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April 7, 2013

The Fires of Hell

"And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." (James 3:6)

Since the tongue can be a "world of iniquity" if it is "set on fire of hell," this implies that hell itself is not merely a "lake of fire" but is essentially a world of iniquity where "he that is unjust" and "he which is filthy" are unjust and filthy still (Revelation 22:11), separated forever "from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (1 Thessalonians 1:9). This is the destiny of all who "obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 8).

Their resurrected bodies presumably will be quickly consumed by the very real fires of the fiery lake, but their spirits are eternal, created in the image of God, and will continue to exist eternally in a world of iniquity, having spurned Christ's free gift of righteousness and love. This will not be mere physical suffering but spiritual suffering.

The hell described in Islam's Koran is quite different. It consists of physical tortures of all kinds, described frequently throughout the book, seemingly with relish by its author as the destiny of all "infidels" (meaning all who refuse to become Muslims and submit to a god called Allah and his prophet Mohammed). On the other hand, a very sensual paradise is repeatedly promised to all faithful male Muslims, with dozens of "dark-eyed" nymphs available to serve them (little is said about rewards for faithful women).

Christians and Muslims have some beliefs in common, of course, but the overriding consideration in comparing them must always be the fact that Christ alone has defeated death and can save all who come to Him in faith, promising eternal life in a real heaven with no more tears and no more pain (Revelation 21:4). HMM

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April 8, 2013

The Christian's Lifestyle: Our Gifts

"But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." (Ephesians 4:7)

The grace that is given (Greek charis) is a distribution by the Holy Spirit of gifts (same Greek word) to every believer (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Seventeen different gifts are listed in three New Testament passages (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-10; Ephesians 4:11), all of them intended by the Holy Spirit to minister to the church and to enhance her unity (Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 4:12).

Three reasons are cited for these gifts (Ephesians 4:12). "The perfecting of the saints" is a process that describes making something useful or suitable that is not yet adequate. James and John "mended" their nets (Matthew 4:21). And Paul prayed that he might supply that which was "lacking" (1 Thessalonians 3:10). So, the gifts of the Holy Spirit mend that which is lacking in the saints. The work of the ministry is a joint effort of service (2 Corinthians 6:1) that recognizes the public visibility of that service (2 Corinthians 4:1-2) and steadfastly displays those gifts so that the "ministry be not blamed" (2 Corinthians 6:3). The edifying of the body of Christ focuses the use of the gifts on the enrichment and betterment of the local assembly of believers (1 Corinthians 14:5, 12, 26).

The goal is to bring all (the saints) to a state of doctrinal unity (the faith) so that our maturity can be compared to the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13), eliminating susceptibility to "every wind of doctrine," growing up into Him in all things, and building the "body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:14-16). HMM III

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April 9, 2013

The Rivers and the Sea

"All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again." (Ecclesiastes 1:7)

As the ancients observed the mighty Nile and Euphrates and other great rivers flowing into the ocean, they could not help but wonder why the sea level never rose. They knew that many of the waters in the rivers came from rainfall, especially during floods, but they had only quaint notions, at best, as to where the rains originated. Not until the days of modern science did men discover that rainfall actually comes from the oceans via evaporation and atmospheric transportation.

But the Bible writers somehow seemed to know about the true nature of the hydrologic cycle thousands of years in advance of modern science. The rivers come from the same place to which they return--that is, the sea.

But how do the waters of the sea ever rise into the sky? "He maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: Which the clouds do drop and distill upon man abundantly" (Job 36:27-28). Water droplets are made very small by the process of evaporation so they can be carried aloft by the up-rushing air forces over warm waters; later they "distill upon man abundantly."

There are other references in Scripture to different phases of this great hydrologic cycle, but one of the most significant is Isaiah 55:10-11: "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth. . . . So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please." The waters return to the skies only after doing their good work on the lands. Just so, the life-giving word of God returns to Him, not void, but full of the spiritual fruit for which He sent it. HMM

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April 10, 2013

Fear the Right Fear

"Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread." (Isaiah 8:12-13)

The people of Judah were terrified by the imminent prospect of invasion by the cruel Assyrian hordes who had been further strengthened by a confederacy with Judah's own brethren in the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. It is indeed cause for concern when compromising Christians join ranks with ungodly pagans in opposing those who defend the true word of God, for such a combination seems almost too strong to resist. A modern example is the current collaboration between the secular evolutionists and those Christian evolutionists and "progressive creationists" who oppose Christians who stand for the literal truth of the biblical record of creation and earth history.

This is cause only for concern, however, not for fear! Just as in Isaiah's day, we must fear God--not men. In the coming judgment it will be far easier to explain to God why we had too much faith in His word than too little!

These verses are referred to by the apostle Peter in a well-known New Testament passage: "Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:14-15).

Therefore, when unbelievers and compromising believers join forces against those who fully believe the Bible, the proper response is not panic, or submission, or even belligerent opposition, but an implicit confidence in God and His word, accompanied by a gracious "answer" (literally "apologetic") in defense of the truth, given in a meek spirit and in fear only of God. HMM

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April 11, 2013

Reject Favoritism

"My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons." (James 2:1)

Evidently the believers in the early church were much like us, in that they tended to honor and favor wealthy individuals in their congregations. James commands them to reject such partiality and gives the reasons why.

The first reason is that God's perspective is just the opposite. He favors the one of low rank. "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom?" (v. 5).

Next, we see that favoritism never impresses the rich--it always backfires. "Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?" (v. 6). Showing favoritism is not practical.

Then, note that the favored ones are probably least deserving. In fact, often "they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called" (v. 7). In doing so, they dishonor the Lord, in whose name we gather.

Finally, such favoritism is a violation of "the royal law," that summary statement of God's plan for our relationships: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (v. 8). If the law is kept, "ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin. . . . For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (vv. 8-10).

Peter (previously a bigoted Jew) had learned this lesson, first in a vision, and then in his miraculous ministry to the Gentiles. "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34).

As our text reveals, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and showing favoritism on any basis (not only riches, but color, education, ethnic, or national background, etc.) are not compatible. JDM

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April 12, 2013

He Is Able

"Nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." (2 Timothy 1:12)

The apostle Paul uses a precision of synonyms. We are to "know" the One in whom we have believed and to be "persuaded" that He is able to "keep" us.

The knowledge Paul cited (Greek i'do) emphasizes mental understanding as opposed to experiential knowledge or intuitive perception. I'do coupled with the word for persuasion (Greek peitho) strengthens the assurance Paul is promising. Our confidence is not based on mere emotion but a on clear grasp of God's secure salvation. Perhaps a quick survey of other passages will encourage your heart as you read this:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).

"Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

"God. . . hath begotten us again to . . . an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5).

"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen" (Jude 1:24-25).

What marvelous promises! Our surety is based on who God is, rather than on our own individual steadfastness. HMM III

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April 13, 2013

Together with Christ

"Even when we were dead in sins, |God| hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:5-6)

In these two marvelous verses the word "together" appears three times, referring in each case to our spiritual union with Jesus Christ. Three different words are used, each being compounded with the Greek sun, meaning "together with." The first combination means "made alive with"; the second, "resurrected with"; the third, "seated with."

All of these verbs are given in the past tense, stressing that, as far as God's own word is concerned, we have been already seated eternally in the heavens with Christ, having been born again with His own life spiritually and raised from the dead physically. All of these blessings were given to us "even when we were dead in sins," not because of our good works or by our good intentions, but only "by grace ye are saved."

The remarkable truth is that this doctrine of our eternal union with Christ, given and maintained only by His grace, does not lead to carelessness or sinfulness as some allege, but to a desire for a holy, God-honoring life. "God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? . . . like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:2, 4).

The regenerate nature implanted by the Holy Spirit, a heart of gratitude for Christ's sacrificial love for us, and the wonderful promises in God's word, all combine to transform our lives making us new creatures in Christ, knowing that henceforth we shall "ever be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17). HMM

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April 14, 2013

Snares

"Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." (1 Timothy 3:7)

A snare is a trap normally used to catch an unwary wild animal, but each of the five times the word (Greek pagis) is used in the New Testament, it refers to devices used by the great deceiver, Satan, to trap unwary human beings.

There is, first of all, the snare of worldly involvement. "And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth" (Luke 21:34-35).

There is the snare of rejecting God's word, both the written word and the living word. When Israel repudiated Christ, God said: "Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them" (Romans 11:9, quoting Psalm 69:22). The desire for riches can be a snare. "They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition" (1 Timothy 6:9).

Satan has many other "devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11) by which he seeks "an advantage of us." Not even "bishops" or other full-time Christian ministers are immune, for our text is a warning to prospective bishops against "the snare of the devil." It is the responsibility of every true "servant of the Lord" to be "gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves . . . that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will" (2 Timothy 2:24-26). We must both avoid Satan's snares ourselves, and seek to deliver those who have been thus ensnared. HMM

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April 15, 2013

The Christian's Lifestyle: Our Behavior

"This I say . . . that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk." (Ephesians 4:17)

This succinct command quickly is followed by a sweeping description of the impotent mind of the Gentiles of that day in contrast to the utterly changed condition of the believer (whether Jew or Gentile). The non-Christian Gentiles had a darkened perceptive ability, rendering them alienated because of the ignorance that was in them, and an overall blindness of their heart which was the root cause of their inability to function, even to feel, in the same way as the children of God (Ephesians 4:18-19; compare Romans 1:21-32; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

The saint of God, however, is told to discard the old man and to put on the new man (Ephesians 4:20-24), as though that simple picture of a powerful reality is adequate instruction to fulfill the earlier command. No longer is the child of God to be corrupt by the deceitful lusts of his or her old condition, but having learned Christ and been taught by Him, is to be renewed in the spirit of (their) mind. A transformation is now possible through the new mental (intellectual, spiritual) abilities given to us by Christ (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:16).

The new man, which we are responsible to wear like a body-enveloping cloak, is created for us by the omniscient Creator in righteousness and true holiness. We have been given a specially created new man to wear (externally visible), which will show (exhibit, demonstrate, make clear) the spiritual difference between the Gentiles and the saints of God.

The seventeen commands which follow (Ephesians 4:24-5:7) address every aspect of the Christian walk, all relating to a lifestyle of truth, giving specific contrast between the unbelieving Gentile and the saint. HMM III

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April 16, 2013

Things to Keep

"And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:17)

The two main Greek words for "keep" in the New Testament both mean more than just "obey," though this meaning is certainly included. They also mean "guard" and "preserve." We are thus told by Christ, in our text above, to guard and obey God's commandments.

The same urgent command to keep what God has given is applied to many other entities in Scripture. For example, Paul stresses that we are to "keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called" (1 Timothy 6:20). In other words, false science (evolution) and vain babbling (humanistic philosophies) will seek to destroy the tenets of God's truth, so we must always be diligent to guard and protect these truths.

Each person is also urged to "keep himself unspotted from the world" and to "keep thyself pure" (James 1:27; 1 Timothy 5:22). The forces of darkness make perpetual attacks against the spiritual and moral integrity of the Christian, so we must constantly be alert to protect ourselves against their enticements. Then we must also endeavor "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3), and to "keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21), for the enemy will continually try to sow discord and bitterness among God's people.

There are many verses which stress the keeping of His commandments (e.g., John 14:15) and the keeping of His words (e.g., 1 John 2:5). Finally, in the very last chapter of the Bible, the Lord sums it all up, as it were, when He promises: "Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:7). HMM

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April 17, 2013

Tragic Ignorance

"For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." (Romans 10:3)

There are several important doctrinal truths about which unbelievers--and sometimes even Christians--seem tragically ignorant, with an ignorance affecting their very lives and destinies. Perhaps the most tragic is that mentioned in our text. Paul was writing specifically of the Jews, but the same ignorance is found in countless others--people who seek to earn salvation by their own religious and moral works rather than through faith in the imputed righteousness of Christ, who died for their sins.

There is also widespread ignorance concerning death and life beyond the grave. "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). With respect to Christian life and ministry, Paul says: "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant" (1 Corinthians 12:1). Yet most Christians neglect to develop or use their gifts, mainly because of ignorance concerning their proper function as described in 1 Corinthians 12, 14; Romans 12:3-21; Ephesians 4:7-16, and other key passages.

We urgently also need to be instructed concerning the deceptions of the wicked one: "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11). For all who seek instruction rather than ignorance, let them study God's word, for "all scripture . . . is profitable for . . . instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). HMM

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April 18, 2013

The Conclusion of the Matter

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

The spiritual life of Solomon can, to a great degree, be traced through his writings as recorded in the Bible. They are not straightforward history but rather in a poetic style which reveal his inner thoughts throughout his life. At the beginning of his reign over Israel, he asked God for "an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad" (1 Kings 3:9), and he subsequently became renowned for his wisdom (e.g., 3:28; 4:29).

Unfortunately, as is well documented in Scripture, his thirst for human wisdom led him into compromise and disobedience, setting the stage for national apostasy and idolatry upon his death. The book of Ecclesiastes chronicles a series of experiments which he conducted in search for the highest human good, but each forced him to conclude that "all is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2, etc.), that there is no humanly discernible pattern in the affairs of men. However, he concludes, life is the gift of God and should be enjoyed (3:13). Furthermore, he recognized the eventual judgment of God and concluded it best to live in obedience to God's commands (e.g., 3:16-17).

Our text summarizes the entire book of Ecclesiastes. Here is the secret of human fulfillment. Note the two complementary commands, "fear God" and "keep his commandments."

A true reverence for God necessarily results in obedience to His commands. Wise Solomon knew it, and Christ and the New Testament writers reinforced it (John 14:15; 1 John 5:2; etc.). Life's harsh realities and seeming paradoxes are at times incomprehensible to us. Only by adopting a proper attitude toward life and God can we cope. JDM

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April 19, 2013

The Word and the Spirit

"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." (1 Corinthians 2:12)

How is it that some people can read a biblical passage and find it either tedious, confusing, or even foolish, whereas others will receive great understanding and blessing from the very same passage? The answer is that the first group are animated only by the spirit of the world, "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2), whereas the others are indwelled by the Spirit of God, having received the Holy Spirit when they trusted Christ for forgiveness and salvation.

It was, after all, the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures to begin with. "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21). "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16), that is, "God-breathed," where the "breath of God" is none other than the "Spirit of God." Concerning his own divinely inspired writings, Paul said: "We speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth" (1 Corinthians 2:13).

Likewise it is the same Spirit indwelling each believer who illumines, and confirms, and applies His own Scriptures to the individual Christian who reads or hears them. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14). On the other hand, Jesus promised His disciples that "when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13).

This He does through the Scriptures He inspired, with blessings abundant as we study them prayerfully and with believing and obedient hearts. HMM

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April 20, 2013

Visit

"Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name." (Acts 15:14)

Our English word "visit" has come to mean a social call, but not so in the Greek, where it can mean to inspect, to look upon in order to help, or benefit.

For example, when Christ said "sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not" (Matthew 25:43), He had in mind more than a social call. The prisons of the day were miserable places with no amenities whatever. Prisoners desperately needed help from the outside. Paul wrote to Timothy from his Roman prison: "The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee" (2 Timothy 4:13). By better understanding the word "visit," Christ's teaching takes on a richer meaning involving more the idea of a personal commitment.

The events surrounding the birth of the Messiah were considered a "visitation" by Zacharias when he prophesied over the baby Jesus: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people . . . the dayspring from on high hath visited us" (Luke 1:68, 78). After Christ raised to life a dead boy, the people exclaimed, "a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people" (Luke 7:16).

In that light, consider our text for today as James explained to the church leaders Paul's ministry to the Gentiles. With our expanded understanding of the word "visit," we could now expand the verse to read, "how God for the first time did look upon the Gentiles, in order to help them. In doing so He took out of them a people for His name." God, in His grace, has done all that was necessary to help us, to bring us out of bondage to sin, and to stamp on us His holy name. JDM

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April 21, 2013

Holy Brethren

"I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren." (1 Thessalonians 5:27)

There is probably no word more misused--even abused--than the word "holy." In our day and age, it usually conjures up an image of sanctimoniousness, or even hypocrisy, and thus often becomes a term of snide ridicule.

Nevertheless, it is a biblical term of highest significance, most often used in connection with God Himself, the Holy Spirit. Since it is also used in connection with things ("the holy place," as in Hebrews 9:12), it does not in itself necessarily have a moral connotation. Its basic meaning is evidently "set apart" and can refer either to people or objects that have been dedicated to God and His service.

Christians are all "holy brethren" in this sense, regardless of their individual behavior. They are all also called "saints" (same word as "holy" in the Greek--e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:2, even though many of the "saints" at Corinth were far from Christlike in their actions).

By all means, however, we who are called "holy brethren" ought to try, by God’s grace, to bring honor to such a name, rather than ridicule. "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him" (Hebrews 3:1-2).

The term "saints," or "holy brethren," applies both to men and women, of course, and to believers of Old Testament times, as well as New Testament. Peter, for example, mentions "the holy women" who honored and served the Lord "in the old time" (1 Peter 3:5) and also the "holy men of God" through whom God gave the Old Testament Scriptures (2 Peter 1:21). The eternal admonition of God to all believers of every age is, "Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). HMM

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April 22, 2013

The Christian's Lifestyle: Our Wisdom

"Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:17)

The "wherefore" is preceded by the command "Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). This title, children of light, is used only three other times in the New Testament: once by the Lord Jesus to contrast worldly wisdom with the ineffectual use of godly wisdom in the least things (Luke 16:8); once again to direct us to believe in the light (John 12:36); and finally by Paul to encourage us to watch and be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6).

A light-like life, which is evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, is expressed in the character of goodness (Romans 15:14), righteousness (Romans 14:17-18), and truth (Ephesians 5:9; compare Galatians 5:22). In fact, the transformation of our character by our conscious choice to "present |our| bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God," enables us to "prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:1-2; see also Ephesians 5:10). An equation is clearly drawn between godly behavior and godly wisdom.

It therefore follows that children of light "should have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11), taking the responsibility to reprove them and recognizing the "shame even to speak of those things" (Ephesians 5:12).

The light things make manifest (present, display) that which is reproved, enabling us to "walk circumspectly |accurately, carefully|, not as fools but as wise" (Ephesians 5:15). That wisdom is not the foolish wisdom of this world (1 Corinthians 1:20), but the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:7) "that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Corinthians 2:12), understanding what the will of the Lord is. HMM III

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April 23, 2013

Hold Fast

"Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 1:13)

There are several significant pieces to this important command. We must "hold firm" to the "pattern" of the "wholesome words" that have been given to us. And that firm hold must rest in the faith and love that we have in Christ Jesus.

This is not an option. We are to hold to the form of the sound words. Hupotuposis is the Greek term, only used one other time in the New Testament, where Paul insists that his life was to be "a pattern to them which should hereafter believe" (1 Timothy 1:16, emphasis added). We are to be "under" (hupo) the "outline" or "pattern" (tupos) of the wholesome words. The purpose of the two letters to Timothy was to encourage the young pastor to follow the example of his human teacher Paul, who had completely submitted himself to the authority of all Scripture.

To the Roman Christians, Paul was delighted that they "obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered" to them (Romans 6:17, emphasis added). To the Corinthians, he reminded them that the events recorded in the life of Israel had "happened unto them for examples" (1 Corinthians 10:11, emphasis added). Paul also insisted that the people of the church at Philippi should "be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample" (Philippians 3:17, emphasis added).

Both biblical and church history provide us with patterns to follow. But the sound words of Scripture give what is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). HMM III

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April 24, 2013

The Good Deposit

"That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us." (2 Timothy 1:14)

The good thing that Paul referred to surely involves God"s "gift" that young Timothy was given as he entered the ministry. All gifts include the gift of "power, and of love, and of a sound mind" that God has given to all of us (2 Timothy 1:7). The Holy Spirit deposited that gift in us, and we are expected to guard it through the same Holy Spirit.

The action and responsibility are ours. The means by which we obey is the internal dwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who entered our bodies at the time of our salvation (1 Corinthians 6:19). That unique down payment of the Triune Godhead (Ephesians 1:14) made it possible for us to keeping the good with which He entrusted us. The breadth of God's gift to us is beyond imagining, but there are a few insights that may help us understand His bounty.

In the most broad perspective, we are given "to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 13:11). That gift requires that we be given "the mind of Christ" so that we may grasp these great spiritual truths (1 Corinthians 2:16). The deposit that God placed with us is not a leap in IQ or mental ability. It is truly a "new man" that God has empowered to be "renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Colossians 3:10).

But this great spiritual capacity must be guarded. There is no guarantee of spiritual wisdom this side of eternity. We must beware "lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Colossians 2:8). God has made it possible for us to gain the wisdom of holiness so "that |we| might be filled with all the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:19). HMM III

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April 25, 2013

Doxology to the King

"Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:17)

In this stirring doxology to the One who allowed him into the ministry (vv. 12-13), whose grace "was exceeding abundant" (v. 14), who "came into the world to save sinners" (v. 15), who showed mercy and longsuffering, and who grants "life everlasting" (v. 16), Paul uses several majestic descriptive terms. Each deserves our attention.

The King eternal. God's sovereign kingship is in view here. The phrase literally translates, the "King of the ages." "But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king" (Jeremiah 10:10). He is the King, and we must stand in submission to Him.

Immortal. The Greek word used here implies more than mere exemption from death. A fuller meaning would include total incorruptibility; i.e., the inability to be stained by either decay or death. What a comfort to realize that the believer's crown in glory will be likewise incorruptible (1 Corinthians 9:25), as will his resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Invisible. God is a Spirit, and as such cannot be seen. He has chosen to appear on numerous occasions, most notably as Christ, but is usually unseen, the primary meaning of the word. Christ "is the image of the invisible |same word| God, the firstborn of every creature" (Colossians 1:15). Seen or unseen, He merits our praise.

The only wise God. God is unique in His existence and wisdom, "God only wise" (Romans 16:27). He stands alone, solitary, apart from all others.

Surely to this eternal, incorruptible, unseen, unique, wise, sovereign King belongs "honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." JDM

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April 26, 2013

Creation and the Sciences

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Genesis 1:27)

The first chapter of Genesis is the foundational chapter of the Bible and, therefore, of all true science. It is the great creation chapter, outlining the events of that first week of time when "the heavens and the earth were finished, and. . . . God ended his work which he had made" (Genesis 2:1-2). Despite the evolutionists, God is not creating or making anything in the world today (except for special miracles as recorded in Scripture) because all His work was finished in that primeval week. He is now engaged in the work of conserving, or saving, what He first created.

There are only three acts of special creation--that is, creation out of nothing except God's omnipotent word--recorded in this chapter. His other works were those of "making" or "forming" the created entities into complex, functioning systems.

His first creative act was to call into existence the space/mass/time cosmos. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). This is the domain which we now study in the physical sciences. The second is the domain of the life sciences. "God created . . . every living creature that moveth" (Genesis 1:21). It is significant that the "life" principle required a second act of direct creation. It will thus never be possible to describe living systems solely in terms of physics and chemistry.

The third act of creation was that of the image of God in man and woman. The study of human beings is the realm of the human sciences. Our bodies can be analyzed chemically and our living processes biologically, but human behavior can only really be understood in terms of our relation to God, whose image we share. HMM

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April 27, 2013

Lessons to Learn

"But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Matthew 9:13)

The Lord Jesus called all who would be His disciples to "learn of me" (or "from me," Matthew 11:29), and our text verse contains the first use of "learn" in the New Testament, thus indicating a basic item we must learn when we become Christians.

The Lord stressed that God cared nothing about the ritualistic offering of animal sacrifices, as such, but rather desired understanding of the meaning of those sacrifices, accompanied by the motivating love and faith of a repentant heart. He referred them back to their own Scripture: "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6). This is the most difficult but most basic lesson to learn by one seeking forgiveness and salvation.

There are many subsequent lessons to learn, of course; many of them very difficult even for sincere, believing Christians. Paul notes one of them he had learned the hard way: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Philippians 4:11). Another difficult but vital lesson has to do with Christian humility in leadership, "that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another" (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Even the Lord Jesus Christ in His perfect humanity had lessons to learn. "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). Finally, having learned these and many other such lessons, we must not forget them. Paul, in his final letter, so reminds us: "Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned" (2 Timothy 3:14). HMM

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April 28, 2013

The Unseen Angels

"For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." (Psalm 91:11)

God has created "an innumerable company of angels" (Hebrews 12:22), and there are many references to them in both Old and New Testaments, but few living men or women have ever actually seen real heavenly angels--or, at least, recognized them as such. We may "have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2), for they can assume the appearance of men on occasion, but normally they are invisible to human eyes.

Nevertheless, they are there! Furthermore, they are "all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). God has given them charge over us--that is, over each believer "that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High" (Psalm 91:1). They "excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word" (Psalm 103:20).

Wide is the variety of His commandments with respect to angelic ministry to believers. "The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. . . . They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone" (Psalms 34:7; 91:12).

Not only physical protection but also guidance and encouragement are angelic ministries. When a believer dies, angels translate his spirit to the Lord's presence (Luke 16:22; 2 Corinthians 5:8), and we can look forward then to meeting and thanking them personally as we come to understand better all their ministries on our behalf during our lifetimes. They are keenly concerned with our salvation and spiritual progress, "which things the angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12). Finally, "when the Son of man shall come in his glory," He will bring "all the holy angels with him" (Matthew 25:31) as He judges the world. HMM

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April 29, 2013

The Christian's Lifestyle: Our Control

Two factors need to be identified with this verse: First, the immediately preceding context confines the primary application to behavior, just as the immediately following context relates the "filled" behavior to the fellowship of believers. Secondly, the imagery stresses control of the behavior by the Holy Spirit (contrasting filled with drunken behavior).

The filling is not synonymous with the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-14), since all are so baptized but not all are filled. Nor is it equal with or subsequent to speaking in tongues, since some specifically identified as being filled with the Holy Spirit (John the Baptist, Elizabeth, Jesus) never spoke in tongues. Some individuals (Paul, Peter, Stephen) were filled on different occasions. Apparently, the filling produces a temporary effect like alcohol does. The effect of the filling of the Holy Spirit enhances or encourages a God-like behavior in contrast to the Satan-like behavior stimulated by alcohol.

Some passages equate power with this filling (Acts 1:8; Romans 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:5), and others equate it to wisdom (Colossians 1:9-11; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 3:15- 17). The immediate context, however, lists four evidences of the Holy Spirit's control (Ephesians 5:19-21): songs of praise together; personal singing and private melody to God in our hearts; thanksgiving; and voluntary submission to one another in the Lord. Since the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to the saints (Ephesians 4:7-11) for the purpose of building the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-16), it stands to basic reason that the Holy Spirit's control is designed to enhance and stimulate the ministry of believers to each other and the personal joy and awareness of the goodness of God. HMM III

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April 30, 2013

The Better Hope

"For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God." (Hebrews 7:19)

Men and women have many false hopes in this world, one of which is that they can earn heaven by good works. Even though God's law is a perfect law, it can never make a person fit for heaven, because no one can keep the law perfectly. There is a better hope, however, and that hope is "the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8) "which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).

This "hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15) is indeed a wonderful hope. In addition to the one in our text ("better"), there are three other adjectives in the New Testament relative to our Christian hope.

First, it is called a "good hope." "Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father . . . hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace" (2 Thessalonians 2:16).

Next, it is a "blessed hope." "Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:12-13).

Finally, it is a "lively |or living| hope." "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).

It is true, of course, that our hope is centered on the eternal future, for "if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1 Corinthians 15:19). Nevertheless, the proved resurrection of Christ makes it a good hope, a blessed hope, and a living hope. HMM

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May 1, 2013

Strong in Grace

"Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2:1)

In the Old Testament, "grace" (used 69 times) is often applied in the sense of personal favors or physical blessings. "For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Psalm 84:11). In the New Testament, however, the term (used 156 times) often seems to emphasize God's personal empowerment or the granting of His unique spiritual favor, as is clear in the wonderful passage Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."

Once the saving grace has been given, the believer is expected to use that grace with victory in mind--confidence that empowers our spiritual life and witness. We are to be "strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."

Hence, we are to "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might" (Ephesians 6:10) as we wrestle against the powers of darkness that battle us unceasingly. Although "|we| can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth |us|" (Philippians 4:13), we must remember that those "things" include the entire spectrum of poverty to wealth and from hunger to satisfaction. God's grace is strong enough to counter every worldly circumstance.

We must remember, however, that even the greatest heroes of the faith endured intense opposition, seasons of pain and privation, and occasionally were tortured to death (Hebrews 11:32-38). God's strong grace is sufficient. "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Corinthians 12:1). HMM III

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