The Apple Of God's Eye

June 27, 2011

White Lies, Black Truth – Where Do You Stand?

Many things in today’s world just aren’t what they seem. It’s the era of the “sophisticated lie.” Who can you truly believe? What is behind all this lying and duplicity?

The Founder of true Christianity said: “He that is faithful [honest] in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10).

He who would steal a postage stamp would likely steal money or other valuables also — if he got the chance!

A lie often has to be covered by several other lies, which have to be covered by yet more lies. Such an intricate web of duplicity is woven that it becomes almost impossible to discover the real truth.

Lying and stealing often go hand in hand. A person who steals will often need to lie to cover up his crime. Perhaps this is why the eighth commandment — “Thou shalt not steal” — is followed immediately by the commandment against bearing false witness (Deut. 5:19, 20). Elsewhere in the Pentateuch we read: “Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another” (Lev. 19:11). (more…)

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April 21, 2011

How Much Do You Hate Sin?

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Being in the middle of the Days Of Unleavened Bread (2011), I am really impacted this year by how sin impacts my life, others around me and how God views my attitude towards it. Being sinless Himself, I need to realize that God also hates sin.

But what about me? Do I minimize sin? Do I justify the wrong I do by comparing my sins to someone else’s? What attitude should I have toward sin? As the Days of Unleavened Bread unwind, I need to seriously review these questions.

How Does GOD Look at Sin?

It is obvious that certain sins hurt people more than others. Adultery, for example, clearly inflicts greater and more lasting damage to more people than forgetting an appointment.

On the other hand, we must realize the evil of what many people may consider to be “small” sins. After all, sin is sin — wrong is wrong — evil is evil, no matter what the degree. To ask which of two sins is worse is about like asking which was more sinful — Sodom or Gomorrah?

Regardless of how “minor” or “small” men may think some sins are, God says: “For the wages of sin is death …” (Rom. 6:23). That’s death in the lake of fire! No sins, therefore, should be trifled with, tolerated, or secretly harbored. The ultimate penalty for ALL sin — whether large or small — is the same: Eternal Death!

That some sins exact an immediate penalty is clear. But the damage done by some “small” sins over a period of time can also be devastating. To compare one’s own sins with those of other people, to minimize one’s own sins, and in the process to seek justification for them is exceedingly foolish and spiritually dangerous!

The Apostle James warns: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he IS GUILTY OF ALL” (James 2:10). The converted Christian should seek out and eliminate every sin — every wrong thought — every evil way. He should not be hanging on to “small” faults just because they do not seem to be as serious as certain obviously great sins. (more…)

April 10, 2011

What Is Leaving Out Leaven About?

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Leaven is a substance that puffs things up. During the Days of Unleavened Bread, God uses it to represent sin, because sin has the same effect (I Cor. 5:1-8). This festival shows that we are to become unleavened spiritually by commanding the physical labor of deleavening our homes.

Leavening agents are substances used to puff up or produce fermentation, causing dough to rise, such as yeast, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and baking powder. Sourdough was the most popular leaven in ancient Israel, as it caused baked goods to rise and become light in texture. These leavening agents led to food becoming leavened (Exod. 12:8).

Leavening agents are those ingredients that leaven and cause baked goods, such as bread, cake, certain crackers and cookies, cereals and pies to rise. Even some candies and other foods are leavened, so careful label reading is a must. If you are still in doubt about any leaven, ask someone with more expertise in this area.

God also gives us a positive command that whenever bread is eaten during the spring holy days, it must be unleavened bread. Eating the “bread of affliction” (Deut. 16:3) reminds us that we were in bondage to sin before being delivered from such abject slavery. It is also permissible to eat unleavened pies and cereals, etc., in addition to our regular diet.

There are many homemade unleavened recipes; but there are also products available on the market such as matzos, Rye Krisp, some types of Wheat Thins, Triscuits, etc. Again, a careful check of the label is recommended because different brands or flavors of the products mentioned above may have leaven in them. If you have any doubts about a particular food and cannot determine if it’s safe to eat, it is best to avoid it, for “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).

To picture our deliverance from sin, earnest effort should be made to put leavening out of our homes—just as we must exert effort to put sin out of our lives. Despite our best attempts, some leavened products may be discovered in our home or accidentally enter our premises during this festival. This is not surprising, as it types the hidden sins that were not immediately revealed upon our conversion. We should get rid of them immediately, to represent the desire we should have to not become comfortable with our sins. Putting out the leaven (sin) is not a one-time event but something we must keep doing until the process is complete. This explains why there are seven Days of Unleavened Bread—seven signifying the number of completeness.

Inevitably, questions come up about whether or not other items are leavening agents. Egg whites, for example, shouldn’t be used as a leaven substitute to purposely skirt the spirit of the law; yet they may be used in meringue for pies and in other desserts when their use is not as a leavening agent—that is, to puff up any baked product, composed of flour or meal.

Products with yeast extracts are acceptable if they do not contain any actual leavening agent. Brewer’s yeast is totally inactive or dead and not to be considered leaven. Cream of tartar, by itself, is not a leavening agent.

Questions come up about beer, wine and other fermented beverages, but there is nothing in the Bible that restricts the kind of drinks allowed during these Days of Unleavened Bread. Leaven in the Israelites’ dough is always mentioned (Exod. 12:39, for example), but never the invisible yeast or its effect in either beer, wine or other libation. Wine, naturally fermented, was a customary staple at God’s ancient festivals. If God would have banned wine and other fermented beverages, the Bible would certainly have recorded this admonition for us.

Other non-food products contain leavening, such as antacids, some medicines, bath powders, toothpastes, cat and dog foods and even fire extinguishers, but none of these needs to be discarded.

We must remember that God planned the Days of Unleavened Bread to remind us to deleaven ourselves spiritually. This is typed physically, but our prime concern should be the complete putting out of the spiritual leaven of sin, replacing it with spiritual unleavened righteousness, not just for seven days, as explicitly commanded, but every day of our lives.

February 12, 2011

The Truth Of God’s Word

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The Bible is the inspired Word of God and as such is truth:

2 Timothy 3:16-17: All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Psalms is also full of references to biblical truth, in particular, Psalm 119, which has four references alone.

Psalm 119:89- Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.

And again:

Psalm 119:160- All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.

And a few other references from both the Old and New Testaments:

2 Samuel 22:31- As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.

Luke 21:33- Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

One more:

Proverbs 30:5- Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Obviously the list goes on.  Those are just a few of the dozens of verses testifying to the reliability of scripture to guide our lives in conduct of morality and right and wrong.

Abortion and homosexuality are a denial of an absolute biblical truth.  Heading this perversity is a doctrine that has infiltrated our schools, our homes, the media, and the lives of every person in Western society –  evolution and the morality and worldview that it entails. With the idea that humans are nothing more than advanced animals comes the disregard for human life.  Abortion is a direct result of the success of evolution in our society.

Evolution and the Bible cannot mix, because they are fundamentally opposed to each other.  Evolution was invented for one purpose, and one purpose only- to provide people with an excuse to reject God.  That is it’s sole purpose. It goes against everything the Bible teaches, from creation to the sanctity of human life to the very existence of God.

Even so called Christians have tried to work it into the scriptures, with the result that some denominations have been made a laughingstock.

Evolution teaches that we are nothing more than advanced animals, and that homosexuality is just another way for evolution to keep mankind’s population in control. This is precisely why they compare humans to animals with seemingly homosexual tendencies. But comparing animals to humans is irrelevent, since animals do not possess the same level of intelligence as humans. And population control presumes that evolution can think, or act ahead of itself, which is preposterous. This sort of foolish talk is mere nonsense from blinded adherents.

The word of God teaches that mankind has a beautiful future with God, while evolution teaches that we have this short life and nothing else. Why would anyone choose the latter?

July 5, 2010

God Corrects The Emotionally Immature Christian!

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God doesn’t want us whining and moaning about things, so we have to watch what comes out of our mouths.”Murmurings” means grumbling or complaining (Phil. 2:14).

This type of attitude shows an emotional immaturity and anciently, the Israelites were punished for doing exactly that (Numb. 14:27-29, I Cor. 10:10). Be content with what you have, and if you have a request, make it politely.

What we say reveals a lot about ourselves, with the book of James describing our words as either sweet water or bitter (Jam. 3:8-12). Do we say nice things to some people and mean things to another? That’s not right (Matt. 12:34-35).

Our words reveal the state of our heart (or mind). If evil words come out, then it shows there is evil in your heart that you need to get rid of. A good conversation shows wisdom (Jam. 3:13-16).

Do you fight and argue? That also doesn’t come from God. Learn to recognize whether what you say is wrong and evil, or right and good (Jam. 3:17-18). Controlling our emotions and making peace with all men, despite what confronts us, produces the fruit of righteousness.

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…)

September 28, 2009

The Day of Atonement and Your Future

Scene one: A young woman walks through a semitropical garden filled with beautiful trees loaded with luscious fruit. Everything looks so good — so right.  But is it?

Suddenly she is confronted by a talking serpent who asks about God’s commands. Subtly, the serpent reasons with her until she decides to eat the fruit forbidden her by her Creator. Her husband then follows her example of disobedience.

From that time forward, mankind continues to be subject to Satan’s influence. Consequently, all humans sin and fall short of God’s glory.

Scene two: A young man, once strong and virile, is nailed to a stake. Blood oozes from deep, gaping lacerations in His body, wounds inflicted by a savage beating. Tormentors surround Him, arrogantly jeering, “He can save others, but not Himself!”

But the man’s mind is not on revenge; it is on the ultimate purpose of His suffering, which is to provide the sacrifice necessary for mankind’s salvation.

Finally, after many hours of suffering, death comes suddenly. Three days later He is resurrected. He rejoins His Father, where He serves as High Priest and soon-coming King for all humanity.

Scene three: The earth has been devastated. Plant and aquatic life are almost nonexistent. The human population has been reduced to a small fraction of its former size by the terrifying events of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.

Everywhere there is destruction, but there is also hope. Jesus Christ has intervened in world affairs. One obstacle remains — the presence of Satan the devil, mankind’s enemy for 6,000 years.

To eliminate this threat to global peace, an angel is sent to bind Satan. Satan is taken to a place of restraint where he is prohibited from influencing mankind for a thousand years.

Is there a relationship between these scenes? The answer is yes. There is a profound relationship that can be understood by studying the meaning of one of God’s annual festivals — the Day of Atonement.

This Day is commanded

Most professing Christians don’t even know that this Festival of God exists. Many who have heard of it think that it is no longer to be kept. But what does God say?

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God…. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings’ ” (Lev. 23:26-28, 31).

This year the Day of Atonement falls on September 28. Some will reason that this command ceased to be in force after Christ’s crucifixion. Such reasoning is false! Jesus Christ did not come to nail God’s annual Holy Days to the cross (Matt. 5:17-18) .

The fact is that God’s festivals have only begun to be fulfilled. These days picture aspects of God’s plan of salvation (Col. 2:16-17), and must be observed by true Christians.

But what about the ritualistic laws that the Old Testament commanded with festival observance? Are they to be kept, or have they been fulfilled?

The purpose of the physical rituals God gave to ancient Israel was to remind the people of the need for the payment of their sins. The various sacrifices pointed ahead to the sacrifice of One who would come later in history as Savior of all mankind.

So the ritualistic laws were fulfilled by the events leading to and including Christ’s own sacrificial death. Therefore they need not be kept today, nor can they be, as there is no Aaronic priesthood to perform these physical duties (Heb. 9:8-10, 10:1-4, 9-12).

The ritualistic laws are no longer performed, but their various aspects still have symbolic meaning. For each festival, we seek to understand all the festival’s meanings, as revealed in the Bible, and as they relate to salvation.

The Tabernacle and the priesthood

Before we proceed with a study of these rituals and symbols, it is necessary for us to understand some things about the Tabernacle and the priesthood.

After making the covenant agreement with Israel, God told the nation to build a Tabernacle, which is a physical type of God’s habitation in heaven (Ex. 25-27, 30, Heb. 9:23-24). The Tabernacle consisted of an enclosed courtyard, containing an altar for animal sacrifices and a tent.

The tent was divided into two sections by a veil. The section behind the veil was called the “Most Holy” place or “Holiest of All.” The other section was the “holy place” (Ex. 26:33, Heb. 9:3). The most holy place represented God’s throne. Located here was the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments and other items (Deut. 10:2, 31:26, Ex. 16:33-34, Num. 17:1-10). The lid of the Ark was called the mercy seat; this was where God manifested Himself (Ex. 25:22).

The job of high priest was given to Aaron; his sons served as priests. As time passed, other of his descendants held these positions. As priests, they performed various animal sacrifices and ceremonies on behalf of Israel.

Rituals for Aaron

On the Day of Atonement, special animal sacrifices and ceremonies were conducted. These are explained in Leviticus 16.

This was the only day when Aaron was allowed to enter the most holy place. Before doing this, he had to bathe and dress himself in his priestly garments (Lev. 16:4). Then he had to offer on the altar a bullock as a sin offering for himself.

Once this was completed, he took a censer, a vessel that held burning coals, from the altar and entered the most holy place. He then took incense, an aromatic compound, and placed it on the burning coals. Next he sprinkled blood from the bullock on the mercy seat, which represented God’s throne (verses 11-14).

Why did Aaron do these things? What did they picture? Aaron had to first make atonement for himself as a sinning human before God. The word atonement means “to make at one with.”

Washing himself pictured having his conscience changed to accept God’s standard of righteousness (Heb. 10:22). His linen coat symbolized living a righteous life (Rev. 19:8). The incense pictured prayers ascending to God (Ps. 141:2, Rev. 5:8). The blood represented the way sins are forgiven (Heb. 9:13-14, Rom. 3:25).

Aaron, the high priest, was a type of Jesus Christ, who is now our High Priest (Heb. 3:1). By living a sinless life, Jesus qualified to offer Himself as a sin sacrifice for all humanity through His crucifixion.

After Jesus’ death, the veil in the Temple (the Temple had replaced the Tabernacle) was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:50-51). The torn veil represented the fact that we are now allowed direct contact with God the Father through prayer (Heb. 10:19-22, John 16:23).

This contact is something that those living before Christ’s resurrection did not have; their access was limited to the Word of God, the God of the Old Testament who became Jesus Christ.

The two goats

Now that Aaron had completed sacrifices for himself, what happened next?

“The two goats he must place in front of the Eternal at the entrance to the Trysting tent [Tabernacle]; Aaron shall cast lots over the goats, one lot for the Eternal and the other for Azazel the demon; the goat that falls by lot to the Eternal shall be brought forward and offered as a sin-offering, but the goat that falls by lot to Azazel shall be set free in presence of the Eternal, that Aaron may perform expiatory rites over it and send it away for Azazel into the desert” (Lev. 16:7-10, Moffatt).

Whom did this slain goat, whose blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat and the altar for the sins of the people (Lev. 16:15-19), represent? The answer is Christ, who was slain and whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins (Heb. 9:12, 22-26).

But Christ’s death has not completed the job of making atonement for the sins of humanity. Why? Because Satan, the god of this world, has blinded the minds of most people. Consequently, mankind rejects the true Gospel, which includes accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and living a righteous life (II Cor. 4:3-4, Rev. 12:9).

So how will the job of atonement be completed? How will mankind be made at one with God?

The answer is revealed through the symbolism of the live goat — the azazel, in Hebrew.

Says The Comprehensive Commentary: “[According to] the oldest opinions of the Hebrews and Christians … Azazel is the name of the Devil … the word signified the goat which went away.” The Azazel was the goat that was sent into the wilderness.

This Azazel is sometimes referred to as the “escape goat” or “scapegoat.” But these terms make the meaning unclear. Scapegoat has come to mean “one who bears blame or guilt for others.” This is not the case with Satan. He is guilty of influencing mankind into disobeying God (Eph. 2:2). And he will be punished for it — Satan will bear his own guilt! He will not be allowed to escape.

Symbolism,

The live goat was brought before Aaron, who, as we have seen, is a type of Jesus Christ, our High Priest. Aaron laid hands on this goat, confessing upon it the people’s sins. Then it was led by another individual into the wilderness where it was released (Lev. 16:20-22).

How is this symbolism going to be fulfilled? Jesus is coming to this earth again, this time to rule. He will order Satan bound and taken to a place of restraint for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).

The world will then become free of Satan’s influence and responsive to God’s way of life; man’s sins will be laid to Satan’s charge. The change will be remarkable. Humanity as a whole will accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and live according to God’s law (Isa. 11:9). Finally, there will be universal peace, joy and happiness (Jer. 31:12-14).

What about fasting?

In addition to the symbolism of the sacrifices, there is another aspect of this Festival that we must consider. Notice Leviticus 16:29:

“This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who sojourns among you.”

What does it mean “afflict your soul”? The word afflict (Hebrew anah) is translated “humble” in Psalm 35:13, where David said, “I humbled myself with fasting.” So afflicting oneself means to fast.

Biblical examples show that fasting means to go without food and water (Deut. 9:9, 18, Esther 4:16, Acts 9:8-9). This is the only day when we are commanded to fast. It is so important that in the New Testament we see this Festival referred to as “the Fast” (Acts 27:9).

The purpose of fasting is to humble ourselves, to see our insignificance and realize our need for and utter dependence on God (Jas. 4:9-10). God does not hold us guiltless for the sins that Satan influences us to commit. We bear a responsibility for yielding to Satan’s temptations.

God wants you to examine yourself so you will recognize your shortcomings and overcome them. These are the conditions of a proper fast that will cause God to intervene on your behalf.

Keep this Festival

The Day of Atonement, then, is a solemn, serious occasion, and yet, because of what it pictures, this Festival is a tremendously positive and encouraging day.

Besides revealing vital understanding about God’s plan of salvation, the Day of Atonement can bring you much closer to God, if you obey God’s command to observe this day.

Don’t deny yourself this relationship with God. Decide now to keep the Day of Atonement!

Source: The Good News, August 1983

August 19, 2009

Your Faith: It May Be The Death Of You!

MILLIONS of people already claim to believe in Jesus. Hundreds of thousands more in all parts of the world will “receive Christ” this year — or rather, they will think that they have received Christ.

They will, as they say, “give their hearts to the Lord,” and believe that they are at last saved. And they will be wrong!

It may come as a shock, but the gospel that is commonly preached today is not the same message that Jesus brought nearly 2,000 years ago. He was not then — and he is not now — trying to convert the world. Neither is he trying to get people to “accept him,” “believe in him” or “receive him” before it is too late.

This is a deceived world. Deceived people are sincere. They don’t know they are deceived. If they did know, they would not be deceived! It is because many are deceived that we read of those who have a “zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2).

“Not According to Knowledge”

That statement is as true today as it was when the apostle Paul wrote it more than 1,900 years ago. You’ll see ample evidence of it just by looking at the religious book department of nearly any bookshop. Never before have so many Bible translations, Bible helps, Bible dictionaries, Bible atlases, concordances and commentaries been available. But the world is as confused as ever.

Many new translations of the Scriptures have been published. They have been painstakingly executed by scholars with a thorough knowledge of the ancient languages.

The faithful Authorized King James Version, with its “thees” and “thous” and “verilys,” has been somewhat cumbersome for many.  These modern versions are rendered in modern English, with contemporary grammar and punctuation. They have corrected, in general, the few translation errors that crept into the older versions, and overall, they are useful tools for Bible study.

But although they have solved certain translation problems, they have unfortunately created some new ones. You need to know about one of them in particular. It is not a case of the translators misunderstanding the original word, as sometimes happened in the Authorized Version. Rather, they seem to have misunderstood what was meant by what was written, or worse, eliminated references to some words, while inserting others to conform to wide held, though erroneous beliefs.

The Problem of Translation

You see, translation — any translation — is to some extent an interpretation. Language is not just words — it is also thoughts. Translation is not just a case of swapping words — the translator’s job is to convey the thoughts expressed by one language into another.

Bible translation is particularly complex. The structure of the ancient Hebrew and Greek languages is different from modern West European languages. It can therefore be difficult to render the exact thought and nuance of expression of the ancient Scriptures into modern languages. There are some places where modern theologians and scholars have made a significant error in their rendering into modern English some verses in the epistles of Paul.

“In” or “Of”?

When Paul discussed the subject of faith and its relationship to salvation, he frequently used the Greek expression “pistis Christou.” In the Authorized Version, this was translated “faith of Christ.” Most modern versions, however, change this to “faith in Christ.”

Grammatically, it is an arguable point, since the original Greek does not use either of the prepositions in or of. The grammatical sense is derived rather from the ending of the words themselves. However, in English, a preposition is needed. It should not surprise us that the translators of the modern versions preferred in to of. It seemed to them to make more sense, since the focus of modern Christian belief is a gospel about Christ, accepting him and believing in him.

From that point of view, it was presumably felt that “pistis Christou” could adequately be rendered “faith in Christ.” Consequently, the expression and thus the thought, “faith of Christ,” does not appear in these modern versions, as it did in the older Authorized Version.

What difference does it make? It makes all the difference in the world — the difference between being a real Christian, and thinking you are one.

Preposition Changes Meaning

Remember that old expression “For the want of a nail the battle was lost”? It could also be said of these new translations, “For the want of a preposition, a life could be lost.” Perhaps I can demonstrate the difference it makes by this analogy.

Suppose your wristwatch breaks. You take it to a reputable watchmaker, whom you know you can trust, and you ask him to repair it. You leave your watch with him, in complete confidence that he will return it to you in good working order.

You have, in other words, complete faith in that watchmaker. He has learned how to repair watches, and he will do it for you.

This, in effect, is how many people are taught to look to Jesus Christ. They trust in him, and believe that his love, his goodness, and his mercy and holiness will save them when the time comes. But that kind of faith — however sincere — is not enough to save you.

But supposing, when you took your broken watch to be repaired, this happened:

The watchmaker agrees that your watch is broken. But he says, “If I just repair this for you, you have learned nothing. I know how to repair watches, but it is important that you learn something about it, too. We will repair it together.

“I will do a part of the work, the part you cannot do by yourself, and I’ll show you how to do what you must learn to do.”

Now the situation is different. No longer do you just need faith in the watchmaker’s skill — you are going to need some of his skill as well.

It is the same with faith in and of Christ. Of course, we must have faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter, speaking to the crowds in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, urged them to believe that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was the Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36).

Many believed Peter, and asked, “What shall we do?” (verse 37, Authorized Version). “Repent, and be baptized … in the name of Jesus Christ,” replied Peter, “for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit].”

So far so good. As a result of having faith in Christ, many today are told to be baptized for the remission of their sins. Then they think they are saved. But there is more to it than that.

After Baptism — What Then?

Many scriptures show what you do after you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice will determine whether you will be ultimately saved.

Let’s now take a close look at some of these scriptures that have been mistranslated in the generally excellent new translations and see exactly what it was that the apostle Paul taught. Then you will understand why the phrase “faith of Christ” carries the right choice of preposition when rendering these verses into English.

First, Romans 3:22. This verse is breaking into the middle of a thought. We should go back two or three verses to pick up the thread of Paul’s discussion. The church at Rome in Paul’s day was a mixture of different ethnic groups, and there was a controversy among them.

The Jews thought that they were superior to others since they had had the law of God delivered to them. The non-Jews on their part were critical of the Jews for not keeping that law. Note that the discussion did not center around whether or not the law should be kept, but rather, how it could be kept.

Paul’s epistle put everything in perspective. He showed that a Christian must quit sinning. Breaking God’s law is sin (Rom. 3:20, and see also I John 3:4). Paul pointed out that all — Jews and gentiles — had broken the law. Nobody (except Jesus Christ) ever lived a life without sinning in some way. Therefore, no one could consider himself justified — guiltless and worthy of salvation — as a result of his conduct. Let’s pick up the story in verse 21.

The New International Version explains it rather well. “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law [apart from human “righteousness”], has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify” (Rom. 3:21, New International Version throughout, except where noted).

In other words, there is a way to come up to God’s standard of righteousness (the Ten Commandments) apart from the impossible task of trying to keep the law perfectly through your own strength or your own faith. How can you do it?

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in [should be translated of] Christ to all who believe” (verse 22).

Do you see what a difference the preposition makes?

Having repented of your past sins, you can’t continue to sin. Paul makes that very clear in Romans 6:1-2, in any version or translation. You are to live a new life free of sin (Rom. 6:4). But how, if you can’t keep the law by your own strength or your own faith? The answer is you have to have an added faith. But from whom, and what kind of faith?

Since you can never be justified by your own unaided attempt to keep God’s law or attain his righteousness, if you have believed in Jesus Christ you have a new way to become righteous. Instead of relying on your own strength, you can ask God for the help to become righteous (i.e., to obey the law). God has promised to develop in you the same faith that Jesus had — the faith of Jesus Christ!

This is an important point. If you look up the word faith in a dictionary, you will find it says something like this: “confidence, trust or belief in the promises or statements of another.”

Everyone has some faith — although it varies from individual to individual. Some find it easy to believe — others, perhaps because of previous letdowns and betrayal, find it hard to put “confidence, trust or belief” in anyone or anything.

But even the most faithful are not faith-full enough by their own strength or their own faith to save themselves from sinning in the future. Look at Ephesians 2:8. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves …. ” How then?

Continuing in Ephesians 2:8, … it is the gift of God.”

Here is then a level of faith that goes far beyond the “confidence, trust or belief” that your human mind must first exercise in having faith in Christ to forgive your guilty past.

This new, higher level of faith is the gift that God gives, through the Holy Spirit, which one receives through the laying on of hands after baptism.

Jesus had that kind of faith. And because he did he had total trust, confidence and belief in God. Thus he was able to live a life that was blameless. Jesus never sinned. He was often tempted, but he always resisted. He knew how to get the strength he needed to reinforce his own inadequate human strength.

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death …” (Heb. 5:7).

Jesus prayed to his Father in heaven for the strength to resist sin. And such was the relationship of trust, love and confidence between Jesus and his Father, that he always received that help.

Jesus Christ and the Father had lived in harmony for an eternity before Jesus came to earth as the Son of God. He had no doubts that what his Father promised, he was able also to perform (see Romans 4:21).

That is the kind of faith that we must have if we are to receive our eternal reward. God expects us, if we are his sons and daughters, to live as Jesus did.

Jesus set the example. His life is the standard by which we must measure performance — not in some dreamy, sanctimonious way, but in the practical down-to-earth circumstances of daily life. A true Christian should ask, Is this the way Christ would react? Is this what he would have done? Am I following his example?

If not, your behavior must be changed to conform with Jesus’ example as recorded in the Scriptures. You will need to ask God for the faith to do this — the same faith that he gave Jesus Christ to face and conquer problems.

With that faith, when temptation comes, you will have the strength to put aside your natural human impulses and make the same kind of decision that Jesus did in similar circumstances.

That’s why Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, wrote: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in [you guessed it — it should be of] the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20, Revised Authorized Version). Once the right preposition is put in, these modern versions become clear.

Think back to the analogy of the watchmaker. Christ wants you to learn to do the things he did. He wants you to share in his skills. He wants you to know the same confidence and trust in God that he had.

He doesn’t want you just to be grateful to him for doing it. He wants you to have the experience of overcoming sin, looking to God for the spiritual strength, just like he did. Why?

Why You Need the Faith of Christ

Look at Philippians 3:8-11. Here we find Paul explaining to the Philippians how grateful he is to be called as a part of God’s Church.

He had to give up many things, including a position of power and prestige, in order to be an apostle. “… I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in [read of] Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

So Paul knew that his resurrection from the dead would be preceded by God building in him the same kind of faith that Christ had. He knew that only then would he know the “power of resurrection,” as Jesus Christ has known it.

Paul was not saying that he was trying to earn his salvation by his own faith. That is what those who are deceived by a false gospel do when they rely only on their faith in Jesus. It is plainly evident throughout his writings that Paul knew he could never do that.

A Christian cannot gain salvation by his works through his own faith any more than he can by simply having faith in Christ. This is a vital point that so many who claim to be Christians do not understand.

Salvation is God’s free gift, but he will not give it to those who cannot handle it properly (any more than you would give a bicycle to a child who refuses to obey the traffic signals).

Ministers today concentrate on getting people to “accept Christ,” while they neglect to teach the need for receiving Jesus Christ’s faith as a free gift to enable us to obey God.

Putting Faith to Work

When Jesus Christ returns to this earth to enforce peace, the world is going to be in a terrible condition. But thankfully, the worst will be over. Jesus Christ will begin the task of guiding and teaching all mankind God’s way of life and the way to eternal life.

There will be a lot of work ahead for those whom God has called in this present life to understand his purpose. They will be resurrected and made immortal when God intervenes in world affairs to reestablish his government over the whole earth. They will be working with Jesus Christ, doing what he does. They will be teaching, helping and encouraging others to overcome human weaknesses, that they also may be given eternal life.

Such teachers must be experienced — there will be no place for enthusiastic amateurs. The time to build that experience through the faith of Jesus imparted by the Holy Spirit is now.

That is why a Christian, whose hope is the resurrection from the dead, needs more than just his faith in Jesus. He must share in the life of Christ, living as he did, learning as he did. To do that successfully, he needs the faith of Jesus Christ.

The Plain Truth, 1984

August 9, 2009

The Three Resurrections Explained!

Resurrection - From Mortal To Immortal

The 1st Resurrection - From Mortal To Immortal

Throughout history, man has had a fascination with death and the afterlife. Will you and your loved ones live again? Do you have an immortal soul, as so many professing “Christians” believe?

The biblical teachings on life and death have been primary targets of Satan the devil from the beginning. The first recorded lie was that man would not die, (Gen. 3:4) and man has believed the “immortal soul” lie ever since.

Consider the domino effect of this one lie. If man has an immortal soul, he cannot die; if he cannot die, he cannot be resurrected! Furthermore, the Apostle Paul wrote that if we deny the resurrection of the dead, we deny the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, leaving us totally without hope (I Cor. 15:13-14, 19).

The Immortal Soul Lie

When Satan told Eve that she “would not surely die,” she was deceived. Both Eve and Adam subsequently chose to reject the revelation that God had given them. Mankind refuses to accept God’s revelation about death and resurrection to this day, relying instead on his own human reasoning. Modern “Christianity” commonly accepts the immortal soul lie without a shred of evidence and with plenty of proof to the contrary!

Gen. 2:7 says, “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.” This word soul in no way implies immortal life. The word is nephesh in Hebrew and is translated “a breathing animal.” It is used throughout the Old Testament to describe creatures such as cattle, fowl, whales — and man. Ecclesiastes 3:19 shows that man dies just as the animals do.

The soul is physical, composed of matter and it can die. We see this point emphasized throughout the Bible. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). Our temporary physical existences are also compared to withering grass that is blown away by a gust of wind (I Pet. 1:24; Ps. 103:13-16).

The Bible shows that all who die — which is everyone –, will eventually be resurrected. The question is not if a person will be resurrected, but when.  “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order” (I Cor. 15:22-23).

Jesus Christ was the first to be resurrected. He is the “firstborn among many brethren,” (Rom. 8:29) and has made the resurrection of everyone who ever lived possible. A careful study of God’s word reveals that there are three resurrections yet to come.

What follows is a brief overview of the biblical teachings concerning the resurrections.

The First Resurrection

The first resurrection is reserved specially for a) the dead in Christ and b) those that are Christ’s at His coming. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:16-17). These are those that belong to Jesus Christ; those who have repented and received the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). These people will live forever and reign with Christ throughout the Millennium, as shown in Revelation 20:5-6.

The Second Resurrection

Revelation 20:5 shows when the next resurrection will take place: “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” As we can see, at the end of the 1000 years, two things will happen. Firstly, Satan, who will have been imprisoned throughout the Millennium, (v.3) will be released from his prison and, secondly, everyone else who has ever died will be resurrected. Most of humanity will be brought back to life in this resurrection, as described in Ezekiel 37:1-14. They will then finally have God’s truth revealed to them and be given their chance to become a part of God’s Kingdom. This period of time is called the Great White Throne Judgment.

Only one passage reveals the duration of the Great White Throne Judgment: Isaiah 65:17-25. In verse 20, we read, “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.” From this point on, no more infants will be born. There will then be two classes of people: “the child” and “the sinner.”

“The child,” in this instance, refers to a person who is righteous. We are to enter the Kingdom of God as a little child (Luke 18:17). Why, then, does the prophet Isaiah say that the child will die?

Because it is given to all men to die once. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). The temporal, physical existence of the righteous will end. Those that fall into the category of “the child” will become the spirit-born sons of God, just as those that were Christ’s at His coming did in the First Resurrection. They also will be “changed in the twinkling of an eye” (I Cor. 15:51-52).

The Third Resurrection

The Third Resurrection is a resurrection to the second death. The prophet Daniel spoke of this resurrection: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus Christ calls it the resurrection of “condemnation” (John 5:29).

Everyone will be given the opportunity to repent and become a part of God’s family, but not everyone will accept it. Those that are not found in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire, ending their existence forever (Rev. 14:10). Malachi 4:3 adds that in the end the ashes of the wicked will be under the feet of the righteous. The incorrigibly wicked will have died the second death, from which there will never be a resurrection (Rev. 20:14-15). This is a merciful act on the part of their Creator. These people would be miserable eternally if they had immortal life, so God mercifully end their lives, leaving only the “smoke of their torment” to ascend forever (Rev.14:11).

Incredible Human Potential

When the resurrections have finally taken place, those left alive will have an immortal soul — one composed of God’s Holy Spirit rather than dust. The resurrections are, in fact, the fulfillment of our incredible human potential. In his book, The Incredible Human Potential, Mr. Armstrong wrote about that awesome future:

“When born of God, we shall be Spirit, no longer human flesh and blood. We shall be given power! As Daniel revealed, the saints then shall take the kingdoms of earth’s nations and rule them for the first thousand years — establishing world peace and Divine government under Christ.

“And after that? The passage in Hebrews 2 shows that then, again under Christ, we shall be given power to rule over the entire vast universe — literally all things. For that is the power that has been given to Christ and will be ours as joint inheritors with Him!

“Yes, there is a life after death for those obedient to God — a Spirit life of incredible potential beyond our wildest dreams! Can we humans grasp the awesome portent of these astounding truths? Attaining immortal life should be our all-encompassing goal. For that is the gift and desire of our merciful Father and His Son Jesus Christ.”

What a glorious vision of the future!

July 1, 2009

Cosmic Wisdom: The Mind Of God In Action!

There are many people considered wise among men – with academics and chairs of philosophy, a type of sign-board hung out to show the apparent abode of wisdom. That is what impresses other people, but not God.

Yet even for true Christians, there is much more to wisdom than they normally think about. God’s instruction in James 1 state:. If any man lacks wisdom, he is to ask God for it; and, believing, he shall receive it. A lack of wisdom can cause many serious mistakes.

“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom” (Jam. 3:13).

Notice that godly wisdom is entwined with knowledge. Why? The connection may be found in Proverbs 9:10, which tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. This we could call “cosmic wisdom”—wisdom that originates from the cosmos. It has to come from God’s own mind to allow our choices and processes to mean anything beyond what affects our immediate physical life. This may be bridged back again to our own behaviour:

“But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:14-15).

Devilish wisdom comes from the devil; from this earth. True wisdom is a gift from God. It takes wisdom to know what to do when God denies you something you earnestly desire, or how to navigate our fiery trials, for example.

James has the best definition of wisdom in the Bible, listing seven items that are outgrowths of godly wisdom: “But the wisdom that is from above is first:

  1. pure
  2. peaceable
  3. gentle
  4. easy to be entreated
  5. full of mercy and good fruits
  6. without partiality
  7. without hypocrisy.

“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (verses 17-18).

Here are the meanings of these seven outgrowths of wisdom:

  1. Pure – means it is free from earthly, sensual, diabolical thoughts or motives. It must be free from guile, like Nathanael (John 1:47). We must have a pure motive. When we are being led by God’s Spirit, we are not calculating—trying to take advantage of the other person or to get something from them. We must be pure, and simply give as our heavenly Father gives! If we speak words of wisdom, we bring joy and encouragement. Our tongue produces spiritual honey.
  2. Peaceable – it makes peace with others, especially within the family.
  3. Gentle – meaning forbearing—not demanding, and not looking down on others.
  4. Easy to be entreated –  or persuaded. It is happy to give in if the other person is right.
  5. Full of mercy and good fruits – toward the misery of others—desiring to relieve them.
  6. Without partiality – it is not swayed by self-interest, worldly honor or the fear of man. If Jacob, who favored Joseph over his other sons, had had this quality, the tragic problems wouldn’t have existed between Joseph and his brothers, and it would have changed the course of Israel’s history!
  7. Without hypocrisy — what you see is what you get. It doesn’t pretend to be something it is not. It requires wisdom to present yourself as someone who is trying to grow and improve, yet who never tries to come across as someone you are not.

“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (verse 18). The fruit of this righteousness will produce peace wherever we go. If any of you lack wisdom, go to God, and He will give it to you!

Study and learn what God’s wisdom will do in your life. If you understand it, you will be praying for more of a replenished supply of “the wisdom that is from above.”

June 8, 2009

Do Nicolaitians Have A Connection To Santa Claus?

“Nicolaitan” means “a follower of Nicolas.” It comes from two Greek words — “nikos” and “laos”. “Nikos” means “conqueror” or “destroyer,” and “laos” means “people.” The original Nicolas was a conqueror or destroyer of the people! That was Nimrod — the original archrebel, who conquered the people and founded a man-made civilization within two centuries after the Flood!

While he was alive, Nimrod put himself in the place of God. When he died, his admirers continued to WORSHIP him as a divine hero. They called him “Baal,” a name found throughout the Old Testament, meaning “master” or “lord.”

Nimrod also had other names. One, commonly used throughout Asia Minor, was “Santa.” (See “Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary”). “Santa Claus” is but a shortened form of “Santa Nicholas” or “Saint Nicholas.”

Many unknowingly honor this Nicholas even in our day by by observing customs associated with December 25th. Christmas originally was the “Saturnalia” or birthday of Nimrod. Of course, these customs handed down from ancient paganism have been renamed and made to appear innocent and good!

Nicolaitans in modern times

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says:

  • nik-o-la’-i-tanz Nikolaitai: – The Sect: A sect or party of evil influence in early Christianity, especially in the 7 churches of Asia. Their doctrine was similar to that of Balaam, “who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication” (Re 2:14,15). Their practices were strongly condemned by John, who praised the church in Ephesus for “hating their works” (Re 2:6), and blamed the church in Pergamum for accepting in some measure their teaching (Re 2:15). Except that reference is probably made to their influence in the church at Thyatira also, where their leader was “the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess” (Re 2:20; compare 2:14), no further direct information regarding them is given in Scripture. The Nicolaitians were one of the heretical sects that plagued the churches at Ephesus and at Pergamum, and perhaps elsewhere.

Irenaeus identifies the Nicolaitans as a Gnostic sect:

“John, the disciple of the Lord, preaches this faith (the deity of Christ), and seeks, by the proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error which by Cerinthus had been disseminated among men, and a long time previously by those termed Nicolaitans, who are an offset of that “knowledge” falsely so called, that he might confound them, and persuade them that there is but one God, who made all things by His Word” (see Irenaeus Against Heresies iii 11.  1; ANF vol. 1, p. 426) There is also historical evidence of a Gnostic sect called Nitolaitans a century or so later.

The doctrine of the Nicolaitans appears to have been a form of antinomianism: a belief that is based upon a recognition of the mercy of God as the ground of salvation. However, it goes astray in the mistake that man can freely partake in sin because the Law of God is no longer binding. It held the truth on the gratuitous reckoning of righteousness; but supposed that a mere intellectual “belief” in this truth had a saving power.

James 2:19 refutes this error:

“The devils also believe, and tremble”; reminding us that belief of and by itself is not enough for salvation, especially when held to the light of James 2:20, which says: “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”

No one will argue that salvation is a free gift, based upon God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). but from there we have to go on and do something, as the very next verse admonishes us.  “We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).  The faith of God produces action; leading to a desire for holiness and obedience. (1 John 3:18, Titus 2:11-15, 1 Peter 1:15-16, Revelation 14:12)

There are certain religions  today which still teach the heretical doctrine of holding to the freedom of the flesh and sin, and teaching that the deeds of the flesh have no effect upon salvation. But is this biblical?

The Bible teaches that Christians are supposed to “die” to sin and the deeds of our “flesh”: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1-2)  “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” (Romans 6:11-13)

Today, the doctrine is now largely taught that the gospel of Christ has made God’s law of no effect: that by “believing” we are released from the necessity of being doers of the Word. But this is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which Christ so unsparingly condemned in the book of Revelation.  “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22)

May 12, 2009

Once Saved, Always Saved: Are You Sure About That?

Today’s popular evangelical maxim “once saved, always saved” has transformed into a virtual “cheap and easy” salvation for millions. The gospel call to repent and believe – to diligently make a personal effort to persevere in the faith – has been overshadowed by the new doctrine that Christians can live just like anyone else in the world.  Gone are warnings to watch and pray, endure to the end, and to make your calling and election sure.

In their place are cool Christian clubs called churchianity, public shows of prayer, Christian rock bands, and young disciples in jeans and t-shirts spouting tender assurances of eternal salvation as a gift which God cannot take back. Never mind the ten commandments – everybody makes mistakes, so don’t don’t sweat it, we’re all under grace, right?

Is this the message of the Bible though? Is it really true that once a person has truly believed and put their faith in the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are eternally saved? In other words, there is absolutely nothing that this person, can do which could nullify or forfeit that salvation. It doesn’t matter if that person kicks a dog, punches an elderly lady or robs a bank. No matter what his spiritual outlook – NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING will prevent him from a loss of salvation. Almighty God supposedly takes over his life to hold him, keep him, and sanctify him regardless of what point of the law has been broken.

What does “saved” mean?

A favourite OSAS phrase comes from the Book of Ephesians 2:8-9, to wit:

“For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

But what does it really mean to be “saved?” Not one single individual in the history of this world (besides Jesus Christ), has ever been saved—YET. Not Noah, Abraham, David, Peter, James, John or Paul. Not Ruth or Esther or Mary. These people are dead and in their graves – a pile of dust.

II Corinthians 2:15 speaks of those that “are being saved” — present tense. The verb, here, as inspired originally in the Greek language, is a present participle and should be translated, as in the RSV, “are being saved,” and not “are saved,” as in the King James version. The Moffatt, and other translations render this as “are being saved.”

To make it plain, notice the whole sense of the passage: “For we are unto God a sweet savour (fragrance) of Christ, in them that are saved (being saved), and in them that perish.” In other words, Christians are like sweet perfume or fragrance to certain others. If to those that are (already — past tense) saved, then also to those who are, already (past tense) perished. Now those already perished are not smelling anything. This is speaking of LIVING people. If those that “perish” are merely ON THE WAY toward perishing — but not yet perished — then, also those “saved” are BEING saved — on the way to the final salvation.

Then many, many scriptures speak of the salvation to come — of those who “shall be” (future) saved. Most passages referring to the TIME of salvation refer to it as taking place at Christ’s coming — as Revelation 12:10 and elsewhere.

In spiritual salvation, the blood of Christ — the death of Christ — paid the penalty we have incurred in our stead. And it saves us from this destruction (which is the second death) — that is, prevents us from having to pay it — if and when we repent, and accept Jesus as personal Saviour in faith believing (read Romans 5:8-10).

But, God’s gift of eternal life comes to us through Christ’s life (verse 10), through His resurrection and life — not by His death. His death paid our penalty of past sins in our stead. These sins had cut us off from contact with God. When Jesus’ sacrifice is accepted by repentance and faith, we are no longer cut off from God, but reconciled to Him — the connection or contact established, so that, through His Son’s life, He now can give us His Holy Spirit, and, at Christ’s coming and time of resurrection, eternal life. This, finally, preserves our life for eternity.

That is why God’s Word says, “he that shall endure unto the end shall be saved” (Matt. 24:13 and elsewhere).  One is already saved from the death penalty — eternal punishment — for sins that are past, upon repentance and faith in Christ — as long as he does not sin again! And he will! But, if and when he slips and sins again, then, upon repentance, he is again forgiven. Yes, again, and again and again! That is, as long as his attitude of heart is submissive to God, he has faith in Christ, and God’s Spirit continues to dwell in him.

So we have:

  1. “Justification,” which is forgiveness of sins that are past (Romans 3:24-25) — because Jesus paid our penalty, thus justifying — or vindicating — us.
  2. “Sanctification” (Greek, “hagiasmos”), meaning separation, a setting apart for holy use or purpose. This is a continual process — once so set apart — and leads to ultimate salvation — the change from mortal to immortal — from material composition to spiritual — from human to divine. Thus: “God hath … chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit …” (II Thes. 2:13), and “unto obedience …” (I Peter 1:2).
  3. Salvation by resurrection — eternal life.

The Crux of the Truth

OSAS says once we receive “God’s Spirit, we will be led to obey and please God. Is that really how it works? In Rom. 8:14, Paul comes to the crux of the whole truth, so far as the Christian life is concerned.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

God’s Spirit dwelling in the Christian is God’s own divine love, which can fulfill God’s Law. Thus what God has given him by grace – His righteousness within the Christian – may actually make him righteous! But notice, I said God’s Spirit in you can, or may put His righteousness within you!

Here is the all important point — God’s Spirit in the Christian will not force him to live righteously. He remains a free moral agent. He only has the spiritual equipment to live God’s way – his mind is open to spiritual understanding — that is, to live by the whole teachings of the Bible.

Notice Acts 5:32: “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy [Spirit], whom God hath given to them that obey him.” God says He doesn’t even give us his Spirit unless we obey!

A maturing process

Where the Bible does talk of Christians being “perfect,” it merely means “those matured in Christian experience and knowledge (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary). We are to be growing every day of our spiritual lives. And with God’s help we can obey His commandments.

God says: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). This verse should be translated, “Become ye therefore perfect….” It’s a process. Christ referred to this way of life as going through a narrow gate. “Because strait [difficult] is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14).  None of us have received salvation yet. Salvation is something we don’t have now.

In Matthew 25, Christ spoke the parable of the talents. He gave one of the individuals five talents, one he gave two, and the other only one. The individual who received one talent ended up burying it. Notice Christ’s answer to that in verse 26: “His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed.”

This wicked person not only failed to grow, but he lost what God gave him! “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 30). It’s not a matter of how much you get, it’s what you do with it.  God gives true Christians a wealth of spiritual knowledge. And to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).

Sin leads to loss of salvation

So how can one lose salvation? The OSAS crowd claims that if a person is not continuing or persevering in their faith, and growing in holiness, they could not have been saved to begin with. Thus, only those who have rightly been saved, are those who “are born again.”

But obviously all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), even those of the OSAS crowd. Sin is defined as the transgression of God’s law (I John 3:4). We are commanded to keep this perfect law, otherwise we cannot even know God. Neglect merely makes us out to be liars (I John 2:3-4).

Convoluted reasoning which says “law keeping” is a doctrine of works needs to be checked according to truths and provable facts in the Bible. True, Christ came so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. But belief is not the only condition to salvation. James 2:19 says “the devils also believe and tremble.” The mere belief of the devils (fallen angels) does not save them. Neither is repentance a do-it-once thing and then we just sort of cruise through God’s calling any way we like.

This does not mean the fight against sin is a perpetual game of Russian Roulette where we never know if we’re saved or not. The effort (through repentance) is guided by the scriptural “yardstick” of God’s law, which tells us how many or what kind of sins void our salvation. Yes, you read that right. Every transgression and disobedience receives a just recompense of reward (Heb. 2:2), just like it did with the angels. So the Christian must decide, and must exert will, to follow that way.

Jesus Christ said to follow in His footsteps and he kept God’s law perfectly. The Bible is also replete, from beginning to end, with proof of this, as well as those denouncing people who do NOT keep the law.

  • Exodus 32:33 (Old Testament) says: “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book’”.
  • Rev. 3:5,6 (New Testament) says: “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels…. Clearly this means that God can take the eternal life, which they now think they have.

What this means is not just “….the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom. 2:13). They  must actively decide whether to walk down that road — to be led by the Spirit of God — or to be led by the pulls of human nature. There is no “floating” Christian doctrine.

So all of this means “Once Saved, Always Saved” IS WRONG. God’s love of giving us eternal life is CONDITIONAL upon keeping His law. Getting saved is not a one time deal and it’s over with. It’s a lifelong project – sorry Pentecostals, you’re wrong.

If we think we stand, we may fall (I Cor. 10:12). An important aspect of conquering is preserving to the end – not as though we had already attained it or were made perfect (Phil. 3:12). We are to work out our own salvation (Phil. 2:12), and not sin deliberately for fear of the prospect of a fiery judgment (Heb. 10:26-29).

May 4, 2009

What Is The Enemy Of Faith?

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Did you know that you cannot please God without faith? So therefore faith, though not the most important  fruit of the Spirit (I Cor. 13:13), is called one of the weightier matters of the law (of God – Matt. 23:23). It is the power of God (I Cor. 2:5), given by God (Luke 17:5), which is all important to possess in order to have a relationship with our Creator.

Without faith we cannot be healed by God. The blind men of Matthew 9 were healed according to their belief (Matt. 9:29). The same applies to the woman who had a blood issue and was healed by merely touching the cloak of Christ (Matt. 9:20-22).

Faith of the smallest amount – that of the mustard-seed type – is said by Christ to be enough to move mountains (Matt. 17:20)

“….Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do what is done to the fig tree (which withered at His word), but even if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou taken up and cast into the sea, it shall be done.”

 The mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds (that they were used to), representing the feeblest faith. Yet the mustard-seed produced the largest of all herbs, showing an increasing and expanding faith, growing and strengthening from small beginnings, to perform the most difficult undertaking. There is a principle of vitality in the grain of seed stretching forward to great results, which illustrates the nature of faith (Albert Barnes” Notes On The Bible).

Was Christ merely being illustrative in these examples? Or was he saying that if we properly exercise the power of God, then nothing shall be impossible for us? The latter is the most probable scenario because these are Christ’s exact words in verse 20.

What exactly is faith?

Faith is one of the powerful fruits of the Spirit of God (Gal.5:22). In Heb. 11:1, it also gives us a detailed description of this power, calling it “the substance of things hoped for, and the sign that the things not seen are true.” So Christians have evidence, but they can’t show anyone. That very description of faith leads to much scoffing today by those who do not possess it, but it can be described in no other way.

Creation itself must be taken on faith (verse 3). We can see the results, but the process used to create it was something unseen (the power of the spirit of God). The Spirit world is actually more real than the physical world about us. What we see and feel is not the true evidence, though this is what science is based upon. Yet having the thing (the physical reality), and seeing it, is not faith. Faith precedes possession, because faith the assurance we will possess it. That is why we are to walk by faith, not by sight (II Cor. 5:7). And that is exactly what critics find impossible to do, and therefore scoff at.

Looking further into Heb. 11, we see various acts of faith by people who lived and died in faith for what they believed. In verse 7, Noah was warned of God of things not yet seen. He could not see or feel what was said, yet still moved with fear. This was not a tiny display of faith, because he did this for  100 years.

Abraham also offered his only son by faith (verse 17). Again, this was not a minor action, but a real commitment. He had absolutely no physical proof that would justify sacrificing the one in whom God would make all the promises come to pass. He could not act on the five senses.

All the saints featured in Hebrews 11 died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them spiritually.

What is the biggest enemy of faith?

Here’s a question! What is the fastest way to destroy faith? I’ll describe it through an example. In Matt. 14:28, the disciples had some trouble believing it was Christ walking on the water. Peter doubted and asked Jesus to bid him come and walk on the water also.

This he did, but when he SAW (and felt) the wind pick, he became afraid. What happened to destroy his faith? It was the physical sensation of the wind. He began to  sink, now, once again bound by physical laws. Christ described this as a faith problem – “why did you doubt?” (verse 31).

So the enemy off faith is a focus on the material, which is seen and appears to the five physical senses. If we’re not sure we have enough faith, then we are called upon to test it, to make certain we stand firm (II Cor. 13:5).

The same faith through which Christ did all things seems to be lacking today. This is not because God denies it, but because even true Christians are closer to a materialistic world than to God. In our affluent societies, we don’t even need to ask God for most things, because when we desire something, we can buy it instantly – on credit. Yet where is God in all this? Do we ask for guidance, direction and help in our decisions? Are not our blessings from God? Should not our acknowledgments be to God? And even when we ask, do we ask amiss, because they are materially focused? (verse 3).

Materialism can get the best of any of us. We simply can’t serve God and material things at the same time (Matt. 6:24). In the parable of the rich man, (Matt. 10:17-23), even though the man had served God all his life, he could not let go of his riches. In other words, his priority was not on the work of God, but on what he owned. He relied on this and could not let it go. No wonder it is so hard for a rich man to enter into God’s Kingdom (verses 23-25).

A great example of avoiding this fault is studying Elijah’s prayer of I Kings 18:37, which was only about 20 seconds in length, yet the answer came crashing down instantly. It is obvious that Elijah spend many hours in prayer, study and fasting to get closer to God. He knew absolutely (by faith) that his short prayer would be answered when it mattered most.

Those who keeping consistent contact with God, asking Him for guidance in all things are told that they need not give thought to any want they should have, for God will provide for them (Matt.6:25). The power verse in this chapter is verse 33, which tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Our preoccupation must be with the things of God (Col. 3:1). In other words, keep the mind focused on spiritual principles and God in our life to have faith given in a powerful way. The material things are not a sin and can be had, if we seek God first.

Again, without faith this would become an extremely difficult exercise to comprehend, much less practice. If we do not walk in the Spirit of God, we will be unable to resist the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).

In Matt. 6:30, Jesus ties faith into overanxious worry about physical needs. He tells us He can do all things for us, if we just let him. But conversely, being overly tied to materialism leads to anxiety and a subsequent lack of faith. Material things are at odds with the spiritual things. Both are contrary to each other. The more we indulge in the flesh, the more we lose of the spirit (Gal. 5:17) The more we exercise the spirit, the more it pushes out the fleshly and we bear fruit – a stronger belief in the evidence we can’t see.

You can’t love Christ without faith

Think about this: you can’t even love Jesus Christ without faith! You’ve never seen Him, yet you are asked to believe what He says – unconditionally. There is absolutely no evidence to rejoice!

Here’s where two worlds (the physical and spiritual) diverge. The scoffer will take this opportunity to lash out at the ignorance of the Christian who believes. He has absolutely no idea what is being spoken of here; he cannot comprehend spiritual principles and must rely on  the five senses for his “reality.” God does not work with that person – He cannot. A human being must respond to God (the Master Potter) to be able to mould that individual. Clay that is unworkable is no good to the potter and must be discarded.

God DOES not give the Holy Spirit without repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). These are absolute conditions. Godly repentance means to stop sinning, to turn and go the other way —  to change your way of life! It has to come from the heart.  

So what is it we repent of? “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law,” (I John 3:4).  And sin is breaking God’slaw, not human customs. No one is excluded. No man, woman or child has ever lived who hasn’t disobeyed and broken God’s law (Rom. 3:10, 23). Therefore, every person on earth needs to repent deeply and bitterly with all their heart and turn to God for forgiveness. To obey Him and keep His commandments — all His commandments — with zeal. For “He that saith, I know him {I am a Christian}, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:4).  

Do you fully comprehend what is being said? As a Christian, you should be doing this, as it comes from your own Bible. All those denominations/religions which say the law of God is done away with DO NOT have the Spirit of God guiding them, and they DO NOT have the faith of God, as outlined previously. So says your Bible!

Obedience to God also means keeping His Holy Days, the Sabbath, the Ten Commandments, refraining from idol worship, pagan deities or customs (Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day), and so on. Most religions fail to keep the standard God requires to have Him draw close in their lives. 

The Bible says the righteous shall live by faith (Rom.1:17). This is no arbitrary saying because whatever is not of faith is of sin (Rom. 14:23). Do those things Christ asks of you and God will intervene in your life. Then, when Christ returns, He will be looking for His faith in your life (Luke 18:8). Are you ready?

April 1, 2009

How Leaven Pictures Sin — An Important Reminder

The apostles were jolted! First, the sound of a violent windstorm filled the house where they were meeting. Then, almost before they had time to think, glowing flames of fire began leaping upon them. God’s Holy Spirit had entered them, and the power of that Spirit was far greater than the forces of nature they had witnessed.

To their amazement, they could now speak words they had not spoken before. Quickly the news spread — here were men who could speak many languages. Thousands speaking different languages eagerly gathered to hear the apostles. What they heard shocked them. Many were deeply convicted by their guilt in the death of their Savior, Jesus Christ.

A mighty urge to do something stirred within them, and they asked the apostles, “What shall we do?” The reply echoed loud and clear: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Those early Christian converts began something that God’s true Church still practices — baptism for the forgiveness of sin. But how, exactly, should a true Christian deal with sin, both before and after baptism? This question brings us to our subject, the Days of Unleavened Bread.

To understand this Festival and its meaning and application to our lives, let’s go back in history. These days are commanded Because of famine, the descendants of the patriarch Israel ended up in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. There they became slaves (Ex. 1:8-11). Through a series of miracles, God finally released the Israelites from bondage. Among the miracles was the death of the Egyptian firstborn. To protect their own firstborn, the Israelites were required to begin keeping the Festival called Passover (Ex. 12:3-14). For Christians today, this Festival pictures our acceptance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.

Just after the Passover, God instituted another festival — the Days of Unleavened Bread (D.U.B.). This seven-day festival pictured the release of Israel from Egypt (verses 15-17). The D.U.B. were held yearly during Abib, which is the first month of the Hebrew calendar. This month corresponds to the time of the Roman calendar months of March and April.

Both the 15th and 21st of Abib, the first and last days of the Feast, are “holy convocations” — days of rest and worship (Lev. 23:6-8). These days are still kept by true Christians today, and will also be kept after Jesus Christ’s Second Coming (Ezek. 43:2, 7, 45:21). This year (2009) they fall on April 9 and 15.

Leaven symbolizes sin During this Festival, all leaven and leavened foods are to be put out of the home and off the property (Ex. 12:15, 13:7). This includes yeast, baking soda, baking powder — all leavening agents, substances that produce fermentation and cause dough to rise.

The products of leaven are bread, cake, some crackers, certain cookies and some prepared cereals and pies. A few candies and other foods also use leavening agents. Of course, there is nothing sinful about these products themselves. Removing them from our homes is merely a symbolic enactment of removing sin from our lives.

Instead of eating these leavened foods, replace them with unleavened products (Ex. 12:15, 19-20, Lev. 23:6). These include matzos, hardtack and a number of flatbreads. But beware: Some foods that are sold as “kosher for Passover” contain leavening agents. If you are in doubt about whether a product is leavened, check the list of ingredients on the wrapper. If you are still unsure, ask someone experienced or don’t eat it. Remember: “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Whenever you eat bread during these days, it should be unleavened.

Far beyond the physical uses of leaven are the significant spiritual meanings. After being jeered at and tempted by the hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus said to His own disciples, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6). The disciples didn’t know what He meant. Do you? The disciples thought Jesus was talking about physical bread, but He wasn’t. He was talking about the doctrine of the religious authorities, which led people into sin (Matt. 16:11-12, 23:13).

By way of analogy, this leaven of false doctrine has spread through the whole world as a tool of Satan’s deception (Rev. 12:9)! The apostle Paul also used leaven as a symbol for sin. A certain Church member was committing a serious sin and making no progress toward repentance. Paul said this person was like a little leaven that would affect the whole lump — other Church members — with his sinful way of life. The person was put out of the Church. Since Paul wrote to the brethren during the Days of Unleavened Bread, they would have already put out the physical leavening from their homes. Now he encouraged them to put out the leaven of malice and wickedness — sin. He told them to eat the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth — righteousness (I Cor. 5:1-8).

Sin versus righteousness

When you consider the nature of both leavened and unleavened bread, you can see several spiritual comparisons with sin and righteousness. Let’s notice them:

  • Living in sin is easy; being righteous is hard. Because of its soft texture, leavened bread is easier to eat than unleavened bread. Likewise, going the way of sin is easier than living righteously (Matt. 7:13-14). Obeying God is difficult even for a Christian, because you still have a carnal nature that wants to sin (Rom. 7:14-25). 
  • Sin exalts the self, righteousness builds humility. Leaven puffs bread up. The same is true of sin. It puffs up the sinner — his desire is to exalt himself rather than allow God to rule him (Ps. 10:3). When you choose to live God’s righteous way of life, you abase selfish desires. 
  • Sin’s pleasures are temporary; the benefits of righteousness endure. Leavened bread left out soon becomes hard and moldy. Unleavened bread lasts much longer. Spiritually, the pleasures of sin soon pass away (Job 20:12-16). The end result is eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Righteousness, in contrast, brings both temporal and eternal blessings (Deut. 28:1-13, Ps. 15). 
  • Sin spreads easily; righteousness is built slowly. It doesn’t take long for leaven to spread throughout a loaf of bread. This is the way sin is — it spreads rapidly (Gal. 5:9), whereas building right character takes a lifetime. 
  • Sin is based on deceit; truth is the basis for righteousness. What you see is not what you get with a loaf of leavened bread. Air pockets give the impression that there’s more in the loaf than there really is. Sin also appears to be something it isn’t, deceiving the sinner into thinking he is getting something worthwhile when he is only earning the death penalty (Heb. 3:13). With righteousness there is no deceit, only truth (Ps. 119:151, 172).
  • Sin is more prevalent than righteousness. Most people prefer leavened bread because they find its tastes more desirable. Is it really better? Not necessarily — just more common. People are accustomed to it. Spiritually, the same is true. Most people prefer to live in sin. But you must reject sin, and choose to live a righteous life (Deut. 30:19).
  • Sin builds a false image; righteousness builds true character. As you have seen, leavened bread gives a false impression. So does the sinner. He may appear impressive on the outside, but is he? Read Matthew 23:27. True character is based on much more than outward appearance. It involves righteous living based on obedience to God’s Word (I John 2:5). Grow in righteousness 

What God is showing us through the analogy of leaven and sin, particularly at this time of the Days of Unleavened Bread, is clear: He wants you to escape the clutches of sin and lead a righteous life. But how can you eliminate sin and grow in righteousness? The following “three Rs” — recognize, resist and repent — can help.

  • Recognize sin. Can you recognize sin? Many cannot. Why? Most people overlook God’s simple, clear definition for sin: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4, Authorized Version). 

Discerning sin is a matter of applying God’s law. At the basis of God’s law are the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17, Deut. 5:6-21). Do you know what the Ten Commandments are? If not, how can you possibly expect to overcome and put sin — spiritual leaven — out of your life? God’s laws are real, working forces that guarantee good results when you are in harmony with them. They were given to be lived and acted upon, not ignored or outrightly rejected!

Beyond the basic commandments, God requires obedience to biblical principles referring to one’s conduct. While some things are not written in the form of a direct command, the underlying principle or spirit of the law is nonetheless just as binding (Matt. 5:17-48, Rom. 13:9)!

Under this category fall aspects of God’s civil laws and statements made by His apostles and patriarchs. Examine yourself, as II Corinthians 13:5 commands, and see how God’s laws expose the “leaven” in your character. Are you REALLY putting God first in EVERYTHING? Are you humbly submitting to His authority? Can you admit when you’re wrong?

  • Resist sin. We have already seen through the analogy of leaven that sin spreads quickly and easily. Therefore you must resist temptation before it turns into sin (Jas. 1:13-15). 

Doing this requires self-control — actively resisting wrong thoughts and replacing them with right thoughts (II Cor.10:4-5): In struggling against sin you may reach a point when you grow so battle weary that darts of self-pity and injustice pierce you. At such times it’s easy to think you’ve done all you can. Don’t be fooled. You can do more (Heb.12:4).

Throughout the Bible we see the number 7 used as a symbol of completeness (Gen. 2:2, Josh. 6:16, Rev. 16:17). In relationship to the Days of Unleavened Bread, the number 7 pictures the complete elimination of sin. You should earnestly strive to eliminate sin from your life (II Tim. 2:19).

  • Repent of sin. Even when you recognize sin and resist it, you will still find yourself falling into sin (I John 1:8). When this happens, what should you do? Strive not to sin, but when you do, seek God’s forgiveness. Upon real repentance — abandoning the wrong way and beginning to live the right way — God promises to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).

Some would say not to try so hard — to just rely on grace. But what does God say? “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2). Will you overcome all sins all at once? Absolutely not! Some sins are so deeply and habitually rooted that they may take years to totally overcome. Don’t use that as an excuse to continue, but don’t dismay either. Ask yourself, Am I sinning as often as I once did? Does this sin have as much control over me as it once did? If the answer is no, you’re growing — making progress.

Today the world is in misery because of sin. Yet humanity rejects the very Festival — the Days of Unleavened Bread — that pictures the process that would lead them out of their sins. What about you? Are you going to keep these special days as God has instructed His people to? Will you be learning the many important lessons that the Days of Unleavened Bread are meant to teach you’? If you do work at ridding your life of sin, you will be greatly blessed, now and in the future as a member of God’s Family: “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death” (Prov. 12:28).

 

Source:  The Good News, March 1984, By George M. Kackos

March 27, 2009

Does God Hear The Prayer Of Sinners?

All people have sinned and cut themselves off from God (Rom 3:23; 5:12). The prophet Isaiah wrote, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:2, RAV). So to answer the question, no, God does not hear sinners (John 9:31, first part), and will have no fellowship with them (II Cor. 6:14; I John 1:6). He hears only those who are righteous (John 9:31, last part).

But there must be a way for sinners to come to God — or else we could never become righteous. How can sinners seek God? Isaiah answers:

“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” But how do we call upon God? Well, we ourselves cannot do it. there is no such thing as a feeling to go the right way, or an altar call. It is God Himself who has to call us (John 6:44). This last scripture has to be one of the most ignored in the Bible, yet that makes it no less plain. Only God can call us into His work. If he has not done so, then all those who profess to be with God are deceived.

Barnes’ Commentary On The Bible says “the word ‘draw’  is used to denote such an influence from God as to secure the result, or as to incline the mind to believe.” That’s right, it is not the person who makes up their mind, but God who reaches out and “draws” that individual in.

Strong’s says the word “draw” means to literally or figuratively drag someone. But even so, there must be evidence (fruits – Matt. 7:20) such a person has indeed been called by God and is walking with God. The answer is:

“Let the wicked forsake his [own] way, and the unrighteous man his [own] thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:6-7, RAV).

But what is true repentance? It is more than saying ” I’m Sorry.” The person must forsake the way he has been living and begin to obey God. He must desire a life long commitment of obedience to God while at the same time having a Godly sorrow for past sins. Once he has repented of going the wrong way then God begins to work with that person, giving him His Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32), without which the deep things of God cannot even be understood (I Cor. 2:10).

After repenting and being baptized (by God’s ministry), a person is no longer a sinner in God’s sight because he has been forgiven. His prayers are now fully answered by God.

March 14, 2009

A Passover Examination

Every year, the Passover comes and goes. The world largely ignores this day, but even those that partake of it may view it as a matter of routine, while glossing over its deep meaning. The Passover is one of the most important occasions in a true Christian life, and its solemn meaning must be refreshed annually. That is why 1Corinthians 11:27-28 admonishes us to examine ourselves before we partake of its symbolism.

An important aspect of the Passover is how we partake of it. Jesus’ body was broken for us, for our healing. So we read in verses 29-30, “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself not discerning the Lord’s body.”

Albert Barnes’ Notes On The Bible says many people interpret the word “unworthingly” to mean their personal qualifications; or to be “unworthy” or “unfit” to partake of the Passover. But the word “unworthily” ” (ἀναξίως anaxiōs) is used as an “adverb,” rather than an “adjective,” and simply refers to taking this ordinance in a proper manner, with a deep sense of our sinfulness, and our need of a Saviour and Redeemer.

Does accepting Christ or baptizing save you?

So although the world, in large part, does not obey of the biblical command to observe the Passover, the meaning of it has been appropriated and twisted. Quite a few denominations believe that if you are “saved,” you go to heaven when you die. Otherwise, they say you go straight to hell, a torture that continues eternally. But on the bright side — all you have to do is accept Jesus Christ, and the blood of Christ saves you. Bingo, there’s your ticket to heaven, right? Not so fast!

Let me set the record straight here — the blood of Christ does not save anyone! Such a statement is unbiblical. Romans 5:9 says we are “justified” (or rendered innocent), by the blood of Christ. In other words, it was shed for our forgiveness of sins past and we are reconciled to God the Father by the death of Christ. But we are to be saved by His resurrection, and through our own resurrection, made possible through Jesus Christ.

Others think if they’re baptized they’re saved. That is also not biblical. You are not a Christian merely because you’re baptized. Here’s Mark 7:6-9 says on the matter: “How be it in vain do they worship me.” Yes you can accept Christ, believe in Christ, worship Him, but still do it in vain. “…teaching for doctrines the commandments of men and making the commandments of God of none affect by your tradition.”

So how exactly are you saved? What is the biblical teaching on the subject?

Two conditions to be saved

Luke 13:3, 5 tells us exactly the opposite of what some denominations teach — regardless of how many times you’ve been baptised, or what you believe — if you have not repented you will perish. Read it for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you worship and accept Christ as your Saviour, nor how much you believe in Him. You must repent to be saved.

John 8:30-31 states: “As Jesus spoke these words many believed on him.” Here are people that believed on Christ, yet He said to them: “If you continue in my word then you may be my disciples indeed.” They were told to do something, not merely believe!

Notice the immediate reaction of the people. Verse 33 shows they began to dispute Him right away. They believed on Christ, but they did not believe what He said.

So just accepting Christ, just believing on Christ doesn’t save you. You have to believe what He says, and you have to repent.

Contrary to popular religious opinion, there are two official biblical conditions to be saved: (1) repentance and (2) faith.

Mark 1:14-15 shows that Jesus came into Galilee preaching, “…the time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand, REPENT ye, and BELIEVE the gospel.” A lot of people don’t fully know what that means. They say, Oh, I’ve repented; yes, I know I’ve sinned. But they haven’t really repented without a full understanding of what it means, and they are not Christ’s until they have the Holy Spirit of God, and they cannot have the Holy Spirit of God until they have repented.

Again, let’s let scripture verify this in Rom.8:9: “But ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit if so be that the spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man (or woman) have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his.” Pretty plain right? Verse 11 continues to show us that without the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and leading us, there is no salvation.

Another fact – without the Spirit of God, we cannot comprehend spiritual truths. So you read in 1 Corinthians 2, and beginning verse 9, “Eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the mind of man,” [the spiritual truths], the things that God has prepared for us.” Then the next verse says, “But God has revealed them to us.” See it comes from God, but He reveals it by and through His Spirit.

Many understand a certain amount of the Bible, because so much of it is related to ordinary materialistic or physical knowledge, and much of it is history, which can also be readily understood. But when it comes to real deep Spiritual teaching, the natural mind of man cannot comprehend.

Repent…Believe…be baptized

On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to a total of one hundred and twenty people. And Peter preached the first really Spirit inspired sermon by a human on that day. Then in Acts 2:37 it shows the people were “pricked in their heart.” They were really hit emotionally. “And said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” What are we going to do now, now that we’ve heard what we did and heard how Christ had been crucified. Then Peter said unto them, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

There is no promise in the Bible that anyone will receive the Holy Spirit until after he has repented and been baptized, which is only an outward physical ceremony picturing your real repentance and belief. Going into the water pictures the death of the old self and as a type of the death of Christ. Coming back up out of the water is a picture of the resurrection of Christ and your coming up to live a new and a different, a much-changed type of life, going a different direction from this time on.

So real repentance means you have to admit you’ve been going in the wrong direction, believe you’ve lived wrong and done wrong – been wrong through and through. That is the type of repentance most have never admitted to, they merely accept what they believe is the truth in their own goodness and their own righteousness. These people haven’t got any more real salvation than a cat, a dog, or a cow.

David’s Repentance

A lot of people can’t understand how David could ever be called a man after God’s own heart. He shed so much blood, and deliberately disobeyed God in taking a census of His nation. And God really punished him for that. And another time he saw a woman taking a bath out of his window and told some of his servants to bring her over. She then became pregnant. So David committed adultery with another man’s wife and ultimately sent him up in the forefront of the battle where he was killed. David now became a murderer.

However, the 51st Psalm shows a prayer of David when he woke up and finally realized what had happened. Most people would say that had any man done those things, he’s no good, or God couldn’t use a man like that. Yet it is God who calls him a man after His own heart because David was crying out to God: “Have mercy upon me Oh God according to thy loving kindness, unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.” Here he begins to admit how wrong he was. And further, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquities, cleanse me from my sin.” Now he’s confessing it. “For I acknowledge my transgression and my sin is ever before me.” And then, notice verse 10, where it says, “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit in me.” He confessed his sins and David never did it again.

Every one of us has sinned. God knows every sin of man and all had better be forgiven before the Passover is taken. Eph. 2:1 shows that every person is spiritually dead in trespasses and sins because of walking in disobedience with Satan who leads with “the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.” That means some steps of examination have to be undertaken.

What can a Christian do?

And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He is the propitiation for our sins….” God wants to forgive us, but Christians who have the Holy Spirit, must confess their sins and repent, because that changes everything. God is then “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23) but converted Christians are not in disagreement with Him. They don’t mean to sin, but often slip up, forgot, or maybe get careless.

God will grant forgiveness, but not to the Christian who doesn’t change his main attitude and main purpose. If repentance and acknowledgement is lacking, and if they continue on, pretty soon they’ll just be lost entirely.

Annual Passover is great reminder

It’s good to have this Passover season come once a year and to have Christians realize they make mistakes; maybe through thoughtlessness, maybe through a deliberate act. But as they come to realize it, they must repent quickly. No one should say, “I’m not worthy to repent.” You’re never too unworthy to go to God and ask for forgiveness, and ask Him to get you back on the track.

Now, it says, “let a man examine himself, and then let him take of that Passover.” We have to examine ourselves and we should before the Passover, to know that we are walking with Christ as we should be.

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