The Apple Of God's Eye

January 30, 2011

Vanity: Our Greatest Weakness

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In the epic battle in the wilderness, after Christ had fasted for 40 days and forty nights, Satan thought he could get to Jesus through vanity (Matt. 4:3). Notice he said IF you REALLY are the Son of God, then you aught to at least be able to turn these rocks into bread. Why should you go hungry obeying God when you have the power to appease yourself?

The question was first one of vanity and second of fleshly appeasement. Sure Christ could have been indignant at being called something less than God’s very Son, but that would have been vain. And He could easily have turned the stones to bread to relieve His great hunger, but that would not have helped Him grow spiritually stronger in his battle with Satan. The very purpose of fasting is to draw close to God, for strength in the fight against our adversary. Christ answered by speaking the mind of God:

“….it is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).

When Satan tempted Christ a second time by saying He could easily have His angels protect Him if he threw Himself  from the temple, he again resorted to vanity. Surely Christ had the protection of God at His disposal in any situation?

But ” Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Obviously, vanity does not put God first, and Christ set a sterling example of humble submission to His Father. (more…)

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June 6, 2010

What Is True Humbleness?

Humility Can't Be Flaunted - exchristian.net

Christians speak of humbleness, but do they know what it really means? Most people understand that humility is the opposite of pride, but they might have difficulty further defining what humility is.

Isaiah 66:2 specifically says God looks to the humble man, so it obviously is a quality we need it to please God! Humility is one of the three great qualities God looks for in those who worship Him:

“He 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).

God is supreme. He owns everything. All wealth and power and glory belong to Him. He alone has life to give. He possesses perfect righteousness, perfect character. No other creature even approaches His magnificence. And yet who is it this great Being wants to dwell with?

“For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite’ ” (Isa. 57:15, Revised Standard Version).

Throughout the Bible God puts much emphasis on humility and dwelling with those who posses this trait. (more…)

April 29, 2010

Aquiring The Ability To Make Satan Flee!

jointventures-empire.com

God only deals with one type of person – he that is humble. That is why the scriptures say God resists the proud (James 4:6). But an often overlooked aspect of this verse is the end part: …”Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

How is this possible? How do we resist Satan? There is only one way to drive this powerful and evil being away. If you submit to God, then Satan will flee from you – because he knows the power of God. Conversely, those that fail to do this will be in bondage to Satan’s desires. God’s will is that we obey Him, in all ways. That includes living by the commandments of God, something to irritates many who profess to walk the Christian life.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded.” (Jam. 4:8) (more…)

December 21, 2009

Grace: Do You Really Understand It?

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Few professing Christians really understand what grace is. And no wonder, because rather than searching the Bible on the subject, they get bogged down in debate over whether it does away with God’s law, as God’s unmerited pardon for sin.

The New Testament Greek word translated “grace” is charis and holds a variety of meanings not dealing directly with the grace of God toward man. It can denote pleasure towards someone (Luke 2:40), kindness or goodwill toward another (Acts 7:10), favor (Acts 2:46-47), or express thankfulness (I Corinthians 15:57). Finally, charis can also be used to denote a gift or favor done as an act of goodwill (Acts 25:2-3).

But the New Testament writers applied this word in a new sense to describe what God is doing for humanity. Those whom God calls (John 6:44) are given the chance to repent and accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Then, upon being baptized, they are given God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), which enables them to develop godly character and ultimately be born into the very Family of God (I John 3:1-2). Charis is an all-encompassing word for this whole process of conversion that is being accomplished by God’s power.

Why is grace necessary?

Grace essential to salvation because it is the free gift of God, through faith (Ephesians 2:8), and all efforts to earn salvation are futile (verse 9). This is because of several obvious reasons:

  • First, “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) — sin being the transgression of God’s law (I John 3:4) — and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We have all earned the death penalty. And just as any government today realizes, the violation of law cannot go unpunished, or anarchy would ensue. Similarly, our regret and subsequent good behavior can never pay the penalty for sin, because the penalty is death. And God’s laws are enforced. God does not compromise with sin by allowing a way of life that leads to unhappiness, misery and death to go unpunished. The penalty for our sins must be paid.
  • Second, not only have we sinned, but man by himself is incapable of overcoming sin. Paul said in Romans 8:7, “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Our best efforts are futile unless God gives us the help we need.

God’s grace toward us begins when God begins calling us. Unless God opens our minds, we cannot understand His purpose (John 6:44). Paul commented, “God … called me through His grace” (Galatians 1:15).

The very fact that one understands the truths of God as revealed in the Bible is because of God’s grace. But being called is just the beginning of grace.

The process of conversion requires more than understanding. It requires change, or repentance. We must freely choose to obey God — and unless God shows us what to repent of and the importance of obeying Him, we cannot repent. “The goodness of God leads you to repentance,” Paul explained in Romans 2:4.

But being sorry for sinning, and changing, is not enough. So God’s grace continues with Jesus Christ’s sacrifice: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation [an atoning sacrifice] by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness” (Romans 3:23-25).

Jesus Christ paid the penalty of sin, which is death, in our stead. Christ’s sacrifice is the supreme expression of divine grace. It is totally unmerited (Romans 5:6-8).

Christ’s sacrifice frees us from the penalty of breaking God’s law. But it does not do away with the law! Think: Would God now allow the violation of laws that necessitated the death of His own Son? Of course not.

Grace does not nullify God’s law. Rather, grace is necessary because God’s law is eternally binding. As Paul explained: “Shall we continue in sin [the transgression of God’s law — John 3:4] that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) Continuing in sin would mock Jesus Christ’s supreme sacrifice.

Unmerited but not unconditional

Here is where many misunderstand. Grace is unmerited but it is not unconditional. There are two conditions: repentance and faith (Mark 1:5, Acts 2:38). Although we can never earn salvation, God does set certain requirements for receiving His grace.

Once God, by His grace, reveals to us the need to repent and humbly accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice as payment for our sins, we must do our part. We must voluntarily yield ourselves to God, admitting where we have been wrong, and make the necessary changes. Then we must be baptized as an outward expression of our repentance and faith (Romans 6:3-6).

Don’t misunderstand — God’s grace is free and unmerited, but if we refuse to change our lives — to obey God — He is under no obligation to bestow His grace upon us. God will not allow Christ’s sacrifice and His grace to be taken lightly.

The process continues. Peter tells us we must now “grow in grace” (II Peter 3:18, Authorized Version). Grace is unmerited pardon for sin, but it is much more. For if grace were merely the unmerited forgiveness of sin, how could we grow in grace except by sinning more? No, we must, while coming under God’s grace, overcome sin.

If you are truly under God’s grace, you will be striving diligently to obey God’s commandments. Paul said: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

We are to develop godly character by growing and overcoming in order that we can ultimately be born into the very Family of God. But we cannot do this alone (Matthew 19:25-26). We need God’s Spirit. And His Spirit, by His grace toward us, is a gift (Acts 10:45, 11:17).

God’s Spirit gives us the power we need to develop character. But we must work at it. Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Corinthians 15:10).

To grow in grace is to overcome sin through coupling God’s Spirit with our own efforts. Without God’s help, overcoming sin would be impossible.

Finally, after we have developed godly character through God’s Spirit, one final act of grace is bestowed upon us — eternal life! We deserved death, but will receive life eternal. As Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The world is deceived into believing in a shallow, limited concept of God’s grace. True grace is more than the forgiveness of sin; it is the total process of salvation.

Peter summed it up beautifully: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen…. I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand” (I Peter 5:10-12).

November 12, 2009

How To Have God Answer Your Prayers

www.webexhibits.orgCan we take God’s Word literally? Does God mean what He says in it?

Jesus thought so. He said, “Thy word is TRUTH” (John 17:17). The apostles constantly taught and acted as if God’s Word were literally true. They also believed every word of God (Matt. 4:4).

To get results in your prayers, you should believe in the God of the Bible. Believe His Word is truth. And be willing to act on God’s Word and His commands.

The Bible reveals seven basic conditions which you should fulfill to be certain of answered prayers. What are they?

Seek God’s Will

In James 4:1-4, the apostle showed that the people of this world fail to receive help because they often neglect to ask God’s help. And when they do, it is only to ask for their own selfish ends. To ask selfishly is to “ask amiss.” You can expect no answer to such a prayer.

To get an answer, follow Jesus’ example when He said, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). But can you know God’s will? “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).

Study God’s Word as Paul commanded Timothy (II Tim. 2:15). Then you will begin to think more as God thinks. You will come to know what God’s will is in every circumstance. If you believe and know that God is love, that His will is for our good, then you will want to pray according to God’s will.

You need not always have a specific promise in the Bible to know that something is God’s will. Through experience and guidance, you will learn how to apply the principles of God’s revealed will to any situation which may arise.

The point is that you must pray according to God’s will to receive an answer. “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (I John 5:14-15). God’s Word reveals that by fulfilling this condition you know that God will answer your prayers!

Asking according to God’s will is the overall, fundamental condition of answered prayer. All other conditions could be grouped under this one because they are the specific points of God’s will in regard to prayer. The following six, together with and magnifying this first condition, will ensure answered prayers.

Believe God

Most people do not realize that a lack of faith is simply a disbelief that God will keep His promises or back up His Word. Have you ever thought of it that way?

Real FAITH is not an emotional “feeling” that you generate by thinking certain thoughts over and over. You don’t “talk yourself into,” or “think yourself into” real, believing faith. Godly faith is simply your willingness – through God’s help – to quietly, patiently trust God to perform His Word. Abraham had that kind of faith. The apostle Paul wrote of him: “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom. 4:20-21).

James was inspired to write that a man must have faith to receive answers to his prayers (James 1:5-7) . A man who wavers will not receive an answer. “For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord” (verse 7).

God has made hundreds of promises in His Word which we can claim. Do you completely TRUST God to keep His promise to heal, although consulting a doctor for help and advice as to what physical law you are breaking? If you really believe God will heal, then trust Him to do it! Faith without works is dead (James 2:20). To have answered prayers, you must have faith – and you must act on that faith.

Be Fervent

It is common in our day for parents to teach their children memorized prayers. The father often mumbles a hurried, routine prayer of thanks at the table. The minister either reads or recites from memory an eloquent prayer which sounds very impressive. Is God impressed? The “fruits” show that God rarely hears such prayers, for they are usually not answered.

This is so because people don’t put their hearts into their prayers (Hosea 7:14). They don’t “cry out” to God with their whole being as the ancient prophets did – and as Christ did when He prayed.

On the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus needed strength from God for the coming ordeal. He needed to get really close to God. He knelt down and began to pray that God’s will, not His own, would be done. “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). He prayed earnestly – with all His heart.

In James 5:16, we read, “The effectual FERVENT prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” We have to pray fervently, earnestly, zealously, if we expect God to hear.

Fear and Humility

Man has a cocksure, self-sufficient attitude and thinks he can get along fine without God. He neither fears God nor respects God’s Word as an authority in his life. He is vain, egotistical, self-important. Is it a wonder that God fails to answer the prayers of such men?

The very first prerequisite to knowledge of God is to fear Him and respect His Word. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).

Carnal man needs to realize that he is only dust until he receives the Spirit of God, which is the begettal to eternal life. Eternal life is a gift from God (Rom. 6:23), not something we already have. “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).

We need to fear God, realizing that our lives are in His hands. We should be humble, realizing that any gifts or talents we may have are ours because God gave them to us. When we can approach our Creator in that attitude – respecting His power and authority over our lives – then He will hear our prayers.

When Christ was in the human flesh, even He feared God as we should. “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared” (Heb 5:7). When we fully realize our own helplessness, then we will cry out to God as we should.

Peter wrote “be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5). The attitude of humility and godly fear is vital in prayer, and at all times.

Be Persistent

In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus spoke a parable to teach us that we should always pray, and never give up hope. He showed that even an unrighteous judge would finally hear the pleas of a widow who kept coming to him. So we should keep praying to God, even though He doesn’t answer right away.

God has made many promises in His Word. But He has nowhere said that He will perform them at the time, or in the way that we choose. Sometimes it is very good for us not to have our prayers answered immediately. God is building patient faith into our characters.

James was inspired to write, “the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:3) . If God doesn’t answer your prayers immediately, exercise patience and keep praying until He does answer.

Don’t nag at God. He has supreme wisdom to know when and how would be best to answer your prayers. But if you have prayed as you should, He WILL answer. God always keeps His promises! So be persistent. Keep praying in faith, and God is bound to perform His part.

Obedience

A sixth condition of answered prayer is one which is neglected and violated consistently by most professing “Christians.” This hinges directly on the before-mentioned fact that very few people today really know the true God. People do not look to God as the AUTHORITY in their lives. Instead, they make a “god” out of this world’s society and its customs, traditions, and religious practices.

God inspired Paul to write, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey” (Rom. 6:16). If you obey the ways of sin practiced in this world, you are putting this society and its pagan customs in the place of the true God!

God wants more than “lip service.” He requires OBEDIENCE !

If you haven’t learned to fear the true God and accept His Word as the authority in your life, then you don’t even really know God. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:4).

How can men persistently refuse to keep God’s commandments, and then expect Him to answer their prayers? Peter answers, “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (I Peter 3:12).

Sin is simply breaking God’s Law (I John 3:4). God will not hear the prayers of those who persist in sin – in evil. If people would obey God, they would get answers when they pray. Then God wouldn’t seem so far away, so unreal – as He probably does to most of you? Think it over. Then do something about it.

Does God ever hear the prayers of the unconverted? Yes, He does. God himself has blinded the eyes of many to the truth at this time (Rom. 11:7-8). It is His responsibility that they don’t know the truth yet. So God does sometimes hear and answer the prayers of those who obey as far as they know.

The lepers and cripples who came to Jesus to be healed didn’t know all of God’s truth. But they did realize that Jesus was sent from God and could heal. And they acted on what they knew. So it is a matter of your heart or attitude. If you come to God in a humble, repentant spirit and are determined to obey Him to the best of your knowledge, He will hear your prayers. But this is no excuse for anyone who knows the truth to disobey God!

True Christians can have a special confidence that God will answer their prayers if they are obedient. “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (I John 3:22).

Use Christ’s Name

The seventh condition of answered prayer is the correct use of Christ’s name. This is a greatly misunderstood subject, and the use of Christ’s name is often abused.

After Jesus had been with His disciples for over three years, and had taught them God’s will and how to obey it, He said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24). These verses give us the privilege of employing Christ’s name – asking by His authority – when we pray to God. But most people misunderstand how we can ask “in Jesus’ name.”

When our government sends an Ambassador to another country, he is given authority to carry out certain business in the name of the United States Government. He can act in the name of our government because it has conferred on him the authority as its chosen representative to carry on certain business on its behalf. His authority is limited to do only what the government has specifically authorized him. If he exceeds his delegated authority, his actions are null and void and will not be backed up by his government.

That is the way we are to ask things “in Jesus’ name.” Christ has given His ministers the duty of performing certain functions in His name – or by His authority. We can rightfully ask for things “in Jesus’ name” only when we know that it is His will – that His authority stands back of it.

Just rattling off the words “in Jesus’ name” to a prayer that is contrary to God’s will and Christ’s will is of no avail whatsoever.

Those who abide in Christ and are God’s children have the privilege of praying in Christ’s name. Jesus explained, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). The words of Jesus Christ MUST abide in us to have what we ask for granted. That is, we must obey what

Yes, Jesus’ words must abide in you. You must ask according to His Will. You must abide in Him – belong to Him. “Now if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). And God gives His Holy Spirit to them that OBEY Him (Acts 5:32).

So to pray in Jesus’ name, you must at the same time be yielding to His will to the best of your knowledge. “In Jesus’ name” means by His authority. You are praying through Him as your High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16).

Christ – our High Priest – was tempted in all points like we are (verse 15). He understands our weaknesses. It is His revealed will to give us of His Spirit (Luke 11:13) and to help us live a more abundant life (John 10:10). You need to study God’s Word to know the principles of His will, that you may ask by His authority.

Praying in Jesus’ name is a great privilege. Use Jesus’ name correctly, and your prayers will be answered because of the authority conferred through Him.

Action Will Follow

If you faithfully conform to these seven conditions of answered prayer – with God’s help, you may then have absolute confidence that God will hear and answer your prayers. You will be changing, growing closer to God each day. You will be actively seeking and doing His will.

This intimate contact with the Creator of Heaven and Earth will give you a peace of mind and quiet confidence that nothing can destroy. But your confidence will not be in self, but in the greatest power there is. In every trial and problem, you have the right to call on the Supreme Power – the active, living God who reveals Himself in the Bible.

God has inspired an example of how He heard and answered even the prayers of an unconverted man because that man was in a right spirit, and had obeyed what he knew. In II Kings 20:1-11, we read the account of how king Hezekiah was about to die and sought God’s deliverance.

God’s own prophet, Isaiah, had told Hezekiah that he would die. But Hezekiah knew that God was an all-merciful God, and that he had obeyed God the best he knew how and could.

So Hezekiah “wept sore” and besought God’s intervention (verse 3). He put his heart in his prayer!

In spite of the fact that He had previously told Isaiah that Hezekiah would die, God heard and answered Hezekiah’s fervent prayer! He added fifteen years to Hezekiah’s life!

What a result of prayer! But was that all? No. Hezekiah did not doubt God’s power to intervene and act as this world does. He made a further request that God would give him a special sign that he would be healed (verse 8).

God’s servant, Isaiah, gave Hezekiah the choice of the sign – the shadow would either go forward ten degrees, or backward ten degrees. Hezekiah said it would be harder for the shadow to go backward ten degrees. “And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the Lord: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward” (verse 11).

Because of Hezekiah’s faith, obedience, and fervent prayers, God Almighty not only healed him and added fifteen years to his life, but He actually caused the sun to reverse itself in the heavens!

This was not an “optical illusion.” God’s miracles are real! “For with God NOTHING SHALL BE IMPOSSIBLE” (Luke 1:37). If you believe that God’s Word is truth, this should inspire you to pray as never before!

August 22, 2009

Christian Conduct: Good – But Good Enough?

Nobody’s perfect — but compared to the world around you, you must rate pretty high.

You don’t curse, you don’t smoke and you don’t drink too much. You are faithful to your mate and you are honest. You go to church regularly, you pray, you study the Bible and you try to put it into action. That has got to make you better than the average person. After all, many people today aren’t even trying to be good.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. The apostle Paul warned that the end-time society would be a place of falling standards and collapsing values. “Know this,” he wrote, “that in the last days perilous times will come” (II Timothy 3:1-5). Paul warned that people would become more greedy and selfish. He predicted the brutality and mindless violence of our age, when people would love pleasure more than God, and when even those who were “religious” would not understand God’s truth. “From such people turn away!” he thundered.

If you are serious about serving God today, you must indeed turn away from this world before it collapses. But that is hard, and it is all too easy to relax and slip back into your old ways. And so the Bible tells those who are real Christians to examine themselves from time to time (and particularly during the Passover season) to see if they are indeed “in the faith” (II Corinthians 13:5).

When you measure something, you compare it with an accepted standard — a weight, a ruler or perhaps a thermometer. Then you can know how heavy, how long or how hot it is. But how do you measure how good you are?

How good are you?

If you compare yourself with the standards of the world around you, you would probably pass with flying colors. But is that good enough? There is a serious flaw in such reasoning. Obviously this world’s standard of what is “good enough” is not reliable, but do you know why? It is not just because it is wrong. It is also variable — or, to be more specific, it is declining.

“Evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived,” Paul warned in II Timothy 3:13. He realized that the end-time world was not just going to be bad — it was going to get steadily worse.

Today crime is increasing, and violence and perversion are becoming commonplace. Young people are becoming ever more disillusioned and older people more frustrated. The world has its ways of hiding the truth from itself. Everyone wants to believe that things are getting better, and so more and more evil is tolerated. The unacceptable is made acceptable and the illegal becomes legal. What was once wrong is now accepted as “OK.”

But legislating away sin and squelching the penalty never solves problems. All it does is ensure that more people are going to be harmed.

Declining movie standards

The entertainment industry gives us a good example of how this society gradually tolerates more and more evil. Back in 1939, when Clark Gable used a rather mild (by today’s standards) expletive in the movie Gone With the Wind, audiences gasped. But that was only the beginning.

In 1968 the Motion Picture Association of America decided to regulate itself, adopting a set of standards by which new films could be rated. “G” meant the film was suitable for general audiences. “M” indicated that some of the material might not be suitable for children and that mature guidance was required. Then there was the “R” rating, signifying that children were restricted from seeing the movie unless accompanied by parents, while an “X” determined that no minors would be allowed to see the movie under any circumstances.

But did that action lead to more good films and less obscene rubbish? No — today half the films produced in the United States get an “R” rating, and many that now get a “PG” (which replaced “M”) would have been rated “R” back in 1968. A “PG-13” rating has now been added to indicate that a film is more violent or sexual in content than a “PG” movie, but not enough to earn an “R.”

Standards have dropped. What was unacceptable is now considered acceptable. Today you are probably allowing yourself to be entertained by movies with themes and language that would have appalled “good Christian folk” as little as 15 years ago. Explicit four-letter words and blasphemies glibly roll off the tongues of actors, even in “PG” movies. We barely notice them, and it takes a lot to make us gasp now.

So if you measure yourself by the rating standards of the world around you, you are kidding yourself. Even if your standard of righteousness is always better than the average, it doesn’t take a genius to see that soon “good people” are actually worse than the average had been only a little time before. Those who consider themselves “righteous” by society’s standards are kidding themselves.

A lesson from the Pharisees

That was exactly the situation into which Jesus Christ came nearly 2,000 years ago. The standards of “good behavior” in that society were set by the Pharisees, a sect of self-righteous religious leaders. By their standards, the Pharisees looked good. They prayed. They studied the Scriptures. They gave tithes and alms, and they fasted often. The average man in the street, seeing a Pharisee in action (and the Pharisees made sure they were seen) would have thought that they were indeed righteous people.

But Jesus saw right through them. He gave a parable that showed what He thought about these hypocrites:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).

Jesus showed that the goodness of the Pharisees, although seemingly better than average, was just not good enough. “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” He explained (Matthew 5:20).

Measuring accurately

Is there, then, a standard by which Christians can measure themselves? There is indeed. God’s law is a standard you can trust, a standard that never varies. With God there is right and there is wrong, and He commands us to do what is right.

Sin is the transgression of God’s law (I John 3:4), and God doesn’t grade sin. There are no “X,” “R” or “PG” transgressions. The penalty of sin always has been and always will be the same — death (Romans 6:23).

Now that is too strong for some, and there have been many attempts to liberalize or even do away with God’s law across the centuries. But God does not move His standards up and down to conform with changing times, or to agree with what some liberal theologian chooses to define as sin. He doesn’t alter His values to accommodate “progress” in a “more enlightened” world. He never condones sin. (He does, of course, forgive it, if we repent.)

Jesus summed up God’s standard in Matthew 5:48: “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

In that case, perhaps we should just give up. Who can become perfect like the great God? But God is reasonable and understanding and does not hold out an impossible standard to thwart and frustrate us. He sets this standard to prevent His people, who are trying to stop sinning, from falling into the insidious trap of self-righteousness.

We must always remember that just reaching a better than average standard isn’t good enough.

By all means be encouraged if in your Christian life you are showing some progress. That progress should spur you on to keep going. But remember, you have not passed the test yet. God has a high standard.” He has promised to help you grow toward it — but not if you bog down into smug self-satisfaction. Don’t be fooled by the collapsing standards of a world that has lost sight of reality. You aren’t “good enough” yet.

The Good News, April 1986

June 12, 2009

Is God Fair?

dreamnepal.blogspot.com

dreamnepal.blogspot.com

Look at the world today! War, famine, pestilence! Poverty, inequality, hunger, want! Sickness, disease, suffering, death! Crime, graft, dishonesty, corruption! Insanity, degeneration, decay! Unhappiness, fear, wretchedness and woe!

How, so many are asking, can a supreme, all-powerful God of love permit such human woe? Why is He permitting civilization itself to crumble?

Is God Fair?

Listen! Some men are saying, “God isn’t fair!”—or “Is there a God, after all?” But what do you suppose men would say if God took away their right to think and do as they please? For God could never stop this awful carnage without forcing men to act according to His will—denying them a free will of their own!

It is men’s ways, so contrary to God’s ways, that have brought on this unhappy state. And they have brought on all the world’s sorrows and anguish in spite of the pleadings of God. He says, “Your ways are not my ways” (Isa. 55:8).

God’s ways, had they been followed, would have led inevitably to peace, happiness, prosperity and joy. God always has revealed to men His ways. Always He has pleaded with the human family. Suppose God had taken the only alternative.

Suppose He had forced men, against their wills, to have lived according to His laws?

Can’t you almost hear the defiant, rebellious, stiff-necked human race indignantly screaming at the Almighty: “You can’t cram your religion down my throat!” For it is a matter of religion. Can’t we see that had God followed that course, more than ever men would have shouted, “God isn’t fair!”

For six thousand years men have lived in defiance of God’s laws. Had God denied them this right to be wrong, men would have accused God of injustice, demanding freedom to follow their own ways.

God’s plan has for its purpose the creating of perfect CHARACTER in beings that are separate entities from God, yet members of the very family of God. Character cannot be created automatically by fiat—it must be developed through experience!

Nor could character be instilled without free moral agency. To achieve this great purpose—that of producing the supreme pinnacle of all God’s creation, sons of God having perfect character—man has to be convinced, of his own free will, that God’s laws are just, and that His ways are the only right ways for man! Man must turn to them, voluntarily! This lesson could be learned only by EXPERIENCE!

In the beginning, Satan appeared to contest the wisdom of God’s law. This law is, simply, love for God and love for neighbor, as defined in the ten broad principles of the Ten Commandments. A fundamental, spiritual, eternal law. The philosophy Christ taught is that it is more blessed to give than to receive. But Satan argued for the GETTING way. Competition, he argued, is the life-blood of activity. Self-desire provides incentive to endeavor. Vanity spurs to action. And so, in Satan’s philosophy, self-desire, competition, strife, provide the root-principle for accomplishment. The way of getting is the way of progress and advancement.

Had not God permitted this selfish way to be tried, tested, and demonstrated, God’s creatures could argue throughout eternity that they had been denied the better way.

The Devil’s Week

And so God turned over to Satan the first six days of one week, consisting of seven one-thousand-year days, in which to demonstrate the falsity of this way—the way of greed.

During the first six days of this week of seven thousand years Satan was permitted to retain dominion over all the earth. “Six days,” God said, “thou shalt labour, and do all thy work”—his work of deception and hate—”but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work.” Six thousand-year days have been permitted Satan for his labor of deception. Even then his dominion has been limited to the power of influence and suggestion. Never has God permitted even Satan arbitrarily to force men against their wills.

And so for nearly six thousand years men have been left free to accept the self-seeking competitive philosophy of Satan, or to follow the golden rule of God. And for six thousand years Satan has labored. And mankind has fallen for his delusion!

Satan’s philosophy is the philosophy of the world today. On it our present civilization has been built. A civilization men love and cherish, and for which they patriotically sacrifice their lives! A civilization developed on desire for self-gain, competition, strife! In it success is determined by how much a man has been able to get, not on how well he has served.

God has never left men in ignorance of the true way of life. Always He has made known the true values—the way of His spiritual law of love! Continually God has pleaded, with patience and in love. He pleaded through Noah in the days before the Flood. He set up a nation of His own on earth that pledged to follow His laws, dedicated voluntarily to God’s ways of life. But ancient Israel turned from God’s ways, and persecuted and killed God’s prophets!

God sent His only begotten Son to point men back to the true paths. And Him, too, men rejected and killed.

During these six thousand years since Adam, men continually have spurned God’s love, rejected His law, turned a deaf ear to His prophets and His true ministers. They have built a world after the false philosophy of Satan, replete with its pagan customs, traditions and beliefs. Today people are hopelessly engulfed in these false ways, but, being deceived, realize it not at all!

Satan is revealed as the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4). The original inspired Greek should properly be translated, “the god of this age.” And this worldly civilization worships its God. The appalling fact unrealized by the world is that Satan, not the Eternal, is its god! The Creator God “is not the author of confusion,” we read in I Corinthians 14:33. Its real author is Satan, the world’s god! And so he has his many denominations and sects, all striving in a babylon of confusion!

The Devil’s Work

Today the people of organized religion refuse to hear the law of the Lord (Isa. 30:8-11). They demand that their ministers preach the soft and smooth things—the deceits! They have turned away from the truth, and are accepting and believing fables (II Tim. 4:2-4).

Yes, Satan has organized religion. He himself appears, not as a devil with horns and a tail, bearing a pitchfork, but “is transformed into an angel of light” (II Cor. 11:14). His ministers are transformed as the ministers of righteousness, appearing AS the apostles of Christ! (Verses 13, 15.) But they are preaching “another Jesus” (verse 4), in the power of “another spirit,” and deceiving men with “another gospel” than the true gospel of the Kingdom which Christ brought and Paul and all the apostles preached! (Gal. 1:6-7.)

Satan’s congregations go in for much form. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the POWER thereof: from such turn away,” plainly warns God’s Word! (II Tim. 3:5.) The present worldly order—its competitive principle, its customs and traditions, its political systems—are upheld by false churches within every land! Truly, all nations are deceived! (Rev. 12:9; 17:2; 18:3.)

Jesus Christ appeared 1900 years ago as a messenger bearing a message from God. He brought to an unhappy world steeped in false ways the “good news of the KINGDOM OF GOD.” A Kingdom now, soon, to replace these crumbling governments on earth!

That Kingdom today is near at hand—even at the doors! (Luke 21:31.)

Thank God, we are near the end of the six working days allotted to Satan’s dominion. God’s thousand-year Sabbath day is just about to dawn!

There is a saying that it is darkest just before the dawn. Now we see on every hand the final fruitage of men’s ways. Written in unerasable blood, in human misery, anguish and despair is the six-thousand-year record of experience!

Even now men will not heed this horrible lesson—not until they are forced to see it!

But, as Satan’s sixth “working day” closes, God is about to step in and supernaturally interfere!

The coming seventh millennium—typified by the Feast of Tabernacles—shall see Satan restrained. Christ will return to rule the earth with all the power of God. God’s new order for the next thousand years will restore peace, happiness, and joy.

Then men may look back over this present world, and compare! Never will God force a single human being, against his own will, into salvation and eternal life.

But, with the seven-thousand-year record of experience set plainly before seeing eyes, do you think anyone will want to return to these ways we seem now to love? Not many, you may be sure of that! Yet some, even then, will rebel.

Finally the world shall acknowledge, of its own free volition, that God’s ways are right. Christ, says the scripture, “learned obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8-9.) Even He who never did wrong! “And being made perfect”—through experience—”he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”

Some day we shall look upon God’s plan with breathtaking admiration and awe! The suffering of this present time shall have faded completely from mind. The lessons of experience we shall have with us for eternity! Finally humanity shall accept God’s ways of life, knowing that they are right ways. The happiness and joy we shall then experience cannot be conceived by our minds today! Through all eternity we shall worship and praise the Eternal God for His wisdom, His mercy, His love!

Do you think anyone, then, will look back and say, “God isn’t fair”?

Source: Plain Truth, January 1978

May 24, 2009

Arguments: Teach Your Mouth!

Filed under: Attitude,Hatred — melchia @ 1:32 am
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True Christians must learn to control what comes out of their mouth. Proverbs 16:23 says:

“The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.”

Educate yourself in good things, so you will have good, upbuilding things to say:

“The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.”

So don’t speak hastily. The things you say are very important; and many people aren’t careful about that. But God is highly concerned! (Ps. 37:30-31).

Sometimes what we say results in arguments. The root cause is usually pride (Luke 22:24) – a result of someone thinking too highly of himself. Lust is also a huge factor in division among people (Jam. 4:1). God says He resists the proud and give grace to the humble – not to the loudest, the most powerful, or the quickest of wit. Remember, if we’re looking out for the other person instead, that will eliminate a lot of arguing.

February 27, 2009

Proof: Jesus Christ’s Killers Found

heartofwisdom.com/.../

heartofwisdom.com/.../

If I asked you straight out who killed Jesus Christ, would you be able to give a correct answer? Some say it was the Jews, others argue it was Pilate. Certainly no one involved would argue anything but their innocence. But as you read, let me throw a startling statement at you. There is evidence that you the reader killed Christ as surely as if your hands were on the spear that pierced His side. Not you alone of course, but every one of us is guilty. Here’s how!

Definite Proof

In Acts 2:5-36, it states that men from every nation dwelling gathered in Jerusalem (verses 9-11), to witness a great event. Most still talked about the death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ; the great earthquake at the time of His death, and the rent in the great veil of the Temple. These were no ordinary circumstances. Indeed, some even said they had seen dead men, risen from their graves, walking the streets of Jerusalem.

So the buzz was in the air and the rumours were flying, until that Pentecost morning of June 18, 31 A.D., when a great rushing of wind sounded about the city. Running to the source of the sound, a crowd began forming around a house with an upper room. The door opened and the eleven plus one stepped forth — and others with them. There was a eerie silence as everyone held their breath waiting for an explanation.

Then, as those that came forth from the house began to speak, an amazing thing happened — every person, regardless of his nation or language, heard them in his own native tongue. You can guess that there was a lot of amazement and wonder at this? What did it mean? Between the confusing din, some even began to accuse the apostles of drinking too much wine — of being drunk!

It was time for an explanation and the man called Peter held up his hands, stilling the crowd. His voice, strong and powerful, boomed out to the crowd the first recorded sermon of the New Testament. He explained the circumstances and denied their accusations by preaching the Word of God, under special inspiration from God.

But do you suppose he tried to calm the crowd with soothing words? No, in fact, he started out by accusing the large group of crucifying Jesus Christ (verses 22 and 23). What a beginning, considering that these people from all over the earth had not participated physically in the crucifixion! Yet Peter said under inspiration, “You have taken, and [you] by [your] wicked hands have crucified and slain. He repeated himself for good emphasis in verse 36.

It doesn’t matter if we are not directly descended from these people, just as it didn’t matter to Peter that those gathered in front of Him had not physically participated in the killing of Jesus Christ. We are all just as guilty as the High Priest who blasphemed and condemned Jesus Christ to death (Mark 14:63-65); just as guilty as those who spat on Him; or as those who struck Him with fists, bludgeoning His face until it was raw and swollen. Yes, even as guilty as the man who scourged Jesus Christ with a cat-o’-nine-tails (Matt. 27:26) until His skin was ruptured and torn and His bones were exposed (Ps. 22:17), leaving Him just short of death.

At this point, Jesus Christ was not even recognizable as a human being. The scourging was preparatory to the most vicious death yet devised by man. Christ was nailed to a cross by nails that drove deep into the red, raw flesh, pinning His hands and feet to that stake. We also cannot escape blame for this act, nor the final indignity of thrusting the spear in Jesus Christ’s side. Then we helped raise the cross and dropped it into the hole, as Christ’s flesh tore on the nails when it hit bottom.

Are you confused as to how you and I individually participated in an event that happened roughly 2000 years ago? Let me explain. Are you a Christian, an atheist or something in between? Do you practice the faith of Islam, Judaism, Taoism or other religions? Or are you someone “morally” upright, yet never attend a church service? It doesn’t matter. Most people the world over, irregardless of religious leanings, beliefs, faiths and so on literally curse Jesus Christ every day of the year when they trample on God’s Holy Days, or His weekly Sabbath. They mock Jesus Christ when they fail to keep the law of God and spit in His face by trying to do away with the Ten Commandments altogether. Everyone, through their actions and words, is guilty of crying out “crucify Him” in a thousand different ways (Mark 15:13).

We have helped put to death the only Saviour this world has ever known! We have despised and rejected “… a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him: and with His stripes we are healed. All we [all of us] like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:3-6).

Disobedience to God’s laws caused His excruciating death. Yet here is the love of God, that while we are going about our despicable deeds and evil behaviour, Jesus Christ was commending His love toward us. He died for us (Rom. 5:8). This sacrifice applies to all people, of all times. Can we comprehend what Jesus Christ – the former Word who was with God for all eternity (John 1:1) – endured? The God who had lived from eternity without beginning or end, without mother or father, without pain, and the very express image, brightness and character of the Father and His power. He sat down with the Father and made the plans to come to this earth and suffer that we might live!

This God of majesty, power and awesome splendour took the job willingly, predetermining to endure the cross that we might live (Heb. 12:2). He was made a mortal man to suffer death for you and for me! Think of how humbling it would be to come in the same weak flesh and blood as your creation, but with the ultimate purpose of destroying death, pain, sickness, disease and misery (Heb. 2:9, 14).

And while doing so, this great being was tempted just like we are tempted — conquering the downward pull of the flesh perfectly without sin (Heb. 4:15). It wasn’t without effort either, as He prayed and humbled Himself before His Father for strength, “… and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44)

Those who deny Him fail to understand that all “nations [on earth] are as a drop in a bucket and are counted as the small dust of the balance ….” (Isa. 40:9-15). Think about that. What is your net value to God? When all nations in totality are only a drop in a bucket, how significant are we, who are counted as specks of dust? Yet this great God sacrificed Himself for us! That is almost incomprehensible.

What’s Your Reaction?

So how concerned are you, or am I, over this terrible death? We have a responsibility which must be taken literally. God says it is He who calls us (John 6:44), and desires we realize the seriousness of our crimes, repenting of them (Acts 2:38). This does not apply to those who sin or drift along, nor to the scoffers and those full of pride and vanity. Not if we keep sinning! Not if we just drift along, or are filled with pride and vanity!

God desires humbleness (I Pet. 5:5-6) and will resist all other forms of character. When we exercise true repentance of our past misdeeds and are properly baptized and, by God’s Spirit put into the true Church of God, the living body of Christ — then we have God’s complete forgiveness.  He is able to blot out our sins, our transgressions — no matter how wicked we have been (Ps. 51:1). And yes, this despite all having participated in the killing of Christ. We indeed have a God of love and deep concern.

February 22, 2009

Is The Wearing Of Jewelry Forbidden In The Bible?

Some wrongly apply 1 Timothy 2:9-10 to mean that women are not allowed to wear jewelry. But that is not what the scripture implies. Please note:

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” I Peter 3:3 also discusses “plaiting the hair.”

These scriptures refer to a Greek custom of intertwining gold strands through the hair. Today, this could be applied to many of the outlandish hairstyle we see. It has nothing to do with women normally braiding their hair.

Further, neither do these scriptures forbid the use of jewelry. Paul is merely condemning the wrong use of clothes and jewelry, not the items themselves. A woman who places her primary emphasis on her physical attire, while neglecting her spiritual character, fails to grow in humbleness.

Many scriptures such as Exodus 3:22 show that God allowed the use of jewelry, where He instructed the Israelites to take away jewels of gold and silver from the Egyptians and to put them on their sons and daughters. In Ezekiel 16:11-13, God says that He figuratively bedecked Israel with earrings, bracelets, a crown and other jewelry.

So, modest use of jewelry is not condemned in the Bible; only such use of jewelry as detracts from a woman’s character should be rejected. Real beauty is in the heart, and radiates outward in modesty, with proper clothing and jewelry of good taste and quality. This is right and proper in God’s sight and reflects the real jewel, which is a humble spirit, a contrite heart and virtuous character.

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