Thursday, February 28, 2013

T.R.U.E love that waits and succeeds - P1

1 Timothy 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

A God-centered church in need of a man of God
The Apostle Paul is writing to a young pastor at the church of Ephesus by the name of Timothy.  The Ephesian church was a great church that was founded by Paul in Acts 19-20.  For 2 1/2 years Paul ministered at Ephesus, with his time ending in a riot of the citizens wanting to kill him.  With the fledgling congregation attempting to minister the Gospel in such a hostile environment, their greatest need was stable leadership.  With that background, it was within a span of a few years that Paul's young protege, Timothy, came on the scene and was installed as the new Pastor of what was a growing church at Ephesus.  As Paul wrote 1 Timothy, his aim was to urge Timothy to be a man of God and lead this flock to be a God-centered church. (1 Timothy 6:11)

What is a T.R.U.E man of God?
In 1 Timothy 6:11 Paul refers to Timothy with a title that we only find in one other place in the New Testament - the title "man of God".Even though this title is used only twice in the New Testament, its background and usage in the Old Testament is quite extensive.  In over 70 places we find the Old Testament refer to people like Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1), Elijah (2 Kings 1:9); Elisha (2 Kings 8:4); King David (2 Chronicles 8:14) and various other prophets as men of God.  To be called a "man of God" is no light title, and for Timothy and ultimately every Christian to be called a "man (woman) of God" means that certain qualities are in mind. 

We could certainly do a character study on those Old Testament passages that speak of Moses, David and others as being "men of God", however I want to use 1 Timothy 6:6-16 as our key text - since Paul undoubtedly had at least one of those 70 plus other passages coursing through his mind as he wrote under Divine inspiration to young Timothy.  For today's blog, we will just list the key qualities of a true man/woman of God by utilizing the acrostic T.R.U.E as we see in 1 Timothy 6:6-16.  A t.r.u.e man/woman of God is defined by the following four characteristics...

Trusting in the Lord.   1 Timothy 6:6-11a

Running Faith's Race.  1 Timothy 6:11b-12

Understand God's Word.  1 Timothy 6:13-14a

Endures until Jesus comes.  1 Timothy 6:14b-16

When you think about men of God like Moses, David or Elijah, they each had all four of those qualities.  Moses and David both appear in the famous faith chapter of Hebrews 11 exhibiting every single one of those qualities.  In James 5 we see reference to Elijah, who being called by the title "man of God" at least 8 times in the Old Testament, evidence all four traits as well.2  Truly men like them and Christians today are called to be t.r.u.e men/women of God. 

Conclusion and upcoming blogs
This little study on what it means to be a true man/woman of God will be used for the next couple of days to encourage young and old Christians alike to aim for moral and spiritual purity.  Only a t.r.u.e man/ woman of God will see the necessity and have what it takes to heed such a call of God on their lives.  As we go into this coming weekend, our church and many congregations nation-wide will be participating in a biblical emphasis that will encourage young people to pledge themselves to abstinence until marriage.  This emphasis, called "True Love Waits", will be explained in more detail over the next couple of blogs. Our main idea will be that true love that waits and is faithful succeeds when you and I are t.r.u.e men / women of God. Until then, Lord bless.

End Notes:_____________________

1. The only other place we find this title "man of God" used in the New Testament is in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. "

2. Elijah evidenced trusting in God (James 5:17) running faith's race by praying repeatedly to God (James 5:18). By using men like Elijah as an example, James emphasizes the need to keep people accountable who turn from the truth - thus telling us that Elijah and those like him operate in the understanding of God's Word (James 5:19-20). Then of course since Elijah did endure to the end describes his overall life as a true man of God as we see in his life story recorded in 1 Kings 17 - 2 Kings 2. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Grace of Humility leads to Christ-likeness

James 4:6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

Defining Humility
When you begin to study the subject of humility in the scripture, you will find rich meanings in the Old and New Testament words used to refer to humility.  The chief word for humility in the Old Testament literally pictures a servant bowing their knee in respect to a master or a king.  In the New Testament we see two main Greek words used to render the term "humility".  In the list of the nine fruits of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22, the word translated "meekness" in some translations could just as easily be rendered "humility".  The term used in that text speaks of striking a perfect balance between strength and control - thus meekness is a form of humility.  The other Greek word for humility is found in James 4:6, which refers to a person who desires to place others ahead of themselves.  I heard one preacher give this definition for humility: "humility is knowing what you are and what you are not."  At a Sunday School class I heard another person give this defintion of humility: "humility is not thinking less about yourself but thinking about yourself less." 

Certainly humility at one level can be expressed by all people - however non-redemptive expressions of humility will ultimately lead back to that person, even if unintentioned.  True Christian humility will result in the attention going away from the humble person to Jesus - since humility, next to love, is the best way for Christians to act, talk and think like Jesus. (Philippians 2:1-11)

Humility is a virtue
Humility is both a command given to believers and a Divinely given grace from the Holy Spirit.  Older Christians used to speak of what was called "Christian Virtues".  A virtue is anything that is Divinely given by God that in turn becomes a decision of of the will, resulting in that person drawing closer to God by their own choosing.  Case in point, humility is a Divinely given grace (John 13:15; Galatians 5:22; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) and yet at the same time it is a disposition of the human heart exercising such humility. (John 13:14; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3; 1 Peter 5:6)  Furthermore, humility results in a person drawing closer to God and being drawn closer to God. (Isaiah 57:15; James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:5-6)

So to sum up what we have said thus far - humility is both a responsibility of every Christian and a Grace given by the Spirit of God.  Without the grace of humility, a Christian cannot truly carry out their genuine responsibility to be a humble person.  Furthermore, the way I know I have successfully achieved Christian humility is when no one talks about me but rather talks about what Jesus has done. 

The Grace of Humility enables me to be like Jesus
James 4:6-10 is a remarkable text that shows how humility is given and acted out by Christians.  Furthermore, as you begin to look at James's series of commands in the text, you discover that they give you a working outline of Jesus' life and ministry.  Let me show you what I mean:

1. Jesus was given grace without measure due to His humility
John 1:14 "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. "

Philippians 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Thus Christians are given a measure of grace in humility.
James 4:6 "But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

2. Jesus' humble submission to His Father led to Him resisting Satan and Satan's fleeing
Matthew 4:10 10Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” 11 then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

Thus Christians are able to resist Satan when they humble themselves to God
James 4:7 "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."

3. Jesus' humility led Him to depend on His Father in prayer
Luke 22:39-41 39And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. 40When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray.  (There are over a dozen examples of Jesus praying in the Gospels)

Thus Christians are to humble themselves in prayerful dependance upon the Father
James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

4. Though Jesus was sinless in his humanity, He humbly drew near to God His Father
Hebrews 5:7 "In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety."

Thus Christians who are not yet sinless have even greater need to humbly come to the Father in prayer
James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

5. Though sinless, Jesus humbly went to the cross, bearing our sins and cried out to God
Mark 15:34 At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" which is translated, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?"

Hebrews 5:8 "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered."

Thus Christians need to keep ever focused on the cross so as to hate sin and hasten more to Jesus
James 4:9 "Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom."  As Christians, we ought to be heartbroken anytime we sin.   

6. Jesus humbled Himself to death, and God raised Him up to be exalted at His right hand
Philippians 2:8-9 "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (9) For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name"

Thus Christians who humble themselves under God's mighty hand will in due time be lifted up
James 4:10 "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you."


The Grace of humility enables you and I to be like Jesus.  As we have seen in the above thoughts, whether we speak of Christ's incarnation (point #1), beginning of his earthly ministry (point #2), His prayer-life (point #3), His over-all daily life leading up to the cross (point #4), His crucifixion (point #5) or His resurrection (point #6), humility ran through the entirety of Jesus' earthly life, ministry, ddeath and reusrrection.  You and I as Christians are called to humility for the sake of being like Jesus.  May we operate in the grace of humility this day.   

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Revelation, Inspiration, Canonicity, Preservation, Illumination

Genesis 3:1 "Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”

The first question in the Bible has to do with God's Word
Everything up until Genesis 3 had been commanded and declared by God. Satan took God's commands and declarations and put question marks on the end.  Sin entered into the world as a result of man losing and refusing to fight the Battle for God's Words.  As Christians, we need to know that the Bible we carry in our hands is the Word of God.  In today's post I want to introduce the reader to five terms that have been used by theologians to describe how the scriptures journeyed from God's mouth to man's hand.  Those five terms of which I speak are the following:

1. Revelation
2. Inspiration
3. Canonicity
4. Preservation
5. Illumination

Each of these terms could be given their own post, however for today I just want you the reader to be equipped with brief definitions so as to get in your mind the reliability and sufficiency of your Bible as God's very words.

1. Revelation - Making known that which was previously unknown  
In Bible doctrine we usually distinguish three types of revelation:

a. General Revelation - This is God revealing or making known His glory and power in creation and the conscience  (Psalm 19:7-11; Romans 1:18-31, 2:15)

b. Full Revelation - This is God's revelation of His Person and Majesty through the incarnation of God the Son, Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

c. Special Revelation - This is God's Revelation of His purposes and will through the writing of the Old and New Testament scriptures, of which we are focusing upon in this particular blog today. (Deuteronomy 29:29; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21)

God revealed His words to His prophets, by whom spoke and then wrote down the revelation. In the New Testament the terms employed to refer to God's revelation refer to "unveiling that which was previously hidden".  (Exodus 24:4; Amos 3:7; Ephesians 1:10; 1 Peter 1:10-11)

2.  Inspiration - Human authors were given a unique measure of grace through their own writing styles to produce documents free from error and sufficient for faith and practice

Revelation (not the Book but the act of God making the unknown known) leads next to inspiration.  Quite literally God breathed out the scriptures.  Just as He breathed out His breath into the nostrils of Adam and Adam became a living soul, so did the writings of the Apostles and Prophets become living scripture as they wrote.  With the more than 40 authors, writing on three continents and in three languages, over 1500 years period of time, God used their writing styles and situations to produce a unified document free from error.  Once the last period of the Book of Revelation was completed, the Grace of inspiration would never operate again.  So with God's words written as errorless words, how would God's people know which books were God's books as opposed to forgeries?

3. Canonicity - The identification, reception and arranging of the individually inspired Bible books into the official collection of God's words
Virtually all the Bible books were immediately identified, received and collected by God's people for public reading, preaching and application.  The term "canon" literally means "measuring rod", hence the Bible is the final authority or "measuring rod" on all matters.  Not just any book could be considered part of God's Divine Library of the Bible.  Church history tells us that God's people used a variety of tests for recognizing God's words.1

God perfectly inspired the individual Bible books, not the manner of their order or arrangement.  Rather God in His Providence led the people of God to take up the task of receiving and arranging the books of scripture.  Without a doubt the Holy Spirit guided the process, and it must be remembered that the Bible produced the church, not the other way around.  By recognizing the nature of canonicity, we can see why its not a big deal for certain Bibles to have differing order or arrangement of the Bible books.2  We could spend more time in detail, but we must move onto the next term....

4. Preservation- God's Providential preservation of the words of the Bible in the hand-copied texts of the Old and New Testament.

We possess more certainty over the words of the Bibles in our possession today as being those originally penned by the Biblical authors than we do of any other ancient document.  Once that original manuscript left the hand of that prophet or apostle, how was it preserved as it was copied over and over again?  A whole field of study aims to answer this question.3  If God had not guaranteed the preservation of His words down to our day, we would have no idea what He commmunicated. (Matthew 5:18)  More could be said but we must hasten to the final key term...

5. Illumination - How God the Holy Spirit helps Christians understand the meaning of the Revealed, Inspired, Canonical and Preserved Text

When a Christian is converted by grace through faith, the Holy Spirit enables them to understand the meaning of the words of the Bible.  Passages such as 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 and 1 John 2:20,27 give us this promise of the Spirit's ministry in the life of the Christian.  Without the Holy Spirit's work of illumination, I could not preach the Bible with clarity nor could those to whom I preach apply what is preached.  Furthermore, without the proverbial "light-bulb" of understanding given by the Holy Spirit, no Christian could have fruitful study of God's word.4 

As you consider the five terms: Revelation, Inspiration, Canonicity, Preservation & Illumination, you will discover the truth of the matter: the Bible that you and I carry to church and read every week is the Word of God.  I would like to end today's blog with this quote from the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 Article 1 on the Holy Scriptures,  of which I affirm, and hope you do as well: "The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy."    

End Notes:______________________

1. So what were the tests?  Some examples are as follows:
a. Was the author a prophet, apostle or associate of an apostle?
b. Does the book correspond with previous revelation?
c. Does the Book bring about conversion?
d. Does the book point to Jesus Christ, the fullness of God's revelation?
e. Is the book recognized by virtually all Christians as God's word?

Tests such as these were used, and once individually recognized, the church came to arrange the books for use and preaching purposes.

2. For example we know by Jesus' day that the Old Testament was arranged in a three-fold way (Law, Prophets, Writings). (Luke 24:44) However in our English Bibles our Old Testaments are arranged as: Law, Historical Books, Poetic Books and Prophetic Books (Major and Minor Prophets). These differing arrangements have nothing to do with the words of scripture (inspiration), rather they represent the ways God's people came to organize the 66 Bible books.  Thus we see for instance Catholic Bibles, Eastern Orthodox Bibles and Protestant Bibles (the last which would be to most readers perhaps the most familiar) having their Bible Books in differing order.  The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox have additional books, of which I will not address right now (these issues have been addressed in other past blogs).  Suffice it to say, all three orderings have in common the universally recognized 66 Books which appear by themselves in such English translation and versions such as KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, ESV, NLT. 

3. The scholarly field to which I'm referring is called textual criticism. 
 Without going into too much detail, the thousands upon thousands of copies of manuscripts, both Old and New Testament, can reconstruct the original text in over 99% of cases, with no variation in the copies affecting any doctrine or teaching.  

4. Often people will confuse the terms "revelation" and "illumination". It is important to keep those two terms distinct, since God is not giving no new revelations today. Any insights people have into the spiritual realm or in guidance for every day life is a result of the Spirit's illuminating work through the scriptures. Even when we hear God's voice and know what He wants us to do, its because at some point we heard a Biblical based sermon or read a Bible verse that spoke on that subject. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Fountain of Christian Assurance is God P2

1 John 1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—

Yesterday we considered two distinctions within the doctrine of perseverance: eternal security of the believer and assurance of salvation.  We also briefly considered four ways we can see God being the Fountain of Christian Assurance of Salvation:

1. Work of Christ - Evidence of God being the Fountain of Assurance. 1 John 1:1
2. Will of the Father - Eternal Foundation from whence comes the Fountain of Assurance. 1 John 1:2
3. Work of the Holy Spirit - Effects Fellowship between believers and God who is the fountain of Christiann assurance. 1 John 1:3
4. Word of God - Explains fully how the Triune God is the Fountain of Christian Assurance. 1 John 1:4

Since we only briefly touched upon how it is God is the Fountain of blessed assurance in 1 John 1:1-4, I thought we would take some time in today's post to expand upon the four main thoughts listed at the end of yesterday's post.  So how it it that God is the fountain of Christian Assurance in the Persevering of Christians in their salvation? 

1. Work of Christ. 1 John 1:1
John starts out his letter by noting the Lord Jesus Christ and his firsthand witness of Jesus' life and ministry.  Curiously John does not say in 1:1 "He who was from the beginning, whom we have heard, who we have seen with our eyes, whom we have looked at and touched with our hands..."  Rather John states: "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life" using the terms "what" rather than "who".  Why the impersonal pronouns in this opening verse?  John is concerned with establishing the foundation for Christian perseverance and blessed assurance in salvation.  In using these neuter pronouns, John is focusing our attention upon the work of Christ, rather than the Person of Christ.  Passages such as John 5:24, 10:28-29, 17:24 and Hebrews 7:25 also testify to Christ's work as being the evidence of God being the Fountain of assurance.  Christ Himself is God who came in human flesh.  We know from other passages that salvation is from the Lord. (Jonah 2:9-10)  It is because of the once and for all finished work of Jesus Christ that we who have by grace through faith believed can know that we know that we are forever saved.  John closes out this first verse by using the title "the Word" as a reference to the Eternal pre-existence of God the Son, which He had written about in the prologue to his Gospel. (John 1:1-18).  So the Work of Christ is the evidence of God being the fountain of Christian assurance, but notice secondly...

2. The Father's Will.  1 John 1:2
1 John 1:2 tells us -  "and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us."  Notice that term "manifested" in this verse - it refers to something previously huidden that is now made fully revealed.  God the Father and the Son in eternity made a covenant that redemption would be sought and bought by the action of the Son coming to take upon Himself a full human nature.  John 3:16 and other passages tells us that it was the Father's will for the Son to be virgin born, live a perfect life, die on the cross and be raised from the dead.  But now notice the two word phrase at the end of the verse: "to us".  That little phrase carries a lot of weight, since it tells us that God willed salvation for all who by His grace would believe. (John 1:12-13)  It is God's will for the Christian to be kept until the end. (1 Peter 1:5)  God the Father is the One who has willed for Christians to make it, persevere and to appear before His throne with great joy in eternity. (Jude 24-25).  So the work of Jesus Christ the Son is the evidence and the Father's Will is the eternal foundation for God being the fountain of Christian assurance.  But notice thirdly....

3. The Work of the Holy Spirit.  1 John 1:3
1 John 1:3 states: "what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." Now you may ask where we find the Holy Spirit in verse 3?  As is often the case throughout the scripture, the Holy Spirit's job is to point our attention to Jesus Christ, who in turn points us to God the Father.  The Holy Spirit, though co-equal with the Father and the Son, chooses to be submissive to the Father's will and the Son's work  when it comes to the Triune God's plan of salvation.  The Holy Spirit is the One who makes the fellowship spoken of here by John a reality. (Romans 8:16) 

At salvation, the Holy Spirit is the One who seals the Christian and gurantees that the Christ Whom they have believed in will deliver on His promises. (Ephesians 1:13-14)  It is the Holy Spirit who applies the graces of assurance to every Christian who is in fellowship with Him. (Romans 5:1-5)  In salvation, God the Father plans it, the Son purchased it and the Spirit applies it.  It is the Spirit Himself Who tells me that He as God is the Fountain of my assurance.  It is in His work that He brings to me the Person and Power of God the Son, Who then reassures my heart with the love of the Father. (1 John 3:1-3)  So with the work of the Son, the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit we see God as the Fountain of Christian assurance.  But lets notice one final truth..

4. The Word of God fully tells us that God is the fountain of Christian Assurance.  1 John 1:4
John communicates in 1 John 1:4 - "These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. "  As John has communicate the Eternal Security side of Christian perseverance in 1 John 1:1-3, He now deals with the assurance side, our experience, of such security.  We find out that by the scriptures are we able to see that God is the Fountain of Christian assurance.  It is by them that we are saved and believe. (James 1:18; Colossians 3:16)  Furthermore, it is by the scriptures that we are able to persevere in hope. (Romans 15:4)  Thus through these four truths of Christ's work, the Father's will, the Spirit's work and the Word of God, we can see how God is the Fountain for Christian Assurance as we endeavor as believers to persevere in the blessedness of such assurance.     

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Fountain of Christian Assurance is God P1

1 John 1:4 "These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete."

For this Lord's day I want to draw our thoughts towards what the scriptures have to say about Christians persevering in the blessed assurance of eternally security.  To achieve this, we will first look at the doctrine of perseverance itself, followed by a brief outline of 1 John 1:1-4 which details for us how God is the Fountain of blessed assurance. 

Perseverance of the Saints consists of Eternal Security and Assurance of salvation
Older Christians talk about what is called "perseverance of saints" or what is more popularly termed: "once saved always saved".  In the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, Article 5 - "God's Purpose of Grace", we see a fine definition of this doctrine of perseverance:

"All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."

To bear witness to the full testimony of scripture on this subject of whether or not a Christian can lose their salvation, we need to consider for a moment two ideas contained within the Biblical truth of Christian preseverance: namely "eternal security" and "assurance of salvation":

1. Eternal Security - As the Baptist Faith & Message states in the above article in the last statement about Christians and their eternal security: "yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."  Eternal security is that part of perseverance that guarantees I will make it.  Philippians 1:6 explains how the work of salvation, begun by God in believers will be completed.2  To quote Dr. Daniel Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Seminary: "By His work on the cross Jesus obtained my salvation, and, by His work in heaven Jesus maintains my salvation."

2. Assurance of Salvation - If we consider Eternal security to be the objective side of perseverance, whereby God is the one who keeps the child of God safe and secure in their salvation, then assurance can be regarded as our daily experience and awareness of that truth.3  Romans 8:16 is perhaps the most concise statement in scripture about the place of assurance in the believer's life: "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God." 4 

Illustrating "eternal security" and "assurance" with a dollar bill
Lets say you and I went to a store and I offered to buy you a cup of coffee.  You express your appreciation and so when we come to the counter, you see that a cup of coffee costs 75 cents.  Now here is the question: what will secure my purchase of that cup of coffee and what assures me that I can purchase that cup of coffee? Only one thing can securely purchase that cup of coffee: a Federal Reserve Note, back by the Federal Government with a number "1" printed on either side.  Monopoly money won't do it, nor will an I.O.U secure your coffee for your friend. 

So you fumble around in your pocket, and now you realize that the dollar you thought you had is not there! Does that put into jeopardy the entire monetary system of the United States Government? No.  Your assurance of having the money all has to do with your proximity to it.  As the blood begins to drain from your face, suddenly your friend suggests looking in your other pocket.  To your relief, you find the dollar bill is in the other pocket and suddenly, your assurance level has increased.  Now did the security part of the purchase change? No.  A dollar is a dollar.  However my ability to have confidence in my spending of that money hinged on me being made aware of my having the dollar from my helpful friend. 

Like the above little story, eternal security is that part of perseverance that is backed eternally by the work of Christ, the will of the Father, the work of the Spirit and the Word of God (and is far more secure than the Federal Government!) Assurance is that confidence I have in my perseverance that is dependant upon my proximity of fellowship to Jesus Christ.  As much as assurance deals with the believer's experience of salvation day by day, it is still a divine given grace that comes from the Holy Spirit bearing witness in my spirit.  How well I hear that witness will regulate how much assurance I have. 

1 John 1:1-4 spells out how God is the Fountain of Christian Assurance
The book of 1 John was written by the Apostle John to a group of Christians in Asia Minor to give them the understanding of how they can know the assurance of their salvation. 1 John 5:13 tells us -"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."1   In light of our discussion today on the distinction between Eternal Security and Assurance, here is what we glean from 1 John 1:1-4 concerning four ways we can see God being the Fountain of Christian Assurance of Salvation:

1. Work of Christ - Evidence of God being the Fountain of Assurance. 1 John 1:1

2. Will of the Father - Eternal Foundation from whence comes the Fountain of Assurance. 1 John 1:2

3. Work of the Holy Spirit - Effects Fellowship between believers and God who is the fountain of Christiann assurance. 1 John 1:3

4. Word of God - Explains fully how the Triune God is the Fountain of Christian Assurance. 1 John 1:4

More tomorrow......

End Notes:_________________

1. In the 105 verses of this amazing little letter, we find some seventy references that explain how you as a Christian can know that you know that you are saved. In over 25 places in 1 John you will find the statements "this we know" or "we have this confidence" functioning to reinforce how a Christian can truly be assured in their salvation. As Dr. Daniel Akin, President of South Eastern Baptist Seminary notes about John's writings in the New Testament: "John wrote his gospel to convert sinners, his letters (1,2,3 John) to confirm the saints and Revelation to Coronate the Savior as King of Kings and Lord of Lords".  

2. Undoubtedly God's plan for Christians to persevere is rooted in His eternal choice of them, as stated in Ephesians 1:3-4. Without question scripture affirms that "God's gifts and calling are irrevocable". (Romans 11:29) The Apostles Peter and Paul state it is God who keeps the believer safe and secure in their salvation. (2 Timothy 1:12; 1 Peter 1:5) So Eternal security is that aspect of Perseverance that guarantees that the true Christian will indeed endure to the end. 

3. In the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 we find reference to assurance under the discussion on the believers growth in Christian salvation or what is termed "sanctification":

"Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life."

I underlined key words in that statement to underscore the fact that assurance is something we experience as we persevere in fellowship with God.

4. We could mention numerous other passages (Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 5:1-5; Galatians 5:6; 2 Timothy 1:12; James 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 John 1:5) that point to the God-given grace of the experience of assurance that every Christian should want to enjoy.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Christ's Continuing work: Prophet, Priest, King

Hebrews 1:3-4 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

A Brief Overview of Christ's Completed work as the Lamb of God
Yesterday we looked at Christ's completed work as described by His title "The Lamb of God".  From the picture of His completed work in the passover lamb of Exodus 12:21 to the Prophecies about Him being the lamb in Isaiah 53:7, the Old Testament looked forward to the completion of salvation.  It is only fitting for God to use the Passover as a picture of Christ's finished work, since the Red Sea deliverance itself was a "once and for all event" in the Old Testament.  With the lamb imagery used repeatedly in the Old Testament, we discovered John the Baptist heralded Jesus Christ as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world", thus showing the portrayal of the Lamb of God.  In Acts, the Epistles and Revelation we saw the explanation of Christ's finished work as the Lamb of God in passages such as Acts 8:32-33; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19 and Revelation 5:12. 

Zeroing in on Christ's continuing work
The Bible is very clear that Christ's work of redemption is once and for all completed. (1 Peter 3:18)  But what about now? Is Jesus doing anything now in Heaven?  Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us what Jesus did when He came from Heaven to earth in his incarnation, died on the cross and raised from the dead.  Through the scriptures, particularly the Gospel, we see the complete work of Jesus Christ.  However Hebrews 1:3-4 shows us the sequel to the empty tomb.  Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven to begin his post-ressurection ministry as the Mediator between God the Father and Christians as the Prophet, Priest and King.  1 Timothy 2:5 states - "there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."1 

Christ's continuing ministry pictured and predicted
Just as we saw in Christ's completed work, we have pictures and predictions in the Old Testament of what would be Christ's continuing work following His resurrection.  Three offices were created by God in the Old Testament to communicate His character and will to Israel - namely that of the prophet, the priest and the king.  In Deuteronomy 17 & 18 we see Moses communicate all three of these offices:

1. Deuteronomy 17:15 "you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman."

God through Moses is looking forward some four centuries into the future, predicting the days of King Saul, David, Solomon and other kings.  Through this picture and prediction would come forth the Ultimate King.  Scores of verses could be cited to demonstrate the fact that Jesus Christ was to be the Ultimate King.  When He ascended, Jesus was declared to had inaugurated His reign on David's throne over His church. Peter proves this in his first sermon in Acts 2:30 “And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE".  The Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:15-20 affirms this same truth.  Hebrews 1:3-4 above tells us that Jesus Christ, right now, reigns as King.  We of course understand in other scriptures that there will be a day when Christ returns to physically manifest that reign both visibly and physically. However understand that as King, Jesus Christ is continually reigning as the King of individual Christians and His church.

2. Deuteronomy 18:1 “The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the LORD’S offerings by fire and His portion."

The Levitical Priesthood had already been functioning for some 40 years in Israel, however Moses wanted to reinforce to the people of their need for mediators.  The priest throughout the Old Testament was to represent the people's interests before God.  Hebrews 1:3 plainly tells us: "after He had provided purification for sins, He sat down".  Jesus Christ is the believer's Eternal High Priest.  Hebrews 7:24-25 plainly states - "but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."  

3. Deuteronomy 18:18 ‘I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him."

Prophets had been ministering on the earth for centuries on the earth.  According to Scripture, we know that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, was the first recorded prophet in the Bible. (Genesis 5:23; Jude 14)  Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation, was a prophet and of course Moses was the greatest prophet of his day. (Genesis 20:7 & Exodus 4:15) However there was a Prophet whom was not only being pictured but predicted.  It wasn't later prophets like Isaiah or Jeremiah - rather there was to be an Ultimate Prophet who not only by His words and actions, but by His very being was the complete revelation of God to people.  Peter directly connects Deuteronomy 18:18 to Jesus Christ in Acts 3:21-22 - "and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 22“Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you." Furthermore, in our opening passage in today's blog we find Jesus functioning as "the Prophet" who by nature is the very God whom He reveals through the scriptures. (Hebrews 2:1-4)

Jesus Christ's ministry explained and applied
So why is it so important for you and I as Christians to understand the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ? First of all, as our King, Jesus reigns to protect us, as Priest He repesents us before the Father in prayer and as Prophet He reveals God's Person and will through the scriptures.  Secondly, we as Christians understand our own identity through this three-fold identity of Jesus Christ's continuing ministry.  Think about it, at salvation was were seated positionally as co-kings with Jesus in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 2:6)and will one day take part in a judgment of the fallen angelic realm when Jesus returns. (1 Corinthians 6:3) According to 1 Peter 2:9-12 we are identified as a Kingdom of priests, lifting up prayers to God on behalf of others.  Then together as the church we function through the word of God preached and taught as the prophetic mouthpiece.  We are His presence here in this world, calling men, women boys and girls unto repentance. (2 Corinthians 5:15-21; 1 John 4:17)  If Jesus Christ were not continually ministering as the Prophet, Priest and King at the right hand of God, we as Christians would fail in our faith and faithfulness.  But because He ministers continually, we too will continue on and persevere to the very end. 

End Notes:______________________

1 As theologians throughout the ages have explored Jesus present ministry on behalf of His people, they have used the term "session" to summarize His three-fold office as Prophet, Priest and King. Just as a a baliff in a courtroom announces that "court is now in session" upon the seating of the judge at the bench, Christ too is seated at the right hand of power, co-equal with the Father. As He stated in Matthew 28:18 - "All power has been given to me on Heaven and on earth." 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Christ's Completed Work as our Passover Lamb

Hebrews 1:1-2 "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world."

The width of God's Word is only exceeded by its depth
As we consider this opening verse of today's blog, we can note how much time and history is covered in a span of two verses, as well as the central Person.  In Hebrews 1:1 we see mention being made of God revealing His word to His people in the Old Testament.  From Adam back in Genesis to Malachi, the final Old Testament Book, represents well over 3000 years of time.  The text tells us in the Greek that God spoke in a "multitude of parts and a multitude of places, by way of the prophets".  Through the types or shadows of institutions (such as the tabernacle), people (such as David), events (such as the Passover and the Exodus) God spoke, pointing the way to what would be the accomplished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

In Hebrews 1:2 we see reference to God the Son speaking through the New Testament scriptures.  Christ of course is the central Person, introduced to us in the Gospels.  There we see the accomplished work of which the Old Testament predicted.  However following the Gospels portrayal of the accomplished work of Christ, we see need for and explanation of Christ's active work.  When Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven, His active work of functioning as the believer's Prophet, Priest and King was well underway. 

With this wide sweep of the drama of scripture, covering millennia of time and over 2,000 named individuals, we see it all exceeded only by the depth of the Person and work of Jesus Christ.  His Person and work began before time began and His Active work will continue on well after the last period of the last sentence of the book of Revelation is completed. 

Christ's Accomplished Work Pictured, Predicted, Portrayed & Explained
Christ's Accomplished work Pictured in the Passover lamb
As the writer in Hebrews 1:1 notes, God spoke in various times and portions to His people prior to Christ's first coming.  One of the greatest illustrations used in the Old Testament to picture and predict the accomplished work of Jesus Christ is that figure of the Lamb of God.  In Exodus 12 and 13 we see God prescribing the blood of the lamb to His people in order to exempt them from the wrath of the death angel on the first born in Egypt.  The blood of that lamb was to be smeared on the doorposts and the gates of every Israelite living in Goshen beside Egypt.  This prescribed festival was called the "Passover", commemorating how God made provision for His people so that the Angel of death could "passover" the people.  Every year the Passover was to be celebrated by the Jewish people to remind them of who they were and whose they were.  They were redeemed by God, Jehovah, from the clutches of Pharoah and the slavery of Egypt. 

Christ Predicted as God's lamb
From the picture of Passover we see God centering the focus on the lamb.  Passages such as Deuteronomy 16:1-2 reitterates this: “Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2“You shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to establish His name."  The picture of Christ's Accomplished work, the lamb, is central to the predictions of His work.  Isaiah 53:7 "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth."

Christ portrayed as the lamb of God
As the Old Testament gives away to the New, we see the final prophet of the Old Testament era, John the Baptist, proclaim in John 1:29 "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."  Of Whom did He speak? John spoke of Jesus.  Jesus had come to him to be baptized.  As the Lamb of God Jesus Christ was spotless, without sin and lived perfectly before His heavenly father.  As He neared the day of His crucifixion, Jesus gathered together for His final meal with His disciples.  That meal of course that Jesus was celebrating with His disciples was the Passover.  Mark 14:12 states plainly - "On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” This Jesus came to be the lamb of God.

Christ Explained as the Lamb of God in His Accomplished work
So how do we know that Jesus Christ, in His work on the cross, accomplished it as the Lamb of God?  How do we know that Old Testament images such as "The Lamb" or "The Passover Lamb" were pictures and predictions of Christ's Accomplished work as our Passover Lamb?  Consider Phillip's conversation with the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:32-35 "Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: 'HE WAS LED AS A SHEEP TO SLAUGHTER; AND AS A LAMB BEFORE ITS SHEARER IS SILENT, SO HE DOES NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH. 33“IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY; WHO WILL RELATE HIS GENERATION? FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH.” 34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.

The amazing thing about our New Testament is that it takes 21 Bible books (Acts to Jude) to explain all that Jesus accomplished in a span of six hours on the cross.  Central to this explanation of what He acheived is this figure of "The Lamb".  1 Corinthians 5:7 - "Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed." Also take note of 1 Peter 1:18-19 "knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." Or consider the vision of the Apostle John in Revelation 5:12 - "saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

So what has Christ Accomplished in His work as the Lamb of God?
In considering all of these passages, let me draw today's blog to a close with two thoughts about what Christ accomplished as the Lamb of God.  First, Christ has saved us from the wrath of God.  Just as the Passover Lamb was the Divine provision for the Israelites to protect them from God's wrath on the first born of Egypt, so see Jesus Christ saving us from the wrath of God.  Romans 5:9 "Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. "  Second, Christ as the Lamb of God saved us from our sins, as we already witnessed in 1 Peter 1:18-19. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Christian's Two Telephones

James 3:13 "Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom."

True Christians are the wise people of God who demonstrate their profession of faith by fruits of obedience
As you look at the opening verse of today's blog, you may wonder what point is James trying to make when he asks his question?  The short answer is that he is saying: "who among you is a Christian" or "who among you is saved"? With that question, James then exhorts his readers who are Christians to act like Christians. 1  What will follow in James 3:14-4:7 are encouragements and warnings to believers who are operating in one of two ways: those who are spiritual or operating out of their human spirit with the Holy Spirit dwelling therein and those who are carnal or compromising in their Christian walk.2  

Two telephones - an illustration
Years ago I heard an illustration of how the Christian's soul in communication with their spirit and the body is comparable to having two telephones.  With a little bit of upgrading to that illustration I want to help you the reader to see the significance of what James is writing to us here in James 3:13-4:7.  

Your life before Christ - an empty room and one rusty old telephone called "the wisdom from below"
Picture for a moment your soul (mind, emotions, will and conscience) as being a room in which you live.  You are a soul, a living soul, with a spirit clothed in a body.  Your human spirit, prior to salvation, is an empty room upstairs with no lights and no windows.  All you know is the room of your soul that is enhoused in your physical body.  Now in the room of your soul there is a rusty old telephone that is connected to what James describes in James 3:15 as the "wisdom from below".  Whenever that phone rings, you pick up the receiver and have conversations with those that claim to be your friends.  On the other end are voices that comprise this "wisdom from below", influencing your soul before salvation to be influenced by the world, your natural bodily drives and the demonic realm that is working through this world system. (James 3:15) Furthermore, unknown to you, you are continually on the line, and are quite happy with your telephone.  It is in you to keep the rusty old phone.   

How you go from having one telephone as an unbeliever to having two telephones as a Christian
A neighbor of yours invites you to church one Sunday, and so you relunctantly go.  While sitting in the church service, a man gets up front and preaches the Gospel.  In your soul the rusty telephone suddenly rings - distracting you from focusing on the preacher.  The voice on the other end tells you to ignore the man and bide your time until the lunch hour. Suddenly on the inside of your soul you see a second, shiny red telephone appear, and on the receiver you find these words as described by James 3:17 "the wisdom from above".  At first you ignore it, you leave the church service and move on with your life.  About mid-way through the week the shiny red telephone in your soul begins to ring.  Again you ignore it, since you are on the rusty old telephone with your friends from the place called "wisdom from below".  However it begins to ring more and more.  Getting agitated, you say: "excuse me, I need to put you on hold, for I have another line trying to ring." 

The Shiny red telephone of the Gospel rings with the convicting work of the Holy Spirit who is moving into your human spirit
As you do so and proceed to pick up the shiny red telephone, the voice on the other line says: "hello, this is the Holy Spirit." As He begins to speak to your heart, your find your spirit coming alive.  As He continues, you find that what the Spirit of God says to you about your lost condition and Jesus Christ the Savior is pure, brings you peace, washes over you in gentleness, makes sense, is full of mercy and makes you want to live a live for Jesus without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)  The Holy Spirit persuades you to hang up the other phone and cut the cord, and to never pick up the old rusty phone of your old life ever again. As the Holy Spirit moves into the upstairs room of your human spirit, you surrender by faith to Jesus Christ.

The two telephone represent the daily battle you have between the wisdom from above versus the wisdom from below
Now even though the Holy Spirit has moved into the room upstairs(your human spirit), and even though your are on the line with Him, comparing spiritual thoughts with spiritual words in your Bible and prayer (1 Corinthians 2:12-13), at about noon everyday that old rusty telephone begins to ring.  According to James 4:1-4, as a Christian, you still have your dying body and the remnant of sin to contend with, tempting you to lust  after what you do not have - meaning that there is a part of you (the self-life) that is tempted to re-connect with that old phone.  At first you declare war and cut the cord, saying to yourself: "I know that the power of sin was taken away when I got saved, but yet at about this time I find my self having to die to this old self-life."  At anyrate you continue talking to the Spirit, enjoying sweet fellowship with Him, reading your Bible, praying and going to church. 

How the spiritual Christian can become carnally minded - talking on the wrong telephone
Then it happens -  a bad day.  The boss yells at you, the car breaks down and you get a bill that was more than you estimated.  Its about noon and you're hungry, frustrated and you are finding yourself not clearly hearing the Holy Spirit speaking from your human spirit on that shiny red telephone.  Suddenly that old rusty telephone rings and in desperation, you tell the Holy Spirit: "please hold!"  Now He is warning you with a loud voice to cut the cord of that rusty telephone, for as James notes in James 4:5, the Lord with His Spirit is Jealous or desirous for our undivided attention. 

As soon as you pick up that rusty telephone, an old song, a sweet voice of an old friend speaks words that you have not heard in a long time.  The red shiny telephone's light is blinking, but you ignore it.  As a Christian, you can only talk on one telephone at a time.  Soon you are spending more time with your old friends from your former way of life than you are with the Holy Spirit.  You stop reading your Bible and your prayer life goes to the wayside.  For a while all seems well - and yet you get the feeling that all is not right between you and God.  You're growing cold and mean.  Church is losing its draw, the Bible has become to you a wordless book and your prayer life is boring.  What happened? You became carnally minded. 

How God wins you back and rescues you from your carnal, backslidden state - reconnecting with the right telephone
Thankfully the Holy Spirit has not given up.  His silence has been deafening, however He and the Father and the Son have engineered some difficult circumstances to come your way to steer you back to repentance.  God the Father has ordained to permit the difficulties, since you are his child, and He only disciplines those whom He loves. (Hebrews 12:6) In tears you humble yourself and pray a prayer of repentance, knowing full well the promise of James 4:6 "But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” One night the old rusty telephone rings.  This time you snatch it up.  "Having repented and submitted yourself unto God, you say to that voice on the other line that you resist the devil and that he must flee in Jesus name."  And as you slam down the receiver, you cut the cord and resume your conversation with the Holy Spirit, in your human spirit, on the shiny red telephone. 

End Notes:_________________

1. No doubt James, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was echoing such passages as Psalm 107:43 "Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things, And consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD." Jesus too equated the term "wise", as so used by James, with the idea of somebody who was truly converted by grace through faith. We read in Matthew 7:24-25 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock."

2. To truly grasp what James is speaking about in James 3:14-4;6, we can read his words in light of Paul's words about these two types of Christians in 1 Corinthians 2 and 3.  Over the past couple of days I have been writing blogs based upon Paul's letter to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 2:1-3:4. Out of the three men described in that text, two are Christians. Both are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and both are forgiven of their sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. However the one who is spiritual in 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, 16 is ordering his soulish realm (mind, emotions, will) and body under the subjection of his spirit that is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The other type of Christian in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 is called by Paul "fleshly" or "carnal", meaning that at some point he has grieved the Spirit and is ordering his spirit around the drives of his physical body as bound by his sinful self-life operating in his soul.The carnal Christian still has the new nature and like a bag of potatoes that contains one rotten one, the carnal believer has compromised in an area and that area, lest removed by repentance, will begin to affect other areas.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Carnal-minded Christian, the Spirit & scripture

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

Review of what we have studied over the past couple of days
In this amazing passage of 1 Corinthians 2:1-3:4, Paul is writing about how three types of people treat the Holy Spirit and the scriptures.  In summary form we have observed two of those types of men thus far:

1. The spiritual Christian digests the Spirit's words. 1 Cor 2:1-7, 10-13, 15-16
2. The natural non-Christian dismisses the Spirit's words. 1 Cor 2:8-9, 14

The "spiritual" Christian is called "spiritual" due to the fact that when we look at him as a soul, with a spirit, clothed in a body, this individual has his body and soul in subjection to whatever the Holy Spirit in his human spirit is saying.  Thus he is able to compare spiritual things with spiritual and to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to him from the Word of God.  He has taken his soul, made up of his mind, emotions, will and conscience and along with his physical bodily drives placed them in order with the scripture and whatever the Holy Spirit is saying in his human spirit. 

The "natural" non-Christian or unbeliever is termed "natural" due to the fact that though he too has a human spirit, it is dead.  He only operates out of his soul, darkened and dominated by sin and the natural drives of his physical body.  The natural unbelieving man may very well be creative, intelligent, religious and morally upstanding in the community and still be lost.  Without the Holy Spirit setting up home in the human spirit, all that an unbeliever can go on is his reason, emotions, will and conscience.  He is natural, soulish and sinful in his bent and orientation.  The unbelieving person has no time for the things of God, since to him, this world is all that matters. 

In today's blog we are going to consider a Christian who for whatever reason has decided to operate out of his soul more than his spirit.  This Christian still has the indwelling Holy Spirit, however the Spirit of God has been "quenched" (1Thess 5:19) or "grieved" (Ephesians 4:300 due to the Christian holding onto unconfessed sin. (Ephesians 4:31) 

The Carnal-minded Christian dilutes the Spirit's words 1Cor 3:1-4
So what is a "carnal Christian"?  We must be careful not to view carnality as reason for condoning or giving excuse for compromise in a Christian life. If we describe a hypocrite as somebody who is acting opposite of what they are, then a carnally-minded Christian is a hypocrite in reverse, acting like something that they are not.  Carnally minded Christians still have the indwelling Spirit, however in a certain area they have compromised, given ground to the enemy and to the world. (1 John 2:15-17) Paul told these Corinthians that he could not speak to them as "spiritual", that is, as to Christians who are in fellowship with the Spirit in their human spirit.  To be "carnal" through and through is what an unbeliever is - that is - fleshly, operating completely out of the physical body and soulish realm.  What Paul is saying here is that these people are "like" or as "mere men".  They are not lost, however they are not acting saved either. 

Illustration: Three bags of potatoes
Lets say I gave you three bags of potatoes.  The first bag is full of good, robust potatoes. The second bag is full of rotton, moldy potatoes.  The third bag is full of good, robust potatoes, with one potato being mold and rotten? What would you do?  I'm sure the first bag would be no issue, the second bag would be tossed out, since it cannot be used.  But what about the third? Would you not say that those good potatoes are still useful and that the bad one needs to be tossed?  Its not that the third bag is lost, rather it just needs to be rid of the bad potato.  So it is with the carnally minded Christian.  He or she needs to deal with the compromising area so that functionally and experientially they can live like they truly are - a forgiven and saved individual who is called to grow progressively in sanctification. 

Illustration: Who owns the fence?
The story is told of a large white fence and several people grouped together at the one end.  They were debating as to who owned the fence.  One proud individual said with a loud voice: "well I know one thing, I'm going to sit on the fence.  I'm pretty certain that Jesus owns this fence, since its is beautiful, white, high and long.  Soon Jesus came along and said to the crowd: "come and follow me, for narrow is the gate, and few will find it.  However broad is the gate and wide is the road that leads to destruction."  It wasn't too long that the devil came along up behind the crowd and slithered in and among the people until he got right up next to the proud man sitting on the fence.  As Jesus began to walk off, some of the people followed him, leaving the fence behind.  The remaining ones looked on the other side of the fence and saw a beautiful wide road running parallel to the fence, and so they decided to go on that road alone.  However the proud man remained, deciding that he was satisifed in sitting on the fence.  As the Devil got closer to him, he whispered in the man's ear and said: don't you know, not only do I own the road running along the fence, I own the fence as well!  Needless to say, the man leaped off the fence and ran after His Lord, repenting and saying to Jesus: I forsake the fence and I follow you.  

Carnally-minded Christians cannot truly remain in their mindset
Paul's whole point in addressing those in the Corinthian church who tried to "sit on the fence" was not to create an excuse for their actions, but rather to call them to repentance.  He warned them that with such compromise, failure to grow significantly in their Christian life (3:1-3); arguing over who is the better teacher (3:4) and squabble over minor issues had to stop.  They were positionally still saved, however in experience and function they were in their soul thinking, feeling or choosing to act like lost people.  Paul warned them that if they did not change their course, God the Father would excercise Fatherly discipline and turn them back to Himself in repentance. (1 Cor 3:19-21; 2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Closing Thoughts
As we close out today's blog, let us understand that in this world, we only have two types of people: lost and saved.  Among those who are truly born-again are those Christians who are "spiritual", that is, they are subjecting their soul and body in line with what the Holy Spirit is saying in their human spirit.  Practically speaking, they are getting in order with God's words and digesting everything they hear and living it out.  The carnally minded Christian has compromised in a certain area or areas.  They are those who though still saved and still having the indwelling Spirit of God, are those who have grieved Him. We need to gently and humbly approach such fellow-saints and urge them to repent and forsake the pattern of sin they have become involved, praying of course that we won't fall into such disrepair. (Galatians 6:1-2) Natural-minded unbelievers are those who are souls with dead human spirits clothed in a body.  These need to be evangelized, urged upon to believe and repent and be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:15-21)