Thursday, November 29, 2018

Intelligent Worship

We continue today to look at something else that we as believers in Christ must embrace, and that is that our worship of God must be intelligent. Nowhere do I find in Scripture that we are to have blind faith. The dictionary defines blind faith as a belief without true understanding, perception, or discrimination. It is a faith that places confidence in someone or something without any reason to do so. No, we must have a reason to believe! Our faith is not without evidence.

Sure, there are some things that we will never understand. Think about it, how can the finite possibly fully grasp the Infinite? Not even remotely possible. However, that does not mean that we are to “check our brains at the door” either. A faith untested is no faith at all. The Apostle Paul told us in 2 Timothy 2:15 that we are to study to show ourselves approved unto God, workmen that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. This is a command, not a suggestion. We are to study the Word of God passionately. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you…”

Paul spoke volumes in regards to the weight that is placed upon each of us to go to the well for ourselves. He said in 2 Corinthians 1:8, “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant…” He also said in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep…” In 1 Corinthians 12:1 he said, “Now concerning spiritual gifts brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” I could go on and on. Look how many times Paul admonished us not to be ignorant in the New Testament, and so many still choose to be so. The word ignorant just means a lack of knowledge or awareness in general. God forbid that should be said of us. Of course, Paul knew that some would still chooe ignorance. To those he said in 1 Corinthians 14:38, “But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant still.” The burden lies upon each of us to grow our own faith. 

I am reminded of a very humorous story that has been around for many years, but I must share it again because it sounds like some Facebook theologians that I know. 

A candidate for church membership was asked, "What part of the Bible do you like best?" He said: "I like the New Testament best. Then he was asked, "What Book in the New Testament is your favorite?" He answered, the Book of the Parables, Sir." They then asked him to relate one of the parables to the membership committee. And a bit uncertain, he began...

Once upon a time a man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves; and the thorns grew up and choked the man. And he went on and met the Queen of Sheba, and she gave that man, Sir, a thousand talents of silver, and a hundred changes of raiment. And he got in his chariot and drove furiously, and as he was driving along under a big tree, his hair got caught in a limb and left him hanging here! And he hung there many days and many nights. The ravens brought him food to eat and water to drink. And one night while he was hanging there asleep, his wife Delilah came along and cut off his hair, and he fell on stoney ground. And it begin to rain, and rained forty days and forty nights. And he hid himself in a cave. Later he went on and met a man who said, "Come in and take supper with me." But he said, "I can't come in, for I have married a wife." And the man went out into the highways and hedges and compelled him to come in! He then came to Jerusalem and saw Queen Jezebel sitting high and lifted up in a window of the wall. When she saw him she laughed, and he said, "Throw her down out of there," and they threw her down. And he said "Throw her down again," and they threw her down seventy-times-seven. And the fragments which they picked up filled twelve baskets full! NOW, whose wife will she be in the day of the Judgment?" The membership committee agreed that this was indeed a knowledgeable candidate! 

Do not be that membership committee or candidate!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Spiritual Worship

Today, I will continue my new series on the basics of what we believe. Last time we looked at the need for unconditional love for our fellow man. Today,  we will take a look at why our worship of God must be spiritual. Our proof text is John 4:24 which says that God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

To begin, we must adequately understand just what happened in the Garden. When the Lord told Adam and Eve that the consequences of their disobedience would be death, he meant physically and spiritually. We see this in the fact that after having disobeyed, they did eventually physically die many years later, but they immediately died spiritually in that their fellowship with God was broken. This was the lie of the Devil in that he told them that they would not surely die (Genesis 3:4). Thus it had to be restored, blood was spilled, and they were covered or atoned for (Genesis 3:21; Hebrews 9:22). Of course, while the sacrifices of the Old Testament were temporary (Hebrews 10:4),  the ultimate blood sacrifice came through our Lord's forever atoning death on the cross (Hebrews 9:12-14).

This is where the need to be "born again" comes from. To be saved, our spirits must be re-born. This is exactly what our Lord was telling Nicodemus in John 3:3-7 when he said, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." 

The bottom line is that to worship God, it must be in the spirit. That means that we must be born again to do so. Without it, there is no worship. Do you remember the conversation that our Lord has with the woman at the well? In John 4:20, the woman said, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Our Lord responded in vv.21-24 by saying, "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." 

So, you see, being born again is salvation. Being born again is a restoration of the fellowship that was broken by our sin. That is why Paul said in Ephesians 2:1 “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,” Also, in Colossians 2:12-13 “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” It is only then that we can truly worship the Lord.  

Warren Wiersbe once said, “Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose -- and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.” What wonderful news! 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Unconditional Love

Today, I will begin a new series of posts on the basics of what we believe. Peter encouraged the early Jewish believers in I Peter 3:15, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."  I fear that far too many in the church today are far too quick to proclaim what they believe, quite confidently I might add, but have no earthly idea as to why; let alone defend it. This is exactly what Peter is speaking against. Instead, he said that we must be prepared at all times to have an answer for the hope that lies within us. To not do so is a failure.

There is a tale told of that great English actor Macready. An eminent preacher once said to him: "I wish you would explain to me something." "Well, what is it? I don't know that I can explain anything to a preacher." "What is the reason for the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all." Macready's answer was this: "This is quite simple. I can tell you the difference between us. I present my fiction as though it were truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction." In order to do this, we must know what we believe and why we believe it.

The first basic I believe that we are to hold as children of God is that the only true basis of Christian fellowship is Christ's agape love, which is greater than any differences we possess, and without which we have no right to claim ourselves Christians. That is exactly what the Apostle Paul said when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth:" This is called the love chapter of the Bible.  Of course, the word charity, which is also translated as "love", is from the Greek word agape. In this chapter, we find a display of love, not a definition. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much you know, without love it is for naught. Understanding and knowledge is not enough, without love they are virtually useless. 

Also, the Apostle John further elaborated on the need for love when he spoke in 1 John 3:10-23, "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." He went on to say in 1 John 4:7-11, "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." In other words, if God so loved us before we done anything to impress Him, how much more should we love those “unimpressive” souls around us. After all, as our Lord challenged in Matthew 5:46, "For if you love those who love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" We must love the same way that God loves; unconditionally.

In conclusion, William Gladstone, in announcing the death of Princess Alice to the House of Commons, told a touching story. The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter and endanger her life by breathing the child's breath. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Rasping and struggling for her life, the child said, "Momma, kiss me!" Without thinking of herself the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and some days thereafter she went to be forever with the Lord. You see, real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love doesn't count the cost. That is the love that we are to have for one another. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Matthew - Mustard Seed

In today's study from Matthew 13:31-32, we take a look at the right and wrong interpretations of the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

The Mustard Seed
vv.31-32 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: (32) Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

The purpose of this parable is to show us what will happen to Christianity as we enter the last day’s right before the Second Coming of Jesus for His church (the wheat). Unlike the first two, no interpretation is given by our Lord. hat does the mustard seed represent?

Wrong Interpretation 
However, this parable is very often misinterpreted because many teachers will say that since the mustard seed represents faith, it represents the spread of Christianity throughout the world to become as the greatest tree. This leads them to further teach that through the preaching of the gospel, we will bring in the kingdom of Heaven. The result of this teaching is that it puts pressure on the church to spread the Word of God as quickly as possible because Jesus isn’t coming back until we do. Some will go so far as to say that the result of this spreading of Christianity is that everyone will ultimately be saved. The Bible simply does not teach that. Instead, in Rev 20:15 “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Let’s look at the types found in this parable.

Type Association Reference
Mustard Seed, Faith, Faith Matt. 17:20
Field, World, Matt. 13:38
Tree, Kingdom, Dan. 4:10-12, 20-22
Birds, Devils/Evil, Matt. 13:4, 19; Rev. 18:2

In conclusion, by comparing Scripture with Scripture, this parable cannot be about Christianity spreading throughout the world and thus, bringing in the Kingdom.

Correct Interpretation
Now that we’ve looked at what this parable does not mean, “What does it mean?” It shows us that as we near the coming of the Lord, Christianity is going into apostasy. Apostasy by definition is “a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party or cause.” Paul refers to this in 2 Th. 2:3 “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.”

We see evidence of this all around us today. This is evidenced in several ways. a. The number of "professing" Christians is huge by comparison to the number of truly saved believers. b. It’s estimated that only six out of ten are truly Christians in the average church today. c. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said that he has come to the conclusion that at least 50% of their members are lost due to the lack of evangelism that is taking place from the pews. d. The average American will identify themselves as Christian by virtue of birth. e. The largest single group of “Christians” in the world will not even refer to themselves as Christians (Roman Catholics) and claim salvation by virtue of keeping the sacraments and rituals of the church which is a clear violation of Scripture (1 Tim 4:1-3). f. Yes, the tree in this parable is large, but only because it is filled with devils. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Alone with God

Just a little reflection this morning for me. I remember when I was a young Christian, I found my identity in relationships, and usually those relationships centered around the local church. After all, I was young, had a million unanswered questions, and heavily leaned upon my fellow brothers and sisters for the answers and support that I needed during my transition "into the light". Some of my greatest memories come from that time of my life.

However, as I have grown in my walk and faith, I have found that, while Christianity is meant to be lived in community, it is not meant to depend exclusively upon said community. We all have to grow up and stand on our own two spiritual feet eventually. Our Lord went it alone. Paul went it alone. Elijah went it alone. John the Baptist went it alone. Moses went it alone. Untold numbers of our church's founding fathers went it alone. The bottom line is that there will come a point in each of our lives that we must go it alone. 

With that said, I find myself spending much more time with the Lord in private time. Just me and Him. I look forward to my devotions in the morning, reading a thought for the day, reading through Scripture, prayer, and then again in the evening. I would strongly encourage you to do the same. Yes, community is awesome, and should never be completely shunned, but there are some valleys that each of us must simply traverse alone. Just us and Him. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Hell is a Place of Memory

Last time, we looked at the purpose and the place of hell. Today we are going to look at one final point to see that hell is also a place of memory. 

I believe this is what our Lord was referring to in Mark 9:43-44 when he said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched-- where their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'” 

What is up with this worm that doesn't die? Is this referring to a literal worm? I do not think so because of Isaiah 66:24 which says, "And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me.  For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched.  They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh." Of course, there are various views on what this worm is referring to, but most will agree that it is not a literal worm, but instead has to be metaphorical. The word in the original Greek refers to a grub or maggot. As such, some would say that it just speaks to the eternality of hell and our Lord using the dump, that continually burned outside of Jerusalem as an example. Its proper name was the Valley of Hinnom, but it was also known as Gehenna. It was a place in which trash, refuse, animal carcasses, and even the dead bodies of despised criminals were thrown to be destroyed by the fires that burned perpetually. Those who take this view see our Lord's point as being that whatever was thrown into it never came out again as that it was totally consumed either by fire or by maggots. In other words, just as nothing and no one exterminated the maggots or extinguished the flames there, so there would be no escape from the certain fate that God has decreed for all unrepentant sinners—death in the "lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14-15).

Others would say that the worm speaks more to the consciousness of hell's occupants who still have memories of opportunities lost. Opportunities in their past life in which they were given to repent and believe in the message of the gospel. In other words, they will remember every service they attended, every altar call they refused, every conversation they walked away from and yet still refused to submit their lives to Christ. These memories will knaw on them just like the maggots did to the refuse in the Valley of Hinnom.