Monday, March 31, 2008

Unity Series: The Body, part 3

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15, 16 (NIV)

We see some repetition of words. Two of them are “love” and “grow.” Two other phrases are “the whole body” and “each part.”

This is how the body works after it has been prepared by the pastors for works of service.


(Taken from Day & Night: Unity Series, 2003)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Unity Series: The Body, part 2

I received this question,

There are two statements I don’t understand: 1) “At present the church at large is a dismembered body”, and 2) “We see all of this in the church today.” How do you substantiate these? Where is the evidence? Is “the church at large” and “the church today” made up of believing churches only, or does it include unbelieving (apostate) churches as well?

I am not sure who invented the term “the invisible church”, but I am glad it is not a biblical term. The church and its members should be very visible.

Local assemblies that deny, add to, or ignore the Gospel of Jesus Christ as found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 are apostate or unbelieving churches. They are not dismembered parts of the body. They are not members of the body of Christ at all and should not be considered Christians. We are not to be in unity with someone who does not belong to Christ. There may be real Christians in the apostate churches. They are not functioning with other believers, but should be.

The church at large is made up of all Christians everywhere:

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: 1 Corinthians 1:2 (NIV)

These believers should be meeting in local assemblies. However, the local assemblies may be quarreling within them and between them.

The different parts of the body are to be immediately obedient to the Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. In many cases, the believers are obedient to the pastor or the rules of the “church” assuming that it is the same as being obedient to Christ.

If one hand represents one denomination and the other hand represents another denomination, and the head says to the hands “clap your hands,” and the hands immediately swing toward each other and miss each other, either one or both hands have paid more attention to the arms or wrists than to the head. They are disobedient.

The body of Christ may not be dismembered, but it is disobedient and spastic. If our own bodies functioned like the body of Christ, we would all be in hospitals.


(Taken from Day & Night: Unity Series, 2003)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Unity Series: The Body, part 1

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:14-16 (NIV)

The body builds up the body. The believers in the body build up the body.

How?

Notice, “the whole body” is the church. “Every joint and ligament” are all the saints in the body and the body grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.

The pastors build up the body only in that they are to train all parts of the body to build itself up and that they themselves are part of the body.

Truth and love are the ingredients in this growth into unity.

At present, the church at large is a dismembered body. The fault is in the lack of truth and the lack of love by the members of the body. The evangelists, pastors and teachers are to give very much truth with very much love to the members of the body which the members, in turn, then give to each other.

Love without truth is a body without bones. Truth without love is a body of nothing but bones. It is also possible to have “pretend love” and falsehood mixed with truth. We see all of this in the church today.

Here is a clear sequence towards unity:

1. It was He who gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers;
2. to prepare God’s people for the work of the ministry;
3. so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)

The key words are, “so that.”

The direct cause of unity is God’s people doing the work of the ministry. The body of Christ builds up the body of Christ. It is not the pastor’s job. His job is to prepare God’s people to do their job.


(Taken from Day & Night: Unity Series, 2003)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Anticipate His Coming

Today I found myself in a discussion on different views of eschatology. We looked at a few of the scriptures, Rev. 20, 1 Thess 4, and Matthew 24.

I wish to bring to your attention a few other verses on Christ’s second coming.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3:20

“For they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10

“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?” 1 Thessalonians 2:19

“May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” 1 Thessalonians 3:13

“Therefore encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:18

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14


“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:2, 3

Notice the words used in talking about this glorious event; Citizenship is in Heaven, Eagerly await, His glorious body; wait for His Son from Heaven; hope, joy, crown and glory; blameless and holy in the presence; encourage each other with these words; we shall be like Him, whole spirit, soul and body; blameless; purifies himself just as He is pure; wait for blessed hope; glorious appearing.

These are not words of debate but of glad anticipation of something that is sure to happen.

Do you anticipate or do you argue?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hindrances to Perfect Unity

Just being in Christ, makes us part of His body. It is an either/or situation.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. Romans 8:9 (NIV)

However, being in the body does not mean we work well with other parts of the body.

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:16 (NIV)

Notice the last phrase, “grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” If the body is not building itself up in love; if each part is not doing its work, then the body does not function as it is designed.

There are two basic commands getting into the “body” and functioning as “a body”:

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 1 John 3:23 (NIV)

1. Believe in the name of His Son.
2. Love one another.

Number two is the basic problem in the body. It is very serious. If it is not happening, we have every reason to doubt we are in the body.

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 1 John 3:14 (NIV)

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:19-21 (NIV)

As you can see, this is serious. Not only do we know we are part of the body if we love one another, so does everyone else know we are part of the body.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34, 35.

If we love, we build up the body. If we do not love, we are either not part of the body, or we are acting like we are not part of the body.


(Taken from Day & Night, 2003)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Reasons Jesus had to Die, part 2

The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25)

He died for our sins!


(Taken from Good News/Bad News, 2005)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Reasons Jesus had to Die, part 1

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14, 15)

He became human so he could die. This is why He died:

1. To destroy the devil
2. To set men free who are afraid to die

Are you afraid to die?


(Taken from Good News/Bad News, 2005)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Restitution II

I received this question following the Restitution Day & Night of 7/30/03: “Jim, could you be more specific about the lack of restitution among those in whom Christ dwells today? Of what kinds of situations are you thinking?”

Restitution in the Bible normally refers to stealing in one form or another. Money or animals can be returned or paid for. Medical expenses and time can be paid for.

“If men quarrel and one hits the other with a stone or with his fist and he does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held responsible if the other gets up and walks around outside with his staff; however, he must pay the injured man for the loss of his time and see that he is completely healed” (Exodus 21:18-19).

Other kinds of evil, such as murder or rape, may get the death penalty for the perpetrator, but that is not restitution. A murdered man cannot be restored to life, and virginity cannot be given back. Other payments may have to be paid, as in the bride price in Deuteronomy 22:28-29, but that is not restitution.

Lying is to be confessed, but that is not restitution.

Unpaid restitution among the saints may be things stolen before they were saved, or cheating on taxes, or being paid cash under the table to keep from declaring income, or other evasions of the law. These acts may not be criminal, but that does not make them not sin. If nothing else, they come under the name of coveting or greed, and they are defined as idolatry in Colossians 3:5.

Spiritually, lack of restitution is carried through life like a low-grade fever in the body. A person with a low-grade fever is too well to be in bed and too sick to be effective in his work. Not taking care of restitution makes a Christian ineffective because he is spiritually sick and under the discipline of God.


(Taken from Day & Night, 2003)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Restitution

Lying is the main cover for violation of the rest of the moral laws of God.

We see this in Leviticus 6:1-7:

The LORD said to Moses: "If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do- when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found, or whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day he presents his guilt offering. And as a penalty he must bring to the priest, that is, to the LORD, his guilt offering, a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for him before the LORD, and he will be forgiven for any of these things he did that made him guilty.”


Forgiveness was provided for both the lying and the stealing. In order to receive this forgiveness, the thief had two requirements laid upon him:

1. He had to return what he had stolen plus 20% of the value of what was stolen. This 20% had to do with money or things. If that which was stolen was a sheep, the sheep had to be returned plus three more sheep or 300%. If the stolen object was a cow, the cow had to be returned plus four more cows or 400% (Exodus 22:1).

2. He had to supply the sacrifice for his sin.

This was not just Old Testament judgment in contrast with New Testament mercy. The same requirements are in the New Testament. They are: 1) the sacrifice and 2) restitution.

There is forgiveness for lying and for stealing today. This forgiveness from God has been provided by God in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the sacrifice prefigured in Leviticus 6:6:

And as a penalty he must bring to the priest, that is, to the LORD, his guilt offering, a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value.

And realized in Hebrews 10:10:

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

We see the restitution in the story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus in Luke 19:

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because his man, too, is a son of Abraham.”

Zacchaeus is obliquely admitting he cheated people out of sheep. Lack of restitution is one reason why there is no revival in the Christian community.


(Taken from Day & Night, 2003)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Being Self-controlled & Alert

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Of the many reasons Christians sin, this one is the most disheartening. It happens to strong Christians. They are not alert. They are blind-sided. They get caught unaware.

When I was midshipman over fifty-three years ago, there was a framed picture in the Department of Seamanship and Navigation at the Naval Academy. It was a photograph of seven destroyers up on the beach in the Santa Barbara Channel on the California coast. There are eight destroyers in a squadron. The captain of the eighth destroyer decided not to follow the leader. Underneath the picture was this caption: “The price of good navigation is constant vigilance.”

At the present I am aware of five churches that have elders that are accusing or are being accused. Some of this accusing is within a local church and some is between churches. The nature and name of this roaring lion is the Accuser. It is possible that the saints are not alert and have believed a lie that a fellow believer is the enemy. That is never the case. The fellow believer may have believed a lie and passed it on as truth. That puts him in the wrong camp. He is now an accuser and a gossiper.

“The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” Revelation 12:9, 10

There seems to be a misreading or misapplication of Ephesians 5:8-14a.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.”

What we are: “Light in the Lord”

What we are commanded: “Live as children of light.”

What light is: “All goodness, righteousness and truth.”

Additional comment: “Find out what pleased the Lord.”

Negative comment: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness.”

Positive comment: “Expose them.”

How not to expose them: “For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”

How to expose them: “Light exposes.”

In our exposing, we are prone to mention the misdeeds of darkness. That is shameful. Our life of light makes things visible, not our talk of darkness. The accuser should confess the accusations. The accused should not defend against the accuser or accusations.


(Taken from Day & Night, 2003)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Non-Christians and Sin

A few weeks ago I received this question. “If it is impossible for sinners not to sin, does that mean they always fall to each and every temptation they experience?” Before I was a Christian, for twenty years I lived a clean moral life. In a gross sense I did not sin every time I was tempted. However, every time I did resist temptation, I took credit for it and became very self-righteous. In other words, I sinned when I was not sinning. In other words when a non-Christian does not sin he comes under the description of Isaiah 64:6 and Romans 3:19, 20.

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6


“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” Romans 3:19, 20

He is also sinning in violation of Matthew 22:37, 38.

“Jesus replied ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

A person outside of Christ does not have to be tempted to sin. He sins normally.


(Taken from Day & Night, 2001)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Christian Mentors

Recently, I received this request:


“I have been wondering of late who your self-chosen Christian mentors have been?”



Most of the people who have influenced me have been front line action people. Their theology has been practical theology, the kind that I can imitate without becoming a xerox copy. In my observation, people are more likely to become xerox copies if the imitation is one of intellectual theology.

The people that have helped me the most as examples have been: George Mueller, Amy Carmichael, and Hudson Taylor in praying for provision; James Fraser in praying for souls; Paget Wilkes in evangelism; Christy Wilson in the constant prayer life; Adoniram Judson in perseverance; George Verwer and Brother Andrew on the world’s spiritual needs; Joe Bayly in Bible study, joy in hardship, clear thinking and writing and in confronting with love; and Festo Kivengere in keeping “short accounts” with God. Christy Wilson, George Verwer and Joe Bayly are the only ones I have known personally, the others are from books.

There are several books by or about each of these people. We have, or have access to most of these.


(Taken from Day & Night, 2001)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How Salvation does not Happen

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8, 9

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7


There is two-fold teaching in these two paragraphs on salvation. They tell us how salvation does not happen.

1. Not by works, so that no one can boast
2. Not because of righteous things which we had done.

The major non-Christian religions of the world teach that salvation is based partly on the “righteous” things we do. And all of the private personal religions that people have made up in Christian countries are also based on a relative view of goodness. These “do” religions do not save; they are false.

The paragraphs also tell us how salvation does happen.

1. Grace, Faith, Free Gift
2. Mercy, Rebirth, Holy Spirit, and Grace

Salvation is all of God and none of us.


(Taken from Good News/Bad News, 2005)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Superlatives III

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

What is the subject? His divine power!

With this power what has He provided? Everything we need for life and godliness!

To whom? Given to us!

How? Through our knowledge of Him who called us!

How? By His own glory and goodness!

What has He given to us by glory and goodness? His very great and precious promises!

Why? So that we may participate in the divine nature and so escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Pretty neat. God has already done this.


(Taken from Day & Night, 2005)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Superlatives II

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:9-12)

How often is this prayer? Non-stop!

How much knowledge of God's will? Filled!

How much spiritual wisdom and understanding? All!

Why is Paul praying this? That the Christians will live a life worthy of the Lord!

How many ways to please God? Every!

To bear fruit where? Every good work!

What is the result? Grow in the knowledge of God.

These are not commands to the Christians. These are prayers to God to do these things in the Christians. They are not pushing God's limits to do this.


(Taken from Day & Night, 2005)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Superlatives I

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8)

This is a description of God’s abilities and His intentions for the saints.
Notice the superlatives.

How much grace? All!

How many things? All!

How many times? All!

In how much need? All!

How is this grace given? Abundantly!

How much good work? Every!

How is this applied? Abundantly!

God’s grace is not given to us in driblets.


(Taken from Day & Night, 2005)

Friday, March 07, 2008

"Holiness in the World II"

“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
- Colossians 2:20-23


Please pay attention to the text. The first phrase, in very strong terms, says, “since you are saved from the world,” then “you should not obey the world’s rules as if you were still unsaved.” Paul gives three examples of the world’s rules that saved people should not submit to:

1. Do not handle!
2. Do not taste!
3. Do not touch!

They are of human origin and they do not work to cause holiness.

Where do you find such rules? In churches that are attempting to be separated from the world. These churches, instead of being separated from the world, are following the basic principles of the world. They are worldly churches.


(Taken from Day & Night, 2005)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

"Holiness in the World..."

“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:14-17

Twice Jesus says that His followers are not of this world. He says that the world hates them. He prays that they would be kept from the Evil One. He is sending them into the world. He prays for their holiness IN the world not OUT of it.

For centuries people who have wanted to be holy have assumed that they had to get away from the world in order to accomplish this. This involved monasteries, convents, hermits, etc…. Today it will be in communes, separated and legalistic churches.


(Taken from Day & Night, 2005)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Character of the Holy Spirit

The Love of God—Character of the Holy Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22, 23)


(Taken from Day & Night, 2006)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Reward is in Heaven

There are words or events which are closely associated with each other but they are not the same thing; they are not synonyms.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

“Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.” 2 Timothy 2:5


Here are the words:

Run
Run to win
Strict training
According to the rules
Crown

Crossing the finish line first is not the same event as receiving the gold medal. These words are associated with each other. However, everyone who runs does not receive a medal. Gold medals have been taken away from winners because they violate the rules.

We are to train hard, run hard, and play fair in the Christian life.

The crown we receive in heaven will not tarnish nor decay.

The victory is here on earth. The reward is in Heaven.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Destruction of Sodom

“Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous.” Genesis 18:20

“Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” Genesis 18:32

“Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.” Genesis 19:25

“Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD.” Genesis 19:27

“if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.” 2 Peter 2:6-9

“In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” Jude 7


There were not ten righteous people, so God destroyed the cities. He let four escape. One of those turned back. The other three committed incest after they escaped. These were the righteous ones.

This story is an example of the future judgment at the last day.


(Taken from Day & Night, 2007)