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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Godly or Religious?

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Tim. 6:6-8)
These three verses give us a very sweet formula for living: godliness + contentment.

The contentment is provided by God, who also provides our food and clothing. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:31-33).

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). That is religion that is godly. However, being godly is not the same as being religious. Most religion (including Christian religion) is a matter of observance of form. It is easy to be religious.

If someone is godly, he is known to the world as a religious man. The reverse is not true. Religious people are not considered godly; they are considered hypocrites. Many religious people are not godly. Here is a description of religious people in the last days: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (2 Tim. 3:1-5).

Godliness is provided by God. It is not tied to form. It is recognized by the fruit of the Spirit and care for others, whether they are good or bad.

Monday, February 27, 2017

How to Handle Gossip

Here are a few suggestions for what to do when you are on the receiving end of gossip:

1. Draw their attention to Romans 1:29-32: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” And 2 Corinthians 12:20: “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”

The first reference is speaking of unbelievers; the second one of believers, or at least church members. Gossip has no place in the Christian life. Notice the other sins that are listed along with it. Gossip is not a little sin!

2. Listen to the gossip and write it down word for word. Read it back to the gossiper. Ask him/her, “Is this true?” If the gossiper says that he/she doesn’t know, ask the gossiper why they repeated it. If the gossiper says that it is true, then request that they sign their name under your transcript of what was said.

3. Listen to the gossip. Ask for a confirmation of the truth of it. Then say, “Let’s go and correct this person together about this awful thing you say they did.”

4. Walk away. Do not listen.

This action will have three effects:

• Some of the people will quit gossiping.
• Some will now gossip about you.
• You will be left out of the gossip circuit.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Bad Words

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Eph. 5:1-5)
Our speech is to be with thanksgiving and for the encouragement of others. It should not contain unwholesome talk—“obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.”

There are no definitions of unwholesome talk, obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking in the Bible. The Apostle Paul seems to assume that the people he is writing to know what he is talking about. The words that are commonly understood to be obscene or filthy in the English language cannot be found in most English dictionaries. They have a definition understood by constant usage. They have contextual definitions.

Here we have a command to be carried out with no written definitions. We know what those definitions are. People have used obscene language for centuries, not because they did not know that it was filthy, but because they did know it was filthy. There was, and is, a delight in the use of things that are vulgar, dirty, and unclean.

However, there are people who wish to quibble about definitions, assuring us that the words they use are not obscene; their definition is different, or the words are just colorful, or poetic, or it is the hearer who has the problem or the dirty mind.

There are also people who would never think of saying something dirty. Instead, they use exclamations which are not dirty but are euphemisms for the dirty words. They think that they can be innocent and expressive at the same time. Examples of these euphemisms are “Shucks!,” “Heck!,” “Shoot!” “Frick!” and “Dang it!” There are others that I do not have the freedom to write. There are also euphemisms for using the Lord’s name in vain such as “Dog-gone it!,” “Golly!,” “Gosh!,” and “Dag Nab it!”

Innocent? Perhaps. Perhaps not! Jesus made a very strong statement concerning the words we use: “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37).

Do I have to walk around in total fear, unable to function normally because of this clear teaching about careless words? No, there is a preventative that allows us to be normal: “...and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5b).

Friday, February 24, 2017

Bridling the Tongue

Chris Vlachos was on CCM staff in Provo, Utah, for 10 years, pastored a church in American Fork, Utah, for 18 years, and is now on the faculty at Wheaton College. We have had a request for his article Bridling the Tongue, so I thought I would send it to all of you.

Some time ago, a magnetic storm occurred in New York state that caused a conversation on a telephone line to interfere with the radio waves emitted from a nearby radio station. As a result, the conversation was broadcast on the radio without the knowledge of the two talkers. It was a coast-to-coast program!

All of us at one time or another have been guilty of gossip. In fact, there is enough gossip in many a church to make the recording angel weep as he records it. It is a sinful practice which God takes seriously and wants us to stop.

Paul speaks of gossip in 1 Timothy 3:11: “Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.” Lest we think that men are immune to this disease, Paul similarly addresses them in his second letter to Timothy, predicting that in the last days men will be “unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good” (2 Tim. 3:3).

The Greek word which Paul uses in these two instances is the word diabolos, from which we derive our word “devil.” We don’t need to consult our calendar of saints to know who the patron saint of gossip is! A gossiper is nothing more than “the devil’s mailman.”

Diabolos is also at times translated “slanderer.” Gossip is slander. In the passage quoted above from 2 Timothy, Paul places gossip in the middle of a list of other vicious practices. Clearly, the serious nature of gossip is indicated.

Unfortunately, it is often difficult to detect gossip/slander in our own speech. How can we know if we are gossips? There are four questions to ask ourselves when we are tempted to share information concerning someone else. The answers to these questions will likely indicate whether or not we are gossiping/slandering.

1. Why am I saying this? Is my real motive to criticize? Am I really out to help the person about whom I am speaking, or is my goal to hurt them? Often under the guise of sharing a prayer request we are really gossiping/slandering. We rationalize our gossip when our real aim is to put the other person down in order to cast ourselves in a better light. Be careful how you answer this first question. If you catch yourself trying to excuse something negative that you are about to say concerning someone, you are probably on the threshold of slander.

2. Is it possible there is another side to the story? Webster defines gossip as “spreading rumors.” A rumor is an unauthenticated story. If our story is unauthenticated, we are gossiping. It has been said that it isn’t the people who tell all they know that cause most of the trouble in the church; it is the ones who tell more than they know.

3. Would I feel comfortable saying this to Jesus? How would He answer us after we shared with Him some negative information concerning another? Very likely He would respond by asking us what relevance the information has to our following Him (John 21:22). If you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing the tale with the Lord, then it is probably unsuitable to share with anyone else.

4. Am I building up the person I’m speaking to by sharing this? Charles Spurgeon once said that gossip “emits a three-fold poison; it injures the teller, the hearer, and the person concerning whom the tale is told.” We should be very careful to heed Paul’s exhortation: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph. 4:29).

The answers to these four questions will help us to detect gossip/slander. If after asking them, you are still not sure if what you about to share is gossip, then don’t say it. Is it really necessary that you do?

One last thought: How can we stop this sinful habit of gossiping that not only plagues our lives but invades and destroys churches? The cure for gossip is twofold. First, don’t spread it. Gossip is something that goes in one ear and out the mouth. Bridle your tongue! If you can’t say anything good about somebody, then don’t say anything at all. Secondly, don’t listen to it! You can’t have gossiping tongues unless there are gossiping ears. Don’t encourage the gossiper. Don’t be quick to believe what is said. Steer the conversation to a discussion of the person’s good points. Nothing will more quickly stop the gossiper/slanderer than doing this.

It has been said that gossip has neither legs or wings but is composed entirely of “tales.” Sadly, most of these tales sting and have a poisonous effect on the work of revival in a life or a church. Although we are bothered from time to time by wasps in the sanctuary, may this diabolical pest, gossip, become extinct in our churches.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, what ever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil. 4:8)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why Are You Silent, Lord?

“They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor” (Hab. 1:7). God is speaking of the Babylonians here. In fact, earlier (v. 6) God said that He was “raising up the Babylonians.” This was in answer to Habakkuk’s complaint that God did not listen (v. 2) and tolerated wrong (v. 3). God was going to punish evil nations with an evil nation.

Habakkuk further complains: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Hab. 1:13).

In Habakkuk 2:1-12, God gives several answers to these questions, but in the end they are moot questions because verse 13 gives a comprehensive answer. “Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:13-14).

God takes the long view. No one will get away with anything. Psalms 37 and 73 raise some of the same questions and give an answer. This is to encourage you to read and meditate on these Scriptures.

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.

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

Jesus:
• “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.

Friday, February 10, 2017

More on Searching the Scriptures

I received the following question about searching the Scriptures: “I did not understand this part; please explain: ‘It is wrong to think that the teacher’s veracity is being validated when the student has been given the teacher’s own texts.’’

Suppose that there are several different views that Christians hold concerning a certain aspect of theology. A teacher may teach his beliefs and give the students many Bible references to look up. However, he might only give the Scriptures that agree with what he is teaching. If the student reads only them, of course he agrees with the teacher.

If the student searched the Scriptures, he would be reading a lot more than the references given to him by the teacher. The student might still agree with the teacher. On the other hand, he might find Scriptures that differ with the teacher. His searching should be broad, not narrow.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Search the Scriptures

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
The Bereans were commended for two things: their eagerness to hear the truth, and their insistence on checking to see if it was true. Their authority was the Scriptures, and they searched them.

Teachers today encourage their students to be like the Bereans. They tell their students where to look in the Scriptures. Sure enough, the students look up those verses and realize that their teacher is telling them the truth. They have not searched the Scriptures! They have been led into thinking that they were searching Scripture when they were just given more teaching.

It is not wrong for a teacher to give Scripture. It is wrong to think that the teacher’s veracity is validated when the student has been given the teacher’s own texts.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Gifts: Teachers and Evangelists

And when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (Acts 11:26)

So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. (Neh. 8:2-3)

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way. (1 Cor. 12:27-31)
The list is in order of importance. “First of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers…” “Are all teachers?” That is a rhetorical question. The answer is “No.” “But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” We are told to desire the greater gifts, and to desire them eagerly. Being a teacher is one of these greater gifts.

Over the years, I have talked to many people who wanted to be in full-time Christian service. Very few have wanted to be involved in evangelism. They say that they do not have the gift of evangelism. They want to be teachers, disciplers. However, they do not say that they do not have the gift of being a teacher. But they might not have it. They are going to be trained to teach, and they are going to learn what to teach. They are going to sidestep the desire for the gift and get trained instead.

It is amazing. They think that evangelism requires a gift, and teaching only requires training.

Ungifted teachers are one of the major hindrances in the church today. “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).

“Eagerly desire the greater gifts.” “Not many of you should presume to be teachers.” Contradiction? No! One is a desire for a gift from God. The other is a presumption.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Willful Sins

Recently a friend asked a question about Christians today, which got a ready answer from me. There is a prayer in Psalm 19 that does not seem to be applied by many of us. “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression” (Psalm 19:12-13).

We do not confess known sins (1 John 1:7-9) or request cleansing from secret sins. We do not request help for obedience in small things or deliverance from addiction to them.

If we did, there would be no danger of us committing any great sin. Great sins are caused by a multitude of unconfessed, willful sins that are now ruling over us. A great transgression is the next event. In many evangelical churches, there is great transgression happening right now. We do not understand how it happened. The answer is simple: the guilty person did not pray verses 12 and 13. He may have been surprised himself by this great sin. While the rest of us are wondering how it happened, we are busy with our own willful sins, letting them get dominion over us, setting us up for great transgression.

There is an another reason for this great transgression. We brothers in Christ who saw it coming did not intercept him before it happened or confront him after it happened. Here are our excuses:

• We do not want to be judged by those who say, “Do not judge.”
• We are able, but unwilling to confront him.
• We are willing, but not spiritually qualified to confront him. “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). “How can you say to your brother ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:4).
• We are not willing to get qualified. “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5).
• We are not willing to introduce kind, loving, biblical discipline into the church. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matt.18:15-17). “But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (1 Cor. 5:11-12).
• We do not want the brother to take offense. He may hold us to be in the wrong for correcting him.

As Christians, we should help in the prevention of sin and the repentance from sin.

Monday, February 06, 2017

The Full Armor

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 powers 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. (Eph. 6:10-13)
The first three chapters of Ephesians tell us of the riches we have in Christ. It would be difficult to meditate too much on these riches. After that are two and a half “obedience” chapters, followed by teaching on war—real, deadly war. Notice that verses 10 and 13 both say, “Put on the full armor…” The emphasis is on the wholeness, the completeness of the armor, “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” The devil is not stronger than the armor of God, but he is wily enough to hit us where there is no armor.

When I get defeated, it is not because the devil is stronger, but because I am uncovered or because I think the enemy is flesh and blood (some person) instead of the real enemy.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

The Gospel

Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? (Heb. 3:16)

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. (Heb. 4:1-3)

For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:13-17)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: “They will all be taught by God.” Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. (John 6:44-45)
From these passages, we learn that faith is caused by hearing the message, the preaching of Christ. We also learn that it is possible to hear and learn, hear and rebel, or hear and not combine learning with faith.

There are many who cannot believe, because it is the gospel that causes belief, and they have not heard the gospel.

There are some (maybe many) who can believe because they have heard the gospel but will not learn, will not combine their hearing with faith, will not come, call, or repent. These are not make up the majority of unbelievers. The majority of the lost are people who cannot believe because they have not yet heard the good news.

I will gladly send you free copies of Letters on Becoming a Christian and other gospel booklets for your distribution. Contact me at jimwilson27@frontier.com.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Animism

God in his self-revelation to men started with Adam, then Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, the judges, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, occasional kings, prophets, Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, Ezra, Malachi, Zechariah, and John the Baptist. These men lived across the four thousand years before Jesus. In addition to communicating to them directly, God also had much of His revelation written down in the books of the law, the prophets, and the Psalms. The Israelites disobeyed the prophets and the Scriptures. In the same four thousand years, there were many tribes and nations who did not have the Scriptures nor the men of God to speak to them. They were nations made up of animists and then idolaters.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. (Rom. 1:18-23)
All peoples started out as nihilists worshippers of the true God through general revelation through God’s creations. Psalm 19 describes this general revelation, then the specific revelation.

General Revelation:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth. (Psalm 19:1-6)
Specific Revelation:
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
They are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:7-14)
Both revelations, general and specific, have rebelled against so that both animism and idolatry affected the people who had specific revelation. We are told in Matthew 28:18-20 to make disciples from these same nations and tribes.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Unbelief

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him. (John 3:36)

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (Heb. 3:12)
Unbelief is a great sin. It applies to those who have heard the gospel and not believed, those who have not heard the gospel, and those who heard, believed, and in a believing state do not believe God.

Many real Christians fall into this last category. It is possible to understand unbelief in those who have not heard (even though is it still inexcusable—cf. Romans 1:20), because it is the gospel that causes belief. It is very difficult to understand unbelief in believers.
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing-- if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? (Gal. 3:1-5)
These Christians did not remember how they were saved; they had forgotten what they believed. Another explanation is that Christians are not reading their Bible. Consequently, the world is their major source of belief. It is a bad source.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Idolatry

“Present your case,” says the Lord. “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King. “Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear. But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless; he who chooses you is detestable.” (Isa. 41:21-24)

Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. (Psalm 115:2-8)
We would like to think that idolatry is so self-evidently wrong that of course it disappeared out of this world long ago. That isn’t so. The objects of idolatry may have changed, but it still follows the pattern described in Romans 1:20-23: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

And the results of today’s idolatry are the same:
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Rom. 1:24-32)