerings. Why did God include it in His word then? The account was provided to show the importance of oaths to the Lord (See my note on Matthew 5:37, “On Promises and Vows”).

Abraham, in Genesis Chapter 22, was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac, which Abraham being a man of faith and obedience, was prepared to carry out. Yet, at the last minute an angel called from heaven and instructed him not to lay a hand on the boy. In verse 13 we find that a ram was caught by its horns in a thicket, provided by God, to take the place of Abraham’s son.

"The Sacrifice of Isaac," by Domenichino. oil on canvas, c. 1627-1628

The correlation between this account of Abraham and what was later to occur with Jesus Christ is apparent. As the ram was caught by its horns in a thicket, likewise Christ had a thicket of thorns placed upon His head, piercing deep into His flesh, as His eventual crucifixion approached. Though Christ was human, He was not a mere human, and He was provided by God, from the beginning, to take our place, to endure the punishment, and to pay the just wages for our sin, just as the ram had replaced Isaac. In short, we deserve to be nailed upon that cross, but Christ paid for sin in full on our account that salvation might be credited to us by faith and through grace.

May Christ be forever praised. Amen.


“In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” -Romans 1:27

by Kevin Tuma

Paul, in the previous verse, mentions women first as being perpetrators of grotesque sexual sin, presumably with animals, and then tells of men having relations with other men. This emphasizes the lengths of debauchery that was going on in Rome and elsewhere in Paul’s time, and, indeed, it is still with us today.

By use of the term, “likewise,” or, “in the same way” in verse 27, it indicates to us that men lusting after another man is near on par with the woman’s sexual deviance and sin against nature. Due to these sins they reserved in themselves the due penalty for their error as the scripture tells us.

In today’s society there is a push for the church to become more liberal or progressive. Some have, tragically, fallen prey to this and I know of at least one Episcopalian church that features a homosexual minister.

Numerous homosexuals tell us the bible says nothing about their actions being wrong, but in reality that viewpoint is so difficult to provide biblical evidence for that its shocking that idea is so prevalent.

Does this mean homosexuals are void of coming to Christ for repentance and forgiveness? No, they are offered salvation just as everyone, but their attempt to change doctrine has nothing to do with rationality, but rather they want all areas of life to condone and adhere to their lifestyle choices, even if its God. It is especially interesting when one considers the topic of homosexuality, for those who have, through faith, repented of homosexuality are then viciously assaulted in word and action by the homosexual community. This is a common trait in liberalism, that society should bend to accept a persons actions which make them comfortable and anyone who disagrees should be attacked mercilessly. Often in such liberalistic thinking, it is void of any rational contemplation, but rather based on emotion and the desire to alleviate the responsibility behind one’s actions.

I obviously don’t know the philosophical ideals of every Christian or liberal in the world, so my next statement should be taken as a generality. It seems reasonable to conclude that most liberals who demand tolerance, but at the same time conformity by those who disagree with their particular school of thought, indeed would consider themselves atheists. The odd thing about this is that extreme liberalism has such a hold in the world, but yet is made up of relatively few people. In fact, a Gallup poll in 2007 suggested that atheism represented only 4 percent of the American public, which supposedly, according to author Paul Copan, is the exact same percentage when a similar poll was taken in 1944. He states in his book, “Is God a Moral Monster?” –

“Rumors of God’s death have been greatly exaggerated. And when we look at the non-Western world, people are becoming Christians in record numbers. The Christian faith is the fastest-growing movement around, often accompanied by signs and wonders.”

Photobucket

If this is the case, then how do we account for liberalism’s prominence in the world? Perhaps, if Gallup and Copan are correct, it may be that the liberal community has been playing a game of chess for some time, by strategically placing liberal individuals in places like politics, media and universities. It could also mean that Christians have been somewhat silent when it comes to refuting such liberal world views. It seems there is a hesitance about getting on the bad side of the liberal community due to their propensity for anger, public insults, and quarreling. Christians should realize one general truth about those angry liberals, which may play a part in our aversion in debate. Again, Copan says:

“True, they (liberals) effectively utilize a combination of emotion and verbal rhetoric, but they aren’t known for logically carrying thoughts through from beginning to end. Their arguments against God’s existence aren’t intellectually rigorous – although they want to give that impression. Yes, they’ll raise some important questions concerning, for example, the problem of evil, but again, their arguments are a collage of rhetorical barbs that don’t really form a coherent argument. I’ve observed that while these men do have expertise in certain fields (biology and evolutionary theory in the case of Dawkins and Dennett), they turn out to be fairly disappointing when arguing against God’s existence or Christian doctrine.”

Photobucket

Paul Copan

We followers of Christ are called to love even the most detestable, for we know at one time, we lived under sin and the Law, and due to our vile sin, God’s wrath. Thus, we need to remind people that just because we disagree with someone’s actions, that it in no way necessarily leads or equates to hate. If they have this view, which honestly they may have no matter what, it severely hinders our ability to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is something we need to point out, as is commonly said, “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Remember that when someone responds to you in anger, its usually because you have won the argument. Intelligent debate doesn’t need to get nasty. It’s incredibly silly and against all logic and intelligence that Christians and even Christ are referred to as haters, just because of a disagreement or clashing viewpoint. Its based on ignorance of what the Bible actually tells us, and how it tells us to act. Imagine if all disagreements were treated in such a way? Would we have anyone? Would we even have Christ?

%d bloggers like this: