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Showing posts from March, 2017

Afraid to Die

Taxes come daily, monthly, and yearly, but death only comes once in our lifetime. It comes in all forms - war, murder, suicide, disease - and at all times from infancy to old age. There is a corollary to death: fear. All phobias are subsets of that great fear, the fear of death.

Over forty years ago when we lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I got a long letter from a friend. She had been asked to visit a dying woman in a hospital. She was leaving town and could not do it, so she passed the buck to me.

The woman was 25 years old. She had very high blood pressure and no kidneys. She was on dialysis in an osteopathic hospital near Detroit. Her husband had divorced her because of her illness.

I found the hospital, went to her room, and told her who I was. The first thing she said was, “I am going to die.”

I replied, “Are you afraid to die?”

“Yes.”

“I will tell you how not to be afraid to die.” I read her Hebrews 2:14-15. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their h…

Weapons & Tactics in Evangelism: The Word of God

The Bible describes the Word of God as an offensive weapon.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:17)

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)In modern parlance, we would call this last action conviction of sin, one of the states of unregenerate man that precedes repentance.

The other great result of preaching the Word of God is faith. Faith is caused by the preaching of Christ. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

We are commanded to use the sword of the Spirit in 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”

F.W.H. Meyer said it this way in his narrative poem St. Paul:
Then I preached Christ…

Weapons & Tactics in Evangelism: Kindness

Kindness is one of the greatest weapons in kingdom warfare. It is God’s primary weapon for leading people to repentance. “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Rom. 2:4).

God, through Paul, gave Timothy negative and positive instruction—how not to witness and how to witness. “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:23-26).

People do not generally associate kindness with repentance. Repent is considered a harsh word. Repentance is a requirement. Yet k…

Weapons & Tactics in Evangelism: The Blood of Christ

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Rev. 12:11)The antecedent of “they” is “our brothers.” The antecedent of “him” is “Satan.” The spiritual weapon is the blood of the Lamb. The Lamb is the Lord Jesus Christ. Rephrasing the sentence by substituting nouns for pronouns, we have: “Our brothers overcame Satan by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The blood of Christ is our salvation, our forgiveness, liberation from sin, redemption, and continual cleansing.
…and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen. (Rev. 1:5-6)

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate his j…

Tax Time

It is approaching income tax time, and I have already paid my income tax and property tax. It is very difficult to evade paying taxes. Even if you don't have property to pay taxes on, the owner of the property you live in has included the taxes in your rent. You have paid his taxes for him.

These taxes come due every year. There is another payment that comes due only once in a life time. It is called death.

You may not know it, but there are two deaths. Everyone goes through the first. The fact of being human guaranties the first death. You can anticipate the first death fearfully. But God has made it possible to not be afraid of death. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14-15).

There is another death, called the second death. It is…

Fleets in Being

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:10-17)In the past, between wars, there was an expression “a fleet in being.” It had …

Why?

The question, “Why?” has caused great problems among Christians. It should be a legitimate question, and is in some instances. If the answer is clear in the Word of God, there is no problem. If the question is not answered clearly in the Bible, then it is the answers that are given which cause the problems. Answers are pulled from the blue sky or derived by reasoning, sometimes fallaciously, sometimes convoluted, sometimes legitimate, but still not inspired.

We do not seem to be able to say, “The Bible does not say, so I don’t know,” or, “I am not going to guess,” or, “Let’s search the text for an answer.” We think we have to give an immediate answer.

“Why?” questions can be accusatory (“Why did God command Joshua to kill all of the Canaanites?”) or curious (“Why did Jesus walk on the water?”). These “Why?” questions should only be answered if the person asking really wants an answer and the answer is in the Bible.

Little Sins & Big Sins

Have you ever wondered how men who have been Christians a long time or who are leaders in the church of Jesus Christ have fallen into sexual immorality or divorce, or have been dishonest or unethical in conduct? One answer Christians have given me is that these leaders are special targets of the Enemy because they are so greatly used.

I have difficulty with this answer (although it is possible) because of the statements in 1 Corinthians 10: “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:12-13).

In this passage, there are statements about man, temptation, and God. If a man sins, it is not because of the greatness of the temptation; the temptation is common. Nor is his sin caused by God’s unfaithfulness; God is faithful. Why …

Weapons & Tactics in Evangelism: Limitations & Abilities

Since that battle, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the enemy of our souls has been severely handicapped.

His power is limited. “But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Rev 12:8-9).

His intelligence is limited. “No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:7-8).

His time is limited, and he knows it. “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:12).

Like most beings who have these limitations, his arrogance is unlimited. “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once l…

Weapons & Tactics in Evangelism: God's Objective

God has an objective. It is the salvation of the world. In the past, He assigned tasks to prophets Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David and many others. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways” (Heb. 1:1). Each task had a subordinate objective that was part of the whole.

Then He sent John. “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John” (John 1:6). John’s objective was to prepare the way for Jesus. John was like a highway engineer with a fleet of powerful, fast, earthmoving machines.
A voice of one calling; “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isa. 40:3-5)

John replied in the words …

Spiritual Warfare

There is no question that we are at war. It is a spiritual war. Among evangelicals, there is a limited thinking about spiritual war. We tend to define it in terms of fighting demons, devils, and evil spirits in possessed people or in the heavenlies. This is partly correct. Spiritual warfare does include these things, but they are not what the war is about.

The war is about and over the souls of men. That is what the Bible, the Gospel, the Incarnation and the Cross are all about.

Part of the war took place in Heaven. “There was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back. But the dragon wasn’t strong enough. He and his angels lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down to the earth and his angels with him. The dragon is that old serpent called the devil, or Satan. He leads the whole world down the wrong path” (Rev. 12: 7-9).

The rest of the war takes place on earth.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven. It s…

Continuous Revival

A recent history of revival:

• The East African Revival of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. See Roy Hession’s The Calvary Road, Norman Grubb’s Continuous Revival, and Festo Kivengere’s Revolutionary Love.
• The Welsh Revival very early in the 1900s, where tens of thousands were converted in a few weeks. See Jessie Penn-Lewis’s The Awakening in Wales.
• The Korean Revival and the North China Revivals, also early in the 20th century. See When the Spirit’s Fire Swept Korea by Jonathan Goforth.
• The Great Awakening in the mid-18th century and the Second Great Awakening in the mid-19th century. These two hit England, Scotland, Wales, the Colonies, and the United States.

The United States did not experience anything in the 20th century that could remotely be called revival. We did see two World Wars and the ascendancy of liberalism in the Church. Europe, however, took the most damage from both the wars and the liberalism.

The nations that did have revivals had something else by the middle of …

Rituals

Every church has its rituals, whether it is an Independent Baptist Church, an Anglo-Catholic church, a non-denomination church, or anything in between. Liturgical churches have planned rituals. Non-liturgical churches have rituals by default.

At worst, rituals become idolatrous; at best, they are figures of the true. Between the best and the worst, they are dead traditions. Normally rituals start as figures of Scriptural truth and end up idols.

The rituals described in detail in the Old Testament were meant to be figures of the true, which we can see in Hebrews 7-10. Long before these rituals were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, they had ceased to be figures; they became the real thing to the people who practiced them. When this happened, they were no longer acceptable to God even as figures. Sodom is not the subject of Isaiah 1; Jerusalem and Judah are (v. 1).
Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “The multitude of your sacri…

Why & How

Two of the most basic questions that mankind has had since the Fall have been “Why?” and “How?” In both religion and science, these questions have led to great searches, theories, guesses, and fact-finding. As a result, there have been great advances in science. In the process, there also have been wrong conclusions in every century.

Because of man’s impatience for answers, his credulity, his mysticism, and his rebellion, billions of people live in scientific and spiritual darkness.

There is a basic right answer to every “why?” and “how?” question. The answer is, “The LORD, the God of Heaven who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9).
I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness. (Isa. 45:6-7)

It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. (Isa. 45:12)This right answer has been around forever. Rebelling against Him has caused a great moral problem.

The wrath of God is be…

The Mind of Man

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:11)One of the things I see often is people judging the thoughts and motives of another person with absolute certainty. To them, they are self-evident. The text I quoted is a rhetorical question. Paul is not asking for a show of hands on who knows another person’s thoughts. He is saying that we cannot know the thoughts of another person. We could know if he told us, or we could know if we had his spirit. We could also know if God revealed his thoughts to us. Until then, we must not judge the thoughts of another person. We guess! We guess wrongly and act on our guess as if we were right.

The Mind of Christ

We know more about the thoughts of God than we do about the thoughts of man. How can that be? He has revealed His thoughts to us in the Scriptures, and He has given us His Spirit to understand the spiritual words.
None of the rulers of this world understood God’s wisdom. If they had, they would not have nailed the Lord of glory to the cross. It is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has known what God has prepared for those who love him.” But God has shown it to us through his Spirit. The Spirit understands all things. He understands even the deep things of God. Who can know the thoughts of another person? Only a person’s own spirit can know them. In the same way, only the Spirit of God knows God’s thoughts. We have not received the spirit of the world. We have received the Spirit who is from God. The Spirit helps us understand what God has freely given us. That is what we speak about. We don’t use words taught to us by people. We use words taught to us by the Holy Spi…

Knowing God's Will

What is the meaning of God’s will? What have I to do in order to do God’s will? How can I know God’s will?

There are two ultimate expressions of God’s will in Scripture. The first is our salvation: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4). The second is related: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thess. 4:3a). Both of these were accomplished by Jesus Christ. “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).

So we know that the will of God for us is our salvation, which includes our justification (conversion), holiness (sanctification), and the redemption of our bodies at the Second Coming (again, all paid for in advance).

Since we have already experienced our justification, and we wait patiently for the Second Coming, our participation now is in our holiness (our sanctificati…

Increase

I like the word “increase.” Of course, it makes a difference what it is referring to. Here are a few references from the Bible. I will start with negative-sounding phrases:

Genesis 3:16: “I will greatly increase your pains.”
Proverbs 22:16: “One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth…”
Matthew 24:12: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Now for the blessings:

Isaiah 9:7: “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”
Acts 12:24: “But the word of God continued to increase.”
Acts 6:7: “The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.”
Romans 5:20: “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”

Joyful Singing

There are many ways to express joy: singing, laughter, hugging, cheering, dancing. However, it is possible to sing, laugh, hug, cheer, and dance without joy. We can do these things for pleasure, which is not the same.

In the first instance, the singing is the result of joy. In the second instance, we think that the singing causes joy, although it really causes pleasure. The danger is that we might think that pleasure is joy and also not be able to distinguish between cause and effect.

When the singing in our churches becomes drab, we look for solutions. We get a band with drums, a worship leader, or amplifiers. The singing might improve, or it might just look like it has improved.

A much better solution is to consider that the drab singing is evidence that the saints have lost the joy of God’s salvation (Psalm 51:12). This loss is the result of accumulated, unconfessed, unforgiven sins. Confession of these sins will restore the joy of God’s salvation and, consequently, will restore …

Testing True & False

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 Pet. 1:3)

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)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)Are these things true? Yes. Answer, “True,” and, “Thank God.” After you do this, read the verses again and answer, “Very true,” and thank Him again.

Continue this until the truth of our answer gets beyond your mental understanding and begins to seep into you, so that you are overwhelmed with wonder because of the magnitude of each of the words. This may take some time. These are superlatives beyond our comprehension. We said “True” th…

Worthy of Respect

Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. (1 Tim. 3:2)

Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. (1 Tim. 3:8)

In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. (1 Tim. 3:11)

Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. (1 Thess. 5:12-13)Leaders/servants in the church must be worthy of respect. This is different from all other up-and-down relationships. Children must respect their fathers and mothers because they are their fathers and mothers, not because they are respectable. If it were necessary for parents to be worthy of respect before they become parents, the worl…

Do Not Resist an Evil Person

You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matt. 5:38-42)The Old Testament passage on “an eye for an eye” was a teaching on justice. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught on personal responses to evil directed at you’re your personal response is different from justice.

What is the Teaching? The teaching is self-evident if we do not enter the text with questions like, “Where do we draw the line?” Since that question is not answered in the text, we will assume that there is no line. Jesus did not qualify His teaching.

The basic command is, “Do not resist an evil person.” The five examples that fo…

An Eye for an Eye

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matt. 5:38-42)

Justice or Vengeance? Jesus quoted “eye for eye and tooth for tooth” as it was “said.” It was “said” as vengeance, retaliation, and revenge. It was this saying that Jesus is countermanding.

But isn’t this a quotation from the Old Testament? Yes, it was, but it is not the Old Testament reference that Jesus was speaking to. If it were, He would not have said, “You have heard that it was said.” He would have said, “It is written” and He would not have disagreed with the Scripture. Jesus was disavowing the misquotation of this Scripture by people who …

Life and Doctrine 2

I received this question: “I don’t understand your point on doctrine. How does this compare to the false doctrine (i.e., teachings and preachings) of Christian cults?”

False teaching or false doctrine is countered several places in the New Testament. Here are a few: Colossians 3:17-19, 1 Timothy 1:18-20, and 1 John 4:1-3.

The doctrine that Paul is talking about in 1 Timothy 4:16 is saving teaching. How do we know? “You will save yourselves and your hearers.” What saves is the gospel.

Obviously, the secondary doctrines and practices that divide Christians cannot all be right. Some are not important. Read Romans 14 several times. It is the primary doctrine, the gospel, that saves and sanctifies. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men” (Rom. 14:17-18).

Christians have used the word “doctrine” and the content of secondary tea…

Watch Your Life and Doctrine

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)

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 2:19-21)These are testimonies about Timothy’s life. He was known for his godliness.

Paul later wrote this instruction to him: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). Life and doctrine—save yourself and your hearers. Pretty good stuff. Pretty good results.

What is the life? It is justification and sanctification. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in …