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

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Christian Life 3: I Am a Christian

As a Christian you may read your Bible, you may memorize verses, you may study them in context, or you may read commentaries. These can all help you understand the Scripture, but they will only help you obey it if the truth gets beyond your mind and into your heart. Your mind is the road to your heart. For many Christians, this road is a dead-end street. It is not a through-way to the heart.
Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Cor. 8:1)

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)
You need your heart to be filled with good things, not just your head.

If you would like to do this, here is the way to start filling your heart.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Christian Life 2: Am I Saved?

Some of you do not know that you are saved. I will be glad to send you many assurances from God (or you can read them here), but in the meantime here are a few:

Read the five chapters of 1 John several times and see if you fit the description.

Now look at Galatians 5: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:19-21).

Does this describe you, or does the following describe you?

"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. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:22-24).

If you think that you are in both lists, assume that you are unsaved. If in fact you are really saved, then get out of the first list right now.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Christian Life 1: Not a Christian

Some of you know that you are not a Christian but you would like to be if you only knew how. I will be glad to write to you personally to help you in any special problems you have. You can reach me at jimwilson27@frontier.com.

In the meantime, here are a few beginning thoughts: "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 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. 10:9-17).

Start reading the gospel of John and the book of Romans.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Intro to the Christ Life

My next few posts will be on the Christian life. It will be teaching, but I will not be doing the teaching. The text will do the teaching. You will be taught to live the life because you have open eyes, open ears, and an open heart.

In order for this to be, you must be a Christian, because a person who is not yet a Christian is not able to understand or live. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Cor. 4:4).

You may know that you are not Christian, but you would like to be one if you only knew how. I will be glad to write to you personally to help you in any special problems you have.

In the meantime, here are a few thoughts to get you started: "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 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. 10:9-17).

Start reading the gospel of John and the book of Romans.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Agape Leadership & Praying for the Government

"If Christians only knew how their prayers for kings and governor are heard in Heaven, they would not be meddlers with this world's politics." - RC Chapman

R.C. Chapman lived for the entire hundred years of the nineteenth century. I highly recommend the abridged version of his biography, titled Agape Leadership. When I first read the book, I immediately ordered 100 copies of it for the bookstore I was running. If you are in Moscow, come see me, and I will give you a free copy.

The Bible tells us how these prayers are heard in heaven. "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles" (1 Tim. 2:1-7).

Here are the answers: 1) peaceful, quiet lives in all godliness and holiness and 2) all men saved and coming to a knowledge of the truth. Can you imagine that? Godly, holy, peaceful, quiet lives and a quiet harvest of souls.

The Apostle Paul declared that he was appointed as a herald and an apostle. With his gifts, Paul could have been a senator or a lobbyist, and a very effective one. Instead, he was a pray-er and a preacher in order to be far more effective. Here are some of his prayers:
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 endurance 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. (Col. 1:9-12)

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9-11)

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Eph. 1:15-21)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 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. 3:14-21)

Monday, April 23, 2018

I Tell You the Truth

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! (John 8:45)
In the four Gospels, Jesus says, "I tell you the truth," over 60 times. What comes after that expression is always amazing. If anyone else said these things, we would think that they were not telling the truth.

When the Holy Spirit is promised, He is called the Spirit of Truth.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)

When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. (John 15:26)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Deceived & Being Deceived

Deception does not require an intent to deceive, to tell something that you know is false as if it were true. It only requires that something be not true. Passing on false information is deception, even if the teller thinks it is true. The truthful person says, "I am telling the truth." The liar says, "I am telling the truth." It is up to the listener to know the difference. We need to be experts on truth. It helps for us also to be an expert on the Liar. "And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes" (2 Cor. 2:10-11).

Deceiving and being deceived is the normal order of business in the non-Christian world. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Tim. 3:12-13).

Lies from the Deceiver can be grouped into two areas: theology (who God is) and morality (God's requirements).

The Deceiver wants to deceive people, and people want to be deceived. We see this in Romans 1:21-23: "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." That was theological deception. The results were immoral.

"Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another" (Rom. 1:24). Again there was a theological lie... "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen" (Rom. 1:25).

...leading to increased immorality: "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural 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 indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion" (Rom. 1:26-27).

Followed by more bad theology: "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done" (Rom. 1:28).

And even more immorality: "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" (Rom. 1:29-31). The lie is about God, and the result is immorality.

It is not necessary to know you are telling a lie in order to deceive others. You have been deceived, and by passing on what is untrue, you become a deceiver.

"Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist" (2 John 7). This includes all of the Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Animists, Muslims, Mormons, JWs, atheists, liberal Christians, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and many evangelicals who are not saved.

If it is untrue, and they are teaching it, they are deceivers. If it is true, and they reject it, they are also deceivers. It may seem unkind to say this, but if it is true, do we care that these deceived and deceivers are lost?
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 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 3:35-36)

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

How to Hide the Word of God in Your Heart

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)
There is a kind of Bible study that goes beyond reading, Bible memorization, group Bible studies, subject studies, and looking at Old Testament references in their context. Meditation is more mystical and practical. That may sound like a contradiction.

Let me tell you what meditation is not. It is not looking for a deeper, hidden meaning in a te. It is not looking for a codified arrangement of the text; it is not numerology. And it is not saying that the plain meaning of the text that we got from our previous reading and studying is not the right meaning. We probably got the right meaning, and we can repeat it back. We know the text!

What, then, is this kind of Bible study? Well, it is not our understanding; it is where we understand it. Do we understand it in our heads or do we understand it in our hearts? Most study ends up in head knowledge. In other words, if we were given a lab exam on what we had studied, we might not do as well as we would do in a written exam.

If we had studied Matthew 5:38-48, we might come up with the right answers on paper. Would we do as well if we were put into a laboratory with evil people who persecuted us, sued us, hit us, forced miles upon us, asked us for money, and borrowed things from us?

When I go into this kind of a lab, I must have everything I know about the Bible transferred to my heart. My actions—planned and unplanned—come from there, not from my head. Having it in my heart makes it practical. This is where I want to store all of this good stuff so that when I overflow, good stuff comes out. Here are three teachings from the gospels that describe this practicality, good and bad.
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. (Matt. 12:34-35)

"Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him "unclean.” ... He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'” (Mark 7:15, 20-23)

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)
Transferring true knowledge to my heart is a mystical event. It is not done by concentration or hard study. Early in my Christian life I memorized a lot of Scripture verses. I knew them word-for-word, with their references. I could call them up at anytime. It did not occur to me, or to others, that I was not living out these Scriptures.

After about three years, I got suspicious. It was one thing for my brain to overflow and spout out Scripture. It was another thing, entirely, for my heart to overflow. I thought that memorizing Scripture was hiding His Word in my heart. It was not; it was hiding His word in my head. In other words, I might be able to pass a written test. It was a sure thing that I would not pass the lab test.

I thank God that neither test is given, since we have been saved by grace. After we have been saved by grace, we are to be careful to do good works. “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10)

Our new birth guarantees that we do not continue to sin, that is live in sin.
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3:6)

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Rom. 6:18)

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Rom. 6:22)

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 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. (Gal. 5:19-23)
These Scriptures are not commands, they are indicative statements. They just are.

There are "heart" commands given to us after the new birth. For example: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:1-2). These good works, whether they be the fruit of the Spirit or physical actions and words, are works that come from our hearts. The truth is that we are in the lab all of the time.

Let’s look at a few Bible examples of this lab.
Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (Phil. 2:14-16)

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. 5:39-42)
Each of these texts contains commands. Look at them again! What do they say? Do you understand them? Are they clear?

You may have other questions. If they are questions like, “What does it mean?”, “Where do you draw the line?”, “You mean I cannot invite my parents?”, “How rich?”, “Suppose he is wrong!”, “Suppose he is evil!”, then you probably understand in your head and certainly do not understand with your heart. To understand with your head, ask this question: “Is it clear?”

After you answer yes, praise God with thanksgiving. When you thank God for His commands, you will begin to hide the Word in your heart.

How do you continue? Soak in these Scriptures, muse, meditate on them so that you begin to pray for the lame and the blind, your enemies, and evil people. Confess anything in your heart that is hindering willing heart obedience. Then begin to anticipate, long for, and pray for an opportunity to obey without conditions or excuses.

If you do not understand the previous paragraphs, and you are a Christian, something is very wrong. It may be that you are too comfortable in your evangelical church. You realize that if you suddenly obeyed these commands from the heart, you would be out of step with your friends. In other words, you do not want to be godly if it means being different from the rest of the saints.

Meditation does not take study. It takes prayerful, willing submission to the text. That is why and how it can be done all of the time.
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)
Soon, you will anticipate and long for opportunities to put your meditation into action.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Judge Not" & Caring for Casualties

In the early part of the Vietnam War, I visited an officer at Walter Reed Army Hospital. He had been badly burned when his jeep hit a land mine. The Vietnamese soldier who was with him was also critically injured. These two men were fellow soldiers.

When they became casualties, however, the great difference between them became evident. The American went to a U.S. hospital and on to full recovery. The Vietnamese went to a Vietnamese hospital, where he was almost certain to die. My friend told me how thankful he was to be in the U.S. Army instead of the Vietnamese Army. He had been a casualty in the Korean Conflict also, so he knew what he was talking about.

The difference lay in the quality of care given to casualties. In other wars, in other armies, at other times, there was an even greater difference than in the quality of care. There was no care at all! Casualties were left to die. Their deaths had a significant impact on the men who remained uninjured. They were not willing to risk themselves in combat when they knew nobody cared enough to rescue them if they were injured.

We had to relearn that lesson the hard way with Navy pilots in the Southwest Pacific in early 1942. When a pilot had to ditch because his plane was shot up or had run out of fuel, the decision was made not to risk the lives of more pilots and other planes and ships for one man.

That decision was based on economy, not morale. The morale of the pilots went down so far that the decision was quickly reversed. The next pilot in the water was rescued at the expense of several other planes.

We have not had that problem since in the U.S. Armed Forces. Rescue and care of casualties is given high priority. I personally observed this when we kept minesweepers and a rescue destroyer in Wonsan Harbor for three years, in spite of the fact that all the land around the harbor was held by North Korea. We were stationed there to pick up pilots who ditched in the calm water of the harbor. I was on a destroyers and spent several weeks during each of 1951, 1952, and 1953 picking up those pilots.

Admiral Mitscher’s decision to guide his Air Groups home after the First Battle of the Philippine Sea by turning on all the searchlights on all the ships of Task Force 58 was one of the great moral and morale decisions of the Second World War. He risked the lives of thousands to save the lives of a few.

We Christians are engaged in a spiritual war that is far greater than World War II. It includes all people and nations everywhere. We have learned much about the conduct of war on the spiritual plane. We have learned about evangelism; we have learned about training and what is called “discipling,” but we haven’t learned about caring for our casualties. We haven’t learned about caring because we don’t care.

Caring for casualties is not high on our priority list. We have been taught to spend our time with the faithful few, not with the unfaithful ones, who are the casualties. The faithful few are a delight to be with, so the espirit de corps seems high.

There are many casualties; we cannot hide from them. I cannot exist comfortably in an army where the overwhelming majority of soldiers are casualties who are not being cared for. I cannot maintain high morale in such an army. It would be false—fake. To purport to have high morale under such conditions is blinding yourself to reality.

We Christians are not just an army; we are a body. "So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it" (1 Cor. 12:25-26).

The healthy parts suffer too, if they are part of the body. If they are not suffering and caring, it is because they are not part of the body or because they also are not healthy. They think they are healthy, when in reality they also are sick.

The current status of our spiritual army looks bad to me, with many casualties and most of the rest not caring.
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. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:1-2)
There are at least two reasons for not caring. First is the cost. If we commit ourselves to caring for an invalid, then our time is committed. We cannot forsake the ill person. We anticipate that likewise, if we lovingly begin to care for a spiritual casualty, then we will be forever attached to that invalid. If there is more than one invalid, we can anticipate all of our time disappearing. We are not willing for that to happen.

One of the fallacies in this thinking is that these people will keep on being invalids. They won't. Loving, gentle care restores them, and quite rapidly. They cease to be casualties.

The second reason is our hesitancy to use spiritual judgment. The enemy has infiltrated the camp of the believers through a misapplication of Matthew 7:1-2: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Christians regularly say to each other, “Judge not!” This peer pressure (which itself uses the Word of God in a judgmental fashion) paralyzes and intimidates the caring believers so that they don't care for the casualties. They are led to pretend that these casualties are not really injured at all. The results are obvious.

Matthew 7:3-5 completes the context of the “do not judge” teaching: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 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? 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.” This commands us to get rid or sin in our lives so that we may remove the speck from our brother’s eye. That is loving, gentle care for a casualty. The purpose of “judge not” is to keep unqualified people from caring for casualties. People who would make the situation worse are not to participate in the care.

Paul says, “You who are spiritual…” (Gal. 6:1), you who have removed the plank, you who see clearly—you are able to judge. When Jesus said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7), He was keeping unqualified men from taking care of casualties. He then took care of her. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

When we quote these verses to each other, we in effect stop even an attempt to care for the one who is hurting. Why? Because we all have planks in our eyes; we have all sinned. We are not fit either for delicate eye surgery or for capital punishment.

But we are Christians. God has made it possible for us not to be hypocrites. He has made it possible for us to get rid of our planks, to get rid of our past sin. In other words, He expects us to get qualified, to be spiritual. “I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?” (1 Cor. 6:5).

God has placed a requirement to care is place on us. We can come up with the excuses of the religious men in the story of the Good Samaritan. That man was a casualty, and he could not help himself. The same situation exists today, and Jesus, commending the Samaritan, said, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

In almost every church and Christian group, there are men and women who have become casualties. In many cases, a Bible study or an annual conference is the means of restoring those believers to full health, to a high stage of “combat readiness.” But there are situations where it cannot wait for the conference. “You who are spiritual should restore him gently.” If you are not qualified, then call on someone who is. But do not do nothing!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Christian Fellowship

Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. (Mal. 3:16)

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:3-4)
God listens to us talk about Him and has a special book of remembrance for us. Our fellowship with each other is also with the Father and the Son.

It seems to me that much Christian "fellowship" today is fun, food, and not much about the Father and the Son.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Detestable to God

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. (Prov. 6:16-19)

All of these things the Lord hates. Lying is in the list twice. However, I want to draw your attention to the last phrase. “A man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” God hates disunity.

Think back to your years in junior high. Were there kids who were expert in stirring up dissension? They seemed to delight in it. How about since then? Have you ever been involved in or observed a church fight in a local congregation?

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Heb. 12:15). If bitterness springs up, it defiles many people, and dissension happens. We are instructed to see that no one misses the grace of God. This disunity has to be stopped.

Here are two passages of Scripture with the same solution.

“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people” (Rom. 16:17-18).

• Watch out for them.
• Keep away from them.

“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).

• Warn him a maximum of two times.
• Have nothing to do with him. Why? He is warped, sinful, and self condemned. He is not serving the Lord Christ, although he may be an effective communicator by smooth talk, flattery, and lying.
• Don’t be naïve.

For more on this, read I Have Given Them the Glory.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Patience of God

"The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.... Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence.... God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways" (Gen. 6:5, 11-12). This was the state of man before the flood.

"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’” (Gen. 18:32). Sodom and Gomorrah would have been spared for ten righteous people.

“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city. Although they say, 'As surely as the LORD lives,' still they are swearing falsely” (Jer. 5:1-2). If there had been one righteous person, Jerusalem would have been spared in 587 B.C.

In the past, the percentage of righteous people did not have to be very high in order to withhold the physical judgment of God. In the future, there seems to be a different standard for withholding spiritual judgment. It is the patience of God.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives. (2 Pet. 3:8-11)
The standard is not a minimum; it is now a maximum (everyone). God’s patience is exercised towards everyone because He wants everyone to come to repentance.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Hear & Obey, For There's No Other Way

A command is just words unless it is obeyed. When obeyed, it has great results.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matt. 7:24)

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 7:21)

Whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:19)

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 13:15)

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. (John 14:21)

If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. (John 15:10)

...teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt. 28:20)
A Christian is defined in terms of his obedience.
-He will enter the kingdom of Heaven.
-He is a wise man.
-He is great in the kingdom.
-He loves God.
-He remains in God’s love.
-He makes disciples of Jesus by teaching obedience.
Remember that all obedience is by grace and faith. It is not by effort or willpower.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Counterfeiting Christianity

Be careful not to do your "acts of righteousness" before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.... And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.... When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (Matt. 6:1, 5, 16)

Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long. (Matt. 23:5)
How does the Bible define hypocrites? A hypocrite wants to appear good without becoming good. Underneath this appearance, there is also false teaching: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are" (Matt. 23:15).

The world’s use of the term hypocrite agrees with Jesus’ use of the term, with this exception: Jesus identified the hypocrites to their faces. The world will accuse all Christians of being hypocrites. They do not want to admit there are some non-hypocrites in the church. If they did admit that, it would ruin their excuse for not becoming a Christian.

One day over 50 years ago, I was in the Lamplighter, our bookstore at the University of Maryland. A college student came in, wandered around a bit, and decided to tell me why he was not a Christian. Our conversation went something like this:

Student: “I am not a Christian because of the Conquistadors, Crusaders, Inquisitors, and hypocrites.”

Me: “I agree with you on all of these people, and I am a Christian. I don't see the connection.”

He looked at me as if I had not heard what he had said. Why did I not understand?

I said, “Tell me, were the Conquistadors Christians?”

“No, they weren’t Christians!”

“Were the Crusaders Christians?”

“No, they weren’t Christians!”

“Were the Inquisitors Christians?”

“No, they weren’t Christians!”

“Are the hypocrites Christians?”

“No, they're not Christians!”

“This is a marvelous thing. You just told me that you are not a Christian because of four kinds of non-Christians. That does not make sense at all! That is like rejecting concrete because Styrofoam doesn't act like concrete. Tell me, have you heard of a counterfeit $10 bill?”

“Yes.”

“Why do people counterfeit $10 bills?”

“Because the real bill is worth ten dollars, and the counterfeit is worth nothing.”

“Have you ever heard of counterfeit brown paper?”

“No.”

“Why don't people counterfeit brown paper?”

“Because it isn't worth it.”

“That's right! There has to be a ‘real’ that is worth something before anyone will make a counterfeit. Suppose you were cheated out of $20 by exchanging a good $20 bill for two counterfeit $10 bills. You would be angry. You would get so angry you would reject U.S. currency from then on! Right? No. That would be foolish. Just the fact there is fake money proves there is a real thing that is worth something.

"You have seen some counterfeit Christians; that should tell you there are real Christians out there that these hypocrites are attempting to counterfeit. What should you do? You should find a real Christian, one who is filled with love, joy, peace, and patience and clearly confesses the Lord Jesus Christ. Examine him. If, after doing that, you wish to reject Christianity because of the real thing, then that is at least honest, if not very smart. Better yet, examine Jesus and reject Him because of Him.”

Later that evening, this particular man received Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The hypocrite who wants to appear good without becoming good is a person who is pretending to be a Christian. The unbeliever who objects to this takes credit for not being a “pretend Christian.” However, he does not realize that he will end up in the same lake of fire as that hypocrite. They both need to repent to the One who will save hypocrite sinners and non-hypocrite sinners.

Monday, April 09, 2018

No Neutrality

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus kept repeating basic truths. Here is one of them. It is not a contradiction; it is a repetition.

“Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)

He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters. (Luke 11:23)

For or against. We are tempted to think there is a third choice called “neutrality.” We should know better. There are only two sides in the spiritual war. There is not a no-man’s land in between. There are many Christians who try to stay neutral or keep a foot in both camps. Jesus will have none of it.

Although you are a Christian, if you are not gathering, you are scattering. And if you are casting out devils in Jesus' name, you are part of His team.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Discussing Theological Differences

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Cor. 1:10)
My son and I were in a discussion over an apparent difference when he said something like this: “When talking across a theological divide, it is difficult to communicate when we hear what is said with our own definitions while the person who is speaking is using his definitions.”

We both realized the truth of this. What is the solution?

In normal serious communication, the burden is on the communicator. If he wants to be understood, he will try to speak with the definitions of his hearers. That is true for all nations except America. Americans expect everyone to speak and hear in English. If we really want others to understand our message, we must either learn their language or get an interpreter. If I were an interpreter, I would seek for words that are identical, or very close, to the meaning of the words being translated.

Not so in theological dialogue. Each person wants to use the word with his own definition and wants to hear with his own definition. This is not only a cause of misunderstanding, it is a cause of willful misunderstanding.

However, if I were willing to use the hearer’s definition of my word grace in order to be understood, it would not be the word grace. If I used grace, he would hear it with his own definition and therefore would think I was saying something that I was not saying.

In order to use the word grace, I must come up with a common definition or use a word that means what I am saying.

Sometimes the same word can have very different meanings in the same language. When Lucy was in the wardrobe, C.S. Lewis wrote, “It was almost quite dark.” That did not make sense to me. In American English, quite means almost. To me he was saying “almost almost.” In British English, quite means completely.

In theological dialogue, neither side wants to give up the word grace, because it is the single biblical word that provides the righteousness that comes from God (and every other need we have which we cannot provide ourselves). When the word is used this way in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, people are justified.

It is a common definition. People are saved by this common definition of the word. If we talked with each other with this common definition, there would be “unity in mind and thought.”

Thursday, April 05, 2018

How to Wear the Right Clothes

This is not a fashion blog. But these clothes are even more important than the ones in your closet.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one anther. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col. 3:12-14)
Paul is speaking clearly to Christians here. How do we know? He calls them God’s chosen people, holy, and dearly loved.

He then tells these Christians to put on undergarments of:

• compassion
• kindness
• humility
• gentleness
• patience

Although these characteristics are part of us, they all relate to other people. I don't have compassion for myself. Rather, I have it for others. When I have kindness or patience for or with someone, it is not condescending, nor does it take willpower or effort on my part.

In verse 14, Paul tells the believers to put on love, and he gives them an opportunity to practice the character and qualities of this underwear. How?

“Bear with each other.”
“Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.”
“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

The instruction to bear with each other prevents annoyance and any grievance. Bearing with each other keeps attitude sins from happening.

Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. This takes place after a grievance has occurred. There is no hint that the source of the grievance is a sin. It might not be. The grievance may be the other person’s idiosyncrasies. If it is a sin, it should be forgiven, whether or not that person confesses it. This charge is directed to one another. It is a two-way command. The obvious places are between husbands and wives, church members, roommates, and co-workers.

Forgive as the Lord forgave you. This does not mean, “Do not forgive him until he repents or at least says he repents.” Yes, we are to forgive him when he says he repents. "If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him" (Luke 17:4). However, his repentance is not a required condition for forgiving him.

Now we put on the outer garments of love. Get dressed properly every morning.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The Unity of the Saints

I have recently published a book on Christian unity called I Have Given Them the Glory. It is available on Amazon and CCM's website. The chapters were originally written as e-mail messages called Day & Night over a period of several years.

The primary assumption in the book is the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures. The promises, prayers, commands, and narratives are not up for consideration. They are to be believed and obeyed.

The church is made up of individual members, separate parts of the Body of Christ. The book is written to the parts, not to the whole. The whole cannot obey. Only the parts can.

God tells us to be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). The NIV says, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."

Through this book, I hope to draw attention to the commands of Scripture regarding Christian unity. If we realize that we, as individuals, are not obeying them, I hope that we will come to repent of our disobedience.

This seems to be hard for many of the saints. To make it simpler and maybe easier, I suggest you read How to Maintain Joy.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Should You Avoid People Who Offend You?

I received this question from a reader of How to be Free From Bitterness. It may apply to some of you also: “I do have one question I hope you can answer that I don’t believe is addressed [in the booklet]. Generally speaking, should we continuously place ourselves in the company of those who repeatedly offend us?”

First, what kind of person are you? Do you take offense easily, even when the person has no intention to offend? Do you not take offense easily, even when the person wants to offend? (There are other combinations, too.)

If you are the first, then the solution lies with you, not the offender. The best way to keep from being hurt or offended is to stay vulnerable, like a pillow. Do not try to make yourself invulnerable by building a fence around yourself. That is the way to get hurt more. That way you become hard and later cynical. A fence is a passive means of resistance, which means there will be a collision, which means hurt.

If you are avoiding temptation by staying away from those who repeatedly offend you, it may mean you have to stay away from Christians, your church, and your relatives. Running away from a moral temptation, like Joseph did, is the right action. Running away from the saints, your husband, your wife, and your children is not right.

Jesus was vulnerable.
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Pet. 2:21-24)

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col. 3:13)
A better way is to ask God for grace not to get offended and for grace to love the offender.

For more help escaping the trap of taking offense, Brad Scheelke, CCM's Utah evangelist, recommends the book The Bait of Satan by John Bevere.

Monday, April 02, 2018

It Is Possible to Not Sin

This is a truth many Christians do not see in the Scriptures. Why?

• They have already sinned as a Christian, and they then interpret the Word of God in the light of their experiences. That is backwards. We are to conform our experience to the Word of God, not the other way around.

• They derive doctrine from stories of disobedient believers in the Bible . This is self-justification.

God gave us commands, and God gave us the provision we need to carry out those commands. God does not give impossible commands to Christians. He does not tell us to do things He knows we can't do.

• “My dear children, I write this to you SO that you will not sin” (1 John 2:1). The key word in this verse is so. That word connects the provision “I write this to you” with the requirement “that you will not sin.” The Word of God is the provision.

• “And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:3-4). The key words are in order that. The provision is “He condemned sin in sinful man.” This condemnation made it possible for us to fully meet “the righteous requirements of the law.” In the same sentence, there is the provision of the Spirit of God.

• “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom. 6:2). The provision is “We died to sin.” We cannot live in something we have died to.

• “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). You are slaves of righteousness.

• “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:9-10). The provision is “You do not have the old self.” You have the new self, which is becoming more and more like its Creator. Therefore, do not lie.

• “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 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. 1:3-4). The provision is His divine power.

• “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. 10:13). God is faithful.

• “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Pet. 1:15). God is holy.

These Scriptures are not taken out of context. Please read the chapters they are from.

It is possible to not sin!

If you would like to read more on this subject, I have written a book on it: Dead and Alive: Obedience and the New Man.