Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Knowledge, Love & Grace

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 1:14)
Paul was a man of great wisdom and knowledge, but he plays them down. More than that, he writes them off.
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Cor. 8:1b)

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Cor. 1:18-21)
When we speak, do we display our knowledge or our love?

Are we conscious of the abundance of grace, faith, and love that was poured out on us when we received Christ? Do we talk about it and show it?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Taking Up Your Cross Daily

What does it mean to take up your cross daily?
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:23-27)
This paragraph is about dying. Better yet, it is about values and choices, dying being one of the choices based upon following Jesus.

“Take up your cross.” This is not an unbearable task, a thorn in the flesh, or someone unpleasant, like a roommate we have to endure daily. The cross is an instrument of shameful, physical execution, like the electric chair, the gallows, or the guillotine.

This is voluntary capital punishment. This is willingness to physically die in shame for Jesus. We could get out of dying if we were ashamed of Jesus. However, we would lose our life by saving it.

So it is about values and choices. What about “daily”? Since I did not die yesterday, I must get dressed with the instrument of my own execution again today and every day following.

Here are two parallel verses that give additional light:
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim. 3:12)

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Heb. 12:4)
The first is the desire to be godly. The second is a desire to resist sin until our blood is shed.

Do we want to be godly so badly that we suffer persecution? Do we want to resist sin until we are killed for resisting it? Do we want to be unashamed of Jesus?

Each morning (daily), we pray for grace to be godly, unashamed, and able to resist sin. Each morning, this is the way we take up the cross.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Applying the Word 3

Here is another query I received on applying the Word: “Jim, I appreciate this. How are you doing in these areas?”

That is a good question. It would be better for you to see me than to ask me. If I was not obeying any of the texts, I would be an accomplished hypocrite.

At one time, I tried to obey by willpower and effort. I was not successful. In recent years, I have learned to obey by grace. (I have also written a book on obedience by grace. It is available here.) When I do not obey, I acknowledge it as sin and get forgiven by grace.

However, I put more time into being an example than into teaching. It is a more effective way of teaching and puts visible truth to the teaching. Paul said it this way: “For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4:17).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Applying the Word 2

I received this request in response to the last post: “Jim, please give me a couple of examples.”

There are many examples where Christians are hesitant to obey clear commands.

• Church discipline. Read 1 Corinthians 5, especially verses 9-13.
• Our relationships with evil people and enemies. Read Matthew 5:39-45.
• The qualifications for elders and deacons. Read 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-4.
• Complaining and arguing: Philippians 2:14.
• Being thankful: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
• Hospitality: Luke 14:12-14.

The list could keep going.

The examples above all have to do with obedience. Here are a few examples on statements of fact: Colossians 3:9, Romans 1:6, Galatians 2:20, Romans 8:9. These are stand-alone verses. The chapters they are in make the truths much clearer. I have not shared interpretations with you. In many cases, the interpretation takes away the power and the clarity of the text.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Applying the Word

As evangelicals, we stand on the full inspiration of the Word of God. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” (2 Tim. 3:16).

We are not so firm in our stand when it comes to applying the Word of God: “…so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17).

We believe the Bible from cover to cover, in debate. When we look inside the covers, we have problems. Those problems are not of failing to understand. They are problems of clear understanding of texts that we do not believe. These problems may be with history, prophecy, promises, commands, or statements of fact. It does not matter which theological position we hold. Our solutions are 1) stay ignorant, 2) run lightly over the text, 3) do much explaining away on what the text “really means,” or 4) explain why we are not believing and obeying the text.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Let Us Draw Near

This is another article written some years ago by my wife Bessie.

"Let us draw near to God with a sincere [“true” in KJV] heart…having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience." (Heb. 10:22 NIV)

Hebrews is a reasoned treatise explaining how Christ fulfilled all the Levitical law in offering Himself as a sacrifice for sin. On the basis of all that Christ did for us in opening a new and living way (10:20), the exhortation follows: Let us draw near to God.

I have been impressed so often with this thought and have mentioned it enough that our daughter Heather made a cross-stitched sampler of this verse which now hangs on my bedroom wall. I am still hoping and waiting for someone to put it to music because it sings in my heart, and I think it needs expression.

I have been so taken, however, with the thought of drawing near that I have neglected the part of the verse that gives our responsibility in the drawing near. We are to draw near with a sincere heart. How are we to have a sincere heart? “Having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience.”

Isn’t this the source of many of our spiritual problems? We do not desire to draw near to God because of our guilty conscience; or if we try to draw near to God, we are aware of a barrier, and we become discouraged. The Psalmist recognized this when he questions in Psalm 24:3,
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart.
We cannot approach God with unconfessed, unforgiven sin in our hearts. Again the Psalmist said in 66:18, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

The only way to a pure conscience is found in Hebrews 9:14: “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.”

We recognize that our acceptance by God initially is by His blood, but it is a continuous process as well in our day by day acceptance by God.

“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin” (1 John 1:7). There is a continued need for cleansing as we walk in the light and a continued provision for cleansing.

Let us begin to sing with Charles Wesley,
O for a heart to praise my God
A heart from sin set free
A heart that’s sprinkled with the blood
So freely shed for me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Scripture: True or False?

Here are a few thoughts on looking at Scripture, especially when we come across a verse that sounds great to quote but seems hard to live.

As we look at the verse, we should ask ourselves this question: “Is it true or false?” We should make ourselves answer the question. That way we cannot slide over it. Having answered, “True,” we then thank God for it. From now on, we cannot ignore it; we have just given thanks for it.

Here is an example: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

True or false? True! This is God’s will for us.

Thank God.

Now it is just a question of how to do this, not a question of whether we can. We are now willing to obey; we have thanked God.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

More on Picking up the Darkness

“Sometimes sharing truth can be called fault-finding. In the light of God’s Word, we are called to hold people accountable to the Word of God as believers. The church today has gone too soft on living for God. We wouldn’t want to call another member to repentance especially if we haven’t dealt with our own sin (1 Cor. 5:11-12).”

Thank you for the reminder. I agree. It is true that people could be called faultfinders when in fact they are confronting a brother biblically. It is also true that a person could be a faultfinder in the bad sense and justify himself that his is only holding Christians accountable to the Word of God.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Gal. 6:1)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Picking up the Darkness

The word “ungodly” is used four times in Jude 15. The next verse gives the characteristics of these ungodly people. The difficulty is that they sound like Christians we all have known: “These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage” (Jude 16).

Grumbling and faultfinding is stock in trade for the world. However, Christians who work in the world find it easy to pick up the practice. Instead of providing light, we collect the darkness. Let us remember that Jude says it is an ungodly practice.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Truth & Illustrations

Illustrations are an effective teaching method. They can be used to hammer home a truth and make it easier to apply. They are easy to remember. They also make it difficult for the student to sneak by or ignore a strong command.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)

The expert in the law asked two questions. Jesus asked three.

• “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
• Who is my neighbor?”

• “What is written in the law?
• “How do you read it?”
• “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert did not want an answer to his first question or his second. He was testing Jesus with the intent that Jesus would fail the test.

Jesus gave the man two answers: “Do this and you will live” and “Go and do likewise.”

The truth was very clear in the command before the illustration and could not be avoided after it.