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May 2, 2013

Prerequisites for Christian Unity

"If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." (Philippians 2:1-2)

Churches haven't changed much in 2,000 years. The call to unity in these verses is as needed now as it has always been. Let us examine the prerequisites for unity found here.

Consolation in Christ: The Greek word translated "consolation" is frequently translated "exhortation," and that seems appropriate here. The "exhortation in Christ" immediately follows this passage where His beautiful life of humility becomes the exhortation to unity among believers, since disunity ultimately comes from pride (v. 3).

Comfort of love: Comfort could be rendered "encouragement," implying a tender act of incentive. The agape love which the Holy Spirit produces in the life of a believer produces the incentive to unity. When believers truly love one another in this fashion, unity prevails.

Fellowship of the Spirit: The Holy Spirit makes possible a precious relationship between believers. Through the Spirit's empowering, our wills can be molded into Christlikeness, enabling us to live in unity with our fellow saints.

Bowels and mercies: In the Western world, the heart is referred to as the seat of our innermost affections, here called "mercies," or, literally, "compassionate yearnings and actions." When Christians have tender compassion for one another, divisions cease.

The four prerequisites for unity are then Christlike humility, Spirit-produced agape love, a yielding of the will of each believer to the Spirit, and tenderheartedness toward one another. May God grant that they will know we are Christians by our love. JDM

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May 3, 2013

Instantaneous Creation

"Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created." (Psalm 148:5)

The concept of "fiat creation" is opposed by evolutionists and all who believe in the so-called geologic ages. Nevertheless, this is clearly the teaching of the word of God, and God was there! Psalm 148 exhorts all the stars to praise the Lord, and then notes that, as soon as God spoke, they "were created." Similarly, "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. . . . For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast" (Psalm 33:6, 9).

It is worth noting that whenever the verbs "create" or "make" are used in reference to God's work of creation, they are never in the present tense. God is not now creating or making stars or animals or people as theistic evolution requires; at the end of the six-day creation period, in fact, God "rested from all his work which God created and made" (Genesis 2:3).

This is the teaching of the New Testament also. "The worlds |that is, the space/time cosmos, the 'aeons'| were framed |not 'are being framed'| by the word of God |not 'by processes of stellar evolution'|, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear |not 'out of pre-existing materials,' as required by theories of chemical and cosmic evolution|" (Hebrews 11:3).

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself confirmed the doctrine of recent creation. "From the beginning of the creation |not, that is, four billion years after the solar system evolved| God made them |Adam and Eve| male and female" (Mark 10:6). Thus, those who believe in the geological ages are rejecting both the biblical record and the authority of Jesus Christ in order to attain ephemeral acceptance by the ungodly. This is a poor exchange! HMM

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May 4, 2013

The Strength of the Lord

"I will go in the strength of the LORD: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only." (Psalm 71:16)

Since God the Creator is omnipotent, if we can go in His strength, there would seem to be no limit to what could be accomplished. The book of Psalms, in particular, over and over again, testifies that God indeed is our strength. For example: "I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower" (Psalm 18:1-2).

But how do we appropriate God's strength, and how is it manifested in our own lives? The answer is not what most would expect. "He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy" (Psalm 147:10-11). "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6).

Our text itself indicates that going in the strength of the Lord is essentially to "make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only." Speaking of God's righteousness (not ours) in the fear of the Lord and the leading of the Spirit, hoping only in His mercy manifests the strength of the Lord.

Furthermore, "the joy of the LORD is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). And, finally, the apostle Paul, who surely exhibited the strength of God in his life as much as anyone ever did, testified that "he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). His grace and His joy, shining through our own weakness, enable the man "whose strength is in thee" to "go from strength to strength" (Psalm 84:5, 7) in His service. HMM

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May 5, 2013

Results of Religious Compromise

"And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD." (2 Chronicles 19:2)

Jehoshaphat was a godly king of Judah who faithfully served the Lord, but he made the tragic mistake of forming an alliance with ungodly king Ahab of Israel in fighting against their common enemy Syria. After all, he reasoned, they were "brothers," both descended from Abraham, so they could join together in battling the Syrians.

As a result, although God continued to bless Jehoshaphat during his lifetime, this compromise eventually resulted in great tragedy in his family when his son and successor, Jehoram, married Ahab's wicked daughter, Athaliah, and then slew all his own brothers, and soon he himself died of a loathsome disease (2 Chronicles 21:4, 6, 19).

The road of compromise eventually ends in a precipice, especially in matters regarding the integrity of God's word and His saving gospel. The timeless principle for Christians today is given in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? . . . or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?"

This warning and command is at least as greatly needed today as it was in Paul's day. Spiritual, moral, and religious compromise seem to be endemic in the Christian realm today, in both doctrine and practice, and God would warn us that tragedy is imminent in the generation of our children, if not before.

"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing" (2 Corinthians 6:17). HMM

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May 6, 2013

The Christian's Lifestyle: Our Relationships

"Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." (Ephesians 5:21)

Our calling is to walk worthy.

Our gifts are perfect and complete.

Our behavior is changed by the new man.

Our wisdom is to understand the will of the Lord.

Our control is being filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:22 through 6:9 presents a basic primer on human relationships in dynamics that impact most of our lives, our families, and our places of employment. Our relationships are to be carried out by submitting (ourselves) to one another in the fear of God. That key word hupotasso is itself instructive. It is a compound of the preposition "under" and a word that means to arrange in order. Thus, to arrange under, in order.

In the home, the submission (order, arrangement) is compared to the Lord's house, the church. Wives are to be arranged under the husband (emphasis on authority) just as the church is under the authority of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24). Husbands are to be under the responsibility of love (emphasis on sacrifice) just as Christ gave His life on behalf of and for the benefit of the church (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Children are to be under the arranged order of correct behavior (emphasis on obedience) just as the fifth commandment so requires for the protection and promotion of well-being and longevity (Ephesians 6:1-4).

In the workplace, those who serve are to serve as though they were serving the Lord, not men (Ephesians 6:5-8). Those who lead and own are to relate to their servants as though they were serving the servants, recognizing that one Master is over all (Ephesians 6:9). These instructions are really quite simple. We do not need to complicate them. HMM III

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May 7, 2013

When to Pray

"Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving." (Colossians 4:2)

There is no set time to pray, for it is always appropriate. Our text tells us to "continue" in prayer, and this is the same word as in Romans 12:12, which urges us to be "instant in" prayer. In fact, the admonition of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 is to "pray without ceasing."

Children should pray, as did little Samuel. When the Lord called him, he could answer: "Speak; for thy servant heareth" (1 Samuel 3:10). Young people should pray, as Timothy, who was exhorted by Paul to make "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks . . . for all men" (1 Timothy 2:1). Adult men should pray, as did Paul himself, who could say to the Christians of Philippi that he was "always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy" (Philippians 1:4). Old men should pray, like Simeon, and old women, like Anna, who "served God with fastings and prayers night and day" (Luke 2:25, 36-37). And even dying men should pray, as did Stephen who, as he was being stoned to death, was also "calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59).

We can pray at dawn like David, who said: "My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up" (Psalm 5:3). In a Philippian prison, "at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God" (Acts 16:25). Daniel "kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed" (Daniel 6:10). There is no time that is not a good time for prayer. One should pray in times of sorrow and also in times of joy, as did Hannah in both circumstances (1 Samuel 1:15; 2:1).

It is a most marvelous privilege that we have through Christ, that we are able to speak to the infinite God in prayer, and to know that He hears, and cares! Therefore, pray! HMM

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May 8, 2013

Things Not Seen

"By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." (Hebrews 11:7)

The little phrase "things not seen" is used three times in the New Testament, and interestingly enough, these refer to the past, present, and future works of God with respect to the things that are seen.

At the beginning of the "faith chapter" of Hebrews occur these remarkable words: "Now faith is . . . the evidence of things not seen. . . . Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" (Hebrews 11:1, 3). That is, the material things of this present world were not made of pre-existing materials; they were supernaturally created by the word of the Creator! These things which are now seen provide evidence (or better, the "conviction") of the things not seen--that is, of God's creative work completed in the past.

The "processes" that are now seen (as distinct from the "materials") date especially from the time of the great Flood. The "things not seen as yet" by Noah--that is, the present atmospheric circulation, the present hydrological cycle, the present seasonal changes, and many other key phenomena of the present order--all were instituted in the days of Noah when "the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (2 Peter 3:6).

Finally, "we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for . . . the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18). Just as surely as the materials and processes of the present world once were unseen, but now are easily seen, so the future eternal world will soon be clearly seen when Christ returns. HMM

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May 9, 2013

This Same Jesus

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." (Hebrews 13:8)

When the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, then later ascended into heaven, His body was immortal, no longer subject to death--yet it was a physical body, capable of being seen and heard and touched, even capable of eating with His disciples. He was clearly recognizable, yet could quickly ascend from earth to heaven and could pass through a solid wall. As He ascended, two angelic messengers said, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). He was immeasurably different after His resurrection, yet Peter could also proclaim "that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).

Furthermore, even when He returns and assumes the eternal throne of the universe, He will still be the same. "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: . . . they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail" (Hebrews 1:8, 12).

This was the same Jesus whom John the Baptist identified at the beginning of His earthly ministry. "He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost" (John 1:33).

In fact, before His baptism, and even before His incarnation, He was the same. "In the beginning was the Word . . . The same was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2). This same Jesus who lived among men, identified by John the Baptist as the Son of God, and who died on the cross, is the eternal Word by whom all things were made, as well as the resurrected Savior and coming King. Jesus Christ is truly "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." HMM

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May 10, 2013

The Father's Love for the Son

"And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17)

In this remarkable verse, God the Father, speaking from heaven itself, introduces His beloved Son to the world. This is the first New Testament reference to "love," just as the Father's love for the Son was the first love that ever existed. As Christ prayed in the upper room, "For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24).

There are many other references to the Father's love for the Son, including two to the voice at His baptism (Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22) and two more in the upper room prayer (John 17:23,26). One great reason for that love is the following: "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life" (John 10:17).

The extent of the Father's love for His blessed Son was all-encompassing. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand" (John 3:35). Furthermore, "the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth" (John 5:20).

God also spoke of His "beloved Son" on the Mount of Transfiguration, as cited four times (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17). Thus there are seven references in the New Testament to the Father's heavenly testimony to His beloved Son. Similarly there are seven passages where the Son Himself testifies of that Fatherly love. In addition to the six cited above, Christ said, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you" (John 15:9).

Seven testimonies from the Father and seven from the Son! Surely the Father loved the Son with a perfect love. And yet--"Herein is love . . . that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). Such love for unworthy sinners merits nothing less than total thanksgiving from us. HMM

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May 11, 2013

God of All Graces

"Now the God of peace be with you all." (Romans 15:33)

Our God of all the world has been known by many names in Scripture (Elohim, Jehovah, Adonai, etc.), but He is also identified, especially in the New Testament, as the God of many virtues and graces.

Our text calls Him, for example, the "God of peace." The same appellation is given Him in Romans 16:20, Hebrews 13:20-21, and Philippians 4:9: "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly"; "Now the God of peace . . . make you perfect in every good work to do his will"; "The God of peace shall be with you."

He is even called the very God of peace who will "sanctify you wholly" in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. He is "the God of hope" in the beautiful invocation of Romans 15:13. "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing."

To the sorrowing, He is "the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). And, of course, He is the "God of love," as Paul reminded the Corinthians in closing his last letter to them. "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you" (2 Corinthians 13:11).

The apostle Peter wound up his first epistle by reminding his own readers that their God was "the God of all grace." "The God of all grace, . . . make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you" (1 Peter 5:10).

In summary, our gracious God is the God of peace, the God of hope, the God of all comfort, the God of love, and the God of all grace. He is also "the Father of mercies" and "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17; 15:26). And the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, is of God, "made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). HMM

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May 12, 2013

The Elect Lady

"The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth." (2 John 1)

The Greek word for "lady" (kuria) is used only two times in the Bible, and both of these occurrences are here in the one-chapter epistle of 2 John. It is also fascinating to note that kuria is the feminine form of kurios, which is the Greek word for "Lord."

Evidently this "elect lady" was a special woman, very highly esteemed by the apostle John as a capable and conscientious mother to her children.

It is uncertain however, whether this distinguished lady was a literal mother in the church with literal children or possibly a metaphor for the church itself, with the "children" its individual members. Good reasons can be given for both interpretations, and it may even be that John wrote his letter with this dual meaning in mind under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In either case, it is significant that this mother is called "lady" instead of the much more frequently used "woman" (Greek gune), or even "mother" (Greek meter). The Greek kuria was evidently used to stress deep respect and honor to such a mother in the church. She clearly was training her children in "the truth," much as Timothy's mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, had brought him up to have "unfeigned faith" in "the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15).

In addition to faith in God's truth, of course, there should be genuine love. The second use of kuria is in verse 5: "And now I beseech thee lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another" (2 John 5). HMM

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May 13, 2013

Faithful Men

"And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2)

Although this verse has been claimed by many as a model for their ministry, the Bible warns, "Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?" (Proverbs 20:6).

Faithful men must be alert and aware of God's master plan (Matthew 28:19-20), understand the reason for God's "longsuffering" (2 Peter 3:8-10), and expect and work toward Christ's return (Matthew 24:42-26).

Such men must be industrious and committed, conscious of the ultimate spiritual evaluation (Matthew 25:14-23), and concerned with even the "least" of the biblical instructions (Matthew 5:19). They must also be faithful stewards (managers) of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:2) and of the manifold grace (gifts) that the Holy Spirit distributed among His churches (1 Peter 4:10).

Those who desire leadership among the churches must also be exemplary family men. "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" (1 Timothy 3:4-5). Moses is renowned in this way (Hebrews 3:5), as is Abraham (Genesis 18:19).

Finally, faithful men must be able to teach others. Such capability is an obvious requirement of those who would take leadership roles in the churches (Titus 1:7-9), but the gift of teaching is noted among all of the biblical listings, implying that the need for such "faithful men" is widespread. However, the capacity to teach others, while a wonderful ability, must be exercised with gravity and carefulness (James 3:1). HMM III

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May 14, 2013

Take Heed

"And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you." (Mark 13:5)

In the account of Christ's great prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives, as recorded in Mark chapter 13, the Lord Jesus warns us no less than four times to "take heed!" This fourfold admonition (Mark 13:5, 9, 23, 33) must be important and demands our attention!

First of all, our text warns us not to be deceived by human claims of spiritual authority and prophetic insights, for there would come many deceptive teachers claiming to be the returning Christ. When Christ does return, all His saints will know beyond question, for they shall all "meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

His second warning tells us to be prepared for persecutions (Mark 13:9), for "in the world ye shall have tribulation," and "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (John 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:12).

His third admonition warns of false christs and false prophets who will even "shew signs and wonders" (Mark 13:22-23). Many will be deceived unless they remember that neither prophecies nor exorcisms nor other wonderful works suffice for acceptance by Christ, if those who perform them are "work|ers of| iniquity" (Matthew 7:22-23).

The fourth "take heed" is a sober warning against trying to predict the time of His return. "Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is" (Mark 13:33). Such a warning is pointless if certain prophesied events must take place first, for then there would be no need to watch for Him. In the same discourse, as reported by Luke, Jesus gave a final such warning, speaking of this very danger. "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with . . . cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares" (Luke 21:34). HMM

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May 15, 2013

Astonishing Doctrine

"And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine." (Matthew 7:28)

This is the first mention of "doctrine" (Greek didache) in the New Testament, and as such it is significant that it refers to the doctrines taught by Christ in the so-called Sermon on the Mount. It is also significant that there are four other verses telling us that His hearers were "astonished at his doctrine" (Matthew 22:33; Mark 1:22; 11:18; Luke 4:32) in addition to the statement in Acts 13:12 that a certain new convert had been "astonished at the doctrine of the Lord" when he heard Paul preach.

The astonishing aspect of the doctrine of Christ is indicated by Mark. "They were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:22). No wonder He could speak with authority! "My doctrine is not mine," He said, "but his that sent me" (John 7:16). Paul could also teach this astonishing doctrine because he was careful to teach only the word of God. And so can we if we likewise believe and teach only in the context of the inerrant, doctrinal authority of God's word.

It has become fashionable today, even in many evangelical churches, to avoid "indoctrination" in favor of "discussion" and "personal Christianity." This is a great mistake and largely accounts for the increasing secularization of our society and the weak testimony of the Christian church. In the Bible, teaching and doctrine are the same, so that true teaching is indoctrination, and teaching "all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20) is an integral part of Christ's great commission. It is imperative that we, like Paul, teach "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), for "whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God" (2 John 9). HMM

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May 16, 2013

They Have Their Reward

"Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." (Matthew 6:2)

Evidently in our Lord's day there were individuals who, when they went to the synagogue to give of their money, did so with great show, even having a trumpeter go before them to announce their actions. They also prayed openly "standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men" (v. 5). Jesus called them hypocrites.

The Greek word for hypocrite was used primarily for a stage actor--one who acted as if he were another person, perhaps using a large mask to hide his true identity. In this case, the hypocrite played the part of a generous person, or a pious person, who, out of a heart of concern for the poor, or out of genuine love for God would give or pray abundantly. But under the "mask" was only a desire to have others recognize and glorify him. Perhaps they received the applause of the onlookers to which Jesus remarked, "They have their reward" (v. 5), even as the hypocrites in the synagogues and in the streets receive theirs.

The word "have," an ordinary word, is here modified by a prefix which changes its meaning to "have in full" and was commonly used on business receipts to mean "paid in full." No payment or service was expected to follow the close of the transaction.

How sad it is when we do "Christian" work today for the praises of men and not the glory of God. Whatever comes of our work will be here; there will be no more reward to follow. Rather, let us give, or pray, or work, in secret, as it were, "and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly" (v. 4). JDM

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May 17, 2013

Good Soldiers

"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

From a kingdom perspective, a good soldier has several responsibilities. Initially, we can expect challenges, wherein we might "suffer trouble as an evil doer" (2 Timothy 2:9), endure afflictions (2 Timothy 4:5), or even be afflicted (James 5:13).

Ultimately, a soldier has one purpose, "that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." Put another way, "do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10). Soldiers are called out of the normal life of a nation and dedicated to executing the will of the King.

Thus, from a spiritual perspective, "know ye not that friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). The source of that friendship is a focus on walking by the flesh, which has no good thing in it and cannot please God (Romans 8:8).

We are to "war a good warfare" (1 Timothy 1:18) and to "fight the good fight of faith" (1 Timothy 6:12) because "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).

Fighting God's battles with God's armor insures the ultimate victory promised by our King, Creator, and "captain of the host of the LORD" (Joshua 5:14). "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it" (Isaiah 25:8). HMM III

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May 18, 2013

When We Abide in Christ

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." (John 15:4)

The Lord Jesus has told us to be careful always to “abide" in Him. The Greek word means “remain," “endure," “continue," or “dwell." He is to be our motivation, our standard, our home, our everything. When we do abide thus in Him, the Scriptures indicate that it will make a great difference in our lives right now, as well as in the life to come.

For example, “he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (1 John 2:6). Furthermore, “whosoever abideth in him sinneth not" (1 John 3:6). Love for our Christian brethren will be evident, for “he that loveth his brother abideth in the light" (1 John 2:10). We will obey His word, for “he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth |same word| in him, and he in him" (1 John 3:24).

In Christ's discourse on the vine and the branches (John 15:1-16) are several wonderful promises to the Christian. “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit" (v. 5). “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (v. 7). “These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might remain |same word| in you, and that your joy might be full" (v. 11). “I have chosen you . . . that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain" (v. 16).

If we dwell in Christ, we actually are abiding in the Father and the Spirit also. Jesus said that “the Spirit of truth . . . dwelleth with you," and “|my Father and I| will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:17, 23).

Therefore, let us “abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming" (1 John 2:28). HMM

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May 19, 2013

Judging Error

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." (Romans 16:17-18)

In order to mark and avoid those professing Christian teachers and leaders who are promoting doctrinal heresy (thus causing divisions among Christian believers), it is obvious that we must exercise sound biblical discernment and judgment. This judgment must be based on "the doctrine which ye have learned" from God's word. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).

Such decisions are not to be based on supposed scholarship, tolerance, or eloquence, for such teachers "by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." Instead, we must know and apply God's word, the Holy Scriptures. We must be like the Bereans, who, when they heard new teachings, "searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11).

It is sadly true today that many who call themselves Christians have compromised with the pseudo-scientific worldview of evolutionary humanism that controls all secular schools and colleges, hoping thereby to avoid the "offence of the cross" (Galatians 5:11), and to remain on good terms with "the princes of this world" and "the wisdom of this world" (1 Corinthians 2:6).

They do this for their own personal gain or prestige, however, not serving Christ, "but their own belly" (Romans 16:18). Those who are simple Bible-believing Christians are, therefore, not to be deceived by their "good words," but to "mark" and avoid them. HMM

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May 20, 2013

On All the Heathen

"For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head." (Obadiah 15)

The book of Obadiah was possibly the earliest of the prophetic books of the Old Testament and is certainly the shortest, with its single chapter. Its theme is God's coming judgment on the Edomite nation, not only because of their general wickedness, but particularly because of their abusive treatment of their Israelite relatives (Jacob's brother Esau was the father of the Edomites).

The prophecy of Obadiah contains (in our text) the first mention (chronologically) of the coming "day of the LORD." Although it appears at first to focus especially on the Edomites, it is really looking far ahead to the end times, when the judgments of that day will be "upon all the heathen." There have been many precursive and partial fulfillments of this prophecy, as nation after nation has been brought down throughout history under God's judgmental hand. Edom, in particular, has long since vanished as a nation.

There is a great day coming, however (actually a period of time), called in the Bible "the day of the Lord" (also "that day," "the great day of His wrath," and other such terms), when all the heathen (that is, the "Gentile nations," including the U.S.) will be judged by the God who created them, who died to redeem them, and who has been repudiated by them. "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: . . . and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Revelation 19:15). Our own heathen nation has been spared thus far because of our biblical foundations, our care for God's people, Israel, and our missionary efforts, but these are fast disappearing, and our time, like that of Edom, will surely come. HMM

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May 21, 2013

God's Sovereignty

"And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?" (Exodus 4:11)

This divine rebuke to Moses was occasioned when Moses complained of his inability to speak eloquently for God before Pharaoh. It is also a rebuke to each of us who would dare question God's wisdom in making us as we are--even with all our innate defects and handicaps. With our very limited knowledge of God's purposes and our very short range view of eternal priorities, we are ill-equipped to prejudge His ways with us.

To those who questioned why a man should be born blind, for example, Jesus answered: "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him" (John 9:3). As another example, when certain believers complained about the lethal illness of a loved one, Jesus replied: "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby" (John 11:4).

The steadfastness of Stephen's faith as he was stoned to death led to Paul's conversion, though at the time it must have seemed difficult for his Christian brethren to understand and accept. In another context, but stating a principle highly relevant to such questions, Jesus reminds us, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter" (John 13:7). God is not capricious, but He is sovereign. Whatever He does is right, by definition, and whatever He allows is for a holy purpose. "Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" (Romans 9:20).

It should be enough for now to know that He knows, and that when suffering comes for His sake, it is "for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10). HMM

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May 22, 2013

The Opened Heavens

"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war." (Revelation 19:11)

This is the final climactic reference in the Bible to God's opened heavens. Sometimes, as in this verse, heaven is opened in judgment; sometimes in blessing. Sometimes it is the atmospheric heaven that is open; sometimes the heaven of heavens where stands the throne of God.

The first such mention refers to the world-destroying Flood of Noah's day when "the windows of heaven were opened" (Genesis 7:11). The second mention, however, speaks of blessing. God had "opened the doors of heaven, And had rained down manna upon them to eat" (Psalm 78:23-24). The windows of heaven rained down the waters of death, while the doors of heaven rained down the bread of life! Ezekiel also saw the heavens opened in judgment (Ezekiel 1:1), but God told Malachi, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse . . . and prove me now . . . if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Malachi 3:10).

At the baptism of Jesus the heavens were opened and men heard the great testimony of the Father concerning His beloved Son (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21). Jesus promised Nathanael, "Hereafter ye shall see heaven open" (John 1:51), and Stephen and Peter actually saw the heavens open (Acts 7:56; 10:11).

Finally, the apostle John reported that "a door was opened in heaven" (Revelation 4:1), and he saw the Lord on His throne--twelve specific references (four in the Old Testament, eight in the New) to the opened heavens. HMM

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May 23, 2013

The Gospel of Peace

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" (Isaiah 52:7)

Surprisingly, there are more verses containing the word "peace" in the Old Testament book of Isaiah (King James Version) than in any other book of the Bible. The central occurrence (15 before, 15 after) is in our text, speaking of those whose feet travel with the beautiful gospel (that is, "good tidings," mentioned twice in this verse) of peace. The one proclaiming this gospel is said to be publishing salvation; announcing the imminent reign of God the Savior over all the earth.

The first mention of "peace" in Isaiah speaks of the coming King and His reign, and so does the final occurrence. First, "the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called . . . The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). Then, in Isaiah's last chapter we read, "For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to |Zion| like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream" (Isaiah 66:12).

This wonderful gospel of peace is specifically mentioned just twice in the New Testament. The first is a direct quotation from our text. "And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Romans 10:15).

The second is in connection with the Christian's spiritual armor. The "beautiful feet" that are to carry the good tidings are, most appropriately, to be "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Ephesians 6:15). It is our high privilege to be among those whose feet travel upon the mountains, and across the plains, and over the seas with the beautiful gospel of peace and salvation. HMM

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May 24, 2013

Memory and the Holy Spirit

"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26)

John wrote his detailed discourses of Jesus (almost half of the verses in John's gospel consist of His words) approximately fifty years after Christ spoke them, yet John was able to report them verbatim because of the supernatural memory of them brought back by the Holy Spirit. The same must have been true for the other biblical writers as they recalled words and events of years before.

In a real, though different, sense, the Holy Spirit also can "bring to our remembrance" the words of Scriptures just when they are especially needed in witnessing or for personal guidance or some other need. This will only be operational, of course, if they have first been stored in our memory, either by direct memorization or by such frequent reading and studying of the Bible as to make it a part of our subconscious memory.

Recall how the unlearned fisherman Peter was able to quote long passages of Scripture when he needed them (see, for example, Acts 2:16-21, 25-28, 34-35). He had apparently spent much time in studying and even memorizing key portions of the Old Testament. Jesus, of course, frequently quoted Scripture in His conversations, and Paul quoted Scripture abundantly in his epistles. Should we not do the same?

Scripture memorization has been a great blessing to many Christians over the years but seems to have become almost a lost art in this day and age. Nevertheless, Christ has promised answered prayer: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you" (John 15:7). So, as Paul urged, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3:16). HMM

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May 25, 2013

The Whole Law

"Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 18:5)

The absolute holiness of God is emphasized throughout the book of Leviticus, and this is the standard for all those created in His image. This is made clear, beyond question, when the today's verse is quoted in the New Testament: "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them" (Galatians 3:11-12).

It is not enough that a man keep most of God's laws. "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Galatians 3:10).

It is obvious, therefore, that while "the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Romans 7:12), no human being (except Jesus Christ) has ever been able to keep God's perfect law, and all are therefore under God's condemnation. "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20).

The widespread delusion that a person can be saved by good works is dangerous, and many are on the road to hell smug in their supposed goodness. To keep the law, however, the Creator Himself had to become man, and He did fulfill the law as our representative before God. Then, when He died, Christ "redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13). "Now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested . . . by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe" (Romans 3:21-22). HMM

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May 26, 2013

What Is Sin?

"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4)

The Bible warns that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), and "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20). These are strange days, however, and there are many "that call evil good, and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20). Who is to say what is right and wrong, when even our U.S. Supreme Court implies that there are no absolutes?

God is the one who defines sin because it is He who will judge sin. The definition is multifaceted, for sin takes many forms. Most basically, as our text says, sin is the transgression of the law--not just certain laws, but all of God's law. "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).

But there must be more than just formal obedience to God's commands, for "all unrighteousness is sin" (1 John 5:17). Furthermore, there are sins of omission, as well as sins of commission. "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).

When there is no specific law or command to guide our actions in a particular situation, the principle to follow is that of faith--that is, the confident inward assurance that we are doing that which honors the Lord, for "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).

There is much more that could be noted, but it is clear that no one could ever measure up even to these demands, "for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve the wages of sin, "but God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Now "the righteousness of God without the law is manifested. . . . Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ" (Romans 3:21-22). HMM

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