Thursday, May 09, 2019

The Real Aliens

If I were to ask you today, “Where do you live?”  Some might respond with their street address, some might respond with the city and state, some might even respond with the country. And while all of these answers, would be true and would be obvious, they still would not be complete.  We also live in a place the Bible calls the world. This term, world, does include the physical world, but it also includes the motives, behavior, values, and attitudes of men. This term includes all that makes up the course of this world, the way things are done, the reason things are done, the ways of thinking and living of the people who inhabit this world; for it is the way that man is that determines the course of this entire earth, for it is man that governs the earth.

But there is another dimension to this world, an unseen dimension that is just as real as the physical dimension, and it is the spiritual dimension; and it is this dimension that governs man. Even though man inhabits the physical dimension of this world, man is governed by the spiritual dimension of his life, and there is a ruler of that spiritual dimension, who is not a man. His name is Satan, and he is known as the devil, or the evil one. It is he that governs man, and therefore governs the world.

In several places the Bible speaks to the governing of man by the devil.
I Timothy 2:26…men are held captive by Satan to do his will……
In Acts 26 we are told that men are under the dominion of Satan
I John 5:19…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
Three times in John... 12:31, 14:30, 16:11… he is called the ruler of this world.
In John 8:44 Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are of their father (meaning spiritual father) the devil. 
In Ephesians 2:2 we learn that people walk (the way they live their life) according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience
Ephesians 6:12 tells us that there are rulers and powers, world forces of darkness, that there are spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 
II Corinthians 4:4 tells us that the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving…

So why is the world the way it is?  Because it is governed by someone who is opposed to God in every way.

However, Jesus makes a very poignant declaration to His disciples in John 15:19..."You are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world."  Jesus was telling His disciples that since He had called them out, they no longer belonged to this world.  Then in Christ's high priestly prayer to His Father in John 17 we learn the following:
*We were given to Christ out of the world.
*Although Christ is no longer in the world, yet we remain in the world.
*Even though we are in the world, yet we are not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world.
*Christ did not ask the Father to take us out of the world, but to keep us from the evil of the world.

So, if we are still living in this world, but no longer belong to this world and are not of this world, what does this make us? According to the Scripture, we are now citizens of another spiritual realm, another kingdom. This is what John the Baptist preached and also what our Lord preached as He began His earthly ministry as we see in Matthew 4:17 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Christ tells us in John 18:36 that His kingdom is not of this world. Paul talks about our citizenship in this kingdom in Philippians 3:20 "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; and in Ephesians 2:19 he tells us who all are citizens of heaven, "For you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household."

A question that might be asked is, "How did we/do we become citizens of Christ's kingdom, the kingdom of heaven?" Let's see what the Bible shows us. Colossians 1:13 tells us, "For He (God) rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." In John 3:5 Christ tells Nicodemus this, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. I John 5:1 tells us, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." So we see there must be a spiritual birth to be a citizen of God's kingdom, and that as a result of the spiritual birth God, transfers us into His kingdom.

So, if we are citizens of another kingdom, a kingdom that is not of this world, but is a heavenly kingdom, what then is our relationship to this world in which we still live but are no longer a part of? According to the Bible we are aliens, strangers, and exiles. Listen to Peter in his opening statement in his first epistle, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens , scattered throughout Pontus, Galtia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia....." Here we see that although they live in a physical location, yet they reside there as aliens. This is not because they were of a different nationality physically, but a different nationality spirituality. Again, Peter talks about our alienship in II Peter 2:11 "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul..." Why would he give the admonishment to them as aliens and strangers? Because in I John 2:16 we see that fleshly lusts are part of the things of this world, are things that those that belong to this world participate in, and we are no longer of this world; and therefore should no longer be a participant in fleshly lusts. In the hall of faith in Hebrews 11 we see the following statement in verse 13 "All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth." (See also Psalm 119:19)  

As such, being aliens in this world:

* We speak a foreign language.
I Corinthians 2:6-16

*We dress differently
Galatians 3:27, Romans 13:14

*We behave differently.
I Peter 4:2, Ephesians 4:17-19

*We have a different odor
II Corinthians 2:14-16b, Philippians 2:17, 4:18, Romans 12:1, Ephesians 5:1-2

*We are misunderstood, we are an enigma to this world.
I Peter 4:4, Jude 1:10

This alien motif (R C Sproul loved the word motif) runs all the way through the Bible, starting with Abraham, then the Jewish nation, then Christ, and then the church, Christ's body. That is why it is so out of place, so alien, if you will,  for the church to try so hard to be like the world so as to attract the world. We are to be strangers to this world, we are to be in the world but not of the world, we are to stay away from the evil of this world (I Corinthians 6:17), we are to look differently, behave differently, smell differently, dress differently, and speak differently. We are to expect to be misunderstood, maligned, or made fun of (even by our own families) because we don't fit it in with it. We should know that this world and all it contains is only temporary and is already in the process of passing away (I John 2:15-17). Therefore, we are to store up treasures in heaven, which will be our eternal abode, instead of here on earth which is our temporary abode (Matthew 6:19-21). Our desires are to be heavenly desires not earthly desires (Philippians 3:12-14). We are to have eternal priorities not temporal priorities (Colossians 3:1-4).   

So, fellow aliens, when we are enticed by all this world seemingly has to offer, let us remember that we have a better possession and a lasting one, and remind ourselves that we are strangers in this world who are just passing through on the way to our true home. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

To Know Jesus

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father but through Me.
If you had known Me, you would have known
My Father also; from now on you know Him
and have seen Him."
John 14:6-7

To know Jesus is to know the way to God, for He is the way, the very way to God.
To know Jesus is to know the truth of God, for He is the truth, the very truth of God.
To know Jesus is to know the life of God, for He is the life, the very life of God.
To know Jesus is to know God, for He is God, the very person of God.

"This is eternal life, that they may know You,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ 
whom You have sent."
John 17:3

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Great Promise

Do not let your heart be troubled; 
believe in God, believe also in Me.
In my Father's house are many dwelling
places; if it were not so, I would have told
you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
If I go to prepare a place for you, I will
come again and receive you to Myself,
that where I am, there you may be also.
John 14:1-3

These words are what make the Christian life worth living, in fact, without these words the Christian life would not be worth living at all.  For Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:19, "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied." 

The truth, stated plainly by Jesus here, is that heaven is a real place, it is the place where God dwells, and there are many other dwelling places there. Jesus will personally prepare a dwelling place for each one of us in the heaven of His Father; and although we cannot get there on our own He is coming back for us to take us there, and we will be with Him there for as long as He is there.  

If not for this truth, why on earth would we give up the things of this world?  For without this truth this world is all there is; but with this truth something more glorious, more abounding in riches, more peaceful, more magnificent, more splendid, and more fulfilling awaits us; and that is dwelling with both the Father and the Son for all eternity.

Rejoice, O Christian, for your heavenly Father, the Father of lights, the creator of the ends of the earth, has a place specially prepared for you to spend eternity with Him.  Rejoice, O Christian, that your name is written in the Lamb's book of life, His reservation list, never to be erased.  Rejoice, O Christian, that your heavenly Father has loved you so, so as to provide the way to Him through His Son; and to guarantee that reservation by dipping His pen in the well of the blood of His Son to write it down.  Rejoice, O Christian, for earth recedes and heaven draws ever nearer. Rejoice, O Christian, for what awaits you on the other side of this life.  Rejoice, O Christian, for the certainty of the life to come, given through the promise from Jesus, Himself.

Yes, Indeed, It Is A Great Promise, Because Heaven Is A Great Destination.

Monday, January 07, 2019

God's Testing

The refining pot is for silver
and the furnace is for gold, 
but the Lord tests hearts.
Proverbs 17:3
God tests to prove.
God tests to prepare.
God tests to purify.
God tests to purge.
God tests to prune.
God fully and thoroughly tests.


Saturday, November 03, 2018

Because of Who He Is

Because He is the Savior,
We will look to Him and Him alone for our salvation. 

Because He is the Prophet,
We will listen to His word, and His word alone as given through the Scriptures.

Because He is the High Priest,
We will accept what He has done before God on our behalf, and draw near to God through Him.

Because He is the King,
We will obey Him and serve Him only, and to Him alone pledge our allegiance.

Because He is the Shepherd,
We will trust Him for His care and His provision.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Principles for Corporate Worship-No Matter the Music Style

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you,
with all wisdom teaching and admonishing
one another with psalms and hymns and 
spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness
in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16

In this verse we see six principles regarding corporate worship at work . One, it should be word based.  Two, worship should be participatory.  Three, worship should be more than one dimensional, containing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  Four, it should be jointly edifying.  Five, it should be God directed. Six, it should come out of a thankful heart.

1. On being word based, the word of God is the truth, and we know from John 4:23-24 that those who worship Him must worship Him in truth; so if we want to worship God in truth, the foundation of our worship should be His word.  It should dwell richly in us so as to guide our worship, and be sung in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Additionally, it should not be a hodge podge of biblical snippets, or contain vague spiritual references, or substitute euphemisms for biblical terms. It is amazing how many of the songs (contemporary and old) have very little theology, or poor theology, or contain false teaching. To borrow a phrase from Francis Schaeffer, the lyrics we sing must be true truth. There is a didactic (teaching) component of worship that speaks to the heart through the mind. When this occurs worship becomes powerful and personal.

2. On being participatory, the pronouns you and your in this verse are plural, so this is something that all that are gathered together should be doing. So it should not be observatory, but participatory.  Any style or methodology of worship that prevents or hinders the joint participation of the gathered believers should be eliminated.  Now this does not rule out solos, etc., but corporate worship is just that, corporate worship; and the style and methodology should promote and encourage corporate participation.

3. On being more than one dimensional, there is a richness and balance in the types and styles of songs, and this balance should be part of the corporate worship experience.  It will cover all aspects from the richness of deep theology to soul stirring melodies, from contemporary choruses to ancient hymns. It should take us from the depths of love to the heights of joy while covering everything in between. 

4. On being jointly edifying, as we sing His word together we are teaching and admonishing one another.  There is an edifying power, and an edifying and correcting effect on each other as we sing together or are sung to by soloists, etc.  The word put to music will not return empty or void without accomplishing all that God desires, and He desires for us to play our part in the dissemination of His word.

5. On being God directed, as this is the most important of all the principles.  All worship should be God directed.  It should be about God, focused on God, taking our attention away from ourselves and focusing it on God...His greatness, His majesty, His power, His love, His care, His grace, His provision, His salvation, His faithfulness, His mercy, and all that He is and all that He does.  I am reminded of the song, "It Is Well With My Soul", this song is so God focused and was written at a time of great tragedy in the life of the writer.  Much like the Psalms, in the middle of lament the focus is still on the Lord.  Our coming together for worship is a time for us to corporately present ourselves and our sacrifice of praise to God Himself before His throne in midst of what is happening in our life.  It should be a transcendent time in the presence of God for all who are gathered together no matter their circumstances.

6. On being thankful. A thankful heart will be a worshiping heart, a praising heart, a God glorifying heart, and a Christ exalting heart. It is impossible to really worship without being thankful. Praise, real praise, flows out of  thanksgiving, and in praising God for all that He is and all that He does, He is glorified. Thankfulness is a hallmark of true Christianity, and is a key foundational element of worship. The more thankful we are the more sincere our praise, and the more sincere our praise the richer our worship.

When these six principles are followed, corporate worship can never be dull or boring, can never be rote; but will always minister to the Lord, and, in turn, bless us.

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Prayer for the Pastor’s Study

‪Lord, give me eyes to see You, ears to hear You, a mind that knows and understands You, and a ready tongue to proclaim all You have revealed to me.

I Corinthians 2:6-13‬