Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Day

There are primarily three views among professing Christians concerning the observance of Christmas Day. 
1) A holy day that should be faithfully observed  
2) A pagan festival that should be faithfully rejected (Catholic system is full of paganism) 
3) A cultural tradition that is harmless so long as it is not observed in a way that dishonors God and His word. In other words it is an issue of personal liberty. I personally view it as a great opportunity to witness (tell people WHY He came) and spend quality time with family. It is not a religious day for me. I esteem every day alike. 

God gave Israel various holy days in the Law (Christmas wasn’t one of them) but He did not give the Body of Christ any holy days under grace (Col. 2:8-17). So, what about all the professing Christians that esteem days like Sunday, Christmas, and Easter above other days. There is a difference between those who are weak in the faith and therefore do not fully understand and appreciate their liberty in Christ (Rom. 14:1-12) and those who are trusting religious observances to be right with God (Gal. 4:8-11).  

Christians should love and stand for the TRUTH. Our Savior is THE TRUTH and the word of God is TRUTH. We should NEVER choose the traditions of men over the truth of God. Was Christ born on December 25th? Is that truth or tradition? Well, the Bible does not give us the date of Christ’s birth, but there things in the Bible that indicate He was not born in December. The Bible does not always just plainly STATE things for us. There are many things that require STUDY if we are going learn the truth about them. I believe God wrote the Bible in such a way that we must search it to learn His truth. 

Read Luke 2:1-20
1. It is very unlikely that the Roman Emperor would have tried to enforce a taxing on the people at the most inconvenient and inclement season of the year. It would have been asking for an uproar and revolt among the people who were already hostile toward the Roman authorities. The fall would have been the best time because the agricultural round of the year was complete and many Jews were traveling anyway to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. 
2. How could Mary, being great with child, have undertaken the 70 mile journey through a hill district averaging 3,000 feet above sea level in the dead of winter? 
3. Shepherds and their flocks would not have been abiding in the open fields at night in December. There would have been no pasturage for the flocks during that time of year. The custom was to withdraw the flocks and house them for winter. 

Read Luke 1:5-31
Jesus was conceived in the virgin’s womb the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. So, if we can know about the time that Elizabeth conceived John, we can add sixth months and have a good idea of when Jesus was born. It is clear that Elizabeth conceived very soon after her husband arrived home from fulfilling his course in the temple. 

King David divided the priests into 24 courses to work in the temple. The course of Abia was the 8th course (1 Chron. 24:10). Each course began on the sabbath and lasted a week. The priests fulfilled two courses a year plus they all worked during the three great feasts (Deut. 16:16). Israel had a lunar calendar and their sacred year began with the month of Passover (Nisan, our April). According to Dr. Bullinger, the two ministrations of the course of Abia would have been Sivan (June) 12-18 and Chisleu (December 6-12). Because we don’t know which ministration Gabriel appeared to Zacharias, we can’t be sure when Elizabeth conceived John.  But based on either one, Christ wouldn’t have been born in December. 

If Gabriel appeared to Zacharias in June, he would have made it home around the 21st or 22nd (would not have traveled on the Sabbath and would have taken a day or two to get home) and it is reasonable to assume Elizabeth conceived John on the 23rd or 24th. That would put the birth of John around the end of March. Adding in the 6 months would put the conception of Jesus at the end of December and His birth at the end of September. It would be fitting for the Word to be made flesh on the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16; Lk. 2:10). 

We don’t know the exact date that Christ was born but we know that He was. Likewise, we don’t know the exact date He is coming again, but we know that He will! I believe God had very good reasons for not revealing the date for either advent. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Woe to the World! Christ is Coming Again

Revelation 19:11-21

The Son of God was born into this world about 2,000 years ago in literal fulfillment of prophecy. The prophecies became more and more specific as God progressively revealed His plan. He foretold that the coming Redeemer would be:

1. Of the human race (Gen. 3:15)
2. From a section of that race- Shem (Gen. 9:26)
3. From a nation of that section- Hebrew (Gen. 12:3)
4. From a tribe of that nation- Judah (Gen. 49:10)
5. From a family of that tribe- David (2 Sam. 7:16)
6. Born of a member of that family- virgin woman (Isa. 7:14)
7. Born in a village of that family- Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2)

And there are MANY more prophecies about the first coming of Christ into the world (His life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, ascension). Isaiah 53 contains about 30 prophecies of Christ in just 12 verses! His crucifixion was described in detail about a 1,000 years in advance in Psalm 22. Prophecy proves the inspiration of scripture (2 Pet. 1:19-21; Isa. 46:9-10).

Jesus Christ, who is the truth and cannot lie, promised His disciples, “I will come again”. The writer of Hebrews said that Christ will “appear the second time” (Heb. 9:28). There are much more prophecies of His second coming in glory than of His first coming in humiliation. The prophecies of His second coming will be just as literally and exactly fulfilled as were the prophecies of His first coming. The world acknowledges that Jesus was born but most do not know the truth about who He is and why He came. He was born of a virgin and was God in the flesh. He was the king of the Jews but His own nation rejected Him. He willingly laid down His sinless life on the cross as a sacrifice to pay for the sin of the world. He arose bodily the third day and then ascended up to Heaven. He is coming again in glory to rule and reign on the earth. The world can tolerate baby Jesus in the manger but they scoff at the prophecies of His coming again in glory. The world is not looking forward to this event but God is! It is the most anticipated event in scripture.

This present age was a mystery God planned before the world began but kept secret until he revealed it through Paul after the fall of Israel. The mystery of the body of Christ and our rapture to heaven is only found in Paul’s epistles. This age began with a glorious appearing of Christ as recorded in Acts 9 when the message of grace came down to Paul and it will conclude with a glorious appearing of Christ when the body of Christ goes up to meet Him in the air. After that rapture God will resume His dealings with Israel and fulfill the final seven of the 490 years prophesied in Dan. 9. It is AFTER the seven year tribulation period that Christ returns visibly to the earth to establish His righteous kingdom.

The theme of Revelation is stated in its introduction (1:7). The bulk of the book is about the judgments that will come on the earth before Christ returns. But throughout Revelation we are given several glimpses of His return. In chapter 19 we finally come to the actual event. At this point in the book the climax of the revelation has been reached with the presentation of Jesus Christ as the glorified King of kings and Lord of lords. All which precedes this passage is in a sense introductory and that which follows is an epilogue.

I. The Advent of Christ (vs.11-13)
This is the second white horse rider in Revelation. He stands in stark contrast with the first white horse rider who came at the beginning of the tribulation (6:2), the antichrist.
A) His powerful entry (“I saw heaven opened”) – sudden, unexpected, public, visible, glorious, terrifying descent from heaven to earth (Matt. 24:27-30). There is a marked out path He takes into Jerusalem.
B) His names:
1. Faithful and True – in contrast with antichrist who was unfaithful (broke covenant) and false. No man is faithful and true in his flesh. Faithful to His promises and true to His person. He is who He says He is and will do what he says He will do!
2. No man knew – He receives a new name (3:12; 2:17; 19:7), describing His deity, no man knows but He knows. W
3. The Word of God – The scripture refers to Christ as "the Word" seven times. As the Word He reveals and declares the Father. In this passage the Creator redeems His creation (Jn. 1:1-3, 14, 18)
4. King of kings and Lord of lords – His title as the Son of Man, the kingdoms of the world become His kingdoms, therefore He has many crowns
C) His description (contrast with first coming). He comes:1. Not on a donkey but a fiery white charger
2. Not with His eyes filled with tears but as a flame of fire
3. Not called a blasphemer and deceiver, but called Faithful and True
4. Not wearing a crown of thorns but many crowns
5. Not wearing purple robe stained with His blood but His vesture dipped in the blood of His enemies
6. Not forsaken by His followers but with His armies following Him in conquest
7. Not with a mouth speaking words of grace but of judgment
8. Not to bear the wrath of God on the cross but to tread the winepress of the wrath of God
D) His purpose – He is coming to judge and make war with His enemies (“man of war” Ex. 15:3; Isa. 42:13-14; Zech. 14:3). Contrast with this age: grace and peace!

II. The Armies of Christ (v.14)
The word “armies” implies different groups return with Christ to the earth. He comes with angels (Matt. 25:31; 2 Thess. 2:7-9). One angel slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers! He comes with His saints (Zech. 14:5; Jude 14-15). This is primarily about the saints of Israel. The remnant of Israel still on earth when Christ comes will be raptured into the land.

III. The Authority of Christ (vs.15-16)The government of the world will now be on His shoulders (Isa. 9:6-7; Zechariah. 14:9). Ps. 2; Isa. 11:1-9; 63:1-6
A) He smites – sword of His mouth (2 Thess. 2:8; 1:16; 2:16; 19:21)
B) He rules – rod of iron, forced subjection (1 Cor. 15:24-25)
C) He treads – all His enemies will be under His feet

IV. The Avenging of Christ (vs.17-21)
This is the battle of Armageddon (14:17-20; 16:12-16). Armageddon means the mount of Megiddo. The valley there is a great battlefield. Napoleon called it the most natural battlefield in the world. It was there that Deborah and Barak destroyed Sisera and his host (Judg. 5:19) and King Josiah was overthrown by Pharaoh-Necho, king of Egypt (2 Kings 23:29). Slaughter and lamentation are associated with Megiddo (Zech. 12:11). It is a real locality, and the battle yet to take place there will be just as real. Many prophecies (Isa. 34; Zech. 14).

This supper is in contrast with the marriage supper. One is of joy and the other of judgment. BOTH take place upon the return of Christ to earth: (Isa. 63:4)
A) Destruction of His enemies (Ezek. 39:17-22) – “flesh” 6 times, they chose the flesh and now their flesh is devoured. God will use the fowls to eat the carcases in order to cleanse the land and prevent pestilence.
B) Deliverance of His people – permanently joined to His people, they to their land ("Beulah")

It may seem that evil will prevail in this world. But, we know how it will end! God’s word is absolutely SURE (Matt. 24:35).

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Problem and the Solution

After God made the "heavens and the earth, which are now" (2 Pet. 3:7), He "saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). But as we look at the world around us we see MANY things that are very bad. The world is full of trouble, suffering, sorrow, and death. What happened? Who's to blame? 

The Devil (that name means slanderer) wants man to blame God for his problems. After all, if God was so loving why would He allow all this suffering? Have you ever noticed the stark contrast in the way the book of Genesis opens and closes? It opens with a man walking with God in paradise but the last verse of the book refers to a dead man in a coffin in Egypt (Gen. 50:26)! How did that happen? The third chapter of Genesis reveals the answer. Suffering and death are the results of SIN (Rom. 6:23) and sin entered the world through MAN (Rom. 5:12). Man is to blame. 

The failure to believe the pure word of God brought about the fall of man. After casting doubt on what God said the serpent added just one word to what God said ("ye shall NOT surely die") and that LIAR (Prov. 30:5-6) decieved the woman who in turn tempted the man and he willing disobeyed the word of God. But God, in amazing grace, has provided a way of salvation and He has revealed it in His word. 

As by one man came death, so by one man comes life (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45-49). The first Adam brought ruin through disobedience. The last Adam brought redemption through obedience. The last Adam was tempted while fasting in a wilderness (contrast with the first Adam in the garden surrounded by food). Satan also tampered with the word of God when he tempted Christ (misquoted Ps. 91:11-12). What audacity to tempt the Word of God (Rev. 19:13) with a misquote and misapplication of the word of God! Thank God the Lord Jesus was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross! He perfectly accomplished what the Father sent Him to do. Because of His death, burial, and resurrection God offers salvation as free gift to any sinner that will simply BELIEVE the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4). We are instantly and permanently justified by "the faith of Christ" (Gal. 2:16). The faith of Christ is perfect and proven. We become children of God by our faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26). 

So, just as the fall came by unbelief, so salvation comes through believing God (Rom. 3:22). Faith is believing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) and as Christians we are to walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7). We must grow spiritually by feeding on the pure word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). While our outward man is perishing our inward man can be renewed day by day through the word of God (2 Cor. 4:16). The Bible is not everything that God knows but it is everything He wants us to know and that we need to know. God has a great plan for the ages and it is revealed in His word. As we learn the Bible and believe the Bible we can walk by faith in this fallen world with a peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). The word of God reveals reasons that God allows His people to suffer in this life "which is but for a moment". We are "more than conquerors" in the suffering that we must face (Rom. 8:35-39) and we know the best is yet to come (Rom. 8:26-34). The "sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18). Thank God for the "comfort of the scriptures" (Rom. 15:4)!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Romans 6

I. Declaration (vs.1-2) – We are dead to sin (sin as a nature)
II. Description (vs.3-10) – How it is that we are dead to sin (standing)
III. Application (vs.11-23) – How this truth is to be lived out in daily life (state)

There are three key words in this chapter: "know" (v.3, 6, 9), "reckon" (v.11), and "yield" (v.13, 16, 19). I believe v.17 is a key verse on how to live the Christian life. God seeks to transform us from the inside out (Rom. 12:2). 
Doctrine > Know > Spirit > Head (vs.1-10)
Heart > Reckon > Soul > Heart (vs.11)
Obey > Yield > Body > Hand (vs.12-23)  

Declaration (vs.1-2) 
Paul anticipates and answers the wrong response to what he just stated (5:20-21). He knew that the natural mind that cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God would reason, “If grace is reigning in this age of grace, and the more I sin, the more grace God bestows, why not just continue in sin?” That is not the mindset of a true child of God that believes with all his heart that Christ shed His blood and died to take away his sins. Paul was slanderously reported as preaching grace as a license to sin (3:8). Those that stand for and preach the gospel of the grace of God should expect the same slander from religious people who vainly think that it’s the law that gives people victory over sin (6:14-15). Israel lived under the law for 1,500 years and was constantly backsliding from God! The law is righteous but it was given to show that we are unrighteous. It cannot make us righteous. Salvation by grace is not salvation TO sin but FROM sin (free from sin - 6:7, 18, 22). 

Description (vs.3-10)
Many think they must be emotionally stirred by preaching every Sunday if they are going live for God but at the root of our practical failures in the Christian life is our ignorance of the truth of God’s word, especially concerning our standing in Christ. We don’t know about this standing through our feelings or experiences. Do you feel dead to sin? But God said that we are! We must study the word of God daily if we are going to be spiritually strong. Sound doctrine is foundational to spiritual growth. We can’t believe and obey what we do not KNOW. We must know that upon salvation we were baptized by the Spirit into Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and are therefore identified with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection (in Ephesians we learn that we are also ascended and seated with Him in heavenly places). We don't have to try and get victory over the flesh because Christ already accomplished it for us and we are complete in Him (Col. 2:10)! By the way, the spiritual baptism that Paul talks about in his epistles is NOT the same thing as the baptism "WITH the Holy Ghost" that was prophesied to Israel and was always accompanied by signs and wonders. There is a difference between Christ baptizing His disciples with the Holy Ghost for power and the Spirit baptizing us into Christ for salvation. 

Application (vs.11-23)
We must reckon (count it so) in our heart the doctrine that we know and then yield ourselves in obedience to the Spirit (Gal. 5:25; Rom. 12:1-2). Just like we chose to obey the lusts of the flesh we can now choose to obey the leading of the Spirit. Trust and obey! 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fall Away?

There are certain passages of scripture on which theological battles have been fought for hundreds of years. Perhaps the chief battle ground on which the issue of the eternal security of the believer has been fought is Hebrews 6:4-6.
(4) For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
(5) And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
(6) If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Is it possible for a member of the Body of Christ to “fall away” and lose salvation? There are many Bible teachers out there who persistently claim that this is the correct interpretation of this and other passages of scripture. The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). When it is handled correctly it is the most beneficial thing there is. However, when it is handled wrongly it can be used to cause much damage and destruction. The Bible is also compared to fire (Jer. 20:9). A fire can be used for something good, like warming a house. But it can also be used for something bad, like burning the house down. The apostle Paul said that he was not guilty of “handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Cor. 4:2) but sadly many others are. Satan had the audacity to misquote scripture to Christ as he sought to tempt Him! In Matthew 4:5-7 the Devil quoted Psalm 91:11-12 but purposely omitted the words, “to keep thee in all thy ways”. The promise of Psalm 91:11-12 was not given for the purpose Satan was trying to get Christ to use it for. Paul warned us that Satan has “false apostles, deceitful workers” and “ministers” who appear as “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Our only safeguard against deception is Holy Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16) and that “rightly divided” (2 Tim. 2:15).

As we rightly divide this passage it is very clear that it is not teaching that members of the Body of Christ can lose salvation. First of all, the passage is found in a book that was written to HEBREWS. There are no Hebrews in the Body of Christ (Gal. 3:26-28) for it is one new spiritual man (Eph. 2:15). We are not sure who wrote the book, but we are confident that it was not Paul. Apparently, false teachers wrote a letter to the church at Thessalonica and signed Paul’s name to it (2 Thess. 2:2). Therefore Paul gave an evidence of the letters he wrote to help the church determine the authenticity of his letters. Paul usually used someone else to actually pen the words that he spoke by inspiration but he personally wrote the salutation with his own hand in every letter. He cites this as a “token” to identify letters sent from him (2 Thess. 3:17). Every epistle in the Bible that was written by Paul starts with the same word – “Paul”. The book of Hebrews does not have this token salutation. The doctrinal material for this present dispensation is found in the letters of Paul (1 Cor. 3:10; 4:16-17; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:7) and his teaching on the eternal security of the believer is very clear. We are “sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30) by the Spirit. Because we have been justified, we are confident that nobody can lay “anything to the charge of God’s elect” (Rom. 8:33) and therefore we know that nothing shall be able to separate us from “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). Jesus told His Jewish disciples that they were in the hand of God (John 10:27-30). That’s a safe position but not as safe as being the hand of God! Believers in this present dispensation of grace are members of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 5:25-32). This standing is not based on our works but solely on the person and work of Christ (Phil.3:7-9). If we are ever lost, than that means Christ failed and His body has been mutilated! This can never happen. Men that teach we can lose salvation based on Hebrews 6 deny the clear teaching of the apostle to the Gentiles in favor of scripture that was written to Hebrews.

The Book of Hebrews was written to show Jews how much better the new covenant is as compared with the old covenant. Although both covenants affect Gentiles, they are actually made with “the house of Israel” (Heb. 8:6-13). It is primarily written to Jews in the tribulation period, exhorting them to ENDURE and be faithful in order to obtain salvation. The Bible is a complete revelation. Where is the scripture for the multitudes of tribulation saints? We believe that Hebrews through Revelation was written for them (of course there applications in these epistles for us too). For example, Hebrews 3:14 teaches that people in the Tribulation period are not “partakers of Christ” unless they remain “stedfast unto the end”. The “end” refers to the Second Coming of Christ to the earth at which point Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26). This matches the teaching of Christ concerning the condition for salvation in the tribulation period (Matt. 24:13). Today, believers are INSTANTLY in the Body of Christ upon salvation. 

In Hebrews 3-4 the provocation of God at Kadesh-barnea is mentioned. This was the great crisis in the history of Israel as they were ready to go into the Land of Promise. In Numbers 14 we learn that Israel had been enlightened, they had tasted of the fruits of the land, they had experienced miraculous powers, and they had the good word of God. But they turned back in unbelief because of the giants in the land. That generation missed their opportunity to enter the land and died in the wilderness over the next 40 years. When judgment was pronounced by God, they had a change of heart and presumed to go in. God was not with them so they were defeated in battle and could not enter the land. They fell away and could not be renewed unto repentance. In the same manner Israel at Pentecost had been enlightened by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, they had tasted of the heavenly gift, they tasted the good word of God that was preached to them, and they experienced the signs and wonders of the coming kingdom age (“world to come” Heb. 6:5b). They were on the threshold of the kingdom (Acts 3:19-21) yet they, like their fathers, turned back in unbelief. The kingdom was postponed in Acts 7 and God ushered in a new dispensation that He had kept secret since the world began. The risen and glorified Christ from Heaven revealed the mystery of this present age to the apostle Paul. After this age closes with the mystery of the rapture Israel will have a final opportunity to repent and receive her King and His kingdom. There will be a godly remnant of Israel that receives the King and His kingdom and will enter their land fully and finally redeemed by the blood of the new covenant. 

No one today could duplicate the experience of Hebrews 6:4-6 any more than they could Numbers 14. National Israel committed the "unpardonable sin" (Matt. 12:31-32) of rejecting the Holy Spirit’s testimony to the risen Messiah after Pentecost and they are now blinded in part until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in (Rom. 11:25). No one today is tasting of “the powers of the world to come” and so since the conditions laid down in Hebrews 6 are not being met today, neither are the consequences.

Acts 2 (part 3)

In our last post we considered the apostle Peter’s message to the men of Israel on the day of Pentecost (vs.14-40) in which he proved from the scriptures that the same Jesus that they rejected and crucified was raised and exalted by God and that He is both Lord and Christ. The end of the chapter records the response of the Jews to that message (v.41) and the manner of living of the church at Jerusalem (v.42-47). 

The Response (v.41)

3,000 Jews gladly received Peter’s invitation to repent and be baptized. They had been pricked in the heart and were troubled by their guilt of crucifying their Messiah and so when they heard that they could receive the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost they GLADLY responded. That 3,000 were saved on Pentecost is usually held up as example of great revival. However, there was a great multitude that heard the message and the majority did not repent. The whole nation needed to repent (note "every one of you" in v.38) and although 3,000 was a good start it was still a comparatively small number in light of the fact that the whole nation needed to repent.

This verse is often used as a proof text to teach that water baptism puts you into the church. However, what happens in this verse is in response what Peter said to Israel in v.38 which is not the message we are to preach today (compare with Acts 16:30-31). Peter did not tell these Jews to be baptized to join the church but to receive remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost. We should never rip a verse out of its context in order to support a preconcieved idea. In this present age every believer is baptized by the Spirit into the church which is the Body of Christ upon salvation (1 Cor. 12:13). That is the "one baptism" upon which the fellowship of the Body of Christ is to be based (Eph. 4:5). Yes, the apostle Paul baptized believers (Acts 16, 18) but there is no record of him commanding it as a requirement for church membership. I believe in the importance of the local church and that water baptism is for this age but I don't believe water baptism is required for salvation or fellowship. The only passages of scripture that REQUIRE water baptism are in the context of Israel and the gospel of the kingdom. 

The 3,000 repentant Jews were said to be added to “them”. Who are the “them” (v.47)? This is the first mention of the word “church” in Acts. A church is simply a called-out assembly and the term is NOT exclusive to this age (there was an OT church, Acts 7:38). The church in early Acts was made up of Jews that believed the gospel of the kingdom and were therefore called out of unbelieving Israel (v.40) and assembled as the “little flock” of true Israel (Lk. 12:32). This church was in existence before Acts 2, else how could the 3,000 souls be added to it (Acts 1:4, 15)? The church we read about in the beginning of the book of Acts is made up of Jews only (Acts 11:19) and they are still operating with the kingdom in view. Many preachers claim that we are to follow the pattern of the church in Acts 2 but I don’t see any of them doing it.

The Manner of Living of the Church at Jerusalem (vs.42-47)  

They were stedfast in:
1. The apostles’ doctrine – Which was the doctrine Christ taught them in His earthly ministry and in the 40 days prior to His acension. It was all based OT prophecy concerning the kingdom (Acts 1:3; Rom. 15:8). 
2. Fellowship – They were together and in one accord. According to the order of words in this verse, their fellowship was based on their doctrine.
3. Breaking of bread – Some say this refers to the Lord’s Supper but it probably just refers to meals (v. 46)
4. Prayers – They observed the hours of prayer in the temple (Acts 3:1)

Being baptized with the Holy Ghost, the apostles had power to work the wonders and signs of the kingdom which caused the Jews to fear because this was being done in the name of the One they had crucified (v.43; 5:12-16).

Because the kingdom was still in view and they were expecting the return of their King they sold all possessions just as Jesus had instructed them (Lk. 12:32-33). This proved their faith because in the kingdom they will gain much more (Matt. 19:28). They were able to have all things common because they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. This does not work in the world because of man's sinful and selfish human nature (Marx misused this passage to teach communism). Compare this passage and Acts 4:32-37 with Paul's instruction to us in 1 Thess. 4:11-12 and notice the dispensational difference.

This church was in the TEMPLE every day for prayer and worship. There was no revelation at this point that they were not to operate according to the Law (see Peter's attitude in Acts 10:14, 28). 

Because they were in fellowship with God and one another they had joy (1 John 1:3-4). At this point the people showed favor to the disciples but soon the Jewish leaders will begin to bring persecution as they stubbornly refuse to repent. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Acts 2 (part 2)

A simple outline of Peter's message in vs.14-40:

I. Introduction: Explanation of what was Taking Place (14-21)
II. Theme: Proof that Jesus is Lord and Christ (22-36)

III. Application and Conclusion (37-40)
The apostle Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost as he preached this message. These are not his words but God’s words thru him. Surely this is an example of what God expects preaching to be. The sermon is:
  1. Pointed (directly addresses the audience)
  2. Plain (clear and easy to understand, no complicated theological terms)
  3. Powerful (v.37 - based on the word - Heb. 4:12)
Notice that there aren't any frivolous stories, jokes, or wasted words. It is very different from the average sermon preached in churches today.   
Introduction (vs.14-21)
(v.14) - Peter was appointed by Christ to be the leader among the 12 apostles (Matt. 16:19). The same man who in fear and confusion had denied the Lord is now going to speak with great boldness and authority for the Lord. The explanation for this transformation is that he saw the risen Christ and is now filled with the Holy Ghost.  
(v.15) - Peter quickly dismisses the ridiculous charge that they were drunk. Drunkenness certainly never made anyone smarter so how could they speak in other languages if they were drunk? Nobody in that culture got drunk at 9:00 AM (I Thess. 5:7). Not to mention the fact that it was a feast day and it was customary for the Jews to not eat or drink before that hour.
(vs.16-21) – Peter quotes the prophet Joel as an explanation of what was taking place. He did not say that the prophecy was being completely fulfilled (for example, vs.19-20 didn’t take place). He is saying that what was taking place was in ACCORDANCE with Joel’s prophecy. It was a foretaste of it and if the nation would repent it would be soon fulfilled. The “this” in “this is that” refers to the prophecy he was quoting. Peter certainly understood the prophecy that he was quoting because Christ opened prophecy to him (Lk. 24:45) and he was filled with the Holy Ghost. The prophet Joel says NOTHING about the Body of Christ and this present Mystery Age. Joel 2 deals with the tribulation period, Second Advent of Christ, and Kingdom Age which concern the LAST DAYS in regards to Israel (See Isa. 2:1-5, not to be confused with the last days of the mystery in 2 Tim. 3).
Theme (vs.22-36)
(vs.22-24) – The earthly ministry of Christ to Israel was filled with works that proved He was sent by God the Father (Jn. 5:36) but they rejected and crucified their Messiah because they were in spiritual darkness. The Jews thought that the fact Jesus was crucified proved He was not the Messiah because they were looking for a mighty King to rule and reign on the earth. Peter explains that the crucifixion was planned by God (God knew they would reject Him) but that they were responsible for it (He did not make them reject Him). The very One that they crucified, God raised from the dead. 
(vs.25-31) - Peter quotes the prophecy of David about the resurrection of Christ found in the 16th Psalm. It was not possible that Christ should “be holden” of death because He was the Holy One. Psalm 16 teaches that the Messiah would rise the 3rd day (corruption sets in on the 4th day, Jn. 11:39) and that after He was risen He would reign.  
(vs.32-36) – Peter says that he and the apostles are witnesses to the fact that God fulfilled Psalm 16 by raising up Christ from the dead. He is not only risen but He also ascended to Heaven and is exalted at the right hand of the Father. The fact that He sent the Holy Ghost as He promised and that they could see and hear the evidence of that proves it. Peter quotes Psalm 110 which teaches that the Messiah is the LORD and that after His rejection He would ascend back to Heaven until He returns to judge His enemies and set up His kingdom.  
Peter indicted Israel for murdering Jesus and let them know that God exalted that same Jesus as Lord and Christ. Yes, he talked about the death, burial, and resurrection but he did not preach the good news that Christ died for their sins and that they could be saved instantly and permanently by simply believing that. He preached the cross as bad news and did not glory in the cross as Paul later does after he received the gospel of the grace of God by revelation (Gal. 1:11-12; 6:14). If Peter knew that gospel in Acts 2, what was his problem in Acts 10 and why did Paul have to communicate his gospel to him in Acts 15 (Gal. 2)?
Application and Conclusion (vs.37-40)
(v.37) - Peter did not have to give an invitation because the people were under such conviction of the Spirit that they immediately spoke up and asked what they needed to do in light of the fact that they crucified their Messiah.
(v.38) – This verse is a Jewish apostle’s response to a question asked by Jews that just heard him preach a message about their Jewish Messiah and yet many are the false teachers that lift it from its context and try to force it on Gentiles today! This is the same message that John the Baptist preached except now it is with the promise of the Holy Ghost (Mk. 1:4-5) and Israel must repent for killing her Messiah. The phrase "for the remission of sins" in v.38 doesn't refer back to the cross (as many teachers claim it does) anymore than it did when John the Baptist preached it BEFORE the cross. The baptism of repentance did not look back to the cross but forward to the Second Coming of Christ when Israel will have their sins remitted as a nation (Acts 3:19). Water baptism didn’t save but it was required as an expression of the faith and repentance under the gospel of the kingdom (Mk. 16:16).
To prove that this message is NOT for us today just compare it with Acts 16:30-31 when the apostle to the Gentiles answered a Gentile sinner when he asked, "what must I do to be saved?" Water baptism is NOT part of the gospel of the grace of God (1 Cor. 1:17).

(v.39) – The promise of the Holy Ghost poured out was made to Israel. The “afar off” in this verse are not the Gentiles (as commonly taught) but the dispersed Jews (Dan. 9:7).

(v.40) – After reading 14-40 you might think that Peter’s sermon was short. Not every word of what he preached is recorded here. He exhorts them to separate from apostate Israel and take their place with the “little flock” that will inherit the kingdom (Matt. 21:43; Lk. 12:32).


Friday, September 18, 2015

Acts 2 (part 1)

Acts 2 is one of the most misunderstood and abused chapters in the Bible. For example, the Charismatics try to use this chapter as a basis to teach that believers should seek "the-baptism-of-the-Holy-Ghost" with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues (2:4). Then there is the so-called “Church of Christ” and other groups that try to use this chapter to teach a sinner cannot be saved without water baptism (2:38). There are a number of false doctrines based on a misinterpretation of Acts 2. The reason for all this confusion is a failure to obey the divine rule of Bible study given in 2 Tim. 2:15. When we rightly divide the word of truth we understand that the present mystery dispensation in which we are living was not even revealed in Acts 2. If the Church which is the Body of Christ began in Acts 2 (as many claim), nobody knew about it at that time because it was a mystery revealed through Paul (Eph. 3:1-13) and he was not even saved until Acts 9. The basis upon which God is building the Body of Christ is the cross of Christ (Eph. 2:14-17) but that does not mean it was revealed at the time of the cross. What takes place in Acts 2 concerns the nation of Israel and their prophetic kingdom program (2:5, 14, 22, 36). 

The Day of Pentecost (2:1) 

The Day of Pentecost was a Jewish feast day. Leviticus 23 outlines the seven annual feasts of Israel that took place in the first 7 months of the year (7 is a key # in God’s dealings with Israel). These feasts have prophetic significance. The first three have been fulfilled (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firtsfruits). The fourth (Pentecost) began to be fulfilled in Acts 2 but due to Israel’s rejection of the kingdom it still awaits complete fulfillment. The final three also await fulfillment. Here is an overview of the prophetic significance of the last four feasts:
4. Pentecost – On the day after the seventh Sabbath (50 days, "pente" = 50) was the day of Pentecost which was a celebration of the anticipated harvest. On this day two wave loafs with leaven were offered before the Lord. Some say these two loaves picture Jews and Gentiles that were baptized into one body in Acts 2. However, the only Gentiles present in Acts 2 were proselytes to Judaism (v.10). Also, the Body of Christ is not pictured by two loaves but ONE BREAD (1 Cor. 10:17). I think the loaves picture the division of Israel and Judah that will be made one in the kingdom (Ezek. 37:16-23). Notice that Peter says “men of Judea”, “men of Israel”, “all the house of Israel”.  God appointed the day of Pentecost as the day He would begin to pour out His Spirit. This was the baptism with the Holy Ghost that the Father promised and was in anticipation of the Kingdom Age.
5. Trumpets – Took place on the 1st day of the 7th month and pictures the re-gathering of Israel.
6. Day of Atonement – Took place on the 10th day of the 7th month and pictures the salvation of Israel upon the Second Advent of Christ.
7. Tabernacles – Took place on the 15th day of the 7th month and pictures the Kingdom Age.

The Baptism with the Holy Ghost (2:2-4)

The 120 disciples were all with one accord and in one place. At the appointed time Christ baptized them with the Holy Ghost (1:4-5). This did not take place because they tarried and prayed but simply because it was what God planned to do. This pouring out of God's Spirit was for power (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:8) and it was in accordance with prophecy (Isa. 32:15; Joel 2:28). This is NOT the same spiritual baptism that Christ revealed to the apostle Paul and by which we are made members of the Body of Christ upon salvation (1 Cor. 12:13).

Baptism with the Holy Ghost            

1. Christ the Baptizer                                    
2. For power                                                  
3. According to prophecy                            

4. Jews and Gentiles distinct                    

Baptism by the Spirit
1. Spirit the Baptizer
2. For salvation
3. According to mystery
4. Neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal. 3:27-28)

What exactly took place when Christ baptized the disciples with the Holy Ghost?
1. A sound from heaven – The sound was “AS of a rushing mighty wind”. Christ associated wind with the Holy Ghost in Jn. 3:8 (see Ezek. 37:1-14). The wind did not fill the house but the sound that was AS wind did. This represented that the Spirit was coming in power.
2. Cloven tongues like as of fire – Again it says AS. Upon each of them sat what appeared as cloven (divided) tongues of fire. This was NOT the baptism with fire (Matt. 3:11-12).
3. Filled with the Holy Ghost – All of them were simultaneously filled with the Holy Ghost (this doesn’t happen today). They were completely under the Spirit’s control as a foretaste of how they will live in the Kingdom (Ezek. 36:24-28). The fullness of the Spirit in Acts is always in the context of signs and wonders (compare with Eph. 5:18-20).
4. Other tongues – This was not jibberish but actual languages that the disciples did not know (compare with when man tried to bring in the kingdom, Gen. 11:1-9).
Tongues are used as a sign gift during the Acts period because of the Jews (1 Cor. 1:22; 14:21-22; 13:8-12). Tongues will be used again in the tribulation period when the gospel of the kingdom is preached by the 144,000 in all the world (Matt. 24:14; Mk. 16:15-18). 
The Response of the Multitude (2:5-13) 

Pentecost was one of Israel’s three annual feasts at which every male was required to appear at the sanctuary in Jerusalem (Ex. 23:14-17). A great multitude of Jews were in Jerusalem for the feast days. 
Over 500 years earlier the northern tribes of Israel were scattered by Assyria and then later the southern tribes of Judah were taken captive by Babylon with only a remnant returning to Jerusalem. That is why there were Jews dwelling in every nation under heaven (2:5). These Jews spoke the languages of the nations in which they were born. The apostles preached the wonderful works of God and the multitude heard them in their own language. This was a great miracle! The multitude was amazed and in doubt of what it meant. Others mocked. The apostles now have the undivided attention of the multitude and Peter preaches to them (vs.14-40)


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Basics of Dispensational Truth

The following notes are taken from handwritten notes in the back of my Bible that I have often used in teaching others about right division.
Keys to Bible Study:
1. Believe the scriptures (1Thess. 2:13)
2. Search the scriptures (Acts 17:11)
3. Compare the scriptures (1 Cor. 2:13)
4. Consider the scriptures written by Paul (2 Tim. 2:7)
5. Rightly divide the scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15)
God never changes in His person, principles, and promises (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8) but He does change in His dealings with man. All scripture is profitable for us (2 Tim. 3:16) but in order to gain the profit from God’s word that He has placed in it for us, we must study it His way (2 Tim. 2:15). Notice three things in 2 Timothy 2:15:
1. What we are to do - STUDY
2. Why we are to do it - to shew thyself approved of God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed 
3. How we are to do it - rightly dividing the word of truth 
Note: The modern versions totally mess up this key verse. They change "study" to something like, "do your best" and "rightly dividing" to something like, "properly handling".
All the Bible is the word of truth but we must recognize and consistently maintain the divisions that God put in His word if we are going to understand it. What was truth for Israel under the law may not be truth for the Body of Christ under grace. This is the dispensational approach to Bible study.
A dispensation (biblical word, 1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25) is basically a dealing out, distribution, or dispensing of something. It is an administration. Dispensations are not periods of time. Ages are periods of time but dispensations operate within ages. Each dispensation revealed in scripture is marked by 5 things:
1) Divine revelation (which bring clear changes in God’s dealings with men)
2) Human spokesman (such as Moses for the Law and Paul for the Mystery)
3) Human responsibility to the revelation (testing) 
4) Human failure (every dispensation ends in apostasy except the last one)
5) Divine judgment
Dispensations are not "cut and dried" time periods. There is some overlapping in dispensational truth. For example, the dispensation of human government will be in effect until the Kingdom Age. The following outline is an accurate overview of the dispensations revealed in scripture.
1. Innocence (Gen. 1-3)
2. Conscience (Gen. 4-8)
3. Human Government (Gen. 9-11)
4. Promise (Gen. 12-Ex. 19)
5. Law (Ex. 20-Acts)
6. Mystery (Rom. - Phile.)
7. Kingdom (Heb.-Rev.)
In the Bible seven is God's number of perfection and completion and eight is the number of new beginnings. I believe there are seven dispensations in human history and the eighth and final dispensation of which there will be no end is the "dispensation of the fulness of times" (Eph. 1:10).
The main division in the Bible concerns God's twofold purpose which is implied in the very first verse (Gen. 1:1).
1. Heaven - The Body of Christ was planned before the foundation of the world but was hid in God (Eph. 3:9) and kept secret since the world began (Rom. 16:25) until Christ from heaven revealed it through the apostle Paul. The Body of Christ will reign with Christ in heavenly places throughout the ages to come (Eph. 2:6-7).
2. Earth - Israel as a kingdom of priests ruling over the Gentile nations is the subject of prophecy. The Messianic Kingdom that God will establish on the earth has been spoken of by the prophets since the world began (Acts 3:21).
The major theme of the Bible is the King and His Kingdom:
1. OT - promised and prophesied
2. Gospels - proclaimed and rejected
3. Acts - offered and rejected (transition)
4. Pauline epistles - postponed (Body of Christ in spiritual kingdom, Col. 1:13)
5. Hebrew epistles - proclamation resumed
6. Revelation - established

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Five Words

Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. (1 Cor. 14:19)
The gift of tongues was for a sign to the unbelieving Jews (1 Cor. 1:22; 14:21-22) during the transition period (from Israel to the Body of Christ) recorded in the book of Acts. After the transition period, and the completion of the word of God, the sign gifts CEASED for this present age (1 Cor. 13:8-13). In 1 Cor. 14 (written during the transition period) the apostle Paul taught that it was pointless to speak in an unknown tongue (a language that the speaker and hearers did not know) in the church if there was nobody present with the gift of interpretation. The purpose of speaking in the local church is to TEACH others in a way they can understand for their edification, exhortation, and comfort (v.3). He said it is better to speak FIVE WORDS that can be understood than 10,000 words in an unknown tongue. What could be taught with just five words? Let’s consider some key doctrines given in biblical statements of just five words. God has an amazing way of saying much with few words. Sadly, in the typical Charismatic church you will hear much "vain and profane babblings" (2 Tim. 2:16) but you will not hear these key doctrines being taught.
In the Beginning God Created (Gen. 1:1)
This plain opening statement of the scripture is foundational to everything else. If it is wrong, how can we trust the rest of the Bible? No wonder Satan has always attacked the doctrine of creation! We did not get here by chance and some kind of evolutionary process. Man was created by God and has a purpose. Jesus Christ was a creationist (Mk. 10:6; 13:19) and He knows the truth about the beginning because He was there. He is the Creator! He created the world about 6,000 years ago in six literal days. When He looked at everything He made He said it was very good. Well, there is a lot in this world now that is very bad! What happened?
By One Man Sin Entered (Rom. 5:12)
Adam was given dominion on the earth. Satan coveted that dominion and so he appeared as a beautiful serpent in the garden in order to tempt the woman and bring about the fall of man. The woman was deceived but Adam knowingly and willingly disobeyed the clear commandment of God concerning the tree of the knowledge of good an evil. Adam was the representative head of the human race and so when he fell he brought sin and death into the world. He was created in the image of God but all that are born into this world are born in the image of fallen Adam (Gen. 5:3). We are all sinners (Rom. 3:10, 23). The penalty for sin is death and eternal damnation (Rom. 6:23; Rev. 20:14). How can a sinner be saved?
Ye Must Be Born Again (Jn. 3:7)
The Lord Jesus said these words to Nicodemus, a very religious man who was a ruler of the Jews. No man can be saved by the works of his flesh. The Bible teaches that the flesh is corrupt (Eph. 4:22), unprofitable (Jn. 6:63), and that in it dwells no good thing (Rom. 7:18). The carnal mind is enmity with God and cannot please Him (Rom. 8:7-8). Therefore salvation is not by religious reformation but by spiritual regeneration (Titus 3:5). It is not the old man made better but rather a new life from God (Jn. 1:11-13). How is it that a holy and righteous God can put His Spirit in unrighteous sinners and make us new creatures? What is the basis? Sinners MUST be born again and therefore Christ said that He MUST be lifted up on the cross (Jn. 3:14-15).
Christ Died for Our Sins (1 Cor. 15:3)
In this passage the apostle Paul defines the gospel that he received by revelation of Jesus Christ (vs.1-4). The gospel of the grace of God is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again. The three letter middle word in “Christ died for our sins” is very important! We must know that we are sinners and that Christ died on the cross but most importantly we must believe in our heart that He died FOR our sins! He had no sin but was made to be sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21) that He might die in our place and pay the penalty for our sins!
By Grace Ye are Saved (Eph. 2:5)
Saving Grace is the unmerited favor and kindness of God toward sinners by Jesus Christ. Salvation is a free gift because it was purchased in full by the finished work of Christ. In this age of grace, salvation is “no more of works” (Rom. 11:6), “not of works” (Eph. 2:9), and “not by works” (Titus 3:5). The one condition to receiving the gift of salvation is to believe in your heart (Eph. 1:12-13). To try and add one work, no matter what it may be, is to pervert the gospel of Christ!
Ye are Complete in Him (Col. 2:10)
The very instant we believe on Christ as our personal Savior the Holy Spirit baptizes us into Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and we become one with Him. Through this spiritual baptism we are identified with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4), and we are seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). His work of salvation for us is complete. Nothing can be added to it. Spiritual growth is the process of learning who we are in Christ and how to live it out in our daily walk. We will be instantly and permanently glorified with Christ when He raptures us to heaven to be with Him (1 Cor. 51-52; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Phil. 3:20-21).
Looking for That Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13)
Christ could come at any moment to catch away His church (the word “rapture” comes from a Latin word that means to catch away by force). We shall see Him, be like Him, and be with Him forevermore. This is the consummation of our salvation. It is a done deal (Rom. 8:30), but we are waiting on its fulfillment. In the Bible, hope is not a doubtful thing at all. It is a certain anticipation and expectation of what has been promised. Until death or the rapture we still have the flesh to deal with. How do we walk in victory over the flesh?
I am Crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20)
We do not have to strive for victory over our flesh. Christ defeated the flesh for us when He died in our place. The old man being crucified, I am now free to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6-8). The Christian life is about Christ living His life through me!
These simple but powerful five word statements will change your life forever if you truly believe them!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Living Reality or Empty Dogma?

From time to time on this blog I may share a small excerpt from a book I'm reading that I find to be spiritually edifying. Many of the books in my library are out of print and cannot be found in the average "Christian bookstore." The following quote is from C.H. Mackintosh (1820-1896).
"We are passing through a world of misery, of sin and death and sorrow. We are surrounded by broken hearts and crushed spirits, if we would only look them out. 
Yes; this is the point; if we would only look them out. It is easy for us to close our eyes to such things, to turn away from, to "forget" that there are such things always within reach of us. We can sit in our easy chair, and speculate about truth, doctrines, and the letter of scripture; we can discuss the theories of Christianity, and split hairs about prophecy and dispensational truth, and, all the while, be shamefully failing in the discharge of our grand responsibilities as Christians. We are in imminent danger of forgetting that Christianity is a living reality. It is not a set of dogmas, a number of principles strung together on a thread of systematized divinity, which unconverted people can have at their fingers' ends. Neither is it a set of ordinances to be gone through, in dreary formality, by lifeless, heartless professors. No; it is life—life eternal—life implanted by the Holy Ghost, and expressing itself in those two lovely forms on which we have been dwelling, namely, praise to God and doing good to man.
Such was the life of Jesus when He trod this earth of ours. He lived in the atmosphere of praise; and He went about doing good.
And He is our life, and He is our model on which the life is to be formed. The Christian should be the living expression of Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is not a mere question of leading what is called a religious life, which very often resolves itself into a tiresome round of duties which neither yield "praise" to God nor one atom of " good" to man. There must be life, or it is all perfectly worthless. "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men." Rom. 14:17-18
Beloved christian reader, let us earnestly apply our hearts to the consideration of these great practical truths. Let us seek to be Christians not merely in name but in reality. Let us not be distinguished as the mere vendors of peculiar "views." Oh! how worthless are views! How utterly profitless is discussion! How wearisome are theological hair-splittings! Let us have life, light, and love. These are heavenly, eternal, divine. All else is vanity. How we do long for reality in this world of sham—for deep thinkers and earnest workers in this day of shallow talkers!" 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Flesh vs. Spirit: Our Responsibilities

The believer has two natures: the flesh (old) and the Spirit (new). These two natures being opposite as to origin, character, and destiny produces a conflict in the believer (Gal. 5:17). 

Salvation is of the Lord. It is God’s responsibility to save us from the flesh and give us His Spirit. He takes us out of Adam and put us in Christ. We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works (Eph. 2:10). He makes us a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). God alone is responsible for our standing in Christ. However, this does not mean that we are without responsibilities in this matter. Christ gave us the victory by His grace but we will not enjoy it if we do not fulfill our responsibilities in the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. While God alone is responsible for our standing in Christ we are responsible for our state in this life (practical daily walk). The goal is to get our state lined up with our standing. Our practical daily walk must be in the power of the Spirit but that will not happen unless we do certain things.

It is God’s responsibility to work in us but it is our responsibility to work out what He works in (Phil. 2:12-13). To “work out” demands activity. It is not possible to be physically healthy without some kind of exercise. Likewise, it is not possible to be godly without spiritual exercise (1 Tim. 4:7).

I. BELIEVE what God Says about the Flesh and the Spirit

The flesh is a SIN nature and in it dwells NO good thing (Rom. 7:18). Religious flesh is just as corrupt as non-religious flesh. The flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:8). The Spirit is a RIGHTEOUS nature and in it dwells NO bad thing (Eph. 4:24). Do you really believe this?

II. RECKON Yourself to be Dead to the Flesh and Alive in the Spirit

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh (referring to the body) I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)

On the cross Christ was baptized into our death (Lk. 12:50) and was raised victorious the third day. Upon salvation the Holy Spirit baptizes the believer into Christ and thereby we are identified with Him in death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:3-4). Regardless if you feel this truth or even know this truth it is still the truth. God said the old man is dead. He said that the believer is not in the flesh but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). It is our responsibility to reckon (to account it so) the flesh to be dead and ourselves to be alive unto God by the Spirit (Rom. 6:11). This is not a matter of feelings but FAITH. If we are guided by our feelings we will never enjoy this truth. It is for us to “believe God”. God has declared this great fact in His word (or we could have never known it); we hear that word; faith believes it, and rejoices in what it hears; and believes God, apart from the question of feeling. 

III. MORTIFY the Flesh and Walk in the Spirit

The word “mortify” is only used twice in the Bible and both times by Paul (Rom. 8:12; Col. 3:5). It may sound strange that we are told to mortify the flesh in light of the fact that the flesh is said to be dead already. However, if we understand what the word “mortify” means it makes perfect sense. What does a mortician do? He handles dead bodies. To “mortify” the flesh means that we are treating it as dead (even though it is still present). We don’t do this through the power of the flesh (by self discipline) but “through the Spirit”. The members of our body are not available for sinful deeds when we “mortify the deeds of the body."

If we reckon ourselves to be alive in the Spirit then we should walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16). The Christian life is not just about what we don’t do, it is also about what we do.

If we live in the Spirit (STANDING), let us also walk in the Spirit (STATE). (Gal. 5:25)

We walk in the Spirit when we yield to Him in our heart and obey Him in our life. Thus, the spiritual man is right inside and out. We must no longer think with the carnal mind but with the mind of Christ. Thinking with the mind of Christ will cause us to let Christ who lives in us to live through us.  

The first three chapters of Ephesians reveal our glorious standing as members of the Body of Christ. The last three chapters exhorts us to WALK WORTHY of that calling! 

IV. STARVE the Flesh and FEED the Spirit

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. (Rom. 13:14)

To make provision is to supply with food. Don’t feed the flesh by constantly catering to its desires (Gal. 6:7-8).

How do we feed the Spirit? There is only one spiritual food that can nourish the new nature- the word of God (1 Pet. 1:23-2:3). We are as filled with the Spirit as we are filled with the word of God (compare Eph. 5:18-21 and Col. 3:16).

Practical suggestions:
1. Turn off the TV/internet and study the Bible
2. Don't think on wrong things but right things (Phil. 4:8)
3. Separate from worldly people and fellowship with spiritual people
4. Don't listen to worldly music but sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to the Lord
5. Don't make recreation a priority over church
6. Don't seek to please self, seek to please the Lord

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Believer's Two Natures

... were by NATURE the children of wrath... (Eph. 2:3)
... ye might be partakers of the divine NATURE... (2 Pet. 1:4)
Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines nature as being, "The essence, essential qualities or attributes of a thing, which constitute what it is."
The word of God teaches that every believer has two natures. It is important that believers learn about this doctrine as soon as possible lest they become confused, discouraged, and defeated. Upon salvation the believer immediately enjoys the “newness of life” that is in Christ. With a heart full of gratitude for salvation and the price that Christ paid for that salvation the new believer desires to live as pure and right as possible. However, it does not take very long for him to realize that the fleshly desires are not gone and that he is still tempted to commit the same sins he lived in before salvation. Without an understanding of what the Bible teaches concerning the two natures the new believer will lose the joy of salvation thinking that he cannot live the Christian life and will more than likely even doubt that he was ever saved.

I. The Concept Explained
When you first hear about the believer’s two natures it certainly sounds strange. How can one person have two natures? In John 3 the Lord Jesus teaches that a man must have two births to see and enter the kingdom of God. Though he was talking to a “ruler of the Jews” during the time that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, there is spiritual truth in this passage that applies to us today. Though the kingdom of heaven is not at hand during this age, the believer is spiritually “translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Col. 1:13) upon salvation.

A. Every man is born of the flesh – The flesh refers to human nature or what we are by physical birth. The first man, Adam, was created in the image of God and enjoyed fellowship with Him. However, Adam sinned against God and died spiritually (Eph. 2:1) being separated from the Spirit of God. All that are born into this world are the seed of Adam and are in the image of Adam (Gen. 5:3). Kind begets kind and the flesh can only bring forth flesh. Other names in the Bible for the flesh are: natural man (I Cor. 2:14), old man (Rom. 6:6), outward man (II Cor. 4:16), carnal mind (Rom. 8:7), and sin (Rom. 7:17). In the Bible there is a distinction between “sin” which is the root and “sins” which are the fruit. The nature of “the flesh” is SIN. No matter how hard a man may try to be religious and good (like Nicodemus), “that which is born of the flesh is flesh”. 

Consider what the word of God says about the flesh:
1. It profiteth NOTHING (Jn. 6:63)
2. In it dwelleth NO GOOD THING (Rom. 7:18)
3. It is ENMITY against God and CANNOT please God (Rom. 8:7-8)
4. It CANNOT know the things of the Spirit of God (I Cor. 2:14)
5. It is CORRUPT according to the deceitful lusts (Eph. 4:22)

B. To be saved a man must be born of the Spirit – To be born of the Spirit means that the Holy Spirit has indwelt you and has thereby made you a partaker of the divine nature (II Pet. 1:4). To be born of the flesh is generation and to be born of the Spirit is “regeneration” (Titus 3:5). The regenerated believer has been “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:10). The believer is IN CHRIST and Christ is in the believer (Col. 1:27). Other names for the new nature are: new man (Eph. 4:24), inward man (II Cor. 4:16), and the spiritual mind (Rom. 8:6). The nature of the flesh is SIN but the nature of the Spirit is HOLINESS (Eph. 4:24). 

C. Both natures exist within the believer – The apostle Paul testified “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18a). Notice that he specified “in my flesh” because in Christ there are good things in us (Phile. 6). The flesh cannot be changed and made good in the sight of God. When a sinner gets saved the flesh does not get saved. Nowhere in the Bible is it taught that the believer can “eradicate” the sin nature. The flesh will be with us until death or we are changed in the rapture.

The old nature and the new nature are opposite in origin, character (consider the contrast between the “works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit” as listed in Gal. 5:19-23), and destiny.

II. The Conflict Experienced
The existence of two natures within the same person which are of absolute opposite origin, character, and destiny obviously causes a conflict (Gal. 5:17). The flesh desires for you to sin and the Spirit desires for you to be holy. This is a conflict every true believer experiences but it is one that too many do not understand and therefore they do not enjoy the victory that is ours when we learn to walk in the Spirit. One of the blessings of this conflict is the assurance it provides that we are “born of the Spirit” for one that is not born of the Spirit knows nothing of a conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. Another blessing of this conflict is that it teaches us by experience that our flesh is totally depraved and therefore we must depend totally on God for victory. This conflict is no excuse to walk in defeat as a believer because we can “walk in the Spirit” and thereby NOT “fulfill the lust of the flesh”.

III. The Conquest Enjoyed
What a wonderful day it was when I learned from the scripture that it is not my responsibility to defeat the flesh because Christ has already conquered it for me (Rom. 6)! As to our standing (unchangeable position), we are complete in Christ the moment of salvation (Col. 2:10). But as to our state (changeable condition), we have have a responsibility to walk by faith in the victory Christ has given us. 

Romans 6 teaches us HOW to enjoy the victory we have in Christ. Please take the time to carefully read through this great chapter. This chapter can be outlined according to 3 key words:
A. KNOW (vs.1-10) – that our old man is crucified with Christ
B. RECKON (v.11) – that we are dead to sin and alive unto God
C. YIELD (vs.12-23) – our members as instruments of righteousness
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. (Rom. 6:17)

1. Doctrine - Know (Spirit)
2. Heart - Reckon (Soul)
3. Obeyed - Yield (Body)
We cannot live the Christian life in the energy in the flesh anymore than we could be saved by it. We must stop striving to make our flesh like Christ (which is impossible) and let Christ live His life through us.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: (Col. 2:6)


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Is 2 Chron. 7:14 the Answer for America?

The common practice in preaching today is to isolate a text from its context and then just use it however you want. Ignorant and arrogant preachers actually think they “make the Bible come to life” with their story-filled sermons. The word of God is quick and powerful (Heb. 4:12). It certainly does not need our assistance! Very few actually “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2) in context and rightly divided (2 Tim. 2:15). 

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

This is a well-known verse that is usually used by preachers when preaching on the need for revival in America. It will no doubt be the text for many sermons on this Fourth of July weekend. But does America have any right to claim the promises in this verse? 

Let’s consider the context. In chapter 6 king Solomon blesses the congregation of Israel (vs.1-11) and offers a dedicatory prayer for the newly built temple in Jerusalem (vs.12-42). In chapter 7:
· Fire from heaven falls on the sacrifices, the glory of the LORD fills the house (vs.1-3)
· More sacrifices are offered by the king and the people (vs.4-7)
· The king leads the people to keep the feast of tabernacles (vs.8-11)
· The LORD appears to Solomon in response to his prayer (vs.12-22)

Look at Solomon’s request in 6:24-31. This is in accordance with the covenant that God made with Israel in the wilderness (Deut. 28). In 2 Chron. 7:14 God promises to do 3 things IF Israel will do 4 things (the law is an "if" and "then" system). It is WRONG for the Body of Christ in this present dispensation of grace to put ourselves under this law system (Rom. 6:14). Do we have to do these things in order for God to:
1. Hear from heaven – Our access is based on Christ (Eph. 2:18; 3:12)
2. Forgive our sins – All of our sins are already forgiven (Col. 2:13)
3. Heal our land – We are a heavenly people with heavenly promises (Phil. 3:20; Eph. 1:3)

We may apply the moral principles in 2 Chron. 7:14 but we have no right to claim its promises. Certainly the Body of Christ should also do the 4 things mentioned in this verse:
1. Humble ourselves (Col. 3:12)
2. Pray (Col. 4:2)
3. Seek God’s face (Col. 3:1-4)
4. Turn from our wicked ways (Col. 3:5-11)  

But even if all the Christians in America faithfully obeyed these four things (which will sadly never happen) it would still not cause God to forgive the sins of our nation and heal our land from diseases and natural disasters. He has not made a covenant with America about our land! 

What is the problem with America? It is a part of this present evil world (Gal. 1:4) that is on a course set by Satan (Eph. 2:1-3) who is the god of it (2 Cor. 4:4). God has not called us to save the world. We are to preach the gospel so that sinners can get saved out of the world and placed into Christ. We are to shine as lights in the midst of this crooked and perverse nation (Phil. 2:12-16) but we are not going to change it. That is the real "Christian world view."


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