Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Call to Ministry

Let’s pick up our study in Galatians 1:16b-17 where it says that after Paul’s conversion to Christ that he “…did not immediately consult with flesh and blood nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.” The first thing that I want us to notice is that God called Paul and not man. Paul didn’t have to go up to Jerusalem and ask the most eminent apostles (Peter, John, James, etc…) what they thought. He “knew that he knew” that he was indeed called by God to the ministry. I’ve met many a man over the years that simply did not feel comfortable in their “calling”. They waffled back and forth unsure as to “who” had called them into ministry. I had an old preacher tell me one time, “If you can do anything else but preach; do us all a favor and do it!” We must make sure that we are doing what God called us to and not what we or man wants us to do. In the end, God will only bless it if He ordained it.

The second thing that I want us to notice is that Paul “went away to Arabia” after his calling. What was that about? Maybe Paul just needed some “alone time” with God. After all, he had been killing the very ones that he was confessing to now be a part of! I’m sure that he had to get a few things settled. Sometimes I wish that I could disappear into the desert for a while myself!

We are not sure how long Paul was in the desert, but we do know that from the time of his conversion until the time he arrived in Jerusalem to visit with the other apostles was three years. That’s a lot time alone with God!

This is a recurring theme in the Bible. God takes those whom He wants to use into the desert. I.e. Moses before he led the people out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1-6). Elijah before he had to confront wicked Queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19). Finally, Jesus to prepare him for the cross that he was about to face (Matthew 4:1-11). Are you in the desert? What is God preparing you for? We must learn to look at desert places as preparation places.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Paul's Past Life

Let’s pick it up today in Galatians 1:13-14, “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” Now Paul begins to share how zealous he was in the “Jew’s religion.” Of course, he was referring to Judaism. As a matter of fact, he was so zealous that he persecuted the early Christians more so than anyone else his equal. It was true too. It is estimated that Paul hand a consenting hand in the killing of at least 10,000 Christians before his conversion to Christ. You could say that he was the crem-de-la-crem of his class!

To that end, he also stated in Philippians 3:5-6 that he was “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” We also know from Acts 7:54-8:3 that Paul had a hand in the stoning of Stephen. I think that all of that would have made him pretty zealous.

But something happened to change all of that. Notice vv.15-16a that say, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen;” That calling came on the Damascus Road in Acts 9:1-6. Have you ever felt that God couldn’t love you because of the person you’ve been? Saul did far more evil than most and yet God still loved him.

The Bible promises in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” You see, it doesn’t how many bad things that you’ve done; God can still forgive you if you simply come to him with a broken and contrite heart and ask Him to do so! 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Not After Man

Today, we pick up our study in Galatians 1:11-12 where it says, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul is reminding them that the gospel message he preached did not come from men, but God. In other words, he got it directly from God. As you may remember, after Paul’s conversion experience in Acts 9, he tells the Galatians, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days” (Galatians 1:15-18). In other words, he didn’t immediately go and ask others what they thought or felt about Jesus Christ. Instead, he went out into the wilderness and spent time with God to receive the message of who Jesus Christ was for himself.

It should be the same for you and me as well. Yes, we need to seek the counsel of others at times. However, sometimes we just need to wait on the Lord to see what He would have us to do. The Bible says in Isaiah 30:21 in regards to decisions in our lives, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Simply put, our friends and family do not have all of the answers all of the time. There are situations in life that only you and God can sort out.

I believe that we are far too quick to seek counsel from people who really are not qualified to give it to us. A lady came into my office one day and said that she had already watched Ophra and Dr. Phill but they could not help her with her problem. Sadly, the church was her last resort. God should have been her first.

Slave of Christ

Let’s pick up our study in Galatians 1:10, “For 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.” The word “persuade” means to “make a friend of” or to “seek the favor of”. Examples of this are found in I Thessalonians 2:4 where Paul says, “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.” Also in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;” Pleasing God should be the top priority in our lives. Pleasing Him comes before pleasing others and even ourselves. We must come to grips with the fact that the preaching of the gospel is not pleasing to lost man and it never will be. As a matter of fact, it’s about the quickest way I’ve found to lose and establish friendships.

Notice “the servant of Christ.” The word servant here can be better translated as “bondservant.” A bondservant was no ordinary servant. We see this in the Old Testament where the Law stated that all Hebrew slaves where to be set free after six years of service (Exodus 21:2). However, there were times when the slave could decide to stay with his master for one reason or another. It says in Exodus 21:5-6, “And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.” Thus the servant would become a bondservant in that he served his master willingly. That’s why Paul said in Romans 6:22, “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” Paul realized that the “freedom” that he had in the world was nothing to be compared with the “slavery” he had in Christ.

An Angel From Heaven

Let’s pick up our study today in Galatians 1:8-9, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” It doesn’t matter who preaches it, if it is contrary to the Bible and the gospel it contains, it’s wrong. And the messenger of that wrong gospel will be judged. It’s just that people can be very vulnerable because someone or something looks “religious”.

We see examples of this in the Bible. One such example is in the book of Job when he was speaking with Eliphaz where it says, “Now a thing was secretly brought to me…In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, Fear came upon me, and trembling…Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying, Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker? (Job 4:12-17). Arrogant Eliphaz is saying that he supposedly received something from a “spirit” that told him that Job was not just before God. It sounded very spiritual, but it was completely off base because Job 1:1 had already said, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.”

Another example happened in 1823 when an angel appeared to a guy named Joe who lived in New York. While Joe lay in bed, this angel revealed to him where he would find a new revelation. The new revelation was inscribed on golden plates that he dug up and transcribed. It is now one of the largest cults in the United States. The only problem is that the message of the plates totally contradicts the Bible and who Jesus said he was. Jesus said that he was God in the flesh and not a created being like Satan. Again, we see a guy who claimed to have a supernatural message, but not the message of the Bible.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Three Views of the Rapture, Part 3

The Post-Tribulation View
The first of these views to be covered is what is called the Post-Tribulation view. This view asserts that the Rapture will occur after the Tribulation in conjunction with the Second Coming of Christ in Revelation 19.

Those who support this view will go to a verse like John 16:33 as a proof text for their position where it says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Their position would be that God has called the church suffer and that the sufferings of the Tribulation period will be just one more time of suffering that will come upon the church.

I must admit that it is true that God does promise that His Church will suffer through grave tribulation and persecution and be preserved through it. History is replete with examples of this fact. One need only pick up a modern history book or a copy of “Foxes Book of Martyrs”[1] to see this.

However, the problem here is that the advocates of this position are not accurately dividing Scripture. Even if their premise is accurate; their conclusion is wrong.

Their premise is that verses like John 16:33 and others like it are proof that the church has always endured and outlasted all persecution that has ever come against it and will continue to do so right on through the Great Tribulation that is to come upon the earth with the revealing of the Antichrist.

They will quickly add that the Church was built and has been sustained with the blood of the martyrs and that tribulation and hard times is what makes the Church strong and purified and that God has promised that the Church will always overcome all opposition that comes against it. They would insist that the very thought of a Rapture prior to this great time of persecution is escapism.

They will use verses like Matthew 16:18 where Jesus said to Peter, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” This verse definitely promises that the Church of Jesus Christ will suffer and will always prevail no matter what Satan throws against it.

Another verse they use would include Revelation 2:10 which says, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” This verse is also correct in that the devil has indeed been behind the persecution of God’s people through the ages.

However, there are major problems with this view that must be addressed. The largest of which is that those who hold to it are confusing persecution with wrath. The dictionary says that persecution is “the act or practice of persecuting on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs that differ from those of the persecutor.”[2] However, wrath is defined as is defined as “punishment or vengeance as a manifestation of anger or divine retribution for sin.”[3] There is a major difference between the two.

Yes, the Bible does say that God will not allow any type of persecution to overwhelm and destroy the church that Christ has established and bought and paid for through His sacrificial death on the cross, but the Tribulation has nothing to do with persecution. It has everything to do with the wrath of God on Christ-rejecting, sinful man. With that the argument loses steam.

The Tribulation is God’s wrath being poured out on an unbelieving world with whom He gave opportunity after opportunity to accept the gift of forgiveness through faith in His precious Son, Jesus, but they would not.

The time of Tribulation that is to come upon this earth is not about the persecution of God’s people, but the wrath of God against those who persecuted God’s people. Neither is it considered to be intended as a purification process for the people of God.

Some proof texts for this include Revelation 6:16-17 which says, “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" The Tribulation is a time of God’s wrath, not persecution of the Church.

The book of Revelation also calls it the time of God’s wrath in 19:15 where it says, “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Again, this is the time of God’s wrath on a Christ-rejecting world led by the Antichrist.

The Bible also teaches that the children of God are not appointed to this wrath that is to be poured out during this time because it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is also taught in Romans 5:9 where it says, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Here is a verse that promises the Church that it will be kept from this time of wrath because of our justification.

Another verse from many would also include 1 Thessalonians 1:10 which says, “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Here is a promise of deliverance from the time of wrath that is to come for the Church.

Clearly the Bible teaches that there is a great difference between the persecutions that are inflicted upon the church from within and without in the past, present, and even the future, that He Himself will bring upon sinful man during the Tribulation period.

Another major problem with this view is that it makes it possible to predict the Rapture even though Jesus said that it is not possible. He said in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”

To say that the Lord is going to Rapture the Church at the Second Coming makes it possible know the exact timing of the Rapture because the Second Coming will be a predictable event at this point in the Tribulation.

This will be possible at that time because we know that the duration of the Tribulation will be seven years in length and that the Second Coming will be three and half years after the breaking of the covenant by the Antichrist with the children of Israel.

If this view is correct, Scriptures such as Matthew 24:36 are rendered void. The lesson here is that one can not excuse one portion of Scripture to justify another. That is bad hermeneutics.

This position also serves to remove the purpose for the imminent return of Christ. It is the imminent return of Christ that pushes and encourages the child of God to live a pure life because he has no idea when His Master will return.

If the Rapture can be determined that it is to take place at such and such a time, there would be no encouragement for Christians to live a righteous and holy life that is constantly prepared for the time when Jesus calls His Church home.

This is seen in what Jesus said in Matthew 24:42-44 when He said, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

One need only look into the lives of the many who hold this position to see that they are not living like today could be the day of the Lord’s return!

[1] Foxe, John. The New Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. (Gainesville, Florida: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2001).


Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Lord's Leading

For those of you who have been praying for my family and I and the next step that the Lord has for us, our prayers have been anwered. Effective August 11, Jannett and I will be teachers at the First Baptist School in Brownsville, Texas. Jannett taught there three years ago and made lasting friendships while I have enjoyed a close friendship with Pastor Steve Dorman of the First Baptist Church for at least six years.

Jannett will be teaching Secondary Spanish and I will be teaching Secondary Bible and History. Our positions will also afford us many other opportunties to ministry with our boys, Dane and Brandon. We could not have asked for anything more of the Lord. He has been very gracious and we are looking forward to what He has in store for us.

Continue to keep us in prayer that we will be able to serve Him effectively in these ministry positions to reach the hearts and minds of the young people that He will entrust to us.

In other great news, this position will also still afford me opportunities to travel, speak and write. I'm really looking forward to sharing in some of your churches!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Three Views of the Rapture, Part 2

The Timing of the Rapture

With the establishment of the fact of a Rapture, we must now turn to the timing of this great event. Unfortunately, for the past two-thousand years there has been great disagreement and confusion in the church over the timing of the Rapture.

Today, among those who agree that the Rapture is a yet future event to occur, there are three major views that must be considered. All of these views agree that it’s going to happen, but they disagree as to when it is going to happen.

The first of these views to be covered is what is called the Post-Tribulation view. This view asserts that the Rapture will occur after the Tribulation in conjunction with the Second Coming of Christ in Revelation 19.

The second of these views is what is called the Mid-Tribulation view. This view asserts that the Rapture will occur at the mid-point of the Tribulation Period around the time of the Antichrist’s backing out of the seven year agreement with Israel.

The third and final of these views is what is called the Pre-Tribulation view. This view asserts that the Rapture will occur at the close of the church age and will be the event that ushers in the Tribulation.

Each of these three views will be discussed in detail with the merits of each moving along from the Post-Tribulation view, to the Mid-Tribulation view, and the Pre-Tribulation view.