Bold for Jesus

Several times I have heard that Christians need to live their faith with more boldness. In general I would agree with this statement. However, we need to consider what “boldly” means.

Usually the idea is phrased like this:

“Christians need to live separate from the world, show their faith in word and deed. Do it boldly and with confidence, don’t apologize for it. The ungodly heathen world doesn’t apologize for their behavior, why should we?”

Here’s my issue with that statement: if the world is ungodly and we’re not supposed to be like them, why should we be like them in their unapologetically loud lifestyles?

Do Christians really have to be Terrell Owens for Jesus? What about work with your own hands and study to be quiet? Boldness does not mean brash, loud, arrogant and stupid.

Bold Christianity is having the boldness to be humble and meek in a world of braggarts. Consistently walking with Christ regardless of what the world happens to be doing.

I like “bold Christians,” but the term needs to be defined properly.

He Sees You When You’re Sleeping

The Old Testament is great reading. I love all the stories of events and cool stuff that happens.

Ever notice how the entire Old Testament is written in the “narrative voice?” There’s an all-seeing narrator explaining all things occurring in various spots. Stuff that no bystander could possible be all aware of.

2 Kings 6 gives a great example and explanation as to much of the OT style. The King of Syria is attacking Israel. No matter where he plans to attack, Israel is there and waiting.

He gets frustrated and wonders why this happens. Answer, “Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.”

That is cool!

That’s how the Bible is written in the narrative voice, because God is the narrator and this is His book and His story. He knows all the parts and hidden things. Another subtle, yet convincing, proof of inspiration.

Charles Simeon and John Wesley

Here is a quote of a conversation between Charles Simeon and John Wesley, led by Simeon:

Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

Yes, I do indeed.

And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

No.

What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree.

Well said!

The Three R’s of Christianity

People know the three R’s of education:

1) Reading
2) Writing
3) Arithmetic

When I was four I figured out that two of the three R’s of education didn’t begin with an R and have ever since been turned off by school and it’s devilish indoctrination.

We also now know the three R’s of environmentalism:

1) Reduce
2) Reuse
3) Recycle

These at least start with an R, which is good.

Recently I just read that Christianity had three R’s, which I never knew. They are:

1) Rod the Rather
2) Resus Rist
3) Roly Ririt

I’m kidding, I’m kidding. The three R’s of Christianity are:

1) Ruin
2) Redemption
3) Regeneration

Ruin refers to the fall of human nature brought on by the sin of our father Adam. Redemption refers to the atoning work of the blood. And Regeneration has to do with the new life believers are raised to. I never heard this before but I like it.

The Authority of Scripture

A quote from Martin Lloyd Jones:

The authority of the Scriptures is not a matter to be defended, so much as to be asserted. I address this remark particularly to Conservative Evangelicals. I am reminded of what the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said in this connection: “There is no need for you to defend a lion when he is being attacked. All you need to do is to open the gate and let him out.” We need to remind ourselves frequently that it is the preaching and exposition of the Bible that really establish its truth and authority.

HT: Andrew Naselli

Profitable Scripture

Paul tells us that all scripture is given by inspiration and can profit us. Every once in a while you come across a passage that makes you wonder exactly how. Here’s one I read today. 1 Kings 15:23 is written to sum up the life of King Asa who was a decent fellow.

“The rest of all the acts of Asa, and all his might, and all that he did, and the cities which he built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? Nevertheless in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet.”

Now, exactly how do diseased feet fit into this? Where is this from? And how, pray tell, is this of profit to me. Here’s my attempt:

Asa was a good king, he won some battles and built some cities. He followed the Lord and lead his kingdom well. However, lest you think all was well, he did have diseased feet.

It’s sort of God’s way of saying, “Look, you can do some fine stuff down here but you still have problems. You still need me.”

Indeed. My grandfather used to say, “we all have feet of clay.” Asa’s clay feet just happened to be diseased.

Considering Concupiscence

“Concupiscence” is one of those great King James Words. It rolls off the tongue, once you learn how to pronounce it anyway. It shows up three times in the New Testament.

Based on the context, even if you know nothing about this word, you can tell  that it is not a good thing!

It basically has to do with desire, lust and passion for something, in a bad way. It’s unhealthy desire.

There are plenty of things to have a healthy desire for: the salvation of others, spiritual gifts, to leave this earth, spiritual fruit, to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, to be a pastor, the Word of God, and possessing our eternal home.

That’s plenty to desire. Unfortunately, our flesh isn’t incredibly interested in these things. It has its own desires and these are evil and lead to concupiscence and this we are not called to!

Truth Sets Free

Many profess to know the Truth (Jesus Christ). The truth sets us free and the Son of God sets us free, both points of John 8. The Son and the Truth are the same.

Many profess to know the “true gospel.” Jesus, the center of the Gospel, says you can test the validity of the gospel-teaching by its fruit.

Does our understanding of the Gospel make us free?

Obviously we need to know the context, free from what? The Jewish folks Christ was talking to raised this question, who are we in bondage to? Jesus says we are in bondage to sin (John 8:34).

Is the freedom from sin in Christ just a spiritual reality, a mind game reality, that yeah, I know I sin but Jesus doesn’t pay attention to it anymore so it doesn’t matter?

Paul expounds on what Christ says and shows us exactly what the Gospel does for us in setting us free from sin:

Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

We dropped a cruel master of sin for the wonderful master of righteousness. The result of this is both immediate and eternal:

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Sin begins to die out in our lives as a new life principle takes over. The result of this new life in Christ is righteousness with fruit unto holiness and the eternal reward of life with Christ.

Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord. We can’t manufacture holiness, we can’t decide to fix ourselves up. Holiness is a result of being set free from sin by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Happens every time it’s tried.

J. I. Packer on Holiness

“Holiness is the naturalness of the spiritually risen man, just as sin is the naturalness of the spiritually dead man, and in pursuing holiness by obeying God the Christian actually follows the deepest urge of his own renewed being.

True holiness. . . is the Christian’s true fulfillment, for it is the doing of that which, deep down, he now most wants to do, according to the urgings of his new, dominant instincts in Christ. The fact that few Christians seem to be sufficiently in touch with themselves to appreciate this does not alter its truth.”

Lofty Thoughts

I was talking to my kids about Adam and Eve listening to Satan and about the first mention of the Gospel–that a man will come and crush Satan’s head.

My one kid asked, “Why didn’t God crush Satan right then?”

Um.

I said, “I don’t know really. It had something to do with God’s plan and desire to show His mercy.” Which, although theologically accurate and acceptable, made no sense to my kid. It doesn’t to me either.

We get so caught up getting answers. Getting answers is fine, “buy truth and wisdom,” Solomon said. But if the answers aren’t in Scripture, don’t try to invent them.

“Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.”

How much of our theology is just plain arrogance and pride?

Even more troubling, how many questions are answered in Scripture but we cover them up with our theoretical surmisings of what God really meant and how He obviously didn’t mean what He actually said, etc.

Sticking with the whole counsel of Scripture and the plain truth set forth is the greatest act of humility a person can undergo. Do so, because God gives grace to the humble. We are accountable for what we have been given. Don’t play games with it.

“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Ships and Seas

“The place for ships is in the sea, but God help the ship if the sea gets into it.”
–D. L. Moody

Believers in Jesus Christ have become new creations, members of heaven and strangers and pilgrims on earth. The problem is that these strangers and pilgrims are still very much on earth.

So what do believers do in the meanwhile? Some say that Christians can be so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. I’ve seen that to be true. Others, unmoved by heaven’s glory and thrilled with earth’s passing delights, go for earth’s fare and are no heavenly good.

The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men and teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.

We are in the world, nothing can be done about that until death removes us. But until then we are called to live other-worldly lives.

–Lives focused on things above not on things of the earth.
–Good soldiers not entangled with the affairs of this world.
–Fruit-bearing believers who have not been choked out by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.
–Guys who have let go of earthly things and laid hold of eternal life.
–People who are not going after riches which cause men to err from the faith and fall into many hurtful traps.

Be a ship in the sea, but keep the sea out of the ship.

Righteous Lot

Lot, Abraham’s nephew, has a bad image. He made some mistakes as a young man, disrespected his older uncle, moved in next to a pit of wickedness and eventually lived in the midst of it.

Then you get some insight from Peter. Peter says that Lot was a righteous, or just, man. Any man who is righteous has been made so by faith.

Peter goes further and explains how Lot’s righteousness shown forth:

“For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.”

Lot was bothered by what he lived in. He was tormented in his soul by the wickedness of others. But he remained righteous, just like Noah even though all around him was corrupt. 

Usually the Sunday School version is different than this. Lot lived in the midst of sin and he was lucky God pulled him out.

But the whole arrangement was that the angel would protect the righteous people, of whom Lot was it. His wife was vexed too, but for different reasons.

Being righteous is a burden. You know what evil is and you know what is coming on evil people. Sin should bother people who have been made righteous.

David and Jesus

We all know that David is a great foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. He’s the king and the throne of David and all that great stuff. It’s interesting to view the details of David’s life and find parallels.

After Saul drives David out, David runs off to the Gentiles and acts crazy. The gentile king wonders if he needs anymore crazy people and gets rid of David. Shortly after, Ahitub the priest helps out David. Saul finds out about it thru the betrayal of Doeg and Saul has Ahitub killed.

Here’s my parallels:

–Jesus Christ is rejected by Israel and goes to the Gentiles.
–Unto the Gentiles, Jesus
Christ is foolishness.
–New followers of Christ, like Stephen, “help out” Jesus by defending him only to have Israelites turn and kill him.

Nothing earth shattering, just thinking. Also thinking about the significance of Jonathan shooting three arrows to warn David that Saul was trying to kill him. Why three?! OK, might be reaching there.

God and the Yeahbutites

The Amorites, Ammonites, Hittites, Gibeonites all make an appearance in the Bible. But there’s little known group of -ites that are also all over Scripture: the Yeahbutites.

You won’t find them in your concordance but you will find them sprinkled throughout Scripture. You’ll also find their offspring around today.

Saul was the king of the Yeahbutites. God told Saul to wipe out the Amalekites and destroy everything. He kept some. Samuel about had a fit when he heard about this.

“Saul, God said to wipe out everything the Amalekites had.”
“Uh, I did.”
“What is this bleating of sheep I hear?”
“Oh, those.”
“God told you to kill all their stuff.”
“Yeah but, we were gonna do this sacrifice and it was gonna be great. I built his new altar and everything.”

“Yeah but.” It has ruined many a man. Saul was removed as king of Israel for his “yeah but” and became the king of a much worse nation, the Yeahbutites.

Yeahbutites still roam our churches.

Wives submit to your husbands
–Yeah but. . .

Love your enemies
–Yeah but. . .

Esteem others better than yourself
–Yeah but. . .

Riches cause men to err from the faith
–Yeah but. . .

Here’s a snippet of what Samuel said to Saul on this occasion to give us a good idea of what happened.

stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” Saying “yeah but” is stubbornness and this, in God’s mind, is idolatry. “Yeah buts” are not a part of God’s plan.

The Comforter

When Jesus was preparing to leave His disciples He told them He was going to give them “another Comforter.” The word “another” is intriguing.

In 1 John 2:1 we’re told that if we sin, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ.” “Advocate” is the same Greek word as “Comforter.” Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are both Comforters.

Or are they the same Comforter?

“Being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” Or one could translate this, “as from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Obviously there is a distinction between the Son and the Spirit, but there is also a unity.

Having the Holy Spirit is much more than having some God-power and ability. It’s having the very presence of God the Creator and God the Savior in us. I think there is untapped and probably untappable depth here.

Whatever the depth may be, the result is that we should be comforted!

Undermining Christ

A man who says, “I’m saved because I believed. Yeah, nothing changed, all my sin is still here tripping me up, little growth. But I believe so I know I’m in” sounds like he’s elevating Christ.

It sounds as if the guy has understood he can’t work his way in and is ultimately glorifying Christ. “Only a sinner saved by grace.”

Sounds good.

Here’s the logical outcome of it though: If there is no fruit, no growth, no spiritual gifting, no good works which God has recreated us for, you stand on the sincerity of your faith. You stand on you and you alone.

A man who bases his salvation on the fact that he is no longer the same man, that old things are passed away and all things are new, a man who left off the hidden things of darkness and is now walking in the light owes one person credit: Jesus Christ.

A saved man knows his sin and his inability to pull off righteous works. He knows more than anyone that all his past “righteous deeds” are as filthy rags. He also knows the legitimacy of the works that Christ has wrought in him.

A changed life is the biggest glorification of Christ possible. It only happens by God’s grace. It is only begun and continued by an abiding faith. It is what the cross was for.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Being Counted Righteous

Abraham “believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” This OT verse is referred to many times in the NT. It’s a key verse in God’s mind.

The important point is: who is the he who counts it righteous?

If the he refers to Abraham, then Abraham would, in essence, say this: “I believed what God said, therefore, I’m righteous.”

If the he refers to God, then God would, in essence, say this: “Abraham believed what I said, therefore, I count this as righteousness.”

We know option two is the intended view. Abraham believed God and God counted it to Abraham for righteousness.

Duh.

Well, why is it today that people base their salvation on their confidence in their profession? Why do we use this verse to fortify the notion that “I’m saved because I believe”?

Careful now, hear me out. Every man is saved by grace through faith. No qualms there. My qualm is with people counting themselves righteous based on the strength of their faith.

In other words, people are saying “it’s the quality of my faith that saves me. I remember when I said the prayer and I was sincere, therefore, I’m in.”

Here’s my point from Paul’s pen. How do I know I’m saved? Because I believed Christ and the faith of Christ is what justified me and is now what I live in. The just shall LIVE by faith.

Paul makes the same point in Romans 4 speaking specifically of Abraham. All believers are justified by faith, from Abraham to David to me. And it always results in the same thing: we all “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham.” The faith that lets God take over is the faith that makes a man righteous.

Church Persecution and Squirrels

I went jogging today. As I was running I heard some squirrels chattering at each other and then chasing each other through the dry leaves. They were going up and down trees, through leaves trying to sort out their “issues.”

As I got near them they charged out of the trees across the road, one following hard after the other, until. . .

They saw me.

Immediately they stopped and whirled around and dove for cover, pretty much right next to each other.

Wanna know why there are so many squabbles in the church? Because us chattering squirrels are consumed with each other and our “issues.” We will continue to be until we realize a much bigger threat has drawn near.

Here’s My Marital Advice

Marriage advice abounds. Everyone who has been married or been “wise” enough not to, has their advice for you. People married for 67 years have advice. People married 8 times have advice.

Marriage books, seminars, and retreats are everywhere. With so much marriage advice one would think all marriages would be rock solid. One would think divorce would be on the outs.

Instead, marriage seems to continue to careen out of control. Even in the professing church marriage is becoming a joke. Some studies even say that divorce is more rampant among professed believers.

How can this be?

It can be because there’s only one way to help a marriage: receive the Holy Spirit, daily study the Word, continually cry out to the Lord for help, grace, mercy, patience, and all them other things we desperately need.

If you have marriage problems the last thing in the world you need is some guy’s advice. What you need is time with the Lord, desperately calling out to Him and poring through Scripture.

Apart from this, everything else is a marital band-aid. And if you can’t do this, you’ve got bigger problems.

John Piper on Divorce and Fornication

Why does Matthew use the word porneia (“except for immorality”) instead of the word moicheia which means adultery? Almost all commentators seem to make the simple assumption again that porneia means adultery in this context. The question nags at me why Matthew would not use the word for adultery, if that is in fact what he meant.

Then I noticed something very interesting. The only other place besides Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 where Matthew uses the word porneiais in 15:19 where it is used alongside of moicheia. Therefore, the primary contextual evidence for Matthew’s usage is that he conceives of porneia as something different than adultery. Could this mean, then, that Matthew conceives of porneia in its normal sense of fornication or incest (l Corinthians 5:1) rather than adultery?

Divorce and Adultery

Jesus’ words on divorce are pretty strict. He says His followers would not get divorced. He says it firmly, then once He slips in a qualifier: unless it is for fornication.

People have taken this to mean that it’s OK to get a divorce if one spouse has been unfaithful. In other words, it’s OK to divorce if there is adultery.

One problem: Jesus didn’t use the word for adultery (unfaithfulness), He used the word for fornication (pornea in the Greek). Fornication refers to gross sexual sin.

In other words, Jesus’ command is more along the lines of–it’s OK to get a divorce if your wife becomes a prostitute or your man molests children. The word is reserved for gross sexual sin, not “just” unfaithfulness.

The reason He makes this distinction is because certain guys would go ahead and be unfaithful and then get a divorce. This is serious business and is not to be taken lightly.

The best rule of thumb is this: for the follower of Christ, divorce is pretty much never an option. Separation can be (I think this is where people in abusive relationships can get help) in hopes of restoring the relationship.

To properly understand Jesus’ strict forbidding of divorce, one only need listen to His disciples’ response: “Whoa! It is better not to marry!” If that’s their response, you can bet Jesus’ words were quite strict.

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