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Showing posts from September, 2020

Rich Generosity in Poverty & Joy in the Midst of Trials

"And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will" (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). We do not usually think of “severe trials” and “overflowing joy” going together. Nor do expect extreme poverty to well up in rich generosity. Another unusual image here is Paul’s description of how the Macedonians “urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” This is refreshing to read after getting so many letters “urgently pleading with us” to give. In this passage, Paul teaches the Co

Sound Doctrine

False teaching/false doctrine comes up several places in the New Testament (e.g. 1 Timothy 1:18-20 and 1 John 4:1-3). The doctrine Paul talks about in 1 Timothy 4:16 is not false teaching, and it is not the distinctive beliefs of various denominations. This doctrine is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. How do we know? It is saving teaching—“You will save yourselves and your hearers.” Obviously our different secondary doctrines and practices cannot all be right. Some are not important. We have used the word “doctrine” and our secondary teachings to create divisions among saved people. To my knowledge, the Bible does not use “doctrine” that way. Read Romans 14. It is the primary doctrine of the gospel that saves and sanctifies and is, consequently, of ultimate importance. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by m

The Sermon on the Mount: “Radical” Realism

The title “The Sermon on the Mount” has a nice ring to it. We think of Jesus, sitting on a grassy slope teaching devoted followers wonderful truths of love and blessing. However, the Sermon on the Mount is not lovely idealism; it is startling realism. We would rather be starry-eyed idealists than have God’s realism. The first is wonderful because it is in our heads only; the second is just too much. Here are some of the reasons God’s realism is “too much,” from Matthew 5: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (v. 11). “It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (v. 13b). “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20). “But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell...” (v. 22b). “I tell you the truth, you will not g

Knowing the Will of God: A Review

This is a topic I have posted on before, but it is good to talk about it again. "It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you" (Philippians 3:1). The important thing in any major decision is to seek to know the will of God. Here are a few principles from the Bible which you can use as a start to help you determine God’s will: 1. Want to know the will of God. "If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own" (John 7:17). If I want to be in the will of God, and God wants to be in His will, there is no way I will miss it. 2. The desires of your heart. "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). Your desires are not necessarily wrong. If you delight in the Lord, He will give you your desires. 3. The witness and leading of the Spirit. "Because those who are led by the Spirit of

The Will of God: What Is It?

What is the meaning of God’s will? What do we have to do in order to do God’s will? How can we know God’s will? There are two expressions of God’s ultimate will in the Scriptures. The first is our salvation: "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3-4). The second is our sanctification: "It is God’s will that you should be sanctified" (1 Thessalonians 4:3a). Both of these were accomplished by Jesus Christ: "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). The will of God for us is our salvation, which includes our justification (conversion), holiness (sanctification), and the redemption of our bodies at the Second Coming. Since we have already experienced justification, our concern now is our holiness (sanctification). Remember, it is already provid

Everyday Holiness: Following God's Plans

“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, who make a league, but not of my Spirit that they may add sin to sin who set out to go down to Egypt without asking for my counsel.” (Isaiah 30:1-2) This text applies to nations, the world, and individuals. They make plans and implement them. They draw up treaties, agreements, and contracts. The plans are not God’s. They do not ask the Lord for advice. Many Christians also follow this pattern. God says, “Woe to the rebellious children.” In the early stages of the conquest of Canaan, the Gibeonites deceived Joshua into making a treaty with them under oath: "The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath" (Joshua 9:14-15). There is a way to follow God’s plans that is not good, but is still better than following your own way: "Be not like a

God Says No

The Bible has several clear texts that describe the way the world does things with an attached command that says “No” to that kind of conduct: "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more" (Ephesians 4:17-19). "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" (Colossians 3:9-10). "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves

No Need for Questions

Jesus had just finished saying to the twelve that after His resurrection they should no longer ask Him anything. They should ask the Father in Jesus name, because the Father Himself loved them. “Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God” (John 16:30). I hope I can write this for our (yours and mine) building up. Normally we would come to two conclusions concerning John 16:30. Either a person who knew all things would not need to ask anyone any questions, or a person who knew all things would want others to ask him questions in order to display his knowledge. Because Jesus spoke clearly and without figures of speech, the twelve could see, first, that He knew all things, and, second, that He did not need to have anyone ask Him questions. These two conclusions made them believe that he came from God. “Knowing all things” would make any person believe that Jesus came from Go

It’s Not Sweetness and Light

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me” (John 15:18-21). The world is not sweetness and light; it is darkness against light. It is hatred against light. This is because of Jesus Christ coming into the world. “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:9). “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exp

Reading the Bible Every Day

Many Christians read the Scriptures sporadically in both time and place. In other words, they read them “now and then” and “here and there.” They gravitate to their favorite chapters. Some of them have never even read the whole New Testament through. The body of Christ is appallingly ignorant of God’s Word, and there is a corresponding lack of obedience. There is no substitute for reading the Word of God. Listening to the best Bible teachers in the world will not make up for personal ignorance of Scripture or replace the benefits of spending time with the Lord in His Word. Here are some helps for you to consider when reading the Word. First, the genealogies in the New Testament take up less than two chapters. If they are a problem to you, skip them for now go back over them separately; it will only take five minutes. They would not be there if they were not important. However, they are not intended to stop you from reading the rest of the New Testament. Second, do not stop fo

The Errancy of Man

"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" (Ephesians 5:3-4). About forty years ago I copied these verses on a poster and hung it on the wall of the stairwell leading to the school mailboxes at a Christian college. The entire student body came down those steps at least once a day. The effect on some of the students surprised me. Until that time, they had thought that using the Lord’s name in vain was the only form of profanity. They carefully avoided it while participating in other kinds of dirty talk. This told me that they did not read the Bible completely, carefully, or often, nor did they read it with the anticipation of finding some undiscovered truth to obey. If this text catches you like it caught them, perhaps you need some help in your Scri

What Is Your View of God the Father?

"In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God." (John 16:26-27) In recent years, I have found that “Christians” have views of the Father that are foreign to Scripture. These views are so awful that the same people ignore the Father and put all of their focus on the Son. This focus is not so that they can come to the Father, but so that they can come to the Son only. These are not "Jesus Only" people. They are evangelical, trinitarian Christians. However, their views of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are so different in character that it would be impossible to have these three be one deity. Here is a suggested exercise. Please go through the Gospel of John and mark every reference to the Father . I think it will be surprising to you, both in how many references there are and in what they say. This post coordin

Forgiveness and Consequences

"Then David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.' Nathan replied, 'The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die'” (2 Samuel 12:13-14). You can read the complete story of David’s awful sins in 2 Samuel 11-12. David violated these commands: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder.” To hide his adultery, David called Uriah home from battle so Bathsheba’s pregnancy would be attributed to him. The lie did not work—Uriah was too honorable. He returned to Jerusalem, but refused to go home while his men remained on the battlefield. The next day David gave a dinner for Uriah and made him drunk. He still did not go home, so David had him killed and took his wife for himself. David did not confess these sins. He was still hiding them (or thought he was) when he was confront

A Different Personality Test: What Type of Sinner Are You?

Have mercy on me, O God, According to your unfailing love; According to your great compassion Blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned And done what is evil in your sight, So that you are proved right when you speak And justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:1-4) The Bible speaks of several types of sinners. The types are not based on what people have done, but on their attitudes towards God and towards their sin. Here are four examples: "Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves" (Isaiah 3:8-9). "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness

What Has Straw in Common with Wheat?

There are many authoritarian religions in the modern world. Whether they are large movements or local ones, they are each still under the domination of one man. It is not long before such movements are off concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ; and then they become immoral. Let me share a word from the prophet Jeremiah concerning this: “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams which they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat?” says the Lord. “Is not my word like fire,” says the Lord, “and like a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am ag

Why Study the Bible?

This article made a great impression on me when I first read it years ago. It assumes that you are already reading your Bible regularly. If you are not, let me encourage you to get into the habit of daily Bible reading. You can join a good Bible reading plan here . – Jim Wilson The Study of the Bible I take it for granted that we all believe the Bible to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. I take it for granted that we all read the Bible with regularity. What I am going to plead for, however, is concentrated, sustained, devoted study of the Bible, the kind of study that is not fulfilled by the perfunctory reading of some passages each day. The set periods of family worship are not, of course, by any means to be disparaged. This is a highly necessary and most fruitful exercise. The influence for good exerted by honouring God’s Word in this way is incalculable for all concerned. Indeed, the minimal use of the Bible in this way has often left an indel

An Invitation: To the Word!

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2). “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). There was a time when there were very few Bibles, even in cultured lands. There were no printing presses, and most of the people were illiterate. If people received the Word, it was through the public reading of Scripture by people who could read and had the Scriptures. Even then, it was read in Latin, not in a language people could understand. In the church today in this country, we ca