The Apple Of God's Eye

October 19, 2009

Seven Supplements That Comprise Living Faith: Do You Know Them?

The apostle James devoted practically his whole epistle to the subject of faith — living faith, faith that always produces fruit. But he also revealed a much neglected truth that holds the key to living faith. He wrote, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead” (Jas. 2:17).

While the epistle of James deals primarily with faith, the two epistles Peter wrote put the accent on hope; as for the apostle John, he, in his three letters, expounded on what love is.

These three virtues combined — faith, hope and love — reveal to us the works of faith.

Interestingly enough, the apostle Peter groups these works in three simple verses, as he writes: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (II Pet. 1:5-7).

Do you actually understand the full meaning of these words? Peter mentions seven supplements — seven important works — that are to be added to faith. These seven works make our faith a living faith, not a dead one.

In any language, words are used to express ideas, but they often have different connotations in people’s minds. God expresses His ideas through the Bible. We must therefore grasp the spiritual intent of His words to fully understand the Bible’s meaning.

Virtue

Peter wrote, under God’s inspiration, that the first supplement to faith — the first of the required works — is virtue.

In the original Greek, this word appears four times in the New Testament, but it is not always translated “virtue” in the various English versions. Some translate it as “excellence,” “strength,” “right conduct” or even “wonderful deeds.”

In essence you must conduct yourself according to God’s way in order to have living faith. You must show courage and strength, and you must excel in your task.

Peter also wrote, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Pet. 2:9). Here the same Greek word that is elsewhere translated as “virtue” is rendered “praises.”

Interesting, isn’t it? The words “praise” and “wonderful deeds” (Revised Standard Version) are used as equivalents of the Greek word elsewhere translated “virtue.”

Therefore, to have living faith (remember, “Faith without works is dead” — James 2:26), you must produce “wonderful deeds” or have a “praiseworthy conduct” in God’s sight. That’s what God wants you to do.

Knowledge

Let us now examine the second work that must be added to your faith to make it live. Peter states, “And beside this, giving all diligence. add … to virtue knowledge” (II Pet. 1:5).

Why should knowledge come right after virtue? The answer is obvious: to enable us to rightly determine just what are good and praiseworthy deeds. That knowledge only comes from God.

Consequently, you need to study the Bible and learn what God wants you to do. Your deeds must be evaluated by His standards and not your human standards. Without divine revelation, you cannot have this essential knowledge.

Today humanity as a whole has much knowledge of material things, but is lamentably ignorant of spiritual truths. Men can send highly sophisticated spacecraft into space and take remarkable pictures of the planets. Astronauts can set foot on the moon and return to earth safely.

Nevertheless, that kind of knowledge, however awe-inspiring, does not produce living faith. It cannot save a person. Your faith must be supplemented with the knowledge of God’s will and His ways.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” says your Creator. “Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hos. 4:6).

The prophet Micah clearly shows what is the true knowledge that needs to be added to your faith: “He [God] hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Mic. 6:8).

Simple and beautiful words, provided you grasp their spiritual intent. To do justly is to live by every word that proceeds out of God’s mouth; to love mercy is to be good to your neighbor — to love him as you love yourself; to walk humbly with God is to do His will, and to have no other gods before Him.

Unfortunately, ever since the beginning, the world has rejected this knowledge.

Temperance

After supplementing your faith with virtue and knowledge, you must exercise temperance or self-control. “And beside this, giving all diligence, add … to knowledge temperance” (II Pet. 1:5-6).

Of what value can knowledge be if you don’t put it to use — or if you lack self-control? More often than not, people know what they are supposed to do, but they lack the character to do it.

Misuse of anything leads to sin. For instance, there’s nothing wrong with eating and drinking. But too much eating and drinking can be sin.

Do you now see why God wants you to add to your faith — as a working part of it — self-control? You must learn to resist temptation, to stop before you come anywhere near breaking God’s law.

The best and surest way to resist temptation is to get closer to God, but you can only get closer to Him by doing His will. That’s having self-control or temperance.

God’s Spirit in you will give you all the help you need, because “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Patience

To virtue, which is good conduct or praiseworthy deeds, you must add godly knowledge; to knowledge, self-control or temperance in order to resist evil; and to self-control, steadfastness or patience (II Pet. 1:6).

Patience is one of the most important — and one of the hardest — things to practice. Without it you cannot grow in grace and knowledge, practice virtue, acquire knowledge or exercise self-control.

That’s why the apostle James wrote: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (Jas. 1:2).

To one degree or another we all lack patience. We often get upset and irritated when others don’t do what they are supposed to do, but we are very tolerant with ourselves.

How grateful we should all be to God that He does not lose patience as we do!

To have patience is to set your ideas, your goals, your mind on positive things — with faith — all the time. Patience never gives up, no matter what. It enables you to remember that God loves you and that He always knows what’s best for you.

Throughout history, all the people of God and every disciple of Christ had to learn to be patient. true Christians must not forget that God’s timing is always best, and that our faith is strengthened when we patiently wait on Him.

Godliness

Just what is godliness (II Pet. 1:6)? How does the Bible define it?

To be godly is to have a godlike attitude. You must learn to gradually think like God and behave like Him. God commands you to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:2).

Indeed, you have to endeavor to be godly and respectful in every way — to think and act as God does — to be patient and kind as He is. Unfortunately, the much misunderstood words pious or piousness have been substituted for godliness in some English versions of the Bible, and people are confused.

Godliness is synonymous with true Christianity or true religion. In fact, in the Revised Standard Version, this is how the same Greek word has been translated in I Timothy 2:10: “But by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion [godliness].”

As you can see, to practice godliness is to have godlike religion — the true religion. Faith without godliness is dead.

Kindness

The “brotherly kindness” mentioned in this verse is translated from the Greek word philadelphia, which literally means “brotherly love.” This love is one of the works of your living faith. Philia love is the love of friendship—brotherly love—love of parent, or child. Strong’s Concordance says it means “to have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling).”

Though philia and agape are related in many ways, there is a fundamental and distinct difference between the two. Man can express philia love, but not agape. Philia love is prompted by a sense of emotion. God’s love is not an emotion. The simple difference is this: All men can express philia whereas agape love is attained by choice. God made us free moral agents. He gave us minds to direct our actions. For right actions, we must submit to His law of love by choice. Doing so will bring us happiness. But it also requires that we go against what is normal or natural for the carnal man.

All men were created with a natural love toward self. Remember, we are commanded to love neighbor as self. Philia love can be an unselfish, outflowing love, but only when combined with the agape love God gives you.

But for the most part, philia love is something man, without God’s Spirit can express, because it revolves around self. It means “fraternal affection, brotherly love”; in other words, the natural affection you have for those who relate to you in a special way.

Love

The final supplement — the seventh work — to living faith that Peter lists is charity, or the love of God (II Pet. 1:7). God’s love is concerned about that neighbor who is the absolute farthest away from any kind of natural, brotherly affection. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This kind of love is much more than just a natural affection you might have for those closely related to you. It is more than philia.

Do you really love everyone, including your enemies? Don’t you sometimes criticize others, see the evil in them, overlook their good deeds? Don’t you judge them instead of being a light to them?

Without question, there is much wrong in the world, and you, as a Christian, should not be a part of it, nor should you judge it. The whole world today desperately needs God’s Kingdom to come. Christ didn’t only die for His true followers. He died for every single human being.

Conclusion

Examine your heart. Is your faith truly supplemented with the seven works the apostle Peter mentions in this section of his second epistle?

In concluding this section, Peter wrote, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things [if you practice these works of faith], ye shall never fall” (II Pet. 1:10).

What a tremendous promise! If you have living faith — faith supplemented with these seven works — you will never, never fall. You will never give up. “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (verse 11).

That’s your precious, ultimate reward. Let your faith be truly supplemented with the works of the Holy Spirit!

Research Source: The Good News, February 1982

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September 2, 2009

What Happens When We Die: It's Not What You Think!

flatlandhowler.blogspot.com

flatlandhowler.blogspot.com

Public enemy No. 1! That’s how death can be described. It will slay us all, and at a time of its own choosing.

But paradoxically, although we all know we will die, very few know exactly what death is. Certainly death must be the least understood although most relentless enemy!

Yet it need not remain a mystery to those who will look into their Bibles to read — and believe — what God says. For God has not left us in ignorance about this important subject.

The basic doctrine

Since life is merely a temporary, mortal, chemical process (with man being made from the physical elements — “dust”), death is just the cessation of life. One who is dead has no consciousness separate from his body and feels no pain nor pleasure, but is as if asleep. Nonetheless, we all will live again after death, after a passage of time, when resurrected back to life again.

The usual teachings of this world

Most professing Christians believe that at death they do not really die — that is, cease to live in any form. They instead believe that at death only the body dies, and that the “soul” is then liberated to live on in heaven or hell (depending upon the moral merit of the former life).

Others believe in reincarnation, thinking that their soul, which is liberated at death, will be placed in a new body to live again, with this process occurring over and over. Scientists who believe evolution seem to recognize death for what it is (the total cessation of life), but they also err because they know nothing of the hope of the dead — life again after a resurrection. Even other beliefs about death exist.

Yet, surprisingly, these concepts are not from the Bible!

The Bible teaching

Perhaps the main reason why people, religious or otherwise, do not understand death is because, first of all, they do not understand what life is. The Bible makes it plain.

Genesis 2:7 records, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Authorized Version).

Notice! Man does not have a soul. He is a soul. The word translated “soul” here is the Hebrew word nephesh. It means a living, breathing, physical creature. The word carries no implication of immortality. In Genesis 1:24 it is translated “living creature” and refers to animals.

Further, the Scriptures say dogmatically that the soul can die and therefore cannot be immortal. See Ezekiel 18:4, 20 and Matthew 10:28.

The Bible nowhere teaches that man has an immortal soul. In fact, the immortal soul doctrine was adopted by professing Christianity from pagan Egypt through the Greek philosophers.

But note that man, as God stated, is composed of the physical elements of the earth and is dust. God plainly told Adam, who sinned, “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). But men do not want to die, so they do not want to believe God. They do not want to believe that man’s life is merely a physicochemical existence that will run down and stop — die!

Hence, they choose instead to believe the lie Satan told Eve when he said, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). They believe that within this dusty body, as a sort of prisoner of the flesh, is an immortal soul that is unleashed at the death of the body and that continues in conscious life forever.

To be sure, man is not merely an animal. For one, man is made in God’s image and in God’s likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). And man’s potential — that of being born into the God Family — is far more incredible than the fate of any animal.

Further, God reveals that there is a spirit in man (I Corinthians 2:11) that gives man mental superiority over animals. It is this spirit that imparts the power of mind to man, and the power of moral decision, including the ability to grow in character. But this spirit is not the man. And it is not an immortal soul. It is something in man that gives man a dimension of life above the animals. It does not give him immortal life, however.

To understand death requires that we know that man’s life is merely a chemical process involving physical elements. When that process stops, we die. We are dust, and when we die our bodies decay and return to the dust.

When we die, all conscious thought and awareness ceases. Notice Psalm 6:5: “For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks?”

And compare Ecclesiastes 9:4-5: “For him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing.”

The apostle Peter knew that even the righteous die and lose all consciousness and bodily presence, for he stated: “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. … For David did not ascend into the heavens” (Acts 2:29, 34). Even righteous David was not an immortal soul that left his body and went to heaven. Even David was dust and decayed back to the elements.

Other scriptures supply even more detail about death, comparing it in a figure of speech to sleep (I Corinthians 11:30, I Kings 2:10). When a person is asleep, he loses consciousness and is unaware of his surroundings.

The topic of death is in some ways unique. Most people will not believe what God says if their senses tell them differently. For example, Adam and Eve did not believe God’s warning about the tree of good and evil, because the fruit of it looked good and desirable. Yet, in the case of death, people will not believe God when He says death is what it indeed appears to be to the most casual observer — namely, the cessation of life! People will not believe God no matter what He says, whether our senses tell us to agree or not.

But caution! Nothing said here means to imply that death is the end of all hope of life. It is not. An old saying goes, “Where there is life, there is hope.” But the great God says, in effect, that even where there is death there is still hope — in fact, the main hope.

That hope is the resurrection of the dead from death to life again. Notice Job’s question and answer about death: “If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come” (Job 14:14, AV).

Realize this: The demonstrable fact of the resurrection of the dead proves once and for all that humans are not immortal souls. If we were, why would the dead have to be resurrected? They would already be alive.

And see further Christ’s startling statement: “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live” (John 5:25).

Jesus knew His statement might startle His audience, so He said further: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation [judgment]” (verses 28-29).

The Scriptures are plain that all people will be resurrected, even those who will eventually be cast into the lake of fire to die the “second death.”

The apostle Paul chose to comfort the living relatives of those true Christians who had died by reminding them of the wonderful resurrection to come (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).

To alleviate their sorrow, Paul explained that the dead in Christ will be resurrected at Christ’s return, and that they — along with us, if we qualify — will forever be with Christ.

Yes, the truth about death is far less foreboding than the fanciful imaginations of well-intentioned but errant religionists!

Key verses

When properly understood, this topic of death can fill us all with real hope, for then we know the wonderful truth that we will all see our beloved deceased relatives again. Therefore it may be well to note specially the basic scriptures that describe the truth about death. Here are some of them:

Genesis 2:7 and 3:19 — man is a mortal being made from the dust. Genesis 1:24 — the Hebrew word translated “soul” in Genesis 2:7 is translated here as “living creature” and refers to animals. Ezekiel 18:4, 20 and Matthew 10:28 — the soul is not immortal; it dies. Psalm 6:5 and Ecclesiastes 9:4-5 — the dead have no consciousness. John 11:11-14 and I Kings 2:10 — death is compared to sleep. John 5:25, 28-29 and I Corinthians 15 — the dead will be resurrected.

Death is indeed an enemy, but through the resurrection from the dead this enemy is annihilated. Therefore Paul says in I Corinthians 15:26, 54-55 (AV): “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death…. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

Source: Good News, March 1986

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