do your part

June 20, 2017

Today as never before, Christians are being called upon to give reasons for the hope that is within them. Often in the evangelistic context seekers raise questions about the validity of the gospel message. Removing intellectual objections will not make one a Christian; a change of heart wrought by the Spirit is also necessary. But though intellectual activity is insufficient to bring another to Christ, it does not follow that it is also unnecessary. In this essay we will examine the place and purpose of apologetics in the sharing of our faith with others.

The word “apologetics” never actually appears in the Bible. But there is a verse which contains its meaning:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man who asketh you the reason for the hope that is within you with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15).

The Greek word apologia means “answer,” or “reasonable defense.” It does not mean to apologize, nor does it mean just to engage in intellectual dialogue. It means to provide reasonable answers to honest questions and to do it with humility, respect, and reverence.

The verse thus suggests that the manner in which one does apologetics is as important as the words expressed. And Peter tells us in this passage that Christians are to be ready always with answers for those who inquire of us concerning our faith. Most Christians have a great deal of study ahead of them before this verse will be a practical reality in their evangelistic efforts.

Another question that often comes up in a discussion about the merits and place of apologetics is, “What is the relationship of the mind to evangelism?” “Does the mind play any part in the process?” “What about the effects of the fall?” “Isn’t man dead in trespasses and sins?” “Doesn’t the Bible say we are to know nothing among men except Jesus Christ and Him crucified?” “Why do we have to get involved at all in apologetics if the Spirit is the One Who actually brings about the New Birth?”

I think you will agree that today there are many Christians who are firmly convinced that answering the intellectual questions of unbelievers is an ineffectual waste of time. They feel that any involvement of the mind in the gospel interchange smacks too much of human effort and really just dilutes the Spirit’s work.

But Christianity thrives on intelligence, not ignorance. If a real Reformation is to accompany the revival for which many of us pray, it must be something of the mind as well as the heart. It was Jesus who said, “Come and see.” He invites our scrutiny and investigation both before and after conversion.

We are to love God with the mind as well as the heart and the soul. In fact, the early church was powerful and successful because it out-thought and out-loved the ancient world. We are not doing either very well today.

People respond to the gospel for various reasons—some out of pain or a crisis, others out of some emotional need such as loneliness, guilt, insecurity, etc. Some do so out of a fear of divine judgment. And coming to know Christ brings a process of healing and hope to the human experience. To know Christ is to find comfort for pain, acceptance for insecurity and low self-esteem, forgiveness for sin and guilt.

And others seem to have intellectual questions which block their openness to accept the credibility of the Christian message. These finally find in Christ the answers to their intellectual doubts and questions.

Those today who are actively involved in evangelism readily recognize the need for this kind of information to witness to certain people, and there are many more doubters and skeptics out there today than there were even twenty years ago.

We can see more clearly where we are as a culture by taking a good look at Paul’s world in the first century. Christianity’s early beginnings flourished in a Graeco-Roman culture more X-rated and brutal than our own. And we find Paul adapting his approach from group to group.

For instance, he expected certain things to be in place when he approached the Jewish communities and synagogues from town to town. He knew he would find a group which already had certain beliefs which were not in contradiction to the gospel he preached. They were monotheists. They believed in one God. They also believed this God had spoken to them in their Scriptures and had given them absolute moral guidelines for behavior (the Ten Commandments).

But when Paul went to the Gentile community, he had no such expectations. There he knew he would be faced with a culture that was polytheistic (many gods), biblically ignorant, and living all kinds of perverted, wicked lifestyles. And on Mars Hill in Athens when he preached the gospel, he did somewhat modify his approach.

He spoke of God more in terms of His presence and power, and he even quoted truth from a Greek poet in order to connect with these “pagans” and get his point across: “We are God’s offspring” (Acts 17:28).

One hundred years ago, the vast majority of Americans pretty much reflected the Jewish mentality, believing in God, having a basic respect for the Bible, and strong convictions about what was right and what was wrong.

That kind of American can still be found today in the 90s, but George Gallup says they aren’t having much of an impact on the pagan, or Gentile community, which today holds few beliefs compatible with historic Christianity.

To evangelize such people, we have our work cut out for us. And we will have to use both our minds and our hearts to “become all things to all men in order to save some.”

As we’re considering how we as Christians can have an impact on our increasingly fragmented society, we need to keep in mind that many do not share our Christian view of the world, and some are openly hostile to it.

In fact, a college professor recently commented that he felt the greatest impediment to social progress right now was what he called the bigoted, dogmatic Christian community. That’s you and me, folks.

If we could just “loosen up a little,” and compromise on some issues, America would be a happier place. What is meant by this is not just a demand for tolerance . . . but wholesale acceptance of any person’s lifestyle and personal choices!

But the Bible calls us to be “salt and light” in our world. How can we be that effectively?I don’t have a total answer, but I’ll tell you after 30+ years of active ministry what isn’t working. And by my observation, far too many Christians are trying to address the horrendous issues of our day with one of three very ineffective approaches.

Defensive Approach Many Christians out there are mainly asking the question, “How strong are our defenses?” “How high are our walls?” This barricade mentality has produced much of the Christian subculture. We have our own language, literature, heroes, music, customs, and educational systems. Of course, we need places of support and fellowship. But when Paul describes spiritual warfare in 2 Corinthians 10, he actually reverses the picture. It is the enemy who is behind walls, inside strongholds of error and evil. And Paul depicts the Christians as those who should be mounting offensives at these walls to tear down the high things which have exalted themselves above the knowledge of God. We are to be taking ground, not just holding it.

Defeatist Approach Other Christians have already given up. Things are so bad, they say, that my puny efforts won’t change anything. “After all, we are living in the last days, and Jesus said that things would just get worse and worse.” This may be true, but it may not be. Jesus said no man knows the day or the hour of His coming. Martin Luther had the right idea when he said, “If Jesus were to come tomorrow, I’d plant a tree today and pay my debts.” The Lord may well be near, He could also tarry awhile. Since we don’t know for sure, we should be seeking to prepare ourselves and our children to live for Him in the microchip world of the 21st century.

Devotional Approach Other Christians are trying to say something about their faith, but sadly, they can only share their personal religious experience. It is true that Paul speaks of us as “epistles known and read” by all men. Our life/experience with Christ is a valid witness. But there are others out there in the culture with “changed” lives . . . and Jesus didn’t do the changing! Evangelism today must be something more than “swapping” experiences. We must learn how to ground our faith in the facts of history and the claims of Christ. We must have others grapple with Jesus Christ, nor just our experience.

We need to:

  1. Go to people. The heart of evangelism is Christians taking the initiative to actually go out and “fish for men.” Acts 17:17 describes for us how Paul was effective in his day and time: “Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the gentile worshippers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.”

  1. Communicate with people. Engage them. Sharing the Gospel involves communication. People must be focused upon and then understand the Gospel to respond to it. It is our responsibility as Christians to make it as clear as possible for all who will listen. “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11).

  1. Relate to people. Effective witness involves not only the transmission of biblical information; it also includes establishing a relationship with the other person. Hearts, as well as heads, must meet. “So, affectionately longing for you,” said Paul to the Thessalonians, “we were well pleased to import to you not only the good news of God, but also our own lives, because you have become dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8).

  1. Remove barriers. Part of our responsibility involves having the skills to eliminate obstacles, real or imagined, which keep an individual from taking the Christian message seriously. When God sent the prophet Jeremiah forth, He said, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth . . . and I have ordained you to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Sometimes our task as well is one of “spiritual demolition,” of removing the false so the seeds of truth can take root. Apologetics sometimes serves in that capacity, of preparing a highway for God in someone’s life.

  1. Explain the gospel to others. We need an army of Christians today who can consistently and clearly present the message to as many people as possible. Luke says of Lydia, “The Lord opened her heart so that she heeded the things which were spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14). Four essential elements in sharing the gospel:

someone talking (Paul)

things spoken (gospel)

someone listening (Lydia)

the Lord opening the heart.

  1. Invite others to receive Christ. We can be clear of presentation, but ineffective because we fail to give someone the opportunity and encouragement to take that first major step of faith. “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we beg you in Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

  1. Make every effort by every means to establish them in the faith. Stay with them, ground them in the Scripture, help them gain assurance of their salvation, and get them active in a vital fellowship/church.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

good faith

June 10, 2017

What is faith? A common misperception—held even by some Christians—is that faith is believing something without sufficient evidence or reason. Biblical faith, however, is the exact opposite of “blind faith.” As Elton Trueblood said, “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.”

 The most foundational definition of faith in the Bible is found in Hebrews 1:1. Notice the two parts to the definition. To understand faith, we need to understand the meaning of both parts:

  ➤ Confidence in what we hope for—We tend to think of hope as an emotional state that reflects what we would like to happen in the future but are unsure will actually happen. For instance, we may “hope” our favorite sports team will win the championship. Despite our earnest desire, though, we have no assurance they will win.

 In Scripture, though, hope means something entirely different. Hope is a desire for a future outcome that is absolutely certain. Because we trust in God’s promises, we can be completely confident about the outcome. Because we know God can and will do what he says, our hope is a form of knowing. “Hope is faith looking forward.”

 ➤ Assurance about what we do not see—“Seeing is believing.” “I’ll believe it when I see it.” We like to see for ourselves, and there’s a tendency to think that if something can be seen then it’s tangible and real, while what cannot be seen (or experienced by one of our other senses) is less certain or even unknowable.

 In reality, though, we place a great deal of “faith” in what can’t be seen. We can’t see tomorrow, yet has that ever stopped us from making plans in expectation it will come? We have faith that tomorrow will occur because we’ve experienced a lot of “tomorrows” throughout our lives. Our assurance is based on our prior experience.

  Similarly, we have assurance that God will do what we cannot see because we know and trust him. If God tells us something is going to happen, we can have absolute assurance it will actually happen. We have faith in God because he’s proven he’s absolutely trustworthy.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

zippity do da

June 7, 2017

Everyone wants joy in life. On the surface, Paul’s words, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) are some of the simplest in Scripture to read and understand. But when you scratch beneath the surface, they raise a pile of questions: Is it really possible to rejoice always? What does this mean? Am I supposed to go around with a perpetual smile on my face? Is it a sin to feel depressed or sad? Am I supposed to deny pain or sorrow? How can you command a feeling, anyway? Are these the words of a bubbly, incurable optimist, or what? Just reading the verse might get some people depressed, because they despair of ever being able to do it!

We need to recognize that what Paul commands here is not just a cheerful disposition, which many have by nature, but rather something that requires supernatural power–it is joy in the Lord. And, while we may never perfectly attain such joy in this troubled world, Paul repeats the command for emphasis, as if to say, “It is possible, so don’t shrug off what I am saying.” His emphatic words show us …

Abiding joy in the Lord should be the aim of every Christian.

First, I want to define what Paul means when he commands us to rejoice in the Lord always; and then we’ll look at how we can obey such a command. Scripture must be our authoritative and sufficient source, not human wisdom or psychology.

What does “rejoice in the lord always” mean?

  1. TO REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS DOES NOT MEAN THAT WE WILL NEVER FEEL DEPRESSED OR SAD.

The Bible is realistic and balanced. We must look at the totality of Scripture rather than taking a verse like this as if it were all that is written on the subject. It’s interesting that the shortest verse in the Greek New Testament is, “Rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16). The shortest verse in the English New Testament is, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). They are not contradictory! Our Savior could weep and yet have the fullness of joy, even as He faced the cross (John 15:11). Paul commands us to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12;15), and yet to rejoice always. The Bible says that godly people are marked both by mourning (over sin, Matt. 5:4; James 4:9; 5:1) and yet by irrepressible joy. Scripture acknowledges that discipline and trials are not joyful at the moment, but that afterward they yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness if we submit to God (Heb. 12:11; John 16:20-22).

Thus we would misapply Paul’s words if we took him to mean that a Christian should deny or never feel sadness or grief. The Psalms are helpful in this regard. The psalmist often is overwhelmed with despair or sadness, and he readily acknowledges his feelings to God. He never puts on a happy face and denies the intensity of his troubles. But in the process of crying out to God for help and re-focusing his thoughts on the Lord and His great mercies, by the end of the psalm his mood has changed, even though his circumstances are no different. So the psalmist often experiences a flood of God’s joy even in the midst of tremendous pain. Thus to rejoice in the Lord always does not mean that we deny our feelings or that we stoically endure our trials by ignoring how much we hurt.

  1. TO REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS IS NOT PRIMARILY A MATTER OF FEELING, BUT OF OBEDIENCE.

Philippians 4:4 is a commandment, repeated twice for emphasis, so that we will not shrug it off. It is a command that we must deliberately choose to obey, especially when we’re in difficult circumstances. It has to do with our attitude which depends on our mental focus which depends on our choice. The choice to rejoice often must go deliberately against how we feel. When we go through trials, when we’re treated unfairly, when we’re disappointed by people or circumstances, we are faced with a decision: Will we obey this command to rejoice in the Lord or will we allow ourselves to be swept along by our feelings?

I just wish that Paul had been more realistic and had said, “Rejoice most of the time”! But if he had said that, most of us would have justified ourselves by thinking, “I usually do rejoice.” But we wouldn’t have had to confront our grumbling and complaining when things don’t seem to go our way; our lack of trust in God in the midst of trials; our anger when we’re treated unfairly; our disappointment when people let us down or, to be honest, when we feel that God has let us down.

We see this choice to rejoice illustrated in Paul’s life in this very epistle. He has been incarcerated for well over two years and is facing possible execution because the Jews in Jerusalem falsely accused him of bringing Gentiles into the temple and of stirring up rebellion against the Jewish people and their Law (Acts 21:28). Though he should have been released, the Roman governor kept him in custody because he was hoping to receive a bribe from Paul and because he wanted to do the Jews a favor (Acts 24:26, 27). The next governor also should have released him, but he, too, was playing politics with the Jews (Acts 25:9).

Not only that, but on the way to Rome Paul had gone through a shipwreck at sea. Once he arrived, many of the pastors in Rome were not only distancing themselves from Paul the prisoner, but were preaching out of envy, selfish ambition, and strife (Phil. 1:15, 17). Paul had good reason to be angry and depressed at the treatment he had received over the past few years. You would think that he would have been in need of the Philippians writing to cheer him up. But instead, this short letter to them is filled with joy (15 x). As Paul’s words in 1:18 show, his joy was not an automatic feeling, but rather a deliberate choice: “… in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.”

  1. TO REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS IS AN ATTITUDE OF CONTENTMENT AND HOPE THAT TRANSCENDS CIRCUMSTANCES.

Though our hearts may be heavy with sorrow or grief because of trials, beneath the surface is the abiding confidence that our God is sovereign and that our lives are in His hand, so that not even the hairs of our heads fall to the ground without His knowledge. Paul had learned to be content in every situation (Phil. 4:11-13). “Every situation” for Paul included some severe trials, in some cases where he despaired even of life. But this, he writes was “in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;” then he adds, “He on whom we have set our hope” (2 Cor. 1:8-10).

This joy in the Lord which we must aim for is not a superficial happiness based on circumstances or on the absence of trials, but rather is a solid, abiding contentment and hope that is as steady and certain as our faithful God who has given us His promises in His Word. Our Lord Jesus knew that joy even as He faced the cross (John 15:11; 17:13). The apostles knew that joy when they were flogged for preaching the gospel, and they went on their way “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Paul and Silas knew that joy when they were unjustly thrown in the Philippian jail, their backs torn open, their feet in the stocks, as they sang hymns of praise to God (Acts 16:25). Many martyrs, like John Hus, knew that joy. He died singing praises in the flames as his enemies gloated.

God intends for every believer to know this same joy in the Lord, especially in difficult times. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and the Bible is filled with commands, such as our text, to rejoice (Ps. 5:11; 33:1; 64:10). It’s a matter of obedience, not of temperament. If we’re constantly depressed and weighed down with care, we’re not attractive advertisements for our Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t be effective leaders in the church or godly examples to our families if we are dominated by depression. So we must work at developing this abiding joy in the Lord. Stay tuned!

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Sunday’s Coming

June 3, 2017

In the movie Man in the Moon, a young girl asks her mom why her dad goes to his “church” (fishing) every Sunday morning instead of attending worship services with the rest of the family. The mother replies, “When he asked my daddy if he could marry me, my daddy said only if he agreed to find the Lord. And he says it’s a lot easier finding the Lord out fishing than in any church he’s ever been in.”

 Many Christians take a similar view, thinking they can “find the Lord” better by spending time in nature or hanging out with friends than by worshiping in a church service. But the Bible is clear that as obedient Christians we are to not only regularly meet with fellow believers (see Heb 10:24–25), but we must also have confidence in the authority of church leaders (see Heb 13:17). Commenting on this passage, Derek Rishmawy says,

  The point is very simple. In the Bible, Christians are commanded to submit and listen to the elders and deacons (pastors, etc.) whose job it is to guide, guard, and love them. Well, if you’re not a member of a church that has those leaders, you can’t very well submit to them now can you? The implication is that everyone who has professed faith in Christ is also simultaneously a part of a local body of believers.

  Why would we shun what others cherish? In many parts of the world today Christians risk their lives to attend worship services. Spending many years visiting “church folk” that wouldn’t attend church it always amazed me that they all had the same excuse, something didn’t go their way. Few churches are actually growing today they just recycle grumpy Christians.

  I feel grieved and embarrassed wondering how Christians outside the contemporary West—Christians who walk a dozen miles to meet with their church, or who meet underground for a 10-hour service—would feel about the idea that sitting in an air-conditioned sanctuary for 90 minutes is just too difficult.

  While a person can be Christian and never step foot inside a church, Scripture makes it clear that to be obedient to Jesus and become more like him it is essential to consistently attend church.

Sunday’s coming, go to church

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

who manages who

May 28, 2017

Firefighters know the danger of letting a fire get out of control. They are trained to respond quickly. You, too, must respond quickly to control the flames of anger before they consume your life and leave a smoldering ditch of destruction. “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins” (PROVERBS 29:22).

 WHAT ARE THE DEGREES OF ANGER? Anger is an emotional agitation that occurs when a need or expectation is not met. Like heat, anger has many degrees, ranging from mild irritations to hot explosions. Indignation—simmering anger provoked by something unjust and often perceived as justified Wrath—burning anger accompanied by a desire to avenge Fury—fiery anger so fierce that it destroys common sense Rage—blazing anger resulting in loss of self-control, often to the extreme of violence and temporary insanity

WHAT ARE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ANGER? Is it a sin for a person to be angry? No, the initial feeling of anger is a God-given emotion. The way you express this emotion determines whether your anger becomes sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” How can a person keep from feeling guilty when he is angry? Your anger is a signal that something is wrong. The purpose of the red warning light on a car dashboard is to propel you into action—to cause you to stop, evaluate, and do what is needed. For example, Jesus became angry at the hypocritical religious leaders who interpreted “resting on the Sabbath” to excess: “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand’…and his hand was completely restored” (Mark 3:5).

WHAT ARE THE FOUR SOURCES OF ANGER?

Hurt—Your heart is wounded. Everyone has a God-given inner need for unconditional love. When you experience rejection or emotional pain of any kind, anger can become a protective wall that keeps people and pain away.

 Injustice—Your right is violated. Everyone has an inner moral code that produces a sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair, just and unjust. When you perceive that an injustice has occurred against you or others (especially those whom you love), you may feel angry. If you hold on to the offense, the unresolved anger can begin to make a home in your heart.

Fear—Your future is threatened. Everyone is created with a God-given inner need for security. When you begin to worry, feel threatened, or get angry because of a change in circumstances, you may be responding to fear. A fearful heart reveals a lack of trust in God’s perfect plan for your life.

Frustration—Your effort is unsuccessful. Everyone has a God-given need for significance. When your efforts are thwarted or do not meet your own personal expectations, your sense of significance can be threatened. Frustration over unmet expectations of yourself or of others is a major source of anger.

WHAT IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF ANGER? When we feel that our real or perceived rights have been violated, we can easily respond with anger.

 Wrong Belief: “Based on what I believe is fair, I have the right to be angry about my disappointments and to stay angry for as long as I feel like it. I have the right to express my anger in whatever way is natural for me.”

Right Belief: “Because the Lord is sovereign over me and I trust Him with my life, I have yielded my rights to Him. My human disappointments are now God’s appointments to increase my faith and develop His character in me. I choose to not be controlled by anger, but to use anger to motivate me to do whatever God wants me to do” (see 1 Peter 1:6-7).

HOW CAN PAST ANGER BE RESOLVED? Unresolved anger is a bed of hidden coals burning deep wounds into your relationships with God and with others. This powerful emotion robs your heart of peace and steals contentment from your spirit. So how is this anger resolved? Realize Your Anger — Willingly admit that you have unresolved anger. — Ask God to reveal any anger buried in your heart. — Seek to determine the primary reason(s) for your past anger. — Talk out your anger with God and with a friend or counselor. (Proverbs 21:2)

We need to remember that it is not a sin to get angry, it’s what we do while we are angry that is important. Good, godly responses are what important.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Remember all those on our prayer lists, especially Joe and his shoulder, a great deal of pain.

And Dave as his fights his 5th battle prostate cancer. He’s a brave guy.

 

knock on wood

May 25, 2017

When was the last time you were “hewned”???

  “Hearken unto Me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord; look unto the rock from which ye are hewn” (Isa. 51:1).

  If we care for His glory, we will want to serve. If we care for others, we will want to be well prepared for that service. And that care will enable us to hold still and trust Him through all that is entailed in the preparation.

When a certain breaking down of self takes place in a believer’s life, it produces a marked change in him; but afterwards he has to learn it all in detail.

  “This is a fact borne out in the case of every servant of God in history who has really come under the hand of God—that the real values of their lives for all time have been those which correspond to the wine of the grape, the thing trodden out in the winepress, the agony of heart; and you know that it is true in your case that if ever you have had anything at all which you knew to be worthwhile and which has helped someone else, it has been born out of some travail in your own experience.”

If we knew the heart of our Father we would never question any of His dealings with us, nor should we ever desire His hand lifted off us till we had learnt all He would teach us.

  “Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:19, 20).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Susan N, 2 months left to live, pancreatic cancer, knows the Lord, but is leaving behind a husband and 2 small kids

Rhonda F, 19, and in college, is going to Peru on her first missions trip, wants to be used of the Lord. (this is her first time out of the USA.

 

WILD FIRE

May 23, 2017

James 3:1-12

James has gone from preaching to meddling! He has just made it clear that genuine faith works. If God has changed your heart through the new birth, the saving faith that He granted to you will inevitably show itself in a life of good deeds. But now he moves from the generality of good deeds to the specifics of the words that you speak. Genuine faith yields to Christ’s lordship over your tongue. With David (Ps. 141:3), all true believers will pray, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” While the monster may never be totally tamed, if you know Christ as Savior, you are engaged in the ongoing battle to tame the terrible tongue.

In building his case that all have sinned, the apostle Paul zeroes in on the sins of the tongue (Rom. 3:13-14):

“Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness….”

It would be nice if conversion resulted in a total makeover of the mouth, but it is not so! Although we become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we also carry around with us the old nature or the flesh, which wars against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). The tongue is one of the major battlegrounds in the war. To become godly people, we must wage war daily on this front.

James is a savvy pastor who knows that we won’t gear up for the battle and face our own sins of the tongue unless we recognize the magnitude of the problem. We all tend to justify ourselves by pointing to others who are notoriously bad. In comparison with how they talk, I’m doing okay. But James comes in with vivid illustrations to open our eyes to just how serious our problem is. It’s interesting that he never gives any advice on how to control the tongue. He just leaves you reeling from his portrait of how huge this problem is. He’s saying,

To tame the terrible tongue, we must recognize the tremendous magnitude of the battle that we face.

It’s difficult to outline this section, but we can organize it under four truths that we must recognize to tame our terrible tongues:

  1. To tame the tongue, we must recognize that we will be held accountable for what we say (3:1-2).

Apparently the churches to which James was writing had too many men who were self-appointed teachers. In the Jewish synagogues, rabbis were highly respected and the office was often one that parents coveted for their sons. It was proper to respect the rabbis because of the sacred Scriptures that they expounded, but it was wrong to give men the honor that God alone deserves. Jesus confronted the Jewish leaders on this account (Matt. 23:6-11):

“They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant.”

There’s a certain inherent prestige in becoming a teacher. Presumably, you know more than those that you teach, which means that in some way they should look up to you. Because of this, there is the built-in danger that some will take upon themselves the office of Bible teacher for the wrong reasons, or that those who took the position for the right reason later will fall into pride. If a man goes into teaching the Bible because of a secret desire for status or recognition, he is doing it for self and not for the Lord.

Because of the Matthew 23 passage, for many years I was uncomfortable with people addressing me as “Pastor.” Why not call me by my name, like everyone else? While I’ve grown accustomed enough to the title now that I don’t ask everyone to call me by my name, I hope that if they call me Pastor, they are respecting the office. But I’m also quite comfortable with being called Steve! I’m only a member of Christ’s body whom He called to shepherd His flock and teach His Word. Christ is the Leader!

James’ point is that a man should not take on the role of teacher unless God has called him to it, because teachers will incur a stricter judgment. We who teach God’s Word will be more accountable, because our words affect more people. Any time that we teach, we should keep in mind the serious fact that we will stand before the Lord to give an account!

Verse 2 further explains verse 1 (“For”). James includes himself when he says, “For we all stumble in many ways.” We’re all prone to sin! One popular author and Bible teacher emphasizes that we should not view ourselves as sinners, but as saints who occasionally sin. Well, by God’s grace I’m a saint, but I’m a saint who stumbles in many ways, not just occasionally!

James then zeroes in on the tongue, saying, “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” Perfect does not mean sinlessly perfect, but rather, mature. We can never achieve sinless perfection in this life, but we can grow to spiritual maturity. One important gauge of that is our speech.

One way to tame the tongue is to recognize that we all will be held accountable for our speech. Jesus said (Matt. 12:36-37), “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Jesus was not teaching justification by works. But, like James, He was teaching that our works reveal whether our faith is genuine faith. Our words either validate that we are true believers or reveal that we do not know God. If we sin with our speech, we need to ask God’s forgiveness and also the forgiveness of the one we sinned against. Genuine believers have this sense of being accountable for their speech.

  1. To tame the tongue, we must recognize its power for good or for evil (3:3-5a).

James uses two analogies here to make the point that the tongue is small, but mighty: the bit and the rudder. A bit is a relatively small instrument, but when you put it into a horse’s mouth, you can control the entire horse. The same thing is true of a ship’s rudder. It is relatively small compared to the size of the ship, but with his hand on the wheel or tiller, the pilot can steer a mammoth ship, even in a strong wind.

James’ point of comparison is not so much the matter of control (the tongue does not really control the body), but of the inordinate influence of such a small part (3:5a): “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.” James is saying, “Don’t underestimate the power of the tongue, because if you do, you won’t be able to tame it.” There may be a comparison in the sense of influencing direction. If you control your tongue, it can direct your whole life into what is acceptable in God’s sight. If you don’t control your tongue, it will get you into great trouble!

Both the bit and the rudder must overcome contrary forces to direct the horse and the ship. A horse is a powerful animal that can do much useful work, but only if it can be directed. A ship is a useful means of transporting cargo or people, but if the rudder is broken, it will be at the mercy of the wind and waves, and could result in a shipwreck causing the loss of life and cargo. To work properly and accomplish good things, both bit and rudder must be under the control of a strong hand that knows how to use them properly. In the same way, the tongue must overcome the contrary force of the flesh and be under God’s wise control if it is to accomplish anything good.

James would vigorously disagree with the familiar children’s taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” James is steeped in the Old Testament, and it (especially the Book of Proverbs) has much to say about the power of the tongue, either for good or for evil. Proverbs 12:18 states, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Imagine that all of us here today were carrying into church an unsheathed, razor-sharp, two-edged sword. It would be a miracle if we got through the morning without anyone getting cut! The fact is, we all have a razor-sharp, two-edged sword—in our mouths! We should use them with the greatest care to bring healing, not injury.

Proverbs has many other references to the tongue. For example (16:24), “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” If we all would read Proverbs frequently and pay attention to its wisdom, we would be a source of sweetness and healing in our homes and our church!

So James wants us to recognize that we will be held accountable for how we use our tongues, especially those of us who teach God’s Word. He wants us to recognize the inordinate power of the tongue, either for good or for evil, so that we use it carefully.

  1. To tame the tongue, we must recognize that it is a humanly untamable source of terrible evil (3:5b-8).

James uses two more word pictures for comparison and contrast: a forest fire and tamed animals. Living here in Flagstaff in the midst of the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world, we are very much aware of the potential danger and damage of forest fires. All it takes is one tossed cigarette or one campfire that is not totally extinguished and thousands of acres of beautiful forest can be destroyed. Under control, fire is useful; out of control, it is frightening and devastating!

In verse 6, James states directly, “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” Scholars debate as to how to translate and punctuate that verse, but however it is done, the point is clear: the tongue is a deadly, powerful source of evil that taints every part of our being. If we do not use our tongues with great caution, we are like spiritual arsonists, lighting careless fires that cause widespread destruction.

James says that the one who is careless with his tongue is the first to be defiled. An unchecked tongue is “the very world of iniquity,” that “defiles the entire body.” This goes back to James 1:26-27, where he said that true religion requires bridling the tongue and keeping oneself unstained by the world. “The sense is simply that since speech is the hardest faculty to control it is there that one first observes ‘the world’ in a person’s heart” (Peter Davids, New International Greek Testament Commentary on James [Eerdmans], p.142). Like a spark that lights a bigger fire, it not only defiles us, but also it “sets on fire the course of our life.” If you have a careless tongue it damages your entire life!

Then James goes one step further and identifies the ultimate source of the problem, “and is set on fire by hell.” Hell translates the Greek gehenna, which is a transliteration of two Hebrew words meaning, “Valley of Hinnom.” This valley, just outside the walls of Jerusalem, was where the Jewish worshipers of Molech burned their children as sacrifices to appease this pagan idol (Jer. 32:35). It later became a place to burn trash. The only other New Testament use is by Jesus (11 times) to refer to the place of eternal torment. James means that an evil tongue is set on fire by Satan himself.

Most Christians would shrink back from sins like homosexuality, molesting children, or murder as being satanically depraved. Yet we tolerate gossip, slander, deceit, half-truths, sarcastic put-downs, and other sins of the tongue as if they were no big deal. James says that all such sins have their origin in the pit of hell. They defile the one committing them. They destroy others. As a believer in Christ, you must confront these sins in yourself and you must be bold enough to confront them in others.

James goes on to use an analogy from the animal world. If you’ve been to Sea World, you’ve seen trained whales, dolphins, and seals. At the circus, you’ve seen trained elephants, lions, and tigers. But James says that there is one beast that cannot be tamed: the human tongue! He adds, “it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Being restless means there is never a time when it sleeps. You must always be on guard against it. Being full of deadly poison, you should handle it as cautiously as you would a vial of anthrax.

James does not say that the tongue is untamable. He says that no one can tame it. It is humanly untamable. Only God can tame it. James does not state that because he wants us to get a clear view of the horrible monster that we must do battle with. When the Holy Spirit controls your heart on a daily basis, over time the fruit of the Spirit will appear. These include love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control, which all relate to the control of the tongue. To tame this terrible tongue, you must daily walk in the Spirit, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Ultimately, an evil tongue is the tool of an evil heart. That is James’ final point:

  1. To tame the tongue, we must recognize that its inconsistencies are rooted in its source (3:9-12).

James points out a gross inconsistency that he no doubt had observed. Christians say, “Praise the Lord” in one breath, and in the next breath they say evil things about another person, made in the likeness of God. They sit in church singing hymns to God and no sooner get out the door than they whisper, “Did you see so-and-so? She makes me sick! She’s such a hypocrite. Why do you know what she did?” Etc., etc. James gets very direct (3:10b): “My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

Then he points out that what often happens among Christians is contrary to all of nature. The same spring does not send out fresh water one minute and bitter water the next. He asks rhetorically (3:12), “Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither can salt water produce fresh.”

His point is the same as that of Jesus (Matt. 12:34), “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” Jesus also said (Matt. 15:18), “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” The mouth is simply the opening that vents whatever is in the heart. If there’s raw sewage in the heart, there will be raw sewage gushing from the mouth! That’s why Proverbs 4:23 exhorts us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Have you ever thought about how terribly embarrassing life would be if there were a direct open line between your thoughts and your mouth, so that you blurted out loud whatever you were thinking? Instead of your polite, “I’m pleased to meet you,” out comes, “I couldn’t care less about meeting you!” After listening to someone drone on about something, instead of, “Yes, that’s very interesting,” you blurt out, “How can I get away from this bore?”

I’m not suggesting that we should abandon politeness and become brutally blunt. I’m only pointing out that even if you control your tongue, you often have a heart problem. If you want to tame the terrible tongue, the place to start is with your heart. Work daily at taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Walk daily under the control of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:18). Renew your mind by memorizing Scripture (Rom. 12:1-2; Ps. 119:11). Memorize James 1:19-20: “This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Memorize Ephesians 4:29: “Let no unwholesome [lit., rotten] word proceed from you mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

inside out

May 20, 2017

Before I start this devotion, I want to point out one thing, there is not one unimportant word the bible, every syllable, every sentence, every word holds a blessing never forget that the bible is not literature to be studied, it is the Living Word of God and it is to be consumed.

Genesis 6, starting in verse one; “And it came to pass when men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born unto them that the sons of Gods saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all that they chose. And the Lord said, my Spirit shall not always strive with man for that he also is flesh, yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. And there were giants in the earth in those days and also after that when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth and it grieved Him at His heart. And the Lord said I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and the creeping thing and the fowls of the air, for it repenteth me that I have made them.

“But”,  and I thank God for that little word but, “but, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” This is the first mention of the word grace in all of the Bible, and a marvelous mention, indeed it is. And we’re going to find some sweet truths about the Lord Jesus Christ as we study together.

First of all I want to say that the flood that took place in the days of Noah was an historical fact. As a matter of fact, the archaeologists tell us that all civilizations, everywhere have a record of the flood, they have their flood legends, their flood stories. Now, they do not come exactly as the story in the Bible because these legends have been handed down through the years and of course they’ve been corrupted. They’ve not been guided as the Holy Spirit guided the writers of the scripture, to record the precise story that took place. But, we know that all of these flood legends, all of these stories root to a common source. And someone might say, well, the Bible is just one more of those legends. No, the Bible reveals the truth out of which all of these other legends sprang and from whence they grew. And but not only does archeology tell us that there was a flood. Geology tells us that there was a flood and there is great geological evidence for the catastrophe of the flood. But, I want to tell you, I don’t believe in the flood because of archeology or geology. I believe it because of Christology. Jesus believed in the flood. Jesus said, in Matthew 24: “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the day of the coming of the Son of man.” And the Bible speaks of the time when the flood came in the days of Noah and Jesus utters these words from His own lips in Matthew 24:37 and following. Jesus Christ believed in the flood and Jesus said that the last days were going to be like the days that were before the flood—as it was in the days of Noah.

Now, what were the days of Noah like? Well, all of this is by means of introduction but the days of Noah were days of apostasy and the days of Noah were days of anarchy and the days of Noah were days of apathy. Those were the days of Noah. They were days of apostasy. I read here in the Genesis 6:1-3 how the sons of God took the daughters of men and there was an inter marrying between the sons of God and the daughters of men. Now, theologians, some theologians, say that these sons of God were demon spirits that actually took human wives and their offspring were giants, Nephilim, a mighty men of renown, grotesque, half demon, half human person. Others say that the sons of God were the descendants of the godly line of Seth, who intermarried with the ungodly line of Cain and that there was no longer separation and there was a unholy mixture and I do not have time or space in this devotion to go into that except to say this, that it was a time of apostasy. It was a time of unholy alliances. But not only was it a time of apostasy. It was a time of anarchy. I want you to notice verses four and following. The Bible says, “there were giants in the earth in those days and after, also after that when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they, there bare children unto them, the same became mighty men which were of old men of renown.” But, mighty to do what? Renown in what? Well, look in verse 5, and you’ll see. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth.” Why, these were mighty men to do wickedness. They were renown for their sin and for their lasciviousness.

And then it goes on to say that, “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Now, that word imagination is an interesting word. The scholars tell us that it comes from a root, a Hebrew root word which means to shape as a potter would shape things with his hands. That is, there were new philosophies that were being spawned. There were new ideas that were being molded. Actually, men were fashioning, they were molding wicked philosophies. And with these wicked philosophies, they were espousing filthy causes. What they were doing was trying to reshape and remold society. They were trying to get perversion and vice and immorality to become the acceptable norm. To say what was good was bad, and what was bad was good and to get the people of that day to be molded into their mold. And so it was a day of anarchy. And the same sins that produced the flood are reaching to heaven in our day and in our age. For Jesus said, “As it was in the time of Noah, it will be in the end of the age.” But, not only was there apostasy and anarchy, the time of Noah, but there was apathy.

Jesus there in the scripture that we referred to in Matthew 24:37 said, that just before the flood, I mean to the very day that the flood came, they were eating, and drinking, they were marrying, and giving in marriage, and knew not until the flood came. That is, in spite of the preaching of the prophet Noah, they joist simply yawned in the face of God. Oh, these were days when nothing seemed to shake them. They were just as assured as they could be that tomorrow was going to come just like yesterday had come. Well, after, in the context of these days the Bible says in verse 8, there was a man named Noah, he found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

 Now, the ark is a wonderful object lesson. And there are perhaps hundreds, and even thousands of things that we could say about the ark, but I’ll be content if God the Holy Spirit will help me to put three of them in your heart today. First of all, I want you to see this ark and it’s symbolism. I want you to see how the ark is a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ. I want you to see the symbolism of the ship And then the second thing I want you to see is the salvation through the ship. I want you to see how the ark is a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore what Noah did is a wonderful of what we must do if we want to be saved through the Lord Jesus Christ. So, the symbolism in the ship, or of the ship, the salvation through the ship and then I want you to see the security in the ship. I want you to see that we are as secure and even more secure in the Lord Jesus Christ than, Noah was in good ship grace.

A very simple outline, there’s some marvelously wonderful truths that we’re going to see together. Now, the ship, the ark if you will, was a magnificent Old Testament type of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter tells us that in 1 Peter 3. I’m not reading into this. The apostle Peter himself tells us that Old Testament ark was a prophesy, Peter uses the word type, a type of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And I had a good time just thinking and studying and of how this ark pictures and portrays in the Old Testament here, the Lord Jesus Christ because reminder, all of the Bible is about Jesus, all of it. The Old Testament, the New Testament. Jesus is the hero of the Bible.

Now, lets notice several things about this ark as we’re talking about the symbolism of the ship. Notice, well, lets begin reading here in verse 12 now, “And God looked upon the earth and behold it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence through them. And behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood.” Now, lets just stop right there and talk about the substance of the ship—the substance of the ship. It was made of gopher wood. And what is gopher wood? Most scholars and commentaries tell us that gopher wood is cypress. And cypress, you know, is a wood that does not easily rot. Sort of an indestructible wood, and it has become a symbol of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, in the Bible wood is a symbol of humanity. And here I think, if the ark is a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ, the very fact that it was made of cypress wood speaks of the indestructible humanity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You know, a righteous man is spoken of as a tree planted by the rivers of water and the Lord Jesus Christ himself is prophesied in Isaiah 53 as a root out of a dry ground and another place He is prophesied as a rod, a stem out of the stump of Jesse and so forth. All of these are figures of the Lord Jesus Christ who was God’s mighty tree who though was cut down in His prime, cut down in His youth. ‘And so, we see something of the Lord Jesus Christ right here in the substance of the ark but not only the substance the ark, I want you to notice the safety of the ark. Look again in verse 14, the last part. And the Bible says, “And thou shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.” Now, what is pitch? That’s just sticky tar. And God said to Noah, now Noah, when you make this boat, not only do I want you to make it out of cypress, very durable wood that can take the water, but I want you just to go on the outside of it, I just want you to cover it all over on the outside with pitch. Then, I want you to go on the inside. And all over on the inside, I want you to put pitch. And of course, that was there to caulk the seams, to keep the water from coming in because you don’t want the ship to leak.

Certainly not a ship that has such a precious cargo. But now, the interesting thing, about this word pitch. It’s the Hebrew word kaphar, is that it is translated over seventy times in the Bible and other places atonement, atonement. Now, this is very important. What God said to Noah is, Noah, I want you to put atonement on the outside of the ark and atonement on the inside of the ark. It’s a wonderful, beautiful prophesy of the blood atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Now, just keep your bookmark there in Genesis 6 and turn with me to Leviticus 17 and I’ll show you what I’m talking about. Leviticus 17:11. Here our Lord is speaking of the blood atonement. And he says in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” That’s the reason the Bible says without shedding of blood is no remission of sin. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood. And I have given it to you upon the alter to make an atonement for your souls.” Now, that’s exactly the same word that we just found over here in verse 14 that is rendered pitch. And I could just as well read it. I have given it to you upon the altar to make a pitch for your souls. For it is the blood that maketh an atonement or a pitch for the soul.

 The word atonement and pitch both mean covering, covering. It’s the blood that covers our sins. Oh, thank God, this is what He’s talking about. It is a covering, a seal, you see, what did the flood represent? What did the waters of that flood represent? God’s judgment. God was judging the world. And what was this atonement, therefore, to keep the waters of judgment out, you see. Oh, thank God, Noah was safe inside because not one of judgment could come through God’s atonement. I believe that’s what He’s talking about here, right here in the very first part of the, of this bookThank God for the atonement. Thank God for the covering. Thank God that not one drop of water, not one drop of judgment can come to anyone who is in the Lord Jesus Christ, the judgment cannot penetrate. But, not only do I want you to see the substance of the ship and not only do I want you to see the safety of the ship, but, I want you to see the size of the ship. Continue to read here, in verse 14, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood rooms shalt thou make in the ark,” just underscore that rooms shalt thou make and then verse 15, “And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of. The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the eight of it thirty cubits.” Now, folks, it was a large ship—three million cubit feet of space inside the good ship grace. Rooms shalt thou make in it. What is the lesson here? It was amply sufficient for all that it was intended to do. Now, what I’m trying to say here, is this dear friend, that the size, the immensity of this great ship is just God’s way of saying to you today, I believe, there’s room at the cross for you. There is room. There is plenty of room for those who will come. If you want the Lord Jesus Christ today, I say come and take because out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth and giveth and giveth again. Thank God for the size of the ship. Let’s go on and notice the shape of the ship, in verse 15. And He goes on to say or let me repeat, “And this is the fashion which thou shalt make of it. The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits. The breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it, thirty cubits.” Now, notice not only the cubit volume, but the length, the height, and the breadth. Now this was not built like an ocean liner. The pictures that you see in the children’s storybook of boat with a prow that it comes to a point, that’s not what it was at all. It was built like a box. Built like a box. As a matter of fact, it was shaped like a coffin. That was the shape of the ship. It was shaped as a coffin.

The ancient people use to make their coffins out of cypress wood and I believe that it is suggestive of a coffin, because you see, when, if the ark represents the Lord Jesus Christ, He was born to die and not only that, when we receive Him as our personal Savior and Lord, we die with Him. We’re crucified with Christ. We are buried with Christ. This ark is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But, we die with Him, that we might live with Him. Jesus didn’t come to give us death, He came to give us life, and life abundant full and free. John 10:10 tells us. But, not only do I want you to notice the shape of it, I want you to notice the structure of it. Look in verse 16. “A window shalt thou make in the ark,” and “in a cubit shalt thou finish it and the door of the ark shalt thou set on the side thereof with lower second and third stories shalt thou make it.” That was the structure of it. And in the first place, I want to talk about the door and the window. God was to control the door. Noah was to control the window. It was God, as we’re going to see who shut the door. They entered into the door, which again is illustrative of the Lord Jesus Christ who said I am the door, by me, if any man enter in, he’ll be saved, and that again pictures the Lord Jesus Christ but there was a window. And Noah could look out of the window but the window was on top and when Noah looked out he looked up. You see, God closed Noah in and God shut Noah in that Noah might look up to God. He was closed in to look up. He wasn’t to have his eyes on all of the death and the degradation and the putrefication that was going on. He had a view of heaven.

 The Bible says that we are set our affection on things above, not on things of the earth. But, you see, if that ark pictures the Lord Jesus Christ, it was in the ark and through the ark and by the ark that he knew the Lord. You see, that he worship the Father. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” I want to tell you the Lord Jesus is God’s window to heaven. I want to tell you it is through the Lord Jesus that you can worship, that you can praise, that you can look up to Him and set your affection on things above. Oh, how God’s people today aboard the good ship grace ought to be heavenly minded. But not only the structure, and incidentally, there were three stories—one, two, three stories in the ark. I believe that speaks to me of the body, soul, and spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. It speaks to me of the triune God—God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Well, there’s the structure of the ark and then there was the sustenance on the ark. If you will look here in chapter 6, and let’s look in verse 21: “And thou shalt take unto thee all food that is eaten.” Notice, that all food that is eaten. Not just the just the black eyed peas but the strawberries. “And thou shalt gather it to thee and it shall be for food for thee and for them.” Oh, the sustenance of the ark. You see, not only did Noah find shelter, he found sustenance. For Jesus not only saves, bless God, He satisfies

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

KNOW FEAR

May 18, 2017

Know Fear

Yes, there has been much bad teaching about the Holy Spirit and yes the Charismatic/Pentecostal churches have probably done more harm than good. But one thing they did right was allowing genuine emotion to be a part of Christian Life. There is nothing worse than religion devoid of passion.

In my sober judgment the relation of the Spirit to the believer is the most vital question the church faces today.

Satan has opposed the doctrine of the Spirit-filled life about as bitterly as any other doctrine there is. He has confused it, opposed it, surrounded it with false notions and fears. He has blocked every effort of the Church of Christ to receive from the Father her divine and blood-bought patrimony. The Church has tragically neglected this great liberating truth—that there is now for the child of God a full and wonderful and completely satisfying anointing with the Holy Ghost.

The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people. There is nothing about the Holy Spirit queer or strange or eerie.

Unless you are convinced that it isn’t an added, unusual, extra, deluxe something that you have to go to God and beg and beat your fists on the chair to get, I recommend that you don’t do anything about it yet except to meditate upon the Scriptures bearing on this truth. You don’t have to persuade God at all. Dr. Simpson used to say, “Being filled with the Spirit is as easy as breathing; you can simply breathe out and breathe in.”

Before you can be filled with the Spirit you must desire to be filled. Are you sure that you want to be possessed by a Spirit other than your own? That Spirit, if He ever possesses you, will be the Lord of your Life! Do you want to hand the keys of your soul over to the Holy Spirit?

Again, are you sure that you need to be filled? Can’t you get along the way you are? But maybe you feel in your heart that you just can’t go on as you are. If you feel that there are levels of spirituality, mystic deeps and heights of spiritual communion, purity and power that you have never known, that there is fruit which you know you should bear and do not, victory which you know you should have and have not—I would say, “Come on,” because God has something for you.

Here is how to receive. First, present your body to Him (Rom. 12:1–2). God can’t fill what He can’t have. Now I ask you: Are you ready to present your body with all of its functions and all that it contains—your mind, your personality, your spirit, your love, your ambitions, your all? The second thing is to ask (Luke 11:9–11), and I set aside all theological objections to this text. He chooses to have us ask; so why not ask? Acts 5:32 tells us the third thing. God gives His Holy Spirit to them that obey Him. Simply live by the Scriptures as you understand them. Simple, but revolutionary. The next thing is, have faith. (Gal. 3:2) We receive Him by faith as we receive the Lord in salvation by faith. He comes as a gift of God to us in power. First He comes in some degree and measure when we are converted, otherwise we couldn’t be converted. But I am talking about something different now, an advance over that. I am talking about His coming and possessing the full body and mind and life and heart, taking the whole personality over, gently but directly and bluntly, making it His, so that we may become a habitation of God through the Spirit.

When the Spirit presents Christ to our inner vision it has an exhilarating effect on the soul much as wine has on the body. The Spirit-filled man may literally dwell in a state of spiritual fervor amounting to a mild and pure inebriation. God dwells in a state of perpetual enthusiasm. He pursues His labors always in a fulness of holy zeal.

The Holy Spirit came to carry the evidence of Christianity from the books of apologetics into the human heart. The Spirit of the living God brought an evidence that needed no logic; it went straight to the soul like a flash of silver light.

One blessed treasure we have missed is the right to possess the gifts of the Spirit as set forth in such fulness and clarity in the New Testament.

In their attitude toward the gifts of the Spirit Christians over the last few years have tended to divide themselves into three groups: those who magnify the gifts of the Spirit until they can see little else—those who deny that the gifts of the Spirit are intended for the Church in this period of her history—those who appear to be thoroughly bored with the whole thing and do not care to discuss it.

More recently we have become aware of another group—those who want to know the truth about the Spirit’s gifts and to experience whatever God has for them within the context of sound New Testament faith.

It is usually said that there are nine gifts of the Spirit. (I suppose because Paul lists nine in 1 Cor. 12.) Actually Paul mentions no less than seventeen (1 Cor. 12:4–11, 27–31; Rom. 12:3–8; Eph. 4:7–11). And these are not natural talents merely, but gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit to fit the believer for his place in the body of Christ. They are spiritual gifts.

For a generation certain evangelical teachers have told us that the gifts of the Spirit ceased at the death of the apostles or at the completion of the New Testament. This, of course, is a doctrine without a syllable of Biblical authority back of it. The result of this erroneous teaching is that spiritually gifted persons are ominously few among us. This frightening hour calls aloud for men with the gift of prophetic insight. Instead we have men who conduct surveys, polls and panel discussions. We need men with the gift of knowledge. In their place we have men with scholarship—nothing more. Thus, we may be preparing ourselves for the tragic hour when God may set us aside as so-called evangelicals and raise up another movement to keep New Testament Christianity alive in the earth.

The truth of the matter is that the Scriptures plainly imply the imperative of possessing the gifts of the Spirit. But I must also add a word of caution. The various spiritual gifts are not equally valuable, as Paul so carefully explains. Certain brethren have magnified one gift out of seventeen out of all proportion. Among these brethren there have been and are many godly souls, but the general moral results of this teaching have nevertheless not been good. In practice it has resulted in much shameless exhibitionism, a tendency to depend upon experiences instead of upon Christ and often a lack of ability to distinguish the works of the flesh from the operations of the Spirit. Those who deny that the gifts are for us today and those who insist upon making a hobby of one gift are both wrong, and we are all suffering the consequences of their error.

The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to restore the lost soul to intimate fellowship with God through the washing of regeneration. Gifts and power for service the Spirit surely desires to impart, but holiness and spiritual worship come first.

One obstacle to the reception of power is a widespread fear of our emotions wherever they touch the religious life. Feeling and faith are opposed to each other in modern teaching. This anti-emotionalism is nevertheless an unwarranted inference, not a Scriptural doctrine. Where in the Bible are feeling and faith said to be at odds? The fact is that faith engenders feeling as certainly as life engenders motion. Faith as a cold, unemotional light is wholly unknown in the Scriptures. The Book of Acts is almost hilarious with joy.

Another hindrance is fear of fanaticism. Instinctive revulsion from fleshly excesses and foolish undisciplined conduct on the part of some who profess lofty spiritual attainments has closed the door to a life of power for many of God’s true children. They have made the mistake of putting all teaching concerning the Holy Spirit in the same category. Such victims must be taught that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, and is as gracious and beautiful as the Saviour Himself. The Holy Spirit is the cure for fanaticism, not the cause of it.

The doctrine of the Spirit as it relates to the believer has over the last half-century been shrouded in a mist such as lies upon a mountain in stormy weather. A world of confusion has surrounded this truth. This confusion has not come by accident. An enemy has done this. Satan knows that Spiritless evangelicalism is as deadly as Modernism or heresy, and he has done everything in his power to prevent us from enjoying our true Christian heritage.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

DO THE HARD PART

May 16, 2017

There are no secrets and there is no easy path.

Do the work, get the reward, that’s the only answer.

When we read or hear the words of Scripture, do we “pay the most careful attention” (Heb 2:1)? How often have you noticed that by the end of the week, you’ve forgotten the Bible reading you did only a few days earlier?

 Too often we attempt to build a framework for scriptural knowledge without first gathering the lumber and cement needed to create a solid foundation. To lay that groundwork check out this simple four-step process that could transform your life by, quite literally, changing your mind:

  1. Choose a book of the Bible.

  2. Read it in its entirety.

  3. Repeat step #2, 20 times.

  4. Repeat this process for all books of the Bible.

  The benefits of following this process will become obvious. By fully immersing yourself in the text, you’ll come to truly know the text. You’ll deepen your understanding of each book, as well as your knowledge of the Bible as a whole.

 This method is adapted from the book How to Master the English Bible by James M. Gray, so we’ll let him explain the benefits in his own words:

  The first practical help I ever received in the mastery of the English Bible was from a layman . . . One day I ventured to ask him how he had become possessed of the experience, when he replied, “By reading the epistle to the Ephesians.” . . . He had gone into the country to spend the Sabbath with his family on one occasion, taking with him a pocket copy of Ephesians, and in the afternoon, going out into the woods and lying down under a tree, he began to read it; he read it through at a single reading, and finding his interest aroused, read it through again in the same way, and, his interest increasing, again and again. I think he added that he read it some twelve or fifteen times, “and when I arose to go into the house,” said he, “I was in possession of Ephesians, or better yet, it was in possession of me, and I had been ‘lifted up to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,’ in an experimental sense in which that had not been true in me before, and will never cease to be true in me again.”

  Here are three suggestions for putting this reading plan into practice:

  1. Choose shorter books—Because you’ll be reading an entire book of the Bible and not just a chapter or two, you’ll want to choose books you feel are manageable. You might want to start with a short book that has only a few chapters that can be read several times in one sitting. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and help develop the reading habit. For example, a short book like John or Jude can be read four or five times in one sitting, allowing you to finish the entire 20 readings in less than a week. And then you always have the option to work your way up to more extensive readings.

  2. Read at your normal pace—Treating the material reverently does not require reading at a slower than normal speed. Read for comprehension, ignoring the division of chapters and verses and considering each book as one coherent unit.

  3. Stick with the process—After the eighth or ninth reading you’ll hit a wall similar to what runners face in marathons. The text will become dry and lose its flavor. You’ll want to move on to the next book or abandon the program altogether. Stick with it. Persevere and you’ll discover the treasures that repeated readings can provide.

  Keep in mind that not every book will be equally rewarding. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you if during one of your readings you find 2 John a bit redundant or Jude just plain boring. The Bible tells us “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching” (2Ti 3:16–17). Keep reading, and you’ll fully understand the truth of those verses.

The good news, it’s get easier and more exciting and more rewarding.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com