Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Role and Relationship of the Sabbath in the Life of a Believer

Keeping the Sabbath, it is a subject that keeps cropping up.  One that never seems to get completely settled in people's minds.  Do we or don't we?  Is it a requirement or not?  If we do keep it, how do we keep it?  Is it merely a day of rest or is there something else to it? Is there even a Sabbath to keep for those of us in the New Covenant, post-cross, under grace and not under law era?  Is the Lord's Day (Sunday) the New Covenant Sabbath?  How do we go about answering all of these questions?  Obviously, the best place to go is the Scripture, and the best place to start is Jesus Himself.

As you follow the life and ministry of Christ through the gospels, one of the things you notice is His continual confrontation with the "Jews."  This group was comprised of Pharisees, Saducees, and the chief priests, who were the supposed spiritual/religious leaders of Israel.  He was always doing things that not only confounded them, but also contradicted their teachings and interpretations of the Law.  He called them blind guides of the blind.  Many times Christ is quoted as saying, "You have heard, but I say to you." when He was challenging the teaching of the day.  This is important to note, as we see that one of the main things He did that infuriated the "Jews" was healing on the Sabbath.  In His healing on the Sabbath it was as if He was saying, "You have heard, but I am showing you."  In response to their accusation of his followers not doing what was lawful on the Sabbath, Jesus had this to say in Mark 2:27-28 "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So even the Son of Man is Lord over the Sabbath."

We know that Jesus perfectly kept the Law, and every jot and tittle was kept and fulfilled by Him.  So we see His understanding of the Sabbath was that the Sabbath was given to man for his welfare, not to lord it over him.  It is for man's well being, for his benefit, that God has given him the Sabbath; and Jesus, Himself, rules over it so that it does not rule over man, but Jesus does. This then, is the basic understanding that we need to start with.

Also, in both Colossians and Romans we see Paul's insight into the place of the Sabbath.  In Colossians 2:15-16a he tells us this "Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day--things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." So we see here that the Sabbath is a shadow of the substance (reality) to come, which is found in Christ.  In other words, the shadow (Sabbath) finds its fruition, its fulfillment in Christ.  This is consistent with the typology, the representation of Christ, found through out the OT, especially in the sacrificial system and the feasts.  So if the shadow has found its fulfillment it should no longer be necessary.

Additionally, in Colossians we see that no one is to act as our judge in relation to the keeping of the Sabbath.  Paul gives us insight into this in Romans 14.  Here Paul teaches us about liberty and responsibility in the practice of our Christianity.  Let's look at chapter 14:5-6a "One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike.  Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord."  Notice, here, he does not call the day observed the Sabbath, but it is obvious that this particular day is a day that would have significance to Christians, and the Christians Paul is writing to in Romans are both Jewish and Gentile Christians.  Some may want to observe the Sabbath, some may want to observe the Lord's day, and some may not have any particular day as special.  None are condemned.  Since Paul was a Pharisee, and called himself a Hebrew of Hebrews, you would think that if keeping the Sabbath day was important or necessary he would have said so, but in fact he said just the opposite.  Paul ends the chapter saying this, "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.  "Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.....and whatever is not from faith is sin."  So we have freedom in our faith in honoring a certain day or considering a certain day more important than another.  Don't we see this in the celebration of Christmas and Easter as well, as we are not commanded to celebrate either one?

One other insight we can glean from the New Testament regarding the keeping of the Sabbath is found in Acts 15.  The setting in Acts 15 is the mother church in Jerusalem when Paul and Barnabas go there to talk to the apostles and elders concerning the matter of circumcision, whether it should be required of the Gentile converts.  A group of Pharisees who had come to faith stood up and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the law of Moses." (italics mine).  After much debate, a speech from Peter, words from Barnabas and Paul, the whole church decided to send leaders to the church at Antioch with a letter regarding these matters.  The end of the letter states this, "For we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will report the same things by word of mouth.  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials; that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well.  Farewell."  Notice that not only did they not require the Gentile Christians to be circumcised, but they also did not require them to keep the Law of Moses, which would include keeping the Sabbath. 

So we see from Acts, Romans, and Colossians that for Christians in the New Covenant economy, keeping the Sabbath and all its requirements, is not mandatory.  And we also see from Acts and Romans that those who did keep it were not condemned.  In Mark we see that God's intention for the Sabbath was for man's benefit, not his bondage, so our understanding of the Sabbath must start from that point, God's intention. Also, in Colossians we see that the Sabbath was one of the OT shadows that pointed to Christ, or was fulfilled in Christ, and as such we must also understand how the Sabbath represented the reality found in Christ.  

From Christ, in Mark, we learn that the Sabbath was made for man's benefit; and in Colossians we learn that the Sabbath was an OT shadow, the reality of which was found in Christ.  So how is the Sabbath for man's benefit and what was it pointing to that was fulfilled in Christ?  These two realities, these truths about the Sabbath are linked together.  The OT gives us insight into these truths.  So let's go there.

The first mention of the Sabbath is in Exodus sixteen and is in connection with the gathering of the manna.  And in this first mention it is called a holy Sabbath.  In many other of the references to the Sabbath in the OT you will find the phrase, a holy day, or holy to the Lord in connection with the Sabbath.  In the giving of the Law in Exodus 20:8 the Israelites are commanded not only to remember (observe and keep) the Sabbath but to keep it holy.  In Exodus 20:11 we are told that God blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.  So it was to be regarded as a holy day.

The concept of holiness always begins with the idea of separation, of being set apart, of existing in a state of separation.  In this idea of separation was the concept of purity, consecration, being set aside for sacred use as compared to a common or profane use.  So we see this day was a day that was consecrated, it was to be set aside for sacred use as opposed to common use.  We see this concept developed also in the giving of feasts as many of them contained a Sabbath day, a day to be set aside for a sacred purpose, and for the Israelites to humble their souls. So, for the Israelites, keeping the Sabbath meant keeping it holy, to set it apart from the other days of the week, to consecrate it for sacred use and not for common or profane use.  This is why the Lord gave them the admonition in Exodus 20:9-10 to not do any work on the Sabbath day, as it was to be a day where they were set apart from focusing on common pursuits or daily endeavors, and instead set that day apart so as to focus on God.

We see this explained further in Exodus 31:12-17...You shall surely observe My Sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. Therefore you are to observe the Sabbath, for it is holy to you....for six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord.... 

Notice what the Lord says about the Sabbath in these verses as He gives us further enlightenment concerning it.
     1. It is holy to the Israelites (remember what we learned about being holy).
     2. It is holy to the Lord.
     3. It is a perpetual covenant between them and the Lord.
     4. It is a perpetual sign between the Israelites and the Lord.
     5. It is a sign of His sanctifying them.

Now, let's break down the Hebrew a little bit.  In Hebrew the word sanctify is qadash, and the word for holy is qodesh.  Both essentially have the same meaning (as explained above) except that qodesh is the state of, and qadash means to be made.  In other words one is to be made holy/separate and the other is the state of being holy/separate.  So not only is this to be a day that is to be holy (qodesh) to the Lord, in essence set apart to the Lord, but it is also a perpetual sign for the Israelites; and the sign is for them to know and remember that it is the Lord who sanctifies/makes them holy (qadash), not themselves.  This concept of sanctification is carried over to the NT.  Listen to I Corinthians 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (italics mine). 

So we see that running throughout the Sabbath is the concept of holiness, separateness, purity, and sacredness.  These convey the concept of being set apart from worldly pursuits and being set apart to the Lord.  The Sabbath was to be the one day of the week when they laid aside worldly pursuits, the daily cares of the world and set themselves apart to the Lord.  Instead of seeking the things of this world they were to seek the Lord on this day.  In the keeping of the Sabbath we have a picture of sanctification, both positionally and practically.  The Sabbath was the Old Testament picture or shadow of sanctification.  We see another fulfillment of this shadow of sanctification in Philippians 2:12-13 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed....work out your salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  Sanctification is an important concept, in both the OT and NT.  How important?  Listen to Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

In Isaiah we see the Lord giving further enlightenment on what the Sabbath was to be about.  Listen to Isaiah 58:13-14 "If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word.  Then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."  So the way they were to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy was to desist from living, seeking, and speaking what satisfied them and gave them pleasure; in other words, on the Sabbath they were to cease living for themselves and live for the Lord, and instead of seeking their own pleasure they were to seek what pleased Him. On this day they were to delight themselves in the Lord and find their pleasure in Him.

So with this in mind, how did Christ go about keeping and fulfilling the Sabbath. We see this throughout the gospel of John in verses 4:34, 5:19, 6:38, 10:18, 12:49, 14:31; and perhaps most clearly in John 8:28b-29...and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.  And He who sent Me is with me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him (italics mine).  Christ kept the Sabbath every day.  Every minute of every day He was set apart from the world and set apart unto God the Father.  He was totally sanctified, both positionally and practically, and not just on one day of the week, but on every day. 

Next,we see from Exodus 20 that the Sabbath was part of the Ten Commandments, and therefore considered part of the Law of Moses. So the rub here is that the Ten Commandments as God's  moral law are still  effective, still being lived out in the lives of those who belong to Him, and we see these fleshed out throughout the New Testament.   So for those of us under the New Covenant economy how do we keep the Sabbath as part of God's moral law?

To answer this question let's look at what takes place in the New Covenant.  Remember Christ initiated the New Covenant at the last supper, the night before His crucifixion.  First let's look at Jeremiah 31:33 "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the Lord, "I will put my law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God and they will be My people."  Next let's look at Ezekiel 36:26-27 "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances."

According to these promises, what has God done in the New Covenant for those whom have entered into covenant with Him through Jesus Christ?

     1. He has taken out their heart of stone (a hard impenetrable heart).
     2. He has given them a heart of flesh (a soft imprintable heart).
     3. He has put His law within them by writing it/imprinting it on their heart.
     4. He has given them His Holy Spirit.
     5. By His Holy Spirit He will cause them to walk in His statutes, and be
         careful to observe His ordinances (statutes and ordinances
         being synonyms for His law).
     6. He has written His law (statutes and ordinances) on their heart and by
         His Holy Spirit He will cause them to keep it.

So what has happened to the Sabbath in the New Covenant?  Remember, the Sabbath is part of the law, an integral part of the law.  We are still keeping it because the Lord has put the law in our heart and has given us the Holy Spirit to cause us to keep the law.  So when do we keep the Sabbath?  We keep it every day, just like Christ did.  Every day we live for the Lord.  In everything we live for the Lord.  Whether we live or we die, we are the Lord's.  We live each day to please Him and not ourselves.  So what the Israelites were not able to do on one day a week, we do each day of the week. This is what Christ was referring to in Luke when He said we are to pick up our cross daily and follow Him.  So the issue with the Sabbath, is not the particular day in and of itself, but what the day represents and what is to be actually taking place on that day, which is now every day.

We are sanctified positionally (declared holy), and are being sanctified practically (made holy) as we walk in our faith further and further away from the sin we were saved out of; and walk further and further into Christ, whose image we are being conformed into, knowing that one day our sanctification will be complete as the Lord completes the work He started in us (Philippians 1:6). 

So, has the Sabbath gone away? No, it is still a requirement, an every day requirement; but a requirement that God Himself is causing us to keep by the power of His indwelling Spirit.  So if you are truly born again, and have been given a new heart through the circumcision made without hands, then you will be living for the Lord consistently and daily.  In other words, you will be keeping the Sabbath every day by the power that God supplies.  Think about how good this news is, another provision that the Lord has made for us to keep His requirements.  Another gift of His marvelous grace.  One more reason to praise Him greatly and fervently.  Let's do just that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Corporate Worship: Spirit Led, Truth Driven, and God Revering

There is a tension, even to the point of conflict, between many in the church as to what constitutes proper praise and worship. You could generally divide these folks into two camps, those who follow the regulative principle and those who follow the normative principle. The regulative folks prescribing that God has laid out in Scripture what He requires and will accept in worship, and everything that is not in Scripture is forbidden. The normative folks prescribe that whatever is not prohibited in Scripture is permissible in worship. The are extremists in both camps from those who will only sing acapella from the Psalter to those who have a solo guitar riff with strobe lights and smoke, singing the Doobie Brothers as part of their worship. You go from the legalists to the libertines with all staunchly defending their position. So how do you determine what is permissible, what is pleasing to God, what brings Him satisfaction?

First, I think we need to take a step back to look at the whole of the landscape to determine what is the proper attitude we should have about this. There is a principle regarding Christian liberty in the practice of our faith in Romans 14:1-15:6, that is summed up in Romans 14:23...and whatever is not from faith is sin. I believe that God gave us this principle because for all of us, our definition of correct, or right, or proper is the way that we would do it. So there is some leeway, some room, and some forbearance to be given to one another in worship styles, music, and methodology. A good example of this is my friend, pastor Andrei, of Vision of Christ Church in Lviv, Ukraine. I preached at his church twice, once for a week on Covenant, and again over a long weekend on The Spiritual Life of the Church. This is a Charismatic church, and they speak in tongues during the prayer time in the service, and I am anything but Charismatic. At the end of my second time with them, as we were having dinner together at his home, Andrei turned to me and asked, "Does it bother you that we speak in tongues?" And I told him no, it did not bother me. To which he replied, "Good, because it doesn't bother us that you don't." So let us not look with contempt at one another, or judge one another because of differences in worship styles or methodology (Romans 14:3).

Secondly, let us acknowledge that there are guidelines for our worship of God, and God has been consistent with those guidelines through the ages. We can find these guidelines summed up in John 4:23-24 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth. (Italics mine) So we have defined for us who a true worshiper is, and how a true worshiper worships; and we see that God Himself seeks such people to be His worshipers. So worshiping in spirit and truth is how God wants us to worship and is His parameter of what He considers proper. 

In Isaiah 29:13 God condemns the Israelites for their rote reverence of Him.  They were going through the motions but were devoid of the Spirit.  So even though what they practiced was according to truth, it was spiritually empty.  In Job 42:8 we see that worship that is acceptable to God is based on saying what is true about Him.  So proper worship must be both from and through the Spirit, and must be based upon what is true and right.  There are many hymns and praise songs/choruses that are filled with incorrect theology that do not meet this criteria

Thirdly, we see another guideline in Leviticus 10:1-4. God only accepts worship that treats Him as holy and honors Him as God.  Worshiping in Spirit and in truth will always approach God as holy and honor Him as God.  Proper worship always pictures God as set apart, as holy, and properly reveres Him as God.  We see how a cavalier attitude and lack of reverence towards God in the Corinthian church led to many being weak, sick, and number of them sleeping (dead).  Yes, I know it was for taking the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner, but the partaking of the Lord's Supper is part of our worship.  This shows us that God is just as serious about being treated as holy and being honored by the church as He was with the Jews in Leviticus 10.  This is what He expects from His people; and it makes me wonder if there are many in the church today who are weak, sick, or even sleeping because they worshiped (approached) God in an unworthy manner.

Fourthly, we see five principles at work in Colossians 3:16.  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.

On being word based, the word of God is the 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 and be sung in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

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.

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.  It should take us from the depths of love to the heights of joy while covering everything in between. 

On being jointly edifying, as we sing His word together we are teaching and admonishing one another.  There is an edifying power, and edifying 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.

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 faithfulness, His mercy,  and all that His 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.

We obviously have guidelines, but within the guidelines we have freedom, Spirit directed freedom which will always have the truth for both its anchor and its guide.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Assurance in Light of Grace

For God so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him shall not
perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16


This may well be the most well known verse in all of Scripture (other than, "God helps those who help themselves."...joking here), and it portrays for us the magnificent and magnanimous grace of God; and the gospel of John is chock full of the grace of God. 

One of the ways this grace is presented to us in John is through the use of the word sent.  In John, the word sent is used 40 times concerning Christ so that we would know that it was the Father's will, the Father's initiative, the Father's plan for Christ to come down to earth to deliver men from power of sin and the consequences of its penalty.  The Father's sending of the Son is an act of grace. Grace, that is grace because it was never requested or sought out, but given freely by God to all who would believe. Grace is God's free provision of salvation. God sent His Son, of His own volition, in His own time, and in His own way to be the deliverer for all who would place their faith in Him as their Savior and accept His sacrifice on the cross as their sole means of becoming right with God. It was not Christ on the cross trying to persuade God to pardon us, but God purposefully sending His own Son in the likeness of our sinful flesh to bear His own wrath against the sin of men and women.

Understanding this great grace should also give us great assurance.  Assurance of the love of God for us, assurance of the compassion of God toward us, assurance of the mercy of God bestowed on us, and assurance of the forgiveness of God provided for us. We can rest assured because the Lord has extended the favor of His love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness to us despite us, not because of us.

Our hope of heaven is not grounded in ourselves, but in the grace of God; and so our assurance of our relationship with God and our standing with God is not just for our life here on earth, but ultimately and most importantly for the life that begins after death. This is why Peter could boldly and confidently state that our inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and reserved in heaven (I Peter 1:4). The grace that we experience here is only the beginning of the grace that will be lavished upon us for all eternity as Paul states that in the ages to come God will show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).

So let our assurance rest on the grace for us purposed before creation, the grace made available for us today. and the grace to be lavished on us for eternity , all through Jesus Christ. For we have been saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8) What greater assurance could we have.




Tuesday, November 15, 2016

God and the Humble Person


In chapter two of Philippians we are told that we are to possess a humility of mind, and then we are given the example of the humility possessed by our Savior, Master, and Leader.  The Greek word for humility of mind is tapeinophrosune.  This word means to be lowly or humble.  It is a lowliness of mind, a state of mind that esteems itself small. It is a state of mind that has a correct estimation of itself before God, it is a state of mind that regards itself as insignificant before God and before others. It is modest.  The way it is used in its context here means we are to responsible for our possession of this state of mind.  

Another way for us to paint a picture humility is to understand that it is the polar opposite of pride and arrogance, it is the polar opposite of boasting, it is the polar opposite of selfishness and empty conceit. 

In us getting our mind right, we must understand that pride doesn’t just exalt itself against others, but always and ultimately exalts itself against God as all sin is always against God. In the Scriptures, you never see the term humble used to describe the wicked, but you will always see pride associated with wickednessLet's look at a couple of verses that reveal to us what God thinks about the pride of man. 

Isaiah 2:12, 17 For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased.  The pride of man will be humbled and the loftiness of man will be abased; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
Isaiah 13:11 Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the wicked….
In Proverbs 6:16 there are seven things listed that God hates, that are an abomination to Him, and the first on the list is haughty eyes.

What we see from the Scriptures is that God hates pride, but values humility.
Micah 6:8 He has told you, O Man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Zephaniah 2:3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, seek righteousness seek humility.

So let us consider together why the Lord values the humble man so much, and why humility is esteemed in the eyes of God. 
                            The humble person knows his place before God and before men.

  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
but with humility of mind regard one another
as more important than yourselves.  Do not
merely look out for your own personal interests, 
but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them,
"If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all
and servant of all."
Mark 9:35

The Job answered the Lord, and said,
"I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Your can be thwarted.
Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my
eyes see You; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes."
Job 42:1-6

But now God has placed the members, each one of them,
in the body, just as He desired.
I Corinthians 12:18

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against His mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
Psalm 131:1-2

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves 
that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else:
"Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee
 and the other a tax collector.  the Pharisee took his stand and
 was praying like this: 'God, I thank You that I'm not like other
people--greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax
collector.  I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of everything I get.'
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise
his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest saying, 'God, turn
Your wrath from me--a sinner!'  I tell you, this one went down
to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone
who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles
himself will be exalted.
Luke 18:9-14

 The humble person is reverent

"For My hand made all these things,
Thus, all these things came into being,"
declares, the Lord.
But to this one I will look, to him who
is humble and contrite of spirit,
and who trembles at My word.
Isaiah 66:2

 Tremble, and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon
your bed and be still.
Psalm 4:4

But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness
I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple
I will bow in reverence for You.
Psalm 5:7

  and My people who are 
Called by My name humble themselves and
pray and seek My face and turn from their
wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,
will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
II Chronicles 7:14   

The humble person is teachable

Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law.

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
And I shall observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may observe
Your law and keep it with all my heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your
Commandments for I delight in it.
  
Establish Your word to Your servant
As that which produces reverence for You.

You have dealt well with Your servant,
O Lord, according to Your word.
Psalm 119:18, 33-35, 38, 65

The humble person is contrite

"For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,"
declares the Lord.
But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite
of spirit, and who trembles at My word.
Isaiah 66:2

Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter 
Be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 
Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, 
And He will exalt you.
James 4:9-10

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God
produces a repentance without regret, leading to
salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow,
has produced in you:  what vindication of yourselves, what
indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging
of wrong!  In everything you demonstrated yourselves
innocent in the matter.
II Corinthians 7:10-11

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God,
You will not despise.
Psalm 51:17

The humble person is a worshipper of God

But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness
I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple
I will bow in reverence for You.
Psalm 5:7

For a day in Your courts is better
than a thousand outside.
Psalm 84:10a

"If anyone wishes to come after Me,
he must deny himself, take up his cross
daily, and follow Me."
Luke 9:23

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.
Psalm 51:17a

 Come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
Psalm 95:6

Exalt the Lord our God and worship at
His footstool; holy is He.
Psalm 99:5

The humble person is obedient

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also
in Christ Jesus...Being found in appearance as man,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point
of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5, 8

Submit therefore to God.
James 4:7a

…He became to all who obey Him,
The source of eternal salvation.
Hebrews 7:9

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand
of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.
I Peter 5:6

Samuel said, "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt
offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams."
I Samuel 15:22

"Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"
Luke 6:46

The humble person is wise

"For My hand made all these things, thus all these
things came into being," declares the Lord.
"But to this one I will look, to him who is humble
and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word."
Isaiah 66:2

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
but with the humble is wisdom.
Proverbs 11:2

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men
but as wise, making the most of your time, because the
days are evil.  So then do not be foolish, but understand
what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17

Who among you is wise and understanding?  Let him
show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness
of wisdom...But the wisdom from above is first pure,
then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and
good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.  And the
seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace
by those who make peace.
James 3:13, 17-18

The humble person is empowered

For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being, declares the Lord.
But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and
Contrite in spirit, and who trembles at My word.
Isaiah 66:2

For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
"I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite.
Isaiah 57:15

 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says,
"God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
James 4:6

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore,
I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so the the power
of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with
weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions,
with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."
II Corinthians 12:9-10

...whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving
by the strength which God supplies...
I Peter 4:11b

...God is opposed to the proud, 
but gives grace to the humble.
For though the Lord is exalted,
yet He regards the lowly, but 
the haughty He knows from afar.
James 4:6, Psalm 138:6

The humble person is blessed

The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord
Are riches, honor and life.
Proverbs 22:4

But the one who looks intently at the perfect law,
 the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having
become a forgetful hearer, but an effectual doer,
this man will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:25

Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:5

But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
Psalm 37:11

 The humble person will be exalted

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand
of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.
I Peter 5:6

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, 
And He will exalt you.
James 4:10

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
And he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 14:11

Here are ten things the Bible teaches us about pride and humility:

  1. Pride ultimately exalts itself over God, and humility ultimately makes itself low before God.  
  2. Pride pushes God away, while humility draws near to God.  
  3. Pride depends on itself, while humility depends on God.  
  4. Pride boasts in itself, while humility boasts in God.  
  5. Pride credits itself, while humility credits God. 
  6. Pride follows its own path, while humility follows God's path.  
  7. Pride is self-seeking, while humility is God-seeking.  
  8. Pride always leads to disobedience, while humility always leads to obedience.  
  9. Pride is the opposite of godliness, while humility promotes godliness. 
10. The proud will be destroyed from the earth, while the humble will inherit the earth.

So, my friends, let us follow the admonition of the following verses:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus
Philippians 2:5

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I gentle and
humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:29

Saturday, November 12, 2016

When a Sin Remains

We serve a holy God.  Holiness has been called His greatest and most distinct attribute.  In looking in Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 what the angels cry out three times is "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord our God."  When Moses approached the burning bush it was God who said, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."  In Leviticus 10 the Lord said, "By those who come near Me, I will be treated as holy."  God cannot look upon sin, cannot tolerate sin, cannot abide with sin, and sin cannot enter His presence.

As His children, as part of His body, as partakers of the Divine nature, as those indwelled by the Holy Spirit, God has an expectation of our holiness.  In Leviticus and I Peter He tells those who are His, "You shall be holy for I am holy."  In II Corinthians 6:17 we are told to come out from the midst of the world and be separate.  In Hebrews 12 He tells us that we are disciplined by Him so that we can share His holiness.  In Ephesians 4 we learn that our new self has been made in God's likeness, and has been created in the holiness and righteousness of the truth.  In just these few verses, we see that God is zealous and jealous for our holiness, and that He has equipped us to deal with our sin, so as to have victory over our sin.

Yet, in spite of all of this, we still sin.  Romans 7Galatians 5, and James 1 tell us that there is an ongoing battle with temptation and sin in our life.  And, accordingly, God has made a provision for our forgiveness and cleansing, which we find in I John 1:9.

Understanding this gives us insight into Psalm 119:25-32.  At the first blush, when just reading through, it seems as if the Psalmist is just battling the blues.  But let's look a little deeper into it.  Why is his soul cleaving to the dust?  Why is his soul weeping?  Why does he need his heart enlarged? The answer is in this section, and we see it in verse 29.  It is because of sin, because of a particular sin he has called "the false way."  We now can see that the Psalmist is in a time of oppression, a time of grief, a time of a small and hard heart, because of sin.

Let's dig down into this section and see what is going on in each verse.

Verse 25-Oppression
"My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word." Here we see the state of oppression that the Psalmist is in.  Look at how low his soul is.  It cleaves to the dust.  It is lower than a snake's belly.  It can't get any lower and it cannot escape this lowly state as it clings to his very soul.  What kind of sin would bring on this degree of oppression?  What kind of sin would cause this state of oppression in the life of a believer?

It is unrepentant sin!  In fact a particular unrepentant sin, a false way that has not been turned from. What type of sin, what kind of sin could this be.  Well, it is:
*an unconfessed sin
*a sin that is undealt with
*a settled sin, a steady sin
*a sin that ignores conviction
*a sin that disdains discipline
*a sin that despises correction
*a sin that resists reproof
*a sin that is entrenched in the mind
*a sin that is embedded as a habit of life
*a sin for which the believer has developed a bunker mentality so as to protect it
*a sin that makes excuses for itself
*a sin that rationalizes its continued existence
*a sin that has full knowledge that it is a sin
*a sin with which you do not struggle, but comply
*a sin that the greater the discipline, the tighter you hold on to it
*a sin that believes the lies of Satan, such as
     a. It doesn't matter
     b. No one is noticing
     c. It really doesn't hurt anyone
     d. It is only a small thing
     e. God really doesn't care
     f. God understands
     g. Me and God have an agreement

It is not a sin of impulse or a sin of the moment, but a sin that is deliberately held on to.  Therefore it is not an unknown sin, a sin of ignorance, but a deliberate sin.  This type of sin could be any sin.

God is jealous for the holiness of His people.  He takes our holiness more seriously than we do.  He sent His Son to die for that sin, that unrepentant sin, and He will do whatever He must do to drive it out and kill it.  So if we are not active in putting that sin to death (Romans 8:13), He will be.

Unconfessed, unrepentant sin in the life of a believer always brings about oppression. We usually think of spiritual warfare when we use this term, but there is a spiritual oppression, a spiritual lowliness that comes as a result of unrepentant sin in our life; and it comes from the Lord Himself.  Let's look at Psalm 32:3-4. When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.  Notice what is going on in Isaiah 30:18-20  Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.  for the Lord is a God of justice;  how blessed are all those who long for Him. O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer.  He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it He will answer you.  Although the Lord has given you the bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher, will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher.  Let's also look at Isaiah 64:7 There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; for You have hidden your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.  

Notice in the emboldened words above that it was the Lord who had given Israel the bread of privation and the water of oppression because of their sin, that it was His hand that was heavy upon them, and that it was the Lord who had cut off fellowship with them and delivered them over to their sin.  So, for us as believers, when we sin and don't confess it and don't turn from it, we can expect the hand of the Lord to be heavy upon us, to oppress us, so that we will turn from our sin. He is serious about dealing with our sin, especially unconfessed and unrepentant sin that is deliberately held on to.

So, what must we do when we are experiencing His heavy hand upon us because of our stubborn unrepentance?  We see what our response should be in the remaining verses in Psalm 119:25-32.

119:25b...Submission
"Revive me according to your word."
We must bring ourselves back under the authority of His word.  When we sin, we rebel against His word, we act in opposition to His word (which is His revealed will), so the beginning of repentance is to submit ourselves again to His word.  As Samuel told Saul, to obey is better than sacrifice.

119:26...Confession
"I have told of my ways, and you have answered me."
 Notice here what happens when we confess...God answers.  And His answer always begins with forgiveness.  True confession of our sins begins with viewing our sin the way God views it, and therefore saying the same thing about it that God says (See Psalm 51).  When we truly confess our sins He truly forgives our sins.
(Psalm 32:5-7, Psalm 86:5, Isaiah 55:7, I John 1:9)

119:26b...Instruction
"Teach me your statutes."
Not only do we confess, we ask for guidance in living according to how He would have us live. Again, we know this prayer will be answered, for we know that when we ask anything according to His will He hears us and grants that request.  (Psalm 25:4-5, Psalm 86:11)

119:27...Illumination
"Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders."
Not only does the Psalmist ask to know what the word of God says, he also wants to know what it means.  He is asking for spiritual understanding and spiritual insight into the word of God so as to thoughtfully and properly apply it.  (I Corinthians 2: 6-14, Ephesians 1:17)

119:28...Contrition
"My soul weeps because of grief."
Knowing, understanding, and applying the word of God to his life has caused the Psalmist to be broken-hearted over his sin.  The very same soul that was rebelling against God, after comparing itself to the standard of the word of God, cries out, "O, what have I done."  These are not the crocodile tears of insincerity, but tears of true sorrow and repentance.  (II Corinthians 7:9-10, Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 57:15)

119:28b...Supplication
"Strengthen me according to Your word."
Here the Psalmist acknowledges his own weakness and asks for strength, the strength that the word gives, the strength to combat sin and its accompanying temptations; so that he will not fall back into this sin again.  This is the true hallmark of repentance and contrition, the zealous desire not to sin that sin again, and the accompanying desire for holiness in all of life.  (Matthew 6:13; 26:41, Psalm 119:133, Ephesians 3:16, 20)

119:29...Restoration
"Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me Your law."
The Psalmist asks the Lord to give him complete victory over this sin, and to restore their fellowship back to where it was.  Sin does not destroy our relationship with God as we will always belong to Him, but it does impede and impair our relationship with Him.  (Isaiah 59:2, Hosea 5:15, James 4:6-10)

119:30...Decision
"I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me."
After asking the Lord to remove the false way, the Psalmist announces his decision to fully follow the Lord.  It is a decision of a destination, a decision to follow the word of God and let it lead him, wherever that may be.  Following the Lord is a choice, and here the Psalmist chooses to get back on the faithful path, the narrow path that leads to life.  (Psalm 85:13, Isaiah 31:21, Psalm 101:2-4; 119:103)

119:31...Determination
"I cling to Your testimonies."
The Psalmist is determined to not let go, to remain faithful to the word of God.  This is the commitment that is required to life a godly life, to fully follow the Lord.  Decision and determination go hand in hand.
(Philippians 3:12-14, II Timothy 4:7)

119:32...Direction
"I shall run the way of Your commandments."
The Psalmist knows where the word of God will take him...ultimately to God Himself, in His presence for eternity.  It is the path of life, the path of joy, the path of fellowship with God, the path of blessing.  Even though it narrow, it is well marked, as it has been marked out by the resurrection of Christ.  (John 14:6)

119:32b...Passion
"For you will enlarge my heart."
Sin shrinks and hardens the heart.  It hardens the heart to the things of God, the ways of God, the will of God, the work of God, and the love of God.  When we walk in the faithful way and cling to His testimonies, the Lord enlarges our heart and gives us a greater capacity so as to love Him all the more; and the greater our love for Him the greater our obedience will be, and the greater our walk will be before Him.

In the response of the Psalmist we see a picture of repentance.  This is the result that the Lord wanted to achieve and there is a cleansing of the soul and a corresponding peace when repentance takes place. How blessed we are that the Lord takes our relationship with him so seriously, so personally, that He deals with the sin that impedes and impairs that very relationship.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The God Who is for Us

In Romans 8:26-39 we have the greatest section of Scripture that deals with the security of our salvation and our secure relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  In this section of Scripture there is so much richness to meditate upon, so much great truth to let feed our soul and wash over our heart, but the high water mark of this passage is verses 31b-32, "If God is for us who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all (those who trust in Christ and His completed work on our behalf), how will He not with Him freely give us all things?"

Think about it, if God is for us, who can be against us.  The truth assumed here is that God is for us, and since He is for us, who, in all the created universe both seen and unseen can stand against us with God on our side.

The God who is for us is:

The God who spoke all things into existence.
The God who upholds all things by the word of His power.
The God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
The God who has declared the end from the beginning.
The God who daily bears our burden.
The God who accomplishes what concerns us.
The God whose thoughts toward us are as numerous as His wonders.
The God who has stretched out the heavens, laid the foundation of the earth, and has formed the spirit of man within him.
The God who has fashioned the hearts of us all.
The God who removes kings and establishes kings.
The God who has determined the time and boundaries of the nations.
The God who has ordained our steps, and ordained the number of our days.
The God who delights in the way He has chosen for us.
The God who lifts us up on eagles wings.
The God who is our rock, fortress, shelter, and refuge.
The God to whom nothing is hidden from His sight, and to whose eyes all things are open and laid bare.
The God whose throne stands in the heavens.
The God whose train of His robe fills the temple.
The God who does not sleep nor slumber.
The God who keeps us.
The God who is the shade at our right hand.
The God who is the lover of our souls.
The God who makes us bold with strength in our soul.
The God who delights in the prosperity of His servant.
The God whose word is truth.
The God whose word stands forever.
The God who knows all the stars by name.
The God who tends us like a shepherd does his sheep.
The God who regards the nations as a speck of dust or a drop from a bucket.
The God for whom all the nations are as nothing before Him, and are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.
The God who is everlasting.
The God who does not become weary or tired.
The God who knows what we will say before the word is on our tongue.
The God who holds all things in the hollow of His hand.
The God who is the Almighty.
The God who is righteous and just.
The God who judges all things.
The God who knows all things.
The God before whom all must appear.
The God who acts and it cannot be reversed.
The God whose purposes cannot be thwarted.
The God who wipes out our trangressions, and does not remember our sins.
The God who stands with us as our Dread Champion.
The God who gives us grace.
The God who is merciful to us and compassionate toward us.
The God before whom there was no God formed, and after whom none will exist.
The God who is our Savior.
The God who delights in our salvation.
The God who causes rivers of living water to flow from our innermost being.
The God to whom we are His beloved.
The God who loves us with the same love with which He loves His Son.
The God who indwells us.
The God who abides with us.
The God who will never leave us or forsake us.
The God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.
The God who gives us all things richly to enjoy.
The God who will lavish the riches of His grace on us in the age to come.
The God who has loved us with an everlasting love.
The God who has in kindness drawn us to Himself.
The God who is good and does good.
The God who is holy, holy, holy.
The God who is the Giver of every good and perfect gift.
The God who never changes because from age to age He is the same.
The God whom we can trust and depend upon.
The God who has given us the gift of salvation.
The God who has redeemed us.
The God who has made us alive in Christ.
The God who has caused us to be born again.
The God who has given us a living hope.
The God who was in Christ reconciling us to Himself.
The God whose hand we cannot be snatched out of.
The God who has given us to His Son for safekeeping.


This is the God who is for us. So as we meditate on this great section in Romans, let us meditate in the light of who this great God is, this great God who is for us, this great God in whom our salvation and relationship is secure; and when we gather with others whom He is for, let us all joyfully, gratefully, and confidently open our hearts and our mouths to praise Him for who He is and what He has done.




.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Election 2016...What Should We Do?

So.....what should we do?  We have an election coming up where there is not a candidate worthy of our vote, not a candidate worthy of the office, not a candidate worthy to be the leader of our land, not a candidate worthy of our trust, and certainly not a candidate that inspires us to be the best we can be for the glory of God and the good of our country.

We have two major parties and a very minor party who through their vetting process have presented us with unqualified people from which to choose for our next President; but at the same time the vetting process was participated in by fellow citizens who voted on who they wanted to represent them and their interests in this election cycle.  We can certainly throw rocks at the political parties involved, but we need to save the biggest rocks for the American citizenry.

The root issue at play here is not the political parties or the political system, it is not the moral fiber or lack thereof in the candidates themselves, as the root issue is the lack of moral fiber in our citizenry; and that is reflected in the candidates that have been chosen.  It is our citizenry who condone abortion, it is our citizenry who condone sexual immorality, it is our citizenry who either have class envy or an elitist mentality, it is our citizenry of every color that are guilty of racism, it is our citizenry who despise and reject authority, it is our citizenry who are guilty of the idolatry of greed, it is our citizenry who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, and pleasure, it is our citizenry who call good evil and evil good. If the citizenry of our country did not condone all of these things, then none of them would be pervasive in our land; but, alas, they are the status quo.  Just as Paul tells Timothy that people will not put up with sound doctrine, but collect for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, so the citizenry of our country are collecting for themselves leaders in accordance with their own desires.

Is it any wonder then that we have candidates who reflect who we have become as a nation?  When we look at them...Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Gary Johnson...we are looking at ourselves as a nation.  Pretty ugly and disgusting isn't it?

So.....what should we do?  We are not voting for a party, we are not voting for Supreme Court nominees, we are voting for a person and what that person stands for...all of what that person stands for...who that person is.  When they take office they will lead in accordance with who they are, regardless of the party they are affiliated with, regardless of the platform their party supposedly stands for.  When the election is over and they are not pandering for votes, they will decide and direct in accordance with what they believe, because you cannot separate a person's behavior from what they believe...as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.

There is no such thing as the lesser of two evils, in this case three.  There is only the reality of evil and where it will lead us as a nation when it has secured its victory in the election.  We have watched it do just that over the last eight years.

Yes, we are not voting for Pastor-in-Chief, and we need to participate in the democratic process; but in considering this particular election we need to have a greater allegiance than an allegiance to a particular party or particular philosophy, we need to have a greater allegiance than to our flag and our country, we need to have an allegiance to the Supreme moral authority and support Him and what He stands for.  Patriotism does not equate with righteousness, loyalty to a political party or philosophy will not stand the test of serving the Lord and bearing spiritual fruit, but will be but wood, hay, and stubble, and burned before the judgment seat of Christ.  We will not be advancing the cause of Christ or righteousness in our vote, and let's not be mistaken about that.

So....what should we do?  My answer is.....vote, but write in a person who is worthy of our vote, a person worthy of the office, a person worthy to be our leader, a person worthy of our trust, a person who inspires us to be the best we can be for the glory of God and the good of our country.  Don't be sucked in by the fear-mongering, don't be intimidated by the guilt-trippers, don't be misled by the supposed evangelical prophets who have misplaced priorities and have sold out for a mess of pottage. Don't participate in the promotion of more and greater evil, instead have your vote count for something good.

I realize that many who read this might disagree, and maybe disagree heartily.  That's okay, such is the religion of politics.